Disclaimer: Not mine; Lone Gunmen (series) story
by Megan Reilly
April 15-18, 2001
"You sure you don't want to come over, Mulder?" Frohike said into the phone.
"We're having cheesesteaks." There was a pause as he waited for a response, then
added. "Later, we're gonna hop on the Internet and nitpick the scientific
inaccuracies of 'Dark Angel'." A moment later, he hung up and shook his head.
Langly and Byers both looked a little sad, then turned to the computers set up
in the center of the small room.
A moment later, the front door opened. "Food's here!" Jimmy Bond held up the
plastic bags with a big, goofy grin. He set the bags down on the counter near
the computer, then walked back out the door.
"Where's he going?" Frohike demanded.
"Who cares, let's eat!" cried Langly, digging in.
"If that idiot messed up the order..." Frohike threatened.
"Don't you think you're a little hard on him?" Byers asked gently. Frohike
"This was outside too!" Jimmy said, coming back inside and closing the door.
"Locks," the guys said simultaneously, out of habit.
Jimmy turned one of the bolts and continued into the room, holding up a FedEx
package. "I wonder what's inside." He shook it like it was a present at
"It's eight o'clock on Saturday," Byers pointed out. "Since when does FedEx
deliver so late?"
"Better find out what it is," Frohike said, grabbing it from Jimmy's hands and
ripping open the top. "Huh," said Frohike, looking into the envelope for a
moment before upending it and letting the contents fall into the center of the
"ID cards?" Jimmy asked, picking one up. He was disappointed as he turned it
over, looking for the secret.
"You know what these are," Byers said, serious, his eyes intensely locked onto
Frohike's, which stared back, equally intense because he did know what they
Langly dropped his sandwich. "This has got to be a trick." He jumped up,
scrambling for the envelope. "Who's it from?"
"FedEx, I told you," Jimmy said. "I don't get what the big deal is about cards."
"No name, just a charge number." Langly wiped the grease from his fingers and
started typing wildly on the keyboard nearest him.
"Langly, who sent these?" Byers asked.
"Workin' on it," Langly muttered.
Then the front door flew violently open, causing all of them to jump. The woman
they knew as Yves Adele Harlow stood there, looking furious. She tossed her hair
back -- not that it had dared to be mussed by kicking open the door -- and
glared at them. "Where did this come from?" she demanded, crossing the space
between the door and the group of staring, stunned men gathered in the center of
Yves held up a FedEx package, much like the one they'd received. "If this is
some kind of sick joke..."
"Whoa, slow down," Frohike suggested, holding up both his hands as though he
feared Yves was going to open fire on them next.
Jimmy lifted the package from Yves' upraised hand and emptied the contents onto
the table. "She got one too."
"Too?" Yves arched an eyebrow at him, then snatched the ID card and accompanying
satellite photo away from him. Her mask of calm fell back into place. "I know
you sent this. I just don't know why."
"What makes you so certain it came from us?" Byers asked.
"I traced the charge number on the packing slip," Yves informed him.
"According to this, we sent both packages."
"Why would we send a FedEx package to ourselves?" Jimmy asked.
"We didn't, you moron," said Frohike. "Whoever did charged it to our number."
"Were there more packages charged?" Byers asked Langly, sounded concerned about
"Just these two," Langly responded.
"I think she sent them," Frohike said, glaring at Yves, who crossed her arms and
glared right back at him.
"Nice pictures," Jimmy commented, looking at the identification cards.
"What is that abominable smell?" Yves demanded.
"Langly," Frohike responded degradingly, but at the same time Jimmy answered,
"Dinner. Want some?" and offered Yves his sandwich. She looked at him as though
he was insane.
"He's got a point," Byers said. "Whoever made up these cards went to a lot of
Langly grabbed his and inspected it. "Mount Weather's just an urban legend,
anyway," he said, but he was looking from Byers to Frohike to Yves as though he
"Lots of urban legends are based on fact," Jimmy offered. "That's what makes
them legends." This earned him several confused looks. "I'm keeping mine."
"What's that you got with your card, Yves?" Byers asked, and she reluctantly
handed over the black and white photograph. "This is definitely Mount Weather
from the air," he confirmed.
Frohike leaned in with a high-powered magnifying glass. "Looks like it's from a
Russian spy satellite," he analyzed. "Fairly recent, too."
"It's too big an opportunity to pass up," Langly said.
"Unless it's a set-up," Frohike declared, sliding the magnifying glass back onto
"Yves, what do you think?" Jimmy asked in an overly-loud tone which made
everyone look at him. "Just asking," he added.
"I don't know what to think," Yves declared, retrieving her ID card, satellite
photo, and empty FedEx envelope. Then she turned on the very high heel of her
boots and sashayed out of the dimly lit lair.
"She's mad," Jimmy said.
"Mad about what?" Frohike demanded.
Jimmy shrugged. "Maybe 'cause we found out her real name."
"What?!?" Langly and Byers demanded at the same time.
Jimmy grinned. "Holly Eve Seaward. It was on the ID card."
The guys looked at each other. "Holly Eve Seaward..." Langly said, frowning.
"It's an anagram," Frohike reported. "For 'Lee Harvey Oswald.'"
Langly and Byers lost interest immediately. Jimmy just cocked his head, and
Frohike prepared himself for the massively stupid thing Jimmy was about to say.
"What's up with that guy, anyway?" he asked. Frohike relaxed slightly. Jimmy
turned to him. "You think he was her husband?"
"No, genius," Frohike said, and walked away.
"You forgot your cheesesteak!" Jimmy called after him helpfully, sitting down in
front of the computer and heaving a great sigh as he picked up the
identification card that had his photograph on it and examined it again, while
eating his dinner.
A moment later, Byers, Langly and Frohike re-appeared, dressed from head to toe
in black. Frohike was sporting a bulletproof vest. "Is there a costume party?"
Jimmy asked excitedly.
"Something like that," Langly replied, picking up one of the forgotten
sandwiches and wolfing it down.
"That was mine!" Frohike cried.
"Too late now," Langly said, licking the last bit of cheese from his fingers.
"You're going out to Mount Whatever," Jimmy realized.
"You should stay here, Jimmy," Byers told him.
"No way! I'm coming with you guys," Jimmy insisted.
"It might not be safe," Byers cautioned. "It's better if you stay here and man
the phones. In case we don't make it back."
"That's what the answering machine is for," Jimmy pointed out joyfully, checking
to make sure it was on, which it was, because the guys routinely screened and
recorded their calls. The three gunmen exchanged looks amongst themselves.
"Come on, guys!" Jimmy wheedled.
"Well...he is part of the team now," Byers said, his tone wary.
"I'll drive," Jimmy offered, but Frohike grabbed the car keys from his hand as
they trooped out to the van.
* * *
"Langly, I need those directions now."
"It's not like it's on Yahoo!Maps for crying out loud," Langly protested from
where he was working on the computer in the back of the van.
"There's one thing I've never figured out," Jimmy said.
"*One* thing?" Frohike asked doubtfully.
"You guys have all this cool stuff in the van, but you don't have a radio."
"Got it." Langly handed the printout over the front seats to Byers, who was
Jimmy was inspecting his new identification card again, reading the words that
were printed there:
THE PERSON DESCRIBED ON THIS CARD HAS ESSENTIAL
EMERGENCY DUTIES WITH THE FEDERAL GOVERNMENT. REQUEST
FULL ASSISTANCE AND UNRESTRICTED MOVEMENT BE AFFORDED
THE PERSON TO WHOM THIS CARD IS ISSUED.
"What is this place we're going to, anyway?" Jimmy asked.
"Mount Weather is a complete, working underground city ready for immediate
inhabitance in case of emergency," Byers said.
"Run by FEMA," Langly added.
"Filled with files kept by the CIA and the shadow government on ordinary
American citizens," Frohike finished.
"What's this for?" Jimmy held up the card.
"There's a list of sixty-five hundred or so Americans vital to the survival of
the nation," Byers began.
"Vital to the secret agenda, you mean," Frohike responded.
"They all have these cards to afford them access to the secret facilities,"
"Why?" frowned Jimmy.
"Because they don't let just anybody in," Langly replied.
"I mean, why would people need these? What are they expecting to happen?" Jimmy
"Anything. Fire, flood, famine..." Byers speculated. "But I suspect their main
fear continues to be nuclear annihilation."
"Or alien assimilation," Frohike muttered.
"Mulder would have loved this!" Langly added.
"Aliens?" Jimmy asked, a smile spreading across his face.
"Never mind," Frohike told him. "Here we go. Everyone look official."
The van slowed as it pulled up to the guard house set into the first of two rows
of tall wire fencing, one inside the other, with barbed wire on top. As Frohike
rolled down the window, they could hear the barking of a trio of German
shepherds snarling and running loose between the barriers.
"I think you'd better turn back around..." the gate guard began, but then
Frohike flashed his smile and his newly acquired identification card. The
guard's flashlight moved over the inside of the van, hitting one card and then
another. "Proceed," he said, after a tense moment.
Frohike let the van roll forward. Behind them, the gate rolled closed. Then the
second gate opened, and they were on the narrow road inside the complex.
"I thought you said it was a mountain," Jimmy said.
The van rounded a curve that revealed the mountain -- feet of solid rock jutting
up from the earth.
"This is too easy," Frohike said, his eyes sweeping the road nervously. "I don't
"Someone wanted us to see what's here," Byers said. "Someone thought it was time
the American public knew what was going on."
"Or thought it was time to say goodbye to a problem," Langly muttered, eyeing
the dark trees lining the road. They looked like the trees from the Wizard of Oz
-- the ones that had been full of the monkey men that ripped the scarecrow apart
and carried Dorothy into the waiting clutches of the Wicked Witch. Not that
Langly was scared of a kids' movie, or anything.
"Ssh," Frohike said, nodding to a reflector at the side of the road. It was
round, mounted on the same sort of metal pole that ordinarily held road signs.
"High powered mikes."
Byers and Langly nodded silently.
"Where are we going?" Jimmy asked in an overly loud stage whisper.
"We'll know when we get there," Frohike said.
They remained in an eerie state of silence for several more minutes, driving
along the narrow road, staring into the reflectors as they passed, gaining
altitude as they drove up along the mountain. Waiting for something to happen.
Frohike braked at the entrance to a parking lot. "Shall we?" He glanced at the
others, seeking approval.
Byers nodded tightly, and Frohike pulled into a space. The lot was about half-
full. The guys got out, regrouping. "There should be an elevator," Byers said,
keeping his voice low. "Some way in."
"She's here," Jimmy reported.
Jimmy rolled his eyes as though it was a stupid question and nodded his head at
the sleek silver sports car parked diagonally, taking up several perfectly good
parking spaces. "Holly Eve Seaward."
"He means Yves," Byers translated.
"Whoever she is, she got the primo parking spot," Langly pointed out, spotting
the elevator and walking over to it, pressing the button. The doors slid open
immediately...as though the elevator had known they were there and was waiting
"You knew she was coming," Jimmy said, almost accusatively.
"It wasn't a huge leap of logic," Frohike said, as the elevator doors closed on
the group and the small car began to descend.
"What's she after?" Byers asked, trying to figure it out.
"She usually goes where the money is," Langly remarked.
"Maybe she's applying for a job," Frohike guessed. "This'd be right up her
"Hey, guys," Jimmy reprimanded. "She's helped us out in the past."
"Helped steal reward money right from under our noses, you mean," Langly
"And get us into trouble," Frohike pointed out as Jimmy's frown deepened.
"Yves cares about one thing and one thing only, Jimmy," Byers instructed, matter
of factly. "And that's herself."
Jimmy looked disappointed, not to have the facts about Yves pointed out for him,
but disappointed in the guys for not giving her the benefit of the doubt.
"There's enough projects rumored to be going on here to keep her busy for a
while," Langly said.
"This is the longest elevator ride in the history of elevators," Frohike
"Through more than a mile of solid granite. The strongest rock on the east
coast. That's why they built it here," Byers said. "Just the fact that we're
here proves a lot."
There was a soft ding and the doors slid open. "Finally," Frohike said, stepping
out into a cool hallway. The floor was a smooth linoleum and the walls were
simple cement blocks. They could have been standing inside any mall or office
The elevator doors slid closed behind them. Stranding them.
"Where to?" Langly asked, looking one way and then the other.
"Find the files," Byers decided.
"Maybe we should split up," Jimmy suggested.
The other men ignored him.
"Hey, look, a McDonalds!" Jimmy pointed up ahead at the familiar red decor and
golden arches. "Maybe it's not as sinister as you thought."
"Maybe it's more," Frohike said, giving the restaurant a wide berth.
The hallway widened, revealing more stores lining the walkway. A post office,
dry cleaners and beauty salon were only some of the typical stores located along
the walkway. A pair of men dressed in military fatigues cruised by in a tan golf
cart, barely slowing to pass the four men, not even giving them a second glance.
They weren't alone by any means. The walkway wasn't crowded, but there were
other people. Some were dressed in military clothing; others were in suits.
"Did you see who that was?" Langly whispered, his head turning to follow the
petite figure of a white-haired man.
"No, man, who?" Frohike asked.
"Jack Valenti! The movie-ratings guy."
"If this is who gets to survive the apocalypse, take me now," Frohike requested.
"Sssh," Byers cautioned, smiling at a family as they passed with only a few feet
between them. "Let's try over here."
Another turn took them back into a cement-block hallway.
"We're never going to find anything without a map," Langly lamented. And it
appeared that he was correct.
"I guess we start trying doors," Byers suggested, walking to the first door in
the hallway and testing it. Locked.
"They're all locked," Langly reported.
"I knew this was too easy," Frohike grumbled.
"Attention everyone. The main mall will be closing in five minutes," came a
voice from a speaker overhead. "Please come back tomorrow."
A few people walked past them, followed by another group. The guys stood by and
watched as they pushed through a double set of doors at the far end of the hall.
Glances were exchanged, and the guys followed the crowd into what appeared to be
a central town park, covered with rich, green grass.
Turning around, they could see the sign above the double doors go off. "Center
Mall" it read. Around the edges of the park were streets, just like in any small
town. On the outskirts of the park were two-story buildings which the people
disappeared into. Dormitories, or apartments.
"No stars," Jimmy said, looking up into what would have been the sky.
"We're indoors," Frohike pointed out.
Jimmy just nodded, his eyes still fixed on the high ceiling above them.
"Where to guys?" Byers demanded under his breath. "We can't just stand here
The four of them started walking slowly, crossing the street and passing through
the rows of identical buildings, which were divided further into streets in a
tidy grid pattern.
Then they reached a wall.
"What now?" Frohike asked.
"I wouldn't mind getting a look inside these apartments," Langly said, drawing
looks from Byers and Frohike. "What?"
"We've got work to do," said Byers, and they started walking, following the
wall. Eventually they came upon another elevator, which they got into.
This one had a selection of buttons, indicating floors down to a basement.
Frohike pushed the "B" button, but nothing happened. He punched it again, and a
small red lightbulb flickered.
"It has some kind of security mechanism," Byers pointed out, sliding his fingers
over a second small lightbulb -- green, no doubt -- and a narrow slot.
Jimmy shoved his identification card into the slot and the green light lit. The
elevator started moving downward. When it stopped, the doors opened.
A group of men dressed in SWAT gear stood there, guns drawn, waiting for the
elevator doors to open.
The guys froze in absolute terror, staring at the military guys. "You gettin'
out?" one of them demanded.
"Oh, uh, yeah, uh, sure." The Gunmen shoved through the elevator doors, which
tried heartily to close on them. They turned and watched the military crew board
"That was a close one!" Jimmy said.
The guys shot him a look. "We're wasting time," Frohike declared, and started
down the hall. At the end was a thick metal door, just exactly the sort of door
you'd keep vitally important files behind.
"Stay here and keep watch," Byers told Jimmy as he slid his identification card
through the lock mechanism on the door.
"Why do I always have to keep watch?" Jimmy grumbled, but watched as Byers,
Langly and Frohike disappeared through the door and closed it behind them. He
crossed his arms and leaned against the wall with a sigh. Then he realized he
should, perhaps, try to look less like he was keeping watch. But that would
present a challenge.
He spotted a familiar figure moving toward him rapidly. "Hey!" He waved.
"In here." Yves pulled on the handle of one of the other doors in the hallway
and it opened.
"But I'm keeping watch!" Jimmy protested.
"Three men will come down this hallway in 15 seconds. They have very large guns
and they're not in a good mood. Now do as I say," Yves ordered, not waiting for
Jimmy to agree or disagree. She put a hand on his chest and shoved hard. Jimmy
went flying backward into the tiny storage closet. The latch clicked as Yves
pulled the door closed.
A moment later, the sound of boots on the tile floor thundered down the hall.
"Which way?" A male voice that sounded surprisingly soldieresque shouted. A few
seconds later, there was more thunder as the soldiers retreated.
Yves let out the breath she'd been holding. "You said you were keeping watch,"
she said deliberately. "Does that mean the other three idiots are here
"You really shouldn't call the guys 'idiots'. They're pretty smart --"
"I'll take that as a yes," Yves stated, trying to get him to shut up. She
couldn't think with him jabbering on like that.
"Can we go now?" Jimmy asked.
"We could," said Yves, "If the door wasn't locked." To prove her point, she
pushed down on the handle and demonstrated that the door did not open.
* * *
Row after row of cabinets flowed down the length of the room, towering up to the
"Lots of files," said Byers.
"Dude, man, lots and lots of files," said Langly.
"What's in these files?" Frohike asked, turning to the nearest cabinet and
yanking it open. Langly leaned over his shoulder, as Byers walked completely
around in a small circle, seemingly awed by the vastness of the space. "This is
the holy grail of information collection," Frohike continued, shuffling through
"I'm surprised they don't have it computerized," Langly said, moving several
rows down and beginning a search of his own.
"Too instable," Frohike judged. "Next update of technology, there go all your
files. Hey, Byers, look at this."
Byers shook his head as though coming out of a trance. "What did you find?" he
asked, looking over Frohike's shoulder into the file folder he had splayed open.
His eyes widened a bit. "These files are more complete than anyone imagined.
They contain...everything. Collecting it must be a mammoth task."
"Then let's get out of here before some little file clerk shows up to put away
the day's data," Langly suggested, grabbing handfuls of files and shoving them
under his arm.
"What are you doing with that?" Byers asked. "We can't take them with us."
"Why the hell not?" Langly demanded.
Byers opened his mouth, but didn't have an answer. It was wrong for the
government to collect so much information on its citizens. It wasn't possible
that peoples' best interests were at the heart of the project.
Frohike grabbed the files away from Langly. "You take these, they're gonna know
exactly where to look for 'em," he said. "Put 'em back."
Langly frowned and grumbled, but then did as he'd been told, reluctantly
returning the files he'd gathered on the three of them, for starters. And Joey
Ramone. Then he started obediently for the door.
"Byers, you coming?" Frohike asked.
"Just a moment. I need to look at something first," Byers said, disappearing
into the maze of files.
* * *
"We're locked in?" Jimmy asked, grinning widely. He tried the door handle, and
indeed, it didn't open.
"It isn't a good thing, believe me," Yves said, looking slightly worried. Then
she turned around and surveyed the small supply closet as though something had
occurred to her. She put her hands on the metal shelving unit and began to pull
herself up, then looked back at Jimmy, who was watching her. "Don't just stand
there, give me a hand!"
"You're doing fine on your own," he told her, crossing his arms and settling
Yves scowled at him, and started to climb up the shelving unit again. The heel
of her boot slipped from one of the shelves and she started to fall, then jumped
down. "It's hopeless," she declared.
"The guys'll get us out of here," Jimmy said confidently.
"If they figure out we're in here," Yves bristled. "More likely, we'll be
discovered by the janitor when he needs a fresh mop."
Jimmy cocked his head and looked at her.
"What?" she demanded.
A four syllable word. Yves was surprised. "So what if I am?" She tossed her
hair, because that was what she did when she was annoyed.
"And you admitted it," Jimmy said.
"You needn't be so pleased by the fact," Yves informed him, turning around again
and looking at the four closely-spaced walls like a cat in a cage. Then she sat
down with a sigh.
Jimmy sat down next to her, scooting over so he had enough room, pushing her
into the wall. "It's not so bad," he told her.
She simply frowned and wondered what she'd done wrong, that she'd ended up
locked in a supply closet with Jimmy Bond, of all people. Someone you couldn't
even carry on a decent conversation with and be distracted from the fact that
there was no ventilation and a limited supply of air in such a small space, and
that if they were still alive when they were discovered, they would promptly be
"Why are you here?" Jimmy asked her.
"Because I got locked in, you moron!"
"No, I meant *here*," he said. "The guys, they're here because they want to know
the truth. But you..." He paused. "The guys think you only do things if there's
"There are lots of secrets in this building that are valuable," Yves said. Jimmy
continued to look at her, as though there was more. Goosebumps broke out along
her shoulders as she began to think that no one could actually be so stupid as
he was, that the entire thing had to be an act, and she'd fallen for it just as
the Lone Gunmen had. The uneasy feeling only increased with Jimmy's next words.
"I know about you," he said.
* * *
"Byers?" Frohike called, turning the corner and finding his colleague quickly
sorting through a file. "What's so interesting back here?"
Langly ambled up, and glanced at the label on the cabinet: M. "Good thinking,
checking on Mulder's sister," Langly said.
Byers frowned painfully. He wasn't checking on Mulder's sister. Guiltily, he
faced the guys. "That's not...maybe you should check that out," he said.
Frohike reached over and gently flicked the file in Byers' hands so he could
read the label. Then he shook his head. "Still not over her."
Byers put his head down. "I just had to know," he said.
"So what does it say?" Frohike asked.
"Nothing. Not a word after 1998." Byers closed the file on Suzanne Modeski and
put it back into the cabinet.
"Sorry, bro," Frohike said, patting Byers on the shoulder. Byers nodded. Langly
banged a file drawer closed and the two of them turned to him expectantly.
"Nada," Langly reported. "Not a word on any of the Mulder family."
"That's weird," said Frohike.
"You bet it is," Langly concurred.
"There must be another file room. This is just the general one, for average
people," Byers reasoned. "We have to find that other file room."
"How're we gonna do that?" Langly demanded.
"We found this one," Frohike pointed out. The three of them crossed out of the
room into the hallway, which was empty.
"Where's Jimmy?" Byers asked, a worried tone creeping into his voice. He looked
up and down the hall, but there was no sign of anyone.
"Probably looking for a water fountain," Frohike grumbled.
"I don't like this," Byers said.
"He'll turn up," Frohike said, starting back the way they'd come, trying the
doors as he went along. "We don't have time to waste."
Langly followed, and Byers brought up the rear, looking over his shoulder for
the missing member of their team.
* * *
Jimmy looked quite serious and stretched his words out with satisfaction. "I
know all about you, _Holly_ _Eve_ _Seaward_."
Yves couldn't help it. She laughed.
"What?" Jimmy asked, his face falling. "That's the name on your ID card to get
in here! I saw it."
"It's an anagram," Yves pointed out.
"Why don't you want anyone to know your real name?" Jimmy asked.
Yves said nothing.
"I mean, is it stupid? Is that why? Like, I know this guy named Scooter --"
"That isn't why," Yves informed him. "There are certain security risks involved.
Have your friends explain it to you when they get the time."
"You've got time. Right now," Jimmy pointed out. "I bet I can guess it."
"You won't guess it," Yves informed him.
"Tiffany? Amanda? Jessica. Michelle?" Jimmy had a different hopeful expression
for each name he tried.
"You won't guess it," Yves insisted.
Jimmy frowned, and put his hands together as though he was deep in thought.
"I've got it!"
"No, you don't," Yves said.
"Elizabeth!" He said triumphantly.
"No," Yves insisted.
Jimmy frowned and went back to thinking.
"Please, can we discuss something else," Yves suggested.
"Like what?" Jimmy asked.
* * *
"This has to be it," Frohike said.
"Are you sure it's not the accounting department again?" Langly demanded as they
pushed their way into another room, this one smaller and containing only a few
file cabinets. It was climate-controlled, however, which they took to be a good
sign that the documents were worthy of preservation.
"That could have been interesting," Byers said mildly. "Find out where the
budget for all those two hundred dollar toilet seats really goes."
"There's enough material here for a year of issues," Frohike said, yanking open
a file drawer and stopping.
"What is it?" Langly asked.
Frohike held up a shiny CD-Rom. "Time to do what we do best."
There was a computer in the next room, which they located quickly and booted up.
"Octium chip," Langly snorted derisively. "Security holes like there's no
tomorrow. Remind me to try to crack this puppy when we get home."
"Security holes don't matter if they don't store their information on a server,"
Frohike pointed out. "All the passwords in the world wouldn't help you if the
information is on a disk in a file drawer."
"Am I the only one who finds it odd that there's no one working?" Byers asked,
keeping his eyes on the door. "No one at all? Not even a cleaning crew."
"Cleaning crew here's got to have top secret clearance," Frohike mused.
"What's that supposed to mean?" Langly demanded.
"It means, put in the damn disk and hurry up," Frohike said, handing it to him.
Langly pushed the CD tray inside and the drive whirred to life.
"What is it?" Byers asked.
"Looks like a sim," Langly reported, quickly scrolling through file menus. "Like
that Scenario 12-D with the plane and the World Trade Center," he elaborated.
"So it's nothing, then," Frohike said, reaching for the disk ejection button.
"Not exactly," Langly frowned and leaned in toward the screen. "This one's
linked to information that appears to be real. Military personnel, mostly."
"That makes sense. The point of a simulation would be to populate it
realistically," Byers concurred.
"It ain't Sim City, I'll tell you that," Langly reported as he continued
scrolling. "There seems to be two levels here -- one with a sim where a suitcase
bomb goes off in New York City, the other where military personnel are being
held captive in comas in some closed base in New Jersey. Weird." His fingers
continued to fly over the keyboard.
"This is fascinating, but it's not what we came in here for," Frohike said. "We
need to get to where they're holding the important files."
"Could be a story," Langly said.
"Put it back," Byers told him. "It's getting late. Shift change at midnight
could spell trouble. We need to get Jimmy and get out of here."
Langly looked disappointed.
"Put it back," Frohike told him, and ejected the disk to make his point. Langly
protested, loudly, but then slid the CD back into its case.
"One hell of a CD, too. Held more data that you could cram onto a normal CD-R,"
Langly said as he put it back into the cabinet.
"Wow, advanced technology at a secret government installation. Who'd have
guessed?" Frohike said sarcastically. They stepped into the hall, then looked to
Byers. "Which way?"
Byers looked around, then pointed. "This way."
* * *
"So what's your favorite color?" Jimmy asked.
"Are you always this brilliant a conversationalist?" Yves inquired. He looked
sort of hurt, and she didn't know why it bothered her that he looked sort of
hurt, but she gave in and answered his question anyway. "Black."
"Black can't be your favorite color," Jimmy said.
"I don't know," Jimmy said, giving in. There were several minutes of silence
while he tried to think of something else to say. Yves looked up at the ceiling
again. "You doing okay?" he asked her.
"You sure?" he asked.
"Of course I'm sure. I'm perfectly capable of being aware of how I feel," Yves
said, then realized that the annoyance in her answer was contrary to trying to
make him believe she really was okay. "What are you afraid of, Jimmy?" She
turned and looked at him.
He shrugged. "Lots of stuff, I guess."
"Really." There was the usual measure of doubt in her tone.
"Sure, why not?" he asked. "Everybody's scared of stuff. Even if it's just
little things, like spiders or red ballpoint pens."
Red ballpoint pens? Yves wondered.
"And then there's the normal stuff, like car crashes and volcanos and 'Just
Shoot Me' getting cancelled. Everybody's scared of stuff like that. They just
can't help it," Jimmy continued. He was on a roll now.
"Seriously," said Yves. "What are you most afraid of?"
Jimmy was quiet for a minute. Honestly contemplating it, apparently. Yves
watched him, because he was looking down and unaware of her gaze. There was
something oddly soothing about the even rise and fall of his chest beneath the
dark sweater he was wearing. Especially when it would be easy for her to give in
to the anxiety clawing at her and hyperventilate to death within several
seconds. He looked at her, a sidelong glance, and she met his eyes. "Ending up
old, and alone and useless," he said.
"I doubt that would happen to you, Jimmy," Yves said practically.
"Now that's not fair," Jimmy told her. "I've been taking you seriously, and then
when I tell you something personal, that's the way I really feel, you just go
and dismiss it like it's something that doesn't even matter."
"It does matter," Yves told him. "It's just an eventuality that seems highly
unlikely given a moment of rational thought."
"I know you think I'm stupid. And the guys think I'm stupid, too."
"Jimmy, I didn't --"
"Naw, it's okay," Jimmy said. "I know I'm not the sharpest lightbulb in the box.
I just hate it when you guys treat me like I'm not as good as you and think I'm
not even gonna notice it. I have feelings, too."
Yves felt bad. And that was strange, because she rarely felt conscience about
anything. "I just meant it seemed unlikely you'd end up old and alone and
useless because you're strong and you're healthy and you're very attractive and
personable," she said. "I didn't mean anything else by it." She shifted
slightly, then stretched out her leg, feeling a twinge of panic at the
realization that the closet was too small to completely straighten her knee.
"You really think that?" Jimmy asked, and she nodded. "Gee, thanks, Holly." He
flashed her a brilliant grin.
* * *
"You used to work for the Feds," Langly said to Byers. "In all that time, you
never heard anything about this place?"
"There were a lot of things I never dreamed existed," Byers said. "I just did my
paperwork and worried about broadcast bandwidth and the occasional illegal cable
box. You never think to question things if you don't know about them in the
"Well, people are gonna know about this place now," Frohike declared.
"It's not like we found people being tortured," Langly pointed out. "It's just
another data cache."
"A highly suspicious one," Frohike said.
"Here." Byers put his eye to a window in the door, and saw another dark room
filled with filing cabinets. "This has to be it."
"We've seen every other file cabinet in the place," Langly concurred.
"Let's open this baby up," Frohike said, and swiped his ID card through the slot
next to the door, beneath the small indicator light that glowed red.
It stayed red.
Frohike looked at the guys, curious.
He reached over to try it again, but Byers held out his hand to stop him.
Frohike's eyebrows went up. "It could trigger an alarm."
"It could have just misread the card."
"Do you want to take that chance?" Byers asked.
Frohike's arm remained extended for a tense moment, ready to re-try the card.
Then he let it drop. "There's always tomorrow."
"We got enough from one visit to fill an entire issue," Byers said.
"Maybe even more," Langly added.
"Better safe than sorry," Frohike agreed.
"We'd better find Jimmy."
"He's probably standing right where we told him to," Frohike said. "Probably
keep standing there till the end of time."
* * *
"So how'd a nice girl like you end up in a place like this?" Jimmy asked Yves.
She rolled her eyes at the question.
"You ever go do stuff after work? Hang out? Have some fun?" Jimmy asked.
She looked at him, slightly alarmed, because she'd heard similar words from
Neanderthals attempting to ask her on a date. "My work takes a great deal of my
time," Yves said, her standard answer.
"You like me," Jimmy decided.
"I have no opinion one way or the other," Yves declared breezily.
"C'mon," said Jimmy coaxingly.
"You have been fairly pleasant company," Yves admitted.
Jimmy grinned, convincing Yves it was time to see what she could do to get them
out of there. Not to mention she was fairly certain the walls were, in fact,
closing in on them even as they sat there. She stood, glancing again at the
ceiling, and contemplated the door. "You can't just break it down?" She asked
"I could try," he offered, getting up and immediately putting shoulder to door.
"Ow!" he cried in pain, bouncing off the door, which was bound to be several
"Are you all right?" Yves asked. Jimmy straightened up, nodding his head, but
his face looked pinched and white. "You don't look all right." She touched his
"Ow," Jimmy warned.
"You've dislocated your shoulder," Yves diagnosed.
"No, I'm okay," Jimmy insisted.
"Stand still," Yves ordered.
* * *
"See, he's right..." Frohike said as they rounded the corner back to the first
file room, where they'd left Jimmy standing guard. No Jimmy.
"Where the hell is he?" Langly demanded.
"Jimmy?" Byers hissed.
Then they heard the loud moan from behind one of the doors. "Jimmy?" Byers
asked, as the three men exchanged glances. He swiped his card and the door
Jimmy had his eyes closed and Yves had her arms around him.
"Sorry," said Byers and began to pull the door closed.
"No!" yelled Yves, jumping away from Jimmy and dashing into the hallway, where
she began taking deep breaths of cool, freshly circulating air.
"Hi, guys," Jimmy said, stepping out and closing the door behind him.
"Are we interrupting something?" Frohike asked, a dark, dark look on his face.
"I dislocated my shoulder," Jimmy said.
"I'll just bet you did," Langly grumbled.
"Tryin' to get the door open," Jimmy added. "Really, guys."
"Uh-huh," said Frohike. "And what are you doing here?"
"Taking advantage of an opportunity," Yves replied.
"That's what it looked like, all right," said Langly.
"We should get going. The shift changes in fifteen minutes." Byers looked at his
watch. The four men started for the elevator at the end of the corridor. "Yves,
are you coming?" Byers turned to ask her.
But she'd disappeared.
* * *
"Cavern of Secrets" read the headline on the next issue of the Lone Gunmen.
They'd just finished writing the stories and assembling the issue on the
"Too bad we never figured out where those badges came from," Byers said.
"They spoofed us good," Langly said. "Even the clerk at the FedEx drop said the
person matched our description."
"Wouldn't surprise me a bit if Yves had her hand in this," Frohike groused.
"But we didn't do all the dirty work on some dangerous field assignment that led
to her collecting a huge reward," Langly pointed out.
"It's a shame the badges expired after one use," Byers said.
"It sucks! I was looking forward to heading back there with the portable
scanner," Langly sighed.
"Look on the bright side," Jimmy suggested. "You got to see it was real."
The guys nodded, falling into a momentary silence as they thought about that. It
was definitely real. Just as the secrets referred to in the headline were real.
Frohike hit the button to electronically transmit the issue to the printer, and
another issue was put to bed.
Info about Mount Weather came from various web sites, but this was the best:
I'd love to get feedback! Thanks for reading!