The Number of the Beast [X-Files]

Title – The Number of the Beast
Authors – Flywoman, Jennifer-Oksana and Nascent
Rating – PG-13 (language, adult situations)
Category – XH
Spoilers – through Emily
Keywords – Mulder/Scully
Summary – When Mulder and Scully start hearing voices, “just another
X-File” takes on a whole new meaning.

STORY:

Tierney Residence

San Diego, California

10:57 PM

“Damn this thing straight to hell!” James Tierney yelled at his
brand-new Gateway 3000. It would not bring up his report for work, and he
had to have it for an eight am meeting. He’d tried everything he knew to
bring up the file, but every time, the thing smugly told him: FILE NOT
FOUND.

“Daddy?” a little voice asked. James whipped his head around to see
his eleven-year-old daughter, Rebecca, looking at him– no. Her big green
eyes were staring at the computer, eyes filled with longing.

“What is it, Becks?” James asked, and the computer beeped again,
informing

James that not only was the file not found, his _open_ file was now
unreadable trash. “Dammit again!”

“Are you busy with the computer?” she asked. “I wanna check my email.”

“Becks, you’ve checked it three times today!” James snapped. Rebecca’s
face crumpled. “Honey, I’m sorry, but Daddy’s having a really hard time
with the computer tonight.”

“Could I help?” Rebecca asked hopefully. “Maybe I know something.”

For a second, James wanted to yell and send her back to bed, but she
had a pathetic little puppy dog smile on her face, and he was about to
have to redo the whole report anyway, so what the hell?

“Okay, hon, but I don’t think–”

Rebecca bolted past him and attached fingers to keyboard. For an
eleven-year-old, she typed like she’d had thirty years experience. He
wondered how much time her mother was letting her spend on the internet
when Rebecca stayed with her, and made a mental note to discuss it with
her. James could barely see her fingers, but he could hear them, pounding
away like machine gun fire.

“What’s the file called?” Rebecca asked.

“KRCReport,” James replied. He looked curiously at the screen. It didn’t
look right. All sorts of windows were popping up, and it was making
some interesting sounds to counterpoint Rebecca’s thunderous typing.

“KRCReport?” Rebecca asked vaguely. “Okay, let me see, no, no–there we
go. Is this it?”

James rubbed his eyes in disbelief. There was no way in Hell she could
have– but he bent down, and it was.

“Thank you, Jesus,” he murmured. “Becks, you’re a lifesaver. Can we
print this out, and save it to disk?”

“Of course, Daddy. What about the thing you’re working on here?”

James didn’t know whether to scream or laugh. There, in perfect order,
was his open file. “Print that, too, Becks. What are you, Dr. Computer?”

“Oh, Daddy, it’s not that hard. You just have to be patient and learn
the tricks,” Rebecca replied. “So I can do my email and stuff, right?”

“Sure, sure, just be in bed at a decent hour, you don’t want your mom
after me, do you?” James said, grinning fondly at his daughter as the
whole report printed out neatly, without one bit of trouble. He gathered
his papers, and called goodnight to Rebecca, who didn’t answer. She
was already busy on whatever internet business she had.

Two hours later, James was walking down the hall to get a glass of water
when he saw the familiar sickly glow from the computer. He peeked in,
and Rebecca was still sitting there, tapping up a storm.

“Rebecca Mae Tierney!” he whispered. “It’s one in the morning, what are
you still doing up?”

“I’m almost done, Daddy!” she replied, eyes still on the screen. James
stomped into the office, and took her hands off the keyboard. “What
are you doing?”

“March yourself to bed, young lady. Whatever you were doing can
wait–”

“Daddy, no, just five more minutes, please!” Rebecca pleaded.

“No. Now get to bed before I have to get mean,” James said. Rebecca
looked at him with frustration.

“But Daddy–”

“Don’t make me count to three, Rebecca.”

Rebecca made a despairing little sound. “All right, Daddy. Can I at
least log out?”

“No.”

“But–”

“One–”

Rebecca made another sound, and scurried off to bed. James sat down,
and shook his head. “She’s addicted to this stuff. It’s nuts. I’m going to
have to break her of it–”

One of her windows was blinking– an Instant Message from Natasha.

James clicked on it.

<<<<<<<>

James groaned and typed in a message. <<<<<<<> He sent the message, and almost instantly,
a response came.

<<<<<<<>

<<<<<<<>

<<<<<<<>

<<<<<<<> James clicked off the little program and
resolutely started closing all the programs when the little box clicked up
again.

<<<<<<<>

James sighed and disconnected the modem, and tried to close the little
box. It wouldn’t close. He clicked it again and again.

“Damn, must be frozen,” he whispered, and hit CTRL-ALT-DEL…

There wasn’t a large electrical zap, or a lot of screaming. Just a little
smoke as James Tierney fell over, eyes bulging. He was quite clearly
dead.

The little message box changed. <<<<<<<>

“And _that_ is a teaser death!” the Writer cried, grinning at his
handiwork.

“Cue music–”

—————————————–

San Diego

11:04 a.m.

“So, Mulder,” Scully said archly, watching her partner as he drove.
“Even though you woke me up this morning telling me we had a case,
then drove me to the airport and sat next to me on the plane for five
hours, you still haven’t told me what it’s about. Why are we here?”

Mulder grinned fondly at her. “What can I say? I love suspense,” he
confessed. “But we’re almost at the crime scene, so I’ll tell you
now.”

“Thanks.”

“James Tierney died around 1 a.m. last night, apparently by
electrocution. He was found by his eleven-year-old daughter almost
immediately after the incident, and she called 911. But here’s the odd
thing: the electrocution appeared to be caused by his computer.”

“Was he installing new hardware or something?”

“Nope. Just typing, or so it appears. And the electrical burns begin
on his fingers and extend up his forearms, as if his two hands completed
a circuit.”

“Mulder, that doesn’t make any electrical sense. I hope you’re not
suggesting that he practices Yogic flying, because otherwise, he was
electrically grounded. Burns, maybe, but completed a circuit? No.”

>From out of the ether, a whiny, irritated Voice suddenly spoke. “Oh,
great. She’s already getting technical.”

Startled, Scully and Mulder looked at each other, then at the upholstered
Taurus ceiling, then over and around the dash. But no one was there.

Meanwhile, the Writer performed the same, hesitant check of his own
surroundings. Nothing.

He shook his head to clear it, then forged nervously onward.

“Well,” Mulder said, “whatever happened to James Tierney has also happened
to others.”

“Others?”

“There’ve been fourteen deaths across the country in the last two
weeks, internet junkies, mostly. Even though the computers were many
different brands, the deaths were ruled accidental computer malfunction,
and are being investigated, but I think there’s more to it than that.”

“Computer malfunction?” Scully asked. “Wouldn’t there have been panicked
news reports about that, factory recalls, that sort of thing?”

The Writer winced. How was he going to get around this?

“You’d think so, wouldn’t you?” Mulder said enigmatically.

Good comeback, the Writer though, patting himself on the back.

Scully assumed an irritated expression and began to speak, but just
then they pulled up in front of the Tierney residence, a suburban ranch
house with a red tile roof and several police cars parked outside.

Mulder and Scully exited the car and started walking toward the door.

“So why are we investigating _this_ death in particular, Mulder?”

“Because I think this one’s different. I think the source of all the
other deaths can be traced to here.”

“Why do you think that?”

“Because all the other victims were internet junkies. This man was a
programmer.”

“The two are not mutually exclusive,” she reminded him, stopping in
the middle of the yard.

“…_And_ because this man was working on a prototype Gateway 3000
computer.”

“So?”

“God!” cried out another Voice. It didn’t seem to originate from any
particular direction, emanating from all around them. “She’s always
picking on him! We all _know_ Mulder’s gonna be right, hasn’t she
figured that out by now?”

Mulder’s brow furrowed, and he looked nervous. “What the hell _is_
that?” he wondered. “Do you think it’s the Consortium?”

Scully shuddered. “I don’t know, Mulder. Maybe we’ve been working a
little too hard.”

“Oh, _sure,_ always the ‘rational’ explanation,” complained another
Voice.

“Well, at least she came up with _some_ theory, instead of just
tearing down Mulder’s,” said the first.

“Which we know is right,” added the second.

“Unless it’s religion,” said another, “‘cuz then 1013 has got that
annoying hang-up, you know, and Scully has to do her whole little
religion routine, which is of course totally out of character for a
‘scientist.'”

“Yeah,” agreed a Voice. “And then we have to hear about her dumb little
crisis of faith or whatever. ‘I want to believe!'” it cried in a
mock-dramatic tone. “‘I’m afraid to believe! Who gives a shit!”

“God, those religion bits really piss me off.”

While Mulder and Scully stood frozen in disbelief, the Writer ran his
hands through his hair and licked his lips nervously, wondering if he
was losing his mind. They had told him it might happen. Of course, they
hadn’t said anything about criticizing voices.

_Just keep going,_ he told himself finally. _Pretend like nothing’s
happening._

“What’s going on?” Scully hissed.

“I don’t know,” Mulder answered. “But we don’t have time to talk about
it now. Here comes the officer.”

Sure enough, a grey-haired officer had just exited the house and was
headed for them. Mulder stepped forward to introduce them.

“I’m Special Agent Fox Mulder and this is Agent Dana Scully, with the
Bureau.”

“Yeah,” said the cop. “They told me you were coming, though I’m not
sure why. It doesn’t look like any crime was committed.”

“Nonetheless, its recurrent nature makes it worthy of investigation,”
Mulder answered. “I’d appreciate it if we could have a look around.”

“Sure, be my guest. The man in charge–Detective Harrison–is inside.”

Scully and Mulder entered the house and followed the police gradient
into the small home’s office. There stood a tall, darkly handsome
detective, arguing with a technician who was bent over the computer.
The Windows98 desktop glowed coldly on the monitor.

“There’s nothing unusual about it,” the technician insisted. “Everything’s
in normal working order.”

“And there’s no sign of damage by high current?” the detective asked.
“That’s impossible!”

He turned, suddenly aware of the agents’ presence. “You must be the
fibbies,” he said, crossing the room to shake Mulder’s hand. “I’m
Jack Harrison. I’d say I’m glad to have you here, but I’m afraid we’re
just wasting your time.”

He extended a hand to Scully, gave her a winning smile. “And I
_certainly_ wouldn’t want to waste your time,” he added, maintaining
physical contact just a little longer than necessary.

Scully smiled faintly. “We’ll see,” she said. “It sounds like your
technician doesn’t think the blast could’ve come from the computer.”

“Yep, there goes the Ice Queen again!” snorted a Voice. “That woman’s
as frigid as a Popsicle.”

“She’s probably still a virgin,” said another, disdainfully.

Before the surprised room could react, the Writer hurriedly scanned
his mouse across the last paragraph and hit <<<. He tried again.

“And I _certainly_ wouldn’t want to waste your time,” Harrison added,
maintaining physical contact just a little longer than necessary.

Scully raised her eyebrow, not as if questioning a theory, but as if
speculating on exactly how delicious this handsome man would taste in
her bed. “I’m _sure_ you wouldn’t be wasting our time, detective,” she
assured him with a sexy smile.

“Ugh! What a whore!” cried a Voice. “Jesus, this is supposed to be
_Scully,_ here, she’s not supposed to get laid!”

The initial shock worn off, both Scully and Mulder reached for their
guns.

Frantically, the Writer deleted the paragraph and tried a safer tack.

Detective Harrison suddenly gained about sixty pounds and some hair
disappeared. He shook Scully’s hand without comment.

“It sounds like your technician doesn’t think the blast could’ve come
from the computer,” Scully said.

The technician nodded. “That’s right, ma’am. I don’t see how it
could have. Computer’s fine.”

“It was in all the other cases as well,” Mulder said. “Detective, is
the little girl still here? I’d like to talk to her.”

“Sure,” Harrison replied. “Rebecca’s in her room waiting for someone
to pick her up.”

Mulder thanked him and the agents left, crossing the hall to find the
child’s room.

Scully tapped softly on the door. From within came a small voice:
“What do you want?”

“We need to ask you a few questions, Rebecca,” Scully called. “Can we
come in?”

“Sure,” Rebecca answered. Scully pushed the door open and the pair
entered.

It was a typical eleven-year-old’s room, decorated with Spice Girls
and Leonardo DiCaprio posters. Rebecca sat in the middle of the room, on
the floor. Her blond hair hung neatly in a braid down her back, and her
green eyes were devoid of tears.

Mulder squatted in front of her. “Rebecca, my name is Fox and this is
Dana. We’re here to find out what happened to your father, and I know
you must be feeling very sad now, but if you can answer a few questions,
it would really help us.”

“I’m okay,” Rebecca told him. “I read about the four stages of grief
on the internet. I think I’m still in the denial stage. What I really want
is to get back online, but those guys won’t let me. Can you talk to
them?”

Mulder glanced back at Scully, who looked concerned. She moved
forward, bent down beside Mulder.

“Rebecca,” she began. “Where’s Mrs. Tierney?”

“My mom lives in San Francisco with her girlfriend,” Rebecca replied
calmly. “They’re both very nice, Mom and Kay, but they’re on vacation
to China– Kay’s an international lawyer. It’s business stuff.”

“We’ll make sure that a message got to them. I’m sure it’s been taken
care of. Until they get home, Social Services is going to take care of
you,” Scully said.

“What a bitch,'” a Voice said. “The little girl’s just lost her
father, her mom is in China, and all Scully can say is– ‘Social Services
is going to take care of you?'”

The Writer didn’t say anything, just held down ‘backspace’ until the
offending scene disappeared.

“Where’s your mom, honey?” Scully asked, looking at Rebecca with
almost maternal concern.

“My mom lives with her girlfriend Kay, but they’re on vacation right
now,” Rebecca said, tears welling up in her eyes. “I don’t want to stay
with Social Services, Ms. Scully!”

Scully blinked back her own tears. The poor little girl. “Well, Rebecca,
until we can get in touch with your mother, you have to go there, but I
promise, they’ll be nice, and I’ll make sure you’re okay.”

A low laughter seemed to fill the room, and the Writer paused a second
for the latest sarcastic rejoinder. None came.

Mulder was staring fixedly at a color printout on the wall. Abruptly,
he stood and went to examine it more closely. It showed a picture of
Rebecca, smiling widely, standing in the middle of an enormous devil’s
food cake lit with candles. Printed above it were the words, “Happy
Birthday, Rebecca! Love always, Natasha.”

“What’s this, Rebecca?” he asked.

“Oh, that’s an e-greeting card I got from my friend Natasha. Isn’t it
cool?”

“Amazing. It’s very seamless photo-editing. As someone who takes an
interest in such things, I’m impressed. I’d almost think you were really
standing on a cake.”

Scully joined him, peering at the picture. “Mulder, that’s an easy
Photoshop trick,” she said.

“Scully, this isn’t the first case of its sort,” he said vaguely,
obviously developing a theory. “James Tierney’s electrocution isn’t
unique.”

The Writer had learned very quickly that repetition was important.

“What are you saying, Mulder?”

“Duh, he only already said that twice,” Rebecca said, before the Writer
could contain her. To his relief, she moved forward quickly. “Mr. Fox,
how did he get electrocuted?” she asked.

“We can’t tell. A technician looked at the computer. We opened up the
back and everything seemed normal.”

“It works just fine. Can I have it?”

“I’m sorry, Rebecca, but we need it for the investigation,” Scully said.

“But I need it!” Rebecca said. “You don’t understand, it’s very
important!”

“Rebecca, we need that computer to figure out why your daddy died,” Scully
said. “I know it’s hard, but–”

“God, what a bitch Scully is to that kid,” a Voice snorted. “And, Jesus,
can the little girl be any more annoying? We know she’s communicating
with whatever monster’s in the computer, so just spit it out. Good thing
Mulder’s taking care of things.”

Scully’s jaw dropped in amazement, and she just stood there, making a few
almost-laughing noises in surprise. Mulder noticed her open-mouthed
condition and shook his head.

“Not now, Scully. You’re very pretty but we’re working,” Mulder said,
patting her on the shoulder.

Scully was flabbergasted. “_What?_” she demanded.

“I know you’re doing that open-mouthed, please-fuck-me look, but we’re
really busy with this killer computer. By the way, looking at this
evidence, I have a theory, I think that the Gateway 3000 that killed
James Tierney is possessed by a demon from hell who wants to use the
Internet as a gateway into our reality and he’s using Rebecca here to
help him. Now, get your mind out of the gutter and get to work.”

Scully closed her mouth. Speech had pretty much deserted her at this
point. She just breathed in (through her nose), and slapped Mulder in
the face with all her might. He reeled, staring at her in disbelief as he
clutched his cheek.

“Bam! Bitch went down!” Rebecca cried, clapping. “That’s _gotta_
hurt.”

“What was THAT?” Scully screeched at her partner. “Just because my mouth
is open, that means I want you to _fuck_ me? Excuse me? _Excuse me?_
Who the hell do you think you are, Mulder? You’re lucky I don’t sue
you–or shoot you! And where on Earth did you get _that_ theory? A William
Gibson novel? I mean– the ‘Please-fuck-me look’? Innuendo can be funny,
Mulder, but that–_that_–”

“_Rrow!_ Saucer of milk, table four. Watch out, she’s turned into the
cream cheese harpy again,” the Voice crowed. “And she’s all defensive
because you know she really wants to do him.”

The Writer tried very hard not to hyperventilate at the latest remarks
from everyone, his fingers frantically banging out a way to get out of
this scene without Scully shooting Mulder again.

“Scully–what did I just say?”

“I believe you had issues with my mouth,” Scully answered, nearly
steaming.

“Oh, my God,” Mulder answered, suddenly seeming as shocked as she was.
“That was so out of line. Scully, I’m so sorry. That has to be the
most horrible thing I’ve ever said to you. I didn’t even believe it when
it came out of my mouth. I think maybe these weird voices we keep hearing
are having an influence on me. Like in Comity–you know? Except this is
much more annoying.”

“I’d kick his butt if he ever said something like that to me, Ms. Scully,”
Rebecca told her, arms crossed primly on her chest. “That was so
sexist and rude. My mommy’s a lawyer, she could sue him for you.”

“Maybe I should get a copy of her card, Rebecca,” Scully said slowly, her
eyes never leaving Mulder’s face. “Mulder, don’t think you’re off the
hook just yet, but I admit, these voices are doing strange things to
us,” Scully said. “Think it really could be another rare planetary
alignment?”

The Voice sniffed again. “Scully has no sense of humor, they should
never give her jokes, they just are completely lost on her character.”

“Oh, totally,” another Voice agreed. “And has everyone forgotten Scully
_is_ an MD? Why doesn’t anyone call her Dr. Scully?”

“Maybe ‘cuz she’s not really a doctor?” chortled the first Voice. “I
mean, who the hell goes to med school to learn how to cut up dead
people?”

“And what the hell do you mean, a demon’s possessed the computer?” Scully
demanded, ignoring the last comment from the Voice. “How on earth did
you come up with _that_ theory?”

“Oh, great, here we go again,” complained a Voice. “Come on, Scully.
When is she gonna start believing? I mean, she’s seen aliens and
spaceships and head-regenerating men and everything, so don’t you
think it’s just a LITTLE unbelievable that she wouldn’t just go along with
everything Mulder says by now?”

“Right,” another Voice sniffed. “I mean, if one paranormal thing turns
out to be true and unexplainable, they obviously _all_ are. You’d think
she’d make a few adjustments to that belief system of hers.”

“–which isn’t very consistent anyway, ‘cuz there’s always that God
stuff.”

The Writer felt his blood pressure rising. He had to get out of this
scene as quickly as possible. Or someone– possibly him– was going to
have a heart attack and die.

Detective Harrison burst suddenly into the room. “I think you’d better
come quick. There’ve been two more deaths just like Mr. Tierney’s at a
local cybercafe.”

Mulder and Scully glanced at each other, hostility forgotten, and
moved quickly to follow Harrison.

—————————————–

Cyber Java Groovy Cafe C Place

1:22 p.m.

“I don’t understand,” Scully said, shaking her head. “You mean to tell
me these people were logged in for the past thirteen and sixteen hours,
respectively?”

Manfred Griggs, the proprietor of Cyber Java Groovy Cafe C Place, where
the most recent deaths had occurred, nodded soberly. “We’re open
twenty-four hours,” he replied. “It’s not that uncommon.”

“But what could they be _doing_ for all that time?”

Griggs’ eyes narrowed and his voice dropped melodramatically. “A new
breed of surfer has taken up residence in California and indeed around
the world, Agent Scully,” he told her. “Neither burly nor strong, these
men and women spend far more time cultivating hunchbacks than tans, as
they bend eagerly over their keyboards to peck in the latest manifestation
of their brilliant wit, which will surely demonstrate how much smarter
they are than their fellows. The playing field is a lot more level than
the ocean.”

“Hey, wait a minute….” a Voice began, in a tone that suggested he
suspected that this philosophizing had been interjected gratuitously
and was uncertain whether to be offended.

Scully frowned, moving on quickly. “So, can you tell me what they were
doing before their deaths?”

Griggs shrugged. “I dunno. Computers. I hardly touch the damn things.
Newsgroups, maybe?”

“Scully, c’mere!” Mulder called out suddenly.

Scully turned to find her partner leaning over a keyboard, cell phone in
hand, trying to dodge the officer who was photographing the
electrocuted corpse at his feet. She made her way across the room.

“What?”

He motioned for her to be quiet, pointed at the phone. “How long? Right.
Okay. Thanks.”

He hung up. “Listen to this, Scully. The technician at the crime scene
had turned the Gateway on not long before we arrived at the Tierney
place. These deaths occurred around 11:15, just a little later.”

Scully shrugged. “So?”

“So, I think it’s online.”

“What–the demon spirit?” Scully arched an eyebrow expertly.

“She’s so _mean_ to him!” cried a Voice.

Scully rolled her eyes at the ceiling, hoping the Voice’s owner saw her
and took it personally.

“Demon spirit or not, Scully, it’s Rebecca’s friend.” Mulder pointed
at the monitor, and Scully bent to read it.

It was a rude response to a Usenet post. Judging from the bracketed
attributes, the original poster had been “Looking for Rebecca.”

“I think we better get back to our little friend,” Mulder said.

—————————————–

To Be Continued in Part 2/2

From: Elizabeth Marin
Date: Sat, 22 Aug 1998 09:11:42 -0700 (PDT)
Subject: The Number of the Beast, 2/2, by Flywoman, Jennifer Stoy , and , Nascent (fwd)

Disclaimer in Part 1.

—————————————–

Social Services

5:31 p.m.

When Scully and Mulder entered, they found Rebecca hunched on the floor
of her surrogate bedroom, knees drawn up to her chest and cheek pressed
against her knees, much more sober than before. The television was on,
but muted, while “Sympathy for the Devil” was pounded out at top volume by
the radio in the corner.

Scully crossed the room and turned down the music. “Hey,” she said
softly, approaching the girl from behind. “How are you feeling?”

“Shitty,” answered Rebecca shortly. “I think I’m in the angry stage
now.”

Scully sighed and crouched down, put a hand on Rebecca’s shoulder. “I
know how difficult it is to lose someone close to you,” she said
quietly.

“When my father died, even though I was past thirty years old, I
suddenly felt very young again, very sad and even afraid.”

An irritating nasal Voice stabbed at them through the ether. “Okay,
okay, we all know she was a daddy’s girl. Does she really need to share
her Elektra complex with an eleven-year-old kid?”

“What’s an Elektra complex?” Rebecca asked, looking suddenly curious.

“Dammit,” the Writer muttered, running a tired hand over his face. He
slammed his thumb into the backspace key and held it there for a long
moment.

“I know how difficult it is to lose someone close to you,” Scully said
quietly. “When my sister died, I felt–”

“There she goes again with that passive-aggressive bullshit!” cried a
Voice indignantly. “You _know_ she’s only saying that ’cause Mulder’s
standing right there, ’cause she thinks it’s _his_ fault. Of course,
she’d never _say_ that, just hint at it enough to make him feel
guilty, then do all her little ‘I’m fine’ song and dance.”

“She’s such a manipulator,” agreed another Voice.

“What the hell is she _supposed_ to say?” the Writer exploded. “The
kid’s dad is _dead!_”

“Why does she have to say anything?” the Voice replied haughtily.
“She’s said enough this episode.”

“Fine! Fine! Fine!” the Writer replied, and tried it _yet again._

Mulder sighed and crouched down, put a hand on Rebecca’s shoulder. “I
know how difficult it is to lose someone close to you,” he said
quietly. “I lost my sister when I was about your age, and then when my
father died, even though I was past thirty years old, I suddenly felt very
young again, very sad and even afraid.”

The Writer held his breath, waiting for the inevitable outbreak from
the Voices. But nothing happened.

“If you want to talk about it, it’s okay,” Mulder continued.

“That’s okay,” Rebecca said softly. “Really, I’d just like to get a
computer back.”

“Why?” Scully asked, exchanging a glance with Mulder.

“So I can talk to my friends on email. I miss them, and it’s really
boring here.”

“Friends like Natasha?” Mulder asked, holding his breath.

“Yeah, like her.”

Mulder straightened and took Scully’s elbow, pulling her gently aside.
He leaned down to speak softly to her. “Scully, do you have your
laptop?”

Scully studied his gaze, reading his intent. “Mulder, I don’t think
that’s a good idea….”

“She’s _always_ picking on his ideas!” exclaimed a Voice. “Come _on_,
hasn’t she figured out by now that Mulder is _always_ right?”

Scully nodded. “It’s in the car.”

“Go get it, will you? I’ll be right here.”

“Are you sure this is a good idea?” she asked, starting for the door.

“There she goes again–” began a Voice.

“All right, all _right!_” the Writer cried.

“I’ll go get it now,” Scully answered, and left the room.

When she returned minutes later with the Powerbook tucked under her
arm, one of the Voices cried out, “Is she his gofer or something? ‘Scully,
do this, get that, do this autopsy…’. What kind of woman of the
nineties is this?”

But this Voice was weaker, so the Writer forged ahead, wiping the sweat
from his brow with the back of his sleeve.

Mulder took the Powerbook from her and plugged it into the wall,
scrambling briefly to find a jack for the modem port. Rebecca watched
with almost unholy interest. When the boot-chime announced the computer’s
rebirth, she approached him, eyeing the keyboard hungrily.

“Now, listen, Rebecca,” Mulder told her, catching her wrist in one
hand before she could touch the machine. “Your friend Natasha is not a
very nice friend. She may be nice to you, but she’s done some very bad
things to other people.”

“You think she killed my father, don’t you,” she said dully. It was not
a question.

“She may have, yes,” Mulder said, with a glance back at Scully, who
arched one eyebrow skeptically. “She may have killed a lot of people.
But she seems to like you, and if you could talk to her, it might
help. Tell her she needs to stop, ask her why she’s doing what she’s
doing. Just be very careful not to make her angry, okay? Agent Scully and
I will be right here.”

Rebecca nodded, but the eagerness with which she seized the laptop
suggested she might not have been listening as patiently as Mulder had
hoped.

She hastily found a satisfactory terminal emulator and dialed into her
ISP. Seconds later, she was at a Unix prompt.

Before she could enter her mail program, it arrived.

<<<<<<<>

She grinned happily at Mulder, then returned to the screen.
<<<<<<<>

<<<<<<<>

<<<<<<<> she typed, her fingers flying faster than any
child’s should on a keyboard. <<<<<<<>

<<<<<<<>

She frowned, looked uncertainly at Mulder. “Ask him why he hurts
people,” Mulder prompted.

Instead, she typed, <<<<<<<>

<<<<<<<> the computer countered.

<<<<<<<>

The words flashed like lightning. <<<<<<<>

Rebecca’s breathing picked up and Mulder put a hand on her shoulder,
holding her back. When she didn’t answer immediately, the computer
continued. <<<<<<<>

Wrenching herself free of Mulder’s grasp, she drummed quickly:
<<<<<<<>

There was a sudden blinding flash of light, arcing between Rebecca’s
fingers and the keyboard. The lights in the room flickered, then went
out as the child screamed. Scully rushed to the girl’s side but by the
time she reached her, Rebecca was curled in a fetal position, electrical
burns sizzling on her hands and arms. She was thankfully unconscious.

Mulder was staring in horror at the smoke rising from Scully’s
Powerbook. The display was cracked and dark. He could hear Scully
crying something to him, and he turned, stunned, to see she was starting
CPR on the child.

Footsteps rushed toward them in the hallway and a head peeked in,
screamed.

“Call an ambulance!” Mulder ordered, then dropped to his knees to help
Scully.

“Well, at least Scully’s doing her doctor thing for once,” a Voice
remarked. “Most of the time she just stands there.”

———————————–

St. Margaret Hospital

10:56 p.m.

Mulder was seated in a plastic chair outside the burn unit. He heard
Scully’s footsteps before he saw her, and slowly turned and stood. He
tried to read her expression, hoping to discern whether or not the
child had lived, but her face was blank, emotionless.

Mulder closed the distance between them in a few strides. “Scully,”
he said, feeling as if she was looking through him. Her eyes flickered up
to meet his. “Is she gonna be okay?” he asked.

Scully blinked. “No, she isn’t, Mulder,” she said softly. “She’s dead.”

Mulder closed his eyes and turned his head away, feeling tears
prickling. “Damn,” he whispered.

“God, what a cold-hearted bitch!” cried a Voice, startling them both.

“What is it _now_?” snapped the Writer.

Mulder and Scully exchanged uncertain glances. Mulder was starting to
get very creeped out and he wished these Voices would go away.

“Come _on_!” the Voice insisted. “What is she? A _robot?_ Let’s see
some _tears_ for chrissake. The kid’s dead, and all she can do is stand
there wooden-faced and shut Mulder out.”

Scully shook her head, but decided not to say anything, just looked
quietly at the clock.

Mulder glanced from side to side and snarled: “_I_ was okay with it.”

The Writer heaved an exasperated sigh. “Okay, okay,” he said. “Let’s
try it again.”

Mulder turned as he heard Scully’s heels clicking on the tiles. Her
face was a mask of grief and he knew the little girl must be dead. He
closed the distance between them in a few strides.

“Scully,” he said, feeling as if she was looking through him. Her eyes
flickered up to meet his and he saw that they were brimming with
tears.

“Oh, Mulder,” she whispered shakily. Abruptly, she flung herself
against him, burying her face against his chest. “Oh, Mulder…. Rebecca’s
dead!”

Mulder wrapped his arms around her and buried his face in her hair.
“Oh, Scully,” was all he could manage. He began to sob, and she began to
sob, and they stood together, sobbing in the hospital hallway.

“What the hell!” the Voice interrupted. Mulder and Scully pulled back
from their embrace and looked at each other in confusion.

“_What?_” the Writer growled.

“Come _on_, just because she had a kid die doesn’t mean she should get
all gooey and totally lose control when she sees another kid dead. Do we
have to keep hearing about Emily? Anyway, why’d she get so attached to
Emily in the first place? She’d only known her for what–a _week?_”

“It was about more than just Emily,” the Writer said haughtily, feeling
it was time to defend himself. “It was about _choices._ Scully had the
choice to bear children taken away from her, and Emily represented it
being given back.”

“Well, we’re not really interested in Scully’s mommy fantasies,”
sniffed the Voice.

“Ex_cuse_ me?” Scully interrupted, her hands on her hips. This was
really getting to be too much. “Would you people _mind_–”

The Writer interrupted her. “What do you want me to do?” he cried. “I
don’t get it! It’s okay for Mulder to get all broken up over every
little girl that comes his way because it reminds him of his sister who’s
been gone for _twenty-five years_ but it’s not okay to have Scully get
choked up because she’s reminded of a daughter who’s been gone for a few
_months_?”

“It WASN’T HER DAUGHTER!” a Voice yelled. “And she didn’t even cry!”

“Listen to me, you son of a–” Scully began.

The Writer hurriedly cut her off by frantically writing her back into
Mulder’s arms. If she spoke into his shirt, no one could hear her.
He knew a lost cause when he saw one.

“Scully,” Mulder whispered brokenly, his face squishing up with tears.
“It’s all my fault. If I hadn’t given her that computer–”

“_His_ fault!” a Voice cried incredulously. “It’s _her_ fault! It
was _her_ computer, she gave it to him! If she were more supportive of him
he wouldn’t have to go and do these things to prove he’s right anyway.”

“Goddamit!” the Writer exploded. Mulder and Scully kept crying on each
other. “Okay! Fine!”

Mulder was sitting on the plastic chair outside the burn unit. He
heard Scully’s footsteps before he saw her, and slowly turned and stood.
He tried to read her expression, hoping to discern whether or not the
child had lived, but her face was blank, emotionless.

He closed the distance between them in a few strides.

Scully answered the unasked question. “She’s going to be fine,
Mulder. Just a few burns on her arms and torso. She’ll have to stay in
the hospital a few days.”

“Oh, thank God,” Mulder said. He peered down at Scully. “Scully, are
your allergies acting up? Your nose is awfully red.”

Scully wiped at it with the back of her hand. “I think I’m just
coming down with something. I’ve been feeling sort of nauseous lately.”

The Writer hesitated, uncertain which path would be the safest
transition to the next scene. Finally, he cautiously settled on one he
assumed would be acceptable.

“So what do you want to do now, Mulder?” Scully asked.

————————-

12:01 a.m.

Two hours later, Mulder stepped out of the recovery room and closed
the door quietly behind him. He turned to Scully, who stood regarding him
with her arms folded. “She can’t tell me how to stop the demon,” he
admitted.

“Of course she can’t, Mulder. This whole idea of yours is preposterous.”

“But we’ve seen this before, Scully. Examples of the transmigration
of souls between a deceased individual and-”

“What we’ve seen, Mulder, are examples of intense psychological trauma
resulting in misplaced identification with a disturbed individual and
subsequent behavior that fails to conform with-”

“God, I HATE it when the writers forget that Mulder’s the psychologist
and not Scully,” the Voice interjected disgustedly. “And break out the
thesaurus, babe–I’ll use it as a pillow.”

Scully stumbled dazedly to a halt. “What was I just saying?”

“Beats the heck out of me, I’ve perfected the two-second tuneout over
the five years we’ve worked together. But Scully, there’s another way to
get at this thing. We can have Rebecca undergo regression hypnosis. The
truth is in her, Scully.”

“Mulder, listen to yourself! Haven’t you put the poor girl through
enough already? I will not be a party to that.” She started to walk away
down the hall, heels clicking resolutely.

“I have yet to hear your idea,” he called after her.

Scully turned and skewered him with a glance over her shoulder. “I’m
going to go do what we should have done in the first place.”

“And what is that?”

“Attempt an exorcism.”

—————————————–

1:22 a.m.

Scully regarded the infernal machine with loathing, barely disguised by
a thin veneer of scientific detachment. For its part, the computer
ignored her, buzzing contentedly as it collected, registered and
redistributed posts in malignant glee. Mulder watched from a safe
distance, braced against the doorframe. “Careful, Scully,” he said.

After making sure that there were no liquids in the immediate
vicinity, Scully sat down gingerly in the swivel chair and slipped her
reading glasses on. The monitor flickered and hummed as messages scrolled
down the screen too quickly for her to catch more than a glimpse:
“cubicles…decaf… Olestra… 666…”

She typed, <<<<<<<>

The message returned instantly. <<<<<<<>

<<<<<<<>

<<<<<<<>

“Great, a computer with a twisted sense of Existentialism.”

“Hey, Scully, remember the old Star Trek? Think of an insoluble logic
puzzle. Or ask it to calculate pi to the last decimal.”

Scully typed, <<<<<<<>

She could have sworn she heard a guffaw this time as the requisite
text flashed across the screen. <<<<<<<>

The lights in the room flickered wildly and went out. Outside the
window, electrical wires sparked and sang in agony. Scully felt the
fine hairs on the backs of her arms stand up in a gathering charge.
The room was filled with the ominous rumble of a million bees.

“Scully!”

“Mulder!”

“Scully, do something! Ask it to find a word that rhymes with
‘orange’!”

<<<<<<<>

“Noooooooooo…” Mulder shrieked as very foundations of the house began
to tremble. The light bulb above his head flared up, howled, and
shattered. “Tell it to prove Fermat’s Last Theorem!”

“Too late!”

“You mean…?”

“Yes, it’s already been solved. But I have another idea!”

“Douse it with holy water and recite the Lord’s Prayer?”

“That’s more like what _she’d_ do,” said a Voice, smirking.

“No,” Scully replied grimly, “Just do THIS-” and with one jerk, she
yanked the phone line out of the modem and the surge protector out of the
wall socket.

Instantly the monitor went dark and the room fell silent. For good
measure, Scully yanked all the plugs out of the computer as well. She
considered smashing the accursed thing to pieces, but decided that
would be just a little childish.

Mulder stared at his partner, panting slightly. “Scully?”

“Yes, Mulder?”

“I just got very turned on.”

The Writer cackled hysterically. He knew how to make the Voices stop.
Fuck Chris–he’d give them all what they _really_ wanted.

Scully’s eyes widened as she met Mulder’s gaze. The desire she’d
always known was between them was clear in that look. She felt herself
drawn closer, even as she stepped back and bumped into the CD player,
which, coincidentally, held a Sarah McLachlan CD.

“And sweet surrender is all I have left to give–” the speakers sang.

“Is that true, Scully?” Mulder asked gently.

“All that I am is yours, Mulder,” Scully replied, giving herself up to
his embrace. He wrapped his arms around her and met her lips with a gentle
kiss.

“Oh, Dana–”

She kissed him back, cursing herself for waiting so long. “Mulder–”

“Fox. I want you to call me Fox.”

“All right, Fox,” she said. She wrapped her arms around him, knotting
her fingers in his silky hair. Mulder paused a moment to smell the
wonderful scent of her strawberry shampoo, then slid her jacket off. “I
love you so much. I’ve always loved you.”

Mulder ran his large hand down her back and looked down at her fondly.
“I love you, too–” he whispered, kissing his way down her neck.

“That feels so good, Fox. Why didn’t we do this years ago?” Scully
asked, luxuriating in the feel of his long fingers running slowly down her
neck and towards her breasts.

Mulder chuckled in a deep voice and continued torturing her with
touches. “To be honest, my dear, I have _no_ idea–”

“Oh, ENOUGH! Before I have to hurl my lunch all over you people!” the
Voice shrieked in dismay. “Could that possibly be the most sappy and
disgusting Mulder/Scully romance ever? Oh, Fox. Oh, Dana. Give me a
freaking BREAK! Scully should know better than to call him Fox– and
why is she wearing strawberry shampoo? And why did she let him seduce her
on a crime scene, come on, she’s a professional, she _should_ know
better.”

“Fine, okay, I get it– romance is _dead!_” the Writer snapped. “How
about this?”

Mulder looked at Scully and grinned devilishly.

“I just got very turned on.”

Scully turned her head. “Mulder–we’re at a crime scene. Now is
neither the time nor the place.”

He crossed the space between them and embraced her roughly. Scully
squirmed back out of his arms.

“Mulder, not now.”

“I think now is indeed the time,” he murmured, drawing her face up to
his and kissing her violently. She struggled a bit, but started kissing
back, sweeping her tongue into his mouth.

“Take your shirt off,” Mulder whispered. “I want to see all of you.”

“Mulder, we’re on a case.”

“To hell with that,” Mulder hissed, his eyes bright with passion. “To
hell with everything. I want you here, now, everywhere. I’ve wanted you
since I first saw you sashay into the office.”

“Sashay?” Scully protested, feeling herself get aroused anyhow. “I
have never in my life sa-”

Mulder kissed her again, and all rational thought left her mind. She
raked her nails down his back, through the shirt, then pulled away and
took off her shirt. Mulder groaned appreciatively.

“You’re wearing too many clothes, Agent Mulder,” Scully whispered.

He grinned again, and buttons flew. Then his eyes were drawn back to
his luscious little partner. His hand went for the buttons at her
waistband.

“I’ve waited far too long,” he said.

“Then don’t wait any more,” Scully replied.

“What the hell is that?” the Voice asked. “Mulder practically forced
himself on her and she’s all happy about it? That’s so stupid! And why
the hell would this case cause them to get together? And why did Mulder
have to initiate the sex, everyone knows Scully wants him bad, and can we
say unrealistic, and how could Scully be that skilled after five years
with only one lay?”

Scully let out a piercing Xena-like scream. “THAT’S IT!” she hollered,
pushing Mulder away and putting her shirt back on. “I am leaving, I am
sick of this nonsense!”

“What?” Mulder asked. “Where are you going? You can’t leave!”

“Watch me! I’m taking off! I’m going to Cabo, where I’ll have lithe
young cabana boys oil my back and drink strawberry margaritas all day and
watch the ocean. In peace. I am WAY overdue for a vacation, Mulder, and
all this carping and sniping has sent me over the edge. Don’t try to stop
me, or I’ll shoot you again!”

The Writer gaped. He’d lost control! How was this happening?

“See, she is a heartless bitch,” the Voice whispered. “Told ya–”

“Oh, fuck off,” Mulder said, rolling his eyes. “All you ever do is
complain. She can’t do anything right. I mean, _I_ don’t mind how she
acts, in fact, I kinda _like_ it, so I don’t need your punk ass
defending me, okay?”

“But–” the Voice tried to protest.

“Scully, I’ll be your cabana boy,” Mulder said amiably. “I give great
backrubs.”

“What about feet?” Scully asked, sticking her lip out in a way she
knew was obnoxious.

“Feet, back, legs, neck, I’m your man,” Mulder said. “Anything to get
away from the Voices.”

“Look, see, Scully’s even ruined Mulder’s character,” the Voice
complained. “I cannot believe this. The writers have just gotten worse
and worse as time goes on. The show is absolute–”

“Excuse me,” the Writer said, looking up from his keyboard. “Mulder?
Scully?”

“Yes?!” the pair asked together, impatient.

“Can I tag along on your vacation to paradise? I’ll even throw in some
good music–I once worked for Jimmy Buffett!” the Writer said. “I can’t
do this any more. A guy can’t win, writing for you two.”

Scully looked at Mulder. Mulder looked at Scully and shrugged.

“What the hell,” Scully finally said. “Do you know ‘Cheeseburger in
Paradise?'”

“Or ‘Why Don’t We Get Drunk?'” Mulder countered. The writer nodded.

“I know ’em all,” he said. “Come on, the first round of margaritas are
on me. Oh, hey–you?” He swiveled, addressing the unseen audience.
“If Chris shows up, tell them we’re all on strike, looking for the
lost shaker of salt–oh, and that it’s all _your_ fault we’re on strike,
okay?”

The trio left the scene then, bound for tropical dreams and a nice,
relaxing, and well-deserved vacation.

“This show just hasn’t been the same since second season,” a Voice
sighed crabbily. “They _cared_ about quality, then.”

———————————

Two hours later

Chris Carter walked in to find the area disturbingly empty. No Mulder.
No Scully. No Writer. Only a note, hastily written and pinned to the
wall. Chris read it carefully and burst into bitter laughter, pounding his
fist across the desk.

“It happens again,” he said cryptically, wiping his eyes. “Oh well.
I’ll just have to get some new ones.”

And he left the note: ON STRIKE–on the wall, and simply walked off.

The Voice sniffed, remarking: “He _never_ would have done that in the
second season. This show’s really gone to hell. I wonder what next
week’s episode is about?”

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One response to “The Number of the Beast [X-Files]

  1. This was hilarious! What a great commentary on The X-Files fandom, and maybe on fandom in general.

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