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Saturday, March 26, 2005Edit

Fox Mulder closes the door to his motel room (number 242) and starts to stride down the hallway towards the stairs. His steps become hesitant and he starts to look around....up, left, right, back over his shoulder. He stops in front of a small cabinet in the wall and opens the small door that gives access to a fire extinguisher. Fox takes the magnetic key card for his room's door lock out of his shirt pocket and slips it behind the fire extinguisher.

Fox is in a hurry to get to the evening session of the MUFON conference, but his paranoia is automatic. Fox is expecting trouble tonight; the culmination of weeks of hard work to set a trap. The main question is if the trap will be big enough. He wonders if he is trying to use a mouse trap to catch a tiger. For the 3948th time he wishes he still had access to the resources of the FBI.

Fox hurries out into the cool night. From the balcony he can see a neon sign: Ashville Motor Lodge is at the top with Valley MUFON Conference in small, removable letters at the bottom. Fox follows the balcony along the entire street-side length of the second floor and then down the stairs at that end. He crosses the parking lot to the lecture hall where the MUFON conference is being held. A poster stand by the door holds the announcement: Saturday Night Owl Session, Guest speaker TBA.

Fox enters the lecture hall with a few other late arrivals. His eyes quickly find the flash of red hair that marks the back of Dana Scully's head where she sits in the front row of seats. His heart skips as he realizes -and really feels- the danger that Scully is in. He touches his cell phone and thinks one more time about calling the FBI or even the local police. Fox grins at his jitters and takes a seat near the back of the room.

While Fox is entering and getting seated, a MUFON member is making some announcements about the Sunday schedule over the loud speaker system. When the announcements are done the speaker says, "Now Rick will introduce our guest speaker for tonight."

Fox is in environment scan mode, his eyes trying to look out of the back of his head. He knows that only the front door will allow entry to the meeting hall; all the other doors are exit-only fire doors and will sound an alarm if forced open from outside.

Richard Wells, the president of the Valley MUFON Chapter takes the microphone. "Thanks, Judy. And thank you all for getting back here in good time after dinner. But I knew you would because of the provocative title of tonight's talk, "The Alien Genome Project." Now, we were not sure if our speaker would be here tonight, so our good friend Fox Mulder was ready to serve as a substitute, but I am pleased to inform you that we do have Dr. Dana Scully here tonight." Wells nods to Dana. "As you all know, Dr. Scully is a medical doctor who once worked for many years along side Fox on the FBI X-Files project. Over the past few years she has been involved with biological research at Fort Detrick, working as a consultant. Now, Dr. Scully will tell us about "The Alien Genome Project."

The audience applauds and Dana rises from the first row. Wells clips a small microphone on Dana's jacket and then shakes her hand. She picks up a laser pointer and a remote control for the computer projection system and brings the title slide of her presentation to the screen at the front of the room. In large green letters, "The Alien Genome Project" glows behind Dana and the room lights are lowered. Dana looks out into the room and locks eyes with Mulder for a second. Most of those in the audience are relaxed but Dana can recognize the tense posture of Fox's body and that triggers her to full alert. As an experienced teacher, Dana is normally very composed for public speaking, but she counts silently to five in order to calm herself and she has to consciously remind herself put some good cheer into her voice.

"Thank you for inviting me to speak tonight. This is the first chance I have had to speak in public since leaving my position as medical consultant with the Army. I think you will be very interested to hear what I will tell you, but I must say right at the start that I am still under certain restrictions. When we get to the Q and A, I will not be able to answer some of the obvious questions that you will be forced to ask. I know this will be frustrating for you, and all I can say is that it is my hope that I will one day be able to more fully describe all of what I have been witness to."

Suddenly the doors to the conference hall burst open and armed men rush into the room. Scully is grabbed by two of the men and pushed towards the door. The audience members are shouting protests, "Leave her alone!" "Let her speak!" "This is America, you Nazi swine!"

Mulder stands quietly, one hand on the gun in its holster under his jacket, the other sending a text message from his phone. Scully risks only a glance at him out of the corner of her eye as she is taken out of the room. As soon as the last of the armed men passes out of sight into the entry way, Mulder leaps towards the door and does a graceful shoulder roll into the entry way, rising with gun drawn just as the outer doors swing shut.

Mulder is the first to follow Scully and the armed men after they leave the meeting hall. He sees two large blue vans leaving the parking lot, tires squealing. Fox runs down the short walkway to the parking lot as an old van pulls up next to Fox and Frohike pulls open the sliding door of the van. From the front seat Byers shouts, "Get in!" Mulder jumps into the moving van and Langly pushes the accelerator to the floor. Soon they are driving very fast through traffic as they follow -and attempt to keep up with- the vans driven by the armed men who took Scully. In the back of the Lone Gunmen van, Frohike is watching a computer screen with a global positioning signal flashing on a map of Ashville.

Sunday, March 27, 2005Edit

Agents Skinner, Reyes and Doggett have interviewed the few MUFON conference attendees still at the motel and are making one last effort to collect evidence from the conference hall where Dana was abducted. Skinner completes a phone call to Washington and notices Agent Reyes waiting to talk with him. He puts his phone in his inside jacket pocket and smells his not too clean under arms. He wonders if the motel's manager would let him slip into a room for a quick shower. It had been a mad dash to catch the first available flight out of Washington after the report of Scully's abduction. Skinner briefly wonders why he still lets himself be manipulated by Mulder. He does not want to admit to himself that he is here only because he is still highly protective of Scully, probably protective to an unseemly extent. Still, Scully had left the FBI on good terms with almost everyone and few would question his loyalty to her. Not that he would change even if someone did question his actions.

Special Agent Monica Reyes can read the scowl on Skinner's face like an open book. She knows well how infrequently Skinner gets out of his office and takes command of an investigation. Reyes waits for creases between Skinner's eyes to smooth a little then she holds up towards Skinner the three digital cameras she is holding, “We have some excellent photos of the armed intruders in the act of abducting Scully."

Skinner does not trust himself to speak in a civil tone. He can't stop thinking about –and resenting- how Mulder endlessly involves Scully in his crusade to obtain solid evidence of alien UFOs. Skinner takes one of the cameras from Reyes and tries to figure out its controls. Monica can see the tense line of Skinner's mouth and bunched muscles of his jaw. She restrains herself from explaining the control switches on the camera and lets Skinner read the labels on the controls for himself.

Doggett approaches Skinner and Reyes and holds up an optical disc. “This is the disc that holds Dana’s presentation.” On their flight out from D.C. the agents had discussed the obvious hypothesis that someone had apparently wanted to keep secret what Scully was going to speak about at the MUFON conference. That hypothesis had not survived the first minutes of investigation into the abduction. "All the witnesses report that there was no attempt to take the disc."

Skinner shakes his head, “This goes deeper than what Scully had to say." He is looking at an image showing Scully being taken away through a room full of protesting conference attendees. Skinner mutters, "Who ever is behind this has no fear.” He looks intently into the LCD display of the camera and continues to scan through the stored images. It is a small display window so he is holding the camera up close to his face.

Reyes glances at Doggett, smiles, winks and mutters, “Who ever....or what ever.”

Skinner scowls at Reyes over the edge of the camera and he sounds pissed, “What do you mean by that, Agent?

Reyes maintains her bright student's smile. She is always happy to reveal things to her boss, particular since she knows Skinner is confident enough to never feel like he is being made to look stupid when he does not know everything. She explains, “Sir, look closely at the images of the ‘men’ who took Scully.” Skinner does as she suggests and slowly looks through the images that are stored in the camera a second time.

While Skinner reviews the images, Doggett is looking through a printout of the names of everyone who had been registered at the motel that weekend. Reaching the end of the listed names, he looks up from the papers and sees Monica waiting patiently for Skinner to finish studying the images. Monica looks from Skinner to John and gives a slight nod to indicate that he would not be interrupting if he spoke. Doggett's heart beats a little faster as his eyes lock to Monica's. As the day has unfolded, Reyes has fully taken on the role that he thinks of as the cheer leader, trying to prevent everyone from sinking into despair. Doggett is thankful for Monica's reminder to stay open to the possibility that all is not lost and that it might actually be possible to rescue Dana. He tells Monica, “Scully’s name is not on this registration list.”

Reyes is not surprised. She says, “According to Richard Wells, Dana drove in last night for the talk and was not planning on staying here over night." At one level of her mind, she can accept the idea that Scully would not want to stay at the MUFON conference any longer than it took to give the talk. Reyes does not yet doubt that Mulder had talked her into giving the "alien" presentation. Scully had been working for years to build her professional credentials as a medical researcher and the last thing she would have been looking for was a gig at a MUFON event.

Skinner stops looking at the images stored in the camera and holds the camera so that Reyes and Doggett can see one of the images, “Recognize anyone?” he asks sarcastically. They all recognize the Lone Gunmen in the image, pictured sitting beside the motel's swimming pool. The three FBI agents share looks that say, 'I should have known!' Anytime that Mulder can find a way to get into trouble, the Lone Gunmen are expected to be nearby.

“I did not notice anything unusual about the men who grabbed Scully.” Skinner turns the camera’s LCD screen back towards himself and scrolls back to the last few images in the memory, the images of the abduction.

Reyes holds out her hand, “May I have the camera, Sir?” Skinner glares at her then decides not to look at the images a third time and hands over the camera. “I missed it at first, too. That LCD is too tiny for a good view.” She takes the camera over to the podium and does a wireless download of the images from the camera into the Mac Mini that is connected to the room's big screen projection system. “Let’s enlarge the images.” She hits some keys on the keyboard and a picture of Scully being dragged out of the conference hall fills the screen. “There.” She switches to another image. “There.” And a third, “And there.” She cuts parts of the three images out and pastes them all into a blank page, side by side. Now it is clear that the men all look identical.

Doggett whistles. “Clone troopers, Princess Leia.” He moves to the computer, “But you missed something.” He returns the computer to one of the original full-sized images of the abduction and points to Mulder’s profile at the edge of the image. “There's Mulder, just watching the whole thing go down.”

Skinner asks, “Did they take Mulder, too?”

Reyes has skimmed through all of the statements taken from conference attendees by the Ashville police. She shakes her head, “No. The witnesses are all very sure: only Scully was taken. Those early reports we had of a third van being involved in the abduction were from confused witnesses. From what most of the witnesses report, it is clear that the third vehicle was the Lone Gunmen and Mulder following after Scully.”

Skinner grabs the printout of names from Doggett and reads down the list. “Ya, Mulder was here, alright.” He points to a name on the list, "Charles Mantle. That’s Mulder, room 242." He squares his shoulders and looking at Monica and John is struck by how they resemble two race horses pent-up at the gate. "Reyes, get these images FTPed back to Washington. Doggett, see if Mulder left anything in his room. I want to know what he thought he was up to. I’m putting an APB out on the Lone Gunmen. Those bozos stick out like a sore thumb and I’m betting Mulder is still with them." As the two younger agents bolt to comply with Skinner's requests, the Assistant Director is glad to have them both on the case. Briefly he thinks of cats and lives and wonders how many lives Dana and Fox still have banked in their accounts.

The MapEdit

Agent Doggett is let into Mulder's motel room by a maid who hands him a card key so that he can lock the door when he is done. Doggett notices that the maid's hand is shaking as she hands him the magnetic key card. He guesses that she is probably an illegal immigrant and totally freaked out to have police and FBI swarming around. He tries to paste a friendly smile on his face and asks her, "How many of these magnetic keys are active for this room?"

The maid hesitates before answering. The door lock starts to emit a buzzing sound and the maid steps through the doorway and presses a button on the inner side of the lock, silencing the noise. Doggett moves through the door to try to see what the maid is doing. There is not much space in the narrow entry way to the room and Doggett ends up sandwiched quite close to the maid. He reads her name tag, P. Viray.

The maid tilts her head up at an angle. Doggett stands more than a foot taller than she does. She meets his eyes for the first time and seems to relax a little when she sees his smile. She replies in her excellent second-language-English, "When they coded this card in the office just now, it became the second. Mr. Mantle has the other. Please bring this one back to the office when you are done, Sir."

He assures her, "I will, Ms. Viray." She moves to leave, but he asks, "Did you speak to Mr. Mantle or notice if he was with anyone else, maybe other guests?"

The maid stops in the hallway and turns back to look at him again. She shakes her head and replies, "No, Sir."

"Okay, thanks." The maid departs down the hallway and Doggett lets the room door swing shut. He quickly collects Mulder's belongings: shaving kit, a change of clothes, a small gym bag. Doggett puts all of Mulder's items into the bag. He leaves his business card on the desk in case Mulder returns. Just as Doggett leaves the room, agent Reyes comes down the hall. Doggett holds up the bag, "Mulder travels light." The door lock starts to buzz and Doggett hits the warning buzzer kill switch on the inside of the door.

Reyes wants to have a quick look around Mulder's room so she moves past Doggett, brushing her hip against him as she goes through the doorway. She resists the temptation to make a snide comment about Mulder never having encumbered his life with any excess baggage, but she is tired of expressing editorial comments on Mulder's fanaticism and single mindedness. Doggett watches Monica inspect the room and wonders if she will see anything that he missed.

While she scans the room, Monica tries to generously let Mulder off the hook with a playfully flippant jab, "Its the incredible lightness of UFOlogy. THEY," she says with a drawl, making reference to space aliens, "have serious weight restrictions, so if you hope to hitch a ride to Aldeb'rin you need to pack light and keep your affairs in order."

Monica bends over to peer into the lower cabinet of the wooden chest that holds the room's television set. She glances over her shoulder to make sure that John is watching her tush. "You look tired, John." She gestures to the bed and asks, "Would you like to lay down for a few minutes?"

Doggett grins. This is the Monica that he has never seen in a public setting. Briefly he wonders what Skinner would do if he was ever subjected to Monica's bawdy humor. But Doggett knew that Reyes was too careful of protocol to let her hair down in front of a superior. Doggett automatically sends a silly reply right back to Monica, "I've never had a desire to get into Mulder's bed."

Monica laughs and she is glad that they can keep up some good cheer. She fears the sluggishness of thought that can descend if she lets her fears take hold. Keeping a positive frame of mind allows her to keep her creativity flowing. She knows that gloom and doom keys Doggett to a heightened state of attentiveness, but she also knows that he can only sustain that kind of peak fight-or-flight efficiency for short times and it is best if she can knock him out of that state if danger is not imminent. Finding nothing in Mulder's room, she exits into the hallway. As she passes close to Doggett she winks at him and mutters quietly, "Mulder's not here, I am."

As they start walking down the hall, Doggett thinks -Oh, you know that I noticed, Monica!- John knows that Reyes can play his emotions with casual ease, but she has never abused the power that she holds over him. Through the years of working as partners they have developed a complex ritual of private games and play that only John and Monica know anything about. Doggett constantly marvels at Monica's ability to effortlessly improvise that play so as to keep it fresh and positive. Outside of his marriage, Doggett has never had such an intimate adult relationship, and each day that he shares with Reyes reminds him how lucky he is to have a work relationship that can be so rich and endlessly stimulating. The buzz of the door knocks him out of these pleasant thoughts.

The doors from the hallway to the guest rooms of the motel are set to give a warning buzz each time they are opened. To shut off the buzz, either a cutoff button inside the door must be pushed or the magnetic key must be inserted in the outside key reader. A sign on each door explains that this is a reminder for guests to take their key and lock the door. Doggett turns around, returns to the door of Mulder's room and uses the key to shut off the buzzer. Doggett quickly reviews the security instructions that are printed on the door then the two agents walk down the hall and past the fire extinguisher. Doggett says, "You know its Aldeberon." He enjoys watching her try to act stupid; she really can't do it at all.

"There must be an "Aldeb'rin"....somewhere" She sings quietly, "Somewhere, out there, reflected as pale moonlight."

The sound of Reyes voice sends a chill up Doggett's spine. He has never heard her sing except when they are alone. He is enchanted by her singing voice and has often wondered if she has training or if she just naturally can sing so sweetly.

Reyes reaches into her coat pocket, "Nothing was in his rental car except this map." She hands a road map to Doggett and he hands her Mulder's bag.

They go down the stairs and stop in front of the rental car. Doggett looks up at the sky and says, "I wonder why it just occurred to me to wonder if we and Scully still share the same big sky."

Reyes is pleased that John so closely follows her thoughts. "I've had the same feeling, as if Dana had slipped away, further away than she has ever been before."

In the parking lot, Skinner is telling an employee of the car rental company to lock Mulder's car again. "I know the car is due back at your lot by five O'clock, but I want you to leave it here until you hear from the FBI. I've already asked the motel manager to let it stay here. If Mulder comes back, he may need a car."

Skinner and an FBI electronics technician join Doggett and Reyes on the sidewalk in front of the rental car. Doggett is spreading the road map on the hood of the car and Reyes is looking through Mulder's belongings in the bag. Skinner says, "The GPS tracker is in the rental car and we'll leave a video unit in Mulder's room."

Doggett looks up from the map. "I doubt if Mulder will come back. There was nothing of interest in his room.....tooth brush and a pair of boxers. Only strange thing is this map. Its a map of Maryland." Doggett studies the map intensely.

The technician clears his throat. Doggett looks up, reaches in his pocket and hands the magnetic key for Mulder's room to the technician, "Room 242. Take the key back to the office when you are done."

The technician leaves to install a video camera in Mulder's room. Doggett starts to fold up the map but makes a mess of it. Skinner asks rhetorically, "What was Mulder thinking when he set up this crazy operation?"

Reyes briefly watches Doggett struggle then she takes the map from Doggett and neatly folds it while replying to Skinner's question, "Strangely, the more I think about it, the more I wonder if Scully was behind this whole fiasco, with Mulder actually doing all he could to protect her." In a few seconds she has smoothed all of the map's creases and has it neatly folded to the one panel showing College Park. Doggett and Skinner look at each other and shrug; wondering how the FBI got along before there were female agents.

Reyes points to a spot on the map and says, "There is what looks like a small pencil mark near College Park." She points to the edge of the map, "And these numbers along the margin match the mile counts between College Park and BWI airport."

Skinner says, "I want to know anyone in College Park that has a connection to either Scully or Mulder. Check the airlines and see if Mulder has a flight booked." Agents Reyes and Doggett take out their phones and start making calls.


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