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X-Seven Trilogy/2

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Note: This contents of this page originated at Fly Paper.

The Alien Genome ProjectEdit

Later, agents Reyes and Doggett are on their second flight of the day. Back in Mulder's motel room, Reyes had been correct about Doggett being tired. He had been up late the night before, reading, and only had two hours sleep before being told to catch the flight to Ashville. Now Doggett is trying to sleep in an airliner seat that is too small for him and Reyes is looking at Mulder's map of Maryland. She knows that Mulder still lives near W.D.C. in Virginia. Reyes mutters, "What makes no sense is that Mulder would fly to Baltimore in order to get to College Park."

Doggett mutters in terse reply without opening his eyes, "Side trip."

Reyes realizes that she is keeping Doggett awake. For a moment she thinks about trying to catch a nap, snuggled up next to him, but she feels the weight of Scully's need driving her to press ahead with the investigation. Monica wants to know exactly what she is going to be doing and where she is going when the plane lands. Besides, she tells herself, I got enough sleep last night. She folds the map again and opens her laptop, enters a password, and reads the notes that she entered earlier:

Scully has been using molecular biology laboratory facilities at The University of Maryland Division of Human Genetics, in Baltimore. University of Maryland also had on record that Scully had visited the Materials Research Center at the College Park campus.

Reyes looks out the window and sees that their flight is turning towards Baltimore from the northwest. She can see Frederick. Although Monica and Dana had grown quite close during the time that they had worked together, they had not had much contact since Scully left the FBI. But now Reyes had reviewed the FBI's current dossier on Scully. Monica starts to type:

Scully has been living in a rented house in Damascus, MD. for the past two years. Damascus is about in the center of a triangle formed by Fort Detrick, the University of Maryland Medical Center in downtown Baltimore and the College Park campus.

Reyes takes out an optical disc with a copy of Scully's MUFON presentation and steps through the slides.

The first slide is the title slide:

The Alien Genome Project 
    by Dana Scully

Reyes is immediately repulsed by the sickly green letters of the title. Monica muses, –It looks like the credits for some college student's horror movie project.- The next few slides are more professional and outline Scully's work as a consultant for a government research project based at Fort Detrick that has been developing biological warfare agent detectors. Scully had been involved in field testing the detectors and suggesting modifications

Reyes comes to a slide titled "False Positives" followed by a list of field test locations. The next dozen slides show her analysis of each case and an account for the false detection of an apparent biological warfare agent. Reyes yawns and shakes her head at Scully's methodical devotion to detail. She mutters to herself, "Those MUFON geeks would have been bored to tears." It crosses her mind that maybe they hired the hit men so that they could get out of Scully's lecture and hit the bars early.

But then she sees the slide for the last remaining false positive:

Molecular analysis 
     unusual nucleic acid 
     backbone sugar: tagatose 
     six distinct nucleotides 
     3 allowed base pairs

The next few slides then describe how the biological warfare agent detector was able to detect the unusual nucleic acid.

The plane has reached the gate and passengers start to gather their belongings. Reyes goes back and notes the origin of the sample containing the unusual nucleic acid. It is listed as, "FBI- missing person crime scene."

The final group of slides deals with Scully's on-going effort to adapt DNA sequencing technology to the task of determining the sequence of nucleotides in the unusual nucleic acid sample.

Reyes wakes up Doggett and they leave the plane. "I think I know why Mulder was thinking about going to College Park. Scully must have gotten the Materials Research Center there to help her with analysis of the alien DNA."

Doggett rubs his face, shaking off sleep. The flight had been too short and his attempt to get some sleep disturbed by anxiety over Scully's abduction. Doggett's intuition told him that the trail had instantly and unnaturally gone cold and that the conventional investigation methods of the FBI would fail to deal with yet another X-file case. As usual, he was starting to pin his hopes on the unconventional mind of his partner. As they navigate through the crowded airport, Doggett asks, "What is this about alien DNA?"

Reyes quickly summarizes the key elements of Scully's planned presentation at the MUFON conference. Doggett asks, "So Scully was trying to decode the gene sequence of this unusual nucleic acid sample?" Skepticism is evident in his voice.

Reyes nods. "Think about it, John. This is the perfect way to detect aliens. Aliens can't possibly remove every molecular trace of their presence on Earth. Scully apparently has an alien DNA sample and has been working to show that it contains alien genetic instructions."

They reach a shuttle bus that will carry them to a car rental shop. They wedge themselves into a small bench seat of the bus and Reyes turns partly sideways to make room for Doggett's shoulders. She places both of her hands on John's right leg and lightly squeezes his thigh. "John, do you think Scully would have taken evidence with her when she left the FBI?"

Doggett's head whips to turn to the side so he can see if she is serious. He asks in disbelief, "Why do you ask that?"

Monica tells him about the source that Scully had listed for the alien DNA sample. John offers his guess, "Walking off with FBI evidence seems more like something Mulder might do. Scully, as an ethical medical doctor would not compromise biological samples from a crime scene."

Monica zigzags the finger nails of her right hand along the inner surface of his thigh. "Think about the nature of this evidence. Scully leaves the FBI and then gains access to new, highly sensitive detectors of biological materials. And I happen to know that Scully does have at least one sample from an FBI case. Remember that device that she had removed from the back of her neck?"

What Monica is doing to his leg is making it hard for John to think, but he says, "I don't think that qualifies as official FBI evidence. You think that device contained alien DNA?"

Reyes shrugs. "I don't know, but I think that the detection methods she was using are so sensitive that she would not have to take an entire piece of evidence out of the FBI, maybe just a tiny fragment would be enough, and Scully would be comfortable taking diagnostic samples from pieces of evidence for forensic analysis."

Doggett realized that Monica has a reasonable hypothesis. He says, "Okay then, you seem to have a handle on this DNA angle. We'll split up from here. You hit the two University of Maryland labs and I'll head north to Scully's place and Fort Detrick."

Reyes nods agreement. "There is one thing about Scully's presentation that bothers me."

Doggett asks, "What's that?"

Reyes replies, "Calling it 'The Alien Genome Project.' That is so NOT Scully. I mean the word 'alien' is nowhere else in the whole presentation."

Doggett chuckles. "It stinks of Mulder."

Reyes asks, "Do you think Mulder put her up to it?"

Doggett shrugs. "Why else would Scully even be at a MUFON event? I think it was Mulder trying to attract someone's attention. Scully was the bait." Doggett sounds bitter. He silently curses Mulder for making use of Scully in such a way; what essentially turned out to be a ritual human sacrifice.

"Fly paper?" Monica asks. The bus reaches it destination and they stand up. "Well, if so, Mulder should have known better." Reyes disparages the Lone Gunmen. "Placing Scully's life on the line and trying to back her up with the help of the three stooges seems mighty lame, but I'm not sure we know the whole story yet"

They exit the bus and get in line to rent cars. "I don't know. Maybe Mulder did not even know that the Lone Gunmen would be there." Doggett speculates, "Maybe I'll find something at Scully's house. A message from Mulder or something explaining his plan."

They are occupied for a few minutes getting keys to their rental cars. Reyes advises Doggett, "Your only chance is that Scully left something on her computer. When she was still with the FBI she was using a hardware encryption device that the Lone Gunmen gave her. I heard that when Scully was run out of the FBI they spent six months trying to crack into the computer files that she left on her office computer and eventually they had to gave up. You'll never get into her files without her password."

They go into the parking lot in search of their cars. "Ya, I've heard rumors about Scully's computer, that the NSA dismantled it chip by chip and could not even find the hidden encryption system. They threw all of their computing power they have at her hard drive and could not unscramble the text of her notes."

Doggett puts his bag into his rental car. "Anyhow, thanks for the warning about Dana's computer, but Skinner and I were involved with getting her security clearance approved for working at Fort Detrick. Given her track record with data files, they insisted that there be a fail-safe on Scully's computer. Her keyboard was bugged and Skinner told me he could get access to her password."

Reyes groans. "That's a dirty trick, John, she's a private citizen now."

Doggett finally finds his rental car. "Private citizen with a military security clearance."

Reyes sees her car just a few more spaces down the row. "A dirty trick, but it might help save her life."

Doggett unlocks the trunk of his car and with military precision executes the required planning for when partners are forced to split up during an investigation. "We are dealing with a criminal conspiracy of unknown depth." Some irrational fear floods his mind with the idea that he may never see her alive again. He tries to drink the image of her in with his eyes. "Frequent phone check-ins with Washington and call me if you find anything of interest."

Monica places a hand on his shoulder, "Ditto for you, Agent Doggett. I'm puzzled why we have not yet heard from Mulder. By now he must know that he bit off more than he can chew. I'm afraid that he has gotten himself into a position where he can't contact us anymore, even if he wants to."

"If you are right, that probably means we are dealing with five abductees, counting the three bozos." Doggett tosses his bag in his rental car and starts to get behind the steering wheel then calls to Reyes, "Hey, can I have that road map? Where the hell is Damascus, anyhow?"

BaltimoreEdit

The Sunday evening traffic of people returning home from their weekend excursions was compounded by road repair work. It is after dark by the time Reyes reaches the University of Maryland Medical Center. She is tired and hungry and distressed that it is almost a day since Scully's abduction and the investigation has found nothing significant and useful that might help find Scully.

With the help of her cell phone and a cooperative Medical Center operator, she is able to find her way through the maze of hospital complex hallways to the research lab where Scully has been doing her DNA work. She finds room D934 and reads the sign next to the door:

     Dr. W. Westlake. 
     Diagnostic Genetic Assays Laboratory.

Before Reyes can knock, a moving figure can be seen through the small frosted glass window of the door and the door opens a crack. Reyes holds up her badge to the crack, "FBI agent Monica Reyes. I think I spoke to you by phone about an hour ago."

The door is opened all the way by graduate student Karen O'fein. "Come in." Karen locks the door behind them and somewhat self-consciously explains, "We're told to keep the doors locked at night. Sometimes people wander over here from the hospital wing." Karen turns to face Monica and stands wringing her hands. She asks hopefully, "Any sign of Dana?"

Karen is young and frail and Reyes can understand her concerns about security, Monica herself had felt uneasy walking through the mostly deserted corridors of the hospital research wing. Reyes replies, "No reports on Dana's current location have been received." Monica glances left and right, "Are you the only one around?"

Karen nods, sending strands of her fine dark hair dancing along the angles of her pure white cheeks. "It is always quite here on Sunday nights."

Reyes is looking around the lab, trying to guess which of the half dozen work benches might be the one where Scully did her lab work. Monica is annoyed with herself and mentally corrects herself- where Scully DOES her lab work. "Why are you here on a Sunday night?"

Karen shrugs. "Its a good time to get work done. I'm trying to complete my research and graduate. I already have a postdoc lined up in Oregon." At that moment Monica's stomach lets out a world class growl. "Hey, would you like a snack and some tea?" Monica nods but is busy looking at all of the interesting items in the lab and remains silent. Karen leads Monica to her desk at the end of a lab bench. "We are not allowed to eat in here, but I can get away with anything on weekends. Dr. Westlake goes out sailing 50 weekends of the year." She has an electric water heating pot on her desk and several bags of dried fruit and nuts. Karen opens a drawer and finds a second mug and some packages of tea, "These are the choices," She holds up the packages for Reyes to look at.

Reyes notices one packet mysteriously labeled "Orange Dust" and says, "I have to try this one." She reads the label while Karen pours the mug full of hot water. Monica rips open the packet and places the tea bag in the mug. Karen pulls a second chair over from the adjacent desk and they sit down. Monica munches fruit and nuts while they talk.

The entire room looks sparkling clean. Reyes asks, "Why the rule about not eating in here?"

Karen explains, "We do use some nasty chemicals, like DNA intercalators that can cause mutations, but nobody who works in this lab is a slob, so it is safe to eat in here."

Reyes realizes she has dropped some nut crumbs and they are perched conspicuously on the shelf of her breast. She flicks off the crumbs and wonders if she qualifies as a slob. She asks, "What if somebody had an accident and spilled some of these intercalators? I mean, how much would it take to cause a mutation?"

Karen is impressed by Monica's statuesque figure. She looks down at her own more modest bosom and tries to imagine if it might be possible for even a few food crumbs to gain purchase there. She tries to explain about intercalators, "Intercalators are not like radiation, you have to ingest them, not just be near a source. But they are like radiation in that there is no safe level of exposure. Just one intercalator molecule in the wrong place at the wrong time could cause a mutation that might trigger a cell to change, maybe causing dangerous cell growth, cancer."

The idea of microscopically small quantities of a chemical causing a possibly lethal toxicity slackens Reyes case of the munchies. She picks up the mug of tea and sips. "This is good tea." They discuss varieties and brands for a minute then Reyes says, "On the phone you indicated that you know Dr. Scully."

"I've known her for two years." Karen smiles wistfully and looks off into space. She reminisces, "Dana was impressed by the odd teas I find. She and I would make up alternative names for them. We called this one 'agent orange'."

Reyes asks, "Did Dana tell you that she used to be an FBI agent?"

Karen nods, "Yes, we got to know each other well, but I got the feeling that she was a lab geek and did not do the sort of things you do....field work."

Reyes smiles at Scully's modesty. "Dana never shied away from field work. She was a field agent for years; she just never gave up doing lab work at the same time. She's probably the most versatile agent the FBI ever had."

Karen nods. "I don't think there is a molecular biology technique she doesn't know about. I've learned a lot from her."

"Do you know what Dana's research was involved with?"

"Yes." Karen stands up and leads Reyes to one of the desks in the lab. "This is Dana's desk."

Reyes taps the keyboard of the computer on Scully's desk. A password dialog window comes up on the screen.

Karen says, "Hey, don't you need a search warrant or something?"

Reyes takes out her cell phone and tries to contact Skinner. "No, not really. If we are going to get Dana back, I need any information that might help us find where she has been taken. Its a safe bet that she would not object to me accessing her computer files in an effort to investigate her abduction"

Skinner answers the call, "Skinner."

Reyes turns away from Karen and speaks to Skinner, "Reyes here. I've got Scully's computer in Baltimore. Doggett told me you can hack her password."

Skinner says, "Give me the number on the keyboard."

Reyes flips over the keyboard and reads off, "KY2230745GRZ7a."

Skinner repeats the number back and then says, "Give me 5 minutes."

Reyes looks at her watch, puts her phone in her pocket and turns back to Karen. "Dana was abducted by armed men just about 24 hours ago, but we have learned nothing about where they took her."

Karen says, "On the phone you mentioned it happened at some UFO thing?"

"A MUFON meeting in North Carolina," Reyes replies. "A group of UFOlogy enthusiasts."

"Ya, that's it. Dana was laughing about it all week while she was putting together her presentation. For a whole week she kept saying things like, 'Mulder's a sucker' and 'Mulder has flaky friends in low places'." Karen points to a picture of Mulder on a nearby book shelf. "He came into town about six months ago and took Dana to dinner."

"Mulder and Scully worked together at the FBI." Reyes picks up the small framed photo of Mulder.

"That's what Dana told me, and something about Mulder's obsessions being the cause of her getting kicked out of the FBI."

Reyes returns the picture to the shelf, "Dana was not really kicked out. She was given the chance to resign and the FBI helped get her a new job. Do you know the nature of her work?" She does not add that it was Mulder who got kicked out.

"We're all working together on Dr. Westlake's Army contract. Dana is our contact with the lab up at Fort Detrick. I'm sure she knows aspects of the work that I'm unaware of."

Reyes asks, "You did not hear that Dana terminated her consulting work with the Army last week?"

Karen nods. "Dana said it was a temporary leave, that she was going to be doing some traveling and speaking for a while. She left for North Carolina on Friday. She said she was going to make a bit of a vacation out of it."

"Did Mulder call and speak with Dana last week?"

Karen shakes her head. "Not that I know of, but I probably wouldn't know. You still have not told me exactly what happened to Dana. Is this Mulder character a suspect?"

"No." She shows Karen a picture of one of the clones that abducted Scully. "This is the suspect. Look familiar?"

"No. Who is it?" Karen asks.

Reyes' phone rings and she answers the call, "Reyes."

It is Skinner calling back. "Try this: Majestic-hybrid."

Reyes enters "Majestic-hybrid" into the password dialog and gains access the operating system. "I'm in," She tells Skinner.

Skinner instructs Reyes, "Establish a connection with the internet and leave it running. We will take-over the machine and download everything from this end."

"Let me know if you find anything about her contacts with the College Park lab." Reyes confirms the internet connection.

Skinner says, "The Materials Research Center at the College Park campus seems to be a dead end. Nobody there seems to know Scully. The computer data is on its way. Later."

Reyes pockets her phone and turns back to Karen. "We are trying to find out if Dana was collaborating with anyone at the College Park campus."

Karen says, "Sometimes Dr. Tekalni comes up from the College Park campus to work with Scully. And I know Dana had been going down to her lab a lot for a while, too."

"What does Tekalni work on?"

Karen shrugs. "Its fairly mysterious. Something to do with nanotechnology. She and Dana kept talking about atomic microscopy. I think Tekalni was reading the structure of molecules in some of Dana's samples by atomic force microscopy."

Reyes asks Karen to write down "Tekalni" so that she is sure of the spelling. "When was the last time Dr. Tekalni was here?"

"Hmm. Its been a while. A couple of months ago she was here every week but she has not been here for about a month."

Reyes logs off of the computer. The hard drive indicator light kept flashing as the techs in Washington copied its contents. "Did Scully seem nervous or upset about anything this past week?"

"She seemed a bit giddy. I figured she was excited about having a chance to talk about her work, but all she did was joke about those MUFU guys....she did not seem to take them seriously. You know, I think she has a soft spot for that Mulder guy. Maybe she was just excited to be meeting him in North Carolina."

"Thanks for your time." Reyes hands Karen a card. "If you think of anything else, like maybe a name Scully might have mentioned recently.....anything unusual recen-"

Karen cut in, "There is one thing I have been wondering about. After her work with Dr. Tekalni wound down, Dana ordered some unusual enzymes and then did a bunch of sequencing runs. I saw her collect a sample of her own blood and I think she was using her own DNA as a control. Why would she do that? We have standardized human genomic DNA in the freezer. When I asked her she just said, "I know my own DNA like the back of my hand. What is that supposed to mean?"

"I guess she's just used to using her own DNA." Reyes remembers some of the medical school "war" stories Dana had told her about and speculates, "I think she started doing research as an undergraduate. Back then they may not have been used to all the conveniences that are available to molecular biologists now."

Karen shakes her head. "You know what I thought? I wondered if Dana is sick or something. I know some people who experiment on themselves. I thought, maybe she is trying to treat herself for some genetic disease. She started reading all these papers about genetic engineering." Karen points to a stack of journal articles on Scully's desk.

Reyes heads to the door, "Try not to worry about Dana. As far as I know she is in perfect health. I think she was going to talk about some biowarfare topic and the people at Fort Detrick found out and stopped her."

Karen sounds shocked, "You think she was abducted by the Army?"

"Its a logical guess. My partner is heading for Fort Detrick, with luck he'll find her there getting a lecture about government secrets" Reyes is just making up a story for Karen and is in a hurry to go, hoping that she can locate and speak with Dr. Tekalni. Reyes turns the bolt to unlock the door and exits to the hallway. "Thanks for dinner and your help, Karen."

Karen follows and locks the lab with a key. "I'll walk out to my car with you. Sometimes its creepy down there at night."

They take an elevator down to the underground parking garage. Reyes asks, "Have you ever been out to Scully's house?"

Karen gets into her car. "Ya. She had the whole lab out there when she moved in. Why?"

"Nothing much. It just occurred to me that maybe she has a house mate or a boy friend or something."

"I don't think so. She has often said how quiet it is out where she lives. I think she gets lonely out there. She's often in here with me working on the weekends. You know, I don't think she has a real life. I hope I don't end up like that."

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