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05 November 2009 @ 04:10 pm
Machines of Freedom: Chapter 5  

December 10, 2010
1:19 PM Mountain Time
Somewhere north of Kaycee, Wyoming

Mulder had one hand on his jammed gun, the other on his son's shoulder, and no earthly idea where they were going. He looked out the window of the helicopter and tried to get a sense of place, but the mountain states all looked the same. He glanced back at William. He was still holding his backpack in his hands--a plain one, blue, a little faded, probably the Van de Kamps made him reuse it from year to year--but he was looking out the window with a sort of calm but undisguised fascination. His face was so like Scully's in set, even if he saw elements of himself in the framing. His hair was longer than in the class photo, probably due for a trim. Did Regina do it herself at the kitchen table? Something about the bare facts he knew of the Van de Kamps left him hollow, and he wanted a story, wanted to know how they had raised his boy, wanted to know who they had made him turn out to be.

Scully was watching them both. She was about an inch from crying, which made Mulder feel a little better about being an inch from a panic attack, but every time he looked over at William something in him stopped vibrating. He remembered the moment, in the helicopter on the way to the hospital, Scully collapsed in his arms with Monica shouting into the two-way radio, when he had realized that among the thousand noises he was hearing was a baby crying, looking down and seeing William for the first time, red and yelling against Scully's chest. His heart had suddenly blown clear open. He was a father. He had a family again. He wasn't sure if Scully was remembering that, or any of other little memories of William she must have from those nine months. But he felt at this moment like he had then, the sudden shock of the actual existence of his son.

Through the headphones, he heard the girl read out a series of coordinates to the pilot. He recognized them: the compound. She was taking them to the compound. Scully looked up at him, and he nodded to confirm. She relaxed, just slightly. Whoever this girl with the nicotine habit was, she was taking them somewhere safe. Provided her plan wasn't going to be to blow the mountain.

Stark, Montana, lived up to its name: less than a town, more a simple designator for a place with a marginally higher density of houses than the surrounding area. North of it, there lay an unmarked turn-off with a suspiciously well-paved entrance. Three miles back along that path was another unmarked turn-off, which lead, eventually, to a small clearing in the trees in front of a cliff face. This clearing was the only marker the entrance to the compound had. It had been built by survivalists in the 1970s; Mulder had managed to acquire title for it and then, surreptitiously, erase its existence from most public records. It was less than an hour from Missoula, which meant they had a ready source of basic supplies, but it was far enough out that nothing coming or going ever was noticed. The location was just about perfect. In the event that they failed at preventing colonization, they could be sealed inside; their monitoring software would make it possible for them to fight as long as possible, and, if that was no longer an option, they could simply wait to see what would happen.

Monica had been the first to head up; she had quit, quietly, back in 2009, and spent some time visiting her family in Mexico before she simply disappeared to the world, and reappeared to head a small crew making the compound livable. John had waited until most of the way through 2010 to quit; he bought a cabin outside of Elk River, Idaho, and had then managed to fade discreetly into the background. The small staff was gathered through personal connections; it was now up to thirty-five, and due to grow exponentially when the family members and friends of the staff were collected in the coming weeks. Mulder couldn't help but feel like his own father: spearheading a project to try to save humanity, gathering his loved ones close and hoping he'd managed to work out a deal. He assured himself, and Scully did as well, that they were actually on the side of right here; but he vacillated wildly about whether or not he believed that.

The pilot spoke quietly into his headset. "Ma'am, we're ten miles out."

"Thank you," the girl said, and pulled a notebook from her pocket. Her body language had been shifting slowly over the flight; she was still tense, and hyper-alert, but she'd started looking pleased, rather than menacing. She flipped through the pages of the notebook and then pulled the radio controls into her lap and started poking at the dials. After a few tries, Mulder heard the distinctive hum of the compound's decoders. She activated her headset. "Alpha base, this is incoming from southeast. Identification code Charlie-Sierra-Mike, 2-1-1-1, authenticating, please respond."

There was a pause, and then a male voice. "Charlie-Sierra-Mike 2111, we read you. Authentication code delta, hold for clearance."

She held up her hand to the pilot, and the helicopter slowed and hovered. She turned pages in the book. "Authentication code delta, whisky-1-8-1-0-1-3-0-7-foxtrot. Holding for clearance."

The pause was longer this time. "Charlie-Sierra-Mike, authentication code kilo, continue holding."

"Honestly," the girl muttered, and flipped through her book some more. "Authentication code kilo, 1-0-kilo-7-3-5-delta. Holding."

Again, a pause. "Charlie-Sierra-Mike, cleared for approach." She gestured to the pilot, and they started moving forward again. "Watch commander will rendezvous. What's your cargo?"

She looked back over her shoulder. "I've got three friendlies and a prisoner in tow. Also, we're going to have to do something about this helicopter."

"Copy that. Escort will be waiting." The radio crackled. Slightly quieter, the voice said, "Jesus, Case, where've you been?"

"Oh, you know me, Raoul," she said nonchalantly, "you really can't get a good manicure in the asscrack of Montana." She put the notebook away as Raoul chuckled. "How's my inbox?"

"You've got a pile about a foot high, and that's not counting the digital. Monica's going to chain you to a desk until you get done with it, I think."

"Well, I try to keep things like that out of the workplace, but if she insists. Let me guess, it's her watch."

"Oh, yeah."

"Wish me luck. We're in visual." The clearing appeared, and the large metal door in the side of the rise of cliff at its end.

"Confirm visual. I'll make you a cake with a file in it."

"Affirmative and out." She put down the radio and turned to the pilot. "I'm assuming we're not going to have any trouble with you?"

"No, ma'am," he said. "I'm not particularly ideological."

"Good answer," she said.

Mulder looked back at William. He had apparently ignored the conversation--which was good, it really wasn't particularly child-appropriate, he realized belatedly--and was watching the ground with a mixture of excitement and nervousness. He chanced a glance at Scully. Her face was slightly softened as she watched William; it was the look she had on her face when she watched Sadie sleep, a look of almost unbelieving contentment. He liked that look. He liked what it meant that she had it. He pressed his hand into William's shoulder.

He looked back at him. Mulder smiled. He couldn't think of anything to say. "I'm your father" seemed redundant, plus a little odd; "I'm so happy to see you" didn't even begin to cover it; "Tell me everything about you" was too needy. He settled for smiling, and patting his shoulder. William smiled, too; he had Scully's smile by shape, but he seemed willing to use it, which was a welcome turn of events.

The helicopter touched down. Mulder reached across to unbuckle William's seat belt on instinct. "I can do it," William said, and reached for it.

"OK," Mulder said, and realized that was an incredibly stupid first thing to say to his son. "Don't forget your bag," he added, which was actually stupider, but at least had some content.

"I won't," William said, so naturally that they might have been arguing about remembering your mittens at the end of the day.

The girl was the first one out of the helicopter; she jumped out her door and pulled out her cigarettes, lighting one immediately. As Mulder pulled open the back door to the helicopter, he saw Monica storming towards the helicopter with two armed guards, wearing only a tank top and jeans despite the snow whipping off the ground around them. She was livid, and looking right at the girl. "Casey, what the fuck," she yelled before she was halfway to them.

"Anybody miss me?" the girl said, exhaling a cloud of smoke.

"You're ten days overdue. Not a word. And then you show up in a big black evil helicopter? With prisoners? And who the hell are the friendlies you brought? Honestly, I--" Monica glanced up and saw Mulder climbing out of the helicopter. He smiled at her, reached in, and lifted William down to the ground. Then he held a hand out to Scully, who climbed down and immediately put her hands on William's shoulders.

Monica gaped for just a moment. "See, I didn't do so bad," the girl--Casey--said, bringing the cigarette back to her mouth.

Monica glanced between Mulder and Scully, and then broke out in a full smile. "William," she said quietly. "Oh my goodness, look at how big you are." Mulder felt comforted that no one else could come up with anything rational to say. She stepped forward and pushed his hair back from his face. "Look at you. I know you don't remember me, but I'm your Aunt Monica." Aunt? Mulder snuck a look at Scully; she shrugged.

"Hi," William said, and smiled politely.

Monica bent down and hugged him. Mulder fought off the jealousy that Monica hugged him first; she did it so naturally, whereas he seemed to have regressed to having literally no sense of how to touch people. William stood fairly still, looking, well, looking like a kid being hugged by an aunt he's never met. She pulled away, and wiped her eyes. "Well. Come on inside." She turned around and gave Casey a hard look. "Bill, Ryan, come take the prisoners."

"It's just the pilot, and I don't think he'll give us trouble--" Casey said, taking a quick drag on her cigarette before flicking it away.

"You're a prisoner," Monica snapped. "Hands on your head."

Casey sighed dramatically and complied. "You know, I never thought you--"

"Shut up." Monica stalked towards the entrance.

If you didn't know it was there, you wouldn't have noticed it; that was the idea. But there was a hole in the cliff face big enough to fit the helicopter through, with a six-inch thick retractable steel door. There was a smaller, person-sized door in the middle of it. Monica led the way, with one guard each on Casey and the pilot, and Mulder, Scully, and William following behind. Scully's hand was on William's back now; Mulder had replaced hers on his shoulder. They walked through the door, and into the cavernous entryway. Incongruously, there was a large security desk there, with computers and monitors arrayed behind it, and some velvet rope directing traffic to a series of what looked like metal detectors, but also included the non-human detector (which the techs had dubbed a "human being or giant alien bug" detector) and a machine that, they were pretty sure, could detect the early stages of infection with the alien virus. The first guard walked the pilot through the detectors; he came out clean, so he deposited him in a small Lucite cell and came back through. Monica was standing in front of the detectors with Casey. "Weapons off," she said sternly.

Mulder reached around to his waist to unclip his jammed gun. "Are we weapons-free inside?"

"No, Mulder, you're fine," Monica said, still staring at Casey.

Casey pulled her notebook, her cigarettes, her lighter and her gun out of her right trench coat pocket. Then she pulled an ice pick and a hunting knife out of the left one. She plunked them down on the security desk, took off the coat, and turned it inside out. She ripped the lining at the hem, and removed three clips that were sewn into it, and then put the coat on the desk. From the pocket of her suit jacket came a magnetite dart gun, one of the prototypes before they'd settled on the current design, and three USB flash drives. "Those are interesting, don't degauss them," she said as she dropped them on the counter. Then that jacket came off, and she took the holster and extra clip off her waist; then her blouse, to reveal a white tank top and a small, flat stun gun strapped to her shoulder. She put them all on the counter, and hiked up her skirt. On her left thigh was a garter holster with another gun. She removed the holster and put it on the counter, then peeled her stockings down. With a yank, she removed a zombie button from the back of her knee.

Mulder looked at the pile of weaponry on the counter. "What were you planning for?" he couldn't help asking.

She looked over at him. "You not to make it."

"Everything," Monica said sharply.

Casey sighed and reached into her bra. She pulled out a small vial. Mulder swallowed; they had talked about procuring cyanide tablets, but he hadn't thought about them as a real possibility. Monica winced slightly at the sight of the vial. Casey stepped forward towards her, just slightly, and pressed it into her hand. "Mon, I'm fine," she said softly.

Monica's eyes snapped from the vial back up to Casey's face. "Ryan, take her down to the holding cell. Don't take your gun off her."

"Yes, ma'am," Ryan said. "Come on, Case."

"Sure, let's go," Casey said, and let the armed guard take her away.

Bill, the other guard, had settled himself at the terminals. "Dr. Scully, Mr. Mulder. It's a pleasure to finally meet you."

He couldn't be more than twenty, Mulder thought. "It's a pleasure to be here," Scully said, politely.

"I'll have to run you through the security protocols. It won't take more than a few minutes," he said. "Dr. Scully, if you could step up to the scanner."

She leaned in to the retinal scanner while pressing her hand onto the hand pad. There was a brief flash as she was scanned, and then the monitor next to it read, "DKS-4671 ACTIVE." Bill fiddled with the computer for a moment, and then handed her a badge with her photo and a black object the size of a pager. "This is your authentication and locator device. You have to wear it at all times, or at least keep it in the same room as you when you're in your quarters. It's got--"

"I know how it works, Bill," Scully said, slightly amused. "I designed it."

"Oh. Right." Bill cleared his throat. "Anyway, your badge gets you into the computer system, and the box is your personal clearance. So just keep them on you. Mr. Mulder?"

Mulder repeated the process with the scanner: FWM-8201, read his badge. The photo was pretty terrible, but he'd live. He clipped it onto his belt, and slid the box into his pocket.

Bill hesitated, looking at William. "Does he have a record, or--"

"No, you'll have to make one," Scully said. Mulder glanced over at William. He kept looking sideways at Bill, and then the monitors, and then the giant vaulted ceiling.

Bill typed and clicked and then sighed. "OK. Name?"

"William Mulder," Scully said automatically, at the same moment as Mulder said, "William Scully."

He glanced up at her and arched an eyebrow at her. "You gave him my name?"

"Of course I did. How did you not know that?"

"How would I have known that? It's not like we had any sort of a conversation about it--"

"It was on his birth certificate."

"When would I have seen his birth certificate? I was only around, what, three days?"

"It was on the fridge, the thing with the footprint. And God knows you spent enough time in front of my fridge--"

"William Van de Kamp," William said suddenly, a little rushed. Mulder paused and looked down at him. He glanced quickly between the two adults. "It's just easier."

"Absolutely," Scully said, and patted his back, slightly embarrassed.

Bill took them through a little recitation of birthday (Scully winced when William gave the one from his false birth certificate) and vital statistics, and the establishing retinal and palm scans took a minute. He smiled for the little webcam that Bill held up, and then admired the badge when it popped out of the machine, reading WVK-7520. "That was fast," he said.

"We try to be efficient," Mulder said.

Monica was waiting for them on the other side of the scanner. They peaked the bug detector into the yellow, but, well, that was to be expected; he and Scully had actually been the control subjects for it. "Come on, I'll show you to your quarters," she said. "There's a map of the compound in there, and the things you sent ahead. You've got one of the few two-bedroom units, but there's just one bed in the second room; we'll have to get another one when Sadie comes."

Mulder felt William startle a little at the name, but he didn't say anything. The elevator looked surprisingly normal as they climbed it, but it did require Monica to scan her badge before it would take her anywhere. "The first hundred feet or so are all storage; I guess that's where we'll put the helicopter once we check it out for locators. John says there are a couple of tanks in there, but I think he's making that up. Then the top habitable layer is the labs; then two layers of quarters, then the control level. Shelter's beneath all the operations. That's where we'll put the refugees."

Scully cleared her throat. "We have some more names to add to the list after today."

Monica looked over at William for a moment, then up at Mulder. He looked away. "I'll tell John. It shouldn't be a problem."

"Um," William said.

"What is it?" Mulder asked.

"You don't both have to hold on to me at the same time," he said. "I'm not going anywhere. We're in an elevator."

Mulder realized that Scully still had her hand on his back, and that his hand on William's shoulder had been getting progressively tighter. "Sorry," he said, and pulled his hand back, shoved it into his pocket. It itched to go back.

Scully crossed her arms. "We're a little paranoid."

"It's OK," William said, and shrugged a little.

The elevator opened. "This is level three, the lower level of quarters," Monica said, leading them down the hall. "It's got larger quarters, so we're putting staff families and couples on it as they come in. John keeps arguing that team leaders should get bigger units to hold team meetings in but I think that's just because he likes the appliances in 3T. You're in 3R. It's right here." She gestured to it. "Doors are card activated; access is limited to people who live in the unit, with top-level staff able to get in with retinal scan and emergency codes. Up on 2, generally folks keep their doors open if they're up for company; it's a little like going back to college. I think it's quieter down here."

Scully pulled her card through the slot; the little light went green. They waited for the door to open. Monica smiled and pointed to the handle. "Sorry, they aren't actually Star Trek doors."

"We've got an underground bunker full of anti-alien weapons, and we don't have Star Trek doors? Something's wrong here," Mulder said. Scully cleared her throat and opened the door, and he followed her and William into the quarters.

They were bare, but not empty; an uncomfortable-looking couch, a dining table with four chairs, a little corner with a microwave and fridge--God, it was a dorm room. Piled in the corner were five small packing boxes which they had sent ahead. Where were the suitcases? Shit, his duffel bag was still in the trunk of the car in the Van de Kamps' front drive. He'd had his razor in that. And that blue shirt Scully had gotten him for his birthday.

Monica hesitated at the door. "You know, I'd love to stay and chat, but I'm sure you have some settling in to do."

"Yes, I think so," Scully said, looking around at the empty room. "Do we have schedules yet?"

"We didn't think you'd be making it until the fourteenth," Monica said, and Mulder was impressed that she managed to keep any sort of judgement out of that sentence. "We don't really need you on the watch list yet. Dana, you'll probably just end up taking over the lab. I know Matt would appreciate it. John and I were going to have a senior staff meeting at six over dinner in the dining hall on two; why don't you join us then, and we'll figure it out from there?"

"Do we get cell phone reception down here?" Mulder asked. Sadie, they needed to check in on Sadie. Had it actually been only yesterday they had left Baltimore?

"You mean, for regular calling out? We'll have to rig your phones. Where are you supposed to be?"

"Boca Raton. I'll need a fax number there, too," Scully said, handing over her phone.

Mulder pulled his out of his pocket. It wasn't registering a time, which was odd. "What time is it here?"

"Two." Monica took his phone from him. "I'll make sure this gets set up by dinner."

"Sooner if possible, please," Scully said, and opened the first bedroom door.

"Gotcha. See you later," Monica said, and ducked out the door, shutting it behind her.

Scully emerged from the bedroom, sans coat. "This one is ours. So, William, this will be yours," she said, and opened the door to the second bedroom."

He followed her in, and Mulder followed them both. William was holding his backpack by the top loop now, and critically evaluating the room. A single twin bed was pushed against one wall, with Sadie's pink Disney Princesses suitcase on top of it, and a cardboard box labelled S - TOYS, BOOKS, PLASTIC SHOES in Scully's neat handwriting. Scully picked up the suitcase and moved it to the corner, away from the bed. William cleared his throat and shuffled a little. "Um. Sadie."

Scully picked up the box of toys and moved it to next to the suitcase. "She's your sister," she said, not making eye contact.

"Oh. OK." William put his bag down on the floor at the foot of the bed. He hesitated, and asked. "How old is she?"

"She's three," Mulder said.

William shifted again, uncomfortably. God, Mulder thought, he knew this dance, the dance of what's wrong with me, why am I the one you never wanted. "Oh," William said, very quietly.

Scully sighed and sat down on the bed. "We owe you an explanation, William. I'm sorry to be doing this so suddenly." She patted the bed next to her, and looked up at Mulder. He nodded, and walked out to the living room. One of the cardboard boxes was labelled KEEPSAKES. He ripped through the tape and rifled through it until he found the small blue photo book. His knees popped as he stood and walked back to the bedroom. William had joined Scully on the bed, his head a little tucked. She reached out and smoothed his hair back behind his ears. "We didn't think we could have children," she said quietly.

That wasn't where he would have started it, but OK.

"Your father and I worked for the FBI. We made some very powerful enemies, people who had a reach beyond the government, who were very dangerous. We worked together. We wanted children, but it didn't seem to be possible." She cleared her throat. "The day I found out I was pregnant, your father was--" Her eyes flickered to him, and then back to William. "Was taken, by our enemies. He was gone for six months. I thought he was dead. The only thing that kept me going was you." She drew a shaky breath, and Mulder fought the desire to go find something to kick. The walls in this place looked good for kicking. "And then he came back, and I thought we would be safe, that we could be together, that we could keep fighting but still have a little family. The day you were born was one of the happiest of my life."

Mulder held out the book. She took it, and opened it to the first page. They had taken the photo with the self-timer on her camera, the night she got home from the hospital. He was sitting up against the headboard of her bed, and she was leaning into his body, her head tucked under her chin. The little pink ball of William was curled between them, wrapped in that absurd blanket. Scully looked into the camera, but Mulder stared down at William. Both of them were smiling in that odd, stunned way new parents always seem to have.

Both of them were smiling in that odd, stunned way new parents always seem to have.

William leaned in and examined the photo closely. Scully put her hand on his neck and stroked softly. "So what happened?" he asked.

She sighed and closed the book. "We weren't safe," she said. "Three days after you were born, your father had to leave. He spent the next year on the run. I didn't know where he was; I couldn't find him. We barely spoke. I didn't know if he was safe most of the time. During that year, there were two separate attempts on your life." William blinked at that, but Scully kept going. "I was alone. I was working so hard to protect you, to stop our enemies. But I couldn't do it. There was no way I could keep you safe. I made the only choice I thought I could."

William reached out and took the book from Scully's lap. He opened it to the first page again, and then turned it. The next page was a photo of Mulder asleep on the couch, with William lying on his chest, just as asleep, and another of William squinting at the camera in a shirt that said "ladies' man" in bright yellow. "So you gave me up for adoption."

"Yes," Scully said. "I did."

"We couldn't have done anything else," Mulder said. Scully looked up at him, but he wasn't going to let her take all the blame. "Right after you went to live with your adoptive parents, we both had to run. We spent years in hiding, living under assumed names. Your mother was able to come back out in 2004, but I only finally was cleared in 2008."

William looked at the book, a photo of himself propped in a baby chair, giving the camera the evil eye. He looked up at Mulder. "2008," he said. Mulder nodded. William's forehead wrinkled as he did mental math. "And Sadie's three."

Mulder smiled. "You're a smart kid."

William looked down at the book again. "You both call me William."

"That's what we named you," Scully said softly.

"I go by Will now," he said. "Is that OK?"

"Of course," Scully said.

"Better than Billy," Mulder said.

Scully shot him a look that very clearly said we do not yet need family drama, Mulder. "Will," she said, "if you have any questions, you can ask us. We have family photos with us that you can go through, or we can just tell you things. I don't want to overburden you, but whatever you want to know is fine."

Will turned another page: Maggie Scully giving him a bath in the sink, his baby-self dressed in a pumpkin costume. "Um, yeah, I have a question."

"Sure," Scully said.

"What are your names?"

"Um, yeah, I have a question. What are your names?"

Mulder watched Scully's visible wince, and barely was able to restrain his own. She took a shuddering breath. "My name is Dana Scully."

"Fox Mulder," he said. Will looked up at him and arched his eyebrows. Mulder rolled his eyes dramatically. "Don't you start."

Will grinned. He looked back at the book. "Can I keep this for a while?"

"Of course," Scully said. She yawned suddenly. "Will, do you mind if I take a nap? We drove all night to get to you this morning, and I'm a little exhausted."

"OK," he said, as if he were surprised to be asked.

"Don't go anywhere," Mulder said. The lights in the room had begun to take on a slightly hallucinogenic quality; he could probably use a nap too.

"Yeah, OK," Will said, and turned another page in the book.

As if on impulse, Scully leaned over and kissed Will on the temple. It hurt to watch, not out of jealousy, but because there was something so right about it; because, as far as Will was concerned, it was the first time. He startled a little, and then looked over at her and smiled.

Scully stood and half-stumbled to the doorframe. He followed her, with a long look at Will sitting on his bed, thumbing through his baby book. The bed in their room was smallish, but they crawled in without even pulling down the blanket. He lay on his side facing her; she kicked off her shoes and curled her back against him. "He's real," she whispered.

"I know," he said, and kissed her ear. "Sleep."

"Yeah," she said.

He closed his eyes. Through the wall, he thought he could hear the pages turning.

Click here for Chapter 6
Tags: , ,
colebaltblue on February 19th, 2010 09:33 pm (UTC)
Heeeeee @ Star Trek doors! I love the bits of humor in amongst all this action-packed drama!

I'm having fun theorizing as to who Casey is, good job dropping hints along the way while still keeping me guessing. I like it!

Nice to see Monica (in person, and not just in videoconferencing). I liked their characters, just not the 8th and 9th seasons, ya know? Nice chapter- not quite as tense as the others, but you're great and moving the plot forward through the moments of high drama/action.

Off to the next part!
All the letters I can write: And baby makes threewendelah1 on September 16th, 2010 03:05 pm (UTC)
This was a pretty devastating chapter to read for me. I must be the only active member of the fandom who hasn't watched season nine. Maybe I need to sit myself down and force myself to do it. I personally am finding the emotional landmines as gripping as the adventure story, maybe more so. This was very well handled. Great last line, full of rich symbolism, richer for not being forced in any way.