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05 November 2009 @ 04:04 pm
Machines of Freedom: Chapter 11  


December 21, 2012
6:27 AM Mountain Time
Stark, Montana


"Monica, are you reading anything?" John's voice sounded tinny; he and the other military guys were all wearing headsets, which resulted in a real loss of audio quality. Scully was annoyed by it, and trying not to let on.

"Nobody's got anything other than what we do. Just the ships sitting there." Somehow, the fact that the rest of them were essentially on speakerphone produced less feedback; Monica sounded clear over the communications system. "Seoul is having some trouble with their sensors, but they've got it mostly fixed."

"I don't like this," Scully said. "I don't know what they're doing."

"Getting into position? Communicating with the Consortium? Painting their nails? Could be anything," John said.

"I want us to go radio silent between installations. Maybe they're listening for us."

"We pretty much are," Monica said. "We're all just set to the no-news signal. It's non-specific and doesn't indicate anything about who is receiving."

"Turn it off," she said again. "We'll signal when we go live, okay?"

"John?"

"Yeah, do it," John said. "It goes back up fast enough."

"Iz, is everything working?"

"Yeah, the network is working perfectly. And the legal feeds I'm tapping into are reading the same inputs."

"I don't like this," she said again, and crossed her arms. On screen, the green blobs of the ships hovered and shook.

"I hate to bring it up," John said. "But we're in position. We could hit them now."

"I'm not doing that," Scully said sharply.

"You aren't actually the man from Gallifrey, Scully," Mulder said from behind her. "You don't have to give them the chance to repent first."

"I'm not starting this," she said. She closed her eyes. Leave, she thought. Just go. Find someone else to do terrible things to.

Poor Bill, the junior officer there to back them up, cleared his throat from the comm station. "Anyone want coffee?" he asked.

"Sure," she said, rubbing her face.

And they waited.

Nothing on CNN; nothing ok the screens in front of them; a terse email from the White House that managed to say what the fuck is going on? without using those words; a series of coded emails from around the world, double-checking that nobody was missing the bake sale/soccer practice/altarboy meeting/glee club/detention/Hebrew school. And the green blobs hovered.

***

8:05 AM

"Dana, look out," Isabel said, "The machines are going nuts. What are you seeing?"

As she spoke, the ships began moving and small purple clouds began to drift in their wakes.

"Online. Monica, get us back on. It's a go." Scully began targeting almost without thinking about it. "Tell them to prepare for atmospheric entry in the Indian ocean, they've spread themselves out too far there."

"Got it. Kandy and Dubai are responding. They see it too."

"Scully, look at number six," Mulder said. She glanced at it; it was edging off its old position over New York and heading westward.

"John, I think we've got incoming to Montana," she said. "I'm releasing neutralizer. I can't be in position to fire for ninety seconds at least."

"That's why I've got the backup. We're moving out." There was a crackling as John muted his headset. He could only run the lasers over the continental US from his position, and not very well, but she refocused on the ship edging past Rio.

"That one's heading for Africa," Mulder said suddenly.

She didn't ask why--his hunches were worth trusting--and she moved a satellite to release neutralizer over Sierra Leone. The ship trailed through it, and seemed to shake. On half a guess, she fired at it with a single laser that happened to be pointing in that direction. The blow was glancing, but the ship shook again. "Monica," she said, "tell everyone to shoot at ships when they're passing through neutralizer. I can't tell what it does, but I think it's a vulnerability. Iz?"

"Yeah, the numerical data looks like they sustain greater damage in neutralizer clouds. Just don't ask me why until next week."

"Dana, the one that's coming for us isn't being slowed down," John said. "Can you spray it?"

"I feel a cockroach joke coming on," Mulder said.

She ignored him and released neutralizer from the satellite over Alberta. It began to drift south.

Bill was typing on his console, and glanced up. "Dubai's reporting in. They got the atmospheric stuff before it hit anything populated. A few boats, that's it."

"Canberra's got medical staff they can send," Monica said.

"No, not yet," Scully said, maneuvering lasers towards Chile. "They need to cover the Pacific Basin."

She found herself getting into the rhythm of it--shift, move, predict, fire. One ship dissolved, mired in a cloud of neutralizer and laser fire. Isabel whooped over the comm.

The ships slowed, paused. Each over an ocean, each far from a satellite. Scully swung lasers around to pin them. But they hung there, immobile.

"What are they doing?" John asked. "We can't see up here."

"They're thinking," Mulder said.

Scully took a deep breath and rested her hands on the armrests of her chair. "Let's give them their moment."

The ships hovered. She tried not to think too many steps ahead.

***

Monica tapped her fingers on the console. "Are you getting this?"

"Yeah." Casey rerouted the message to the server, which pinged. "Got it. Siberia's prepped again."

Monica sighed. "Well, the comm network is holding up. That's something."

"Yeah." Casey sat back in her chair. The little desk was L-shaped, and she was positioned to stare at the back of Monica's neck. "You know, Monica." She licked her lips. "I know things have been hard lately. And I just want to say...to thank you. Because it's been good, too. Really good." She reached up and pulled off the nicotine patch on her arm.

Monica smiled, but turned her head so Casey couldn't see. "It has." She bounced a message from Andorra through the server and on to control. Casey peeled a thin plastic film off the skin of the patch. "When we're done with all this. We should talk. Really talk."

Monica started to turn to look at Casey, but then Casey's hand was on her neck with the patch, and she slumped forward in her chair, unconscious.

Casey arranged Monica in a less awkward position on the console, and then took her gun out of her holster and tucked it into her own waist band. She pulled a crumpled pack of cigarettes out of her jacket pocket, tapped it, pulled one out and slipped it into her mouth. She locked the door behind her as she left, and lit the cigarette as she walked.

***

Half an hour passed. Mulder could see Scully was tensing her jaw; not good. Bill had dutifully read them the alerts Monica passed along, but there hadn't been a message in ten minutes, at least. The green clouds kept vibrating. He had the vague sense that the ships were waiting, but he couldn't guess for what. Doggett had tried again to convince Scully to shoot first, but she hadn't been willing to hear it.

Maybe she's right. Maybe they'll leave. But, honestly, he wants to blast the fuckers gone, and then post a big sign on the Moon: don't mess with Earth. If they leave, is it real? Permanent? He'll feel better knowing they're dead. He rubbed his forehead. Too much caffeine; his headache was getting worse.

Scully inhaled sharply. "There they go. We're back on, everyone." She leaned forward and watched. "Monica, tell Buenos Aires they've got incoming."

Suddenly, the ships disappeared. "What was that?" he said, standing and walking over to the console.

"Iz, did we just lose satellites?" Scully restarted the monitor quickly, but the green blobs didn't appear again.

"No, it's--yeah, they're maxing out our servers. We can't process the data, there's too much junk. Ok, wait, I'm going to try to filter it. Fuck, security, get Josh on a radio now."

"Yes ma'am," Doggett said sharply.

"Monica, is anyone getting around this? Monica?" Scully was bringing the lasers and dispersers around, looking for the rare flash of green. "John, do you have anything on Monica?"

"Nothing from her zombie button. Maybe her comm just got cut. I'm going."

"Bill, I need you to jack directly into the channel. Tell me what you're hearing." Her hands were hovering over the controls. "Come on, come on," she whispered.

Then the purple clouds began to appear again.

"Shit," Scully said, and started retargeting. "Bill, communicate with all of the other stations. I'm not going to be able to get all of the virus before it hits atmosphere, I don't have enough data to be able to target adequately. Everyone needs to get planes in the air with neutralizer, right this minute."

"I'll try, but I'm having trouble with the communication signal."

"Isabel." Scully fired a cloud of neutralizer, and there was a little green spark within it. Mulder watched her hands shake as she fired the lasers. Too much to the left. Maybe--who knew, wasn't like you could actually see them.

"Yeah, it's all fucked up. I'm sorting it as fast as I can. I don't know what's up with the comm, nothing is reading as wrong with it."

"Bill, get it together. I don't care what you have to do, get the planes in the air." She swiveled a neutralizer satellite around. "Walter, are you still up top?"

"Yes. We're getting the surface-to-air neutralizer cannons ready." There was a flurry of noise in the background. "We can't position them off the servers. You're going to need to give us something like coordinates."

"Mulder, you read the numbers. I can't do that and fire at the same time."

The grid over the map was faint, but he managed to find the map coordinate. "You need to fire southeast. That's 35 by 19 Northwest in our map grid. Can you work from that?"

"Got it. What's next?"

The cloud over the Pacific Ocean was blowing in towards Los Angeles. "Firing southwest, 9 by 68 Northwest. We don't have range further than the continental US, do we?"

"I don't know," Skinner said, and his voice was tense. "John?"

"Some of Canada, but not all," John said breathlessly. "Something's wrong with the elevators; I can't get in to the lab level. Hold on, I'm going to go find the stairs."

Bill turned towards her from his desk. "Doctor Scully, I've sent your request out. I'm getting reports of planes in the air over most of the sites but there are reports of human contact with virus in Mumbai, Dhaka, and Kuala Lumpur." Mulder hadn't realized his hand was still on her shoulder until he felt it tighten under his hand. "Reporting casualties in--"

"Stop." She flicked a laser with her wrist and fired. "Bill, you are only to tell me things I need to know. Actual data. That means nothing about casualties, nothing about effects, nothing at all other than where I need to shoot. I don't care if they blow up the White House. Nothing. Is that clear?"

"Yes, ma'am," he said quietly, and turned back to the console.

Mulder looked up at the screen, at the purple clouds shifting and waning, at the bright lines of lasers and the occasional flashes of green. The pounding in his head intensified. There was something he wasn't getting.

***

"No, you have to let me take a card," Will said with a sigh.

"They're mine," Sadie said, putting her hands over the pile of cards on the floor in front of her.

"Those are the rules," he said.

She looked down at her pile and handed him a card. "You can have this one."

"That's not how it works, but okay." He actually had a pair for that one. Two cowgirl Doras. "Why don't you have any normal cards?"

"I like Dora," she said, narrowing her eyes.

"I got that."

"She has a monkey."

"I noticed." He looked at his phone on the ground, and swallowed when he saw the time. "Hey, Sadie. You want to play hide and seek?"

"Uh-huh. I hide first."

He glanced up at--it was hard to remember she was his grandma, too. "Is it ok?"

She nodded. "Just don't go too far, Sadie."

He turned back to his parents. There were a lot of grownups to make happy lately. "Mom? Dad?"

"Just keep an eye on your--" His mother swallowed. "Keep an eye on Sadie."

"Ok. I'll count to twenty. You go hide." He covered his face.

She went far enough, so he smiled at his parents, his grandmother, his sulking cousins and went after her.

He found her under the table with coffee and sandwiches and climbed under with her. "Do you want to hide again?"

She tilted her head at him. "I'll stay hiding. You go find me more."

That was about the most confusing sentence he'd ever heard somebody say, but it sounded like he had a way out. "Okay, but if I can't find you, you go back to Grammy, right?"

"Yeah." She kicked the table leg. "Go count."

He climbed out from under the table and looked around. The guards were standing in clusters, occasionally pulling their phones out of their pockets and checking they didn't have messages. No one on the door. He took a deep breath and walked towards it as casually as he could.

"Are you sure this is a good idea, Will?" Uncle John asked nervously, out of nowhere.

"Yeah," Uncle Ringo said. "I mean, this is some pretty freaky business here."

He stood facing the door, and felt them circling behind him. "Honestly, guys," he said quietly, so no one would hear him talking to himself. "You are so paranoid." He held his hands parallel to the lock and concentrated.

"Yeah, and look where it got us," Uncle Fro snarked.

Will closed his eyes and concentrated until the lock popped. He pulled the doors open, just enough that he could slide through, looked around again, and went through.

The guys were waiting on the other side. Uncle John's arms were crossed in his patented you-really-shouldn't-be-doing-this stance.

Will turned around, pushed the door shut, and held his hands out to the lock. It hissed, fizzled, and sparked for a second. Maybe he should have practiced more on doors. He stuck his hands in his pockets, grinned at the guys, and headed for the emergency access airshaft. "Come on," he said. "It'll be fun."

"Now who does that sound like?" Frohike said.

"Shut up," Langley said.

They followed Will to the airshaft.

***

"Goddamn it. Isabel!" Scully hit three buttons with the flat of her hand and reached for a trackball built into the console's surface. "I need a better reaction time on the northeastern satellites, they're getting sluggish. And Bill, I need reports from Siberia about their reserve supplies. Are they having trouble managing the infections yet? I'm not letting them get Japan."

"Look, they're overloading us, Dana. They just burned out a whole tower with junk data. I'm filtering as fast as I can, but I need more power. I've got to take something offline so I can restart. Ninety seconds, that's it. Tell me what I can do."

Scully paused for a minute and looked up, studied the screen. "Take the dispersers offline. I've got enough in the atmosphere."

"Got it. They're gone now. Fire all you want."

Scully shook her head. "I don't know where," she muttered, and began to fire towards a cloud that was still expanding.

Light, a rush of noise in his head. "No," he said sharply. "North of that. About ten degrees."

"What?" She turned to look at him. "Mulder, what do you mean?"

"They're waiting. They know you're targeting wrong, they want you to burn up your power. Up a little." She began to move the satellite, and glanced back at him. "There, fire now, fast." She did, and a bright flash of green appeared. "There's another one, it's moving across the line of fire. Now, if you go now you can--" He shuddered. "That's it. And there's another one--you got one before, and another one was damaged, it can't--there's four, one of them is moving in towards Canberra, they know there's something there--"

He fell to his knees. She reached out and grabbed his hand. "Mulder, what it is? How do you know this?"

"I don't know. Just--just keep firing." That wasn't quite right--he knew exactly what this was. Somewhere in Mexico City, Gibson was probably clutching his head and muttering the same things. He could hear them--though hear wasn't the right word, but he knew where they were, could sense their plans, could look at the map and know where they'd be. He steadied himself on the edge of the console, let the metal of it dig into his hand and remind him where he was. "Keep firing," he said, and began to reel off more directions.

***

Anyone who had watched them meet would have seen a young woman and a boy, both silent. Perhaps the watcher might have thought she looked menacing, or that when she pulled the gun from her waistband she meant to harm him with it. But she put it in his hands, and they walked toward the stairwell without saying a word.

It actually went like this.

Casey breathed a little mental sigh of relief when Will turned the corner. He felt it, and brightened up a little when he did. You're late, she said. I was worried you'd ditched me.

He did something that was a shrug, but non-physical. I had to hide for a while. There are army guys running around. You could have gone without me, I would have caught up.

Yeah, not so much. She examined the three grubby geeks watching her warily from ten paces behind him. They with you?

The guys? Yup. He noticed the man with the greasy hair in the leather jacket leaning against the wall. He with you?

Unfortunately. She pulled out Monica's gun. You sure you can handle this?

I'm your backup, he said. She held it out reluctantly, and he tucked it into his waistband.

You watch too much TV. Is the safety on? I don't want any accidents here.

Four parents are enough, thank you. Can we go?

Whatever you say, kid.
She started down the hall, and he followed as fast as he could to keep pace.

Their ghosts followed, scowling at each other.

***

"That's it, they're holding still. I don't know what they're doing. Regrouping, something, I don't know." Mulder exhaled, and his spine felt liquid suddenly. He slid to the ground. The cool concrete of the floor pressed against his cheek, and he closed his eyes.

Dimly, he heard Scully calling out over the noise inside his head. "Bill, get me the med kit right now. And why aren't we getting ground support?"

"No, don't," he whispered. "You have to keep firing. It's working, you're hitting the ships."

"Mulder, you're going into some sort of shock," she said matter-of-factly, her hand stroking his face. "I can't really tell what's happening neurally, but this is clearly related to the altered brain activity you experienced after exposure to the artifact in 1999. The renewed increase in activity in dormant areas is leading to seizure-like symptoms, and your body can't handle the strain of what you're doing. I need to sedate you before you cause yourself permanent brain damage."

"No." He opened his eyes and sat up slightly. She had crawled out of her chair and was kneeling next to him. "You can't target anymore, you can't see them. There isn't enough neutralizer in the satellites or on the ground to stop them, you know that. You've got to keep firing. You need me to aim."

"Mulder, I'm not letting you risk your health to give me a marginal improvement in accuracy here." She began digging through the medical kit.

"It's not marginal! One of the ships is near collapse; if you manage a few more shots when they're in a cloud, it'll be lost. The other three are limping along. And they have no idea that I can find them. I'm your secret weapon." He lay back. "And I'll be fine. It's not that bad."

That was a lie. The pain in his head was increasing, a steady pressure at his temples, and a deep ache at the base of his skull. This was worse than Spender's brain surgery, worse than those days in the hospital where he could hear every word thought for a mile around. That had been annoying. This hurt. But what option did he have? To let Scully shoot blindly, and let them win? All he had to do was stay conscious, keep talking. For a little while.

She leaned over him, and he knew she was wondering whether or not he was telling the truth. She ran her hand over his forehead, gently. "Rest a minute. It's OK. Just rest."

He closed his eyes and took a deep breath. He could still feel them--their confusion, their attempts to determine an alternate way to proceed--and it still hurt. But he could do this.

There was a crackle and a hiss that at first he thought was in his head, until Scully said, "What the hell?" He opened his eyes and looked towards the entrance. The two steel sliding doors that sealed them in the control room popped open, just a foot or so, and Casey stepped through, gun drawn. He heard Bill's chair scrape, and the sound of him standing, but Casey fired, three times, without her hand so much as shaking.

Scully started and turned towards Bill, and then gasped. He turned his head to see green fluid bubbling down Bill's chest as he slumped to his knees. He thought vaguely that at least their anti-alien bullets worked as Bill fell over and began to dissolve, with the controlled chemical reactions that Scully had built into the casings of the bullets preventing the release of toxic gases.

Scully turned back towards Casey and reached for her gun, but Casey already had her weapon trained on them. She cocked the gun and shook her head. "I'm pretty sure you bleed red, Dr. Scully, but I'm more than willing to find out."

Scully looked annoyed--he loved that about her, that you could threaten her life and it would just piss her off--but then her expression changed. "Oh, God," she whispered. He looked over at Casey again. Will was there, just behind her, with a gun tucked in his waistband and an excited look on his face totally out of congruence with the level of violence in the room. "You can do whatever you want with us," Scully said, with the voice of someone who's been through hostage negotiation training. "But let Will go. He doesn't need to be here. He doesn't need to see any of this."

Casey smirked, and looked down at Will. He smirked back at her, just a little, and held out his hands. Bill's gun rattled off his holster, and slid across the floor to land at Will's feet. Next, Scully's out of her holster, and then his, even though it was half under his body. The three guns then shot between Casey and Will out the door, which slammed shut with a burst of sparks. Casey turned back to Scully. "Yeah, I think the kid stays." She crossed the room and went over to Bill's console, stepping over his dissolving body.

Will smiled at him openly. Somewhere, in the back of his mind, he almost heard Will's voice, whispering I know kung-fu. Then he snapped his head up to Casey, sighed, and crossed towards the main console.

Casey was playing with Bill's station, hitting buttons, typing commands. It occurred to him that she used to work that station--he'd read her records, and before her little stint in the Consortium she'd spent time right where Bill had sat ten minutes ago. But it didn't appear to be doing what she wanted it to do now. After a few more attempts, she raised up her gun and shot at the central embedded monitor three times. Shattered bits of safety glass flew up around her, and she shook them out of her hair, ejected her empty clip, and reloaded.

Meanwhile, Will was fussing with Scully's chair--in particular, the height controls. Eventually he managed to make it taller, and climbed in. He adjusted himself, and ended up sitting on one bent leg in order to get even taller, to be able to reach over and run his hands over the controls.

"Will, are you OK?" Scully asked, as quietly as she could.

Will smiled as he began to work the controls. "Don't worry, Mom. We've got it covered."

He saw something out of the corner of his eye, and glanced towards the door. Oh, this was bad, this was bad bad bad, because Krycek was leaning against one side of the door, arms folded, just watching the situation. And on the other side of the door frame were the Gunmen, Byers watching Will like a hawk, Langley chewing gum with his hands in his pockets. Frohike saw him looking and twiddled his fingers in a little wave.

This was really, really not a good sign.

Now Casey was kneeling next to him. She reached out towards his neck, and Scully grabbed her hand. "Don't you touch him," she hissed.

"Scully," Casey said softly. "I'm not going to hurt him." He could see how tightly Scully was holding her back, but Casey's hand was loose and relaxed. "You have to let me help him," Casey said. "It's the only way."

He could feel Scully's defeat as she let go and sagged back against the console, keeping ahold of his hand. Casey took his pulse, and then ran her hand across his cheek, just like Scully had a few minutes ago. She pushed herself over to sit behind him, and lifted his head up to rest in her lap. "You're going to be fine," she said, not looking him in the eyes, and she began to wrap her hands around his head.

He wondered, briefly, if she was a Jeremiah Smith, as he felt her palms cup the back of his skull. But why wouldn't she have shown herself to him that way? And why wouldn't the sensors have caught her? Well, the sensors missed Bill, who knew? He glanced down at Scully. She squeezed his hand.

Casey had her fingertips on the place where his spine began, now, and her thumbs on his temples. He glanced up at her from his place in her lap, the white pain in his head echoing. He wanted to ask her if she knew what she was doing, but couldn't manage to find words.

She smiled at him as if she'd heard him. "First time for everything." And she took a deep breath in--

Oh.

Oh.

It was like something was being pulled out of his brain, via her thumbs as they circled gentle on his temples, via her fingers where they cupped his spine. The pain wasn't gone, but it was less, and he wasn't having to work now to keep the press of alien voices away from the forefront of his consciousness. But--

But he could hear her. No, not hear; these metaphors, they don't work for telepathic transmission, it's almost impossible to describe in a language that was designed to work via sound waves vibrating in air, but he knows what she is saying, and sometimes it even sounds like words. And there's someone else--Will. He can tell them apart, not so much by voice, but by tone. Will's thoughts were full of the adrenaline rush of actually sitting at the control desk; Casey's were more measured, but there was a nervousness burning underneath it. Both of them could track the ships, though Will was faster; he and Casey were conferring as he aimed. Together, their targeting was more subtle than Scully's had been, and faster.

He kept his eyes closed, but squeezed Scully's hand. For some reason, he wasn't hearing her. He missed it, without really wanting it back. It had been the only good thing he remembered from that time, the sense of Scully as the center of a room.

Will was beginning to worry. They're moving faster, he said to Casey in his mind.

It's okay. You've still got them, she said, and he felt her trying to send reassurance through their bond.

But they're taking out weapons, he said, and his mind was beginning to have a bright note of panic. I don't know what to do.

"Scully," Casey said aloud. "I need you to help Will."

"What?" Scully looked up at Will in the chair.

"If you grab his arm, or his shoulder or something, he'll be able to know what you know about the system. It'll mean he can shoot better."

She was still holding his hand, and he realized she was reluctant to let him go. He pried open his eyes, and caught her attention. "It's fine," he managed to say, though he was having trouble speaking with all the additional action in his brain at the moment. "I'm okay."

Scully studied him for a moment, and then stood next to Will. She reached out and placed her hand on his neck. Will shivered, and then Casey did, and then it hit him--he couldn't hear her, not in the same way he could hear Casey and Will, but there she was, suddenly, like a hotspot glowing at the edge of his vision. He closed his eyes and focused on her, which was easier than keeping his eyes open, easier than trying to balance the relationship between the whooshing inside his head and reality outside it. There was something comforting about knowing she was there. Will was shooting harder now, and faster, and he could feel it get easier for him, and that he was relying less on Casey to make decisions. He relaxed a little--at least Scully would know she'd been helping, if he didn't make it she'd feel less helpless--

Stop it, Casey thought, and it was both sharp and gentle. You're going to be fine. Don't be a baby.

He wondered why she was doing this, why she was trying to save him; she wasn't even looking at him, he could tell because he could see the shape of the screen through her brain. Down to two ships now, but they were the best fortified, the pride of the fleet, moving faster and faster. Casey was trying not to worry about consequences, because then Will would know she was worried about consequences: the level of infection they're seeing on the surface, the kinds of physical damage--the fuckers are shooting back now, taking out satellite weapons, and firing towards the ground--guess there's no chance of avoiding the public knowing now, huh? He thought about infection in a major city, whether or not their vaccines would work in a mass infection scenario, how to deal with those who don't respond to the vaccine, should they have given the government more warning--

Seriously, quit it, Casey said again. All this negative thinking is no good for your brain. Think happy thoughts.

Yeah, because that will help?

It can't hurt.


OK, fine, happy thoughts. He let his mind go, and thought about--about Scully, when she was younger, when they were both younger and a lot more stupid (though he censored himself somewhat, better not to think of anything too detailed with your kid jacked into a telepathic circuit with you). About Will as a baby, about Sadie as a baby, about Sadie now with her bad attitude and killer smile. About swimming in the ocean as a kid, about building sandcastles and burying Samantha on the beach, about when his mother was still happy and his father was still sober. About a night a month ago, before they came to fucking Montana, when the apocalypse was still something that seemed far off--Sadie had a nightmare, and crawled into bed with them--bossy, she's so bossy, just crawled over him and said "I'm sleeping with you now," she always crawled in his side of the bed, already figured out you don't want to argue with Mama at three in the morning, which he finds hilarious because he always gets his way when he argues with Scully at three in the morning--and that moment of her under the comforter, head on his pillow, thumb in her mouth, knowing that they were there, that everyone was there, that Scully was fine and Sadie was fine and he could just lay there and know that--it was the most beautiful thing he could remember.

Casey's thumbs circled on his temples. As hard as she was pulling, or whatever was the right word for it, the pressure in his head was mounting, and the steady ache was back. It wasn't enough, not quite. Happy thoughts, he was pretty sure, couldn't stave off the actual collapse of his brain. But at least they'd get him through it more pleasantly, he supposed.

A sudden burst of panic from Will, accompanied with a shaking he thought at first was him, but, no, everyone else seemed to feel it too. I don't know what they did, Will thought, the thought a rush, as if spoken in a single exhale. I can't, I can't aim fast enough now, they've slowed it down--Mom thinks they blew out the router, I don't know what that means but I can't, I can't move as fast as they can anymore, I'm not strong enough--

Yes, you can, Will, Casey said. You can still see them--

I'm not fast enough to actually hit them, though,
he said, as his hands flew on the keyboard. "I can't move my hands enough," he said aloud, as if his brain was too full, he had to let it out. "Casey, how do I get faster?"

"Just keep going," she said, and he heard a strain in her voice that he wasn't anticipating, hadn't felt from her mind. It occurred to him that maybe she wasn't used to sucking poisonous brain rays out of people. This was a tough day for everybody.

"What if you two touch?" Scully said, and everyone paused for a moment, shocked that she had suggested something. She continued. "If you two are both--perceiving, if you can both be in communication with it--I don't know, sometimes if you connect two systems together, either mechanical or pharmacological--there's a doubling effect. Casey, if you touch Will, will your connection get stronger? Will you be able to cooperate?"

"I can't let go of Mulder," she said, and he felt her fingers tighten on the back of his neck.

"It doesn't have to be your hand, does it?"

Casey considered for a moment. "Yeah, OK, let's try it."

Scully's voice was sharp, and he could picture her, all of her crisis instincts kicking in at once. "Will, can I let go of you for a minute?"

"Uh-huh, I think so."

He felt Scully leave the connection. Casey shifted the way she was sitting, and stuck out a leg awkwardly, and then Scully was leaning over him to unlace one of Casey's boots and pull it off her foot. Then the sock, and he could feel Casey's faint embarrassment at that--and then Casey was wiggling her foot over to Will's leg.

The moment they made skin-to-skin contact the sense of immersion poured over him, as sudden and shocking as the moment Casey first pulled him into it. Will gasped just a little, and the fear he'd felt a minute ago was replaced by a pure, almost glowing excitement. Hell yes, he thought, and he watched through Casey's eyes as Will pulled his hands from the buttons of the console. He held his palms flat over it, took a deep breath, and the buttons started moving without his hands touching them. His energy was totally focused, pouring out of him through his hands and into the console and directly into the satellites, and the ships didn't have a chance now, not against this--

Scully. Scully's hand on his cheek, stroking softly, and he could barely feel it, his brain so overloaded by listening to Will. He could feel Casey trying to keep up with him, trying to keep pulling him back, but it wasn't working. He fought his eyes open again, and Scully was right there, leaning over him, holding his face. Not crying, not yet, but almost there.

I've got it, Will was saying, I've got it ivegotitivegotit

And Casey was whispering to him the whole time, youreokivegotyouyoullbefine

And Scully. He couldn't hear her, but he tried to say her name, wanted to say I'm sorry and I didn't want to die here and oh God, the kids and I love you and I'm sorry, I'm really really sorry, I just wanted to help. Then he tried just to see her eyes, but it was too much, and he couldn't keep his open, and he let it go, and let himself slip away.



Click here for Chapter Twelve
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All the letters I can write: Every living creature dies alonewendelah1 on September 16th, 2010 08:56 pm (UTC)
This was so scary. I was terrified the whole time I was reading it.