~This is an apology to any hacker that may read this; I know diddlysquat about hacking. This is purely a fanciful musing of mine, not meant to be one hundred percent accurate. So, apology's out of the way, I want to further state that the Lonegunmen characters-Frohike, Langly, Byers, and Kimmy and X-Files characters-Agents Mulder and Scully I've based this story upon are all owned and copywrited by Chris Carter and this story is not sanctioned in any way, shape, or form by Chris Carter. These characters are used without permission and without profit on my part. Rated PG-13 for some language. ~
All three computers were running at full tilt at the Lone Gunmen headquarters. Langly was trying a new program he and Kimmy had developed to get into the Pentagon special bio-weapons program database. Word on the conspiratory grape vine was that they were developing a new biological weapon, but no one knew exactly what and this had peaked the interest of the Lone Gunmen.
"Oh man! Look at this! We'll never breach this system. Every time we get through, something else comes up that's even worse! It's like someone's watching us, waiting for us to get through, then bam . . . testing us." Kimmy said and halted his furious typing a moment to push his glasses up onto the bridge of his nose.
"I can't establish any kind of a hostile link up. No one knows we're in there." Langly insisted.
"Well, I'm telling you I know what I'm talking about!" Kimmy argued and resumed his hacking in tandem with Langly.
Langly was insulted, "Up your pie hole, Kimmy. I'm not detecting any - hey! I got through!"
"You got into the mainframe! Cool!" Kimmy was impressed.
"Now, where to from here? It wouldn't be anything obvious." Langly was too much involved to crow just at the moment.
Kimmy thought as he watched Langly carefully navigate his way across a restricted field, "It would be a special code. It could be anything."
"What you bet it's got something like a tapeworm program or something? I put the wrong code in and we're history." Langly said, his enthusiasm wearing a little once he recognized what would happen.
"We gotta bug out, regroup, and think of something. I'm not going to risk crashing our system for this." Langly went on. Though it rankled him to have to retreat, it was some comfort that he had done what no one else had done before, at least that had ever reached his far reaching hearing. If hackers were good at one thing other than hacking, it was bragging to other hackers about their latest conquest. So far, as far as Langly could tell he'd gotten further than any of his comrades into the Pentagon Biolab files. He'd keep it under wraps at the moment and celebrate once he could figure out how to proceed cautiously, without a trace. He was about to jump out of the system when something caught his eye.
"Hey, what's that?" Langly pointed.
Before Kimmy could respond, a familiar voice came from behind, "What's what?"
"Frohike, do you recognize this?" Langly didn't even turn around and just pointed to the discrepancy on the screen.
Frohike was a man who'd survived the outlandish sixties, while Langly, one of his counterparts, even though half as young looked as if he currently lived in the sixties. Kimmy looked rather unremarkable and had that forgettable face except for the sole fact that he looked so much like a geek you couldn't help but recall him. Frohike leaned in to stare, adjusting his glasses.
"Someone left an encrypted message. Perhaps we should read it?" The older man stated as he recognized the coding.
"It's a trap." Kimmy insisted, feeling uneasy.
Langly's curiosity was piqued, "Who do we know in the Pentagon?"
"Well, let's find out." Frohike reached over and typed furiously. The computer responded and within a minute or so, they had a decrypted message in front of their eyes.
It said, "Please help me."
"What do you suppose that's about?" Langly frowned.
"Hey, there's an adage. Just came up." Frohike, despite Kimmy's protests, continued punching through the deepening mystery.
"Do you suppose this was meant for us?" Frohike asked. "It's well known to your peers that hacking into the Pentagon is one of your favorite pass times. Kimmy could be right. This could be a plant."
"Finally, someone acknowledges my superior wisdom." Kimmy stated unhappily.
"Shut up, Kimmy." Langly stared at the screen as Frohike dragged out the rest of the message.
The message scrolled itself across the screen, "I have something that may be of interest to you, but you would have to come to me. I am not allowed to leave. I know what they are doing and have no power to stop them. Perhaps you are whom I seek?"
"What the Hell?" Langly said. "Is this meant for us or isn't it?"
Frohike shrugged, "Maybe it's a two way. We'll ask whomever it is a question."
"No!" Protested Kimmy angrily, "Someone's watching, waiting to see if we take the bait, I know it!"
"Quiet, you." Frohike, still leaning in between the two geeks, typed a question, "Who do you think we are?"
Nothing happened as Frohike's question lay bare for any and all who had access to the network to see.
"You are fighters for justice and truth. You are the crusaders for your generation. You are men of action. You are known as the Lone Gunmen."
"Crap!" Kimmy spat.
"Well, at least we know it was meant for us now." Langly said.
"Yes, but who is it?" Frohike asked.
"It's some government agent that's going to come busting in here and drag our asses off to jail, that's who!" Kimmy said almost hysterically.
"You want me to give you a time out and sit you in a corner?" Langly said almost at wits end.
Kimmy batted Frohike's hands away from the keyboard and typed something. The screen cut itself off and the messages disappeared.
"What the Hell'd you do that for?" Frohike said voice tipped with anger.
Kimmy was adamant, "Look, guys, I'm feeling freaky about this whole thing. I don't want to go to jail and I know you don't either. I got a funny feeling that we're stepping into something way over our heads here if you continue on with this thread. I'm begging you, leave it be."
Frohike was about to berate the young ingrate when Byers burst in holding a bulging manila folder, "Wow, you guys gotta look at this! I think we have our headliner for next weeks issue!"
Frohike and Langly reluctantly left the computers with Kimmy and went to see what Byers was babbling about.
"What are you babbling about?" Frohike said, still upset with Kimmy.
Byers slapped the manila folder filled with reams and reams of paper down onto one of the few clean spots on a nearby table. He opened it and was greeted by a picture of a beautiful young woman in her early twenties posing beside Oxford University. It was an old photo. Black and white and a bit fuzzy and grainy, but you could clearly see the grin reach her eyes as she leaned up against the old brick wall of the Oxford Library.
"Who's that?" Langly asked, scrutinizing the photo carefully.
"Carline Winters, so the year book of 1929 says. Got a Doctorate in the Physical Sciences and Masters in Foreign Languages. And dally's in archeology and astronomy."
"Okay, so?" Frohike prompted.
Byers flipped through the mound of paper within the file and found another picture of the same girl, "Christine Washington, graduate of Princeton University, 1959. Social Sciences and Humanities and Biology. Became a certified museum curator. Look at the picture. It's almost the same! She looks exactly the same except she's dressed right for the times. Early twenties again." He furiously flipped through the file looking deeper, "Here's another picture. Full color. Harvard. 1995. Chemistry and Physics. Look, she's exactly the same! What do you suppose?"
Frohike and Langly were quiet a moment, absorbing this oddity.
"Clones." Langly concluded. "They mastered cloning people long before Dolly the sheep came into existence."
"Back during the Depression? Don't be ludicrous." Frohike admonished his young, blond friend.
"Well, I'd like to hear YOUR explanation, Melvin!" Langly said hotly.
"Either she's got one Hell'uva plastic surgeon or we got a mystery on our hands." Was all Frohike said.
"And here's the thing. She's been reported missing. But this time her name is Candace Williams." Byers added.
"Maybe she choked on all her degrees." Langly said snidely.
"A woman whose well over 100 years old and she still looks hot." Frohike mused, forgetting himself, "Ain't science great? She must have the right connections."
Langly interrupted, "How'd you get that file?"
"Mulder gave it to me, asked if we could do some digging because he's in the middle of some other project." Byers admitted. "But he wants us to keep him posted. He's interested in this one, just doesn't have the time. We do."
Frohike glared at a sheepish Kimmy, "No thanks to Pencil Neck over there."
"What?" Byers asked.
"Nothing. What else is in that folder?" Langly grabbed one of the pictures they had laid out side by side next to the folder. It was the color one. "Do you have the year books for these? Birth, death certificates? Information on her parents?"
"I just got the file and hadn't gotten around to that yet." Byers said.
"Gimme." Langly practically lunged at the file, "Now, watch the Master!" He sauntered over to the computers, eyeballing Kimmy, "As long as Magic Fingers here doesn't decide to go descent on us and chicken out."
Kimmy stood up, "I don't got to take this, and anyway, I got a game to DM tonight. Hey, guys, knock yourselves out. Please." And with that, the geek left them breathing a sigh of relief.
Langly spent a few hours tangling with the enigma and came back to Earth with an extremely disappointed look plastered onto his face. Byers and Frohike came over to the computer where the longhaired, Ramone's T-shirt wearing geek had slaved straight through lunch. Langly flexed his fingers.
"Anything?" Byers asked.
Langly shook his head, exasperated, "No. Zilch. No record of her anywhere. It's as if she doesn't exist."
"But the pictures!" Byers insisted.
"I know that! I was saying someone's doing an awfully good job of making sure she remains unknown." Langly said.
Byers would not be put off, "But, all the degrees! You can't bury that kind of information, easily anyway. We found them, so what about social security? Did you try that?"
"Duh. It's one of the first things I looked for. Nothing registered. No known nationality, parents, tax records. Nada on our mystery lady." Langly said dejectedly.
"How can that be?" Frohike rubbed his gloved hand through what remained of his silvering, thinning hair.
Byers got that determined look once again, "We're going to find out."
Langly had his hair tied back in a respectable ponytail and was dressed uncomfortably in a two-piece suit. Byers had loaned the 32-year-old one of his. Frohike, unfortunately, couldn't fit in any of Byers suites, being short and somewhat dumpy in comparison to the tall and slender younger man and had to go with one of his more unremarkable vests and suspenders. Byers with newly trimmed beard, was dressed even more primly than usual.
"I feel like an idiot." Langly growled.
Byers with serious eyes piercing his tall friend, said, "We need to look the part. You look fine. No one would believe whom we say we are if you go in there looking like one of their teenage sons."
Langly stuck his tongue out at Byers and adjusted his coat for the hundredth time.
Once they were at the museum, they came up to the front desk with Byers in the lead, followed by Frohike and Langly. The woman behind the old, wooden desk looked up from what she was reading upon their approach.
"Can I help you?" She asked.
Byers said helpfully, "We're here to see the curator. We have an appointment."
Her eyebrow raised up, as she looked them over, "I see, and you are?"
"Klein, Schubert, and Strauss Insurance Incorporated." Frohike blurted.
"One moment." She looked on the computer screen, typed something then frowned and looked at them. "Okay. Go down the hall, Mr. Dolton's office is second door on your right."
Once they were walking down the lonely hall and out of the woman's hearing range, Langly whispered, "I'm not going to be named after some kind of ice cream."
Frohike muttered exasperatedly at him, "Schubert is not sherbet, you dolt."
"Quiet, you guys. Now remember to call me Klein." Byers replied as they reached Mr. Dolton's door. He knocked and was able to hear a muffled "Come in." from within the room. Byers obediently opened the door and the three of the Lone Gunmen sauntered into the room, trying to look important and official.
A man in a stuffy suit who was not much younger than Frohike was placing leather bound book back onto a built in bookshelf behind his desk at the back of the small room. There was no window and all of the mahogany paneling seemed to suck the light out of the room. Mr. Dolton had still managed to have a full head of hair, though his eyesight was not as it once was in his youth. His bifocals gave him the look of a wizened professor at some astute Ivey League University. His jowls hung a bit more loosely and he looked like he was tired all the time.
Mr. Dolton came up to them, "Yes, you are my 2:30 appointment? Umm, yes, we have the papers in order for the acquisition of the piece. You represent Professor William's Valley of the Kings Museum in Egypt, yes? How is she, by the way? We haven't heard from her in months."
"She's a bit, under the weather. Exhaustion, you see," Byers schmoozed, "She's taking a vacation in Italy."
"Oh yes," Mr. Dolton said much to Byers surprise, "I forgot about her castle there. Well, if you do speak to her, please let her know that we are all anxious to hear from her again and hope she is doing much better."
Frohike and Langly looked at each other quizzically.
Byers plowed on, winging it, "Thank you. When we talk with her, we'll pass your message on. Now, may we see the papers?"
"Now, I know this will take some time for you boys to look over and I don't expect this to be signed right away. So, take your time, read over the terms and then sign it or if you find the terms unsuitable for the sarcophagus, please feel free to contact our people and we will make the accommodations more to your liking. If you will excuse me, I have someone from the Vatican here to see me."
And with that, Mr. Dolton left the Lone Gunmen alone in his office.
"Sarcophagus?" Langly said and tried to get a good look at the contract Byers was holding.
Frohike asked with interest, "Who's?"
Byers carefully looked at the first few paragraphs.
"I'm holding the contract to acquire King Tut's sarcophagus for display!" Byers said with a bit of awe tainting his voice. "William's has some clout indeed. Let's look around here and then go. I think we have what we want, but leave nothing unturned."
The three men thoroughly searched the office and found nothing else that they could use. The contract was all they were going to get but at least it was a start. There were names of people and places, which was a major leap from the where they began.
On their way back to the van, Frohike said, "Hey, what if she's the one? Our little S.O.S. from the Pentagon?" He suddenly hoped there was such a connection. It sure would help things make much more since, though the connection was a far-fetched one and he couldn't for the life of him imagine how they could be one in the same.
Byers frowned and asked Frohike, "What are you talking about?"
Langly jumped in, "I was digging around the Pentagon's database, looking for anything on that new bio-weapon and we received a message, two-way. Someone knew who we were and asked for our help. We'd know more but Mr. Tall, Geeky, and Handsome got cold feet and tripped up our connection."
"Kimmy?" Byers sighed, "Well, if you can reestablish the connection, would your stranger in distress get back in touch?"
Langly shrugged, "Maybe. But, I don't know what this person expects us to do. Break out of the Pentagon? It's not a jail."
"Yeah, but it might as well be." Frohike added. "The security's killer. If they want to keep something safe, it'll be a neat trick to get to it. It'll almost be worth the hassle just to see if we can beat their security grid."
"I'll kick on over to the Pentagon now and see if our friend is still wanting to talk." Langly said.
Back at their headquarters and with a little work, Langly was back where he had found the encrypted message. He had Byers and Frohike sitting on either side of him. All were staring intently at the screen, waiting. They finally saw what they were looking for.
"It's our guest speaker." Langly pointed to the discrepancy on the screen before them. He easily decrypted the code and the message lay there, anxiously waiting to be read by them.
"Where had you gone? Our connection was lost. I thought you were found out." It said.
Frohike grabbed at the keyboard before Langly could type and answer, "A little trouble, but we're here now. Can you tell us why you need our help?"
The computer read, "It is complicated. No one would believe me. You must come down here so we can talk. It is very distressing. I have no one else to whom I could impart such information. You must see this with your own eyes."
Frohike paused a moment then typed, "Who are you?"
"You can call me Skymouth." It said. "I work with the biological weapons research team."
Langly hooted joyously, "Alright! We got our informant! Ask Skymouth if he has the security clearance we can use to break into their system!"
Frohike obediently typed, "Do you have the appropriate security clearances for us to make this work?"
Another moment passed and Langly was furiously scribbling the pertinent information that Skymouth had sent them on various Pentagon systems into a binder. "This is GREAT STUFF!" Langly was ecstatic.
"I'll start getting our stuff together." Byers scanned the screen once more before he departed.
"We'll be there as soon as we can. Do you need anything?" Frohike typed.
Pause, then, "A cheeseburger would be nice."
Frohike shook his head as he typed, "Sounds like they're torturing you."
"Vivisection without painkillers and anesthesia is not pleasant." Skymouth informed them.
"Good GOD!" Frohike said when he read that.
"Did Skymouth say they perform vivisection's on him?" Langly gaped at the screen.
"I believe that is what he's suggesting." Frohike answered, anger seeping into his voice, then he typed, "We're coming to get you out of there and we'll buy you twenty cheeseburgers!"
"But why?" Langly asked.
"Does the government really need any reason to do anything THAT horrible?" Frohike spat.
Skymouth said, "I must go. They are here."
The connection was lost and left Frohike and Langly mulling over darkening thoughts.
The ancient Volkswagen van ground to a sputtering halt a few miles down the road from the Pentagon. The trio, all garbed in black, grabbed at their bulging bags, heaved them over their shoulders and grunted with the weight. All their best spy equipment was stored in these very large and bulky carry all's. When they determined the road clear of cars except for their own behemoth parked on the grass on the side of the road, they leapt over a ditch on the passenger side of their van and dashed off over the terrain, not planning on going through the front door.
They managed not to trip any of the exterior alarms and found the way in that Skymouth had shown them. Langly set up a bypass that would shut off all the interior cameras, but had the skills to make it look like the problem was at another terminal on the other side of the building. Frohike kept look out as Byers set up his laptop and brought up a map of the place, specifically, the area where Skymouth would be found. Once that was found, he waved everyone over and pointed to the blueprint. One of the rooms on a lower level was filled out in blue.
"Skymouth is there." Byers said.
"Then let's go." Frohike replied and tugged on his fingerless gloves.
Byers clapped the laptop shut and shoved it into his bag. The three made their way through the high security maze with a minimum amount of difficulty. Eventually, after several hours of dodging about and by passing security systems, they reached the end of their search. The blast doors were locked tight. Langly shrugged and nonchalantly broke out a specialized mechanism that could read the electrical pulses of the computerized lock. It took only moments and the bolts slid undone at last.
"Moment of truth, boys." Byers said.
Grabbing onto the flywheel, Frohike rotated the latch until the heavy doors slowly inched open wide enough for one person to slip in sideways, which they did one by one until the three of them were inside the forbidden room.
Frohike whispered to Langly, "Get out your flashlight so we can see where the Hell we are."
It was pitch black within the room, except for the ambient glow of a few computer screens near the back wall raised up on what looked like a steel platform. You could hear Langly shuffling around in his bag, searching by feel for his flashlight. But almost before Langly laid his hands on the elusive torch, another rustling from across the room reached their ears. It was eerie. It sounded like stone against stone and the boys couldn't fathom what it could possibly be.
A light suddenly split through the darkness and splashed down on a massive form beside the computer platform.
Langly shrieked, "Oh my GOD!"
Frohike swore, "Son of a bitch!"
Byers yelled, "Let's get the Hell out of here!"
"We're gonna die!" Langly shouted pitifully.
They had turned back around to escape through the door only to find that it had been sealed shut from behind. They ran up to the door and began pounding on it futilely.
"OHGODOHGODOHGODOHGOD!" Langly whimpered and pummeled the door with his fist with all his might.
"Shit! It's locked!" Frohike punched the door with his gloved fist. The answer was a dull, metallic thud for his efforts.
A woman's voice cut through their tantrums, "Will you cease your ravings? It's all right. Please turn around."
Her calming voice gave them the courage needed to do as she requested. They bravely turned around to face the unknown. And then wished they hadn't because not less than three feet was the blue muzzle of something that belonged to nightmares. It sniffed them intently while terror threatened to overcome them, turning their legs into an undefined mass of gelatinous goo. Langly was whimpering something unintelligible.
"Calm yourselves. It is I. Skymouth." The female voice seemed to come from everywhere.
"Where?" Frohike bleated, though he couldn't take his eyes off of the terrifying image right before him.
"I am she. The blue dragon before you."
The boys, if they hadn't been shocked out of their wits already, would have been taken aback by this news. As it was, they just looked at the massive blue dragon in front of them stupidly. It was then Frohike noticed something besides the monstrosity right under their noses. Behind the flap of a giant ear ran a huge cord that seemed to be attached to the computer terminals on the platform.
"That is correct. I am linked up to the computers." There was a slight chuckle, "I am the worlds first cyber dragon."
"The computer is augmenting your voice?" Frohike asked.
"Yes, my implants allow me to navigate as easily through a network as my wings allow me to navigate through the air." Skymouth told them. "That is, when they let me out."
Langly found his voice again, "You. They cut you up?"
Skymouth nodded slightly, "Part of a contract signed between the Vatican and the Pentagon. I am allowed to live as long as I submit to any of the tests preformed on me by the General's people."
"What is going on here?" Byers asked, "How can you be here? A dragon in modern civilization and there have been no sightings."
"Several people know." Skymouth said. "The Pope, the President of the United States, the leading members of the U.N., General Andrews and his tech team, and the people who stole a vile full of my DNA."
"That's what this is about, isn't it?" Frohike asked. "You wanted us to get the vile back."
Curious, Byers asked, "Who knew enough to find you here to steal the vile?"
Skymouth mulled this one over for a moment before she answered, "It was someone within the Pentagon. Andrews wanted to create a true halfling, a half human, half dragon, eventually. The General was particular in whom he would select to become what he called the 'perfect being.' There were some on his team who were less than finicky, however. Impatient, they were able to pilfer some of the data and one of the vials so they could create their own 'perfect being.' It is still not known what would happen to a human if they were infused with dragon DNA."
Frohike shook his head, "Do you know who took it?"
Skymouth replied, "It has to be Avery and his ilk. They were unusually enthusiastic for this newest project of the General's. They have not been seen for sometime."
Byers sighed. Langly, gathering up some courage, approached the dragon's large head on her left side and gently pushed the huge ear back to inspect the cord that seemed to be plugged into her brain.
"So, you can manipulate any system with a thought, huh?" He touched the connection.
Skymouth answered, "I can. Hands free. Of course, I don't have hands."
"How can you joke at a time like this?" Byers asked.
"I could use a good joke." Frohike mumbled.
Skymouth chuckled again and the omnipotent female voice continued, "I have discovered that life is a joke, especially when you live as long as I have."
Frohike asked, "And how long is that?"
"Umm, five thousand four hundred and forty two years and counting." She told them.
Langly looked thoughtful, "That's impressive."
"A drop in the lake, in draconic time." Skymouth shrugged which made her wings rustle.
Byers, however, was insistent, "But that is getting away from the problem."
"The problem, gentlemen, is what we are going to do with you." The deep voice came from behind the Lone Gunmen.
The trio spun back around, startled.
"General Andrews. I have called these men here to help us." Skymouth said to the impressively garbed man that was flanked by two sharpshooters who held high-powered rifles.
General Andrew's scowled as he inspected the three hackers, "I did not give you permission to hire out help. We'll solve this problem on the inside."
Skymouth shook her horned head angrily, "The problem came from the inside!"
Frohike, hands in the air as were the rest of the Lone Gunmen's, said, "We already know what the problem is. You want to bring in more people to find out your little secret? You might as well use us. We got the skills and the know-how. We can retrieve your goods and we can do it with our hands tied behind our backs."
"Hands tied behind your backs. That might not be such a bad idea." General Andrew's responded and nodded to the two officers beside him. The two sharpshooters approached them menacingly.
But Skymouth wouldn't have any of that. A wave of hot, sulfuric air wafted past the trio and they all heard a warning-rumbling growl emanating from the dragon. What looked like a huge blue, multi-headed snake came curving around the Lone Gunmen from behind. It was Skymouth's tail, tipped with several flail-like appendages. Frohike couldn't help but to think of a cat-o-nine-tails when he looked at it. It coiled gently around them in a protective embrace.
"They are here at my request. They are going to help us. I have been observing their activities for over five years now and believe they are capable of helping us. I would not have enlisted their help if I did not think they could do it. You should know me better than that, General. Like that time when you sent me to 'Nam, I took care of everything for you even though we couldn't communicate with each other. I have my ways, and the Lone Gunmen are mine!" Skymouth snorted.
The General was silent and the two sharp shooters stood by, looking uncertain as to what to do next.
General Andrew's scowled then conceded, "Fine. I will trust your judgment on this. What have you told them so far?"
Skymouth relaxed her tail grip, but did not remove it completely away, "I have told them I suspected Avery and his team members have taken a vile of my DNA and some of our files. I have also told them of your plan for a 'perfect human.' That is all."
Andrew's nodded sagely, "I want to know how you even knew how to contact these… people."
Skymouth shrugged again, "I've been monitoring their activities on their computer lately. It is amazing some of the stuff they can do."
Langly gulped. Kimmy had been right. She had been there, watching them, waiting to see if they could break through, "Ummm, do you know anything about backdoors?"
The computer voice laughed outright, "Did you like my little test? You passed with flying colors. I was very impressed."
"How can you do something like that? That's amazing!" Langly gushed suddenly excited.
Frohike stopped Langly's blathering, "Whoa, there, Tex. Ease up on the Kung Fu. You and Skymouth can talk shop later. Right now, we gotta find out where Avery and his buddies went."
"But," Skymouth said, "I already know where they are."
END PART 1
Part 2: Melvin the Terrible forthcoming