Title: Things Undone 5: Snipe Hunt (20/24)

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. 
______ 

"I sickened, turned, and ran. The great slime kings 
Were gathered there for vengeance and I knew 
That if I dipped my hand the spawn would clutch it." 

~~ Seamus Heaney -- Opened Ground: Poems 1966-1996~~ 
______ 

MONDAY, APRIL 6, 2000 
LONE GUNMEN HQ 
LATE EVENING 

FROHIKE: 

Langly has become one with the machine. "I'm sorry, Deborah, he gets this 
way." She's been sitting in the kitchen, talking with Sari, Scully and me, 
while Langly chases Black Widow with the enthusiasm most small boys have for 
chasing frogs. Unfortunately, a Black Widow is a lot more deadly than most 
frogs. Byers, having been released for large-type reading, has plunged in 
with equal enthusiasm, adjusting the font on his monitor. We keep reminding 
him to rest his eyes and take breaks, but he's not listening. I hope this 
doesn't set him back or damage his sight. 

Deborah gives a quiet snort. "I'll just catch up on my journal reading. I'm 
only six months behind, and I promised myself I'd catch at least one month 
while I was here." Her slight blush suggests she hasn't read even one 
publication. Well, this was supposed to be her vacation. The difference 
between us is that she thinks time with Langly's a vacation, while for me, 
vacation's time away from him. 

"Deborah's starting her trauma fellowship at GWU in June," I announce, as if 
I were a proud father. Well, she's Langly's girlfriend, and I consider him 
my boy, doesn't that give me some paterfamilias status? 

"Congratulations. It's quite an honor to get such a fellowship," Scully says 
to her, and since Scully's in the know, I think she deeply appreciates it. 

"That's wonderful, Deborah." Sari is genuinely pleased for her, but also 
concerned. Sari understands what being around us is about; Deborah does not. 
Not yet, anyway. I share Sari's sentiments. Much as I'd like Deborah here to 
keep Langly happy and off my back, I still worry. 

"How did your boss react to your information, Sari?" Scully turns to her. 

Sari shakes her head. "About as well as could be expected, Dana. You said 
the lab has definitely determined Wildfire is neurotoxic, but have they 
figured out what it is?" 

"They need to run PCR on it for confirmation," Scully says. "Have you guys 
contacted one of your lab friends about temporary storage, like you said you 
would?" 

"Yeah." I hand her a 3 by 5 card with information for a contact tomorrow 
night. "Meet him here with it, according to these directions. We shouldn't 
be seen with him. If the CDC and the military get hold of this, they'll bury 
it forever. Probably us, too." 

"I wouldn't be so sure about that," Scully says, and I feel a small glimmer 
of hope. "If you can prove the Black Widow connection and get this guy 
nailed, it's going to be a lot harder for them to fight back." 

"Langly, watch it. You're pounding out a router," Byers warns him. A 
favorite trick of hackers; not very subtle, but the damage is generally 
invisible until after it's been completed, unless the hunted is at least as 
clever as the hunter. This is not generally a problem; to borrow a phrase 
from Yogi Bear, we are smarter than the average bear. Unfortunately, so is 
Black Widow. 

Langly groans, but he appreciates the finesse that Byers brings to the 
process, so he complies, trying to tone down his approach and switch gears. 
"I'm gonna hijack this bastard's software," Langly mutters. "He's never 
gonna know what hit him. Damn, he's got one hell of a firewall in here. 
Taking down the Wall in Berlin was easier." He's working frantically. They 
say speed kills, but in trauma medicine and hacking, it's what saves your 
butt. 

"This should just fall away here," Byers looks confused. "He's got something 
very intricate in here, a real spider web." 

"Yeah, well, spider webs are just spider snot," Langly retorts, typing at 
breakneck speed. 

"Stay on it," Byers urges, "I've got your back." 

"Sari, I really think you should get out of Dodge for a while," Scully 
counsels her. "Is there anywhere you can go on short notice and not arouse 
too much suspicion?" 

Sari pauses to think, then sighs. "I could head for Portland, but if Black 
Widow knows who and where I am, he's going to know about my place near 
Troutdale, too. I'm not quite sure where I'll go, to tell you the truth." 

The salmon is nearly done and is accompanied by basmati rice and foot long 
string beans in a balsamic vinegar marinade. We're truly continental 
tonight, or at least eclectic. Deborah inhales deeply and says, "Frohike, 
that smells wonderful." There's a commotion in the office, and she excuses 
herself, heading for Langly. She stands behind him, laying a hand on his 
shoulder. He's barely aware of her right now, he's so intent on the chase. 
It sounds like they're getting close. 

"Be careful, boys," I warn them. 

"Oh man, I am so close I can taste his blood." Langly licks his lips. Byers 
is covering Ringo's ass, but looks much more uneasy than our gangly blonde 
brother in arms. Byers is the reason we don't fall off more cliffs. I hope 
Langly's paying attention. "Shit, he's getting close..." 

"Stay with it, stay with it," Byers encourages him, "I'm on him." 

"He's gonna nail us, man," Langly's breaking a sweat. "He's like way close." 

"I'm on him," Byers answers, getting more nervous but remaining determined. 
"I think I can lose him, I'm routing us through the Canary Islands... 
Cairo..." 

"We're almost there, dude," Langly says. His loop line shunt's getting a 
workout. 

Sari and Scully enter the office, watching them silently. "I'm in Singapore, 
he's right on our tail. Keep on him while I bounce us again," Byers says, 
"Bombay... damn, he's too close, hurry." 

"Gotcha! Lord Manhammer strikes!" Langly shouts in triumph. Byers is hard at 
it. Ringo notices Deborah and high-fives her, then blinks at the quickly 
scrolling screen, "Wait a minute, Whitecorps? Oh shit, he's military." 

At the mention of Whitecorps, Byers pales, and swallows hard. "Bangladesh... 
I'm on it, I'm on it -- Langly, can you ID him? I can't hold him off any 
longer." He's panting now, near panic. 

"We're screwed," I tell them. "Black ops'll be kicking in the door if he 
nails us." I'm with them now, looking at their screens. "Get out! Get out! 
He's on us, don't let him get our system ID!" 

Langly's trying to bail. "Oh Jesus Christ. It's Monroe, the Air Force 
intelligence dude. Get us out, Byers! He's gonna nail us!" Johnny's flying, 
and he's broken into a hard sweat as he tries to pull us out before Monroe 
has our ass. I grab for the main power cord. 

"No," Byers shouts, just as our connection breaks, "damn, damn, damn, he got 
us!" He slams a fist into his keyboard, then leaps to his feet, yanking the 
zip disk from the drive, and hands it to me. He runs for the backup cases we 
keep for just this kind of emergency. 

The rest of us freeze for an instant, looking at each other. "Oh shit," Sari 
whispers. 

Black Widow, also known as Major Jack Monroe, USAF, is one ugly bastard. 
He's been doing hacker counter-intel for the NSA for most of the last ten 
years, and he's imprisoned or assassinated a hell of a lot of people we know 
during that time. He may be in Whitestone, New Mexico, but his flunkies will 
be at our door in minutes, guns blazing. Langly's already moving. "Deborah, 
please tell me you brought medical supplies," I say as I put dinner in foil 
and travel containers as fast as I can, and move it into a soft-sided 
heater/cooler. Every second counts now. 

She looks puzzled. "Why? I had one suture tray in my car, but I used it on 
Nicole's toy." 

Scully rolls her eyes, then gives her a deadly serious look. "You keep 
hanging around with these guys, start carrying a portable triage kit." 

"Bail now, Scully, while you can." I slap the zip disk Langly's saved the 
hack on into her hand. "Don't let this out of your sight until you hand it 
to Sari on Thursday." She nods, stuffs it into her purse, and runs for the 
door, phone already in hand. With that disk, she may be able to get Monroe 
tangled in an inter-agency custody squabble that could stall him until we're 
safe. 

"I'll let Skinner know what you found about Black Widow's identity," she 
says, halfway out the door. I nod, still moving. There's a lot to do, and no 
time to do it. 

"Deb, babe, grab your stuff," Langly's pulling her towards the bedroom. 

"Say what?" 

Panic ensues. "We're bugging out, Deborah. Byers, hit the self-destruct 
code. Be ready in five!" I just hope we're not using too much time by taking 
five minutes. Now comes the frantic process of grabbing backups, packs of 
crucial paper files including the copies of Nicole's files Scully left us, 
pulling irreplaceable -- and incriminating -- materials from the safe, 
clearing the place for when they kick in the doors. We've never drilled on 
this, but we should have. The whole thing looks like a Keystone Kops flick. 
It's not pretty, but we do what's needed. Four minutes and fifty seconds 
later, portable systems and backups are packed, clothes and personal items 
stowed away in the van. Everyone hauled, even Sari with her cast. She's 
functioning well one-armed, and keeps her head admirably. 

"We gotta get Deb's car outta here," Langly points out. 

"She can park it in a guest space under my building. It's Monday night, and 
I don't think my neighbors are doing any serious entertaining." Sari needs 
to get hers out of here as well. 

"Sari, we can't go back to your building. It might be dangerous," Byers 
points out, his voice up in tenor with anxiety. 

"I'm not leaving without the Cardinal and the lizards," she says, and Byers 
shuts up. How could he imagine leaving without my kitty-boo? "And I need 
clothes and a few essentials. I'll be fast." 

"Oh good, we'll have the cat." Deborah seems a bit confused by the activity, 
and though she's very helpful, I still don't think the implications of what 
we're doing have sunk in. 

"Uh, Frohike? Like, where we gonna go?" Langly asks. Oh Christ, I knew I'd 
forgotten something, but I can be fast on my feet, too. 

"Skinner has a beach house he almost never uses up on the Bay. If someone 
has a better idea, I'm listening." 

"A beach house? Cool." Poor Deborah; I wonder how long it will take for her 
to get it, and when she does, if she'll stick around. In the meantime, 
though, we hit the road. 

Having deposited Sari and Deborah's cars and gotten Sari's necessities, we 
head out in the overcrowded, wheezing van. Langly's driving, I'm navigating, 
and Byers and the two women are crammed into the rear seat. The Cardinal is 
in his crate near my feet, yowling disconsolately. I reach down to open the 
cage, but Sari stops me. "No, he has to stay in there." 

"But he's unhappy!" 

"Then he's unhappy. He's not riding out in the car, he's safer in the 
carrier. Is that clear?" 

"Yes, ma'am." She's right. "Don't worry, kitty-boo, Unca Mel has yummy 
salmon for oo. " 

"Mel, you've got to stop feeding him," Sari protests. 

"But he's hungry." Whenever I see him, he's howling like he's deep in the 
throes of starvation. 

"Look at him, he's 22 pounds. I'd like him to have ground clearance, not to 
mention liver and kidney function." 

"He's gorgeous. One of these days I'm gonna get a cat," Deborah says, "when 
I'm not working so much." Yeah, that'll be a cold day in hell, Dr. 
SaintJohn. 

"What about dogs? Dogs are cool," Langly says. I know he wants one. He's 
only been going on about it for, oh, the past eleven years. 

"Dogs are cool, too," Deborah agrees. 

"They get fur in the equipment," I growl, "and right now, we have to think 
about finding a new place. We can't stay there any more. They'll nail our 
asses." 

"What? Give up the luxury and comfort we're so accustomed to?" Byers teases, 
but he turns serious. "You're right. We can't go back there except to move 
our stuff, and maybe not even that. Who knows if they'll be waiting to 
ambush us. The whole planet will know where we were based." 

"Jesus, I hate moving," Langly groans. 

"I moved three times in two years, believe me, I sympathize," Sari offers. 
"When was the last time you had to move?" 

"Uh... we've been where we are since 1989," I announce. 

"Yep. The Lone Gunman Publishing Group, established 1989. For the reader who 
wants to stay informed and alive," Langly says, maneuvering the squeaky old 
beast. We're on the back country roads to the shore, instead of taking the 
highways. I feel safer going this route, but I don't think my kidneys agree. 
I wish we had the Chrysler, its suspension is more or less intact. Then 
again, we can fit a lot more stuff in the van. 

"Guys, I have to be back in DC Thursday for the press conference." Sari 
reminds us why we're on this little field trip in the first place. "I need 
to call Devi and let her know I'm okay, and somebody's got to water the 
plants." 

"Just don't let her go to your place, or tell her where you are. It's safer 
that way," Byers says gently, as she leans her head against his shoulder. 
He's really depressed. 

"Man, I'm like so sorry," Langly begins, "but if we didn't get that close, I 
wasn't gonna nail him. I figured on us being faster than him, but man, that 
military big iron... guess I fucked up." 

"You did not fuck up, Ringo," Deborah's voice is stern, almost motherly. "If 
nobody's bleeding, vomiting or in cardiac arrest, you did not fuck up." 
Well, we know what her standards are. God, I hope it doesn't come to the 
bleeding-vomiting-cardiac arrest stage. She doesn't understand just how fast 
it could happen. 

"Langly, I did my best to cover you," Byers says, "he just had faster 
hardware. I'm sorry I wasn't faster. It's really my fault we got nailed." 

"Shut up Byers. Deborah's right," I concur, "shit happens." 

Langly says, "yeah, well, according to the map, we should be just about 
there... oh man, put me in hiding forever!" We pull up to Skinner's beach 
house. Granted, it's a cottage, but compared to our bunker, it's straight 
out of Architectural Digest; an old fieldstone place, with mullioned 
windows. There's a lot of brush and foliage. It's a mixed blessing: it'll 
conceal us, but it'll also conceal anyone trying to get close to the place. 
I wonder if he has perimeter alarms? 

You can hear the ocean as the engine shuts down. There's something calming 
about it, and it eases over us quickly. "Don't get too comfortable, people. 
We've got a lot of work to do." 

"You're such a putz, Frohike," Langly grumbles. Well, somebody has to be. 
All appearances to the contrary, this is most assuredly not a vacation. 

SKINNER'S BEACH HOUSE,MARYLAND COAST 
10:30 PM 

The cottage is modestly sized but elegantly appointed, as one would expect 
from Walter Skinner, who appreciates the finer things in life. The brusque 
Assistant Director loves literature, antiques, good whiskey, and fine wine. 
Rumor has it he keeps a small wine cellar here. We'll have to check it out. 
There are only two bedrooms, one with a king-sized bed, presumably the Big 
Man's, and one with two doubles. Deborah and Langly race toward the room 
with the king bed in it. "Dibs on this room!" Langly shouts, like he's a kid 
on vacation, not an outlaw hacker hiding from a deadly enemy. 

"Fine." I don't really care. If Sari and Byers are comfortable with the 
arrangement, they can have the double bedroom. I don't mind sleeping on the 
sofa. It seems quite comfortable, and it can't be as bad as the Red Mistress 
in the office. "Just don't use up all the hot water." There's only one 
bathroom. The guys and I are accustomed to living that way, but we don't 
ordinarily have two female guests on a full-time basis. This'll be 
interesting. 

"We can set up over here," Byers announces, setting cases and equipment on a 
long plank table and sideboard in the dining room. "There's a backup 
generator for power if we need it." He surveys the rest of the area. "We 
need to unpack and get started setting up. Where's Langly?" 

"I'll take our bags into the other room, John," Sari says, "then I'll start 
unloading the van." 

"Where do you think?" I snarl. Jesus. "Blondie, this ain't Club Med, get 
your ass out here!" 

"In a minute!" Brat. 

LANGLY: 

"Wow, this is great!" Deb is lying on the bed, all stretched out. She looks 
delicious. "I think it was a little extreme, running off like that, but 
coming here, what a wonderful vacation." Truth is, I'm scared outta my mind. 
Monroe nailed us bad, and we're screwed if anyone saw us come here. Frohike 
and me were watching and didn't see anyone tailing us, but that doesn't mean 
nobody was. Just because you're paranoid doesn't mean they're not out to get 
you. I'm hoping we're isolated enough here that we can lay low until 
Thursday. I toss my backpack on the chair with hers. "Babe, are you okay?" 
she asks me. 

No, I'm not okay, but I don't wanna get her more riled up than I need to. 
"I'm fine." 

She sits up on the edge of the bed, and I sit down with her. She's not being 
playful now, but takes my hand and squeezes it. "We're in a lot of trouble, 
aren't we?" 

"Yeah." No point in lying. I don't want her to freak, but I don't want to 
lie to her, either. "This is what I was talking about, babe. These guys will 
probably try to kill us. It's not a game." She thinks about that, real 
quiet. She's probably thinking, this isn't worth it. No guy is, especially 
not me. 

Then she says, "I love you, Ringo." What? Okay, a lot of stuff has thrown me 
tonight, but that one's like a major hit. I'm waiting for her to add the 
'but' in there somewhere, but it doesn't come, at least not by the time 
Frohike's got his shorts in a knot screaming for me to get out there. I do, 
but not until I tell her I love her too. Hey, I do my best work under 
pressure. 

FROHIKE: 

The kids unload most of the stuff and start unpacking while I call Skinner 
and let him know where we are. I'm sorry, old age and treachery may overcome 
youth and skill, but not when it comes to playing pack mule. Deborah was 
immensely helpful; the girl's pretty strong. I just hope she's as strong on 
the inside. She looks at Langly with the soft eyes of a woman in love. I 
think he's noticed. If he hasn't, he's dumber than a stump. Sari is limited 
by having only one fully functioning arm, but she still assists us in wiring 
up, and organizing the backups into some semblance of order, after she's 
planted her tiny screened-in lizard box under a lamp for warmth. I know 
she's afraid, but her fear seems to take a back seat to the tasks at hand. 
The food's in from the van, and I check it; my salmon is now a squishy mess. 
It probably tastes okay, though. I'll let my kitty-boo try it out to make 
sure. "Come here, kitty-boo! Unca Mel has tweatsies!" 

"Mel, what did I tell you?" This time, Sari's voice is a lot sharper than it 
was in the van. "I mean it. No snacks!" 

"Just a taste! He's had a hawd twip, haven't oo, Cawdinal?" I pick him up 
and we touch noses. 

"Mel, I'm not kidding." She's taller than me and right now she's towering 
over me. I've already been chewed out by one woman today; I don't need a 
repeat performance. And speaking of being chewed out by women, if I don't 
notify Mel about this, she's going to get mighty upset, or at least 
suspicious. Once we're on line, I send her a quick e-mail. 

"Mel -- sorry this is so short, but things are crazy here. If you don't hear 
from me by Friday, there's a chance that you won't hear from me again, but 
I'm hopeful things will be otherwise. Keep the faith. Mel." Keep the faith, 
indeed. As it's being torn to tiny shreds, we're trying to keep it too, like 
a candle in a hurricane. I'm not much for prayer, but right now, I'm praying 
for good luck. 

End part 20

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