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Chapter 1
Chapter 2
Chapter 3
Chapter 4
Chapter 5
Chapter 6
Chapter 7
Chapter 8
Chapter 9
Chapter 10
Chapter 11
Chapter 12
Chapter 13
Chapter 14
Chapter 15
Chapter 16
Chapter 17
Chapter 18
Chapter 19
Chapter 20

Faith and Dreams - REVIEW THIS STORY

Written by Valerie Jones
Last updated: 04/26/2007 02:10:46 AM

Chapter 8

Dana straightened unconsciously at Ororo’s side as she stepped into the mansion’s living room. It was filled to overflowing with people, and here and there Dana picked out a familiar face. The purple-haired Elizabeth was there, her distant, almost aloof demeanor unchanged from the last time they had met. She appeared to have acquired a large red tattoo across the right side of her face, and she stood with a man whose skin was, well, blue. Having met Dr. McCoy, Dana refused to make any judgment whatsoever about the source of his coloring. The woman Rogue was there as well, her expression quietly terrified as she clung to a tall white-haired man, and Jean stood beside her husband’s chair, her fingers twined with his. The rest were mostly unfamiliar, but they were all staring at her with the same keen expectation.

Dana cleared her throat. "He came through the surgery very well, all things considered. We managed to stop the internal bleeding." It had taken them several hours to find all of the lacerations where bone fragments from Remy’s broken ribs had pierced delicate tissues. "Unfortunately, there is still some concern about fluid buildup in his lungs which will require close observation for a while." She and Dr. McCoy would be watching him in shifts. Dr. McCoy had volunteered to take the first shift, leaving Dana with the responsibility for telling these people about Remy’s status.

"Will he be all right?" That was from a stern-looking man in a wheelchair that Dana immediately recognized as the leader of the group.

"It’s too early to say. His chances are good, though."

The man nodded. "Then we owe you our thanks, Agent Scully. Jean tells me that Remy would probably not still be with us were it not for you." Dana flushed and looked down, surprised by the man’s sincerity.

"Why would somebody do such a thing?"

Dana looked up to find Rogue staring at her, a thin line of moisture tracing down each cheek.

She sighed and looked over at Jean. The answer was simple, but she did not think it would make the actions any more understandable. "These people are vicious and brutal," she told Rogue. "A few months ago they released a swarm of bees carrying a new and virulent form of smallpox on school children-just to test the delivery system." There were expressions of horror around the room, and Dana nodded solemnly. "Twenty-four children died."

In the silence following her statement, Elizabeth stepped forward. "Professor, I think this was simply a form of payback," she said to the man in the wheelchair.

The man cocked an eyebrow. "For something that happened before?"

She nodded. "You know how well Remy does with authority figures. This Cancer Man is used to everyone being afraid of him." She pursed her lips. "I was in favor of killing him, but Gambit embarrassed him instead." Several sharp looks were directed her way at the casual mention of killing, but she ignored them.

The man she had referred to as the Professor nodded. "Considering our previous encounter with these men, I am inclined to believe your assessment." He looked around at the assembly. "But there is nothing to be done about it at this time." His gaze rested meaningfully on Logan, then moved on to Rogue. Dana surmised that those two were the most likely to do something rash.

"Can ah see him?" Rogue turned back toward Dana.

She shook her head. "No, not yet. His immune system is already weakened. It would be a risk to expose him to additional people." To Rogue’s disappointed expression, she added, "In a day or two, perhaps."

Rogue nodded and wrapped her arms more tightly about herself. The white-haired man placed a hand on her shoulder, and she glanced up at him briefly.

"Ororo." The Professor’s voice interrupted Dana’s curious observation of the couple. He had an amazing presence that commanded attention every time he spoke.

Ororo looked at him. "Yes, Charles?" Dana added the name to her growing list.

"Would you please show Agent Scully to one of the guest suites?" Dana glanced at him in surprise and was met with a small smile. "I’m sure you must be exhausted."

Dana had been pushing the ache away, until she had almost forgotten. But having suddenly been reminded, the last thirty-some hours seemed to settle on her shoulders like a lead weight. Her head hurt from the effort of keeping her mind clear and focused, and she was desperately thirsty. She nodded uncertainly. "Thank you."

Ororo gave her a sympathetic smile. "This way." She gestured for Dana to follow her.

Dana took a step in her direction, then paused. There was one question she needed an answer to, before she would be able to rest. She turned back to the Professor.

"Can I ask a question?"

He nodded. "Of course."

"Dr. McCoy... What is he?" She had worked beside him for six hours, determined to ignore the blatant strangeness in the interest of saving a life. She had a suspicion that she already knew the answer, but she wanted to hear these people admit to it.

The expressions around her varied from shocked and insulted to angry, but the Professor regarded her with stoic calmness. "He is a human being, Agent Scully. A mutant."

Dana nodded. "That’s what I thought." And it confirmed her belief that the range of these mutations were even more staggering than she’d originally conceived.

"Ya got a problem with mutants?" Dana turned sharply, surprised by the menacing growl. Logan was staring at her, his fists balled and his curling lip exposing over-long canines.

It was the fangs that got her. Dana forcibly suppressed a burst of laughter, afraid it might come out in hysterical peals. Dr. McCoy had far more impressive teeth than this Logan, but was a much more pleasant person.

"Only rude ones," she told the snarling visage, and then deliberately turned her back on him and walked after Ororo.

Lilandra Neramani tapped her fingers against her lips as she stared at the tactical display before her. A troubled frown marred her expression.

"They are aware of us, Empress," commented Tachiel Nan. He was Warlord of the Shi’ar Imperium and commander of their armed forces, second only to Lilandra herself. He was the most capable soldier she knew, and she trusted his judgment implicitly.

Because of that, she continued to watch the slow maneuvering of the newly arrived Racth’zai ships for several minutes before she contradicted him. "I don’t think so. I think they are preparing to assault the Earth."

Tachiel pointed to a cluster of numbered icons on the holographic display. Each icon on the display represented a ship or other large object in Earthspace, and most of the icons representing Racth’zai ships were arranged in similar clusters. "These are defensive formations, Empress."

Lilandra nodded. She had recognized that as well. "Yes, but they are turned toward Earth, I believe. They are not watching for attackers from outside this solar system."

Tachiel shook his head. "That makes no sense. Those gates of theirs resonate across galaxies-which is why we sent a ship to investigate in the first place. How could they not expect other species to notice?"

Lilandra didn’t answer him. She wasn’t yet ready to voice her private fears. Like all of her other advisors and commanders, Tachiel was thinking about these Racth’zai as if they were some lost remnant of the race that had nearly overwhelmed Chandilar so many centuries before. But Lilandra did not want to be that narrow minded. Historical record pointed to the galaxy from which the Racth’zai had sprung originally. The combined fleet that had been responsible for the extermination of their race had followed their path backwards until every planet that had been overcome by them had been seared into lifelessness. Lilandra knew how far the Racth’zai had traveled just to reach her own people. What frightened her was the fact that, in this other dimension, they had come to the Earth. She could draw no other conclusion except that they must have overcome each of the races on literally hundreds of inhabited planets that lay between Chandilar and here. Including the Shi’ar themselves.

Dana found a young man waiting outside her door when she opened it. He jumped away from the wall where he had been slouched and offered her a cheerful smile. He seemed young, eager, and entirely non-threatening. Which is probably why he got the job of playing chaperone. Dana had already gathered that she would not be allowed to wander around the lower levels without an escort.

"Good mornin’," the young man said. "Did ya sleep well?"

Dana regarded him in surprise, both for his sincere courtesy and his backwoods Kentucky accent. "Yes, thank you." She had slept soundly for ten hours until an insistent alarm dragged her back into consciousness. The alarm turned out to be connected to a complex computer system, and as soon as she turned the annoying noise off, she had been contacted by Dr. McCoy through an intercom. It was all a bit too Orwellian, in her opinion.

"Ah’m Sam Guthrie." The young man stuck out his hand.

Dana shook it obligingly. "Dana Scully."

"Nice ta meet ya. Are ya hungry? There’s plenty of breakfast."

Quietly mulling the events of the past few days, Dana followed her guide to the kitchen. The rich aroma of coffee assaulted her nose as she entered, mixed with the scent of frying bacon and the babble of several conversations in progress. People looked up as she entered, but did not seem perturbed. The general riot in the kitchen continued unabated.

Ororo rose from her seat at the kitchen table to greet Dana warmly. As she did so, Dr. McCoy walked into the room. His gait was strongly ape-like, and Dana wondered if he could drop to all fours to move quickly.

He gave her one of his toothy smiles. "Ah, Dr. Scully, you’re awake. Good."

"Dana, please." Now that she had adjusted to the idea that she was dealing with a very large, very blue monkey with a Ph.D. in biochemistry, she didn’t see any reason to be so formal.

He nodded, as if pleased by her reaction. "Call me Hank. Have you eaten?"

"She arrived hardly a moment before you." Ororo chided gently and pulled a chair away from the table, gesturing to Dana.

Dana moved to take it, but continued to watch Hank. "How is Remy?" She was surprised to see him away from the medlab.

His good cheer wilted a little. "Unchanged. Jean is watching him for the moment. I wanted to get something to eat-and find you."

Dana’s gut tightened instinctively. "Why?"

He frowned lightly and picked up a plate from the stack on the counter. "In all the excitement of your arrival yesterday, I forgot that we have some information about your partner that may shed some light on his whereabouts."

His whereabouts? A cold hand gripped her heart. "What do you mean? Mulder is dead."

Hank paused in the process of transferring a handful of bacon slices to his plate. "Possibly. I’m afraid I can’t give you any definite answers to that. But I do think I can postulate a theory about what happened to him."

Dana stared at him in dismay. Mulder was dead. She’d made the ID herself. She’d gone to the funeral and laid flowers on his coffin. He was dead.

Hank’s bushy brow creased in concern. "Perhaps I should show you."

Dana only nodded, not trusting herself to speak.

Hank led her down to the medlab, and then off into one of the areas she hadn’t seen. She stopped short in the doorway, staring at the body laid out on a high-tech examining table. She turned to Hank.

"I don’t understand."

He smiled briefly and laid a hand on her elbow. "Don’t worry. This isn’t your partner." He drew her toward the table.

Dana didn’t resist. Her thoughts tumbled around inside her head in a dizzying montage as she stared at the lifeless face of the man on the table. It was painful to stand there.

Finally, she forced her gaze away from the dead man. "If this isn’t Mulder, who is he?"

"Not who. What."

She gave him a baffled glance. "What?"

Hank nodded and moved to turn on the screen of a nearby computer. "This isn’t actually a human being, despite its appearance. It’s a SHIELD decoy." He waved to the screen, where a familiar image of tissue cells was displayed. "A construct made of real tissue. A clone, if you will."

Dana’s horror at seeing Mulder laid out on the table like that was quickly giving way to curiosity. She bent down to look more closely at the computer. "This is very advanced. I thought that cloning entire human bodies was still several years away."

Hank made a noncommittal sound. "Well, I think the greater question is why someone felt the need to leave this decoy at the crash site."

Dana froze as she remembered what Jean and Remy had told her, and the chain of reasoning fell into place in her head. Why would someone leave this... clone of Mulder at a remote crash site unless they thought that whoever found the wreckage would expect to find him there as well? But why would anyone think that?

She straightened slowly and stared at Hank. Why would anyone think that... unless Mulder was on the plane when it crashed?


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