They ran for an hour before returning to the complex and both were exhausted by the time they got back.

"You're pretty good at this. I didn't know you ran," Mulder said after having regained some of his breath.

Scully gave him a sweet smile. "On occasion," she said, wiping her brow with the back of one hand. "When I feel like it. Anyway, see you in the morning, okay?" She turned and headed toward her door.

"You go, girl," he called after her, grinning when she flipped him the bird and disappeared into her room. "Sweet dreams, agent Scully," he added in a low tone of voice and went into his own room to take a shower.

Fifteen minutes later, he stepped back into the room wearing nothing but a towel, his hair wet and combed back. With a sigh, he dropped down on the bed, not at all surprised that he wasn't the least bit tired. Slightly fatigued from the run, which however hadn't been half as long as he would usually have run, he switched the TV-set on and scooted back on the bed to watch until he fell asleep. As a matter of form, he opened the drawer of his night stand to check on his gun, a habit he somehow couldn't shake. With some confusion, he realized that the weapon wasn't in the holster.

"What the..." he mumbled and glanced around. Had he taken it out? He couldn't remember and that usually meant that he hadn't. With an annoyed growl, he got off the bed again and started searching the room.

Eventually he had to face the facts. His gun wasn't there any more. Standing in the middle of the room, his hands on his hips, he stared ahead of himself for a moment, frowning. A glance at his watch told him that he shouldn't go banging on Scully's door right now. It was past midnight and he knew how she hated being woken up for minor things like this. He decided to go to bed instead and take another look for the gun in the morning.

X X X

The following morning

Scully was about to put the finishing touches to her makeup when somebody banged on the door. "It's open," she called, taking a step backward in the bathroom to see who it was. Not that she actually had any doubts. When the door opened, she smiled. "Morning, Mulder. Couldn't wait any longer, could you?" she asked and took a step forward again to finish touching herself up.

Mulder appeared in the doorway to her bathroom, a frown on his face. "Scully, do you have your gun?"

The mascara brush slipped and she briefly had to correct the black dot that wasn't supposed to be there. Then she glanced at her partner. "My gun?" she asked, a little startled. "Yes, it's in the night stand. Why?"

He returned to the room and opened her night stand drawer. "Because mine's missing," he replied.

Scully forgot about her mascara and followed him into the room. "It's on the other side," she said, waving to the night stand near the window. "What do you mean, your gun is missing? Did you even bring it?"

"Yes, I brought it. I put it in my night stand. And now it's no longer there," he said, opened the drawer of the other night stand and straightened. "Neither is yours," he added, looking quizzically over at her.

Scully came around the bed and looked down at the empty holster. "There's got to be an explanation for that," she said, looking up to meet his eyes. "Hang on a minute. I'll just finish up and then we can go to breakfast and ask the others if they've got similar problems." With that, she returned to the bathroom, not overly concerned yet. She didn't want to be concerned. It was beyond her power of imagining that anybody would try to pull anything at an FBI-seminar.

X X X

They walked together over to the cafeteria, aware that nobody else was around because they were late. Scully didn't worry too much about the missing guns, but Mulder did. He was glancing around, trying to spot anything out of the ordinary. As they neared the cafeteria, a building with one wall of nothing but glass, he gazed in at the others already there and found it a little odd that they weren't moving too much. It suddenly hit him that something was utterly wrong with that scenario. "Scully, wait," he called out, but she had already opened the door and had stopped short.

A guy in a black ski-mask and black jumpsuit stood just inside the door, aiming an automatic riffle at her face. "Don't make any funny moves, pretty boy, or Red here gets it," he warned.

Mulder stood rooted to the ground, staring at the man, and knew he was serious. Slowly raising his hands, he stepped up beside Scully.

"Get inside, both of you," Ski-mask urged them. They were both ushered into the cafeteria and waved toward some free seats. "Sit down and relax. Nobody's gonna get hurt if you just take it easy," he said.

There were six other guys wearing the same outfit and carrying automatic riffles. Mulder noted their positions as he slowly sat down, trying to keep an eye on all of them at once.

"Twenty-nine down. One to go," Ski-mask hollered and closed the door again, re-assuming his previous position. "For our new arrivals, please observe complete silence and don't make any sudden moves. We're all a bit high-strung here and we really don't want to hurt anybody if we can avoid it. You should however be aware of that we will not hesitate to blow you all to kingdom come at the smallest sign of resistance," he added loud enough for everybody to hear.

Nobody made a sound. Mulder glanced at Scully, who in turn gave him a stern look. She knew what was going through his head right now and she would do her damndest to prevent him from going over the edge right now. "Don't even think of it," she mouthed at him.

Frowning, he pretended not to understand.

Two of the ski-masks got together and talked quietly. The acoustics of the room allowed those closest to them to overhear what they were talking about.

"Who's missing?" the guy at the door asked.

"A Jennifer Teal. Vern already checked her room and she's not there," the second guy replied.

"Shhh," the first one hissed. "No names, you moron."

Mulder listened without watching them. So, one of them was called Vern. Whoever that might be. And it didn't help much. But the second guy seemed to be a little slower than the rest. The weak link. Already cooking up a plan, Mulder briefly glanced over at the two men, then let his eyes drift over the cafeteria.

X X X

The leader of the terrorist group watched the latest arrivals with interest. He could tell that the guy was a crafty one and by the way he watched his surroundings, he also knew that this man would be trouble. He had already marked six of the other men among their hostages as being trouble-makers. They would all be stashed away from the others. In a secure area. Actually, he had already made up his mind that he was going to lock most of them up. The weakest would be the best hostages. The rest would be placed somewhere, where he could control them.

X X X

Mulder tried to make out who the leader was and found one guy standing in a secluded position near the entrance to the kitchen. The way he was watching the crowd made Mulder realize that he was the top honcho among these apes. Two of the others were not too bright. It was obvious by the looks in their eyes. One of them had to be Vern.

He glanced at Scully, with a vague nod indicating that one guy.

Scully glanced over at him, then back at Mulder with a frown. When she realized what he had in mind, she shook her head lightly, the look in her eyes alarmed. "No," she mouthed at him.

Mulder made a face, turned on his chair and gained eye contact with Ski-mask at the door. "Excuse me, but what the hell is going on here?" he demanded.

Ski-mask glanced over at the guy near the kitchen, confirming Mulder's suspicion that he was the leader, then raised his riffle. "Just shut up, okay? You don't wanna go shooting your mouth off," he advised Mulder.

Mulder ignored the warning and slowly rose, raising his hands in a deprecating gesture. "Come on. At least tell us what's going to happen to us," he said calmly, hoping that one of them would start talking. He took a hesitant step forward.

Ski-mask by the door stared at him, neither raising the riffle more, nor lowering it again. He again glanced over at his boss, took a step forward and hammered the butt of his riffle into Mulder's ribs. The unprovoked attack came as something of a surprise to Mulder and he wasn't at all prepared for it. The butt of the riffle connected squarely with the lower left edge of his rib cage, depriving him of his breath instantly. His knees gave in and he hit the floor, just barely bracing himself from falling on his face. Once he was down on all four, Ski-mask hammered the butt of the riffle against the back of his head, knocking him clean out.

Scully was out of her chair before she had a chance to think. But apparently the attacker didn't consider her a threat as she dropped down on her knees next to her downed partner, hoping to prevent any further attacks which might kill him.

Raising the riffle in one hand up over his head, Ski-mask backed up a few steps. "Ladies and Gentlemen," he said loudly. "Let's not repeat this incident. Please stay seated and keep your mouths shut," he advised them. "To answer this man's question, you will all be picked up in two hours time by some trucks. They will take you to a facility where you will stay until this situation has resolved itself. Hopefully to your benefit. If your government does not give in to our demands, I'm afraid we will have to kill some of you. Just to state an example of how serious we are." Looking around, he tried to spot any others who might decide to take a crack at talking them out of their agenda, but found that most of these people were strangely placid.

Scully let her fingers slip up behind Mulder's head and was appalled when her fingers came away bloody. Gingerly, she pulled out her handkerchief and pressed it hard against the wound, trying to stanch the bleeding. He would be in pain when he woke up again. That much was for sure.

X X X

Outside the cafeteria

Jennifer Teal watched the whole scene from a distance. Growling under her breath, she swore that she would do what she could to get all of them out unharmed. She crossed over to the cabins the furthest from the cafeteria and found an open window to crawl in through. Ripping the receiver of the phone off its cradle, she wasn't amazed to find that it was dead. "Fuck it," she growled and glanced around the room. With some surprise she found herself to be in Mulder's room. A cell phone. The man was bound to have a cell phone. She just hoped he didn't have it on him. Rooting through his things, she found the phone after a moment, flipped the lid open and quickly dialed a number. Withdrawing to the bathroom and a second escape route, she waited. "This is agent Teal, sir. We've got a situation here."

X X X

Inside the cafeteria

The leader of the group glanced at his watch, frowning. The trucks should have been there already. He shifted his weight from one foot to the other, squinting out the windows. Waving one of his men over, he briefly thanked whatever deity was watching over him that nobody else had made a fuzz for the past two hours. "Where the hell are the trucks?" he hissed at his counterpart. "You arranged it with Uzzo. Talk to me."

The second guy glanced toward the windows. "Uh... he promised me that... well... they'd be here."

"Yeah, well, they're not, are they, Vern?" he growled. "Go outside and see if you can spot them."

"What about the last agent?" Vern replied, looking nervous.

"To hell with her. She's probably taken off. It'll take a while before she gets to a phone. Move it, Vern."

Vern quickly moved over to the door, glanced back at his boss and opened it. "Oh shit," he hissed loud enough for everybody to hear it.

Ski-mask at the door grabbed him and hauled him back inside. "Shut up," he snarled. "What'd you see out there?"

"It's swarming with feds," Vern said nervously.

Ski-mask leaned a little sideways to get a look out the glass wall and his eyes widened. "God damn it," he grumbled. He had his orders if something like this were to happen. "Change of plan, folks," he said loudly. "One of your colleagues has gone and done something stupid and now we'll have to transfer you all down to the basement. If you would please all get up and move toward the stairs in an orderly fashion, we can avoid anybody getting shot in the process. Ladies first," he went on, waving his riffle toward the crowd. All the female agents with the exception of Scully got up. "You too, Red," he urged her.

Scully raised her eyes and stared at him. "I'm not leaving my partner," she snarled.

Ski-mask stared back at her, then shrugged. "Okay, you go down with him, then," he agreed.

Three of the other terrorists ushered the women downstairs while the three remaining kept a keen eye on the men. Then they ushered the men downstairs, at all times staying away from the windows.

Pete Cranston thought he would become a hero, when he tried to stay back and hide behind a table. Instead one of the terrorists blew him away.

"Nobody stays behind," Ski-mask said with a tragic tone of voice. "Move it, people. We don't have all day." Making sure he was basically covered, he stepped toward Scully and Mulder. "Come on, Red. Get up. We gotta get your partner downstairs," he said, grabbed a hold of Mulder's collar and simply dragged him along.

"Hey," Scully snapped, got up and hurried after them. "Watch it, will you? You've already given him a severe concussion." She knew even as she said it that the man didn't care.

Dragging the unconscious man through the door to the staircase, he stopped briefly to look at her. "Look, honey. If your bosses don't do as we say, we'll put him out of his misery first. How's that for a deal?" he said, sounding almost as if he was doing her a kindness.

Scully held her peace after that, wincing when Ski-mask dragged Mulder down the stairs, not paying any attention to whether or not he was hurting him. Once down at the foot of the stairs, he dragged Mulder into a big storage-room, which was empty apart from all her colleagues, and unceremoniously dumped him on the floor. Scully winced in sympathy at the hollow thud when Mulder's head hit the floor. She hurried to him and gently rolled him over on his side.

Frank Hastings put a calm hand on her shoulder for a second, then helped her drag Mulder carefully over to one wall where she sat down with his head in her lap. "How's he doing?" Hastings wanted to know in a low tone of voice as he sat down next to her.

"I'm not sure," she confessed, sounding pretty shook up.

Frank patted her shoulder. "Don't worry, Dana. From what I have heard of Fox Mulder, he'll pull through."

As if that had been the cue he had waited for, Mulder moved. Groaning in agony, he raised his hands to cover his face. "Oh God," he moaned.

Scully put a hand over his. "Take it easy, G-Man," she said quietly. "You've got a bit of a bump on the back of your head."

"And bruised ribs," he replied weakly and let his hands slip away from his face. Squinting up at her, he gave her a smile which left something to be desired, then glanced around. "Where are we?"

"Basement," Scully replied, glancing toward the door. "I think it might be a good idea if you got back on your feet as fast as possible, Mulder. These guys are insane," she added.

"I'm confused," he mumbled, looking up at her again.

"About what?" she asked and met his eyes.

"First you tell me to take it easy. Now you tell me to get up as fast as I can." With an effort, he sat up, wincing at the pain in his head. "I swear the next time I get a concussion, I'll die," he grumbled and leaned back against the wall. Pulling his knees up, he covered his face with his hands again, sighing.

Scully patted his shoulder, nervously glancing toward the door again. "I don't know what they have in mind for us, but they're off to a good start. They killed agent Cranston," she said quietly.

Mulder let his hands drop away and stared at her. "Cranston's dead?" he asked and she nodded. "How? Why?"

"He tried to stay behind and they shot him without even giving him a chance. They don't stop to ask any questions, Mulder. So, for God's sake, don't get any funny ideas. I think you were extremely lucky. That guy could have blown you away when you tried talking to him," she told him.

"Aw, damn it," Mulder grumbled. "Have they said anything about why they're doing this?"

"Not in so many words. After that guy decked you, he said that they would move us to somewhere else and that we would have to stay there until they got the replies they wanted. If not, they would start killing us one by one," she told him.

Rubbing his temples, Mulder leaned his head back against the wall and sighed. "But something went wrong, I guess," he replied.

"Yes. I'm not sure what, though. Something about the trucks not turning up and a change of plans. I think maybe it's because Jennifer alerted headquarters."

Mulder grinned. "That means we're virtually on our way out of here. What did they think they could do? I mean, this is an FBI seminar." Closing his eyes, he thought about how he could be sitting at home, watching television without a blistering headache and aching ribs. "I can't seem to go anywhere these days without getting hurt. Next time, I'm staying at home. And I don't care what anybody says."

Scully patted his arm. "I don't blame you, Mulder. I think I'll reconsider any participation in future as well."

"Hey, this is the first time something like this has happened," Hastings inserted. "We'll get out of here and everything will return to normal. And, trust me, this kind of thing won't happen again," he added.

Mulder leaned forward a bit, one hand pressed against the nap of his neck, and raised an eyebrow at Hastings. "This kind of thing happens all the time, Hastings. And there's nothing the brass can do about it. As long as someone as high up as Blevins can be dirty, I don't give much for security around seminars like this." With that said, he leaned back again and closed his eyes once more.

Hastings sighed. "You got a point there," he mumbled, not happy about it.

X X X

The cafeteria kitchen

The terrorists were spread out around the kitchen door, watching as the swat teams closed in. Their leader sighed. "Damn it, I knew we should have tried to find that bitch," he growled. "Now it all blows up in our faces." To make it clear to the swat teams that they would not hesitate to kill, they had put Cranston's body on a chair and placed him in full few of the approaching forces. So far, it had done little to hold them back.

"Uh... does that mean that we're not getting out of here now?" Vern asked, edging closer to his boss.

The man rolled his eyes and glanced over at Vern. "Man, you're sharp, huh?" Lashing out at him, he knocked Vern off his feet and got up. "Of course it means we're not getting out of here, you idiot. If you had arranged things differently with Uzzo, we might not be in this mess now. Fuck it," he snapped and kicked a cupboard angrily. "I'm not giving in without taking a few of those ass holes with me."

One of the others rose. "How about we start right now by blowing away the guy that Joe decked," he suggested in a low tone of voice, waving toward Ski-mask who had been standing by the door.

The leader eyed him for a moment. "You're trigger-happy, Buddy," he said, but was not opposed to the idea. "Sure. You do it. Joe, go down with him and keep an eye on the others. I don't want them making any fuzz when he drags that punk out of there," he added.

Buddy turned and strode toward the stairs leading to the basement, followed closely by Joe. "Hey, man. You're sure out for action, aren't ya?" Joe asked, catching up with him.

Buddy merely grumbled as he hurried down the steps.

X X X

The basement

Mulder grumbled angrily at the pounding in his head. This was not good. The others were keeping quiet, sitting there like lamb-chops ready to be eaten and it made him furious. They were supposed to be federal agents, trained to deal with situations like this. Maybe that was why these people had been sent to this seminar. To learn to act when necessary.

"Mulder, whatever you're thinking, forget it. We won't get out of here by making a fuzz," Scully told him quietly. "I feel as frustrated by this as you do. There's just nothing we can do. They've proven to be able to blow us away without a warning."

"Did I say anything?" he mumbled. "I didn't say anything."

"No, you don't have to say anything. I know what you're thinking. So, forget about it." She hooked her arm under his and leaned against him. "I just want us both to get out of this one alive. Okay?"

Nodding weakly, he patted her hand. "Okay. I'll be good," he promised her.

X X X

Buddy reached the base of the stairs before realizing that Joe wasn't the only one who had followed him down. Two of the others had come along as well. He briefly glanced at them, then strode over to the door leading into the storage room and pulled it open. Glancing around at the twenty-eight federal agents, he smiled behind his mask. Then his eyes settled on Mulder.

Joe pushed past him and stopped in front of Mulder. "On your feet, buddy," he said calmly.

Mulder stared up at him. "Why?" he wanted to know, a little taken aback.

Joe didn't much care for people who asked too many questions, so instead of answering that, he reached down and hauled Mulder to his feet. "Because it's time to say goodbye, pal," he told him. "You're bosses think they can get away with holing us up in here and... well... they can't. We're gonna show them. So, unless they want to have to account for twenty-nine dead federal agents, I guess they'd better get their heads out of their asses and get with the program. Don't you?"

It took a moment for Mulder to realize what Ski-mask meant by that. When he realized it, he swallowed hard, suddenly very much afraid.

Scully scrambled to her feet, her hands locking around Mulder's arm. "No," she said, shaking her head, staring at Joe.

Joe raised his gun and pressed it against her forehead. "Back off, Red, or we'll take you instead."

Mulder quickly disengaged his arm from Scully's grip and pushed her back. "Don't, Scully," he said. Looking into her eyes, seeing the fear there, he knew she wouldn't keep back on this one. "Hastings, make sure she doesn't do anything stupid," he said to the older man when he got up, too, and pushed Scully into his arms.

Hastings wrapped his arms around Scully, holding her back. "Don't worry," he said, his expression telling Mulder what he thought of this gesture.

Joe hauled Mulder toward the door, not giving him a second chance to say goodbye before he virtually threw him out the door.

X X X

Mulder hit the floor, barely preventing himself from falling on his face again. Wincing at the pain in his head, he tried to come to terms with the fact that he was going to die. Unless he could do something to prevent it. But there were four of them and that was too much for him. "Look, can't we talk about this? If you let me get in touch with whoever you want to talk to, I bet I could work something out," he suggested, raising his head to look up at Joe.

Joe's eyes narrowed for a moment, then he shook his head. "Sorry, pal. We've got our own ways of dealing with the brass," he replied. "Buddy, would you do the honors?"

Buddy nodded. "Sure," he replied and grabbed Mulder's shoulders from behind, hauling him back to his feet. He pushed him toward another door, leaving the others behind.

"Need any help?" Joe called after him.

"No, I've got it," Buddy replied.

Mulder stumbled through the door out into a cellar way leading to a staircase coming up outside the building. Certain that he could talk Buddy out of his hazardous plan, he knew he just had to gain eye contact with the man. But before he had a chance to turn around and take a look at him, he received a powerful shove in the back, which threw him off balance and made him hit the floor once more. Buddy jammed a knee against his back, keeping him down, and the cold steel of the muzzle of his gun pressed against the back of Mulder's neck.

Scared to death, Mulder swallowed. "Look, killing a federal officer is not something you want to do. You're gonna end up dead or in jail for the rest of your life," he spurted out.

"Yeah, well, they gotta catch me first," Buddy replied indifferently.

"And they will. You and your pals will be the subject of a man hunt of enormous proportions. You won't get away," Mulder snapped. He really didn't want to die right now.

Apparently the conviction in his voice had been stronger than he had hoped, because the pressure of the muzzle of the gun relented a little. Buddy stared down at this guy, his mind working overtime. He hadn't joined this group to end up in jail.

Mulder decided to try and use the leeway he had gained to talk some more and maybe save his behind in the process. "If you help get us out of here, I can promise you immunity," he said. "Just testify against the others and you'll stay out of jail."

Buddy thought that over for a minute, then sighed. "Sorry, pal. There's something called loyalty between thieves. And I live by that code."

X X X

Scully stood rigid in Hastings' arms, completely silent. She couldn't believe this was happening. This trip was supposed to be relaxing, fun even. She flinched visibly when a shot rang out and she lunged forward toward the door, trying to pull out of Hastings grip. "No," she snapped.

"Dana, I'm sorry," Hastings said, his arms still tightly around her. He didn't want her trying to do something silly. "It's never easy to lose a partner."

"He was my friend," she hissed and with a vicious movement ripped free of him. Grabbing the door handle, she tried to force the door open. "God damn it, he is my friend. I refused to believe that he's..." She stopped dead, pressing her forehead against the door. She couldn't even say it. Couldn't bring herself to realize that, just maybe, Mulder was gone for good. "No," she mouthed soundlessly at the door. "Please, no."

Hastings grabbed her shoulders and pulled her back again. "Dana, don't do this. He wouldn't want you to do this," he said quietly.

"What do you know about what he wants?" she snapped angrily, but made no attempt to pull free again. "What does anybody know about him anyway? Nobody has ever taken the time to get to know him."

X X X