Title: Things Undone 5: Snipe Hunt (14/24)

Authors: Erynn and Sally

Archive: Ephemeral, Gossamer, LGM, FLO, all others ask first. 

Rated: R for grownup stuff

Spoilers: We assume you've seen the series. There are some slight spoilers
for the LGM Pilot. This little Gunmenverse takes off from the main line of
the X Files canon universe after 3oaK but before FPS (which happens in this
timeline in early May).

Disclaimers: You know who really owns these guys and the other XF
characters. It ain't us, much as we'd like to. Some characters are blatantly
based on our friends. They made us. (BTW, you guys, you can put down the
red-hot pokers now) Others, we just made up for our amusement. Chapter
opening quotes used without permission. Remember, love not money is the
motivator here -- like anybody would ever pay us for this stuff.

Category: Gunmen action/adventure, humor, angst, a little Langly romance,
and a budding friendship.

Keywords: Lone Gunmen

Summary: It's hacker season. Do you know where your computer is?

Stories in the Things Undone series: 
Things Undone, by Erynn; a 5-part story wherein the Gunmen deal with some 
unfinished business. 
TU 2: Mending the Tears, by Sally; a 6-part story wherein Fro and Langly go 
to the ER. 
TU 3: To Carry On, by Erynn; a vignette wherein the Gunmen begin to deal 
with the repercussions of their adventure. 
TU 4: Alchemy of the Word, by Erynn and Sally; a 17 chapter novella wherein 
words are more important than they seem, and Byers starts to get a life. 
If you haven't read them, you may be confused here. 

Author notes: 
Sally say: Special thanks to pigs in slop. We only want you to be happy. 
Erynn say: I never thought Things Undone would turn into its own little 
universe, but it's been a hell of a lot of fun writing with Sally. Thanks to 
all of you folks who have been enjoying the story and encouraging us to 
write more. You're the greatest. 
______ 

"That public men publish falsehoods 
Is nothing new." 

~~Robinson Jeffers -- Selected Poems~~ 
______ 

SATURDAY, APRIL 3, 2000 
LONE GUNMEN HQ 
EVENING 

BYERS: 

Mulder and Scully left shortly after dinner to get ready for their trip to 
Wichita, and are in the air now. Frohike grumbled for a while about not 
being able to go with them, but I know he understands that I can't take up 
the slack yet, much as I wish I could. I hope that this is a short, 
successful trip, not simply because Ms. Jackson could most likely provide us 
with critical information for our investigation into Pinck, but because 
there is a life in the balance. Perhaps a great many lives. I hope that 
Mulder and Scully aren't too late. 

Sari's still here with us, silent. She's been getting more depressed as the 
evening has passed, and her silence has become an oppressive presence all 
its own. I don't think she believes Nicole is still alive. She's been 
through so much lately that it doesn't surprise me she's reacting this way. 
I think if she went home right now, she'd simply be even more miserable, 
alone with her worries. I'd drive her home and stay on her couch so that she 
wouldn't be by herself, if I could see well enough. This temporary loss of 
vision has been one of the most frustrating experiences of my life. Sari and 
I are sitting together in the TV room on the couch, motionless, my arms 
around her. The only thing she's said since we sat down was "would you just 
hold me for a while?" I could never refuse her such a request, particularly 
not under these circumstances. I've tried a few times to engage her in 
conversation, hoping to distract her at least a bit, but her responses have 
been monosyllabic at best. Normally I would find this a very calming, 
peaceful way to spend an evening, but I'm almost as unsettled as Sari is 
right now. She seems unfocused and lost in thought, unconnected to anything 
outside herself aside from our physical contact. I would believe that she 
had completely dissociated, except that every so often she moves a little 
closer, or squeezes my hand, obviously conscious of my presence. I can feel 
her shudder every now and then as well. I haven't seen her this way before, 
and it worries me deeply. I wonder if this is a normal stress reaction for 
her. Perhaps I should ask Devi tomorrow, when we hear from her about that 
diplomatic soiree she's having tonight. 

In the office, Mel, Ringo and Deborah are going through several databanks in 
search of Pinck-sponsored research projects, and those funded by Pinck's 
corporate blinds and subsidiaries. Deborah's passwords made it simple to 
access the information, and of course, Langly created god accounts to search 
the classified materials unavailable from Deborah's access level. I hear 
them now and then, muttering to each other as they compare the public data 
that Deborah can access with the classified data on the same projects. 

While for us, this is business as usual, she's becoming extremely agitated 
by the discrepancies they're finding, and the implications of a number of 
these experiments. I think the realities of the situation are beginning to 
register with her at last. I only hope she's able to handle it. It would 
crush Ringo if she left because of this, but for her sake, it might be the 
only sane thing. I'm uncomfortable with the level of Deborah's involvement. 
Disclosure is one thing -- indeed, I believe it's absolutely necessary for 
all three of us as we open our lives more to others -- but getting her 
wrapped up in what we do is something else entirely. I'm not sure she 
understood what she was really doing when she handed over her passwords, nor 
do I believe that the implications of her act were clear to her, and what 
her involvement in our work will mean. For us, friendship, intimacy and love 
carry a far heavier burden than the emotional risks expected by others. 
Welcome to the dark side, Dr. SaintJohn. 

"Hey, guys, we got something you might find interesting," Frohike calls in 
to us. Sari looks up at me, apparently more aware of her surroundings than I 
suspected. I am equally concerned about Sari's involvement, but I know that 
hers is an informed choice, and that she understands many of the risks 
inherent in what we do -- and what she does. 

"What is it?" I ask, as we return to the office. Not being able to read the 
screen is aggravating. 

"I think we got something," Langly says. Deborah looks pale and exhausted. 
He points to a note on his monitor, and Sari leans in to read it, a hand on 
his shoulder. "Had to go way past god access to get it, too. There's 
research being done through the NIH at a County Extension Office that's 
associated with the Pinck test fields Sari was reporting on. The public 
report discusses genetic crop modification, while the high-security stuff 
says it's a project on genetically engineering cattle to be resistant to 
brucellosis." 

"Brucellosis is a big concern to ranchers in the region," Sari says quietly. 
"They believe that it passes the species barrier from bison into 
domesticated cattle, even though there's never been a single substantiated 
report of such an occurrence. In Wyoming, they're shooting all the bison 
that wander out of Yellowstone foraging for food during the winter. They, 
and the Wyoming state government, have also gone on raids into Yellowstone 
to find and massacre animals within the park. It's a massive concern for 
conservationists involved in preserving the bison and the associated 
tall-grass prairie that supports them most efficiently. The ranchers are 
deeply, almost superstitiously attached to the concept of bison causing 
brucellosis outbreaks in their herds, to the point of slaughtering any that 
wander outside of strictly patrolled territories. Personally, I think they'd 
all be smarter to give up raising cattle and take up raising bison instead." 

"Yeah, but check this out. This is what I had to go into hyperdrive for: a 
lot of the statistics here," Ringo pulls up an immense data file and pokes 
the screen with a finger decisively, "indicate that they're monitoring human 
and wildlife populations as well as the cows." He leans back and looks up at 
Sari, then at us. "There's a mention of this place, Andover Community 
Medical Center, as a data collection point for their human subjects. 
According to Sari's paper, that area's ground zero for the whole birth 
defect thing. What if this is it, dudes?" I can hear the pride and triumph 
in his voice at getting through the maze to find this nugget, but he and Mel 
are also extremely upset by what they've found. So am I. Sari's tense stance 
shows me that she, too, is unhappy with this development. 

"This must be what Nicole was trying to point to," she says, closing her 
eyes. "No wonder she hasn't answered me. I only hope she was lucky enough to 
get out before they came for her." She sighs, then whispers, "May Kali-Ma 
and Durga protect her." 

"You guys getting a record of this?" I ask them. I'm sure they are, but one 
always needs to be certain of the details. 

"You betcha," Frohike says. I can hear a printer start up, and he's got a 
DAT tape in for copying. "So, Deborah, what do you think of your first trip 
into the dark?" We all look over to see her reaction, but she's fallen 
asleep in the last couple of minutes, nose firmly planted in her keyboard. 
"God, Langly, get her off that thing before she drools in it. Poor kid." 
Ringo looks entirely crestfallen. His squeeze is unconscious, so it's 
unlikely he'll get laid tonight. Perversely, I find this very amusing. I 
think he expected to spend her entire visit fucking like crazed ferrets. I 
successfully manage to suppress my snicker. 

"Dammit," Langly mutters. "Byers, could you like help me haul Deb into the 
bedroom so she won't have a keyboard stuck to her face in the morning?" 

WICHITA, KANSAS 
11:47 PM CENTRAL TIME 

SCULLY: 

We were delayed nearly half an hour in landing at Wichita due to a spring 
rainstorm that drenched the runways and destroyed visibility. Time counts in 
our business. Needless to say, when I was gripping the hand rests during the 
flight, fear of flying had nothing to do with it. Every extra second we're 
in the air is another second when Nicole Jackson's life is in jeopardy. I 
pray to God we're not already too late. At least the flight wasn't crowded; 
Wichita doesn't appear to be a trendy tourist spot in early April. We always 
have to go to the customer service counter, announce that we're FBI agents 
and we're armed, and be escorted through security. Not having to check 
luggage saved some time. We're not planning a lengthy stay. 

The plan is simple: find Nicole Jackson, get her to safety as quickly as 
possible, and remove as much documentation as we can find, both to support 
her situation, and to expose Pinck's plots. It's not officially a Bureau 
matter -- not yet -- but if we can locate hard copy proof, I think they're 
likely to become very interested. A simple plan, with so many possible 
problems I can't even conceive of all of them, much as I'm trying. I keep 
telling myself that sometimes a Sig Sauer on your hip is better than a plan. 
To make matters worse, when we arrive, the Lariat rental car counter isn't 
in the terminal, but off site, and requires a shuttle ride to a location 
outside the airport. I really wish the Bureau would consider another rental 
company for its contract, but Lariat has the distinction of being the 
cheapest in the business, and God forbid we should spend an extra nickel for 
convenience. "They say Avis tries harder," I comment to Mulder as we're 
wasting precious time awaiting the arrival of the Lariat rental shuttle. 
When it arrives, it's a wheezing minivan that smells like small children and 
animals have spent a great deal of time inside, and the cleaning crew hadn't 
noticed -- assuming there is a cleaning crew. "They really should try harder 
to get the Bureau's business. They'd increase profits fivefold just from our 
escapades." 

"Ah, but then we wouldn't have the pleasure of driving a 1997 Taurus station 
wagon in piss yellow," Mulder grins as we approach our designated vehicle. 
Some markets have better cars than others. I think Wichita is The Land Time 
Forgot. I suspect they may still have a horse-drawn buggy in the back, just 
in case. 

Traffic is minimal, thankfully. Who in their right mind would be out on a 
night like tonight? Then again, no one's ever accused either of us of being 
in our right minds. I can hardly see the front end of the Taurus. "You sure 
we're going the right way?" The fog is thick but patchy, unforgiving. I 
suspect Mulder is relying some alien divination system for his directions; 
or perhaps it's simple random number generation. Every so often, a patch of 
pavement becomes visible under the haloed blur of a street light. As long as 
we're not on somebody's lawn, I think we're probably okay. 

"Scully, how many times have I ever been wrong?" Don't make me answer that 
one, Mulder. "About driving, anyway." Well, I'm glad he threw in the 
qualifier. 

Ms. Jackson lives in a condominium complex just outside the city limits, 
which doesn't take long to reach, even in this soup. It's not a security 
complex. This is good for us; it provides easy access. The bad news is, it's 
also good for anyone else who wants to reach her. She lives in number 21, 
but we have to park in front of 15, where the guest spaces are. The others 
all appear to be occupied. Good, people are home. If anything has gone 
wrong, maybe we'll have a witness. We make our way to her apartment and 
knock on the door. No response. Frohike supplied Mulder with one of those 
lock pick guns, and he's getting very practiced at breaking and entering. 
"And they say I don't know how to show a girl a good time on a Saturday 
night," Mulder mutters as he releases the locks. She has four of them. Well, 
at least she took some precautions, but the ease with which we got in 
disturbs me. 

"Mulder, did we check in with the Gunmen? We were supposed to," I comment as 
he opens the door. We call out for Ms. Jackson, but there's no response. 
Someone was definitely here, though: a mess like this doesn't just happen, 
and it most assuredly doesn't occur during daily living, even in cosmically 
scaled disaster areas like Mulder's or the guys' place. The place was 
tossed. 

"Shit, gotta do that." He speed dials the Gunmen, and even though I can't 
hear much, I can tell Frohike answered; he's fretting like an old mother 
hen. No Jewish mother ever carried on like Frohike when he's worried. "Yeah, 
we're fine, but the girl's not here. Say what? You've got something we can 
use? Give it to me." He pauses for Frohike's information. "We don't know 
where she is, we'll let you know as soon as we find out... Yes, this time I 
promise!" He shakes his head as he hangs up. "What a yenta. But we've got 
another problem, Scully." 

"What's that?" We're slowly, carefully making our way through the house, 
prepared to find a corpse. I'm not smelling anything, and I don't see any 
blood. This, at least, is encouraging. 

"The boys got some more info on Pinck, and it sounds solid." 

"Mulder, we are not here to break into Pinck. Our job is to find this woman 
and, if she's still alive, get her to safety as quickly as possible." If I 
die in this godforsaken wasteland, I'd really rather not do it at Pinck's 
corporate headquarters. 

"No, this is a County Extension Office, and the Andover Community Medical 
Center. Piece of cake. The boys've looked over the alarm systems and 
security, and say they can override it in their sleep." 

"Good, because considering the hour, they might have to." 

"Where do you think she might have gone?" We're looking through the debris 
in the place, trying to be both careful and fast. This is a good trick if 
you can pull it off. We're improving at it: all I can conclude is that we're 
getting way too much practice. 

"I have no idea. You're the profiler; you tell me." I'm trying to catch a 
clue from anywhere, anything. 

"Serial killers, Scully. I do serial killers, not mad scientists." 

While I'm looking through various and sundry items, I notice a small, 
stuffed dog on the floor. It's buried under a bunch of other things, like 
someone intended to take it, but dropped it instead. It would be a strange 
thing to take if you were in a hurry to get out, but perhaps it's of some 
sentimental value. At a closer look, its collar reads 'Topeka State Fair.' 
"Mulder, I think I know where she went." 

"Oh?" he asks. I show him the dog. "All right, here's the plan. You take the 
car, call the guys to see if they can trace her, and get to Topeka fast as 
you can. I'm gonna go pay somebody a little after hours visit. I'll meet you 
back in DC." Time to split up. I drop Mulder at a car rental place. It's 
amazing what's open at this hour in this hick town. 

Langly gave me a probable safe house location in Topeka. I hope she's there, 
and still breathing. The drive is nerve-wracking in the fog, and having to 
constantly watch to make certain I'm not being followed is not my idea of a 
relaxing Sunday drive. 

The safe house is a small, typical suburban home on a typical suburban 
street. I knock loudly on the door. "Open up! FBI!" Usually, that works, but 
she might think I'm trying to kill her, not protect her. I need to reassure 
her. I just hope I'm not talking to empty air and a dead body. "Ma'am, I'm 
not here to arrest you; I need to get you to safety as quickly as possible." 
Several minutes pass. I feel my apprehension growing. Am I too late? 
Finally, I hear someone approach. "Are you Nicole Jackson? Sari Thomas 
warned me that you're in danger." I speak softly, unwilling to advertise her 
presence if it's indeed her. 

"Sari sent you?" The voice is halting, fearful. 

"I'm Special Agent Dana Scully of the FBI." I hold my ID up to the peephole 
so she can see it. "Your residence was turned upside down by a person or 
persons unknown. I've come to get you out of here." I hear an electronic 
security system being disarmed and the door being unlocked, and am greeted 
by a tall African-American woman. I can smell fear on her. Her composure is 
dangerously close to collapsing. 

"How did you find me here? Sari doesn't know how to find me," she says. 

"There's no time right now. We'll talk in the car." 

"I have a couple of things I need first," she says, letting me in. In less 
than a minute, she's got a small bag packed, and she hands me a large manila 
packet of papers as we walk out the door. When she gets into the passenger 
seat, she notices the little stuffed dog. She clasps it to her chest, and 
only then does she break down and cry. It's going to be a long flight back 
to DC. Time to call the Gunmen and let them know that our subject is still 
alive. I pull out and head for the Topeka airport. 

SUNDAY, APRIL 4, 2000 
LONE GUNMEN HQ 

LANGLY: 

We manage to get Deb tucked away in bed, and I sure wish I was there with 
her. It's mostly 'cause it's her there, and I love feeling her next to me, 
but I'm like totally dead tired too. Looks like there's no rest for the 
wicked. Fro's fidgeting like a crazy person. Wish he wouldn't do that, it 
just makes me nuts. "Mulder hasn't called yet," he says. 

"He's gonna call." I hope. "Why don't you like go make some tea for the 
lovebirds in the TV room?" Anything that won't drive me insane while we wait 
for Mulder to get back to us. 

"Been there. Done that." 

"Well, you could make me some coffee, then. I'm like dyin' here. Hell, I'm 
gonna be doing a face plant just like Deb if Mulder doesn't get his ass in 
gear." The phone screeches, and we both freak for a second. Why is it when 
you're expecting a call, when you finally get it, you just about leave a 
hole in the ceiling from jumping so hard? I don't even try to reach for it, 
Frohike's like a grandma whose daughter's in labor. God, if me and Deb ever 
tried to have... oh Jesus. What are you thinking, boy? Get back to work! 

"Thank God. Come right straight here, no stopping on the way." God, Mel 
sounds like your mom when you're a little kid and you're walking home from 
school the first time. He sets down the receiver. "Scully's found Ms. 
Jackson, and she's alive. They're on their way back to DC. I'm gonna go tell 
Sari and Byers." Okay, one victory. Problem is, relatively speaking, the 
night's young. Why does it feel like it's so old already? 

BYERS: 

"Sari, we just heard from Scully. She's alive." Frohike is standing in the 
doorway of the TV room. Sari and I are seated on the couch again. Her head 
is buried in my shoulder, her glasses on the coffee table. I've been trying 
to offer her what comfort I can, but I feel as though any solace I've been 
able to give is utterly inadequate. 

I've been so focused on Sari that Frohike's words don't immediately 
register. "Do you mean Nicole, or has something happened to Agent Scully?" I 
ask cautiously. I think it's the mention of Nicole's name that jolts Sari 
sharply back into the room. Her head shoots up, grey eyes wide in her pale 
face. 

"Nicole is alive?" Her voice is nervous with hope and disbelief. 

"That's what Agent Scully tells us. They're on their way back to DC right 
now." 

"Oh, thank you goddesses!" I can feel the tension melt out of her shoulders. 
She pulls me to her in a tight one-armed hug. 

"This is wonderful news," I murmur to her, then look up at Mel. "Thanks, 
Frohike." 

"Don't mention it," he mutters as he leaves the room. I think he was about 
to add, "now let's get them home in one piece," but seeing Sari's relief 
probably gave him pause. Mel does occasionally know when to shut up. I was 
thinking it too, but don't say it. What matters most right now is that 
Nicole is alive and safe. 

Sari buries her face in my chest. I can feel her shaking again. "Sari? Are 
you all right?" 

She looks up at me timidly and sniffles, her face streaked with tears. "I'm 
fine, John. I'm just so... so relieved. I was so afraid she was dead. I... 
I'm sorry, I know I'm acting like an idiot." 

"You're not acting like an idiot, Sari. I think you're behaving fairly 
normally, under the circumstances." I hold her with all my strength, just 
letting her work through this. Emotionally, she's been a mess all evening. I 
don't believe I've ever seen her cry before. I suspect that she became an 
expert at concealing her distress from Barry as much as possible, most 
likely to avoid his violence. Perhaps she's beginning to realize that it 
isn't necessary any more. Not here. Not with me. She trembles for a long 
time, crying softly, but she obviously needs this release. The least I can 
do is give her a safe place for it, and whatever time she needs. 

Finally she looks up at me. "I'm so tired, John. Thank you for being here 
for me, but I really need to go home now. Besides," she smiles a tiny 
half-smile, "the Cardinal hasn't been fed, and you know how he feels about 
slow service." We both laugh quietly; I've become well acquainted with the 
Cardinal's protests when he feels that he's been forced to wait an 
inordinate amount of time to be fed. His definition of 'inordinate' is 
anything over five seconds from the time he's decided that he's hungry. He's 
quite vocal in his disapproval of the slow-moving humans who are charged 
with keeping him happy. 

"Are you certain you're all right to drive?" I'm very worried by how tired 
she looks. I'd drive her myself, except that we'd probably end up with a 
fresh set of injuries, and I generally prefer to bond with people over 
other, more pleasant activities. 

"I'll just head home, feed the Cardinal and the lizards, and get some sleep 
until she arrives. You will tell me when she arrives, won't you?" The last 
part is not really a request. 

"She'll be safe here, Sari. You really do need to sleep. Do you want Langly 
to take you home?" We walk out to the office. 

She laughs again. It's so good to hear her laugh, it's delightful. It also 
means that she's regaining her equilibrium, which relieves me immensely 
after her intense silences tonight. "I don't know. I don't think he's in any 
better shape than I am." My vision is still blurry, but if I'm not mistaken, 
that's a tall blonde slumped over the keyboard. 

"You're probably right about that. Frohike? I think we need some coffee in 
here, stat!" 

End part 14

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