Virtual Season Two
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  • The Jade Monkey Project
  • Bitter Revenge
  • Red Tide
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  • Ley of the Land
  • Everything To Live For
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  • A Piori

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    • Writer: Alien Girl
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    • Original Post Date: 4/09/2000

    Continued from "Modus Ponens"

    5:39 A.M.

    The silence was broken by a small noise, barely noticeable, the simple scuffling of shoes on tile. But to Scully it was an explosion of sound, loud enough to drown out the silence she was engulfed in. In less than a second she sprang to her feet, her gun in hand. The first thing that met her sleep-filled vision was a dark man dressed in dark clothes, with a gun pointed at Mulder.

    "FREEZE!!!" Scully shouted the command. Obsidian turned and faced her...or rather, faced the barrel of her gun. She was steeled and furious, her every nerve and muscle ready to fight to the death whatever intruder dare try to harm Mulder. "DROP THE GUN!!"

    Obsidian knew better than to argue. The look in her eyes was enough to make anyone's blood run cold. Slowly, cautiously, Obsidian held up his hands, still holding his weapon. He backed away from the hospital bed to show his surrender.

    It wasn't enough for Scully. "I SAID DROP THE GUN!!" She repeated with a growl.

    "There's no reason for you to be alarmed, Dana Scully," Obsidian said quietly.

    "I'll be the judge of that! Drop your weapon, or I swear, I don't care if we are in a hospital..."

    Moving carefully, Obsidian placed his gun on the floor. "As I said before, there is no reason for you to be alarmed. I came to help you and your partner."

    "I don't believe you," Scully began to gasp for breath, realizing that she had been holding it the entire time. "Why would you bring a gun if you were trying to help us?!"

    "I know where you can find the cure for your partner's illness."

    The mention of a cure halted Scully in her tense anger. She lowered the gun a few inches, but continued to point it at him least he make the slightest wrong move. The glazed, deadly look slowly drained out of her eyes. "If you know, then tell me."

    Obsidian hissed with secrecy. "I can't tell you now, Agent! I'm putting my life in danger just by being here, let alone telling you anything!" Scully stole one quick glance at the security camera hanging from one corner of the wall...and discovered that it had been unplugged. She turned back to Obsidian.

    "You're not leaving this room until you tell me. And if you don't tell me, I guarantee you're *never* leaving this room..."

    "Again, I can't tell you exactly. But I *can* tell you where you need to go...find Piora. If you find him, you'll find the cure for Mulder."

    "Piora? The man who's supposed to be my brother?" Scully said with a definite tone of scorn in her voice. "He's the one who caused all this in the first place!"

    "It starts with him and ends with him. But you must be careful of him...he has his own special method of death, and it is vital that you know how it works if you're ever going to confront him."

    "I don't need you telling me what I already know," Scully snapped back. "He sends letters to people with contaminated pieces of skin, and they become sick. I think I'm *well* aware of all that right now."

    "There is more to it than that. But I'm afraid I can't explain any'll have to find the rest out for yourself."

    Scully breathed more heavily. "Well, if all you did was come to tell me that, why did you come armed?"

    Obsidian couldn't hide a quiet smirk. "With you watching out for Agent Mulder in a situation like this, any person in his right mind would come armed." Obsidian then picked up his gun, and turned to head for the door. "As I said, find Piora and you'll find the cure."

    Scully's lower lip trembled, her eyes betraying her inner storms of emotions. "I can't leave Mulder here alone..."

    "You're going to have to if you ever want to bring him back."

    Without another word, Obsidian quietly exited the hospital room and disappeared into the darkened halls. Scully didn't even bother to stop him. She was too conflicted, too angry and too tired to even care. She lowered her gun and then put it away, as if suddenly realizing that it wouldn't do any good shooting at thin air. She then slowly slumped down next to Mulder's bedside, landing on her knees. She watched him slowly, watched how his chest rose and fell with each precious breath, listened to the droning beep from the EEG as it recorded his every heartbeat. She felt moisture build up under her eyes, and she choked it back suddenly, as if fearing that he would hear her sobbing in the depths of his sleep. Slowly, she lowered her head onto his chest, feeling his heart thump reassuringly against her cheek. It was the only thing that remained the same in this chaotic place. Her constant.

    (I promise that I'll bring you back, Mulder...just please stay here until I come back.....)

    1:31 A.M.

    The phone ringing was shrill and harsh in his ears, causing him to lurch like a bear being awakened in the middle of its hibernation. He never had liked this routine of waiting, waiting, waiting for phone calls. It conflicted with his time at home, not to mention his sleeping patterns....

    "Yes?" He grumbled in a voice similar to a drunkard's.

    "I would like to know precisely what's going on here!!" The voice at the other end said in a perfectly unpleasant tone, betraying the caller's bad situation. "Do you know how this happened?!!"

    DOD official Rupert Schultz knew precisely who was on the other line...John Towsherf. Didn't that CDC junkie get any sleep, either? "What do you mean, what's happened?" He grumbled.

    "You know! Piora found out! He killed Rath; you should know that!"

    Schultz became a little more awake at the sound of a familiar name. "I knew about Rath. But I didn't think that it was Contagion."

    "That's right, none other than your little ‘project'" Towsherf growled, as if scolding a child. "He found out everything...about the plan, and how it is to be executed, and his involvement in it."

    "How did he find out?!"

    "We don't know. But we think he discovered his abilities on his own. You guys over there were not very careful...he was a danger right from the beginning. You should have kept better tabs on him to keep him from finding something out."

    Schultz's face dropped. Even if it was the DOD in general that was getting the scolding, he was the one that had to deal with it first. He knew that people were going to be *very* upset about this...and if those people found out, the DOD would take a time out in the corner until the matter could be resolved. "What is he doing? Is he killing our own out of revenge?"

    "Far from it," Towsherf's voice spoke of regret and anger for lost work. "He's doing the worst thing possible...carrying out the plan AHEAD of time. He's just decided to take out a few of us along the way, just for good luck."

    Schultz's calm facade disintegrated. He swallowed nervously. "Has he killed any of her family yet?"

    "No. But Agent Mulder is in the hospital because of him. I have a feeling it won't be long before we see more of him. He's acting fast, and he's not afraid of any punishments he might receive."

    There was a silence.

    "This is *your* what is your solution?" Towsherf continued.

    "Agent Mulder is in the hospital?"

    "Yes. In a coma. And it doesn't look good."

    Schultz rubbed his chin. "Then I suggest we leave it...see what happens."

    "You're not going to do anything about it?" Towsherf sounded surprised.

    "We don't have to change anything. Everything will just be enacted ahead of schedule. You know what I've always been telling you...I think they should have gone ahead with the plan years ago, when it would have been more effective."

    "What do you think *They* are going to say to your decision?"

    "Don't worry. I'll convince Them with my reasoning. It makes perfect sense. The only difference is that Piora will be acting now instead of the proposed date. If Mulder is dying, then everything falls into place. I myself don't see the problem with it."

    "There are *many* problems," Towsherf corrected. "One of them is Black. Another is the very foundation of the Project. You know how risky it is to try and interfere with their plans. You could be severely punished."

    Schultz was feeling confident, and quite contradictory to his earlier drowsy state. "I'll work around it. I for one want it to be done and over with. It's carried on long, too long for it to do anyone any good anymore."

    "I hope you know what you're doing."

    "I do. Good night."

    He hung up the phone, grateful that he could finally go back to his much-needed sleep. Surprisingly, he was not worried about the was all falling into place. Mulder's terminal illness was a good startoff, it was what they had wanted in the first place. The fact that Scully actually *believed* that Piora was her brother because of Margaret's testimony further tipped the scale in their favor. And Piora's knowledge of his true purpose in the plan could only help things. All it took was a few more deaths and some quick cleanups and Mulder and Scully were out of the picture. Surely They couldn't be displeased with that?

    Satisfied with what he deemed as good logic, he began to scrape a pile of forgotten papers off his desk so that he could prop his feet up on top. As he was throwing stacks of old files on top of his file cabinet, he chanced upon a single envelope.

    There was no return address, no stamp. There was only his name written in plain cursive. Slightly curious, he attempted to tear away the envelope's seal, but found it to be unusually sticky. When he wrested it open and looked inside...the only thing he found was a few tiny pieces of what appeared to be skin.

    Then the coughing began.

    9:08 A.M.

    The crime scene was not unusual, it had the bustling of men in coats, grim faces, looks of dismay and attempts to hide the feelings of uneasiness lingering in the air. However, one of the men there was not conducting an least, not for the reason most were there. Dressed in a dark coat and a expensive-looking suit, he stared at the broken body on the floor of the small office. After a moment he looked up, scanning the room for a particular face.

    He spotted a older woman in a unmarked white lab coat and headed toward her. The woman was facing away from him, and did not acknowledge his presence until he tapped her on the shoulder. She turned to face him, smoothing her gray hair back from her face. "Yes?"

    He nodded for her to follow him, and she walked away from the main crowd to a corner of the office.

    "This makes four..." The man said to the CDC official in a guttural voice. "Delaney, Rath, Kivielle, and now Schultz. I expect an explanation for this."

    The Head-Project official, Barbara Piora, coughed nervously. "I realize that your colleagues are in need of answers, sir. Unfortunately, I don't have any to give. All I know is that he found out about the project, and he's in a state of rebellion."

    The other man did not bother being sympathetic, knowing that this woman did not care about her family links to the perpetrator. "You know that your husband is dead? And that your son killed him?"

    She nodded, face expressionless. Despite the man's being used to unfeeling people, he couldn't help but swallow uneasily. "He is going ahead with our original use the Scully family to lure Agent Scully away from Mulder's bedside. As I'm sure you're also aware of, my colleague cannot accept that at this time. Both Agents Mulder and Scully are still needed if the Project will be completely sought through."

    "I thought it was over," She said flatly.

    "Far from it," He said. "Well, if you don't have answers now, I suggest that you find them quickly. My colleague did not agree with this extra plan of yours in the first place, and he won't be happy at all when he finds out how it's gone wrong."

    "Knowing him, I'm sure he found out a long time ago," Barbara Piora sighed. "Whatever it is, we are doing are best to contain it. We have all of our best workers on it. If anything else develops, I give you my word you will be informed of it." She nodded, and then turned back to the detectives and reporters at the stained section of carpet.

    The man was left feeling slightly cheated. He had expected more out of her, her being the Head of the sub-project and all. He knew that Barbara was just putting up a front...with her son Michael on the loose, there was no telling what he would do or how far he would go on his own. And there wasn't anything they could really do to stop him. In spite of the man's much-gained experience with mechanical men and unfeeling humans, he shivered at the detachment of Barbara Piora. He didn't ever think there could be a woman as cold as her...a woman that would perform experiments on her own son, just because it was her duty to do so. It was almost a good thing that Albert Kivielle never knew what really happened to his wife.

    12:04 P.M.

    Bill Scully pressed his thumb against the remote's various buttons with complete uninterest, viewing each channel as a blur of colors and sounds before skipping ahead to the next one. If Tara were here she would tell him to just stop it on one channel, but she had taken Matthew down to the nearby park just so they could get out of the hotel. Bill always flipped the channels rapidly when he was nervous. And lately he had been flipping them so much it was a wonder the TV hadn't broken down on him. He was angry as well as nervous...angry because he didn't know what was going on.

    (Why has this Piora suddenly shown up? It's not right that Dana should just send us packing on our way quickly and try and fight the entire world alone...I shouldn't be just sitting here, I should be doing the fighting for her. After all, this is *my* fight...) He frowned with resentment as another thought popped into his head. (I'll bet that Agent Mulder coaxed her into doing this in the first place.....)


    Bill sprang to his feet as his thoughts were suddenly interrupted by the front door to the hotel room knocking. He normally did not carry arms, but lately he had kept a small gun tucked into his belt, just in case of emergencies. And something inside him told him that this was an emergency. He stood his ground however, ready to fight for his family and his territory against whatever enemy approached him. "Who is it?" He said in what he hoped with a calm and stern voice.

    "House cleaning," A elderly voice from the outside said. "If you could step outside for a moment, sir, it would be helpful."

    Bill's entire body went slack from relaxation. He had been expecting the worst...but from the sound of the person outside it was just a false alarm. Still keeping his gun close at hand, he walked over and opened the door.

    Michael Piora stepped inside.

    Bill let out a yell of surprise and leaped back, keeping his distance from the coarse-looking man. He didn't know who this man was, but he had a pretty good idea, and he *definitely* knew that this wasn't housecleaning.

    Piora smiled wickedly. "I can't *believe* you fell for that one," He said, this time in William Scully's voice.

    Bill yanked the gun out of his belt. "Don't you take another step closer!!" He exclaimed furiously. "I don't know what you're after, but you're not coming any further into here!"

    Piora ignored Bill's warning and took a few more steps forward, expression defiant. "Always were the militant one, weren't you? Gotta take control, be a good soldier. Listen to what all the authorities say. They're your elders, your betters." His voice became angry and full of loathing. "Well, I followed along with my superiors, I obeyed my elders...and where did I get?! I got betrayed, I got used, that's what!"

    Bill's hands were shaking as he backed away further from Piora. "I'm NOT going to warn you again! I'm not afraid to shoot you!!"

    "You wouldn't be able to tell with the way you've got the shivers!" Piora laughed. "Poor little Billy, always doing what his parents told him to do...well, if I was still obedient, I wouldn't have ever found out what I know now. I would have spent the rest of my life as someone else's science project." His voice rose an octave. "Well, now that I'm aware of my place in the scheme of things, I intend to do something about it. Haven't you ever *really* stopped and considered where your life is going, Billy?"

    "SHUT UP," Bill said, cocking the gun. "I'm not going to stand here and argue with a FREAK OF NATURE like you!!"

    Bill's exclamation was the wrong thing to say. Piora suddenly lunged at Bill with extraordinary speed, so fast that Bill didn't even have time to pull the trigger. Then he was upon him like a panther, knocking the gun out of his hand.

    Bill fought back. He aimed his free fist at Piora's jaw, but he missed and punched the shoulder instead. Both men were on the floor in a heap, their arms locked together in stalemated battle, sweat dripping from Bill's forehead. He let out a cry and then struggled free of Piora's immensely strong grip, landing on his side on the floor. Just as Piora began to bend down again, Bill counterattacked. Snatching his pocketknife from the desk over his head, he flipped it open like lightning and charged.

    Piora stumbled backwards as a sharp pain knicked his ankle. Bill had tried to stab him in the knee, but in his awkward position, missed and only scarred the flesh. Piora swore and clutched at his leg as blood trickled from his ankle onto the carpet.

    In a fury, Piora closed his fingers over Bill's neck, holding tightly, pressing his fingertips into the elder Scully brother's skin . Bill grabbed at his arm, struggling to free himself. Suddenly, Bill felt his strength drain from his muscles, and all his energy was sapped away. A horrible itching built up in his lungs, and he coughed. Again and again he coughed uncontrollably, tears streaming down his cheeks at the horrible pain in his chest. Piora released his grip on Bill's neck and stood, scowling hatefully.

    "NOBODY calls me a freak..." He thundered, straightening himself out.

    "You.......bastard......." Bill groaned between hacking coughs.

    "I've had just about enough of this playing around," Piora said stalely. "Don't worry yourself over the's not that slow. Your sister will not be so lucky."

    Piora watched in mute fascination as Bill Scully lay trembling on the hotel floor, trying to make a sound. The only noise he produced was a small gurgle of pain, an expression of torment from the dying man. Then the trembling stopped in a final convulsion, and he lay still. Piora noted the tiny trickle of red in the corner of Bill's mouth, satisfied with his work. Rubbing his aching shoulder, he limped away, leaving the destroyed body of Bill Scully on the floor. Nobody heard him close the door behind him.

    1:21 P.M.


    Scully's first initial reaction was shock. She nearly dropped the phone at the somber news, unable to believe the caller. "Are you SURE?"

    "Yes, Agent Scully. His wife found him approximately 20 minutes ago. We had trouble talking to her, but we decided to call you anyway." The sheriff on the other end said sadly. "Agent Scully...I'm sorry."

    Scully said nothing for a long time. Unable to support her own weight, she collapsed into a hard hospital chair. Trembling, she tried to keep herself steady by gripping the arms of the chair. She took a few deep gasps for breath, hoping it would mask her urge to cry. "W...what killed him?"

    "We're not entirely sure at this point. But the coroner is guessing Hemorrhagic Fever. Whatever it was, it was fast."

    Scully tried to make a sound, but her voice failed her. (WHY?) She thought silently, angrily. (Why now? Why him?)

    "We know about your involvement in what is happening here, Agent Scully. Aside from the fact that the victim is your brother. We would appreciate it if you could fly down here and analyze the crime scene for yourself. I know this is asking a bit much of you Agent Scully, but..."

    "Fine, whatever, I'll be down there soon," Scully snapped irritably, and punched the phone off as if she were hitting a punching bag. She stared at the silent phone for a moment before letting it drop to the ground. Now that there was no one to hear, she let the tears fall, let her stern expression melt into one of sorrow and ache that scrunched her face and hurt her throat.

    Bill was dead.

    (It's not fair!) Scully thought to no one in particular. (It's not fair! He didn't deserve to die! He didn't do anything! This was all because of me!) She choked back a sob, feeling her vision go blurry. (And you too? Why do you have to and get yourself hurt, leaving me to wonder what to do? Why'd you have to pull that one again?! If you just hadn't...just didn't have to go off and try and fight my battles and somehow impress me with your devotion, then you wouldn't be here! Don't you understand, you don't *need* to impress me! All you have to do is be here! And now you can't even do that! How am I supposed to go down and analyze my own *brother's* murder scene when you're lying here're supposed to come with me, come with me and give me some comfort like you always do, dammit!!)

    Scully didn't even realize that she had been thinking aloud to Mulder. When she became aware of her directed monologue, she stopped, and stared at Mulder, still in the hospital bed. She had been there most of the past few days, even after her encounter with the dark-haired man and his message to her to find Piora. What was there to do? She didn't know where to look. And she still did not want to leave Mulder's bedside.

    But now Bill had been killed.

    Her sorrow quickly iced over into anger. Who did this man think he was? Who did he think he was by suddenly showing up in her life, saying that he was the result of an affair between her father and some other woman? Just showing up, leaving Mulder in this horrible condition, and now killing her own brother?! Who gave him the right to come in and do whatever he pleased to the people she loved? (Damn bastard.) She thought with an ice-cold snarl. (I'll teach him to mess with the Scully family. I'll give *him* a taste of sibling rivalry.)

    Scully's rage nearly overtook her. She stood from her chair, fists clenched, grinding her teeth to keep from shouting aloud. Then she saw Mulder's peaceful face, reminding her to be the person that she was. She calmed and mellowed, then sombered again as another thought jumped to her mind...

    (Mom. Does she know?)

    She instantly pushed the thought away. There was no way she could even consider thinking about that now. She had to put on her professional mask again...she had a flight to catch, she had to get back to San Diego. She could grieve later. She would grieve at the appropriate time. As she turned to go, she stopped over Mulder. She stared at him for a long time, then leaned over him, running her hand through his dark strands.

    (I'll figure this out. Just don't leave me now.)

    She didn't need his silent promise whispered to her through her fingers. She already knew he would. She turned and headed for the door.

    4 HOURS LATER....

    Scully had fitted her mask in place long before she knocked on the hotel front door. (No matter what happens, you are not going to grieve now,) She had repeated to herself over and over again on the flight to San Diego. The door opened before her, and she stepped inside the hotel room.

    The place was overcrowded with policemen, investigators, photographers, detectives. Bill's body had not yet been removed, as they wanted to leave everything exactly as they had found it for when Scully arrived. Scully could detect the stench of criminal investigation materials in the air, such as powder and latex gloves. People were standing around talking, discussing things in quiet, secretive voices.

    Scully had talked to Tara outside the hotel room. The young woman was still in a state of shock, her eyes were dry and her face slightly pale. She was holding baby Matthew in one arm while he gurgled happily at the people passing around. Tara had looked to Scully not as the cause to all this but as the cure, and begged her to find whoever had did this and bring him to justice. Scully felt like hanging a sign on herself that said, "The Comfort Service you are trying to reach is not responding. Please try again later". How could she possibly promise anyone that things would turn out alright when she wasn't even sure herself if they would?

    One of the medical examiners instantly spotted Scully's unmistakable red hair and came up to her, taking her hand. "Dr. Eastwood. You're Agent Scully?"

    Scully nodded dumbly.

    "I'll fill you in on what we know at this point," the doctor said, sensing that Scully was not in the mood to hear words of sympathy. "We think there may have been a struggle. There was blood found at the crime scene."


    "There was some that obviously belonged to your brother. But surprisingly, most did not. Most were other stains on the floor, along with a bloodied pocketknife belonging to your brother. We found his fingerprints on the knife. If there was a struggle, then your brother may have cut the suspect in the chaos."

    "What about the blood? Did you have it analyzed?"

    "We did. We took some of your brother's blood just to see if perhaps he had accidentally cut himself or likewise. But it's quite obvious that it was the attacker who got hurt."

    Scully was surprised. "How do you know?"

    The medical examiner handed her two transparencies out of a folder he had tucked under one arm. "We ran DNA tests on the two blood samples. One of them we found on your brother and matches with his records. The other sample we found on the floor and on the pocketknife."

    Scully stared at the two transparencies, comparing the dark and light banding patterns that determined one strand of DNA from another. She placed the two transparencies on top of each other...they didn't match.

    The DNA patterns weren't even close. Piora could not be her brother.

    Scully felt a sudden wave of both relief and confusion. She felt a great burden being lifted from her at looking at the DNA transcripts and realizing that Piora wasn't related to her, and that the Scully family did remain free of any men like this monster. But at the same time there was confusion. Why would both her mother and Bill lie and say that yes, William Scully had had an affair and Piora had been the result? The DNA transcripts didn't lie. Piora was nowhere close to being related to her. So why was there all this secrecy?

    "Agent Scully?" Dr. Eastwood barged into her raging thoughts. "As you can see, the attacker's blood is quite different from your brother's blood. Quite different from anybody's blood, for that matter."

    Scully shook her head out of her disorientation. "What do you mean?"

    "See these marks?" He pointed to several bright white stripes on the banding patterns. "They're signs of errors. We found that the attacker did not have normal's branched, and with the strangest things, too. All manners of viral DNA have been laced throughout his system. How such a thing is possible I have *no* idea. It's as if the man is a walking viral community."

    Scully was struck dumb at the statement. "What are you saying? If this man has viral DNA branched into his system, his entire body would fall apart from disease. It's not genetically possible."

    "That's what we thought," He shrugged with puzzlement. "But apparently it's *helped* his body more than hurt it. He's not really a walking virus, but more of a walking vaccine. Because the viral DNA is integrated into his system, his blood is an automatic vaccination against any of the viruses in him. They're still looking for more details, but so far our lab workers have found everything from smallpox to the plague to Hemorrhagic Fever to Ebola worked throughout his DNA. It's literally impossible for him to get sick."

    Scully nodded at the transparencies, not saying anything. Somehow, she had a feeling that she was beginning to understand all this...

    "Agent Scully? Is there anything else you'd like us to do?"

    Scully stuttered for a moment. " I'll decide what to do from here. The local police don't have to do anything until I think of what to do next. I just need to settle down and think this though."

    The doctor shrugged. "Whatever you say, Agent."

    Scully sat down on the bed, staring at the transcripts, pressing her fingers against her lips as if to prevent herself from speaking her thoughts out loud. (I man who is said to have worked for the CDC...then he goes missing. His DNA is branched with viral DNA. This makes him immune to viruses. Yet when people come in contact with him, they become sick and die. But why? And why would he claim to be my brother? And why would my own family say that he is, too?)

    Scully seemed to find some cold comfort in going over the facts in an orderly fashion, a professional manner. It did well to distract her from the dead body of her older brother lying on the floor on the other side of the bed. And right now, she needed all the distraction she could get.

    2 DAYS LATER...
    3:57 P.M.

    It was closing up. Scully stared out across the grassy commons with a dull expression, the colors of green and grey seeming to blur together into a mass of sorrowful growth. The growth of a new gravestone beside the one of William Scully and Melissa Scully.

    Mother and daughter sat side by side towards the front of the small outdoor set up. The firing of the guns to commemorate the death of a soldier was still lingering in the frigid air. The service had ended, and now some people had already gone home, while others stood milling around in the grass, talking quietly. Scully could hear Tara's muted sobs behind her, having been lessened by the passage of time. Scully had long since shed her there was only a dull ache in her stomach, an all-too familiar pain that made her want to vomit.

    Three of her family members dead because of this quest.

    (How many more are you willing to sacrifice, Dana?) She said to herself silently. (All you have left is a mother and a brother. Are you going to keep going on your quest with their lives at risk?) Scully didn't bother to correct herself. Bill had always said Melissa's death was because of "Agent Mulder's Quest"... He'd brought it up to her some times in the past. She had always gotten angry at him then. Why? (Because it's my quest, too.)

    Scully forced the ugly memories out of her mind. Right now was the worst time to be thinking about fights she had had with her brother. But strangely...Scully found herself having trouble remembering happy memories she had shared with her brother. The realization disturbed her immensely. (What could have gone wrong? How did Bill become so resentful of me?)

    Scully knew the answer to that, she had known it a long time ago. Of course, there had been hints of it in her father, and his disapproval with her joining the FBI. But once Bill had learned of Mulder, he seemed to take his father's side. (Everyone was against me except Melissa...) So why didn't she feel like she was doing the wrong thing? She believed her family on everything else they told...or ‘suggested' to her...but she refused to believe that she had made the wrong choice coming to the FBI. She couldn't even begin to image what her life would be like if she hadn't.

    Scully's thoughts were briefly interrupted by a sob other than Tara's. She turned to face her mother, who had begun crying again. Scully's hard feelings towards her father and brother's disapproval instantly melted into sorrow at the sight of her mother's anguish. (She is the last person who deserves all this...)

    Scully embraced her mother, feeling moisture spring to her eyes once again after she had promised to hold it back. "I'm so sorry, mom..." She said in a choking voice.

    Maggie sniffed, burying her face into her daughter's arms. "It's okay, baby..."

    "No, it's *not* okay," Scully countered in an almost fierce tone. "This is all my fault. Just like it was with Melissa..." Scully cut herself off, not daring to finish her sentence.

    "Fox is in the hospital, isn't he?" Maggie said quietly.

    Scully just nodded.

    Maggie pulled Dana away so they faced each other, and sighed as she stared into her daughter's tear-filled blue eyes, like a seething ocean. "You need to save him."

    "How CAN I, mom?" Scully sobbed, her lips quivering. "How I can save him when I can't even protect my own family?!"

    Maggie couldn't help but grin. "*I've* always considered him a part of the family. Dana, I know that you're blaming yourself for this, but no matter what your connections to the situation, you just *can't* do that. If you let yourself be dragged down in your own emotions...They'll win." She paused. "Bill would have wanted you to do it."

    "No he wouldn't have!" Scully argued back. "That's what they always say when you lose someone close to you!!"

    "Well, then...*I* want you to do it. And I know that you're not going to be able to live with yourself unless you solve it *yourself*."

    Once again, Scully was amazed at the way her mother seemed to know exactly what she was thinking. How many other mothers could do this...could encourage their daughter to try and save her partner when their son had just been killed? Scully couldn't help but marvel at her mother's inner strength and ability to carry on despite the was a quality that Scully had admired, and tried desperately to attain herself.

    "I want you to go and do for Fox what you couldn't do for Bill," Maggie said in a voice that was somewhat like a command. "And always remember that God is watching over you. I truly believe that He is protecting our family."

    The statement caused Scully to break out crying again. How could she not, after all her mother had said? She just sat there, in her mother's arms for awhile, crying quietly, just to let it all out. Then she straightened herself up and wiped the wetness from her cheeks. If she was going to do what her mother said, she would have to begin now.

    "Mom...I know this is the worst possible time for this, but...there is something that I have to tell you."

    Maggie said nothing, awaiting Scully's statement.

    Scully became as firm as possible. "There was blood at the crime scene when they found Bill...some of it was Bill's, but there was some more that belonged to a man that I'm certain was Michael Piora."

    Maggie said nothing.

    "The medical examiners did a DNA test...and the blood between Bill and Piora didn't match." Scully took in a breath before going into her question. "Mom, why did you say that Piora was related to us? I learned that my father had had an affair with a woman named Barbara Piora, and that Michael Piora was the result. But the blood tests show that he isn't related. Why did you lie to me?"

    Maggie nodded, staring off into space, her face becoming bitter. "I knew, when I first got the phone call...I somehow knew that this was all connected to that man. Dana, I don't want to worsen your guilt by this at all...but I was called, by a man I didn't know, who told me that if you asked about a woman named Barbara Piora and a man named Michael Piora that I was to respond that he was your brother. I refused to do this, and asked why on earth anyone would demand such a thing. The man, he...threatened my life, said that I didn't have a choice as to whether or not I told you." Maggie stopped, her breath halting. "I got more phone calls every once in a while, "just as reminders", the man said...I didn't know what to do! I didn't even know any Piora. I just hoped that you would never call and ask about it, so I wouldn't be forced to tell a lie...but then you did call. I was too afraid to tell the truth, but I didn't want to lie to you, baby. So I hung up, and just hoped that you wouldn't call again. I haven't gotten any more phone calls from that man, though."

    Scully soaked in all the information carefully. (Why would anyone threaten my mom and tell her to lie to me about dad having an affair with Piora?) Scully had been thinking that she was finally nearing the end of this maze, but it seemed that she had just ran herself into another dead end.

    "Who told you that your father had had an affair with Barbara Piora? Because I purposefully didn't tell you."

    Scully was struck dumb at the awareness of where all the information had come in the first place. "After I called you, I asked Bill. He told me." Scully turned to her mother. "Did he talk to you at all? Did he get any phone calls that threatened him as well?"

    Maggie shook her head. "I don't know. I didn't even think that Bill knew about Piora or her son. I certainly didn't know them."

    "Then why would he lie to me?"

    "I don't know."

    Scully's gaze shifted briefly to her brother's grave. Whatever the reason was that her brother had lied to her...she would never know now.

    Scully didn't want to carry on with their conversation anymore. She would think about that later, when she got back on task with catching the man responsible for all this. "Come with me, I want to talk to Tara for awhile..."

    1:06 A.M.

    Michael Piora sat in the dim, rusty light of his ancient living room, going over the details carefully. Of course, this wasn't really his living room, it essentially belonged to his mother. (Mother...) He thought with an irritated bitterness. (I never had a mother.)

    The entire house hadn't been used for years, and it showed. The foundations were beginning to wear, the furniture was covered over with white sheets turning yellow, and all of the wood furniture was coated with a fine layer of silver dust so that it appeared everything was made out of metallic sand. He didn't dare to take up residence in the dusty, decaying excuse for a living space...he had his apartment for that. Or sometimes hotels. But here, he needed to get into the mood. It was an odd backdrop for his plan, but it would have to do.

    He read over his words carefully, knowing that every word would count in this special delivery. Satisfied with his handwritten message, he smiled, and carefully placed the letter inside the envelope. Then, checking his calligraphy pen for the proper amount of ink, he wrote the words "DANA KATHERINE SCULLY" on the front.

    Now it just needed the final piece.

    Carefully, just as he had many times before, he placed his finger against the envelope of the seal. Before he had had to concentrate, but now it came almost easily. As he moved his finger over the seal, a sticky, greenish liquid oozed from the tiny pores in his fingers, a sight that he had long since gotten used to. The greenish liquid flowed from his fingertips onto the envelope's seal, and as he finished, he quickly closed the envelope. The sticky liquid worked like some biological glue, sealing the envelope tightly and finally drying clear, making it invisible.

    He smiled at his unique handiwork (Perfect.) He didn't need the skin decoy for this one...Dana Scully would never knew what hit her.

    He stood up from the desk, and headed for the mailbox.


    He watched through the slightly blurred view through the glass, the images outside disoriented by the aged glass as it slowly cooled back into sand. The air was cool both inside and out, but not frigid. He breathed it in with slight satisfaction, an array of familiar scents reaching his nostrils. Outside it was gray and purple with yellowish streaks from the early morning sun, warming the pavement.

    He listened as an almost-silent grumble crept through the old glass from the outside world, and the soft squelch of tires halting on pavement. The car, like the air, was gray, but with a lighter tint. It was still slightly damp from the morning star's dew. The driver was short and small of figure, the yellow light from the morning intertwining with her auburn locks and giving her a halo of fire and gold. She cast her gaze up to where he was, and locked her eyes with his, although he knew that he was only thoughtstalking and not really present. After a moment's glance, the car grumbled again and disappeared down the slick road, away from his view, leaving him only with the afterimage of golden fire against the gray pavement. The silence returned.

    And in the darkness, he smiled.

    6:37 P.M.

    Scully was home. She was looking over the DNA transcripts again, pondering every darkened band with all the brain cells she could muster, trying to figure out her next move. She now had an idea of what to expect when she met up with this killer...but the problem was she didn't know *how* to meet up with him.

    Fed up with looking at the exact same thing for the past few hours, she threw the DNA transcripts aside. She propped her feet up on the desk, rubbing her shoulders against the soft cushions of her sofa. They still didn't provide the comfort that she needed. Her back and shoulders were full of kinks and knots, she was tense enough to make a pouncing mountain lion seem drugged. (What I wouldn't give for one of Mulder's good back massages...)

    The reminder only tightened the knots in her muscles, and made her frown with depression. (I can't just sit here wishing for something to come to me...I have to go after it myself. He doesn't have time for me to sit around! What am I thinking...)

    Scully began to organize the pile of papers all over her desk; at least it looked like she was doing something productive. After having so much happen...she was still no farther than before. And it frustrated her to the point of insanity. She organized her most recent mail...and right now, recently was anything from within the past week or two. Bills...sweepstakes offers she couldn't care less about...bills...a letter from Charlie...some medical report or something, what she didn't know...she stopped.

    At the bottom of her mail pile was a single envelope, with her name written on it in plain cursive. No return address, no stamp. Scully reacted as if facing a live anaconda. She knew exactly what this was and who this was from...and the last thing she was going to do was actually *touch* that thing.

    (This doesn't make sense...this is too obvious. Why would he send this to me, he knows that I would know better...I'm not touching that skin inside.)

    But curiosity was beginning to grab hold of Scully. There was something...different about this. And she couldn't quite tell what...

    She was going to take her chances. If she didn't, she would never be able to bring Mulder back. But she wasn't going to do it unprepared. She went to the kitchen, found a pair of latex gloves, and then pulled a letter opener out of the drawer. She was fairly certain that whatever diseases this thing held were transmitted only by contact...they couldn't be airborne, otherwise other people might have gotten sick.

    She approached the envelope with the letter opener and the gloves as if she were getting ready to slay a legendary monster. Moving carefully, she picked up the envelope, and studied it from all sides. It appeared perfectly normal. (Appearances can be deceiving...)

    She hesitated, and then used the letter opener to tear away the seal. It was then that she noticed something, something just barely visible on the seal... it was a glue. At least, it looked like glue. It was a very thin line of clear, sticky liquid, running along the line of where she broke the seal. It was obviously meant to be overlooked; it was next to invisible. She was surprised that she had noticed it at all. But staring at the clearish sealant set her mind into rapid motion.

    (Why would he need glue to seal envelopes?...Unless it's not glue...)

    Connections began forming in Scully's brain. She was finally beginning to understand this...finally beginning to understand her way out of it. She looked inside the envelope...and found that there were not pieces of skin, as she suspected. There was an actual note.

    Scully's suspicions had reached their peak. Moving carefully, so as not to touch the seal of the envelope, she reached inside and removed the letter. Still keeping the gloves on, she began to read the letter, taking each word into account.

      Dana Scully,

      I am certain that you know whom you have received this from. I have reached a point in time where I have become frustrated with my present conditions...and I'm sure that you feel the same. I understand that you have been searching for the cure to your partner's illness. Being as I know the most about it's cause, I'm willing to provide you with a cure. However, it will take some effort on your part. Therefore, I propose we meet, where we can discuss my terms face to face. Tomorrow night, at 7:00, come to 1180 Primrose Way, in Baltimore. Just walk in, I'll be waiting. I'm sure that a meeting will be beneficial for both of us. I hope to soon see you alive and well.

    Scully scowled with hatred at the perfectly "polite" letter. Her anger massed and massed within her first until she crumpled the paper into a small ball, diseased or not. She was furious beyond words, furious because she knew that she was being blackmailed. There was no telling what this man wanted from her in exchange for the cure...if he would even give it to her at all.

    (A cure.)

    Despite her anger, Scully knew that she *had* to meet him. She was desperate, and she was at this point willing to give up anything for Mulder's safe return to life...even if it meant in exchange for her own.

    (I'll show him a cure...I'll cure him of his miserable existence!!) Scully thought with a snarl.

    (Now just stop, Dana...) Her rational self began to argue with her emotional self. (You can't just leap into the fray unprepared. You need to know what you're up against. If you can find his weakness, you can get the upper hand and then *you'll* be the one making demands.)

    Scully began to automatically scan the envelope and the letter again. Again, her attention was drawn to the sticky, translucent substance on the seal. Her mind recalled his words... "I hope to see you alive and well."

    (This thing is rigged!) Scully suddenly put the pieces together. (It's not the skin that causes the's this sealant substance! It's put in just the right place, so that you would have to touch it in order to open the envelope. *That's* where the disease comes from!)

    Scully knew what Piora had been planning in the first place...the meeting was a setup, beginning with this letter. "See you alive and *well*." He had placed a disease in the sealant that would react slowly, so that she wouldn't get sick at first, and gradually begin to take on symptoms. When she met with him tomorrow, she would be in a weakened state, and he would be able to overpower her. He was *expecting* her to show up sick, counting on the fact that she would have to open the envelope to read the letter inside. (It was the same with all the others, too...the pieces of skin is just a decoy. The fact that all the people who received a letter got sick comes from the fact that they had to break the seal on the envelope.) She just wondered what the clear substance was, and how Piora was able to get it onto the envelope. (It would have to come from his goes with his biological differences. So skin contact is still a factor.)

    At last, Scully knew what to expect. She knew how she would get around his deadly viruses...(I can't touch him, and he can't touch me.) And he was expecting her to show up sick.

    She couldn't help but smirk quietly. (If that's what he wants...then that's what he's going to get.)

    At that moment, the phone rang.

    Scully nearly jumped out of her skin with surprise. After a moment's recuperation, she picked up the phone. "Yes?"

    "Agent Scully."

    Scully recognized the voice on the other end of the was the dark-haired man, the one whom she'd met in the hospital, who'd told her to find Piora. Scully held her breath, not knowing what to expect, and fearing the worst.

    "Agent Scully," Obsidian continued. "I understand that you will be receiving a note from Michael Piora soon asking you to meet him."

    "Yes...?" Scully said nothing, trying to mask the apprehension in her voice.

    "I'm calling to tell you not to open it, and if you did, to not meet Piora. You are not ready to confront him yet."

    Scully's concerned manner hardened into anger. "I've already decided what I'm going to do! What difference does it make whether I meet him or not?!"

    "Your life, for one, Agent," Obsidian said warningly. "And the life of your partner."

    "I'm doing it to *save* Mulder!" Scully countered, almost shouting into the phone. She was becoming completely fed up with this, this calling of unknown informants and killers all telling her to do different things. "Who are you to tell me what I should do and not do?!"

    "You're putting your life on the line by doing so, Dana. You may have already done so. I'm telling you, you do not know enough to confront him!"

    "I know all there is to know. I've figured everything out, I know what I'm going to do! And I don't care if I'm ‘putting my life on the line' as you put it. I'm meeting that bastard and I'm getting that cure no matter what any anonymous informant tells me!" And with that, she slammed the phone back down on the receiver, not waiting for any response.

    She was completely filled with contempt and disregard for anything anyone else said. She had made up her mind, and she knew exactly what she was going to do.

    6:58 P.M.

    Scully stared at the ancient house with a mixture of apprehension and confrontation. It was as if the house itself was her foe, a menacing Goliath that could be felled with a simple stone and sling. Although Scully's weapons didn't consist of stones and slings, she was still certain that they would bring her enemy to his knees.

    She glanced around the rest of the house, observing the hidden bodies of her coworkers in the bushes, sheds and cars. Scully was not an idiot when it came to capturing a criminal...she had brought her backup.

    Swallowing hard and straightening her coat, she tread up the aged wooden steps to the front door. She kept her wits about her at all times, watching all sides of her out of the corner of her eye, while keeping a close watch on details right in front of her. She bent down to observe the doorknob of the front door, checking for that strange translucent substance or anything else that might suggest another trap. As far as she could tell, there was nothing. She swallowed again and swung the door open.

    Almost the moment the door opened, her act began. There was no one before her, and she faced an empty hallway with dusty carpet and tables. She coughed, putting a fist to her mouth. Then she slowly shut the door behind her and started down the hallway, eyes scanning for her adversary. "Michael Piora?" She called out into the darkness hoarsely.

    "Right on time, Agent Scully. I do admire your punctuality."

    Scully twisted around. Piora was standing behind her, right in front of the closed door. He wore a smirk upon his slightly scraggly features, watching with fascination the way Scully moved with slight uneasiness. Scully coughed roughly again, holding her chest with pain. Piora raised his eyebrows at her. "Are you feeling alright, Agent Scully?"

    Scully gulped in air, her eyes appearing glazed. "I'm not the one you should be worrying about...I want that cure, and I want it now!"

    Piora shrugged. "Oh yes, the cure...well, I'm terribly sorry, but I changed my mind this morning. I don't need anything from you. It was too late to send a note, so I just waited for you to show up and tell you then. Not that it matters for you, anyway."

    Scully bent double, her hand at her throat, her face turning an ugly pale color and her throat racking with coughs. "No, you can't...I need that cure! If you don't give it to me I'll..."

    Piora laughed. "I don't think you're in much of a position to do anything against me, Agent little sister."

    "Cut the crap, you're not my brother!" Scully croaked, even as she was beginning to sink to her knees. "You're a liar, an experiment, a freak! I got DNA tests..." She was interrupted by a coughing fit, struggling to continue. "...I got DNA tests, and a chimpanzee is a closer relative of mine than you are!"

    "So, you finally figured it all out. You know, I figured you would sooner or later. But I'm afraid you discovered it all too late. I heard you were an intelligent being, but I see likewise here."

    Scully landed on her knees, coughing uncontrollably, wrapping her arms around herself as if to stop herself from bursting apart. Piora strode up to her confidently, a great smile on his face. He looked down at her tauntingly, quite pleased with his final act of revenge. "Spending so much time trying to save your precious Agent Mulder...ironic that you're the first one to go! Don't worry, he won't be far behind. Comas don't last forever."

    Scully tried to say something, but her voice was clogged by an unstoppable flood of coughs and hacks, preventing her from breathing. She croaked out a curse, which Piora simply laughed at. "CDC, DOD,'re all the same! A bunch of croaking idiots! Dropping like flies at the touch of a letter! You understand now what exactly the DOD was dealing with when they first came up with the project...and so does everyone else who deserves to die!–-"


    Piora's voice was suddenly cut short by a solid, forceful pain that exploded right into his gut. His face erupted with surprise as he bent double, clutching his hands to his stomach as the blow churned his stomach's contents.


    Another pain suddenly emanated from his jaw, sending a shockwave through his skull and making his teeth sink into his tongue. He tasted blood on his lips as he reeled from the pain, stumbling backwards like a drunkard. His vision spun, and then he collapsed onto his knees, barely catching himself.

    Looking up, he was instantly met with the barrel of a gun. Scully was standing there over him, perfectly healthy and alert, the gun cocked and ready to fire lest a speck of dust on his shirt move the wrong way. She had a look of anger and triumph, and she tossed some loose hair behind her head. "Can't believe you actually believed all that..."

    "Bitch!" Piora swore, his bloody mouth full of contempt. "What do you think you're doing?!"

    "Getting what I came here for. I want that cure, and I want it NOW."

    Piora didn't move. Scully obviously had the upper hand here, and it would take an army to get it away from her. He attempted to use words to sway her. "I lied. I don't have any cure. You know all about it...if all I do is create diseases, how can I stop them?"

    "I SAID I want that cure NOW."

    "But h–-"

    "ONE MORE WORD FROM YOU AND I PULL THIS TRIGGER!" Scully roared, close to the point of breaking. "You're a liar and a murderer and I SWEAR if you don't give it to me right now I DON'T CARE if you have it or not I'LL KILL YOU!"

    "Just let me get it out of my pocket and you can go and help your partner..." Piora started to reach his hand towards his back pocket.

    Instead he twisted around fast on his wrist and brought his leg through Scully's knees before she could even realize he moved. She was spinning and then she felt her jaw hit the hard, splinter-filled wood of the floor. A rattling vibration through her skull made her groan and turn onto her side. Her gun spun out of her hand and landed on the floor a few feet away. Scully jumped back to attention and scrambled for her gun...

    ...Too late. Piora was up and then down as he pinned her to the floor with his hand on her throat. Scully fought back bravely, kicking her feet into Piora's stomach. He reeled back with the pain in his already-injured stomach, swearing in a rage.

    But the damage had already been done. Scully lay on the floor in soreness, spots waltzing in front of her eyes, when her chest suddenly exploded in pain. She coughed, and coughed again and again. But this wasn't any act to fool Piora...this time she really *was* sick, sick with whatever disease Piora had chosen for her. Tears sprung to her eyes from the pain, and the sudden fear that she wouldn't live to get out of here, to get back to Mulder.

    Piora spat at her writhing form, rubbing his sensitive stomach. "I'm through with all of you. Damn government idiots! But at least *you're* not going to be a part of that crap anymore." He then turned and headed for the door, leaving Scully on the floor, the sickness ravaging within her.

    Scully was not through just yet. Fighting against the pain that her body was in, she rolled over onto her stomach and grabbed her gun up...


    The shots rang through the empty house like deadly bells. Piora roared in pain and then dropped to the floor. He tried to get to his feet, but his legs wouldn't respond. Scully watched with enraged fascination as the blood began to pool out around him...a strange mixture of red and green liquids. She had hit him once, in the back of the knee. Despite his injury, he was still trying to get up and run on one leg.


    One last shot, which hit him in the other knee. Piora was trapped against the floor with both his legs broken, moaning in pain and cursing Scully with every name possible. Michael Piora wouldn't be doing any more escaping acts.

    At that moment, the front door burst open, and two FBI Agents and three local policemen burst in on the scene, having heard Scully's shots and Piora's cries. They had their guns ready, and several rushed over to Scully while others surrounded Piora. More agents and officials came in through other doors. "Don't touch him!!" Scully shouted warningly. "You can't have any physical contact with him, you'll get sick! Get someone that has decontamination suits, put him in a quarantine vehicle!!–" Her voice was cut short by another fit of coughing.

    One of the other agents carefully helped Scully to sit up. "Agent Scully, we need to get you to a hospital or you'll collapse. The doctors and other agents will get Piora out of here safely."

    "No..." Scully croaked, her face beginning to turn a sickened pale color. She could feel her mind going fuzzy, her muscles refusing to respond to her nerve's messages. Her body lurched, and she gripped her fingers into the wooden floor to hold herself still.

    "Agent Scully, you're going into convulsions, you *have* to come with us..."

    "No!" Scully forced the surrounding agents off of her and stood to her feet, nearly toppling over again with dizziness. "The cure is somewhere in this house, I know it! We have to find it! You have to help me look for it..."

    "Agent Scully! You are coming with us right now!"

    "NO! Just help me, help me find it..." Scully walked out of the circle, her jaw trembling, her vision beginning to get blurry. "I KNOW that it's here somewhere! I won–...." She coughed miserably. "I won't last to the hospital...we need to find it now..." She then started off into the house, trying to run up the stairs, her legs feeling like useless wet clay. The other agents knew that no amount of reasoning in the world would ever stop the infamous Agent Scully...they followed her up the stairs. The remaining agents surrounded Piora, all of their guns pointed at him. He couldn't move an inch. One of the agents quickly got on the phone. "We need people with biohazard suits to get this guy out of here..."

    Scully trudged up to the second floor of the rotting house, her eyes scanning all there was to see, placing both her hands against the walls for balance. She completely ignored her continuous stream of coughs and aching pain in her chest and spine...her mind focused on her need to find the cure, find it before she collapsed and didn't get up again. She looked in the bathroom, tore open the medicine cabinet and rummaged through the useless bottles of pills and potions that were long past their expiration date. She went down beneath the sink, throwing aside bottles of sink cleaner, toilet paper, searching everywhere until the sink was completely cleaned out. Most of the agents went to search for her, but a few couldn't help but stand and watch in the doorway, dumbfounded as to how such a small woman with such a horrible sickness quickly taking hold of her could be so energetic and so vigorous in searching for something that may not even exist. She was like a wild animal on the rampage, searching for her prey with starved eyes.

    When she had torn apart the bathroom, she moved onto the next room. She went into the bedroom; it was apparent that it had been used recently. There was a small box of envelopes sitting on the desk, and the bed was unmade. This was it; it had to be in here. She tore away the covers of the bed, feeling around for something hidden within the mattress, yanking off the pillow covers and unzipping them so all the stuffing fell out. More agents came in to watch her. "DON'T JUST STAND THERE! HELP ME L–" She broke down coughing again, clutching her chest, fighting the urge to vomit. Her angry words sparked the other people into action, and they began to check the drawers, closet, and table. Scully was by now too sick to carry on in her rampage anymore...she doubled over with the pain, sitting down on the bed to rest, feeling her body scream for help as the deadly virus worked its way through her system. (Have to fight it.....) She thought desperately, her mind beginning to shut down.


    Scully heard the words from far away and walked to them, although it felt like she was taking a journey across the country. Through her tear-glazed eyes she could see what the other agents had Piora's closet was a drawer, and in the drawer were rows and rows of carefully arranged syringe bottles. Each one had a small label on them.

    Scully felt her heart jump. She made her way towards the hidden bottles as best as she could, and reached her trembling hands within to pull out the rack.

    "Agent Scully..."

    She ignored the calls. She went through each bottle in a hurry, reading the labels that were printed on each one...they were names. "#4 - ROGER RATH - HEMORRHAGIC FEVER". "#7 - WILLIAM SCULLY, JR. - HEMORRHAGIC FEVER." There was one name in particular that caught her attention and held it, and she then grabbed it up. "#9 - FOX MULDER - ADVANCED SMALLPOX."

    It was just as she had hoped...they *were* cures! Somehow, Piora had managed to create a cure for every person that he had ever infected. She had found what she was looking she just needed to find what *she* needed.

    She found it. The very latest bottle was at the back, and the label read: "#12 - DANA SCULLY - ADVANCED GT66-BETA." A clearish solution lay within the bottle.

    "I NEED A SYRINGE!!" Scully exclaimed. Instantly, the two medical doctors that had followed Scully upstairs produced a clean syringe from one of the kits and took the solution. Scully closed her eyes in pain as she heard the sound of scuffling, and then the feel of a soft tissue on her skin. She squeezed back tears of pain as she felt the injection, and then a bandage over her arm.

    The solution worked like magic. She felt the cure move its way to her heart and then all over her body, destroying the viral entities that ate away at her cells. She breathed a sigh of relief as the pain vanished into thin air, her chest cleared, and her coughing lessened. She opened her eyes again, already feeling the strength return to her muscles. "Thank you," She said weakly.

    "Unbelievable!" One of the doctors looked at the solution in the bottle as if he were staring at the holy grail. "I've never seen any cure work that quickly before!" He looked at Scully in surprise. "How did you know that this would work?"

    "I just...figured it out. I'll explain it later." She took in several deep breaths, regaining her normal stature. "What disease was it?"

    Scully nodded. She had expected as much from Piora...something that couldn't be explained, but could be traced back to different origins. There was no telling what kinds of viruses, known and unknown, that he carried within him. (And he's able to control his use of them all...just through touch.)

    Scully looked down at the other bottle that she held in her hand. The sense of relief that she had survived now turned into happiness. She had gotten what she wanted after all. She turned back to the other agents. "Please get this stuff put away and cataloged, and go down and help the other people guarding Piora. I need to get back to D.C."


    Scully watched with an immense smile on her face as Mulder twitched slightly beneath the covers, his fist curling and uncurling. She scooted closer and put her hand on top of his. He squinted, and then opened his eyes, blinking against the harsh lights of the hospital room. At feeling Scully's hand on his, he immediately turned to her. A slow smile spread across his face.

    "Hey Mulder," Scully said, barely able to contain her excitement. Mulder tried to talk back, but ended up just croaking sadly, his throat too dry to speak. Scully quickly reached over to his desk and grabbed up a glass of water, then helped him to sit up in his bed and brought the water up to his lips. He drank it down gratefully, feeling a relief flood over him as the cool liquid washed down his throat.

    When she had made him drain every drop of water in the glass, he finally spoke. "Are you okay?"

    "Mulder!" Scully said in a voice that laughed. "You're the one lying in a hospital bed! I'm the one asking *you* if you're okay."

    "Alright then...I feel better. Tired, if anything." He pressed his fingers to his forehead to clear his mind. "How long have I been here?"

    Scully looked at the floor, still grinning. "I haven't really been keeping track of the time. I'm guessing a week? Maybe more."

    "Ah, I've had worse," Mulder said with a small chuckle. "I take it that you finally captured ‘Contagion'?...Whatever his name was?"

    "Michael Piora," Scully nodded, not really in the mood to be talking about that man. But she supposed she should fill Mulder in on what had happened now anyway...she'd have time to talk to him about other things later. "They have him in a containment center, under maximum security. The DOD has determined that he is the man they were looking for, and he's looking at a life sentence...if he even gets out of execution."

    "I knew you'd do it," Mulder looked at Scully with faithfulness. "I knew that you'd get him sooner or later, even without my help."

    "Well...suffice to say it was a lot harder. And I didn't enjoy a single minute of it."

    "Oh, so you usually *do* enjoy tracking down deadly paranormal killers and monsters and mutants?" He joked.

    "Only if you're there." She admitted.

    There was a brief silence. "How did you find the cure?"

    "That was the hard part. I agreed to meet him at a specific location, and I came pretending to be sick, so I was able to get him on the ground. Somehow he escaped...and he infected me with something...what I don't know. But I got some backup to pin him down, and we searched the house until we found a drawer that contained the cures for everyone he's infected...and I guess some people he was going to infect. I was able to inject myself with the cure for whatever he had given me, and I found yours. And so I came back here and here you are."

    Mulder closed his eyes, apparently deep in thought. "Interesting...but if he intended to kill his victims, why would he keep their cures hidden away as well?"

    "It's pretty simple, Mulder," Scully explained. "They can be used as's a very nice alternative if something went wrong when he was infecting someone. There's something else that's puzzling me."


    "I'm fairly certain I know where he gets his cures from. I got some blood DNA tests from earlier and found out that he has viral DNA integrated into his system, so he himself is immune to whatever diseases he carries. He just takes a sample from his victim's DNA and branches together some of his own laced DNA, creating a cure that's tailor-made for the victim, like the disease. I just don't know how he would have gotten a sample of our DNA, I've never seen him before except when we met."

    Mulder thought for a moment, then brightened as he remembered something. "I was going down to the office awhile before I found him that I saw a man dressed as a janitor leaving the basement...that was probably Piora. He could have taken anything in the office or just wiped fingerprints off of the computer and he would have DNA from both of us."

    Scully nodded, now understanding how things were fitting together for good. "So I guess the only mystery left is how he got that way in the first place."

    "I have a feeling I know how," Mulder said slowly. "He was supposed to have worked at the CDC...but I think he was worked *on* at the CDC. Perhaps he did work there for a time, but then they decided to use him for something else. Or maybe they had been using him for experiments the entire time. It would explain a lot of things...first off, how he's able to infect people with viruses. Also how he's able to move so fast and have such strength."

    Mulder's face fell. "Scully?..."

    Scully looked at the floor, forcing back down the lump in her throat. "Bill died a few days ago. It was Piora."

    Mulder appeared solemn. "I'm sorry."

    Scully shrugged, not knowing what to say. If she started talking about how it was her fault and that she should have been more careful, Mulder would rebuke her and start placing the blame on himself. And she didn't want to do that. "The confusing thing was...Bill told me that Piora was my brother. That my father had had an affair with a Mrs. Piora, and that Michael was the result, and that was why he was after me. But the DNA tests showed that we weren't related. I found out later that my mom had been threatened by someone..." She looked to Mulder for her answers. "I don't know why he would lie to me! I don't understand why anyone would want me to think that Piora was my brother!"

    Mulder shook his head. "I don't either. I think this goes deeper than just experiments at the CDC and relatives that don't exist."

    "Well, I don't intend on digging any further," Scully said decisively. "As long as that man is being put away forever I'm happy. And I'm too tired to continue on trying to track down his origins. This is one case that's personal in the wrong way, and I'll never get over it all if I have to keep looking."

    "You don't have to keep looking, Scully. I'm just sorry that it happened at all. I know that you were trying to be strong at the funeral, but..."

    "How would you know?" Scully asked suspiciously. "You were right here, you were in a coma."

    Mulder's expression switched to one of confusion. "I don't know. But I somehow already knew that Bill had been killed. And how you were feeling and I just remember you talking to your mom and..." Mulder stopped. He was even beginning to scare himself. A small smile twitched on his lips. "By the it true that you drive by my apartment every day just to see if I'm coming?"

    Scully was shocked. "How do you know that?"

    "I saw you...I thought I was dreaming. I watched you drive up to the apartment, and look up, and then drive away again. I think I dreamed that a few times, actually. And then some other things, which I don't really remember." He was still grinning. "So do you?"

    "Sometimes." She admitted slowly.

    The grin didn't go away. "Aw, Scully I'm touched."

    "Really?" She looked skeptical.

    "Yeah. How many other FBI partners do you know do that for each other? Make sure the other one is going to be there with them?"

    Scully mimicked his grin. "I guess we're just special, then."

    "*You're* the special one," Mulder corrected. "I can't believe you were able to handle all of that alone. I know that I wouldn't have been able to last long unless you were there."

    "I guess you didn't, if you ended up here," She said.

    "Well, I'm ready to leave," Mulder said, stretching and preparing to get out of the hospital bed. Scully put her hand against his chest and sat him back down.

    "You're going to stay here until I'm positive you've recovered. And no amount of talk and persuading from you is going to convince me otherwise." She leaned down close to his face to demonstrate her authority.

    Mulder's grin became rather mischievous. He leaned up aways and kissed Scully gently on the forehead, right between her eyes, causing her to back up momentarily with surprise. "Does that convince you otherwise?" He said.

    "Get your rest, FBI man. You'll be out of here in as long as it takes me to get through the paperwork."

    "Don't I at least get partial credit?"

    "I'll write quickly," She smiled.