Title: Things Undone 5: Snipe Hunt (22/24)

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. 
______ 

"A man awaits his end 
Dreading and hoping all" 

~~William Butler Yeats -- The Collected Poems of W.B. Yeats~~ 
______ 

TUESDAY, APRIL 7, 2000 
SKINNER'S BEACH HOUSE,MARYLAND COAST 
1:04 PM 

BYERS: 

Oh shit. We've been found. Frohike and Langly run from the window, and once 
again, it feels like everyone's trying to hide behind me. Langly's taller; 
he's the one who should be in front, but it never happens that way. "We're 
screwed," Langly moans. 

The door's lock is released; I can hear the cylinders tumble, and the 
mechanism clicks ominously. Without thinking, I grab Sari and pull her in to 
me hard as she hits the floor next to me. We're all huddled in a tight 
clump, cowering behind the couch. I don't know how much good trying to 
shield her will do once the bullets start flying, but maybe she'll have a 
chance. I can tell she's trying to control her breathing, without much 
success. Deborah and Langly have given up breathing altogether. They're more 
tightly wound around one another than most people are when they're 
copulating. Frohike's got one of my arms like a vise. His expression is like 
an angry bulldog's, but I've known him long enough to know it's his panic 
face. "Ow, John," Sari hisses. I have her in a death grip, and I try to ease 
my hold on her shoulder but I can't, I'm just too scared. Great, the last 
thing I do to her is leave bruises. Smart move, Byers -- if we survive, 
she's going to hate me. I promised I'd never hurt her. 

"If my advisor finds out about this, I'm dead meat," Deborah squeaks, 
terrified. 

"Your advisor's the least of your problems," Langly snaps at her in a hiss. 
She clearly doesn't appreciate the remark, but she isn't letting go of him, 
either. We're doomed. The door is opening. A large, bulky man fills the 
frame; a tall, broad-shouldered, balding man with glasses. 

"You know, you could've called first. I'd have given you the key." A.D. 
Skinner proffers it to Frohike as we peek over the top of the couch. "You're 
just lucky the management company came by the other day, or you'd have had 
dirty linens and a foot of dust to contend with." He slams the door behind 
him. The five of us release a collective sigh. It's been a while since 
anyone exhaled. We all stand up slowly as Skinner stares at us. Sari rubs 
her shoulder. 

"I would have if we'd had time," Frohike says. 

"You scared us," I mumble, like a helpless seven-year-old. I am so utterly 
pathetic. God, I'm so embarrassed. At least Frohike doesn't heap scorn on 
me; he was as terrified as the rest of us. 

"And how do you think I felt when I discovered the perimeter alarms were 
tripped?" He can monitor them from a control panel in his apartment. "Thank 
you for at least having the decency to call me, Melvin. I was ready to send 
in the troops." 

"It's a nice place," Deborah has recovered some of her equilibrium and is 
trying to be courteous. 

"Sit down, people, let's talk," Skinner instructs, and we all comply; he's 
accustomed to having his orders followed, and since it's his beach house, we 
do feel obligated to do as we're told. "Here's what I've got so far." He 
pulls several manila envelopes from his briefcase. They're all blank, which 
gives a new twist to the phrase 'plain brown wrapper.' Different than the 
plain brown wrappers we're accustomed to anyway -- the delivery of various 
and sundry 'adult' magazine subscriptions, and the 'sex aids' Frohike 
orders. "I've got agents at your place, but unfortunately they didn't get 
there before it had been completely tossed. I'm assuming you have some sort 
of fail-safe in place?" 

"Please, give us a little credit," I say rather sharply. Does he think we're 
complete idiots? Frohike glares at me. 

"Byers, shut up." I've heard that before. 

Skinner just looks at me. I shut up. "It looks as if whoever paid you a 
visit knew exactly what they were looking for, because there were only 
selected items damaged. However, what they lacked in quantity, they more 
than made up for in brute force. Hope you've got some legitimate work lined 
up, preferably with a check that has lots of zeros." 

"We do," Frohike says, without giving the details. I'm glad we do. We've had 
a job doing programming and consulting with FPS in California, and we're 
supposed to go there in May for some on-site consult and game testing. The 
Sierra money was great, except now we'll have to spent it all on replacement 
equipment. At least we got dinner at Yamato out of it. The one thing we do 
have in common with Middle America is that we live paycheck to paycheck, 
except for the 'leave the country' fund, and nobody touches that. It could 
be the difference between life and death if things get worse than they are 
now. 

"What's the word on Wildfire? Was the analysis completed? What about Dana's 
contact?" Sari's very concerned. 

"Let's see, that's in here. Wildfire is... 5, alpha dichloromethobromo... 
oh, forget it. I can't pronounce this. But the analysis from the Bureau labs 
indicate that the substance is highly neurotoxic in humans and animals, 
especially in the developmental stages, but there's some toxic effect in all 
stages. It's apparently got a tough membrane that can survive up to about 50 
degrees Celsius and will maintain its integrity at zero Celsius, although it 
becomes less active at that point. It's easily inserted through E. coli into 
the gut and transmitted through the blood, settling in the central nervous 
system. Scully believes that the membrane and chemical bonds can be broken, 
but not by standard water treatments. Very high sodium levels will disable 
it but you don't want that amount of salt going into the ground water, so 
the challenge is to find some way to disable or destroy the substance in the 
water without making it toxic in some other way. That may be tough." He 
shakes his head miserably. "I hate this shit. Give me green-blooded aliens 
and fat-sucking monsters any day of the week." We all laugh uneasily, though 
the joke is lost on Sari and Deborah, who pass a confused look between them. 
Sari shakes her head. "Scully indicated that she made successful contact 
with the person in charge of storing the sample. Let's hope no one else got 
wind of it." 

"Is Dana all right?" Sari asks nervously, "Nicole and my sister?" 

"She's fine. They all are." There's a deep sigh of relief all around. "Now, 
about our not-so-friendly hacker." That relief was certainly short-lived. 

"Major Jack Monroe, USAF, Whitestone, New Mexico; works for the NSA," I 
respond. The name tastes vile in my mouth. Skinner looks nauseous. 

"I'm well aware of his identity, Scully filled me in. You guys couldn't just 
find some pimple-faced teenaged joyrider, could you? No, you had to find an 
intelligence top gun." 

"We did confirm his identity, isn't that what you needed?" Langly sounds a 
bit defensive. 

"Yes, it is, and you have no idea how much interagency fighting is going on 
over this right now. It's going to be really ugly, but you did get proof, 
and it'll probably save your asses from national security charges if you 
live long enough. Makes me think I should be careful what I wish for." He 
groans audibly. Skinner stands; this isn't a social call, and he's not 
pretending it is. "Stay as long as you need to, but if you so much as think 
about touching my 1932 Lafitte Rothschild, you're better off having Black 
Widow coming after you. At least he'd make it quick and painless." 

"We've been sticking to the Oregon vineyard selections," Frohike assures 
him. 

"Good stuff," is the last thing Skinner says as he heads out. 

Langly turns to me, baffled. "What's a 1932 Lafitte Rothschild?" 

"A bottle of wine that costs more than all the equipment we're going to have 
to replace," Frohike moans. 

"Really? Maybe like we could auction it on E-Bay and get up enough scratch 
to..." We're all staring at him. "Okay, okay, no go on the vino." 

"I guess we can't go outside anymore," Deborah sulks. 

"No, you can't," I remind her sharply. "That goes for everyone." 

I head for the bathroom to get my eye meds. I hear Langly say "What, is he 
on the rag or something?" It gets a chuckle from Frohike, but the women give 
him the look of death. Apparently they think it's about as funny as I do. 

"I'll do your eye meds, John, but only if you promise to lie down for a 
while and not do anything visual," Sari calls to me. 

"I have to see what's on the otaku boards." 

"The what?" she asks. 

"The outlaw hacker boards. They're inaccessible to most users, but a 
lifeline for those of us in the business," I tell her. I want to see if any 
news of our latest exploit has reached the boards. It's not likely; most 
hackers know Black Widow's rep and fear him accordingly. It's not even so 
much that he's better than we are, but his hardware's a lot bigger, and like 
everything else in a predominantly male culture, size matters. It would help 
everyone, knowing who he really is, though. It would make him a lot easier 
to track or avoid, but I'm debating the wisdom of posting our latest coup 
just yet. I sure don't feel victorious. 

"John, I will not stand by and watch you damage your eyes permanently," Sari 
says, and I feel my gut clench. I know she means well, but I need to help 
the guys; the least I can do is get caught up with my backlog of email 
contacts and information, unread now for a month. Who knows what we've 
missed? 

"You are not my mother," I snap at her. 

"No, but I am your friend," she snaps back. 

"She's right, y'know," Deborah says, not looking up from the journal she's 
engrossed in. 

"How would you know? You don't do eye stuff," Langly snips. 

She bristles. "I do enough emergency eye stuff to know!" Then she returns to 
her reading, miffed. 

Langly, knowing he's been wrong, sidles over to her on the sofa. "Hey, you 
just gonna read that all day or what?" 

She slaps the journal down. American Society of Critical Care Physicians. 
Maybe she's reading up on what to do in the event we do get our asses shot 
off. "Listen, what do you expect me to do? You're on the computer, I can't 
go outside, and there aren't even any good movies here." 

"Actually, there are," Sari comments. Skinner has a small selection, and 
most of them are titles I can appreciate. He's heavily into Ingmar Bergman. 

"What, movies about people sitting in a room being miserable? Shit, I can 
get that right here," Frohike mutters. "Look Langly, check the online TV 
schedules, see if there's something we could all possibly enjoy." 

"Be nice if we could put on some cartoons," Langly grumbles. 

"Oh, please, I don't think I can endure hours on end of anime." I can't. I 
won't. Doe-eyed androgynous assassins, precocious seven year olds, and 
stupid sidekicks; it'll make me crazy. 

"What's wrong with anime?" Deborah's irritated with me. 

"Like I can take hours of that black and white crap in weird languages," 
Langly snaps. "He doesn't even have any Godzilla, man. Now, that's my kind 
of foreign flick." 

"All right, boys and girls, let's settle down," Frohike snaps at all of us. 
"We have to be here at least another day and a half. If we're gonna get 
killed, let's not make it by each other's hands." Right now, that's a much 
more likely possibility than having the door kicked in. I ask Sari to take 
care of my medication. After that, I'll lie down on my bed and close my 
eyes, just to avoid the bickering. Maybe she'll read to me. 

WEDNESDAY, APRIL 8, 2000 
5:30 PM 

FROHIKE: 

Considering the stress we're under, everyone's doing pretty well, but the 
squabbling is getting to me. This isn't a large house; we're all on top of 
each other, and our movement is very restricted. What's even worse is that 
there's only one TV. Nobody agrees on what to watch. Byers keeps whining 
that he hasn't seen anything in ages, and that he should get to pick. About 
the only thing we all agree on is the news. A TV in each room would go a 
long way toward peace in the ranks, but there's nothing we can do about that 
right now. Maybe I'll put a bug in Walter's ear when we get back. 

Sari's spent time out on the back porch doing yoga a couple of times a day 
-- seems it's the only place here with enough open floor space for it -- and 
she also did some strange ritual thing in her and Byers' room this morning. 
Sure doesn't look like any church stuff I ever attended as a kid. She says 
she was doing puja, which is some kind of devotional ceremony, and that she 
doesn't usually impose it on other people, but there isn't a private place 
for it here. It involves a couple of little statues that she packed along, 
food, weird pasty stuff I can't identify, incense, and some other things she 
pulled out of a small bag, and she sort of mumbles quietly for a while in 
Sanskrit or something. She said it was the bare minimum required for the 
short version. It seemed pretty complicated to me, and she got water all 
over, but it made her a lot happier and easier to deal with. 

Sari's supposed to call her boss tonight and get the details on the press 
conference tomorrow. She and Byers have been sniping at each other a little, 
but not too badly. We're all on edge, and they're trying hard not to get in 
each other's face despite the mood -- they do have to share a bedroom. 
Langly and Deborah haven't been occupied with each other in nearly the way I 
expected them to be either. I think they're both too wired up to be much in 
the mood, and they've been going at each other as well, a lot worse than 
Byers and Sari. Their sniping is interspersed with profuse apologies and far 
more PDA than is appropriate in such crowded quarters. I just bitch at all 
four of them. I have to do something with my stress, after all. The one 
safety valve I have is the Cardinal. Having him sit in my lap, purring as if 
all's right with the world, is calming. 

Sari promised to help with some Indian food tonight for dinner. She bought 
stuff for it yesterday when we went on our provisioning expedition. Veggie 
samosas, chicken curry for the carnivores, raita, Indian spiced basmati 
rice, potato-stuffed cherry peppers, and saag paneer are on the menu, along 
with chai and sweet lassi, and everyone even seems satisfied with the idea. 
Most of it's pretty hearty stuff, and very tasty. I've had everything we're 
making except those stuffed cherry peppers, which she assures me has made 
even her potato-loathing friend enjoy the tubers. I'm looking forward to 
getting a new recipe, particularly from a cook as good as Sari. 

Byers has managed to stay away from eye work today, with the exception of 
one hour spent trying to catch up on email. Everyone's been on his ass about 
it. It doesn't make him happy, but he knows he can't escape, and we know he 
really does want his normal vision back. Deborah's been telling him horror 
stories about unsuccessful recoveries, and it's scaring him into compliance. 

I hope we get through this without killing each other. 

THURSDAY, APRIL 9, 2000 
8:00 AM 

BYERS: 

Everyone is up, and we're getting things packed to head back to DC before we 
sit down to breakfast and do the final dishes. Sari and Nicole's conference 
is supposed to be at 2:30 this afternoon. We're going to have to get in 
touch with Devi and Nicole just before we leave to let them know when to be 
ready, and to arrange Nicole's transfer. Mulder and Scully are meeting us at 
the Hoover building with an armored van to carry everyone to the site. We 
can leave our van there, where Skinner says he'll have people keeping an eye 
on it so the NSA doesn't get their hands on our stuff. Mulder said that 
Major Monroe is in custody, but there's a massive battle going on about who 
gets to keep him and whether we and Sari and Nicole are wanted on national 
security violations charges, and nobody knows if Monroe's goons are going to 
attempt an assassination when we're back in town and vulnerable. Sari did 
her puja this morning at dawn. She was quiet, but I didn't sleep well, and 
just got up when she did to give her some privacy. She did her yoga after 
that, out on the back porch, as though everything was normal. I don't know 
how she's managing to stay so calm. 

Frohike is driving everyone insane issuing orders, the Cardinal is hiding 
somewhere under the furniture, Deborah and Langly are complaining about 
needing coffee, and Sari is silently packing her things and helping haul 
equipment out to the van. "Are you holding out okay?" I ask her. 

She nods. "Yeah, I'm fine," she answers, but her voice is tired and 
stressed. 

She doesn't have her hands full at the moment, so I offer her a hug. "Come 
here." She leans into me and we put our arms around each other. She's 
trembling slightly, a thing I didn't notice when I looked at her. She must 
be terrified. "I'll be with you the whole time," I tell her. She's already 
dressed in her suit for the press conference, basic black pants and blazer 
with a white silk shirt. Around her neck she's wearing a clear crystal mala, 
strung with a red cord and tassel. At her wrist, over the cast, is the 
silver cuff she's been wearing constantly the last few days. It's all very 
conservative, and carries a look of confidence and authority. 

"I'm sorry I've been such a bitch the past couple of days, John," she says. 
"I wasn't angry with you, I'm just very afraid, and it's hard to be together 
when I feel that way." 

I stroke her hair and speak quietly to her. "I've been a real pill myself. 
It's not your fault. We've all been on edge, and it takes its toll on 
everyone. You've been doing really well, actually. I can't tell you not to 
be afraid, but like I said, I'm here and I'll be with you the whole time. 
We'll get through this." 

She looks up and kisses me on the cheek. "Thank you, John, it really helps. 
You've been so good to me through all of this. I wish... I wish there was 
something I could do to thank you properly." 

"It's all right," I tell her. Now she has seen us with our backs against the 
wall, and she's getting through it like a champ. "I don't need any thanks. I 
just need to be sure you're all right." She sighs and gives me a final 
squeeze, then goes back to her work. I wish Susanne had been more like this. 
We might still be together. I go back to my unwiring project. 

SAME DAY 
WASHINGTON, DC 
1:18 PM 

BYERS: 

Everything's been reasonably smooth so far. Aside from the flat tire, the 
return trip was uneventful. We met Mulder and Scully only about 15 minutes 
late at the Hoover Building, got the boxes of press packets that Scully put 
together to hand out, and now we're at the designated rendezvous to pick up 
Nicole. It's a non-descript diner in a quiet backwater neighborhood, and 
Sari, Devi and Nicole have spent the last ten minutes crying and hugging 
each other, each assuring the others that they're fine, they're holding 
together, and everything's going to be all right. Then we get down to the 
pre-conference discussion. Nicole needs to be updated with the information 
from the FBI lab tests. We talk for about fifteen minutes about the details 
that will need to be covered at the conference, then Scully describes the 
Wildfire organism to Nicole. 

"Yes," Nicole says, "that really is a nasty one. I had no idea what we were 
working with, they always kept it from us. We'd run the lab processes, 
compile statistics, take field samples, all that, but there was no real way 
for me to actually analyze the material itself without compromising myself 
far too much." 

Sari nods. "Everything you've done has been vital work, Nicole. We could 
never have exposed all this without you. I'm so glad you'll be with me for 
this. After the conference, I'm sure the FBI will set you up in the witness 
protection program." Agent Scully nods and takes Nicole's hand. 

"We've already got it set up. You'll have a whole new life, a new identity, 
and a new job that will be safe for you." 

"Thank you, all of you," Nicole says. "Especially you, Devi." She looks at 
Sari's sister and smiles. "You've been so kind and generous to let me stay 
in your home. I felt very safe there. 

"I loved having you," Devi says. "You're welcome to come back anytime and 
visit. And if you can swing it, maybe you'd like to visit me in Sri Lanka 
some day?" 

Nicole looks genuinely delighted. "Oh, that sounds like a wonderful idea, 
I'd love it!" 

"It's time we got going," Mulder says. "We need to be at the site on time so 
you'll be ready for the cameras." 

We all pack up the papers and diagrams, and Devi picks up the tab. Mulder 
brings the armored van around to the sidewalk in front of the door. Scully 
keeps a watchful eye as Mulder opens the side door of the van, and Langly 
and Deborah start the procession, hurrying for the vehicle. It may not be 
over quite yet, but I think we're going to be all right. As we walk through 
the diner door to the sidewalk, Sari just in front of me, I hear the sharp 
snap of gunfire. Oh my God, no. 

End part 22

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