?

Log in

No account? Create an account
 
 
05 November 2009 @ 04:13 pm
Machines of Freedom: Chapter 2  


December 8, 2012
4:05 PM
Georgetown, Washington, DC

Mulder stamped his feet at the corner of Wisconsin and M, and blew on his coffee. Apparently they were due for a cold winter this year. At least he'd be able to avoid some of the shoveling this year, what with being in a compound in Montana for a good chunk of December. He took a quick sip of his coffee, and burned his tongue. Of course, by the time Scully got here, hers would probably be frozen solid. He checked the time on the bank clock for something like the fiftieth time since he'd gotten here. Sadie had been planted at Aunt Ellen's, under the pretense of the grownups needing to go do Christmas shopping. Well, some Christmas shopping was going to get done, he was sure, but mostly, he'd had a meeting with Skinner, cleverly disguised as a companionable catching-up style lunch, and Scully had been passing off viral samples to an old med school friend at Georgetown who had no idea what she was working on, but had suggested a way to break through the protein structure that shielded the virus. Or something. Scully had delivered a little lecture on it over last week's call, but he hadn't really followed it.

He was following less and less of what was going on, lately. He got the important bits. Progress on the various implements to destroy the virus and prevent its effects: good; international network of alien-fighting good guys: proceeding apace; stockpile of guns, ammunition, and survival equipment buried in a mountain in Montana: sufficient. But it seemed, most calls, like he didn't have much to say. The conspiracy nuts out there seemed to have gotten nuttier since his time. Maybe the increasing worry about standard-issue terrorism had blunted the anti-establishment mind, led them either down the path of fringe insanity or back to the patriotic fold; maybe the internet had given every asshole a megaphone; maybe people wanted to trust the government, trust business, live in a cooperative world for once. He didn't begrudge them that, precisely, but it left him dissatisfied every time he followed up a lead on someone curious about what was actually going on, and ended up at a website covered with eagles and flags, or, alternately, bemoaning the Jewish conspiracy to emasculate the Aryan race. Or occasionally both.

But what could he do? No badge, no files, no secret informants sneaking around monuments to whisper him secrets and lies. His knees weren't up for hopping fences or chasing speeding cars anymore, and if he tried to jump on a train he'd fall off, more likely than not. God knows what they'd do to him if he ended up back in federal jail, anyway, and those aren't risks he can take any more, because, well, he's not an island anymore, not available for martyrdom, if you're asking. He may chase the truth now, but it's an off-hours job, and the on-hours are full of this strange task called being a stay-at-home dad. He chases Sadie around the yard making roaring noises, and gets beaten on the head with the foam sword for his trouble; he reads her books, listens to her talk endlessly, gets called stupid far more often than he should really let her get away with, makes peanut butter sandwiches and eats the crusts. It was the most mundane existence anyone could imagine, and it was precious and beautiful. He knew that, somewhere, there were still men in the shadows who cooperated with evil things for their own benefit, and who were working to bring about what he was working to stop. He knew that he and Scully, and the few they could bring along with them, would do the best they could to fight it off. But he wasn't on the front lines anymore. He was the conspirator emeritus, the founder of the corporation you let keep an office while you quietly end-run the business plan around him. He was, to everyone but his family, extraneous.

He started at the touch of a hand on his arm. "Off in space again, Mulder?" Scully teased.

"Sorry. Pondering." He put her coffee into her gloved hands.

"Oh, thank God. The wind is ferocious between here and campus." She took a long sip. "How was your lunch?"

"Good." They'd gone over the file Skinner was preparing to be delivered to the President as soon as colonization efforts began. Most of it had been work Mulder had done years ago; it had felt like paging through his life story, and finding it suddenly devoid of texture. He tended to prefer to imagine his history as some sort of dramatic narrative, heavy on the lighting cues, full of extraneous shots of Scully looking dangerous and beautiful. "You know. Old times."

She smiled. "You miss it."

He put his arm around her shoulder. "It's who I was. For most of my life."

"Now?"

"Now, there's a toy store up the block calling our credit cards." He gestured towards the shops.

They started walking. Odd, Mulder thought, and then dismissed it. Scully paused at the Ralph Lauren shop window to critically analyze an outfit. He tried to focus on what she was doing, and not on other things. Anyway, it was unlikely. Scully pointed out the Restoration Hardware across the street and began to opine on precisely what they should do in the kitchen. She was full of little home improvement projects for after the apocalypse. Mulder tried to pay attention, but the nagging worry remained in his mind. He couldn't be right. Could he? They came to DC plenty, well, not plenty, but often enough that he would have noticed if it were happening regularly. He made a point of stopping in front of the jewelry store. Scully rolled her eyes. No, he was sure. He pulled her close, and gestured to a bracelet. "I'm just wondering what you think."

"We're a little past the point of throwing expensive pieces of metal at me, Mulder."

"Never too late to start." He leaned over closer to her ear, and spoke more softly. "OK, I think I might be insane. But I'm pretty sure we're being followed."

No one else looking at her would have seen it, but he felt her back muscles tighten under her coat. "Where?"

"She's across the street. White, dark hair, trench coat and suit, fairly young, smoking. What do you think of those turquoise earrings?" He pointed at the earrings, which lined up with the girl's reflection in the mirror.

"No, not my taste," she said, just a shade louder, but he saw the acknowledgement in her eyes. Yes, the girl looked suspicious. "Oh, there's Gap Kids. We should see what they have in Sadie's size."

"Sure," he said. He doubted the tail was so close she'd follow them into the store, but at least it would give them a chance to confirm it. He held the door for her as they stepped in.

"Do you want to try to lose her?" Scully picked up a pink sweater, and habitually turned it inside out to check the quality of the seams.

"Not yet. She hasn't made a move. And we aren't doing anything interesting." There was a pair of jeans with butterflies embroidered on them. He held them up for Scully's approval.

She just rolled her eyes. "She won't wear them. When did you first notice her?"

"In Starbucks. She could have been on the Metro with me, though. It was crowded." He found another set of jeans: rhinestones, which were about Sadie's favorite thing, and rainbows, which she did not object to. He put them defiantly over his arm without bothering to ask for approval first. "Are you armed?"

Scully pulled a striped long-sleeved shirt off a pile. "My gun's in my shoulder holster, left side. Ice pick's in my purse. Magnetite darts in my right coat pocket. You?"

"Ankle holster, knife in my left jeans pocket, darts in my right coat pocket, too. Should we be buying things?"

She sighed, and grabbed a t-shirt with a polar bear from the boys' section. Sadie was partial to the deadlier animals. "It's better cover. If we need to fight or run, we drop, but if she wanted to get to you, she would have done it before I arrived."

He touched her hand. "She could want to get to you."

Scully looked up, startled, as if the idea never occurred to her. "Then it's better we're together."

"Yeah," he said, and smiled.

She was still there when they left the store, across the street, acting very interested in a boutique window but throwing the butt of her cigarette to the ground when she saw them and grinding it out with the ball of her shoe. They continued up Wisconsin, slowly, chatting about the news Tara had sent from San Diego, as if they weren't both watching for the girl in the window reflections. (He shouldn't think of her as a girl. She was in her twenties, probably her late twenties. But, well, he was depressingly old now, and was considering bringing back the use of whippersnapper.) She crossed the street a few minutes after they did, and kept a reasonable distance until Scully stopped in front of Bandolino to admire a pair of black pumps.

"You have three pairs just like them. At least buy something interesting," Mulder said, aware that the girl was coming up behind them. Maybe she would pass them. It would be interesting to figure out how close she had to stay.

"I highly doubt I could work in anything you thought was interesting," she said, pretending to be entranced, probably because she was, a little.

"Who said anything about working?" She was coming up on them now. Did she mean to shoot or stab one of them as she passed? He tried not to turn his body towards her, or to step between her and Scully, but his hand in his pocket was on his knife, and he was edging out the blade with his thumb.

The girl brushed between them, smelling of old cigarettes. "You'll want to follow me," she said quietly, without making eye contact, and kept walking.

What the fuck kind of contact is that? Mulder thought indignantly. I mean, at least give me some reason to want to follow you. You get a D- in being a mysterious source. He turned to Scully to see if she was thinking the same thing, but she was staring at something in her hand. "Mulder," she said, just barely, and held it out.

It was a photograph, a little trading-sized school photograph, of a boy, ten or so. He smiled into the camera, with bright blue eyes, a smattering of freckles, hair combed to keep down a cowlick in the back. It wasn't clear, but he might have the beginnings of a truly unfortunate nose. Mulder turned the photo over. Written on the back, in a neat script, was "Will Van de Kamp, Fifth Grade, October 2012."

It was a photograph, a little trading-sized school photograph, of a boy, ten or so.



Something in him stopped. He looked up at Scully. She was paler than usual, and her eyes were just slightly liquid. He felt his hand shake, and tightened his grip on the photo. No earthly power could make him drop it.

They looked, together, for the girl. She stood at the corner of Dumbarton, coolly, as if she hadn't just stabbed them both. The light changed, and she began to cross.

He dropped the Gap bag, his hands flexing, wanting to whip his gun out and yell FBI, stop her; he saw Scully begin to reach for hers before she recovered her willpower. But they stopped themselves, and walked as quickly as they could, but the girl had a head start, and the street was starting to crowd with evening shoppers. She crossed Wisconsin suddenly, as a light was changing, and started walking down O Street. Scully grabbed his elbow, pulled him between parked cars to dash into the street, and they wove around a bus stopped for passengers and two cars stalled in traffic. The girl was disappearing into an alleyway next to a restaurant when they got to the corner of O and Wisconsin. Mulder pulled Scully behind him as they followed. She had her gun out the moment they turned the corner, and he took a second to pull his. They backed down the alley slowly, listening for a trap, for something to explode, for the click of a gun hammer at their temples.

The alleyway widened out, and they turned. She stood under a fire escape, her hands cupped around the cigarette in her mouth, her shoulder turned to them. She clicked a silver lighter and held it to the end, then folded it shut and tucked it away in her pocket. She smiled, slowly, as she turned to face them. "Dr. Scully. Mr. Mulder," she said, and pulled the cigarette from her mouth, exhaling in a cloud of smoke. "I've been looking forward to this."

She stood under a fire escape, her hands cupped around the cigarette, her shoulder turned to them.



"You tell us who the fuck you are, and who you work for," Mulder said, raising his gun and pointing it at her head.

"That's not important," she said calmly, and lifted the cigarette back to her lips.

"I think it is," he said, and stepped closer to her.

"Where did you get that photo?" Scully said, stepping forward to stand at his elbow.

"It will not surprise you that there are still those who have an interest in your work. They believe you two to have given up; the best they can conceive is that you serve as figureheads for a largely defunct movement against them. But they retain an interest in you, and in the potential disruption that you and those associated with you represent." She tapped ash off her cigarette simply, as if oblivious to the two guns pointed at her head. "More to the point, there is an interest in removing William as...a variable."

"Is that what you're doing?" Scully hissed. "Removing him? Using him to get us out of play?

"On the contrary, Dr. Scully." The smoking girl brought the cigarette back to her lips. "They are satisfied that you have no contact with William, and no interest in finding him." Mulder's stomach twisted sharply. That is what those assholes thought of him--that he didn't care? That he didn't have an interest in knowing where his son was? Hadn't they learned anything about him? Did they think he was as terrible a father as they all were? "Nevertheless, his unique abilities pose a source of concern."

"His abilities." It was better he was letting Scully talk at this point; her voice was cool and even and admitted nothing, even as all he wanted to do was leap across the space between himself and the girl and swipe her across the face with the butt of his gun.

The smoking girl laughed hollowly. "Surely you don't think they missed that little detail, did you, Dr. Scully?" She reached into her pocket, and Mulder tightened his finger on the trigger of the gun ever so slightly, but she was only pulling out a folded piece of paper. "The termination will be some time in the next ninety-six hours." She held out the paper to Scully. "I suggest you get a move on."

Scully took it without lowering her gun. "How do we know we can trust you?"

She flicked her cigarette off to the side and tucked her hands in her pockets. "You don't." And she walked between them and out the alleyway.

Scully let her arm with the gun drop, and unfolded the paper. "It's an address. In Wyoming." She exhaled sharply.

Mulder slipped his gun back into his holster. There were two rubber trash cans in the alley with them, which made an unsatisfactory thudding noise when kicked. They couldn't find the girl when they got back out to the street, but the Gap bag was sitting in front of Bandolino, and he retrieved it without speaking.

***

He was not entirely sure how they got through dinner. Somehow, he and Scully had managed to maintain a normal conversation with Ellen without bringing up either the impending apocalypse or the little covert meeting in a Georgetown alley. But when Sadie threw an unsurprising dinner-time tantrum, and he had to carry her to the stairs for a timeout, he found himself unable to put her down, and sat with her on the steps, petting her small back with his hands. She was reassuring, and solid, and he managed to shut his brain up for the first time since the photo had touched his fingers. After a few minutes, Sadie stopped crying, and leaned her weight into his chest, breath still hitching.

He waited what had to be the requisite three minutes. "OK, honey. Should we go back and finish dinner with Mama and Aunt Ellen?"

"I don't like dinner." She wrapped her arms around his neck a little harder.

He sighed. "OK then. Should we just sit here while Mama and Aunt Ellen finish up?"

"Yeah." And so they did, until she fell asleep. And even then he sat there holding her until Scully came to investigate.

He wrestled the car seat buckle around his sleeping daughter and tried not to notice Scully and Ellen's hug lasting a touch too long. Whether or not Ellen and her boys would get a spot at the shelter in the compound was still up for debate; it depended on what the final capacity count was, and Doggett was, wisely, refusing to rush it. They waved again and drive down the darkened highway, into the night.

It was half an hour until she spoke. "What are we going to do?"

He looked in the rearview mirror at Sadie, still asleep. "We don't have a lot of options."

"Do you believe her?"

"I don't know." He changed lanes, pushed down on the accelerator just a little. "If it's a hoax, it's a convincing one."

"We don't have much time to decide." She shifted uncomfortably in her seat. "Can I--can I see the photo?"

As if she thought he was going to say no. He glanced over at her, eyes on her hands, shoulders slumped. Part of him wanted her to stay guilty; he liked having the advantage for once in his life. He pulled the photo out and handed it to her, watched her peripherally as she looked at it. For a moment she just seemed to study it. Then the barest edge of a smile crept into her eyes, and the angle of her head softened. He wondered what she was remembering. "Does he look like him?"

"Your face changes so much during childhood. It's hard to say," she said quickly.

"Still." Sadie had had the set of her chin since six weeks old, at least, and her eyes since birth. But the William he remembered had had that still vaguely fetal look newborns keep for the first week or so, and he couldn't construct an image of William at eleven from the photos that Scully had kept; they were too static to get any sense of how a face might have aged.

Scully smiled again at the photo. "He looks like Charlie, actually. The hair. And the freckles. I think the cheekbones are yours, though." She let the hand with the photo drop to her lap, and leaned her head against the window. "What are we going to do?"

"I don't know," he said, and sped up.

***

Sadie settled into bed with a minimum of fuss. He sat next to her bed once she was tucked in, and examined her face in the soft light from the doorway. He loved her, without question, without the slightest moment of doubt; he would never do anything that would endanger her. But, William. The thought of his son, lost for so many years, stolen away by more faceless men, taken as a pawn of a game, or simply eliminated, made him want to load the trunk of their little white car with weapons and take somebody out. He kissed Sadie's forehead. How could he protect them both?

He half expected to see Scully sitting on their bed, waiting for him, but the bedroom was dark. So was her office. In the living room, she was sitting cross-legged at the table, her laptop trailing cords and wires. She wasn't even running the regular network; they'd put in some private encrypted lines six months ago, when a brief outage in Montana had thrown Scully's data processing for a loop. The connection she'd hacked together looked like it went through four separate pieces of hardware. He wondered, not for the first time, how much time she'd spent at the Gunmen's when he was dead.

She looked up as he came down the stairs. She'd dropped her coat on the couch, pinned up her hair for the first time this weekend, even dug out her reading glasses. This was full-on research Scully mode. "Kaycee, Wyoming, is forty-five miles south of Buffalo, seventy miles north of Casper, and about 110 miles from the Montana border. Its population is about 250." She exhaled. "Paul and Regina Van de Kamp keep a post-office box in town. Property records show they own a ranch at 580 Sussex Road, about six miles past the town center. Tax records show they clear a profit, which is impressive. In 2002, they adopted William James Samuelson, who was born to Alanna Samuelson in Los Angeles, California, May 25, 2001, and changed his name to William Paul Van de Kamp. William is enrolled in Kaycee Elementary School, which has a total enrollment of 73 students. His grades are good, and his teachers remark that he is athletic, outgoing, and friendly."

"I've never seen you violate so many laws in such a short period of time," he said, sitting down at the table.

She pulled off her glasses. "So, what do we do?"

They sat at the table quietly, waiting for an answer to appear. But he knew what it would have to be. "How long will it take to drive there?"

"Twenty-seven hours or so from Baltimore."

"Baltimore?"

She closed the laptop. "We drop Sadie at my mother's in the morning. The story is that a friend needs me for a consult, and you want to tag along. I leave a message for Wendy to clear my schedule. We're only four days from our scheduled departure to the compound. We stop in Kaycee on the way."

Twenty-seven hours across country. Ninety-six or less on the clock. "We could fly in to somewhere far enough away not to raise suspicions."

"Mulder, if they're tracking us, we have to assume they know all of our usual aliases. We don't have ID as Kara and Sam Anderson, and we can't get it in time; not to mention, if they're looking for something suspicious, they'll be tracking the airports. Even if we flew to Salt Lake City or Omaha, we'd still have seven to twelve hours to drive."

There wasn't any other option. "I'll go pack."



Click here for chapter 3.
Tags: , ,
 
 
 
colebaltblue on February 8th, 2010 08:49 pm (UTC)
I finally got a chance to read chapter 2!

And the plot thickens...

I'm curious as to who the woman is who gave them the info on William, do we find out? Is it important? I'm also curious as to what role William will end up playing, I'm assuming it will have to do with his special powers since that's why "They" want him dead.

Can't wait to read the next part!
Amal Nahurriyeh: mof: csm!amalnahurriyeh on February 8th, 2010 10:56 pm (UTC)
Notice how I have this icon.

That's all the spoilers I'm giving you. ;)
(no subject) - cezi80 on March 11th, 2017 01:47 pm (UTC) (Expand)