Title: Paratio Parasitus

Author: Starfleetofficer1

Summary: Mulder and Scully investigate an unusual spike in deaths due to a brain-eating amoeba.

Category: X-file

Rating: PG-13

Two weeks exclusive with VS15.

Disclaimer: No copyright infringement intended. This version has been censored for the Virtual Season X posting on If you'd like to see the original version, please PM me. If enough people PM me, I'll post it on PINE KEY CAMPGROUND

EVERGLADES NATIONAL PARK, FL

SATURDAY, NOVEMBER 29th, 2007

1400

"Come on, Willie, wake up. Please, wake up, Willie. Please." Jed Kirsten hovered over his son in their tent, wiping his sweat-soaked brow with a dirty hand towel. The ten-year-old had a high fever, and had been suffering from a headache for the past three days. It was only after the third day and the fever spike that Jed realized he had to bring his son to an official campground.

The rifle was hidden inside Jed's sleeping bag, and Willie lay on top of his own. The boy was much too hot to cover up, Jed reasoned. He had undressed his son down to his boxer shorts to make him more comfortable in the 65º weather. The 80 humidity was what killed it—65 was remarkably chilly for these parts.

Gator hunting had been one of Jed's favorite activities since he was Willie's age, and since Willie's mother died, it had been a way to escape. So what if it was illegal? He had lived around the Everglades his entire life and he'd be damned if he let some stupid rules issued from a fat-ass behind a desk get in the way of his fun. And lately, the Gators had been spotted later and later in the year, as the temperatures got hotter.

But during this trip, while they hid from authorities in makeshift chickees and abandoned ground sites, Willie had taken ill. The headache, the fever, and now this…his little boy wouldn't wake up. He lay motionless on the sleeping bag, oblivious to the mosquitoes, humid, damp, and swampy air, and most of all, his father's pleas.

"Please, Willie," Jed begged, but got no response. "Don't make me go to the authorities…don't make me go to the god-damned park rangers, please, Willie, just wake up!"

He felt for a pulse, and found that there was none.

"Oh, sweet Jesus, no…" he breathed. He started pounding on Willie's chest. He didn't know CPR, but he knew some kind of compression might get things going again. Then he'd go to a ranger, he'd go to the police, he'd turn himself into the FBI if he had to—just as long as Willie woke up. He opened Willie's mouth and breathed into it, but nothing happened. He kept pounding on the little boy's chest until bruises formed, tears streaming down his cheeks and hitting his son's uncovered body. He collapsed onto the ten-year-old, sobbing uncontrollably.

XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX

J. EDGAR HOOVER BUILDING

WASHINGTON, D.C.

MONDAY, DECEMBER 7, 2007

0830

"No! I did not order a pizza-pattern 12-foot by 12-foot throw rug! I don't even have room for that kind of thing! What do I want you to do with it?" Mulder looked up, and saw Scully enter the office. "Take it back to whatever dollar store it came from!"

Scully raised an eyebrow, but Mulder didn't acknowledge her.

"I don't care if it came from an expensive furniture store—no, I'm not anywhere near my residence. I'm at work. You do realize you're calling at work? No, I know you have a job to do, and I know it isn't your fault, but take the damn thing back and read the name on the order."

There was a pause, and Mulder moved the phone so the receiver was up against his neck. "I'm on hold. You didn't order a pizza pattern throw rug, did you, Scully?"

Scully smirked. "Does it come with the pizza?"

Mulder shook his head. "No, it probably comes with fleas. Yes! Yes, I'm still here," he said into the phone. "No, it's definitely not alright with me if you leave it outside my door. Read me the name on the order. No—read me the name on the order. Mm-hmm. See, there's your problem. My name isn't Mudler, it's Mulder. There's a Frank Mudler living down the street—you probably got his house number and mine mixed up."

Scully's smirk didn't go away, much to Mulder's annoyance.

"Because I get his mail all the time!" Mulder yelled into the phone. "Look, if I get home, and that thing's sitting outside my door, I'm gonna lodge a formal complaint to your manager. Yeah, that's right. Take it down the street to Frank Mudler. Thank you. Goodbye." Mulder flipped his cell phone closed and put it in its holster. "My God, that took forever."

"How did they get your phone number?"

"Beats the hell out of me," he said, shaking his head in disgust. "It's probably on some practical joke list. Pizza throw rug. I've imagined more attractive things at a senior center."

Scully grinned, and said, "Watch it, Mulder, it won't be long before you're there."

"Ouch!" Mulder said, grabbing his chest just over his heart and gasping in mock pain. He walked over to Scully and pulled her into a sudden, passionate kiss. "Still think I'm old?" He asked when he was done.

She seemed to be contemplating her response. "Eh…getting there," she teased.

"You're so dead," he said playfully, and she quickly dodged him and went to her desk.

"Not at work, Mulder," she warned him.

"We've got no case file."

"We're still at work."

"Nowhere to go, nothing to do…" Mulder sat on his desk and twiddled his thumbs. "C'mon, we could easily shut the door and—"

"Agent Mulder? Agent Scully?" A familiar voice asked.

They both turned instantly, embarrassed to have been caught so completely off guard. "Yes, Sir," Mulder asked as Skinner walked in. He was carrying a folder.

"I have a case for you. It's actually more for Agent Scully." He handed her the folder, and she opened it and began looking at pictures. Mulder looked curiously between his partner and the A.D. "I'm sure you're aware of the amoeba that feeds on brain cells."

"It was discovered in the 1960s. There've only been a few cases of deaths due to the amoeba, but it enters through the nasal cavity and begins feeding on the brain," Scully said absently as she looked at the pictures.

Mulder looked like he was about to make a wise-crack about brain-sucking microscopic parasites, but Skinner stopped him before he could. "There have been fifteen cases in Florida in the past three weeks. They're beginning to wonder if something may have accelerated the amoeba's growth, to exit the Everglades and reach the surrounding area. Miami Dade police are especially concerned about the threat of rioting, once people realize what they may be at risk for. Because of your medical expertise, Scully, I'm assigning both of you to figure out what's accelerated the amoeba's growth. And Agent Mulder, I'm sure you can find something in the X-files that may shed some light on this…?"

The agent was slightly confused. "Sir…I have to admit, the brain-eating amoeba sounds like an X-file, but it's already been scientifically identified and scientists are currently looking for a way to kill it. While odd, the amoeba isn't unexplainable, and it isn't an X-file," Mulder said. "I think it's better suited for the Centers for Disease Control."

"The CDC looked it over and sent it to us…they're puzzled and apparently too busy," Skinner said, obviously annoyed with the CDC's disposition.

"No…Mulder, I think it is an X-file," Scully said. She showed him the photographs, and he shook his head. She realized he still didn't understand. "Four of the victims are doctors that treated the first few victims. Another three victims are nurses. They're all employees at hospitals in downtown Miami, where the victims were airlifted for treatment. They were all present when the time of death was called for the first victims…"

Comprehension washed over Mulder's face. "It wasn't contagious before, was it?"

"No, not like this. It's usually transmitted by water droplets, through the nose. When you're underwater, or when you get splashed in the face, you're at risk for contracting it. But otherwise, no. I think it's found a way to transmit itself directly to another host, using only air as a medium."

"But doesn't that imply higher-level reasoning?"

"No, not necessarily. But it does imply natural selection, and definite evolution. We might not even be looking at the same amoeba."

Skinner stopped them before they got any further. "So you think you can handle this?"

"Yes, Sir," Mulder said, answering for Scully only because he knew her response.

"Good. My…a good friend of mine was one of the victims," Skinner admitted.

Mulder realized at that point why the A.D. had been acting so nervous, so uneasy about this case. Now it made sense. "I'm sorry, Sir," he said.

Skinner nodded, and turned toward the door. "You should get to Florida as soon as possible," he said as he left.

Mulder glanced at Scully. "I hear Florida's nice this time of year."

Scully almost snorted. "Just the right temperature for brain-eating parasites."