Chapter 7

"Right," Mulder said, "we go to the Island."

Invictus nodded.

"Great," Mulder went on. "HOW?"

"I haven't figured that out yet, now shut up."

The gunfire ceased for the moment, and Invictus shimmied his way up to the
shoulder to have a look. He watched for several minutes, then motioned for
Mulder to come up and join him.

"Mulder," he said, "get up here."

Mulder shook his head and refused.

"Forget it," he said.

Another wave of bullets roared through the air above them, and still
Invictus waved for him to come up.

"Are you fucking crazy?" Mulder harshly whispered at him.

"Yes," Invictus whispered back. "Now get your ass up here."

Mulder threw him a dirty look, and low-crawled his way up to the shoulder.

"Look," Invictus said, pointing to a red pick-up truck parked at an angle
to them, about 35 yards away, "it isn't them after all. It's some
civilian."

Mulder squinted and could just make out the head of a figure with a large
automatic weapon balanced on the bed. "So why the hell is he shooting at
us?" Mulder asked.

Invictus turned to him. "How the hell should I know?" He turned back to
watch the figure and muttered, "We've got to get him to stop though."

"And how," Mulder said, "do you propose we do that?"

"Why don't we try asking him?" the older man countered.

With that, he put his hand slowly up in the air, followed by his other one,
and finally, he stood up facing the shooter.

"Mulder," Invictus muttered quietly without moving his lips, "stand up.
Slowly."

Mulder rolled his eyes and hesitantly mimicked Invictus' earlier movements.

The figure behind the truck seemed to pause, and raised their head. Then,
they removed the gun from the bed of the truck and, continuing to train it
on Mulder and Invictus, walked slowly around the back of the truck, heading
in their direction.

As the figure got closer, Invictus sucked in a breath.

"What?" Mulder asked in a quiet whisper.

"It's a woman." Invictus answered back.

Mulder squinted to get a good look, and then turned slightly back to him.
"Yeah," he said, "has it been that long?"

"As a matter of fact."

The woman stopped about 10 yards in front of them.

"Who are you?" she snapped.

"No one of consequence." Invictus answered.

She seemed to let her guard down a little.

"But the consequences are no longer what they seem to be," she countered.

"Neither are we," Invictus answered.

The woman dropped her weapon to her side and strode forward, breathing a
sigh of relief, holding her hand out to Invictus as she approached.

"Human or hybrid?" She asked, shaking Invictus' hand.

"What do you think?" Invictus answered.

The woman sighed. "I suppose I should have known. I heard about Antioch.
All of us here did."

Invictus nodded. "It's nice to know the resistance has reached so far out.
Even way up here."

The woman's face fell, and she looked out to the bridge. "It doesn't take
much to persuade people to resist," she said, "just an Armageddon."

She looked out over the bridge a moment more, then brightened back up,
turning back to Invictus and Mulder.

"So," she said, "who are you? And what the *hell* where you doing out on
the bridge?"

"The name is Invictus. My friend here and I, if you would believe it,
climbed our way up the bridge to escape some, how should I say this.
enamored captors? We'd be glad to join your band of resistance, large or
small though it may be. I'm sure you'll find us," he paused once again,
then smiled at the young woman, "helpful."

She returned his smile tenfold, saying, "we'd be glad for your help. We
need all the help we can get!"

She then turned to Mulder, and back to Invictus.

"Who's your silent friend?" She asked.

Invictus turned to Mulder and said, "Fox Mulder, I'd like to introduce you
to."

"Cassidy Vincent," she said quickly, as if disregarding her own name,
taking an additional step toward Mulder with wide eyes, then, "Fox Mulder?
*You're* Fox Mulder?! THE Fox Mulder?!?"

Seeing that she would get no response from Mulder, she turned to Invictus
for the answer.

"One in the same," he said.

"Holy shit," she said softly, then, she nearly threw the gun up in the air,
and twirled around excitedly, "Holy SHIT!" she shouted.

Then, she abruptly stopped, and turned back to Invictus.

"What's wrong with him?" she asked.

"They wiped his memory," Invictus said somberly. "In fact, we just
escaped, which makes me think we should probably get out of sight."

"Of course," Cassidy said, "I'm sorry."

She started down the bank they had just climbed, and started walking along
the rocks lining the water.

"Come on," she said.

As they walked north, always low and close to the water, Cassidy asked them
where they had come from and what exactly was up with Mulder, as she kept
stealing glances back their way.

"Well Cassidy," Invictus said, after answering her first question, which
was riddled with questions of his own, "I'm not exactly sure how we're
going to jog his memory, but I have faith that everything will come back to
him eventually."

"Call me Cass," she said, "and lets hope so. Either way, we've got to get
you guys to Madison."

"Wisconsin?" Invictus asked. "Sorry Cass, but we're on our way to Lansing."

"Not anymore you're not," she said, stopping. "Wait here."

She disappeared underneath some overhanging tree limbs, and emerged a
moment later pulling a canoe along the water.

"Get in," she said.

"Where are we going?" Mulder asked, finally finding his voice.

"First?" she said, "we're going to the Island, I live there and we're
going to need to meet with my group there. And then, we're going to Madison."

Invictus opened his mouth to protest, but she interrupted him.

"Yes, I did say we, and things have changed since you've been gone, Vicky.
But get in, I'll tell you all about it later."

"Fine," Invictus said, getting into the stern seat. "But if you don't find
it possible to call me Invictus, then call me McCloud. Do NOT call me
Vicky."

"Have it your way," she said, hopping into the front seat and grabbing the
oar there.

Mulder gingerly got into the canoe, and sat on the floor in the middle. As
they shoved off and started rowing for Mackinac Island, he leaned against
his pack.

This is just a bad dream, he thought to himself, a vivid, clear,
unbelievably realistic, bad dream.

XxXxXxXxXxX

As they paddled the seemingly endless length of water from the mainland of
the Upper Peninsula to the Island, Mulder spoke.

"Aren't you afraid the military will come out and investigate all that
gunfire? I mean, with all that you shot at us, I'm surprised they weren't
out in full force."

Cassidy shook her blond ponytail. "No. There's gunfire all of the time,
and since August, the military hasn't done a damn thing about. No one has.
It's like the frontier all over again. In more ways than one."

As if to illustrate her point, a couple of distant shots rang out, a set of
dull pops followed by a tearing sound, like God ripping clouds.

"And anyway," she continued, "I've barely seen the military. A couple of
times maybe in the Straits, but more often they're over at Fort
Michilimackinac. It seems that after 200 years, the fort is once again a
military post."

"You know, it's funny," she said, momentarily stopping her paddling to turn
and look at Invictus and Mulder, "now, instead of the French, British and
the Indians, it's humans, aliens and hybrids. I guess history does repeat
itself."

"True," Invictus said, "but if you'll think back to the history of that
very same fort, you'll find that we're in luck."

Mulder turned to him, and he better illustrated. "The underdogs won," he
said, dipping his oar back in the lake and stoking hard, "as the Indians so
ably pointed out, a little ingenuity goes a long way."

"You're right about that," Cass answered from the bow. "But it was a damn
bloody battle."

XxXxXxXxXxX

They reached the Island and dragged the craft up onto the beach where it
couldn't be touched by water.

"This way," Cass said, heading up a path that led to a small log cabin,
with a stable and small barn a little further in. Four horses came out and
whinnied at them when they neared.

She walked up to the porch that lined the small house and opened the door
slowly. As soon as she had it open a crack, two black noses appeared
instantly. Cass said something to them in English, but it was too high
pitched for either Mulder, or Invictus to make out.

The dogs swarmed around Cass, leaving the lower half of her body a blur of
ebony, bronze and ivory.

"Gentlemen," she said, turning what little the dogs allowed her, toward the
two men, "I'd like to in introduce you to Thunder and Lightning. Boys," she
said, turning back to the dogs, "Invictus and Mulder."

At that point, the dogs seemed to just notice these strangers standing
there on their porch. At once they launched themselves at Mulder while
Invictus took a few steps back down the staircase and back into the lawn,
slowly.

Mulder bent down, scratching behind the dog's ears while they instantly
fell in love with him.

Then, they pried themselves from Mulder and scrambled to the edge of the
porch, stopping. The dogs simply stood there looking at Invictus, while he
did the same back. One of them barked once.

"What seems to be the problem?" Mulder said to Invictus, smiling. "Come and
make nice."

"I told you," Invictus said, still not moving, "dogs HATE me, Mulder."

"Now *why* would anyone hate *you*?" Mulder asked him back, thoroughly
enjoying himself.

Cass stepped back out onto the porch and shouted.

"Boys! Go to the barn!"

The dogs obediently scrambled off the front porch and ran in the direction
of the stable.

She stood in the door and held it open, allowing Invictus and Mulder to
pass through.

Invictus climbed back up on the porch and brushed by Mulder, irritated.

"Smartass," he mumbled.

Mulder simply smiled to himself and followed him.

"Welcome to my humble abode," she said, shutting the door behind him and
bolting it. "Bathroom's around the corner."

"Thank God," Invictus said, making a beeline around the corner, leaving
Mulder and Cassidy alone in the foyer.

"So uh, Mulder," Cass started, opening a nearby closet and depositing her
large weapon there. "Any ideas on how we're going to get your memory back?"

"I just work here," Mulder said, shrugging.

Although Invictus seemed quite taken with her, but Mulder wasn't quite sure
he trusted the woman yet. They stood there a moment in awkward silence.

"What's the next order of business?"

The two turned to Invictus who'd emerged from around the corner.

Cass looked at her watch and moved towards the door.

"Now, I'm going to feed the horses," she said. "You two stay put. In an
hour, we'll leave for the meeting. We'll figure things out from there."

She closed the door behind her, and Mulder and Invictus plopped down on the
couch.

"Oh yeah," Invictus said in ecstasy, squirming his way deeper into the
cushions. "You know how long it's been since I've sat in an actual couch?"

Mulder simply narrowed his eyes at him and swiveled his body to talk with
him. "What are we doing here, Invictus?" He asked. "I thought we were
supposed to be halfway on our way to Lansing by now."

"Well," Invictus said, rubbing tiredly at his eyes. "She seems to be with
the resistance. And she also seems to know a little more about what's going
on out here than I do. I don't know if I'd told you this, Mulder, but I've
been out of touch."

Invictus' tone irritated Mulder. He narrowed his eyes and gnashed his
teeth, trying to control himself.

"I've trusted you so far, Invictus, because I was offered no other options.
While what you've said hasn't made the least bit of sense, I've followed
you and haven't questioned your decisions. But I don't know left from
right, here. I'm out here swinging in the wind. You could at least tell me
why you think she'd know more about what's going on than you."

"Fair enough," Invictus answered. "Mulder, before I was captured by the
military for reasons I still don't really know, I was one of the few people
on the planet who was in a position to know about, and possibly stop this
whole colonization. I'm still not sure why they didn't kill us," he said,
pausing and pondering the question for a moment.

"Anyway," Mulder said impatiently.

"Anyway," Invictus continued, "I wasn't in with the government or anything
like that, like you might be thinking, but I did have. well, what I guess
you could call 'inside sources'. What I'm trying to say here, is that I was
the leader of the resistance before there *was* a resistance. And before I
was captured, I'd managed to network most parts of the country with other
groups of people that didn't think what I was preaching to them was all
horse hockey. We installed a system that I have to say, I'm pretty damn
proud of, to keep us connected and up to date no matter what was happening
around the world. If Cassidy and these people she's with are connected with
that network, they'll have all of the latest information that I was sadly
lacking down in the depths of the Straits."

"But how did." Mulder began.

"I know you?" Invictus finished for him.

Mulder nodded.

"Well," Invictus went on, "my association with the resistance is actually
how I met you. I'm afraid it's how we were both captured as well."

Mulder sucked in a breath and turned sharply to Invictus.

"The colonists had attacked most of the big cities on the Eastern seaboard
in one day," Invictus explained. "Ever see Independence Day?"

At Mulder's blank stare, he went on.

"Anyway, I'd managed to get a hold of you through some mutual friends of
ours. They'd actually been the ones to help me set up the whole resistance
network. In any event, you'd set up a meeting with me the next day. Your
partner was actually supposed to be there too, but for some reason or
another- you never got the chance to say- she didn't make it. You were at
the meeting place before I got there, and as soon as I arrived, they
surrounded us, threw us into the back of the proverbial unmarked van and
carted us away. I wasn't being careful. They must have followed me."

He stopped a moment and looked at Mulder with a small, sad smile on his
face. "Even if you're not paranoid, Mulder, it doesn't mean they aren't
out to get you."

"What happened then?" Mulder asked.

"I think you know the rest," Invictus said. "They gathered us with the rest
of the poor shmucks that knew too much, wiped our memories- well, *most* of
our memories- and sank us down into the big lake never to be heard from
again."

"How the hell did you," Mulder began, but was interrupted by the slamming
of the front door.

Cass stood in the doorway, brushing some bits of hay off of her jeans.
"Hungry gentlemen?"

Neither man had to answer. "Starving" might as well have been written
across each of their foreheads.

XxXxXxXxXxX

They devoured their meal of meat, potatoes, and other vegetables wrapped up
in a crusty bread. Cass called them pasties.

"You gotta watch how you pronounce that," she said, smiling.

When the dishes had been done, and the scraps had been given to the dogs,
Cass grabbed a light jacket from the doorway closet and stood by the door.
"Time to go, guys. We've got to meet the group. Boy are THEY going to be
surprised!"

Mulder reached to grab his backpack, but Cass stopped him.

"You can leave that here. Don't worry, we'll be back."

Mulder paused, but picked up the bag anyway. "I think I'll just take it
anyway."

They all exited the cabin into the fresh autumn air. The two men followed
Cass as she approached the stable. She reached the fence and turned to
them.

"English or Western?" She asked them.

"Pardon?" Invictus said. They had no idea what she was talking about.

"Do you want to ride in an English saddle, or a Western one?" She said
slowly, treating them both as very dense.

"You mean we're riding *horses* to this meeting? Where the hell is it?"
Mulder interjected.

"Yes," she answered, with a hint of contempt in her voice. "The meeting is
downtown. How the hell else would we get there?"

"Um," Mulder said, "did they stop making *cars* while we were gone?"

"There aren't cars on this Island, Mulder," she said back. "There never
have been, and there never will be. They're outlawed here. The only way to
get around is by horse or bike. You should see the space they save on
parking lots at the Grand Hotel."

Mulder turned to Invictus.

"She's kidding, right?"

"Apparently not," he answered. "I kind of forgot about that part."

He then turned back to Cass.

"Western. For both of us."

She threw them both a brush and headed into the barn.

"Mulder," she said as she was walking. "You get Chauncy. He's the Bay on
the end there. Mack, you take Brice, she's the Appaloosa."

The dogs appeared then, and sniffed around Mulder's ankles. Mulder held
the brush up to Invictus. "What am I supposed to do with this?" He asked.

"Use it," Invictus answered dumbly, approaching his horse. "Haven't you
ever ridden a horse before, Mulder?"

"When I was a kid," he answered.

"Great. No, go with the hair. That's it." He corrected Mulder, then
continued, "it's like riding a bike."

"So it'll all come back to me?" Mulder asked.

"No," said Invictus with a grin. "But your ass'll hurt like hell when you
get off."

XxXxXxXxXxX

"Why couldn't it be aliens," Scully thought acidly as the beam from the
searchlight temporarily blinded her. She pressed down on the accelerator
hard once more, but the mini-van was not in a cooperative mood. And
although the speedometer continued to climb higher and faster, it still
wasn't fast enough

Elspeth leaned over the middle of the drivers and passengers seat. "Why
are they still chasing us?" she yelled. "I thought we were clear a long time
ago!"

Scully jerked the wheel again, sending Elspeth careening into the back of
the passenger side seat.

"Good God!" Elspeth screamed. "At least give me the chance to buckle up
before you do that again!"

"Why are they still after us?" Scully questioned, a frantic tic in her
voice. A silence amongst the chaos of noise outside of their inner circle
hung between them for a moment. Scully wavered somewhere between
irritation and panic. "Elspeth? Richter?"

"I don't know!" Elspeth said, eyes focusing in on Richter. "Is it possible
that they're after you?" She gestured toward him. "They want revenge for
what you did at the Antioch Hybrid Camp?" There was no bitterness in her
voice now. "Is there anything else you haven't told us?"

"I don't see why they would go after me. They've had scores of chances
before to kill me or interrogate me." He shook his head fiercely. "And
why would they waste all this effort simply for revenge?"

"Is it possible that they're after you, Elspeth?" Scully yelled as she
jerked the car sharply to the left. "What were you doing before they took
you to the house back in Rhode Island?"

She shook her head hard, hair flying east and west. "I don't see why they
would be after me. I just was a minor player in the resistance groups. I
planned some things, made speeches, but really, I didn't do anything that
would be even close to being worth all this trouble."

"Well they obviously don't want us dead," Richter said, stretching his
hands forward to brace himself against the dashboard as Scully made another hard
evasive maneuver. "I'd like to find out what they want with us."

"But we don't want them to catch us so we can find out what's behind door
number two," Elspeth retorted.

Scully was about to respond when suddenly, the lights were gone, sending
them drifting away into an uneasy silence. Scully's breathing became short
and shallow--flickering in and out like a candle flame without oxygen. She
began to slow the car and turned off the lights. Elspeth and Richter
remained silent as though a word could shatter their fragile luck.

As stealthily as possible Scully turned the car westward and began to scan
the dark before them for a possible hiding spot. She was operating on a
thin form of calm panic that she had mustered up in their predicament.
Heart racing wildly, eyes white and large with fear and apprehension, she
finally spied a clearing to hide the van. She picked up some speed
cautiously, their hopes lying in each rotation of the tires. They could
escape on foot after they were out of the view of danger, Scully reasoned.

Although it would be obvious to their pursuers where they had gone, the
long stretch of forest would buy them time, especially if they had to go on foot
through the forest in order to find them . . . unless they had already
thought of that and had set ambushes for them . . .

But none of this was to be. Destiny had flipped over a new card in the
game, and one not to their favor. The helicopter had reappeared, roaring
out from over the trees, its menacing glare was bearing down on them
directly.

Later Scully would say that in those moments they had screamed, prayed
quickly and silently for there lives, but none of this horror was actually
a spot in her memory. She would conclude from the facts later that she had
pulled sharply to the right, startled, and dropped the mini-van into a
ditch where it slid for a few feet before it rolled over. She rationalized all
of this because when she woke however many hours or days later, she could not
remember anything that had happened in those few seconds before fate
decided to zig instead of zag.

XxXxXxXxXxX

White walls and anesthetic fluorescent lights.

It seemed to Scully as she blinked her eyes opened that she had been
transported into a literary cliche' misused by far too many teenagers
who were probably all dead now.

As she tried to lift her arms to wipe the sleep from her eyes, she came
into contact with resistance.

Arm restraints.

That woke her up.

She groaned as she struggled in her bounds. Out of the corner of her eye,
she spotted the gleam of silver--the door, a slice of blue-green glass
hinting there was an out. Then movement startled her and she became momentarily
frightened that after everything, this was her end, but relief came over her when
she saw it was another person strapped down onto a similar bed. As she focused in,
she saw that it was Richter, who was also trying to fight off his bondage.
Thinking it only logical, she twisted to the other side to see Elspeth--but
Elspeth was not there.

"Richter?" she moaned.

"Dana?" was his weak reply. Then he called out again. "Elspeth?"

"She's not here," Scully said, blowing a strand of hair that had covered
her face. "I don't know . . ."

"Agent Scully, I see that you've finally come to." The voice was cool.
Crisp. And sickeningly familiar.

It wasn't just the voice so much as it was the vicious tone that
accompanied it that chilled Scully's blood and twisted her gut upside down.
She turned toward the voice, eyes narrowed and intense toward the object of her
repressed rage.

"Diana," she addressed tartly as the brunette smirked and
folded her arms, waiting for Scully to continue, "why am I not surprised?"


END CHAPTER

Chapter Eight