Disclaimers: Any characters or situations from the show aren't mine, they belong the the 1013
consortium. As to the rest of it, any resemblance to any person, place or thing, whether living,
dead or undead, is all in your head, because I made them up. I also claim no knowledge of
anything techinical, medical, mechanical, logical or anything else ending in 'cal'.

Reposting: Anywhere, so long as I get all the credit.

Episode references in this part (For those of you who like that sort of thing): Fight the
Future, Field Trip, Monday, Home, Pilot, Aubrey, Blessing Way, Shadows, Squeeze, Pusher, Clyde
Bruckman's Final Repose, Drive, Requiem. All others cover multiple episodes.

Let the flames begin! Review

Oracle pt. 1

I had the strangest dream last night. I was sitting on my couch and heard a knock. When I
went to go answer the door Agent Scully was there. I remember asking her what was wrong and
she told me she was being transferred. I was devastated, telling her she couldn't quit and
that we were "on the verge." (On the verge of what?)

Scully said something snippy like she usually does, then her face softened. She told me that
she was just holding me back, that I didn't need her, that all she was meant to do was rein me
in and shut me down. (Isn't that what you think I'm doing to you?)

I remember getting indignant and telling her, "But you saved me. As-as difficult and as
frustrating as it's been sometimes, your god dammed strict rationalism and science have saved
me a thousand times over. You've kept me honest. You've made me a whole person. I owe you
everything; Scully, and you owe me nothing. I don't know if I want to do this alone. I don't
even know if I can." (That last bit seemed overly sentimental, and completely out of character
for me.)

Just then, the phone rang and woke me up. I pulled myself out of my covers and fumbled around
on my nightstand until I found the receiver.

"Yeah, this is John Doggett," I mumbled.

"You're not coming in to work today?" Agent Scully answered crisply. (Slacker, I could hear in
her voice.)

I pawed around on the nightstand for my watch, and cursed under my breath when I saw the time.

"Yeah, I'll be there in a few minutes, " I said to her.

"Are you sick? (Do you want a transfer?)"

"I'll be there." Can't wait to get rid of me, can you?

"Fine. (Damn it.) I'll have some coffee waiting for you. (I'll cover for your sorry ass, but
this is the last time.)"

I'll bet Agent Mulder got that tone day in and day out.

"Good bye, Agent Scully," I said in what I hoped was a polite tone.

I put the phone back in the cradle and reflected briefly on my dream and subsequent phone
conversation.

"Whole person, my ass," I announced to my nightstand as I walked off to the bathroom.

I had just finished getting dressed when the phone rang again.

"Change of plans," Agent Scully announced. "Pack a suitcase and meet me at the airport.
Aaair-Porrrrt. That's spelle T.) We've been assigned a new case (which is total
bullshit.) That's Trans Continental Airlines flight 507 to Omega, California. (You need me to
repeat that?) That's in the south -east terminal (if you aren't smart enough to find it
yourself). The flight leaves in three hours (that's this many fingers.)"

"I'll be there." Bite me, Scully.

She made a little noise that indicated she caught my tone and hung up. I smiled a little to
myself as I folded my socks neatly in my suitcase. Who says partners don't communicate? Hold
your horses,Scully, I'll be there soon and then we can build a tower of furniture.

I paused, holding one of my shirts in my hand. Where did that come from? I racked my brain,
and came up with training seminar. That must have been it, some cooperation seminar from when
I was still a rookie. I folded my shirt and put it in the suitcase. Strange the things you
remember.

I found the terminal easily, despite Agent Scully's apparent fears. She was standing next to a
post, looking frazzled. I was a little surprised; Agent Scully is usually so composed.

"You ever have one of those days?" she said by way of greeting.

Only since I've been working here. I glanced at the case folder she was holding and her look of
righteous indignation.

"The X Files aren't fulfilling for you anymore, Agent?"

She snorted and said, "Not ones like this," handing me the folder.

I skimmed it. "Thirty year old male, history of suicide attempts, burns to death at a party.
Coroner rules it a suicide, but the family insists it was spontaneous human combustion," I said.

I glanced up at Agent Scully. They can't be serious.

Scully exploded, "How could it not be suicide? The body was doused in enormous amounts of
gasoline, and the man's medical records show he was hospitalized for burn treatment after each
of his previous attempts." She took a deep breath, let it out in a sigh, and continued in a
long -suffering tone, "However,we have been assigned this case and we do need to go and
complete some semblance of an investigation." She looked up at me and said apologetically,
"I'm sorry to ruin your weekend with something this silly, but... (Sorry I snapped at you on
the phone. It's not your fault we got sent on this wild goose chase.)"

"That's all right, Agent," I answered dutifully.

Still, I couldn't keep from feeling impatient. I was assigned to find Agent Mulder, not go
chasing after lights in the sky. Or in this case, at a barbeque.

Agent Scully acknowledged my attempt at reassurance with an absentminded nod. I felt both pity
and respect for her. She spends every day trying to run things the way Agent Mulder would so
that the world will be the way he remembers when we find him. As if anything could be the same,
especially with their baby on the way. She must think I'm blind not to notice, but I can't
step in and offer to help (although I would like to), since she hasn't seen fit to confide in
me. She has Skinner to help her through this, of course, and probably some friends and family
I don't know about, but it makes me wonder what else I should know and what I have to do to
earn the trust it takes to learn it.

I watched the plane taxi toward us through the terminal window. One of the ticket takers threw
open the door and ran down the ramp before the plane was even up to the gate. Then there was a
commotion from the end of the terminal opposite the gate. "Agent," I said, getting Agent
Scully's attention.

A paramedic crew rushed by, bumping into me on the way to the ramp where our flight was
stopping. There were panicked passengers trying to fight their way out of the plane while the
medics were trying to fight their way in. Agent Scully took charge of the situation, flashing
her F.B.I. badge and pushing people out of the way of the team.

"I'm a medical doctor. Do you know what happened?"

"Some guy on board the plane had a heart attack," the younger of the two paramedics explained.

I followed in Agent Scully's wake down the ramp. "That wouldn't explain this kind of
hysteria..." I could hear her say faintly above the noise of the crowd.

The man was lying on his back in the attendant's station at the front of the plane and a woman
was leaning against the wall, sobbing uncontrollably. The attendants were lining the edges of
the station, trying to comfort the woman without touching the man. I guess she was his
girlfriend.

I kept the passengers moving while Agent Scully and the paramedics examined the man. One of
paramedics cursed and jumped back. Agent Scully leaned forward and examined the man more
closely.

"Agent Doggett," she said, motioning me over.

I looked at the man. He was dead, butI didn't see anything that would have gotten that kind of
reaction from a trained paramedic. Agent Scully motioned for me to touch the body, so I did.
The tissue was hard. The man had been turned to solid stone.

*********************************************************************************************

Agent Doggett stayed behind at the airport to question the man's girlfriend and secure us case
jurisdiction while I went with the body to the morgue. It took the help of the paramedics, the
flight attendants, and the ticket counter staff for me to lift the body and carry it to where
the ambulance was waiting. According to the identification we found in his wallet, the victim
was one Doctor Adam Gray of Omega, California, an employee at Danning Biotechnologies.

I scrubbed up while the paramedics were raising the body onto the autopsy table with a couple
of car jacks they managed to procure from god knows where. I requested that they leave the
jacks and watched them as they laughed and joked all the way out the door.

I looked from the autopsy tools to the body and back again. Yeah, that'll work, Mulder's
sardonic voice said from the back of my mind. God, I could almost see him... I bit my lip and
pushed the thought away. Then I pulled the mike down from the ceiling, took a deep breath, and
began.

"Autopsy performed by Agent Dana Scully on one Dr. Adam Gray, male, aged 39, weight," I took in
the sagging autopsy table, which was groaning ominously, "1,000 pounds in extremis. Body
tissue appears to be healthy, if solidified. Cause of solidification unknown, nothing else
notable about the exterior of the body." I paused and studied the body again. "I am unsure as
to whether the circular saw will work on this particular individual, or whether dynamite will
be necessary."

I went to go ask the attendant whether he had access to a diamond bladed chain saw. Behind me,
the autopsy table collapsed.

Doggett came by after I finished separating the body. He took in the collapsed table, the car
jacks and me attempting to haul the intestines back into the body in a single glance. \

"Find anything interesting, Agent?" he said.

Funny, Doggett. Then I looked up at his face and realized he wasn't kidding. I opened my
mouth, closed it, then gave myself a little shake and started speaking.

"All of the body's organs have been solidified. There appears to be no fluid in the body, but
that may have solidified as well. Mummification completely drains the body of fluid, but that
process takes months and leaves the body brittle, not hard as granite."

"Could this have been caused by exposure to a chemical of some sort?"

"The state of the body makes it next to impossible to run a toxicological."

Which should be completely obvious to you. I thought I saw a flicker of a smile cross his face.

"Why do you ask?" I said with a touch of impatience.

"Well, the company that Dr. Gray works at does develop medical he was
exposed to an experimental chemical during the course of his work that you are unaware of."

"It's possible," I said carefully, keeping my face neutral. There was a long pause, in which I
tried to read his expression. Failing at that, I asked, "So, you did get some information from
his girlfriend?"

"Her name is Michelle Laker. She waitresses at a restaurant near the facility. She and Dr.
Gray had been dating since college, and they were scheduled to make their connecting flight
from D.C. to Paris, where they were going to be married. He didn't tell her much about the
project he was assigned to, other than it was classified and he was in charge of looking after
the test subjects. Apparently it was one of the premiere projects at the facility, or at least
that's the way he told it." His tone was mild, a little cool perhaps?

"Did you get an account of Dr. Gray's death?" Like you were supposed to?

He gave me a look that I was able to identify as irritated (What do you think I've been doing?
Sightseeing?) and said, "She claims that he was complaining of muscle aches and having a little
trouble breathing. He got up to stretch his legs and then collapsed in the aisle. She went to
him, but he wasn't breathing, there was no pulse and the body was already cold."

"Already cold? But there would have to be residual heat..."

"Already cold. (Don't contradict me, I'm not the one who made the statement.) One of the
stewards moved him to the food station and had one of his coworkers inform the pilot while he
tried to perform CPR. He described the chest as harder and harder to move, until he couldn't
put any pressure on it at all."

"That's not possible," I insisted.

"Well, that's the way she and the airline people tell it, I interviewed them all separately and
they corroborate each other's stories," he irritation was more than obvious now.

I decided to avoid a confrontation with Doggett over his interviewing skills, took a breath,
and said, "Well, then, I suppose we should fly to Omega and question Dr. Gray's friends and
coworkers. See if they have any explanation for his death."

I placed the last of the organs I had been gathering up during our conversation back in the
body with a chunk and tried to shove the body back onto the car jacks.

"You don't have to secure it, Agent. It's not going anywhere," Doggett pointed out.

"Someone else may need the table," I countered.

Doggett looked at the ruined table with an expression I couldn't quite read (laughter?
disbelief? exasperation?), but he came forward and helped me push the body. We shoved the
jacks and the body on them over to one of the bottom freezers, leaving deep ruts in the
linoleum. Doggett opened the door, and we both pushed. The body slid into the freezer with a
dull smack and I closed the door.

We took the next flight to Omega, (Doggett had managed to get our luggage transferred to the
other flight while I got the tickets) rented a car, and got an appointment for the next day
with Dr. Thomas, the head of the project Dr. Gray was assigned to.

Doggett and I got adjoining rooms in one of the cheap motels I had become accustomed to during
my long assignment to the X Files. I managed to get into my pajamas and into bed without
falling asleep before I finished.

I had been under a great deal of stress the entire flight, since we had to fly through a
thunderstorm to get here. Doggett spent the whole time sleeping or thumbing through my autopsy
results without once acknowledging me. Mulder would have at least tried to comfort me or
engage me in conversation, if only for a few minutes. But then, Mulder knew that flying
bothered me and Doggett didn't. Still, the fact that I was gripping the armrests hard enough
for my knuckles to turn white should have been a sign.

Why is everything today reminding me of Mulder? Doggett had said, "I think we're here" when we
landed, but there was none of the Mulder's irony in his words; it was a simple statement of
fact. There must have been something else, something I couldn't put my finger on... Maybe I
just miss him. Even though I managed to fall asleep, I didn't dream. I couldn't.

"SCULLY!"
I sat bolt upright. There were loud banging and scraping sounds coming from Doggett's room. I
burst through the connecting door, gun in hand. Doggett was on the floor, tangled in his
covers. He was sound asleep, wrestling with some demon in his dream.

"WHERE IS SHE, YOU SON OF A BITCH!"

"Doggett!" I yelled as I shook him awake.

His eyes flew open and he took a swing at me, which I wasn't fast enough to duck. The punch
hit me square on the side of the face. I fell backwards and to the side, getting tangled in
the ends of the bed sheets and banging my head on the foot of the bed. I saw twin Doggetts
leaning over me, eyes blazing. Then he paused and looked confused, and the twin images became
one.

"Agent Scully? What..." His brow furrowed, then he sat back down and thought for a second.

I said a little dazedly, "I heard you through the wall. You were calling for me. I thought..."

"Calling for you?!" he responded, with an amusedly incredulous look. Then he noticed my gun on
the floor and the fact that we were both still partially tangled in the bed sheets and asked,
"Did I?" I nodded, touching the forming lump on the back of my head. With a troubled look he
said, "Sorry, I was having a nightmare."

"Do you remember what about?"

"No, I'm sorry, I don't." Then he noticed the bruise on the side of my cheek and said, "I'll
go get some ice for that." He disentangled himself, took the ice bucket and walked out.

Something in the back of my mind told me that he was lying about not remembering the dream's
contents. But why wouldn't he tell me? Perhaps there were issues in his dream that were too
personal to share. I realized I was unconsciously rubbing my belly, and stopped. He returned
with the bucket, wrapped the ice in a washcloth, and handed it to me.

"I apologize for that, Agent. It won't happen again."

I stood up and eyed him as he crawled self consciously back into bed. "You really don't
remember what happened in your dream," I said, more a statement than a question.

He shook his head slowly and said earnestly, "No, I don't. Why is it so important to you?"

I looked at the ridges and bumps in the cheaply made wash cloth, then looked up at Doggett.
"Mulder once told me that a dream is an answer to a question that we haven't yet learned how to
ask. I was just wondering if your nightmare had a deeper source that needs looking into."

He gave me a small smile (You subscribe to that theory, Agent Scully?) and said, "No, I don't
think so. Some people just have crazy dreams and it doesn't mean anything more than that. I'm
one of those people. I don't have any questions that need answers ... OR answers that need
questioning," he added as an afterthought. I wanted to press it, but then he said politely but
decidedly, "Good night, Agent," and I knew it would do no good.

I answered, "Good night, Agent Doggett" and went back to my room with the washcloth.

********************************************************************************************
Agent Scully and I had our meeting with Dr. Thomas the next day. I was still a little shaken
up about Agent Scully finding out about my dreams, but I decided I wasn't going to let it show.
We can't let our personal lives interfere with the investigation.

The facility wasn't difficult to find, it had a large sign and resembled a cross between a barn
and an upside down pyramid. According to the manager of the hotel we were staying at, Omega
had been a ghost town until Danning decided to set up shop. Now, 90% of the town's revenue
came from it. We were given precise instructions to Dr. Thomas' office by a friendly security
guard, and the doctor came bursting out to greet us before his secretary could open her mouth.

"Agents Doggett and Scully, right? Welcome to Danning Biotechnologies." He escorted us into a
bright, sparsely decorated office. Degrees and awards covered the walls, and the only
furniture in the room consisted of two chairs covered with some sort of blue felt and a large
desk containing several folders and a state of the art computer. "Have a seat. Can I get you
anything?" the doctor beamed.

Agent Scully seemed a bit flabbergasted by the doctor's enthusiasm; she could only manage a
"thank you, nothing."

I suppressed the impulse to request a bowl of Lucky Charms from the small, cheerful man in the
green lab coat and took over the interrogation. "We're here investigating the death of Dr.
Gray..."

"Tragic business, that," the doctor jumped in, seating himself on the edge of his desk. "He
was like a son to me, and like a brother to every individual who had the pleasure to work with
him. No one feels his loss more deeply than I."

"His girlfriend?" Agent Scully muttered softly. Meeoww! Wow, Scully.

"Michelle," the doctor said with a nod. Evidently, he had heard Agent Scully's comment. "She
and Adam have been together since junior year of college. They were supposed to get married in
Europe."

I asked, "He discussed his wedding plans with you?"

"Of course! I already told you he was like my own flesh and blood. He wanted me to come to
the wedding, but I was much too busy for that. I did leave my gift to them at the house though.
We've been having problems with our most important project. Oh, nothing to worry about. We
have the most qualified medical specialists and technicians in the country."

"What exactly is this project?" Agent Scully asked.

"The exact nature of the project is not available to company outsiders, espionage, you know,
but I can tell you that it had to do with fighting some of the more prevalent diseases of the
modern era."

I asked, "Would Dr. Gray have tried to sell the research to another company?"

"Oh, no. Adam was one of our most loyal employees, a really gifted man. He'd never dream of
going to work for anyone else. He knew that no other company could give him access to the kind
of resources he had right here. " He then smiled broadly and asked, "Will there be anything
else?"

Agent Scully asked, "May we see Dr. Gray's office before we leave?"

"We would also like to speak to some of Dr. Gray's coworkers," I added.

"Of course you can. His office is right down the hall, and I'll inform the rest of the team to
be as cooperative as possible," the doctor beamed.

Scully went out, and I turned just as I was going out the door and asked, "Do you think this
project had anything to do with Dr. Gray's death?"

The doctor looked startled, then said, "Well, I don't think so. Adam was well liked by
everyone. I can't imagine who would want to hurt him. We emphasize teamwork; everyone here
gets equal credit. It's more like a family than a job, really."

"Thank you, Doctor," I said walking out and shutting the door behind me. Before the
sentimentality makes me nauseous. Agent Scully was waiting out in the hall. "I expected
someone so talkative would be more informative," I said.
The corners of Agent Scully's mouth turned up, and she led the way down the hall to Dr. Gray's
office.

Dr. Gray's office looked very much like Dr. Thomas', except for the names on the awards hanging
on the wall and the woman in the picture on his desk. There was no computer sitting on the
desk, and the drawers were unlocked and empty.

"They took all the material relating to Dr. Gray's work before we got here. They must have
done it last night right after you called to set up the appointment," Agent Scully commented.

I nodded and leaned on the desk with one hand while thumbing through the Rolodex set neatly
above the telephone with the other. Aside from Michelle Laker, the rest of the names were of
coworkers. I suddenly got the idea of checking Dr. Gray's messages and picked up the notepad
on the desk, but it was brand new. I glanced over the side of the desk to the garbage can.
Empty. Agent Scully took the pad from me carefully and started making a list of people that we
wanted to question. I placed both my palms on the desk and leaned on it. I had a mental
picture of me opening the middle drawer of a desk mine yet not mine and sticking a computer
disk to the top...It's a good hiding place. I opened the middle drawer and felt along the top.
I was only half surprised when I pulled out a small notebook. "Agent," I said, holding it up.

She came over and took the book from me. "It's a feeding schedule," she said, glancing through
it.

"Of course. Dr. Gray was in charge of the test animals for the experiment," I said.

She looked up at me, eyes glittering. "How many scientists feed their test animals pepperoni
pizza from Little Nero's?" she asked, handing the schedule to me.

"What?" I demanded, taking the notebook and thumbing through it.

Agent Scully pointed to the entry, and said, "The feeding schedule goes back two years. If
they're experimenting on humans, it's our duty to investigate and put a stop to it."

I nodded, but held up a cautionary hand. "We have to be careful. It's a good bet that no one
will take kindly to our investigating," I said.

"There's got to be someone connected to the project that knows about and feels sorry for this
person or persons. We just find who they are and ask them to help us," she insisted.

Sure, easy as pie. "How do we know who to talk to or trust on this?"

"Well, we can start by questioning Dr. Gray's coworkers." She marched out straight and tall, a
woman on a mission. I slipped the schedule into the inside pocket of my suit jacket and
followed her.

We talked to all the names on the Rolodex, but no one had anything to say other than how
wonderful Dr. Gray was and how much he would be missed and that no, they couldn't talk about
the project because we were not company employees. A few of them fished for information on
what Dr. Thomas had told us about the project. I obliged them with hints that we were told the
project was meant to cure Alzheimer's with one doctor, cancer with another, AIDS with a third,
and they all jumped to agree with "Dr. Thomas'" in each case. Agent Scully was giving me the
oddest looks throughout the interrogations, as though she couldn't quite believe I was capable
of lying. I don't lie. I willfully participate in a campaign of misinformation. For some
reason, I couldn't quite suppress a soft laugh with that thought, which I managed to disguise
as a cough. Agent Scully looked as though she didn't know whether to pat my back or flee in
terror. I managed to suppress the second laugh I felt bubbling up. The last thing I need
right now is to betray my cool exterior while I'm interviewing potential witnesses. Although
it would be fun to watch Scully flee in terror...

There was one, a younger doctor, who was more cooperative and not as secretive as the others.
He must have been one of those geniuses you hear about on the news who graduate with a
bachelor's degree when they're in their teens; he couldn't have been more than 25. He admitted
that the project did have test animals, but he didn't work with them directly, only studied the
tissue samples he was given. He couldn't give us any specifics about what chemicals or drugs
were being used to treat the tissue, if any, or how well they seemed to be working. I felt
sorry for the kid; he did genuinely seem to want to help. Not fake friendly like the other
doctors. Eventually a guard came and told us that our visitor's permit was expiring and that
we would have to leave the facility. I wanted to protest, but Agent Scully stepped in between
us and guided me away.

I spent the whole time back to the motel thinking about how Agent Scully and I were going to
talk our way back into the facility. It was the classic catch 22: we needed to get back in for
more information, but we needed more information to get back in. From Agent Scully's
expression, she was having as much trouble focusing on the task at hand as I was. I took a
nice cold shower and checked my cell phone messages. Michelle had called several times begging
for news, so we went to the restaurant where she worked for dinner.

It was quite a nice place. I took the feeding schedule out of my pocket and thumbed through it
while we waited for Michelle to take our order. When she arrived, we told her that we were
still investigating but we thought that Dr. Gray's death might have something to do with his
work and promised to keep her updated. After Michelle left, I sat quietly and watched Agent
Scully put sugar into her ice tea and stir it.

"We spent all day at that facility and don't know much more than what we came in with. Either
the doctors don't have any idea or really don't care what happened to Dr. Gray."

"Or they do know and aren't telling," Agent Scully added. Then she said, "Agent Doggett," and
pointed to something behind me.

I recognized the man she was pointing at as the young helpful doctor that we had talked to
earlier that day. He took a bag from the carry out window, noticed us staring, and took a
quick look around before coming over to us.

"It wasn't an accident; Oracle did him in. That's all I know."

He started to go, but I grabbed his sleeve and asked, "What's Oracle?"

"One of the test animals. Whatever they're taking tissue from. The feeding schedule," he said,
pointing to the notebook I had left sitting on the table, "I get the stuff on it. I saw Dr.
Bradshaw taking a chicken sandwich I brought back one day into the area where the test animals
are." Off our looks, he insisted, "No food goes in there that's not for the animals. Dr.
Thomas keeps strict regs on things like that. I haven't ever been in there, I can't tell you
what exactly this thing is, but I've never seen anything like the tissue samples they gave me."

"Never?" Agent Scully asked curiously.

I broke in, "How do you know that this Oracle murdered the doctor?"

"It turned him to stone, didn't it? Nothing human could do that. Adam got stuck looking after
it because all the other doctors are afraid of it. They must have a reason, right?"

"Do you know how the creature, if that's indeed what caused this, could turn someone to stone?"
Agent Scully asked.

"I don't know. It must be pretty vicious, they keep it drugged."

This could be our chance. I glanced at Agent Scully, who nodded. "We need you to get us in
there," I said.

"They'll kill me if they find out I helped you," he said.

"They can't just..." Agent Scully said.

"They can! They can do whatever they want to keep it from escaping. They need it."

"For what?" Agent Scully pressed.

"The project. The tissue, it heals..." His eyes shifted around nervously. "I've got to go."

"Hey!" I said, tightening my grip.

"If I'm gone too long they'll know something's up! I'll call you if I find a way to help." He
wiggled out of my grasp and was out the door before I could blink.

"Well?" I asked Agent Scully.

"I guess we wait," she replied.

Doggett and I waited in my room for word from the young doctor. The air conditioning in the
room was broken, and it hissed as it struggled to put out cool air. I sat on the bed and
managed to connect the young man's face to the name Matthew Dunbar after thumbing through the
names we took from the rolodex.

Doggett collapsed in one of the chairs next to the small table where the remains of my morning
coffee had left a ring. He was sitting partly in the shadows, but I could still see the dark
circles under his eyes. I was fairly certain that last night's nightmare had not been the
first, but I didn't want to broach the subject, having been decidedly given the brush off last
night. I had managed to cover the bruise on my cheek up with makeup this morning but most of
it had sweated off during the day and I could see the dark blotch clearly on my cheek in the
mirror, even from across the room. We must have looked like escapees from a bar brawl. Very
professional. I could see Skinner in my mind's eye sitting behind his desk wearing his best
"Why do I even bother?" face, with Mulder lounging splay legged in the chair next to me,
feigning nonchalance as I tried to make another lame excuse or bizarre theory sound remotely
plausible. I stifled a yawn and glanced at Doggett, who was almost asleep.

Speaking of bizarre theories... "How did you know where the notebook would be?" I asked.

He jumped slightly, then looked up at me with tired eyes. "I don't know, it just seemed like a
logical place to hide something like that," he mumbled.

"A logical place."

"Mmhm." I thought he had fallen asleep, but then he pricked up a little bit and asked me, "You
don't really believe that kid, do you? You know, the whole business about some sort of
biogenetically enhanced creature putting the whammy on the doctor."

The whammy? "Whether it's a human being or some sort of creature, as Dr. Dunbar seems to think,
I can't even begin to explain how it could turn doctors to stone or produce strange healing
tissue samples," I said.

"Kind of shakes your faith in science sometimes, doesn't it?" Doggett said, musingly. He was
so tired it didn't even sound like his voice.

The phone rang, distracting me from my thoughts. I leaned back to answer it. "Scully."

"South entrance. I'll show you the way, but I'm not going in there," Dr. Dunbar said.

I hung up. "We got it," I announced to Doggett.

We parked the car a safe distance from the building and walked in on foot. I could see by the
light of the moon, but just barely. Dr. Dunbar was right where he said he would be. Even
though it had a fresh fa├žade, it was obviously a much older portion of the building than any of
the offices or labs we had visited earlier that day. The "south entrance" was nothing more
than a door held shut by a rusted chain and ancient padlock. Dr. Dunbar pulled out an ancient
looking key and managed to force the lock open. He then proceeded to take us down a flight of
stairs and through long halls with open doors and checkered linoleum through double doors to a
large open section that looked like the converted remains of an old warehouse. Only the
equipment was new. Everything else was older, but well kept up. There was a steel door on the
opposite end of the room with a code lock. There appeared to be some sort of archaic alarm
system wired to the door that could also be activated by a button. The door was labeled, "Test
animals. Hazardous, will bite. Authorized personnel only. Special diet, no food or drinks
allowed."

"The code is 2462," Dunbar said. I was curious to know where he had learned it, but it wasn't
really relevant to the task at hand. Then he handed us a radio with only a slight bit of
hesitation. "Call me if you need help," he said, while taking up position at the door. Doggett
nodded his thanks before punching in the code and stepping inside.

Behind the door was a dimly lit hallway, containing nothing but a large plate of plexiglass at
the end. The walls were brick, and the floor was concrete. The whole impression was very much
like an institution for the criminally insane. We approached the glass cautiously.

"The monkeys aren't rabid, despite what the sign says," a voice said from inside the cell.

I came a little closer. I wasn't sure what I was expecting, but it certainly wasn't a teenage
girl of about 16 or 17, leaning nonchalantly against the far wall. She looked malnourished and
dirty, but her eyes were bright and alert, with a hint of mischief and abundant good humor.
She had extensive scarring on her arms; I couldn't determine whether she was abused or whether
the injuries were self -inflicted. Now that we had found the object of our search, I was
suddenly at a loss for what to say.

"Your name and your quest will do," the girl said. "You can add your favorite color if you
want, it's not necessary." She was odd, most likely from the conditions and lack of human
contact.

I decided to play it safe and said slowly, "I'm Dana Scully, this is John Doggett. We're here
to help you."

She cocked her head and asked, "Is it Agent Doctor Scully or Doctor Agent Scully?"

I blinked and asked, "How did you know we were from the FBI?"

"You mean, how did I know about the FBI, after living so long in the box?" she said with a
laugh. "Word gets around. It's just Scully then, I guess," she said with a slight smile.
"And Agent Doggett. You have a very interesting aura," she continued matter of factly. His
eyebrows looked like they were going to emigrate from his scalp. I could feel mine doing the
same, since she seemed a lot happier than I would have expected. "It's not living, it's
getting by with what I have. But I've adapted," she explained.

I was torn between reminding myself that the girl was a potential murder suspect and the
motherly impulse to set her free. I asked, "Did you know Dr. Gray?"

"Mmhm. I'm sorry he's dead, I hated his guts but I didn't mean to kill him."

Doggett said, "So it was you."

"It wasn't an intentional thing! Tissue's a gift, anyone can take it and be okay. I'm self
repairing. Take sample, synthesize tissue, slap on wound, adheres and heals. Make lots of
money." So that was the tissue Dr. Dunbar had mentioned. "But blood, have some of that and
you can't go back," she said seriously.

"Dr. Gray gave himself a transfusion of your blood to repair an injury and died from it?" I
asked.

"Can you prove any of this?" Doggett interjected, half to me, half to the girl.

"Of course," she responded.

"Absolutely," I answered at the same time. I was convinced of the girl's innocence, and asked,
"Is there a key?"

"You only need a key if you have a lock, and you only have a lock if you expect to let it out,"
she said wryly. Then the girl's head came up like a dog on a scent. "The doctors are coming.
Not even Wyatt Earp out there can hold them off forever. Better get out of Dodge."

"Agent Scully! Agent Doggett!" Dr. Dunbar came bursting in. "The doctors, they're all
coming..." Then he stopped and gawked at the girl.

"Let's go," Doggett said, dragging Dr. Dunbar and I with him. Doggett stopped and said, "We'll
be back," as he pushed us out the door.

"I know you will. I can see the future," she said, sounding eerily like the Stupendous Yappi.
From the grin on her face, I could see that this was her intent. She was trying to be light,
but I could see the haunted look in her eyes.

Dr. Dunbar took us back across the lab to a door opposite the one we had come in. He led us
into a hallway in more disrepair than the one we had come up and shushed us. We left the door
open a crack and could hear the doctors enter. They were engaged in animated conversation, and
we waited until the noise died. Doggett pushed the door open further, and motioned us out. We
were almost to the opposite door when it swung open and another doctor entered, holding a
hygienically wrapped needle. We both stared at each other for a moment, then he took off
towards the test animals door. Doggett chased him and tacked him, but not before the doctor
could hit the alarm button on the wall next to the door.

That damned thing went off like a three alarm fire. I could hear the doctors scrambling back
up the stairs; shoes squeaking like a herd of rats.

I punched the doctor out and snarled, "Help me," as I jumped up and tried to push one of the
lab tables heavy with equipment against the door. Dunbar and Agent Scully jumped forward and
shoved the table up under the door handle as I futilely tried to silence the alarm. I gave up
on that idea (the wires were imbedded in the wall, and I couldn't pull the switch out to get at
them or shut it off), and I pulled out my gun and shot at the lock. The bullet ricocheted off
the box, and we all hit the deck. "Shit," I said.

"No time," Dunbar yelled, and we headed for the door. He led the way back upstairs towards the
south entrance, and we burst outside right into the entire god damned security force. The guy
in charge (he was easily the burliest man I had ever seen), bashed me upside the head with the
butt of his rifle and took my gun from its holster. I tasted blood and saw white points of
ight as I crumpled to the ground. The guy smashed me again on the back of the head and I was
out cold.

I dreamed. Not a story, not an event, but fragments of images, words, feelings. ...they took
everything from me..."Was it worth it?..." For what? To what end? When does the cost become
too high? ... "Was it worth it?..." When is it time to atone for the mistakes you've made with
your life?... "Was it worth it?..." "Is it worth sacrificing everything to save one life out of
billions?" "I guess that depends on the life..." "Was it worth it?..." The pain, the emptiness,
to finally find that one moment of grace only to sacrifice two minutes later..."Was it worth
it?..." and you won't even be around to remember how god damned selfless you were... "Was it
worth it?..." "I'll let you know..."

I saw gray haze and smelled dust when I woke up. Someone was prodding the back of my head. I
made some sort of noise that sounded like a cross between Chewbacca from Star Wars and someone
strangling a cockatiel.

"Sorry," I heard Agent Scully say. I tried to sit up, but since my head felt like it was going
to explode I changed my mind. I managed to turn over just enough to look up at her. There
were some nasty looking cuts on her neck, her hair was matted and her legs were skinned all the
way up the front, but I couldn't see anything offhand that would prevent her from walking out
of here. I could see Dunbar asleep against the wall out of the corner of my eye, holding his
arm. He looked like someone had run over his head. "Broken arm, broken nose, but he didn't
get a concussion."

"I was going to ask about you," I said, letting my eyes flick down to her belly.

"I'm fine," she said, her face screwing up the tiniest bit.

Bullshit. "Agent Scully," I said calmly, "I need to know how badly you're injured, if you're
capable of making it out of here on your own steam. If you can't make it, now is the time to
tell me, so we can plan around it."

She didn't say anything, just stared off across the room at nothing. "I'm fine." She looked a
little irritated that her catch all phrase wasn't working on me.

I sighed and changed tactics. "How am I doing? Can you see what's left of my brain?" trying
to make a little joke out of it.

She straightened up as much as she could and made an attempt to sound professional and in
control. "You had a concussion. You need to take it easy. (I know you won't listen, but it
doesn't hurt to try)," her undertone accused me.

"Agent Scully," I said firmly, pulling myself up onto my left arm. She met my gaze with
admirable control of her emotions. "Are we physically capable of leaving here?" I asked,
putting emphasis on every word.

She looked slightly taken aback and said, "I wouldn't recommend it..."

"But could we?" I insisted.

"Yes," she said softly, allowing the worry to leak through just a bit.

I knew I had no right to be harsh; she was worried about our condition and chances for escape
and I got the feeling that somehow this was making her miss Agent Mulder all over again.
"Agent," I started to apologize.

"Don't. I'm fine," she said. Are you? But I couldn't find the voice to say it.

I tried to get a better view of our surroundings, but a large table with a long sheet draped
over it was in my way. "Where are we?" I asked.

"Some sort of old quarantine area," she answered. I closed my eyes and thought. "Agent
Doggett?" she said with some concern. I opened my eyes. She thought I was relapsing into my
concussion.

"Just thinking," I said mildly. I closed my eyes and thought some more. Then I started to get
an inkling of an idea. "Is there an oxygen tank in here?" I asked finally.

She pulled herself up by the edge of the table and looked. Her knees were in worse shape than
I had originally thought. "As a matter of fact, there is."

"Any air in it?"

Her feet disappeared as she limped around the table. "Yes," her voice said from the corner.

I started to get excited. "Is there a blunt object, like a wrench or pipe or anything like
that?"

"I'm sitting on it, some kind of hammer with no head," Dunbar said groggily from his place
against the wall. He pulled it out, and Agent Scully came over and took it.

"I'll help you move the tank over to the door," I said, attempting to stand up.

"Actually, I can think of someplace better to put it," Agent Scully said, with a slight
mischievous spark in her blue eyes. The table I was attempting to support myself on moved. I
wiggled it again and looked down. A gurney? I checked the straps and buckles. They were
still good.

"Brilliant," I said with a grin. Dunbar caught on too, because he got to his feet and helped
Agent Scully and I drag the tank over and set it on top of the gurney.

We strapped the tank to the gurney, rolled it over to what Agent Doggett decided was a good
starting position and cleared a path between it and the door. We then locked the wheels in a
straight line, and I supported Doggett while Dr. Dunbar gave the gauge at the end a few sharp
strokes. The end broke, and our battering ram flew straight and true into the door, putting a
large hole in the wall and the wall beyond it. The man assigned to guard us had been asleep,
and had been so startled by the noise that I had no trouble taking his gun and escorting him to
the broom closet.

We managed to find a door that led to a staircase. I would have preferred an elevator, since
according to the sign we were in subbasement 3. We must have been quite a sight, a small red
haired woman with injured knees and a man who looked like a lab experiment gone wrong
supporting a much taller man whose head was flopping every which way as he attempted to
alleviate the migraines caused by our motion.

We made it up to level one and back to the lab. We opened the door to the test animal room
cautiously, keeping one eye on the alarm. Dunbar gasped suddenly, and I nearly dropped my half
of Doggett. Dr. Bradshaw was lying across one of the steps, fast asleep with a contented smile
on his face. In fact, all of the doctors associated with the project were there, including a
few I hadn't seen before, sprawled out over every square inch of the hallway floor and sleeping
soundly. The girl was also passed out inside her cell, but judging from her color and ragged
breaths, she was resting anything but comfortably. Her arm had been dragged out through the
slot for the food tray and the tips of her fingers were still peeking through the slot.

"We have to get her out of here," I hissed.

"Ventilation shaft," Doggett suggested, pointing to the vent inside the girl's cell.

"Too small. Can't pull anything through the light fixtures either, it's too narrow. Cutter?"
Dunbar suggested, indicating the glass.

"Too loud and would take too long. Also, no room," Doggett said.

I looked at the bolts holding the pane of plexiglass in place. They had a groove cut in the
middle... "Screwdriver," I said.

The men looked at each other, then at me, and nodded. "One with power," Doggett suggested.

"Handyman's closet," Dunbar said, as he went off to look.

Dunbar soon returned, and we stepped lightly over Dr. Bradshaw as we descended into the room.
I had taken off my shoes before I entered, and I managed to step lightly around the sleeping
forms. Doggett's feet were larger than mine, so he had to choose his steps more carefully.
One of the doctors in front of him moved suddenly and Doggett would have fallen on top of the
one behind if his shoulder hadn't struck the wall. Dunbar looked as though he was going to
have a nervous fit. I shushed him, and motioned him over to the right side of the panel.
Doggett managed to remove his foot from in between one doctor's arm and another's back and took
the left side of the panel. He was still a little uncoordinated, but I couldn't worry about
that right then.

I stuck the tool on the end of one of the bolts and started the motor. It sounded impossibly
loud in the small space, but not one of the doctors stirred. I slowly and carefully turned it,
and the bolt popped out. I managed to catch it before it hit the floor after some frantic
scrambling. Doggett was giving me the evil eye, Dunbar looked like he wanted to dive across
the floor and shake me. I placed the bolt in my pocket and started on the next. By the time I
was done with the right side, the doctors had become more restless. I managed to tiptoe around
to the left side, tripping over a few doctors who grunted complaints in their sleep and almost
falling into Doggett. A few moments later, the doctors I had tripped over began to make
motions of waking up. I looked at them, the girl, and the tool. Silence be damned. I went as
fast as the tool would work, and the doctors began to get quite restless. Doggett snarled
something, and Dunbar started making frantic motions with his hands but put them back up
against the glass in time to keep the plate from crashing to the ground. When I had finished
with the last bolt and taken off the steel stripping, the two men lowered the plate enough for
me to slip in between it and the wall.

The girl had lost a lot of blood, but her eyes fluttered open when I touched her.

"We're getting you out of here," I said gently.

"Can't leave, they need me," she said.

"No talking," I admonished, helping her to stand up and slip past the glass. I followed her,
and managed to catch Doggett's half of the glass as he caught the fainting girl and guided her
gently to the ground. He then jumped forward and helped Dunbar and I guide the glass back up
to a standing position. Then Dunbar slid around me and picked up the girl. I put my arm
around Doggett, and we both tiptoed out back around the doctors.

The girl was mumbling, "Too late, can't go, they can't live without me..."

We smuggled her out of the lab and placed her in the back seat with Dunbar while I took the
wheel. Doggett, as dizzy as he was, had no complaint. I had just started the car when I saw
headlights coming right for us.

"Go!" Doggett yelled.

I put the car into gear and pressed the pedal all the way to the floor. We came flying around
the building, tires squealing and the car fishtailing wildly. We went barreling through the
front driveway and crashing though the security fence, kicking up an enormous cloud of dust. I
swung a hard right onto the road, hitting a pothole and causing the girl to scream. I took a
glance in the rear view mirror. She was writhing, and Dunbar was doing his best to keep her
from hurting herself.

"Seizure," I said.

Security was still after us. We kept driving, and I thanked God for FBI hot pursuit driving
school. We reached the crest of a hill, and saw a police road block waiting for us with guns
drawn. Security had obviously called in the theft. I wanted to stop and just explain
everything to local law enforcement, but by that time the girl would be dead from blood loss or
the seizures or both. I cursed and pulled a fast 180, leaving a tire skid in the road, and
took off in the opposite direction, pulling onto the shoulder to avoid the Danning security
trucks that were now inches from my front bumper. The girl's screams intensified. I pushed
the pedal back down to the floor. We passed the lab again, and kept driving. After what
seemed like hours but was really only a few minutes, she let out one particularly violent
scream and lay still.

"Is she..." Doggett asked. Visions of the side of her head exploding flew through my brain.

"No. Passed out from the pain," Dunbar said.

Finally, I saw a hospital sign and took the turn. The police and security weren't far behind.
Everything that happened after I pulled up is a blur. I remember pulling out my ID and shoving
it in the face of the nearest cop, while the hospital staff came out and bustled the girl
inside the building. Danning security, of course, insisted that we stole documents, but when a
search of the car turned up nothing there was nothing more for them to say. Doggett, Dunbar
and I gave a full statement about what we had witnessed and insisted that the doctors be
arrested. After yelling at the top of my lungs and giving the same statement several times to
different officials, my voice was hoarse and I was very tired. Doggett came out with his head
bandaged and a cup of coffee. He offered to escort me inside, but I informed him that I could
make it on my own.

"You did a good thing today, Agent Scully," he called.

I turned and looked at him. His eyes were so full of pride that I was speechless. Then he
gave me a little shrug and went back over to chat with some of the officers.

The nurses bandaged my legs and offered to let us stay and watch over the girl. Doggett and
Dunbar were both all right, but the girl needed several blood transfusions before she was
declared stable. There were a variety of unidentified synthetic chemicals in her bloodstream
that also had to be neutralized. I stayed right by her side, and awoke to find myself in a
chair next to her bed. The maternal instincts are awakening, I thought as I glanced down at my
belly. I think you'd make a great mother, Scully, Mulder's voice said inside my mind.

"Agent Scully." One of the detectives from last night motioned me out into the hall.

"What did you find?" I asked.

He scratched his head and said, "Well, we found plenty of evidence, all right, but we couldn't
find anything concrete to prove that the owners of Danning Biotech knew that the doctors were
experimenting on humans. So, as of this moment, we have plenty of evidence but no one to
convict."

"What do you mean? You have the doctors, don't you?"

"Well, that's just it. See, we found the doctors, but they were all dead. Bodies are all hard
as a rock, never seen anything like it." My blood ran cold. The detective continued, "We
figure there must have been someone else involved, covering up evidence. But, since we can't
find any record of anyone else or even prove there was a murder, all we can do is bury them and
move on." The detective started fidgeting under my stunned stare. "I'm really sorry. Hope
social services can find that girl a home real soon. Good day, Agent Scully." He turned and
walked down the hall.

The girl was awake in the room, watching the entire interaction through the open door. "What
happened out there?" I asked her.

"When my blood is consumed, the life force of the person who drinks it joins with mine. The
drinker doesn't age, and is impervious to damage, because they are feeding off my life like a
parasite with a host. The drinker needs to keep taking blood in order to maintain the
connection. Dr. Gray invited his friends to share in his gift, which meant that my force was
spread thinner and thinner and the individuals receiving had to keep closer and closer to me to
maintain the connection. When Dr. Gray went to get married, the connection was strained to
the breaking point. If you think of blood as life, and since he has no life of his own stored
in his body anymore, when the umbilical snapped all of the substances in his veins became
non -life. That's why the bodies appear to have turned to stone; because stone isn't a living
thing." She stopped and looked out the window. I came and sat on the edge of the bed. She
looked at me with tears in her eyes and said, "I don't know if my freedom was worth the price I
had to pay. All those people... I tried to hold onto them..."

"Is there anything you could have done to stop them from doing what they did? Anything you
could have done differently, knowing what you know now?" The girl thought, then shook her head.
I continued, "You couldn't have kept them all alive forever. Eventually that Life Force would
have been spread thin enough that you all would have died. I know how it feels, to see someone
hurt because of something you did or didn't do." Mulder being taken up into the spaceship...
It should have been me that went... I swallowed and continued, "I will have to live with the
decisions I made for the rest of my life, but I know that no matter how terrible any situation
seems, some good always comes out of it." She nodded and gave my arm a little squeeze in
sympathy. I stood up and went to the door. Then I started and said, "Forgive me, I just
realized I never got your name."

"What, my birth name? I'm not really sure. I've been bounced from institution to institution
since I was born. All I know about my parents is that they told them I was stillborn so they
wouldn't come looking for me. One of the others took to calling me Oracle, and the name
stuck."

"What others?"

"The other kids. You didn't think I was the only one, did you?"