Title: Dormito

Author: Starfleetofficer1

Summary: Mulder and Scully end up trapped in an intriguing and absurd 'dream world' while investigating the origins of the books Jumangi and Zathura.

Category: X-file

Rating: PG-13

Two weeks exclusive with VS16.

Spoilers: Seasons 1-7

Disclaimer: No copyright infringement intended.

MULDER'S CAR

GEORGETOWN, D.C

FRIDAY, MARCH 6, 2010

1900

It was finally quiet. That was the only thought that was running through Scully's brain as she sat in the slightly reclined passenger seat and stared out the window. The trees went by, Dave Matthews played on the iPod, and Mulder was for once not talking about weekend plans involving the investigation of a baseball found with high iridium content.

No, they were just relaxing. No plans. No 'adventure'. Just a quiet Saturday and Sunday. All to themselves. She sighed, and incurred Mulder's inquiring gaze. She smiled and said, "I'm looking forward to our break this weekend."

"Me too," he said, and reached over to take her hand. "I know we said we weren't going to make plans, but I think I have something you'll enjoy. It'll only take an hour—and you brought it up, after all."

Scully's eyebrow slightly quirked. "What?"

"It's a surprise. I want you to see it for yourself when you get there."

Visions of dinners and movies and perhaps a spa treatment danced in Scully's head. "When are we going?"

"Tomorrow morning, bright and early. We'll get it out of the way in case you don't like it. Then we'll have the rest of the day to do whatever.

Her hopeful expression fell. "How bright and early, Mulder? We've gotten up at five am for the past five days."

They had just wrapped up a complicated and strenuous case involving a kidnapped child. The girl had been held by a man claiming to be psychic. When things got ugly, Skinner had called them in and it was only by a stroke of luck or perhaps a miracle from God that they were able to rescue the child before the nutcase killed her. Seven hours ago, said nutcase watched as Mulder carried the little girl out of the basement where she was held. He had screamed that he would have revenge from beyond the grave. The paperwork that ensued just from Scully's interesting method of subduing the guy was enough to last seven hours. But at least he'd walk around the prison with his legs spread out like a cowboy for the rest of his life.

"We'll leave at 9. That'll give me enough time to run, and you enough time to sleep in."

She sighed. "How are you not exhausted?"

"From a psychological standpoint, it could be any number of things. Hyperactivity stemming from untreated ADHD, post traumatic stress disorder from childhood that instilled the habit of insomnia in my brain irrevocably, a genetic proclivity towards sleeping disorders, an exercise addiction that sets an internal clock within my cerebral cor—"

"Okay, okay, I won't ask again," Scully promised, and Mulder grinned at her.

He pulled into the driveway and they walked into the house. "I'm going to talk to my coordinator for the surprise tomorrow," Mulder said. "I'll make dinner when I'm done with the phone call—why don't you put your feet up and watch some TV?"

"Okay. I think there's a Hallmark movie on tonight."

As he turned away from her in the hallway, he rolled his eyes and hoped something would come up that would save him from another chick flick.

"Stop rolling your eyes at me, Mulder!" Scully called from the family room as he headed into the study. He gave a little chuckle. Playfully, she added, "And wipe that smirk off your face!"

He closed the door to the study, and pulled out his cell phone. In another few moments, a female voice answered. "Yes, Agent Mulder?"

"Just wanted to make sure everything was all set for tomorrow. We'll be there at 10 am."

"Everything's all set, we're ready for you. The kids are excited to meet two FBI agents. And we've scheduled an hour for you to explore what you wish."

"Great. Then I'll see you at 10 tomorrow morning."

"See you then. Goodbye, Agent Mulder."

"Have a nice evening." Mulder closed his phone, and smiled. Scully would love this. He knew she would.

ALLSBURG RESIDENCE

GIBSON ISLAND, MARYLAND

SATURDAY, MARCH 7, 2010

1000

"Please tell me you don't want to buy one of these houses," Scully said, mostly sarcastic, but there was a bit of fear that entered her voice when she saw that eager look on Mulder's face.

"I don't see a 'for sale' sign, Scully," he answered her as they walked up the gravel path that led to the mansion they were about to enter. "It's a little out of our price range, anyway." He caught her skeptical expression and tried to give her a reassuring look. "This'll be fun, Scully. Lighten up a little."

"I just don't want another ghost-chasing adventure, Mulder," Scully cautioned.

"Don't worry. Not a ghost in sight. At least, I don't think there are any here…"

Scully rolled her eyes, and surveyed the house in front of them.

The Colonial Style home was three stories, with a four-car-garage, turnaround driveway complete with a fountain in the center, a neatly manicured back yard, and toys scattered everywhere. A Big Wheel was parked in its own space, indicated by little white painted lines in the driveway next to a bike rack. A swingset was in the backyard, and a Power Wheels vehicle was parked in its own little space on the other end of the driveway. Someone's Razor scooter leaned against the steps leading to the front door, and Mulder stepped around it on his way up to the porch. The wrap-around porch was beautifully painted and well-manicured, with a swing and several rocking chairs. Mulder rang the doorbell, and a woman came to the door.

"You must be Agents Mulder and Scully," she greeted with a smile. "I'm Linda Allsburg. So pleased you found the place—it's a bit out of the way. Come in, come in," she said, and it was then that the tension was dropped. Even surrounded by the extravagance of the marble floor and antique furniture in the foyer, the golden chandelier hanging from a two-story-high ceiling, and the lack of a single dust particle in sight, they felt at home. With short gray hair and LL Bean duck boots on her feet, and jeans and a turtleneck with rolled-up sleeves, this woman gave no pretence.

"My children are still upstairs. As I explained, Chris is away on business, so you won't be able to speak with him. But everything's in the attic—you're free to take a look if you wish."

"Thank you, Mrs. Allsburg. Will the children want to join us up there? I'm sure they've gone through the items a bit more extensively—they can probably show us around."

"They'll join you for a little while, but they both have homework to do when they've finished showing you the basics. If you'll follow me upstairs, we can get you all to the attic." She smiled at Scully's expression as she put the two names together, and led the way up the stairs.

"Chris Allsburg? Mulder, how did you—" Scully began in a whisper, but Mulder shook his head with a smile, and indicated that she follow up the stairs.

Mrs. Allsburg stopped next to an intercom and spoke into it, "Greg, Anna, the FBI agents are here. We're in the hallway in front of the stairwell."

"Cool! We're coming!" a little boy's voice called through the speaker, and after a moment, two small children came around the corner and grinned in awe of the two agents.

The girl stepped forward first. "Hi, I'm Anna," she said, and extended her hand. "I'm in the second grade."

"It's very nice to meet you, Anna. I'm Dana," Scully said, shaking the girl's hand first. Mulder took his turn next, and smiled at her. She seemed to give him a knowing look…but shifted her gaze away from him after a moment.

"I'm Greg," the boy introduced, following his sister's lead. "I'm only in kindergarten."

"Well, that's alright, we all have to start somewhere," Mulder said with a smile, and shook the little boy's hand. Scully shook his hand next, and Anna took off for the next staircase.

"Come on, we have to get up to the attic so we can show you all the important stuff!"

"You two go ahead first—I'm going to brief my partner on exactly what's going on," Mulder said with a smile, and the kids took off. "This was a surprise, Mrs. Allsburg—as I explained on the phone, Scully is a huge fan of the movie Jumanji, and we recently saw Zathura on DVD." He turned to Scully. "I always thought it was a little odd that Mr. Allsburg, who had publicly stated he didn't like children prior to the birth of his first, Anna, would choose a career of writing children's books. When Jumanji came out it was a huge hit, and spawned a movie that brought in millions in profits. You mentioned when we saw Zathura that you wanted to know where the idea came from. Well, I think I may have found it."

Scully gave him a skeptical expression, but he kept going.

"Mr. Allsburg wrote Jumanji before either of his children were born, and yet showed an incredible insight into the child's psyche. When I read on the Internet that Alan, Mr. Allsburg's brother, had recently passed away," he gave a courteous nod to Mrs. Allsburg, "I was fairly certain I knew where the idea had come from."

"Alan had Downs Syndrome," Mrs. Allsburg said with a sad smile. "He was Chris's older brother. He was sixty when he passed."

"I'm sorry for your loss," Scully said politely.

"Thank you. He was really a loving, caring soul. In his obituary," Mrs. Allsburg continued, "Chris wrote that Alan loved stories—he used to make up stories that became the basis for many of Chris's books."

"And so I contacted Mrs. Allsburg," Mulder stated, "In the hopes that she might have some of the original copies of what Alan wrote down."

"He wrote down quite a lot. His personal effects are in our attic—the kids love to go up there and rummage through. The valuable articles are laminated and preserved. You're both welcome to go up and take a look at the original inspiration. But keep in mind, I only have an hour. Greg has hockey at 11 and Anna has some reading to do. They'll both need to come back downstairs after ten minutes or so—they've got to get a jump start on their homework before the afternoon gets crazy."

Mulder smiled. "Thank you for giving us this opportunity. We'll send the kids down in ten minutes."

"Yes, thank you very much, Mrs. Allsburg," Scully said with a smile. "We really appreciate it."

She nodded, and walked away. There was something about the way she looked at them just before she turned away…nah, it was nothing. Scully headed up the stairs.

The attic wasn't hard to find. A ladder extended from the third floor up to the small space where the children were already rummaging through an old-fashioned trunk.

"What you'll want to look at are these papers here," Anna said, setting them aside, "and a few other things in the trunk. The papers tell you the most about Uncle Alan, and all his great adventures."

Greg nodded his agreement. "Uncle Alan was really cool—you'll have a lot of fun up here. Anna and me, we stay up here for days!"

Anna laughed. "Not days, silly. You know we're usually back downstairs after an hour or so. Speaking of which, we should get going! We have homework. Bye, Agent Mulder. Bye, Agent Scully."

She rather abruptly grabbed her brother by the arm and dragged him out of the basement.

"Well, they behave rather oddly," Mulder commented, and turned to the trunk.

"Okay, let's have it," Scully said, standing over him with her hands on her hips.

Mulder looked up innocently. "What?"

"Why are we here? What do you think is in this trunk? Do the papers take us to another world? Is there some kind of a magic artifact in there? Or are we looking at one man's accounts of his own supernatural powers? What is it this time?"

Mulder stared at her blankly. "Scully, why would you think—"

"Oh, come on, Mulder. We drove an hour to get here on a Saturday. You must think there's something more important in this trunk than the inspiration for a movie I happen to enjoy."

"Two movies, and two books," he corrected. "And there may be something of interest to the X-files in here, you never know. I'm just here for the experience," he said with a smile.

She rolled her eyes and walked away a few steps. "Dammit, Mulder, I just wanted a nice, quiet, relaxing vacation, and now you're here rummaging through a dead man's trunk in search for some kind of…what, exactly? Just tell me, I guarantee you I won't be surprised."

He looked up from his search through the trunk, his eyes betraying a bit of insult. "I just wanted you to enjoy yourself. We've only got an hour anyway. What could happen in an hour?"

She shook her head, and walked over. She looked down at the trunk, and said, "It's nothing but a bunch of laminated papers, a bathing suit, and an old cardboard box."

Mulder was pushing some papers and clothing aside, to reveal the box at the bottom. "Here we go," he said with a grin, and pulled it out. "This is it, Scully. We've got an hour."

"Dormito?" She looked at it skeptically for a moment, and then it dawned on her. She chuckled, and shook her head. "No, Mulder. No. We're not going to play this board game to transport ourselves into another reality. Even if it would happen to work, this is one X-file that I just don't care about this weekend. I want to go home. I want to watch TV. I don't want to file another report!"

"No reports. Just this board," he pulled the board out of the box, and set some dice next to it, "And these dice. And some cards in this little slot. That's it. An hour, Scully. Please?"

"You actually think it's going to work? You dragged us all the way here so we could play a board game that you think is going to transport us to some kind of a secret reality that only Alan Allsburg knew about?"

"Well, in theory, if that was what I was really thinking, it wouldn't matter. No one would believe Alan anyway. It would make a great book, though. Maybe a movie." He smiled. "C'mon, Scully. One roll. If it doesn't instantly do anything, we'll call it quits and take off."

"I can't believe you, Mulder. You promised me no ghost chases."

"Do you see any ghosts?"

"It's an X-file! On the weekend!"

"It's just a board game. How could a board game pull you into some other dimension? If you don't believe in it, why would it hurt to try it out?"

"It would validate this quest you're on to royally screw up my weekends," Scully stated flatly.

Mulder looked down, at the game. He placed the die on top, and picked up the board, placing it neatly in the box. "Okay," he said quietly, and put the lid back on. As he put the box away, Scully sighed. He looked insulted. And he had gone through a lot of trouble to get here. An hour's drive, the arrangement of her getting to see Chris Allsburg's home, a writer she greatly admired…

Aw, screw it. "One roll," she said.

Mulder looked up, and a smile played at the corner of his lips. "You got it, G-woman," he said, and picked up the box again. He got the board out and handed her the dice. "Prettiest people go first."

She smirked, and rolled a three. She picked up a small metal piece that looked like a stick figure, and moved it three spaces. A card popped out of the little box in the center, and she picked it up, giving Mulder a slightly amused look. "Relax," she read aloud. "The card says 'relax.'"

Mulder shrugged. "Who knows what that means. My turn." Mulder rolled a five. "Ha," he said playfully, and moved his metal stick figure five spaces. He took the card that popped out. "The Final Frontier," he read, and grinned. He got up from his cross-legged position on the floor and ran to the attic window, drawing the curtains to one side. "Yes! Yes! Oh, Scully, look!"

Scully went to the window, and looked out. They were orbiting Jupiter. She rubbed the window, opened the window, stuck her hand out, and discovered that not only was it not a hologram on the window, but that the air was not being sucked out of the room. She backed away slowly. "Mulder…what…what is this?"

"This," he said with a grin, "Is Dormito."

ALLSBURG RESIDENCE

?

SATURDAY, MARCH 7, 2010

?

"Dormito," Mulder said as he followed Scully down the attic stairs. "To be dreaming. It's Latin." He held the box lid in his hands as he stepped down the front stairs into the foyer, right behind Scully. "Doesn't say where it was made, or the year of copyright. No toy company trademark. Wonder where they got it from…"

Scully opened the front door and looked out at the fantastic view of the solar system. Orbiting Jupiter, they could catch sight of some of Jupiter's moons. "Isn't it fantastic, Scully?" Mulder asked as he put the box down and stepped out onto the porch. "Come on," he said with a smile. "It's obviously safe. I'm not choking to death here."

She eyed him, and then stepped over the threshold. "How did you do it, Mulder? Where's the holographic generator? If I step off this porch, will I land on the Allsburg's front lawn?"

Mulder shrugged. "I don't know what happens if you step off, but I don't plan on it." He grabbed her hand and pulled her off, as she reluctantly complied. Together, they looked out at the starry, beautiful scenery. Mulder pulled her close to him. "Relax, Scully. It's a game."

"It's…ridiculous, is what it is. There's no way that game caused this."

"Why not?" Mulder asked. "The kids sure acted funny. Maybe they knew this was going to happen."

"Where did the kids go? Where did Mrs. Allsburg go?" Scully challenged.

"Where the rest of the planet went?" Mulder suggested. "Come on, let's roll again."

"No," Scully said firmly. "No way. This is…" she shook her head. "I don't know what this is, but I'm not playing into it."

Mulder looked confused. "Why? What could it hurt?"

"How do we get back? Do you even know? We should be working on that, not playing some stupid game!"

"In the books and the movies, the kids had to play the game to get back to normal. And because one player dropped out, the older version of the other player was stuck in the game forever. Remember that?"

"Yes," Scully said, "But this isn't a movie! This is some kind of…trick! This could be dangerous!"

"I doubt it," Mulder said skeptically. "Let's just try it. It can't hurt anything, can it?"

"It's keeping us here longer!" She argued.

"Or it could get us back faster," Mulder shot back.

They stared at each other in a silent face-off, each knowing that the other wasn't about to give. Finally, Mulder said, "The card said 'relax'. Have you ever thought that maybe it wanted to assure you that what was about to happen wasn't dangerous?"

Scully sighed. "Let's see what the next roll gives us. If it's nothing productive, then we start working on finding where the 'off' switch is."

Mulder grinned, and jogged back into the house. In another moment, both agents were in the family room with the board game on the pristine coffee table.

"Your roll, Scully," Mulder handed her the dice.

She rolled a three, and moved her piece. Then she took a card. Her eyebrow ascended her forehead as she read, "It says 'A plot.' What does that even mean?"

Mulder, again, shrugged, but before he could roll, they heard a bang at the front door.

"What do you think that is?" Scully asked cautiously, fingering her gun as she rose.

Mulder approached slowly, and said, "A plot, maybe?"

Scully shook her head as Mulder looked out the window. He looked back at her and grinned. "Just like the movie."

He opened the door, and there stood before them an astronaut in full gear. She flipped her visor and smiled as she stepped inside. Mulder closed the door behind her, and the astronaut worked on removing her helmet. "Could you give me a little help here?" they heard her voice from the microphone.

"Sure, what do you want us to do?" Mulder asked.

"Flip the red release on the back. Thanks. Okay, now go halfway down my back, on the side of the jet pack, there should be a yellow latch." After about three more minutes, she had the suit completely removed. She smiled at her hosts. "Hi, I'm Kari."

"I'm Mulder, and this is my partner Scully."

"FBI?" Kari asked as she shook their hands.

Mulder nodded. "How did you know?"

"I've been expecting you people for weeks. We've got a real problem on our hands. Huge case—could have interstellar implications. Want to sit down and discuss it?"

Scully eyed her carefully. "Where did you come from? What organization do you represent?"

Kari flashed a gracious smile in Scully's direction and pulled her ID out. "Commander Kari Fleinclock. I represent NASA's Interstellar Investigations Division. Spent fifteen years in the Navy, though—I know my way around an X-65."

"X-65? I'm sorry, I don't know what that is," Mulder said, but he couldn't conceal the excitement in his eyes.

Kari laughed. "You don't know what that is? Only the most famous interstellar Fighter Spacecraft available to the US Navy. NASA's #1 defense against aggressive alien species."

"I wasn't aware NASA had interstellar capabilities," Scully said dryly. "They can barely get enough funding for lights and running water."

Kari raised her eyebrows, and asked, "Just what year are you from?"

"2009," Mulder answered eagerly. "And what year is this?"

Kari groaned. "2109," she said, and shook her head. "The game finally sends someone qualified, but it sends them from 2009? This is ridiculous. Those bureaucrats! First they raise the taxes on Iridium fuel cells and now this?"

"Well, let us have a crack at the case. See if we can help out. I mean, the game told us you were the plot."

"It said nothing like that, Mulder. We got a card with 'a plot' written on it—that doesn't mean—"

"For someone who likes the books quite a lot, Scully, you don't seem to pick up on the clues," Mulder chided lightly, and led the way into the family room. "Let's talk about this case!"

Kari and Scully followed reluctantly. When they all sat down, Kari said, "I understand if you have no idea what's going on here. It's perfectly alright. I'll go find someone else who's been around in the last 100 years to see what's been developing over in Alpha Centauri."

They nodded, Mulder a bit more enthusiastically than Scully.

"Alpha Centauri was invaded fifty years ago by agents of the Black Teradon Fleet, known as the BTF in our language. The BTF's mission is to position themselves as peaceful guardians with superior capabilities to developing species, and then usurp the local governments and place the planet under their territory. Alpha Centuari A's orbiting planet Talapus was populated with an early-development species we've named the Talapians. They have their own language and were at about Earth's equivalent of the medieval ages when we discovered them. They're in NASA's interstellar territory. The BTF tried to move in and take Talapus, and we refused because of what we call the Prime Directive."

Scully sighed. "I think I've seen this Star Trek episode."

Kari smiled. "A lot of our terminology actually came from science fiction. Those working on the projects were very passionate about sci-fi, and so its terms populated our profession. But anyway, Talapus was under our territory and we have jurisdiction according to Milky Way Law to approach Talapus when they reach spaceflight. We were planning on asking them to join NASA. They may want to join another Earth space agency, and they are always free to do so. But under the BTF's rule, they would automatically become slaves of BTF agents."

"So this started some kind of interstellar incident?"

"Yes, twenty-five years ago, it exploded into an all-out war. President Geraldo declared that the United States of America was officially at war with the BTF. And we're backed by the European Union, South America, and Canada."

"You're saying that Earth hasn't united?"

Kari laughed. "Like that'll ever happen. But anyway, we're at war with the BTF, and President Lynn currently has an agenda to launch CIA forces into BTF territory to gather evidence. Recently, an agent's body was found orbiting Callisto—very close to here. It was clear he was dropped off by some mercenary or trader, but we couldn't use satellite imaging to track where the perpetrator came from. We assumed the BTF had killed him and dumped the body outside Callisto as a sign that they won't be fooled by our agents, but we noticed something distinctly…un-BTF-like.

"The BTF has no pictures. They work off of written word only. Their brains don't process pictures as ours do. They can't see the representation for the real thing. Therefore, when we found the NASA symbol carved into his chest, we assumed it wasn't their doing. The pathologist found that the symbol was the cause of death—the drawing created a deep cavity, resulting in massive loss of blood. It was determined, in fact, that it resulted from such force that it couldn't have been carved with humanoid hands. It had to have been from machinery."

"Have you investigated your factories, where you manufacture your ships? Check to see if any were broken into…that any machinery was beamed out?" Mulder asked.

Kari chuckled. "No 'beams,' Agent Mulder. Just plain, old grappling hooks. My ship's docked at the side of the house. You can see the logo is much too big to fit on one person's chest. And it's the standard logo for all NASA spacecraft. The smaller ones are painted on."

"Is there any chance that the BTF may have replicated your logo and is using it to access NASA space? Or that another nation on Earth has done the same thing, attempting to undermine your war efforts against the BTF?"

Kari nodded at Mulder's question. "Those are the possibilities we need to investigate. Efforts were already put forth to meet with Japanese Space Chancellor Gao, to no avail. And because Japan controls politics of the Asian Continental Space Program, the ACSP, no other country involved in the ACSP is willing to step forward and discuss the situation with us. So the Navy is about to send some Space SEALS into—Agent Scully, is something funny?"

"No," Scully said, covering her smirk with her hand as she leaned her elbow against her knee. "I'm finding this fascinating."

"I think she gets turned on by the prospect of Space SEALS," Mulder explained with a smirk of his own. "Continue, Commander."

"Kari, please," Kari said, which only made Scully's hidden smirk broaden. "Anyway, the Navy is about to send some Space SEALS into ACSP territory, hoping to uncover something incriminating so we can put all this to rest and have our battle out with the Japanese government. But the other option is that the BTF has indeed replicated our logo, and that is a much bigger problem. If they can replicate our logo, and copy our security signatures, they could masquerade one of their vessels as one of ours, and gain passage into the Sol System. So we're going into BTF territory to determine if they've magically developed the ability to draw pictures, or if they've stolen our stuff."

"Sounds exciting," Scully said, still smirking.

"It should be pretty exciting, yes. Now I have to get down to this house's basement to turn the engines on. We've got to get over to BTF territory and I need to check the fuel cell in this sucker and make sure we can warp."

"Have fun," Mulder said as Kari got up to go down to the basement. She found the basement door quickly and went down the stairs. When she was gone, Scully turned to Mulder. "You've got to be kidding me. Now I know you made this up, because only you could think of something so…"

"So what? So Star Trek and 24 combined?"

"Yes."

"But there are no terrorists involved, as far as I can see," Mulder complained. "So it's more like CSI than it is 24."

"Whatever."

"Are you still game?" Mulder asked with a grin.

Scully rolled her eyes, but Mulder could tell she wasn't truly pissed off. She seemed just as intrigued by this strange world as he did. "You roll."

Mulder rolled the dice, and moved his piece. He selected a card, and read, "'Speed up plot, please.'" Then he grinned. "That's exactly what I wanted, too. I totally do not want to spend six hours just getting to BTF territory and then another three days looking for our first—"

He was cut off by a lurching of the house. The coffee table slid away, the game dropping off of it and onto the floor. Scully clutched the couch, and Mulder tried to regain his balance, but it was no use. As the entire house shook, the agents were flung onto the floor. Objects flew everywhere. Trinkets were broken. A horrible racket from the kitchen told them that something large had fallen. And then suddenly, everything stopped.

Mulder looked up, and asked carefully, "You okay, Scully?"

Scully nodded. "You?"

"Fine. Where's the game?"

"In this pile of crap over here. I was watching it. No telling where our pieces went…or our dice."

"We'll have to look around for them," he said as he stood slowly.

Kari came up the stairs at that moment and grinned. "Sorry about the jolt, but we're here in BTF territory. And we're cloaked."

"The Allsburg's house is trashed—this is a disaster in here! I don't think I'm going to find the dice…"

"The game won't stay hidden for long. You need it to move forward," Kari said. "Besides, you don't have to roll for quite some time. Let's go infiltrate the BTF main communications headquarters and plant some listening devices."

Mulder and Scully both looked stunned. "You mean…we can just walk in and do that?" Scully asked. "Then what do you need us for? Why has the BTF not already been defeated in your war?"

Mulder looked at her in admiration. She was actually acknowledging the circumstances of the game. And she looked like she was into it.

Kari smiled. "That's where you two and the game come in. We needed someone who could speed up the process." She looked at Mulder. "Thank you."

Mulder shrugged. "I'm impatient as hell."

"Someone should stay here and guard the house. If I give you blueprints of the main base, can you two handle the infiltration?"

Mulder grinned at Scully, and then turned back to Kari. "Infiltration is our specialty."

"Wonderful. Who would've thought two FBI agents from 2009 would actually be helpful…" she pulled a small device from her pocket that looked rather like a palm pilot. "This is your blueprint generator, as well as a locator for the best places to put listening devices. The game should give you any data you might need."

"Do our weapons work here?" Scully asked.

"Well, there's one way to find out," Kari said. "Find something that won't ricochet a non-energy bullet."

"The house will reset itself like in the books, Scully," Mulder said at Scully's disapproving expression. "How else would Alan have been able to get away with going on these adventures?"

She still looked skeptical, and Mulder was feeling especially impatient, so he drew his gun and aimed it at the front staircase. A nice hole went right through the wood, and embedded itself in whatever was below the staircase.

"Mulder! You could've sent that bullet into a pipe—"

"Relax, Scully. Our weapons work. Now we know." He put his gun in its holster non-chalantly and walked toward the front door. "So are we gonna plant listening devices or what?"

She rolled her eyes. "I'm going to find the game first. If we get captured, I don't want to be stuck in some BTF prison cell with no way to move forward in the game."

"Probably a good call," Mulder muttered.

After only a few seconds, Scully found the dice and the game. The cards were concealed in a deck inside the plastic cover on top of the board, and Scully shook the board to be sure the cards hadn't fallen out. By the sound of it, they hadn't. The pieces were stuck on top of the game in their original places, and she stared at them in wonder. She tipped the board sideways and they stayed in the same place. "That's incredible…"

"Were they fused to the board somehow? Or did the game compensate—"

"The game makes sure no one can cheat," Kari said. "They'd be ejected if they did manage to cheat, but no one's ever done it. Come on, you both need to get going."

Mulder nodded in agreement, and led the way to the front door. A backpack that certainly wasn't in front of the door before was waiting for them there, and it was just the right size for the board. Scully stuck the board in and tossed the dice after it, and then zipped the bag. They drew their weapons, and covered either side of the front door.

"Let's do this," Mulder said with a grin, and Scully couldn't help a bit of a smile. She couldn't help but think that this was more fun than lounging in front of the TV. But she'd never admit it to Mulder.