Chapter 8

They rode down Main Street with Cass in the lead, Mulder in the middle,
Invictus bringing up the rear and Thunder and Lightning everywhere in

The sound of nothing but the surf, an occasional sea gull, and the hoof
beats of the horses on the paved street gave Mulder the creeps. He tried
not to look out over the water where the twisted, gnarled remains of the
bridge filled the landscape.

He patted his horse's neck and adjusted the backpack that they'd strapped
on the back of the saddle. This wasn't as bad as he thought it would be.
The horse was not averse to having Mulder as his rider, if not a little
indifferent to the whole thing. It occurred to Mulder that he'd forgotten
the horses name.

"Cass?" he asked, "Who am I on, again?"

Cass turned a little in her saddle and grinned at him. "That's Chauncy's
Bad Idea. He can be a little feisty sometimes, but he's a real smooth ride,
no matter what you're doing. I didn't want to have you thrown and all
banged up. One case of amnesia is bad enough."

Mulder smiled, and Invictus piped up from the rear.

"So who is everybody else?" he asked.

"You're on Fried Brown Rice, and this," she said, tugging a little on her
horses mane, "is Bob."

"Huh," said Invictus distantly. It was a little eerie riding through these
streets, he thought. The souvenir and fudge shops were all dark and
forbidding. Some still had their doors propped open, and 'Yes! We're Open!'
signs displayed.

He wondered out loud where all of the people had gone.

"Dead," Cass said, answering his question, "or north. Jakob Bordwell was
the local nut at the time. Always screaming about this kind of thing
happening. You should have seen it. He changed in the course of about an
hour from the village laughing stock to practically mayor. Seems he'd been
networked with the resistance for some time. He told all of the islanders
to head north and to tell as many people as they could on the way. It
seemed to work. Those of us that refused to leave our home have either
joined up with the resistance here, or left anyway."

"Is Bordwell still here?" Invictus asked. "I wouldn't mind shaking his

Cass was silent for a moment.

Then, she said sadly, "No. Jakob died. He and a couple of other guys headed
down to Lansing to go after that vaccine he was always talking about. We
got a call from him telling us that we had to get to Madison. That the
vaccine was no longer at MSU. Alan Shirilla was the only one who made it

"Are you planning a trip to Madison?" Invictus asked. "Are you still
networked with the resistance?"

"No," Cass said, a hint of contempt in her voice. "We're drowning in
political bullshit."

She paused a moment and elaborated. "Of all of the people that should have
made it back from down state, Alan was the last one I'd expect, OR hope
for. He's since taken over our little wing, and instead of fighting the
forces that be, he insists on fighting everyone else in the group. He's got
a few supporters from who we have left, but, there's about to be a coup

"I see," Invictus said, downhearted. "We almost there?"

"Yep," she said. "It's right up the hill. We meet at the old fort here on
the Island," she said, smiling. "We thought it kind of fitting."

They proceeded up the steep bluff, and into the enclosure of the old fort.
Cass' two Coon hounds raced ahead.

They tied up their horses outside of the small, antique chapel, and Cass
approached the door, knocking twice. It opened, and Cass walked through.
"I come bearing gifts," she said.

Mulder and Invictus followed her, but as soon as they entered, all activity
in the small chapel stopped, and all eyes fell on them.

It was silent for a moment, when a man of about 27, shorter, well-built and
blond stepped forward with a scowl on his face that looked permanent.

"Who are *they*?" he asked without a hint of politeness.

"You won't believe it when I tell you," Cass said, ushering them further

She pointed to small group of men and women in the room and introduced them
to Mulder and Invictus. The seven other people in the chapel, five men,
two women, nodded to them, except for the man that had spoken up when they
walked in. "And this," she went on, "is Alan Shirilla."

"We all know who we are, Cassidy," Alan said impatiently, "but who are

"Everyone, I'd like to introduce you to Curtis McCloud," she paused as she
waited for the gasps and mumblings to quiet, then continued. "And Fox

The man she'd introduced as John Baxter loudly gasped, "No fucking way!"

To which the woman standing next to him, about 30 years his senior, slapped
him upside his head and said, "Watch it John, we're STILL in a church

"Hi," Invictus nodded.

"Not funny, Cass," said Alan stepping forward. "Who are they, really?"

"It wasn't a joke, Alan," Cass replied.

His eyebrows shot up to his hairline. "And just HOW did you happen to come
across Fox Mulder and Curtis McCloud? They come in on the ferry?" he asked

Cass shot him an evil look and proceeded to parlay the entire story to the
rest of the group.

Most of them came up to Mulder and Invictus and asked them questions, shook
their hands, and generally got really excited. Even the dogs warmed up to
Invictus somewhat and got in on the action.

Invictus was just taking a seat at one of the pews when Alan, who had been
standing by processing the whole story put up his hands and shouted.

"Wait just a God damn minute!"

Everyone stopped their chattering and turned to him.

"Two men you meet on the *Mackinac Bridge* appear and tell you they are
*Fox Mulder* and *Curtis McCloud* and you just took them at their word?!"
Alan nearly shouted.

"Yes," Cass replied confidently. "I did. Alan, if they were trying to get
in here and infiltrate our little band of resistance, you'd think they
might go for something a *little* more low profile than Mulder and McCloud.
Anyway," she went on, "they knew the password. And I saw a picture of
Mulder once. That's him."

"Well," Alan said, striding over to Mulder and sneering at him, "we'll just
see about that. Come on, we're going to have us a little chat." He grabbed
Mulder by the arm and led him to the corner of the room.

Cass took a few steps to follow, but Alan put up his hand, stopping her.

"No," he said, "stay there. You've done enough."

Miffed, Cass crossed her arms and plopped down next to Invictus.

Invictus leaned over to her and whispered, "What is he going to do?"

Cass shook her head. "I don't know, Alan usually isn't *this* paranoid."

They both silently turned their heads to watch what was unfolding before

Alan pushed Mulder into a chair, and leaned in really close, not saying
anything. One of the other men took place on his other side and kept
himself busy shooting alternately Mulder, then Cass and Invictus, menacing

Mulder just kept his face stoic and leaned back in his chair. "Is this the
part," he said, "where I say, 'What's all this about?' and then you say,
'Shut up Mulder, *I* ask the questions.'?"

Cass snorted her laughter, trying to keep it in, but failing miserably.

Alan threw her a dirty look and then turned it on Mulder.

"Am I threatening your alpha male status, Shirilla?" Mulder asked, as he
attempted to stand.

Alan pushed him back down and moved to stand directly in front of him.

"You know, *Mulder*," Alan stressed, "amnesia is a pretty convenient thing
to have happen. Especially if you're not up-to-date on your Fox Mulder

"Considering the position I'm currently in, Alan," Mulder said, "I find it
decidedly *inconvenient* that I can't remember certain aspects of my past."

"Oh," Alan burst in, "so now it's *selective* amnesia. Cassidy neglected to
mention that particular aspect of it."

At that point he turned to look at Cass. She glared at him and stood.

"I was *summarizing* Alan. You're not exactly the portrait of patience."

She took back her seat next to Invictus and sighed.

"Watch where you walk, Alan," she warned him, "before you step in

"Alright," Alan went on, "let's assume that you ARE Fox Mulder, and that
you and McCloud did escape from some submarine military fortress." He
paused a moment while his cohort, Dylan Kopenkowski snickered a little from
Mulder's other side. "If you were THAT valuable- I don't know why you would
BE valuable, but let's just say that you were- if you were really that
valuable to the military, then why did they let you go?"

"They didn't exactly let us go," Mulder said, "they either think we're
dead, or they think we made it out. I don't know how we did it, but we

"I think you ARE the military, Fox," Alan said, standing in front of him.
"I think you're with them, trying to get information from, or disband our
little assembly here."

Invictus stood. "Shirilla, that's ridiculous. This is stupid. Why don't
you just let us help you?" He said.

"Okay," Alan said slowly. "Let's say that I accept your help. Let's say I
accept who you are. What I don't get, is why aren't they after you? Why
aren't they looking for you? Why aren't they here?"

Just then, a man burst through the door. He was panting hard and doubled
over for a moment trying to catch his breath. He put his hands on his
knees and looked up.

"They're coming," he said, gasping for breath. "I saw them down on the
dock, they've got four wheeler's and they're armed. We've gotta get out of
here. They're coming."


Chaos ensued.

The members of the group disbanded immediately and made for every entrance
in the small building.

Cass leapt up from the pew, grabbed Mulder by the arm, knocking Alan out of
the way in the process, and shoved him toward the exit that Invictus was
already waiting at.

Cass nearly jumped up onto her horse, and spurred it into a canter almost

Mulder was barely in the saddle before his horse took off after Cass'.

He righted himself as best he could, and held onto the saddle horn in one
hand, barely managing to keep a hold of the reins in the other.

There seemed to be horsemen everywhere, some ahead of him, and some behind.
They all seemed to be heading the same direction, toward the back of the
fort, and then up an enclave and into the surrounding forest.

Cass pulled up suddenly, causing him, Invictus, and two other horses behind
him to skid to a halt. Cass watched as four of the group that were in
front of her kept full tilt forward, and looked to her left, trying to make
up her mind.

John Baxter, who had been behind Invictus trotted up to her. "What the
hell are you doing, Cass?"

"We should separate!" she said.

"Damn right we should!" Alan nearly shouted, as he came up on her other
side. "I want to be as far from these two as possible!"

With that, he took off through a path off to the group's left, where Cass
had been considering going.

"Screw him!" she said, getting flustered. "We'll follow the rest of the
group, I hope he gets caught!" She was about to take off up a small hill
to follow the others, when the sound of approaching motors began to hum
steadily closer from their right.

"We can't go that way anymore!" John shouted, steering his horse to the
left. "Come on! Let's go!"

A gunshot ripped through the air above them, and into a nearby birch.

Cass' horse reared, but she kept her seat, and spurred him forward.

They were all soon flying through the woods, branches and leaves assaulting
Mulder from every direction, snapping in his face and tearing at his legs.
He sat up in the saddle, and, giving up on the reins, grabbed the saddle
horn in both hands. He ducked his head down by his horse's neck, and
narrowly missed being decapitated by large beech branch.

Suddenly, the tree line opened up to a large field, over grown with weeds.
From his vantage point, Mulder could barely make out the one strip of
pavement that had been the Island's airport. They tore across the field to
the other side, and Mulder finally started to feel comfortable in his seat.
Cass had been right, Chauncy's Bad Idea had a very smooth gait. He turned a
little to find Invictus, but could only see one other horse, bearing two
riders behind him.

His stomach flip-flopped in his abdomen, and he twisted even more in the
saddle, searching him out. He lost his newly-found balance almost
instantly, and quickly tried to right himself. He couldn't. His right foot
had come out of the stirrup, and he was leaning in that direction as his
right leg bounced against the horses flank. He flailed out with his left
hand and grabbed Chauncy's mane, hanging on for dear life as the horse
continued to run hard.

All of the sudden, the spotted head of an Appaloosa came charging right up
beside him, and he felt strong hands shove him back up into the saddle.

He worked his foot back into the stirrup and turned his head to smile
weakly at Invictus, who had appeared, once again out of nowhere to save
him. Invictus merely nodded once and then looked forward, giving Mulder a
head's up that they were about to head back into the woods.

Cass slowed down somewhat as they entered the tree line, and she trotted
along a more clear path, and then down a fairly steep slope that opened up
on a sandy beach. She pulled up as she got to the waterline. The horses
were heavily winded, and she dismounted, the rest of them following suit.

Mulder looked at the other riders. Other than he, Cass and Invictus, John
Baxter, Jessica Morris, who had earlier disciplined him, a small, quiet,
almost elderly man named Plinket, and a teenaged girl named Katie Swarth,
had been the other members of the group that had been forced to follow

As Plinket helped Katie down off of his horse, they all turned to Cass.

"Am I in charge, here?" she asked, her voice hesitant but curt, as though
she found the task unsavory, but necessary nonetheless.

"Might as well be," Jessica spoke up. "You seem to be a little more
informed than the rest of us."

"Well then," Cass said, "I say we make this a democracy. What do you all
think we should do?"

"I say we get the hell out of here," Katie piped up from Plinket's side.

"It's an island, Katie," Baxter said. "We can't run forever."

"But we can sure as hell run for a while," said Cass, turning to Plinket.
"Tom, you know this island better than the island knows itself, where do
you think we should go?"

Plinket stood for a moment, and simply regarded the water.

"What I think we should do," he spoke, "is decide whether or not we think
we're ready or not to go out and do what we're all in this to do. We can't
justly call ourselves a resistance if we don't resist."

"I agree," Jessica said.

"I do too," said John Baxter. "And I think we're ready. We have most of
the necessary information. The only thing we've been waiting for these past
few months is for Alan Shirilla to get his head out of his ass. It works
just fine for me if he isn't in on it at all."

Cass looked to all of the other members. None seemed to have a problem with
the idea. "If we're going to do this," she said, "then we are presented
with more than one problem. First of all, we've been split up from the
others. We really shouldn't do this without them. And for another, how are
we going to get there? We can't very well swim all of the way."

She stopped and looked to the group as they all pondered what she'd said.
It was then that Invictus, who'd been standing quietly by, spoke.

"Well," he said, "if you want to know what I think, I think that you should
go in two groups. That way, if one of you doesn't make it, the other will,
and should something go wrong, you'd have another group behind you to back
you up, and supply reinforcements should they be needed."

"You've got a good point," Cass said, "but how do we organize this? We need
time, and time isn't something that we have a lot of right now."

Tom Plinket spoke then.

"We don't need time," he said, "time is something we've been swimming in
these past few months. We know what we have to do, and we're relatively
sure we know how. What we *need* is the balls to just step forward and do

Everyone was silent, waiting for him to continue.

"Cassidy," he said, "I've lived on this Island all of my life. I don't plan
on dying elsewhere, and I refuse to be bullied off of my home. I think,
considering the situation, it would be best if you led the group down to
Arch Rock, while I head back into town. I'll supply up your boat, and sail
it to Arch Cove. You, John, and these two," he said, pointing at Mulder and
Invictus, "can all go to Madison from there. I'll take Jessica and Katie
back, we'll round up the others, and follow you on land."

Cass stood and considered it for a moment. She nodded once, but turned to
him. "I trust you, Tom, but what about the troops back there? How are you going
to do it?"

"Don't you worry about that," he said. "This is my island. I'll manage.
I'll be there by sundown tomorrow." With that, he swung up into his
saddle, and took off down the beach.

Cass grabbed her mount by the reins and pulled it in the other direction.
"Come on, guys," she said. "We're going to the Arch."


"Aren't they going to see that?" Katie asked from around the circle of the

She pointed to the fire and wrapped her arms around her legs, scooting
closer to it. The horses were nickering softly behind her, content to rip
leaves off of low hanging branches.

The night had fallen without incident for them, and as the many stars
winked on above them, they had built a fire to keep warm. No one had
thought to grab blankets or anything useful when they fled from the chapel.

They only had what Mulder and Invictus had in the pack. In their current
situation, it didn't amount to much.

"No," Invictus said, from across the fire from her. "Don't you worry about
that. We'll be fine for the night."

He really wasn't confident in what he was telling the girl, but he didn't
want to scare her. He hadn't thought that building a fire was the best
thing to do for their safety, but it was extremely cold at night on the
island, and it was the best thing for their health.

"I wonder if Thunder and Lightning are okay," Cass said, from the outskirts
of the fire. "I wonder where they are."

"They'll be fine," Jessica said, walking up to Cass and patting her on the
arm. "Don't you worry about them."

Cassidy nodded and stoked the fire before sitting down.

"We should all get some sleep," she said. "Why don't you all try to get
some shut eye. I'll take the first watch. John, you take the second."

Baxter nodded.

Mulder and Invictus both opened their mouths to protest, but Cass stopped
them both short. "With the day you've both had?" She said, "I'm surprised
you're both conscious. You two sleep, John and I will go back and forth.
Now lay down, shut up, and go to sleep."

They were both snoring loudly within five minutes.


Mulder wasn't sure what woke him. It was either the cold, a noise, a
suspicion, or a combination of the three.

He didn't move-his body having been pushed to the limits of endurance all
day coupled with the cold of the night didn't allow him too.

He opened his eyes and glanced over at John Baxter who was keeping watch.

The man sat still, his body extremely tense. He looked like a gun ready to
go off. His gaze was fixed in one direction, and Mulder glanced that way
reflexively, but didn't see any thing.

He took a moment to watch the man, then, quietly he spoke.

"What is it?" he whispered.

Baxter didn't even move. "Listen," he whispered back.

Mulder did.

At first, he didn't hear anything. Then, a few moments later, he heard a
branch cracking off in the direction that Baxter was looking in.

"What is it?" he whispered again.

"I don't know," the man answered. "But it's closer than the last one."

"Deer?" Mulder offered.

Baxter shook his head. "Maybe, but. I don't think so."

Then, off to the other side of the fire, he heard another branch break,
this one more distantly. John Baxter swung his head in the direction of
the second sound and then stole a glance at Mulder.

"That was the first one from over there," he whispered.

Then, back in the direction of the first sound, another branch broke, this
one much closer than before.

Mulder, aching in every muscle in his body, finally found the strength to
move. He drew his own gun turned to move.

"Wake the others," he said, his voice a little louder. "I'll untie the

John nodded and quietly went around shaking the group.

Mulder rose slowly and silently approached the dozing horses. He was
almost to them when a figure stepped out of the darkness and directly in
his path.


He was almost too shocked and frightened to recognize the man standing
before him. But realization dawned on him, and he breathed out a sigh of
both relief and irritation as he lowered his gun.

"Dice Powers," he said, "if you ever do that to me again, I'll kill you."

"You got close enough the first time," the man said, then he motioned
toward a still sleeping Invictus. "Wake McCloud, I have bad news. It's
about your partner and a hybrid."

"My what?" Mulder asked confused, but with the stern look from Dice, he
turned and bent down near Invictus to shake him awake.

"Get up," he said, shaking him roughly. "We have company."

Invictus roused quickly and leapt up to greet his friend.

Mulder and Invictus both approached the man who had saved them, but stopped
when they were a few feet in front of him. They both just noticed the state
he was in, and stood, horrified.

His arm was in a tight sling, and his BDU's were soaked. He looked haggard,
and ready to drop.

"How did you.?" Invictus began to ask him.

Dice didn't wait for him to finish.

"They brought me to the surface for treatment," he said. "They were still
transporting me when they finally reviewed the tapes of what happened. They
came in to put me in restraints when I escaped. I stole a military boat and
came here, figuring I could find you. Looks like I was right."

The three men stood there looking at each other in the firelight, none of
them saying a thing. Then, Dice took a step forward. "There's a new
development," he said, "something I just found out and didn't get a chance
to tell you."

Cass, now awake, walked up to the men, but kept her distance, suddenly wary
of them. "What's going on here, guys?" She asked suspiciously. She
wondered if she really had been duped by these two men. She hoped she was

The other members of the group simply sat by the fire, watching and
waiting. Katie had scootched herself closer to Jessica, and the older woman
put her arm around her. Neither one looked anything other than scared.

"I'll tell you what's going on!" A voice suddenly shouted out. Alan
Shirilla stepped out of the woods and into the circle of light, his gun
drawn and trained on Dice. "Looks like I was right the whole time,
Cassidy," he said, cocking his weapon. "Looks like they really are one of

"It's not what you think," Mulder said, stepping toward him.

"That's where you're wrong, *Mulder*," Alan said, stepping closer to Dice.
"It's exactly what I think."

To Mulder, the next second slowed to a honey-dripping pace. It was as if
the bottom of the hour glass had suddenly become much deeper, and the grain
of sand, in it's descent, fell and fell and fell, without ever hitting

To Cass, it all happened too quickly.

Mulder and Invictus simultaneously screamed "NO!" Alan's finger pulled back
on the trigger twice. And Dice Powers' body slumped to the earth at their
feet with a sickening thud.


Chapter Nine