Chapter 18

At the helicopter's explosion, Invictus, Mulder, Cass and John stood in the
corridor crammed in a small doorway. A moment or two after the incredible
noise, about five troops ran from the doorway still strapping on LBE's and
slinging their M-16's over their shoulders.

After another moment without any movement from the room, Mulder and
Invictus decided to move forward toward the chamber that Frohike had
described to them. John and Cass followed, each holding their weapon a
little awkwardly.

As they approached the doorway, Mulder turned to the two companions
following and gave them a smile of reassurance. John tried his best to
return it, and Cass simply glared at him, breathing quickly and nervously
through flared nostrils.

As they reached the doorway, Invictus edged his way along the side and
pointed his index and middle finger at his eyes, indicating Mulder to move
into the room and cover him as soon as he was inside. Mulder nodded and
brought his weapon up at the ready.

Invictus took a deep breath and mouthed the count of three so that everyone
would be in sync. On three, he grabbed the door handle and threw it open,
throwing himself through it at the same time, his gun held ready

Mulder flew in behind him, but nearly barreled into him, having to raise
his gun with one hand and skid his feet to halt no more than a few feet
into the room.

Mulder nearly panicked and brought his gun back up, scanning the room
quickly, and then he too stopped where he was.

The room was empty. Save for a few stools, one that had been knocked over,
no doubt in the rush of the soldiers to leave the room, the rest of it was

Mulder opened his mouth to say something, but Invictus quickly brought his
finger to lips, then pointed in the direction of the one door on the
opposite end of the room. Mulder nodded and then turned to the doorway,
motioning for John and Cass to follow him, but quietly.

They moved toward the door silently, and Invictus moved up to the small
window that was about eye level and quickly peeked in. He turned to the
rest of the group and held up two fingers, then smiled.

With that, he swung open the door quickly.

Inside the room, the two figures, one, what looked to be a scientist in the
perfunctory white jacket, the other a soldier. Neither turned to the heavy
industrial door as it opened.

The soldier had both arms out, that the scientist was loading up with
several small silver boxes.

"What was it?" The scientist threw over his shoulder at the open doorway,
not turning from his task.

"I think it was the sound of the shit hitting the fan," Mulder said wryly.

At the sound of a voice that neither recognized, the two men both turned
slowly to the four intimidating and armed figures in the doorway. The
soldier flinched as if about to drop the cargo he held in his arms, but
then stopped and thought better of it. The scientist simply straightened
himself and took a step toward the doorway.

"What do we have here?" Invictus asked.

"Something you can't have," he said to the group, his voice not betraying
any kind of fear.

Mulder was immediately on his guard, having in his experience found the
scientific kind to have neither the bravery nor the machismo to be
intimidating to a federal agent, much less four armed rebels.

Invictus looked around the metal plated room, directing his stare at the
sinking and drifting telltale smoke of frozen nitrogen pouring from one of
the open cabinets.

"You don't seem to be in the position to argue, Dr. Joel," Invictus said,
taking a step forward himself.

With that, Mulder flicked his eyes from the scientist to the soldier and
back again.

The man was indeed the same Dr. Joel from the underwater fortress in which
he'd been held, he realized. But the soldier's reaction was odd. He'd
previously been looking down at the boxes in his arms, likely trying to
figure out a way to get rid of them and get to his sidearm that was
holstered at his side. But, as soon as Invictus had mentioned the doctor's
name, he'd looked up at the scientist as a look of confusion washed over
his face for a moment.

The doctor, on the other hand, had no reaction at all, save for taking
another step toward Mulder and the others in the doorway.

"Stop it right there," Invictus said, his voice low, as he raised his gun
up a little higher, his finger poised read at the trigger.

Immediately, Mulder lowered his own gun and put his hand on Invictus'

"Wait," he said, and reached into the pocket of his jeans, pulling out the
small metal cylinder that Scully had placed there with a quick kiss and a
just-in-case before they'd headed off down the corridor. It was the
stiletto that he'd found in the sub, and had forgotten about until Scully
had found it in his backpack.

They'd decided to keep its existence to themselves for the time being, but
at that moment, as he looked into the eyes of 'Dr. Joel' and Invictus'
itchy trigger finger, the point was moot.

He raised it up so that the doctor could see it and pushed the small button
on its side, the long awl shooting up with a hiss of air.

It was then that the doctor looked at them with any real kind of fear and
took a step back.

Mulder had been right, then. The man was probably an alien bounty hunter.

Mulder stepped inside the chamber, past Invictus and stood menacingly in
front of the scientist, the soldier simply standing with his arms full
watching the scene play out before him.

"You know, it looks to me," Mulder said, shifting the stiletto to his right
hand, and his gun to left quickly, "that you're in a position you'd never
really planned on."

The bounty hunter took another slow step backward and cocked his head
warily at Mulder.

"I'd say," Mulder said in a near ponderous tone, "somewhere east of the
rock, and west of the hard place. Or would you rather have the coordinates
in galactic terms?"

As soon as the words left his mouth, the bounty hunter lunged at him.

There was a quick scuffle, and a crash, as the bounty hunter and Mulder
tussled and the soldier seized the opportunity and distraction to drop the
load in his arms and grab for his sidearm.

However, in the next second, Mulder had the bounty hunter, who'd morphed
back into his imposing and apathetic countenance, much to the shock of John
and Cass, shoved against the side of the chamber with the business end of
the stiletto making a small indention at the base of the hunter's skull.

Invictus, who never seemed to be shocked by anything, had swung his weapon
to the soldier.

"Ah, ah, ah!" Invictus said jovially to the soldier, who paused his hand at
his holster, "not a good idea, sport."

The soldier took a step back from the mess he'd just made on the floor and
raised his hands above his head.

"There you go," Invictus said, moving to him and bending down to inspect
what lay at his feet.

Most of the small metal containers had broken open, spilling frozen
nitrogen and vials, which lay scattered and broken, but two had been
spared. Invictus opened one and removed the intact vial with the bottom of
his shirt, holding it up for the rest to see.

"Jackpot," he said.

They'd found the vaccine.


Richter stood, his weary knees creaking and popping as he rose. He lay
Elspeth down gently.

He took a deep, steely breath and looked resolutely back toward the capitol building,
several hundred yards away. There were several small figures leaving the building and heading
quickly his way. He wasn't sure if they were friends or foes.

He moved to run to a nearby building that was still standing, however smoking, but stopped,
glancing back at Elspeth's body, his jaw tightening to fight the wetness in his eyes.

He'd made her a promise. And however gruesome and wrong it seemed, after all they'd been through,
this was one he was determined to keep. If not for her reasons, for his.

He hefted her body up and over his bad arm's shoulder, wincing a bit, and made off toward the
building, keeping as low to the ground as he could.

He heard the hum of motors approaching in the distance, and paused at the door of his
destination, looking back at the wreckage of the helicopter, and then kicking the door in.
Smoke immediately poured from the open doorway, but he ignored it, intent upon finding its

He began to weave through the scattered items that littered the floor, hoking and sputtering
from the smoke, his eyes tearing so that he could hardly see. Through his tears though, he saw
the faint glow of what he was looking for through one of the doorways directly in front of him.
He made his way through the entrance to the room and turned his face as waves of intense heat
seared at him from the room.

The entirety of the room before him was ablaze, and he paused for a moment, closing his eyes
and already regretting what he was about to do. He touched her face briefly and was flooded
with images of what could have been, but he blocked them out quickly.

The lack of oxygen was getting to him, and his knees nearly buckled. He moved forward before
they did, throwing Elspeth's body into the inferno, tears streaming down his face that had
nothing to do with the acrid smoke that clawed at his eyes.


"That's it?" Cass tripped forward several steps and then stopped again,
"that's the vaccine?"

Her tone was reluctantly hopeful, and Invictus glanced up to Mulder, the
vial still in his hands.

Mulder nodded, pushing the bounty hunter further into the wall for
emphasis. He recognized the dark amber
substance that had saved Scully from the affects of the black oil so many
years before, and his stomach
flopped at the memory.

"Yeah," he said, "that's it."

"Well let's go!" Cass said, grabbing at one of the surviving boxes, and
Invictus picked up the other and

"Not so fast," John piped up from the doorway. "What are we going to do
with them?" He pointed at the
soldier and the bounty hunter and looked at them warily.

"Take him outside," Mulder motioned to the soldier with his head, "I'll
take care of this guy."

Invictus looked at him a moment, then gave Mulder a brief nod. He then
turned to the soldier and motioned his gun in the direction of the doorway.

"You heard the man," he said, the soldier moving slowly, eyeing the scene
before him with trepidation. He seemed to want to be where he was even less
than everyone else in the room.

When Invictus, Cass, John, and their prisoner were safely out of the
chamber, Mulder put his mouth to the ear of the bounty hunter and whispered

"You aren't the first of your kind that I've killed, and I promise you
won't be the last."

With that, he sunk the stiletto deep into the creatures neck, shoving it's
body to the ground, and leapt out of the room, slamming the door shut on
the toxic blood oozing out of the creature.

He then moved to the doorway, where John, Cass and Invictus were waiting
for him.

"What do we do with him?" Mulder asked Invictus, who's gun was still
trained steadily on the soldier.

"Well . . ." Invictus began, turning all of the way to the prisoner and
taking a step closer to him.

The soldier took a step back as well, and finally opened his mouth,
speaking for the first time.
"Look," he said, "just go. I won't go after you. In fact, I almost hope you
make it."

Invictus regarded the man for a moment and then stepped toward him,
removing the man's weapon from his
holster and taking another step back. "Good to know," Invictus said, "now
get on the ground, face down."

The soldier winced, likely convinced they were going to kill him, but did
as he was told anyway.

Invictus stepped up to him and bent down. "You can either tell them we
cold cocked you," he said,
"or we can do it for real."

"I'll tell 'em," the man said, his voice muffled by the floor.

"Okay," Invictus said, but then knocked the man in the back of the head
with the butt of this gun anyway.

He then stood up and shrugged to the trio in the doorway that was looking
at him rather oddly.

"Never did trust the military," he said, then moved quickly out of the
door, the metal box tucked safely
under his arm, and the rest of the group following quickly behind him.


As soon as they emerged back into the room of rubble, they glanced around,
found the room otherwise empty, and ran to the fallen pile of ceiling where
Scully and Frohike were waiting for them.

Frohike scrambled up to meet them, and bent to offer Scully a hand, but
Mulder already had his arm under hers and was half hauling her to her feet,
and half hugging her.

He swept the hair back from her forehead, and then swung his head round,
searching for something.

"Hey," he said, "where's Richter?"

"Gone," Scully said, "when Elspeth. We couldn't stop him."

Mulder made an almost disgusted face and nodded, accepting the situation.

"We'll have to leave without him" he said.

Cass spoke up. "We can't just-"

"We'll have to leave without him," Mulder snapped, clearly unhappy with the

Cass recoiled and took a step backward, closer to John.

"Mulder," Scully said quietly, squeezing the hand that she was holding. He
looked down at her and
closed his eyes, apologizing silently.

"We'll figure it out," Invictus said, "but right now we need to get the
hell out here like we stole something."

"We did," Cass said, still a bit miffed, and shifted the box under her
other arm.

John reached out and relieved her of its burden, giving her a quick smile.

"Yeah," he said, "let's just go."

They all headed over to a doorway that led to a fire escape, but paused
when Frohike stopped and turned to them.

"You all head down and get away from the building," he said. "I'll catch
up, there's something I have to do."

There was silence for a moment, but then the group all nodded and proceeded
out the emergency doorway. Frohike's tone had, for once, barred any

"I'll stay with him," Invictus said to Mulder and Scully, the last to leave
through the door. "We'll catch up
with you."

They both nodded at him, as Mulder helped Scully down the ladder below

"Thanks," Mulder said, clapping Invictus on the arm and taking the vaccine
from him, before he headed down himself.

Invictus then turned to Frohike.

"Well?" He said to the shorter man. "You want me to wait here or do you
want company?"

"I'll be right back," Frohike replied, and then sprinted as best his legs
could carry him down the corridor
they'd emerged from not minutes before.

Invictus waited for a few minutes, wondering what exactly the hacker was
doing, and then jumped, as Frohike catapulted himself out of the corridor,
and up to where Invictus was standing.

"Go!" The running man shouted, waving his hands toward the emergency
doorway frantically. "Go! Run!"

Invictus' mind flitted to a vaguely remembered Audi commercial from just
before Colonization of a man in the woods standing while his friend hurtled
from a thicket yelling at him to run. When they finally got to the car and
gunned it down the road, the man's friend produced a candid shot of him and

Invictus threw open the door and took the steps down two at a time,
ruminating in the back of his head that if Frohike had done the same to the
soldier down in the lab, he was going to kill him himself.

As he jumped down the ladder onto the solid ground below, Frohike landed
quickly behind him, surprisingly spry for his age and height.

He cast about for a second before quickly spotting Mulder waving them over
to a crumbled bit of building about 500 yards from the Capitol. They took
off toward the waiting group and slid behind the rubble next to John and
Cass, panting.

"What the hell was *that* all about?" Mulder shot at Frohike, as the man
struggled to regain his breath.

"What?" He panted. "You didn't think Langly and I came here to only *hack*
did you?"

An enormous explosion punctuated his question, and they all threw their
hands over their ears as the Wisconsin State Capitol building was blown to
high hell.

As bits of paper and mortar fell around them, they all shot Frohike a
questioning glare in synchronous head turns.

The man shrugged, on the verge of saying something when the screeching of
tires ground to halt just behind the rubble in the parking lot Invictus and
Frohike had just run across.

Mulder, Scully and Invictus all grabbed for their weapons and peered around
rubble warily. When they straightened and stood, the others did the same,
curiously following their stare.

Richter, his arm a bloody mess hanging at his side, and the rest of him
covered nearly head to toe in soot, stood outside the open driver's side
door of a large military Humvee, squinting first at the smoldering remains
of the Capitol building and then to the ragtag band of rebels hiding on the
other side of him. Elspeth was noticeably missing, and Scully knew without
much more than a look that she was never going to see her friend again. And
she knew that the Richter she had come to know was also gone, and in his place
was this man, tired and withdrawn. Who he was now,probably only he would know
She simply hoped that whoever he was, he would find a way one day to find
peace with himself.

They stared at him as though he had come from nowhere. "Jesus," he said
grimly, "you all need a ride?"


Mulder pretended to be asleep as her heard Scully jiggle the door handle to
their room. He heard her pause in the doorway, and then move across the
room. Only then did he dare open his eyes.

She seemed to glide across the room, her back straight, her stride liquid,
as her ankle had healed quite nicely, and a small omni-present smile on her
face. She walked to the open window, the shimmery white curtains fanning
her face, as the sunlight streamed in around her, a stark contrast as the
photons of light that couldn't penetrate the strength of her body, much
less her spirit, shone around her curves.

She breathed in the hot Arizona breeze and sighed, content.

It was a sight Mulder couldn't help but relish.

"How is your mother?" he asked quietly, finally speaking up. There were
times lately, when he'd wanted to want to wake her up if she was sleeping
because he couldn't wait to hear what she would say next. He couldn't seem
to get enough of her. Luckily, she seemed to feel the same.

Scully turned to him then, the sun now a back light, shining through her
hair and infusing them with titian flame.

She smiled at him, taking the sight of him in as well, the copper tones
that the Phoenix sun had melted into his skin contrasting sharply with the
white of the sheets tucked under his arms.

"She's good," she answered contentedly. "Reveling in the order and
organization required to keep this

She took a step towards him, smiling, but paused when there was a sharp
knock on the door.

Cass opened it then, hesitantly, and popped her head in giving them both a
quick, apologizing smile.

"I'm heading out to the HQ," she said. "We've got a big group from Oregon
and Idaho that just got here. Almost two hundred."

"We'll be up in a few, Cass," Mulder said from the bed. "Thanks."

She smiled at them once more, and closed the door behind her.

They'd arrived in Phoenix, Arizona nearly three days after leaving Madison.
Taking back roads where they could, expressways where they couldn't.

When they arrived at the location that Frohike had gotten from Byers before
they'd separated, they were nearly bowled over.

Suzanne Modeski, Byers, and a contingent of resistance forces the Gunmen
had been in contact with, had built up an impressive complex, complete with
housing for thousands of people, supplies to feed and clothe them all, and
a lab just waiting to break down the vaccine and reproduce it for the

As Mulder laid in the bed of the room he and Scully shared, he ruminated on
how far they'd come. There were people coming in every day now, sometimes
in the hundreds, sometimes in the tens, to receive the vaccine, stocking up
and then leaving a few days later to spread the word to the world that
there was indeed a vaccine, and they could indeed get it.

They even had an impressive defense system, and arsenal of weapons
protecting them and the precious vaccine they were continually

Phoenix had truly been as good a place as any to house the rebuilding of
the modern world. As they knew it, anyway. Like the phoenix, from the
ashes, they too, were rising again.

Scully drifted to the bedside and sat down, the weight shift causing Mulder
to list a bit toward her. He let gravity roll him the rest of the way until
he hip was pressed to her back.

She smiled at him and then looked back at the window, squinting a bit as
the sun streamed into the room.

Mulder caught a hint of something amiss, and stroked her shoulder.

"What is it?" He asked without pretense.

She swallowed once and then turned to him, looking him squarely in the eye.

"Invictus is gone," she said matter-of-factly.

"What? What do you mean gone?" He asked, sitting up a bit, and propping his
head up onto his hand.

Scully shrugged. "He left."

"Where did he go?"

"I don't know, Mulder," she said softly, "maybe the same place he came

Mulder reached up and fingered the small cross Scully still miraculously
wore around her neck.

"Maybe he did just that," he answered.

Scully grabbed his hand and held it, smiling down at him. She stood and
pulled on it to heave him up, but he easily pulled her back down and onto
the bed with him.

"Come on Mulder," she said, finally relenting and leaning back against him,
"you told Cass we'd be right there."

He tilted her chin up toward him and stole a long, smoky kiss.

"So, they'll understand," he said, kissing his way down her neck, "we're
doing this for the good of mankind."

"Hmm?" Scully inquired absently, enjoying the sensation too much at that
point to put up much of an argument. "How's that?"

"We're procreating," he mumbled into her shoulder.

She chuckled into the hair that had fallen into her face and reveled in the
feel of his cleanly shaven face running along her skin.

He lifted his head then and leaned into her, nose to nose, talking in a
pillow whisper.

"I've seen too many miracles to discount them altogether, Scully."

With that, she couldn't disagree.


Epilogue and Thanks