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05 November 2009 @ 04:12 pm
Machines of Freedom: Chapter 3  



December 9, 2012
7:56 AM
Othma, Virginia

At seven AM, she called Wendy's voicemail. "Hi, Wendy, it's Dr. Scully, and I'm calling on Sunday. I've just gotten a message from a friend who needs me on a consult out of town for a while. Sorry for such short notice, but can you handle the rescheduling? I don't have any surgeries until after the holidays; anyone who isn't urgent can be held off until I'm back, anything urgent, bump to Dr. Bremmer. I'll have my cell phone, but don't give patients the number; just text me if you need me, and I'll reply when I get a chance. Oh, and I may have results delivered that I'll need you to handle for me; if anything comes from the labs, text me that too. OK. I'll check in soon. Hope you had a good weekend."

At seven-thirty, she called her mother. "I'm sorry it's such short notice. It's a really bad case, and Mike needs me to fly in. We managed to get a flight out of BWI, at least."

At eight, Sadie wandered into the kitchen. "Why's everybody awake?"

Mulder, slumped at the kitchen table, held out his hand to her. "Good morning, honey."

She weaved over to the table, and climbed into a chair next to Scully. "I want oatmeal."

"OK, Sadie," Scully said, stroking her hair. Sadie was so little at moments like this. Could they bring her? she thought for an insane moment. No. Too dangerous. "Your daddy can make you oatmeal. But I want to talk to you for a minute."

"With jelly. Don't forget, Daddy."

"Yes, oatmeal with jelly. Sadie, you're going to go stay with Grammy for a couple days. Mama and Daddy have to go away." Her voice caught in her throat, suddenly. Oh my God, she was doing it again, she was leaving her baby and fleeing cross-country in a car with forged plates. Shit, the plates. She had to remember to pull them out of the box in the basement. "We'll be back with you very soon, but we have to go do some work for a little while. OK?"

"I'm gonna bring my sword to Grammy's." Sadie pushed the salt and pepper shakers around with her hands.

"OK, you can bring your sword. So let's eat breakfast, and then we'll go see Grammy."

"Red jelly."

Mulder placed a bowl of oatmeal in front of Sadie, with strategically arranged spoonsful of strawberry jelly on top. He crouched down beside her. "Sadie, I have something very important to tell you."

"Thankyouformyoatmeal," she said, and started poking at the jelly with her spoon.

"You're welcome, that was very polite. Wait, no, look at me for a minute." He poked her in the side with one finger. She turned her little serious face towards him. It hurt to watch them together sometimes, to watch the way Sadie listened to him, to see the crook of her head, the point of her chin as she argued. She was so like him, and so unlike, and so beautiful. "Sadie, you are a very brave and strong girl, but I need you to promise me one thing."

She blinked.

"I need you not to hit Grammy with your sword. No matter what game you want to play, she is not a dragon, OK? No hitting Grammy. That's rule one."

"OK," Sadie said, and went back to poking her oatmeal.

Mulder stood. "I'll take first drive in the car, so you should quit it with the coffee."

"OK," she said, and stood to go find the plates.

***

10:13 AM Eastern Time
Baltimore, Maryland

Dana was nervous, and she didn't want to let on. Something was wrong here, and Maggie was not particularly pleased to realize it. "She takes a bath in the evenings, but if it's too much for you and she's not visibly scummy, you can skip it," Dana was saying, but she was watching Fox as he carried Sadie's suitcase up the stairs. Sadie loved that she slept in Mama's old room, and always announced the fact immediately upon crossing the threshold of Grammy's house. Right now, she could hear the mattress squeaking as Sadie jumped on it, and her little voice talking as Fox put her things down. She was going to have to have a talk with her about no more jumping on beds.

Dana kept talking. "The potty-training's going fine, but it's not a bad idea to have a change of clothes in the car, and she still sleeps in the Pull-Ups at night. She's going through a picky phase, but will eat basically anything served at a diner or an IHOP or something like that, in a pinch."

"I have dealt with toddlers before, Dana," she said, and it came out more curt than she had intended.

Dana instantly regressed back to her adolescent self, glancing at the floor awkwardly. "Thank you for taking her," she began. "I wouldn't have asked, but Mike called late last night, and--"

It was just so patently false. She hated, hated that Dana felt it was right to lie to her. "Stop," she said, and folded her arms across her chest. "I know that not everything you and Fox do is something you can tell me. I understand that." Fox was coming down the stairs quietly. He paused at the foot, hands in his pockets. "Just tell me, is it important?"

"Yes," Dana said, without even stopping to think.

Maggie exhaled. "Is it dangerous?"

Dana seemed caught off-guard by that. "We'll be fine, Mom," she said.

She supposed that was as much of an answer as she could expect. "When will you be back?" Dana and Fox exchanged a look, and she began to get, well, a little worried. "Will you be back, Dana?" It was as if they were deciding something, without talking. Dana nodded very slightly, and Fox headed for the car. Did Dana have something to tell her privately, or what?

Before she could wonder too much, Dana stepped forward. "Someone will come for you both. I don't know when, and I don't know who, but it will be in the evening, probably on the eighteenth or the nineteenth, earlier if I can manage it. Pack a bag for yourself, and keep Sadie's things together." Maggie suppressed a shiver; this wasn't the voice of the Dana she knew. She'd heard it maybe a dozen times, all of them on the phone, most of them while Fox was missing. "He'll probably be a federal employee. He'll show ID, and he'll say that he's a friend of Kara and Sam. If he worries you in any way, if you get any bad vibe off him, even the least bit, say you need to make a phone call." She pulled her note pad out of her pocket and scribbled a number on it. "Call this number. Say your name, your real name, it's fine, and say you need to talk to Robert. That'll be a man named John, or you might get me or Mulder, it depends who is available."

Fox came back in the house now, with a silver briefcase. He set it on the side table next to the couch, and snapped open the locks. She couldn't help gasping; it was full of guns, lined up in neat rows. Fox pulled out the smallest, and a box from the side of the case. When he started to talk, it took her a moment to focus enough to hear words. "It's got low recoil," he was saying calmly, "so you should be able to shoot it without a problem. This is the safety lock. Sadie's seen guns, but never how one works, so she shouldn't be able to unlock it, but I'd keep it on a high shelf anyway. But near the door. It reloads here, and the rounds just slide in. It's automatic, so you don't need to worry about anything but pointing and shooting." He held up the box, which rattled. "These aren't normal bullets. They're designed to cover most of the major eventualities." He held out the gun. "If he makes any attempt to stop you getting to the phone, shoot him. If he threatens Sadie in any way, shoot him. If he tries to take her, shoot him. Aiming for the head sounds like a good idea, but heads are small and move around a lot; go for the torso, doesn't matter where. If he bleeds green, get out of there immediately. If you shoot someone, get Sadie, forget the bags, run, but call the number from your cell phone. We can get you out."

A gun. Her son-in-law was handing her a gun and lecturing her on how to reload it, and what to do if she shot someone. Someone who bled green. And a man was going to come to her house and take her somewhere, and she didn't know where. Maggie looked up at Dana, whose arms were folded across her chest. She'd sent her husband to war; she knew that look. She reached out and took the gun, and put it on the top shelf of the hutch next to the front door, and the ammunition next to it. Then she dried her sweaty palms on her pants and turned to face them again. "You'd better get Sadie down here. I wouldn't want you missing your flight."

Dana nodded slowly, and turned to go kiss her daughter goodbye.

***

5:47 PM Central Time
I-80 Westbound

Scully took the wheel just past Columbus. Mulder slept fitfully in the passenger seat. Really, they should have slept last night, but it had been impossible. Even after packing for themselves and Sadie, getting the weapons and the research ready to travel, they had found themselves ready to leave around five, and unable to head out for another few hours. Nervous energy had been snapping off him; he'd barely been able to look at her. She'd stared out the kitchen window, trying to figure out if lying in the dark for an hour would make her feel better, when he came up behind her, put his arms on either side of her, and bit her neck. She thought of turning around, of curling her arms around his neck and her legs around his waist, of kissing him and holding him close, but she couldn't ask him, and couldn't risk being turned away, so she gripped the counter while they fucked half-dressed, bit his forearms to keep herself quiet, pressed her hips back and asked for more. After, he slid to the floor, his back to the cabinets, breathing heavily. He reached out and wrapped one hand around her thigh, pulled her down into his lap, and they lay there together on the floor until dawn broke through the window.

The road stretched, flattened itself out, and nameless suburbs alternated with great stretches of fields and trees. Eventually the trees faded out as well. West, west, driving as quickly as she dared for someone evading an international conspiracy. Her brain kept circling back to William, that single image from the school photo, trying to learn something more from it, but there just wasn't any more information to get, so she tried to force it away. But adrenaline burned in the pit of her stomach, and she tapped her foot nervously against the floor, until she finally turned off cruise control to give herself something to do.

He stirred awake as the sun was starting to set, staining the upholstery orange. "Where are we?"

"Coming up on Madison."

"You want to switch?" He shifted in his seat, twisting his back.

"I'm fine, but I could probably stand to stop and stretch soon. Exit or rest stop?"

"Rest stop. Faster." He stared out the window. "Do we have a plan?"

"Not really." She'd been circling this one too, but hadn't wanted to plan too far ahead of him. "I was thinking we should just get there. Talk to the Van de Kamps." She swallowed. "Talk to him. Make sure he's okay. Talk to them about security. Check around for obvious problems."

"Hi, we're some random strangers, tell us everything about your kid?"

"We've got badges." She nodded at the glove box. "They're in our real names, and they say FBI on them."

"Seriously?" He opened the box, and jiggled up the panel that covered the secret compartment. The two badges were sitting there in leather cases. He flipped them open. "Wow, these look seriously fake. Where did you get these?"

"Skinner. There's some sort of badge redesign happening, and he managed to get us prototypes."

"Why didn't I know about this?"

She tensed for a moment, until she realized he was smiling at the badge. She relaxed her grip on the wheel. "I was worried you'd start flashing it for better parking at Sadie's dance class."

"You've never had to deal with that place at 4 PM. I'd be justified." He tucked them back away, closed the box. "Should we try to get them to the compound?"

She sighed. She'd been weighing it, and had just barely come to a conclusion. "I think so. They'll have to be quarantined until we background-check them, and there's a chance William can be tracked, but they're safer there. If they'll come, yes."

"Doggett's going to kill us."

"They can drop Bill and Tara if they need to," she said calmly. "We'll get them in."

He touched her thigh, stroked his thumb against her jeans. "It won't come to that."

"Still." She focused on the road.

He kept his hand on her thigh. "What if they won't come?" he said after a moment.

"Then we stay," she said. "We stay, and wait until they try to get him. Then we go. And they come if they want."

Mulder shook his head. "You know, Scully, there's a lot of hardware in that trunk. Unless the Van de Kamps are on the ATF watch list, I think we would probably win the argument."

She shot him a look. "Mulder, we are not abducting our son's parents at gunpoint."

He sighed dramatically. "You're no fun, you know that?"

A rest stop loomed on the horizon. She pulled in and found a spot. "Meet me at the Starbucks," she said, as she stretched as she got out of the car. "I think I need a case of those bottled Frappucino things."

"I never thought saving the world would have been better with a Costco run," he said, and followed her in.

***

3:37 AM Mountain Time
I-80 Westbound

She woke softly and blinked at the dashboard light. They were getting close now. His hands on the wheel were tapping a rhythm she couldn't follow. She stretched out her legs and pressed her feet against the floor. "Sorry. I should be keeping you company."

"You sleep like Sadie," he said. "Or she sleeps like you. It's very cute."

"The strangest things are inheritable," she said, and rummaged around in the bag in the backseat until she found an apple. "You want anything?"

"More Cheetos." She rolled her eyes and handed him a bag. They ate in silence, hills whipping past them as Mulder pushed the car on. "Scully," he said suddenly. "What are we going to do?"

Trust him to get existential in the middle of the night. "We'll make sure he's safe. But we can't just take him, Mulder. It's not fair to him. Or his parents."

"So we just leave him there."

"I don't see how we have any other option." She looked out into the dead openness of South Dakota around them. God, could she do it again--walk away and not look back? What kind of a person was she that she could do this? How rule-driven? How emotionless?

He leaned forward as he drove. He was pissed. "Scully, you're going to have to run this."

"What do you mean?" She couldn't see any play worth running on the field here.

"I can't make this happen. I can't do this the way that makes sense. I'll fuck it up."

"It's a pretty simple plan, Mulder."

"Yeah, well, every version of this I visualize ends with me putting bullets in the heads of two very nice people who haven't done anything but raise my son for me, so I don't think I can be trusted with the simple plan." He hit the steering wheel sharply, and she felt him punch the accelerator.

Her throat was dry. It had been years since they had fought over William, since he had screamed at her in the parking lot of a nearly empty Alabama motel that she was a heartless bitch who had never loved his son--his son, he'd said, not even our son--and walked away for fourteen hours, only to come back and not speak to her for a week. There is only so much you can do to process something this big, only so much you can do to reduce the tearing grief and anger. How could this not rip open all the little seams they had made to hold it in? How could he not hate her right now?

She leaned into the window. "And what do I get in this little fantasy?" she asked, the words bitter in her mouth. He just shook his head. "No," she said, "tell me, I deserve to know."

"I don't keep going," he said. "I'd like not to actually end up with my parents' marriage."

She disliked the fact that she was Teena Mulder in this scenario: cold and faithless, the one who lost the baby, even if the blame could just as easily be shared. She closed her eyes, and felt them tear through the plains. The wind buffeted the car. He slowed down at some point, probably to within ten miles of the speed limit, but not by much.

"I think we both ended up with our parents' marriages," she said quietly, fifteen minutes later, turning her body towards him and curling into her seat. He glanced over at her. "I spent a few years there as a pretty good Navy wife. Putting my life on hold for the greater good. Waiting for the ship to come back, waiting to find out when it wasn't. I even got the flag."

His shoulders sagged. "I'm sorry," he said softly.

"So am I."

He reached across the console and rested his hand on her knee. "You can sleep more. It'll be a while."

She covered his hand with hers. "Wake me if you need company." She closed her eyes, and concentrated on his thumb stroking the back of her hand as she fell asleep.

***

They made it in twenty-five hours.

Kaycee was a little strip of nothing, south of Buffalo, which was a slightly larger strip of nothing. Once they got outside of the town center, they pulled over and unloaded weapons from the trunk, figuring that it was better not to be seen pulling from the arsenal at the Van de Kamps' front porch. Scully adjusted her jacket so it hid the gun at her waist, and shook her foot to get her jeans to lie right across the ankle holster for her dart gun. Mulder hesitated at the zombie buttons in the bottom of the bag, but finally pulled them out. "In for a penny," he said.

She took hers and stuck it onto her wrist, over her pulse point. The original design for the panic button had been made by one of the techs at the compound; it was easily concealed, and, if pushed, sent a wireless signal to the communications network, which would alert the network that you were in trouble, and where; no guarantee you could be gotten out, but at least you could be tracked. But she was the one who had argued that it needed a pulse-meter, and to send an alarm if the wearer's heart stopped. "We need to be prepared for casualties. And dead people can't push panic buttons," she had said.

"Zombies could," Mulder had said. "You know, if we had a zombie army, this would be much easier." And they had called them zombie buttons ever since.

Her button glowed a faint green for a moment, and then faded back to blend with her skin tone. Mulder's did as well. He closed the trunk, and they stood there in front of it for a moment.

"I love you," he said.

"We'll be OK," she said.

"I know. But come here."

She stepped into his arms, and leaned into his chest. He curled as closely around her as he could, and buried his nose in her hair. They stood like that for a moment, and then she pulled away. He bent down and kissed her gently. "I love you," she whispered.

"Let's go," he said, and they climbed back into the car.

580 Sussex Road was a mailbox, with the faint view of a two-story house in the distance. Mulder pulled the car up into the driveway, and parked in front of the gate. "Looks familiar," Mulder said. "Think they got theirs from Home Depot, too?"

"Probably." Scully bent over and pulled their badges out of the glove box. "So I'm doing the talking?"

"Absolutely." Mulder climbed out of the car and closed his door.

Scully hesitated just a moment, and then followed him. They walked up to the gate, and were about to try to figure out how you got through it when a voice called out to them from their left.

"No."

They looked up in one smooth motion. A balding man in a parka was standing behind a small clump of trees ten feet away, pointing a shotgun at them.

"No," he said again. "I won't let you take him."



Click here for chapter 4
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colebaltblue on February 10th, 2010 08:55 pm (UTC)
"No," he said again. "I won't let you take him.

Shiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiit.

You know, I've always wondered why Scully and Mulder behaved as they did regarding William - why Mulder left and Scully stayed. I really don't agree with what I feel the canon tried to chalk it up to. I like it when fanfic authors have them address it since it obviously is the 300lb gorilla in the room.

I'm really enjoying this and the tension is amazing!
Amal Nahurriyeh: williamamalnahurriyeh on February 11th, 2010 02:52 pm (UTC)
The whole William arc is so fucking broken. I tried to fix it some. Let me know how it works.

I think this may actually be the best cliffhanger in the piece, actually.

&hearts
All the letters I can write: runningwendelah1 on September 11th, 2010 03:52 am (UTC)
I agree, you build up the tension very well here. I didn't think you'd kill off the Van De Kamps but it had been done enough times that just having them make an appearance put me on edge. Also, I was not expecting what did happen.