08.30 a.m.
March 31

When it came down to it, Scully hesitated. As long as Mulder was out cold, there was no sense in giving him the drug. But she knew it wouldn't last. As soon as he woke up, she knew he was in over his head. Mainly because of the way he woke up.

For almost an hour he had been moving restlessly, moaning under his breath, jerking every time he tried to move either his jaw or his left shoulder. The shoulder was still too swollen to be put in a cast and the bandage didn't do much to keep it still. A sudden cease in movement made Scully rise from the chair and lean over him to check his signs. Making a face at his bruised and battered visage, she reached a hand out to brush her fingers through hair, but froze when his eyes suddenly snapped open.

He stared up at her for a long moment, not moving at all, and she could tell that he was in pain. Bad pain. And then he started shaking. It came like lightning from a clear sky. He whimpered, unable to control the convulsive fit which shook his body violently. His left hand suddenly grabbed Scully's wrist and the pressure became almost unbearable when his fingers cramped up spasmodically. His jaw muscles cramped up immediately after that and that pushed him over the top. He screamed. Unable to open his mouth, it sounded pitiful.

Scully pressed a finger against the call button several times, then tried to hold him down while also trying to disengage her left wrist from his painfully hard grip. "God damn it," she hissed through clenched teeth at the sheer power she had to put into holding him, then turned her attention to the door as it opened and two nurses came rushing in. "Get over here," she snapped.

One of nurses took one look at the scene and ran for more help and to call the doctor. The other came over to help Scully hold Mulder down. The bed was vibrating with the force of his convulsions.

For half an hour, they fought to subdue him and finally managed to do so. The convulsions became less violent and eventually subsided entirely. He was breathing shallowly, his eyes closed, tears oozing out from behind closed lids. Scully grabbed a handkerchief and dabbed the tears away, then brushed a hand through his sweat soaked hair, pushing it away from his forehead. She wanted to help him more than anything in the world right now. But before she could do anything, she had to hear the verdict of his doctor.

Doctor Styles stood at the foot of the bed, staring at his patient with a frown. "The blood tests came back positive on the drug test we did, although we don't know what kind of drug he's on," he finally said to Scully, turning his head a little to look directly at her.

Scully stared at him for a moment, then returned her attention to Mulder. "He's on Crystalstar. Is that what caused the convulsion?" she wanted to know.

Dr. Styles heaved a deep breath and sighed. "He convulsed because he's crashing at the moment. I've had a few of the first cases of drug addicts dependent on that stuff and it's never a pretty a sight. How long has he been on it?"

Scully kept on stroking his hair, her left hand holding his in a firm grip. His fingers twitched weakly now and again, giving her a much needed sign that he was still with them. "He received an injection of 10 cc's against his will. That's all," she replied, glancing at Styles.

Styles in turn raised an eyebrow. "He should have been dead," he mumbled, surprised. "Agent Scully. Can I have a word outside?"

Scully looked at him for a second, then leaned closer to Mulder. "I'll be right back. Don't worry. I promised you we'd deal with this and we will," she whispered to him. A brief tightening of his fingers around her hand made her smile sadly. "It's all right. We'll beat this. I'll be with you every step of the way. I promise." With that, she released his hand and followed the doctor out.

Styles didn't look happy. Not at all. "Agent Scully," he said, shaking his head in regret already. "I'm afraid that he won't be able to survive another attack like that. Due to the heavy sedation and the stress he's been under, his vital signs are unstable to put it mildly. Another convulsive fit like that will kill him. Is there any next of kin you want to notify?"

Scully stared at him, unable to believe that they would just give up on Mulder that easily. "Excuse me, Dr. Styles," she said, her tone of voice conveying her disappointment. "There must be something you can do."

Styles shook his head. "I'm afraid not. None of the conventional pain killers can subdue the kind if pain he's in due to the drug he's on and the heavy pain killers are, as you very well know, not good for his system. If we give them to him, his heart will weaken and you know yourself where that will lead him. He will go into cardiac arrest and we will have to hook him up to machines to keep him alive. As far as I know, that's not what he wants according to his will. If we don't give them to him, the pain will wear him out and eventually kill him. And all because a person addicted to Crystalstar feels everything twice as strongly when they crash. I'm afraid our options are very limited and they will both have the same result. Death."

Having it tossed in her face like that made Scully angry. She didn't like being told that there were no chances. Especially not when it came to Mulder. "What if," she began, not looking at him but rather at a spot on the floor, "we gave him another injection of Crystalstar? Would that tide him over until his injuries are dealt with?" She raised her head and looked up at him with a frown.

Styles stared back at her, turning the idea over in his head. "You said yourself that he's been made an addict against his will. Do you think he would want that?" he replied, treading carefully.

"If it saves his life, yes. If it's the only way he will get over this, yes. I have no doubts that this is what he would choose." She did have doubts, but she would not jeopardize his life under any circumstances. And if this was the only choice . . .!

Styles looked a little intrigued by this. He wasn't hip on the idea. Supporting a man's drug addiction was not his idea of being a good doctor, but on the other hand, if it meant saving the man's life, it was worth a try. "Well ... if that's the way you see it ... " he said. "But I have no idea where to get that stuff from. And he may have another attack before we get it," he added.

Scully shook her head at herself. She couldn't really believe that she was doing this. Reaching into her pocket, she retrieved the packet that Skinner had given her. "Here you go. Half a pound of Crystalstar. It's highly concentrated so it should be enough to tide him over until he's out of the woods. And then we put him in a detox‑program and hopefully, he will be clean within a short time."

Styles stared at the packet in her hand for a second, then heaved a deep breath and sighed. "Very well. But I want to have it in writing that we're not being held responsible for his drug addiction. Just in case he can't get off it."

Scully nodded curtly. "Don't worry. We're not going to hold you responsible. Just don't tell anybody about what you're doing here." With that, she turned around and went back into Mulder's room and closed the door behind her.

Styles stared at the packet, then sighed again. "Don't worry, Agent Scully. I won't," he mumbled, turned around and headed to the nurse's station to prescribe a new medication to Agent Mulder, which was to be administered immediately and thereafter at any time it was needed.


Location unknown

The Cigarette-Smoking Man stared up at the woman standing in front of his chair in the library of the Consortium lodge. The look on her face was hard and unyielding. "Are you certain that you got them all?" he asked.

"Yes," she answered, sounding slightly indifferent.

He sighed, lit a cigarette and eyed its glowing tip for a moment. "Good. Too bad that this batch went so wrong. They had potential," he said, then looked back up at her. "No surviving witnesses?" he asked on.

"None," she replied. "Except for Mulder, Scully and Skinner, of course," she added.

"Ah, yes. Not a good thing, that," he mumbled, more to himself than to her. "Forget about them. They won't do anything about it anyway. You can take off now. I won't need you any more today," he added to her.

She nodded once, turned around and strode out the door.

The Cigarette-Smoking Man looked after her, a frown on his face. There was something not quite right about her. He knew this female very well and he could tell that there was a slight difference in her behavior. Something which worried him. But only slightly. Not enough to make him act on it. Not yet, anyway.

Thoughtfully, he dragged at the cigarette and blew out the smoke again, thinking that he ought to visit Mulder in the hospital. He had heard that Scully had once again been resourceful in her attempts to save Mulder. That made him smile. She was resourceful and he was happy that he had decided to keep her around. Otherwise Mulder might have been dead and that would have been rather unfortunate.


03.30 a.m.
April 3

Mulder opened his eyes and saw colors. Frowning up at the ceiling, he wondered about it for a moment, then lost interest. It was none of his concern. As nothing else was. He felt oddly disconnected from everything. He didn't bother about anything. His jaw hurt, but he didn't really care about it. It wasn't like he wanted to tell anybody anything. Letting his eyelids slide shut again, he uttered an annoyed sound because something kept bugging him. He didn't want to be bugged. He wanted to be left alone. He wanted to sleep and not worry about anything.


04.54 a.m.

Again, he woke up. This time, his mind was clearer. He remembered the incident from before, the colors and wondered more intently about it. His jaw was sore, but the previous pain was gone. His whole body felt numb to a certain extent. Obviously they had finally found a painkiller that could take the pain away.

Laboriously, he turned his head and saw Scully sitting on a chair, asleep. The fact that she was here made him smile a little. "Scully," he managed to whisper. Speaking was hard. His throat was dry. But she had obviously heard him.

She stirred, opened her eyes and blinked sluggishly at him. Then she smiled. "Hi," she said, yawned heartily and glanced at her watch. "Are you okay?"

"Yeah," he replied, staring at her.

"How's your jaw?" she asked on and took his hand.

"Better," he replied and cleared his throat. "Saw colors before," he added, not sure it would mean anything when it came down to it.

"Pardon?" Scully looked a little confused. "You saw colors before?" He mumbled a yes. "When?"

"Don't know. Earlier," he said. He gingerly moved his jaw a little and hissed weakly at the tenseness. The pain was almost gone, though. "Tired," he added, his eyelids becoming too heavy to keep open.

"Go back to sleep. You need your rest," she said and brushed her knuckles over his cheek. It made him smile lazily as he drifted off again. She leaned back again, staring at him. If he saw colors, he was high. Now he obviously didn't see them anymore, which meant that the drug was losing effect. And it was happening faster now than the previous days. "Oh no," she whispered.


5.30 a.m.

He woke up with a start, completely clear and fully aware of the pain. Groaning, he tried to move, to attract attention to himself, but he could barely think of moving without hurting. He felt awful. Cold and hot at the same time. His skin was itching, but he couldn't move his arms.

Scully was no longer in the room and he couldn't reach the bell because he couldn't move. He shifted nervously, trying to understand what was going on. This wasn't normal. He wasn't just in pain. He was uncomfortable. One thing he did notice was that the pain wasn't as potent as it had been previously and that at least was a relief.

Then the door opened. A nurse came in, a syringe in one hand, and smiled at him. "Hi there. Are you in pain?" she asked quietly. He managed a weak yes. "Okay. Hold on. I'll give you something for it. You'll be fine in a jiffy," she said, reached out for the tube connected to his right arm ... and dropped out of view.

Right behind where she had been, another woman stood, her expression cool. "Yeah, you'll be fine in a jiffy," she said, mimicking the nurse's words but not her tone of voice.

With a brutality which shocked him into silence, she ripped the drop from his arm, almost tearing the skin in the process.

With an effort he had not thought possible moments before, he managed to push himself toward the far side of the bed, but that did him fairly little good. She was fast and she was definitely strong. Moaning in fear, he raised his right arm, trying to ward her off, lagging the strength. She grabbed him and hauled him out of the bed. The movement sent a scream of pain through him from his shoulder and he whimpered, desperately trying to stay conscious. But his vision blurred and darkened and seconds later, he had passed out.

The woman loaded the limp body over one shoulder, went up to the door and glanced out into the corridor. Not much action this time of the morning. His protector was somewhere down the hall, getting something to drink, which meant that the coast was clear. She looked either way once more, then walked briskly toward the end of the corridor and the service elevator shafts.


5.40 a.m.

Scully walked slowly down the corridor toward Mulder's room after having had a chat with his doctor about his treatment, content in the knowledge that the nurse she had contacted earlier had given him the injection and thereby freed him of any pain he might be in.

Yawning, she rubbed the back of her neck with one hand, holding a coffee cup in the other. She reached for the door and pushed it open and stepped into the room. The second she cleared the door, she stopped short. The coffee cup dropped out of her hand and shattered on the floor as she stared at the empty bed, the drop which was leaking onto the floor and the unconscious nurse lying next to the bed.


6.20 a.m.

Skinner paced the floor of Mulder's room, now and again stopping to stare at the bed, then resumed his pacing. "Damn it, Scully. How could this happen?" he demanded for the umpteenth time.

Scully, who was sitting on her chair next to the bed, rubbed a hand over her face, looking as unhappy as he felt. "I don't know. I left the room for ten minutes tops. When I got back, he was gone. The nurse has a concussion and doesn't know anything. She didn't see or hear anything. She said she came in to give him the injection, reached out for the tube and that's it. Nothing else. Nobody saw anything. Nobody heard anything. I'm starting to get very fed up with this. It seems to be some kind of personal vendetta against Mulder and I don't understand it. I just don't understand it."

Skinner stared at her for a moment, then turned his attention to the window, his jaw set. "When we find him again, I'm putting him in protective custody. And, come hell or high water, he will stay there until we know what the hell if going on. I'm inclined to agree with you. It seems to be some kind of personal vendetta. But from whom? And why?" He was frustrated, angry because he had not done what had obviously been necessary three months ago. Mulder should have been in protective custody from the very beginning. An idea popped into his head and he turned back to face Scully. "I'm going to talk to the Smoker about this. I want to know what the hell is going on," he told her.

"Sir, is that wise?" Scully replied. "What if he demands something in return?"

Skinner's expression became even tenser if that was possible. "I'll beat it out of him if I have to. I've had enough of this charade. This has to end. Right now."


8.00 a.m.
J. Edgar Hoover building

Skinner looked up when the door to his office opened. His eyes narrowed as he watched the Smoker saunter into the room, the statutory cigarette between his lips.

The Cigarette-Smoking Man smiled. He didn't know why exactly Skinner wanted to see him, but he would find out soon enough. "You wanted to see me?" he asked casually and sat down on one of the chairs in front of Skinner's desk.

Skinner stared at the man, trying to guess if he knew anything about this. "Yes. We have a problem on our hands and I can't help thinking that you might be responsible," he replied, staring at the other man with steel in his eyes.

The Cancer Man raised an eyebrow. "Really? That's not good, then. And what seems to be the problem?" he wanted to know, sounding utterly indifferent.

"Two hours ago, Agent Mulder was removed from his hospital room," Skinner said, eyeing the Cancer Man for any reaction. "By force," he added.

He didn't let it slip, but this was bad news. Staring back at Skinner, the only sign outwardly which displayed that he had any opinion about this was that the smile was gone. "I see," he said. "And what do you expect me to do?"

Slowly, Skinner rose from his chair. "As I believe that you are involved, you and your cohorts, I expect you to see to it that he is returned. Alive! Or I'm going to place a call to a certain Native American who will be more than willing to tell a certain story to the press." The reaction from the Smoker, though not very obvious to the untrained eye, made him smile grimly. "I'm going to bury you five foot under if you don't return Mulder unharmed, you son of a bitch. Do you understand?" he added calmly.

The Cancer Man stared at him for a moment, seemingly unfazed by his words. Inside, though, he was more than ready to get up and tell this man that he had nothing to do with the abduction of Mulder. But he could not let his calm exterior slip. It would not be good for business. So he didn't speak until he was certain that it came out right. "Mr. Skinner," he said calmly, briefly eyeing the tip of his cigarette before looking back into those furious eyes. "I have no idea where Mr. Mulder is," he eventually said. "But I can make some inquiries as to his whereabouts." He got up, too, his eyes never leaving Skinner's. "I'll see what I can do," he added with a smug smile, turned around and walked out.

Skinner heaved a deep breath and dropped back down on his chair, not at all certain this had been a good idea. But, on the other hand, he was getting utterly fed up with these people lashing out at Mulder. Obviously, Mulder was too close to something they wanted to protect. Whatever that was.

Thoughtfully, he turned his chair around and looked out at the brightening sky, wondering when this would end. If ever. He was most inclined to believe that Mulder's nine lives were about spent. The man had been in so much trouble over the years he had worked for Skinner, it would surprise the A.D. greatly if he got away from this alive and intact.

Shaking his head at this dilemma, he pulled his glasses off and ran a hand over his face. He was tried. Not just physically, but mentally as well. Somehow, he felt he needed a break. A vacation would be good. Just somewhere away from all this, alone on a deserted island where he could think above the din of other people and traffic. He quietly promised himself that he would get away for a week or two once this business was dealt with; whatever the outcome.


Location unknown

The dark-haired woman dumped her burden on the floor of a bare room and knelt down beside him. The incision in his right arm where she had removed the drop was bleeding badly. She pressed her thumb down on it for a moment and when she removed it again, the wound was gone. She then wrapped both hands around his jaw and held them there for a moment longer. After dealing with his most life threatening injuries, she got up and walked out of the room, closing and locking the door behind her.

It took Mulder another half hour to get back into the world of the living. Once he was there, he slowly opened his eyes and marveled at the fact that he was no longer in pain. His left shoulder was numb and when he gingerly tried to move it, it moved without pain. Shifting his jaw brought no pain, either and his broken ribs were not bothering him anymore.

Feeling a little dizzy, but without the thundering headache, he sat up. Apart from not feeling any pain anymore, he felt like shit. He discovered that the moment he sat up. His stomach virtually cramped up. Moaning, he huddled up for a second until the worst of it had passed. Then he carefully straightened and took a look around. He could vaguely remember being forcefully removed from the hospital room.

Frowning, he inspected the bare room he was in now. The floor was wooden and the two windows were big. With an effort, he got to his feet and groaned at how he felt. Slowly, each step measured, he made it over to the window and found himself on the third floor of a country estate of some kind. A well kept garden, which looked more like a park, stretched as far as the eye could see. Hugging himself, he actually had to admit to himself that he relished the sight of the greenness down there.

Slowly, he turned back to the room. It was a big room. Nice, too, if it had been furnished. But as it were, there wasn't anything in the room. Rubbing his utterly dry tongue against the roof of his mouth, he sighed deeply and sank down on the floor, his legs too weak to carry him. He was also painfully aware that he was wearing nothing but the hospital shirt he had spent the last few days in, or however long he had been in the hospital. He cleared his throat and winced at the dry sensation.

Moments later, the door opened and the dark-haired woman who had removed him from the hospital came in. Mulder's reaction, though weak by most standards, was to stare at her in horror and press back against the wall and the lower part of the cool window pane behind him. His heartbeat quickened, his breath came in shallow little gasps while he stared at her, certain that she would beat the crap out of him.

She, however, stopped short at seeing him up, her brown eyes utterly indifferent, then she dumped a bundle of clothes on the floor, set down a pitcher of water, turned around and left again. The door clicked shut behind her and he heard the rattle of the key as she locked it, too.

It took him a while to calm down again and he was slightly baffled that she had not said anything or done anything to harm him. It was with a certain amount of dread that he realized he expected this kind of behavior from her.

Staring at the door for a moment longer, he fought a dizzy spell brought on by the hyper‑ventilation. There were certain things he would tell her next time she came in, though he simply did not have strength enough to speak yet, let alone try and get out. With the immediate threat out of the way, his eyes wandered to the pitcher sitting next to what he could only identify as a sweat suit. Swallowing hard, he could almost taste the water.

Slowly, laboriously, he got back to his feet and shuffled over to the pitcher and the clothes. He sank down on his knees and reached out with shaking hands for the water. His fingers felt awfully numb to him as he wrapped them around the cool neck of the rustic pitcher and he found that he couldn't raise it. He simply didn't have the strength. Bemoaning the fact that he could not raise a pitcher of water when he was parched, he flexed his fingers weakly, trying to get some strength back into them. He sat back on his heels and repeated the movements, also bending and stretching both arms in an attempt to get the numbness in his limbs to go away while he stared with almost fanatic fascination at the pitcher.

It took some work and a lot of frustration before he was able to finally raise the pitcher to his lips and drink. He sipped the cool liquid and made a face at the taste of it. Whether it was just a bad taste in his mouth or something in the water he didn't know, but the bitter, almond-like taste made him grimace. But he drank anyway. He needed the water so badly, it hurt. And, of course he overdid it. He could virtually hear Scully's voice telling him to sip the water, to take it slow, but he was so awfully thirsty, he craved the water. All of it. So he downed the half gallon of water in nearly one go and this resulted in an almost immediate stomach cramp. The pitcher dropped out of his hands, spilling the tiny remainder of water onto the floor as he curled up, cursing himself for not having more control.

A couple of deep breaths and sheer concentration eased the discomfort after a while. He was thankful that he hadn't thrown up. At least the water would come to good use now. Rolling onto his back, he closed his eyes and tried to wish himself away.


09.30 a.m.
April 4
J. Edgar Hoover building
Washington, D.C.

Dana Scully sat on her chair in her office and stared at Mulder's favorite poster on the wall. "I want to believe," she whispered, staring hard at it as if just staring at it could conjure him up. After a while, she closed her eyes. "How many lives do you have, Mulder?" she asked the silent room quietly. How many times could he get away from experiences like this with his life and mind intact? There was no indication of his whereabouts, no indication of who had taken him and why. She had a theory, one she didn't want to think too much about. His condition when he had vanished had been so severe, that she could not imagine that he would survive without medical help. The thought of him alone, hurting in perhaps a basement somewhere, made her open her eyes again. She did not like the mental picture that thought created.

With a heartfelt sigh, she turned the chair back to her desk and stared down at a profile he had begun not too long ago. His sharp wit and mind virtually jumped off the pages, his theories and thoughts bringing a smile to her lips. A sad one. For the first time in the years she had known him and rescued him from life threatening situations, she did not feel that he was still out there. She knew that her feelings on the matter were based on her medical opinion about his health and general well‑being, but she thought she would know if he was still out there somewhere.

Right now, she was here, in the office, just waiting for that call which would ask her to come to the local morgue and identify him. "Damn it," she whispered, closed the folder and leaned back again.

When the phone suddenly rang, her heart was in her throat immediately. She stared at the ringing contraption for a second, not wanting to pick up in fear of the news she might receive, then did pick up. "Scully," she said.

"Dana? It's Bill."

She let out an almost audible sigh of relief. No bad news. "Hi, Bill," she finally said.

"Are you okay, Dana? You sound upset?" Bill replied.

She briefly considered telling him the reason, but figured he would make some kind of remark she definitely wasn't up to hearing right now and therefore decided not to tell him. "It's nothing, Bill. What's up?" she wanted to know, trying hard to sound cheerful. It came out all wrong.

Bill was quiet for a moment and she could almost hear him brooding on the other end. "Uhm ... Tara and I were wondering if you don't have a vacation coming up any time soon. We'd really like to see you," he finally said. "I mean, you must be up for a vacation," he added with a somewhat uncertain chuckle. He could sense her mood and was slightly confused about it. He had a theory on why she might be upset and it all went back to that partner of hers.

Closing her eyes, she scolded herself silently for not having seen that one coming. She knew her brother well enough to know he had a habit of making inane requests in the middle of a crisis. Not that he knew there was one, of course. "Bill, I really can't think about vacation time right now. We've got a bit of a crisis on our hands here and there is no way I can take off in the middle of it. I wouldn't want to." She knew how it sounded, but she didn't really care. "I'll have to get back to you on this, okay? So, if you'll excuse me? I've got a lot of work to do."

"Isn't that partner of yours doing his share of the work?"

It had to come. She knew it had to come, but she was still not in the mood for it. Closing her eyes, she told herself silently to be calm. "He's doing more than his share, Bill. He's missing in action and we're currently trying to find him. I don't have time to chat right now, okay?" She couldn't keep the anger out of her voice.

Bill was silent again for a moment, aware he had just overstepped the line. "I'm sorry, Dana. I didn't know," he defended himself. "Call me when this is over, okay? Or if you just need to talk."

Keeping her eyes closed, she nodded. "Okay, I will. I have to go. Tell Tara hi and give that unruly kid of yours a kiss from me." With that, she hung up. Shaking her head sadly, she fought tears back for a moment. "When this is over?" she whispered. "I'll probably be going to his funeral when this is over," she added and bit her lower lip in a fit of depression.


The Consortium Lodge
46th Street
New York City

The Cancer Man stared intently at the woman, who had previously informed him of the death of the clones. "You told me that they were all dead," he said.

"They are," she replied, still utterly indifferent.

"Then why is Agent Mulder missing again?" he wanted to know tersely.

"Because he is dependent on Crystalstar," she replied.

The Cancer Man stared at her. "Crystalstar?" he almost snapped. "Where the hell did he get that from?" Shaking his head in annoyance, he couldn't help thinking about that hellish stuff one of the scientists had extracted from the Royal Jelly of these special killer bees carrying the small pox virus. Dried and powered it became a drug equal to Heroin but with an addiction rate never seen before. And, of course, it had gotten out.

As far as he had been able to determine, the scientist who had developed it had also tried it on himself and had become an addict immediately. Naturally he had been relieved of his burden forever. But ten pounds of the stuff had been made and had been missing, too, until it turned up in a warehouse in Washington and was impounded by the F.B.I. He would have to see to it that it was removed from there and destroyed. There was no sense in having something like this lying around.

The dark-haired woman cleared her throat, attracting his attention. "The last clone I terminated had this on her," she told him and dropped a package into his outstretched hand. "One pound of it. The rest is in the hands of the F.B.I. Except for half a pound which has been turned over to Mulder's doctor at the hospital," she added and dumped a second, smaller package into his hand, too. "I have no access to the F.B.I.'s storage department and if Mulder finds out where it comes from, there will be hell to pay." Her tone of voice did not convey any kind of emotion other than perhaps slight boredom.

The Cancer Man almost smiled. This one was resourceful. She thought on her own, which meant that she wasn't the one he usually dealt with. "Let me deal with the F.B.I.," he said. "Which one are you?" he subsequently asked her.

"We are one," she replied, the general reply to that kind of question.

They were clones and not able to distinguish between each other. They thought alike and he sometimes had them suspected of having a collective mind. Actually, he was quite certain that they did. This one, however, overstepped her boundaries. That could mean only one thing. She was self-aware without the others. A new twist to the whole thing. He kind of liked it. "Does that mean that you took him or one of your sisters?" he asked on, knowing that she would not volunteer information unless he asked her directly.

"I took him," she replied.

"Where?" he asked, staring into her eyes and seeing nothing there.

"To the house," she told him.

"What about his injuries? I understand they were quite severe." Once he knew what he needed to know, he would tell Skinner to back off and he would then put a lid on this.

"They have been dealt with. All he will have to deal with now are the side-effects of the drug. He is weak. But I think he will survive it," she said, her eyes briefly coming alive.

The Cancer Man still smiled. She was definitely developing a mind of her own. Quite interesting. "Good. Go back and stay with him. Tide him over if he needs it, but don't tell him anything. The less he knows, the better. Once he's free of the drug, return him to his apartment and leave."

She nodded once. "I'm feeding him this liquid sustenance in the water as instructed. I think he knows it's in there, but he drinks the water anyway." With that, she turned around and left again.

His smile stayed on for a while. It had been a long time since he'd had help he could depend on. This one did what he said without question. He was intrigued by her ability to develop, though. The others had shown no sign of that. None of the clones created from human tissue and alien DNA had shown any such potential. This one, however, was created from a human ova. There seemed to be a difference. He would have to investigate this potential and try to estimate the outcome, but so far he liked what he saw.


Location unknown

Mulder felt lousy; hot one moment, cold the next. He'd had another cramp attack like the one in the hospital and it had completely drained him of whatever strength he'd been able to build up. Although it had not lasted nearly as long as the first one, he had passed out afterward and when he came to again, it was dark outside. He had changed into the sweat suit the woman had provided for him and felt marginally better wearing clothes, but it still didn't give him an inkling of a clue about where he was or why he was here. She had returned twice, with a new pitcher of water ever time, but his attempts to get her to say something had been in vain. She had simply set the pitcher down on the floor, grabbed the empty one and left again, closing and locking the door behind her. It was actually more frustrating that she didn't speak to him than if she had beat him up every time she came in. Her lack of response was driving him crazy. He demanded, he pleated for her to say something, but she didn't.

With a sigh, he took a swig of the water, sitting cross-legged on the floor. He had discovered a small bathroom connected to the room, which had given him a sense of relief. The water coming out of the faucet had smelled bad, though, and that had given him an idea why she was providing water in a pitcher. He probably shouldn't drink the stuff from the faucet. The water in the pitcher still tasted bitter and he had arrived at the conclusion that something was added to it. His first thought had been that they were poising him, but that made no sense. Why would they want to do that? They could just kill him.

Feeling restless but too weak to move around too much, he settled down next to the low-set window and stared out at the night sky, at the stars. And all the time he kept wondering what would happen to him.

Although he was tired enough to drop, he couldn't sleep. The restlessness increased and the numbness in his limbs returned after a while. He couldn't sit still, couldn't find a position that was comfortable. Having a fairly good idea about what was causing this, fear rose in him. The discomfort was increasing and he had heard about how difficult and painful it could be to get out of drug abuse. Not that he would call his particular case drug abuse. He had received one injection of it against his will and, as far as he remembered, one or two more in the hospital. Scully had told him what they would do. He had not liked it, but had seen the need for it at the time. And this was definitely it.

To concentrate on something else for a while, he tried to remember some of the things he had read about Crystalstar in the report everybody had received before the bust. The drug was new, definitely not tested in any way or manner. The addicts, the few that had money enough to buy this stuff, reportedly saw odd shapes and colors, some of them claiming they had seen a different universe. He could go with that one. The colors, at least. He had seen them in the hospital, for a brief moment.

But apparently, one thing that was not documented was that when the addict was tripping on the drug, matters of importance became insignificant. He remembered how little the pain had meant to him while he had seen the colors. How little it had mattered that he was hurting. It was as if it was happening to somebody else. He could sense the pain, but it was too far away to matter in any way. Almost like getting the laughing gas at the dentists. The sensation was the same; a kind of indifferent detachment from everything.

This could not be said for how he was feeling now, though. He wanted more of the drug. Every fiber of his body was craving it. It wasn't yet unpleasant enough to drive him out of his head, but it was nagging him. It was keeping him from sleeping. Groaning in despair, not certain what the next few hours had in store for him, he wrapped his arms tighter around himself and returned to staring out at the stars, hoping that he could distract himself enough to override the need he felt.

An hour later, he was in a frenzy. The physical discomfort was so strong that it bordered on pain and he was up and pacing until his legs would no longer carry him. Sitting down hard on the floor in the middle of the room, his arms still wrapped tightly around himself, he tried in vain to suppress the shudder that ran through him. So far he had been able to keep himself from begging for someone to help him. He had a feeling that nobody would.

Obviously there was something about this drug that the Consortium wanted to suppress. There was no doubt in his mind that they were behind this. Whether they did this to teach him a lesson he did not know. He could not come up with any plausible reason for them doing this to him. But, then again, there didn't seem to be much reason in anything they did. Grinding his teeth together, he fought the craving for the drug for as long as he could.

But before the sun rose, he was trying to break down the door in an attempt to get to the drug. His subconscious mind kept nagging him about his behavior, but he had reached the state where he just didn't care. At first he raged, hammering his fists against the door until the skin was raw and bleeding. Then he begged. Finally he slid down the door, too exhausted to move much anymore and sobbed at the unfairness of his existence. Everything that had ever gone wrong in his life came tumbling back down over him, threatening to suffocate him, making him wonder why he had thought that life was worth living. There was nothing in the world right now that could make him love life.

And then the hallucinations started up. For more than an hour, he relieved Samantha's abduction over and over again until it nearly drove him insane. The scene never changed, he never managed to save her. Lying curled up on the floor, his back against the door, his arms wrapped tightly around his head, he cried. He cried like he hadn't in many years. When that abduction scene finally faded, he sobbed with relief. Thinking that the worst was over, he froze in panic when it was suddenly replaced by another. He moaned in anguish, grabbing his head and closing his eyes, but the scene unfolded before him anyway. Although he had not been present when Scully had been taken, he saw the scene, saw how Dwayne Barry had broken the window and attacked her. He saw how she reached for the phone, trying to call him, to beg for his help. And again he could do nothing but stand by and watch. This scene repeated itself on a loop like Samantha's abduction had and at one point he started screaming, unable to stand it anymore. A thought wormed its way out of his subconscious mind, a wicked little voice telling him how he could make it end.