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

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. 
______ 

"Damaged people are dangerous. They know they can survive." 

~~Josephine Hart -- Damage~~ 
______ 

WEDNESDAY, MARCH 31, 2000 
LONE GUNMEN HQ 
EVENING 

LANGLY: 

So we finish dinner, and it's time to get down to work again. The stuff we 
found this afternoon has convinced me that we're looking at the same guy, 
and I'm fairly sure Sari will be able to help me confirm it. "What did you 
want to tell me, Ringo?" she asks. She's leaning over my shoulder with her 
chin on my head as I sit at my terminal, resting her arms on my shoulders, 
hands joined in front of my chest. Feels nice. Fro's hanging close by, and 
Byers is standing there too, trying hard not to give in to the temptation of 
looking at the monitor. That's gotta be torture for him. I know it would for 
me. 

"Well, I found these files in the stuff that was like the most damaged." I 
hit a few keys and bring up the opening page for one of the sites WickedWeb 
was working on. The title is 'Whose Genes Are These?' The author goes by 
Toxic Avenger. Sari looks at what's there and whistles. 

"You know, you may be right. What else is on this page?" she asks. I open a 
couple of the links. 

"What's it say?" Byers wants to know. Sari reads over my shoulder, nodding 
and mmhmm-ing. 

We all look at Byers as she says, "Whoever wrote the information for this 
page has found more on the Pinck project, as well as information on other, 
related incidents and experiments. I don't know where the writer found this, 
but I think there's a hell of a lot more to this than anyone suspected when 
I presented my white paper. If this is true, then I'm guessing whoever our 
hacker is, he's working for Pinck, trying to cover up something big." 

Frohike nods. "I think you're right. We need to do some more digging on 
this. I think I'll go put some coffee on. It's gonna be a long night." 

"Yeah, that's what I was thinking," I add. "I know I've seen code like this 
before in some old files. I'm gonna have to go through a lot of old backup 
tapes to find out, though." 

"What kind of new information is exposed on the site?" Byers asks. 

She hesitates before she says anything. "I think what we're dealing with 
isn't just experimentation on plants, John." Sari's quiet and kind of 
nervous. "But it'll take some time to read the biochem information here." 

"But the evidence isn't conclusive," I tell him. "Like, some of this is just 
speculative." 

"Oh, and we've never printed speculation before." Frohike laughs. He's on 
his way back from the kitchen. Starting the coffee only takes a sec. 

Sari's getting edgy. "But if this site was hit this week, before it went 
live, and they got into my system mere days before I gave my presentation to 
the senate subcommittee, then they must be trying to cover something up. 
Something I didn't know, or maybe even new developments over the last few 
weeks. What if those birth defects aren't a sign of something skipping a 
species barrier, but the results of something much more sinister?" She looks 
downright jittery now, and Byers looks scared. "What... what if they try 
something else? It's public knowledge that I'm involved with the 
Congressional investigation of Pinck's genetic experiments." I know she's 
been interviewed by least a dozen news organizations in the last couple of 
weeks, including us. "Do you think they'd take this beyond just... hacking 
some computers to protect whatever it is they're really doing? Do you think 
there may be some actual danger in this?" 

We all look at each other and I feel a chill up my spine. Pinck hasn't 
hesitated to do weird shit to people before, in the name of their 
experiments. I remember Mulder telling us about this bug from the Amazon 
that killed people by breeding in their flesh, and there were like, 
exploding pustules and shit. Total gross-out. I can see the guys remember 
that story too. Byers takes Sari's good hand and says, "I don't know, but 
whatever they have up their sleeve, we'll figure something out." He looks 
more upset than the rest of us, and right now, that's going a bit. We're all 
starting to get twitchy. 

"I've got a question," Frohike says. "If the guy who wrote this page is such 
a hotshot researcher, how come he had to hire somebody to put his web site 
together?" Nobody says anything. 

"Well, let's find out who our researcher is," I say, heating up our security 
systems for a journey into WickedWeb's client files. I won't even break a 
sweat on this one. 

Byers sighs. "I wish I could help." So do I, man, so do I. 

"Let's just leave the guys to it for a while," Sari says. "I'll read to you 
if you like." 

"Actually, I need to talk to you about something," he tells her. "Let's go 
into the TV room for a little privacy." I wonder if he's gonna confess his 
undying love or something. 

BYERS: 

We seat ourselves on the big couch in the TV room. All my alarms are 
buzzing. This is exactly the sort of thing I was worried might happen if 
Sari got too close to us. Ironically, it had nothing to do with what we're 
doing. She was on this project before we met her. But the stakes in her 
research have just gotten much higher. Despite her question, I don't think 
she understands just how much risk she may be taking by continuing her work 
on the Pinck investigation. "Sari, I'm getting very worried about this. I 
think you should back off the investigation. Let us take it from here." 

"What?" She looks at me in disbelief. "Why should I give up the 
investigation? This is what I'm being paid to do, what I'm obligated to. 
It's a very important project, and if there's more going on here than just 
experimentation on plants that's gotten out of hand, that makes it even more 
important that someone expose the truth." 

"And that someone can be someone other than you." 

"Why do you want me to drop this, John?" 

"Because... because I'm afraid you'll get hurt. I don't want that to 
happen." I take her hand in mine again. "Please, stay away from this." 

"I can't. You know that. This is part of my work! I've exposed incidents of 
government-sanctioned environmental damage before. Sometimes there have been 
threats, but nobody's actually done anything about them. The people have to 
know." She's getting irritated. "Don't you think I'm capable of handling 
myself?" 

"Sari, Pinck isn't going to just make threats. They've been involved in some 
very deadly stuff. People have died. Mulder and Scully investigated a case 
involving Pinck before, and the risk was incredible. A plague was nearly 
released into the general populace due to their experiments, and they're 
quite capable of physical violence to achieve their goals." She's got to 
believe me. "I'm afraid that you may end up way over your head in this mess. 
You know that the government is quite capable of framing, or even 
assassinating people who interfere with their business as usual. Remember 
Judi Bari." 

"John, I survived five years with Barry chasing me around. Don't you think 
that might have given me at least a little experience in dealing with 
difficult situations?" 

"Of course it has." She's not hearing what I'm saying. "Of course it has, 
Sari. But this goes beyond one person's capacity for violence. Pinck is part 
of a larger, overarching conspiracy here. I'm... I'm afraid for you. Of 
course I have faith in your ability to take care of yourself, but this is 
bigger than any of us." I pause to take a breath, but Sari starts in before 
I can say anything more. 

"I... appreciate your concern, but I think it's a little premature here. Why 
do you think Pinck is in the midst of some bigger conspiracy?" She doesn't 
sound entirely dismissive. Maybe I have a chance to sway her. 

"You remember everything I told you about Susanne, about how she'd been 
involved in the creation of mind control drugs?" She nods. "This is part of 
the same thing. The conspiracy reaches into the most innocuous things, 
things that don't look dangerous at all. Asthma inhalers, Sari -- they put 
their test product in asthma inhalers. What if they're trying to do 
something worse, and put it in our food? How far would they go to stop 
someone who discovered that, if they did? And how can you protect yourself 
if you don't even believe that the danger exists?" 

She's listening, silent. "I was there in that warehouse, Sari. What I saw in 
Baltimore almost cost me my life. I... I don't want anything like that to 
happen to you." I put my arms around her, hold her close. She doesn't move 
away. I've only recently met her, but the fear of losing my friend chills me 
to the bone. "I don't want you to get hurt. I care about you. You're my 
friend, and I want to be sure you're safe." I can still hear the hollow 
click of that empty cylinder in my ear from that night. "Please, at least 
just let us help with this. I've lost so many friends..." I can't help it 
when the tears start to come, but I do my best to hold them back. "I don't 
want you to be the next on that list. Please, Sari. All I ask is that you 
let us take the risks with you, let us help you during your investigation, 
and that you... take reasonable precautions to protect your life." 

"John, I..." she whispers. "You're serious about all this, aren't you?" She 
brushes an errant tear from my face with her thumb. I nod. 

"So many of the people we've known over the years have died, or disappeared 
under mysterious circumstances. I don't want that to happen to you, Sari. I 
don't want you to be harmed. I don't want you to vanish, or be stolen off 
the street in front of me, like Susanne was." Even saying it still hurts. 
The thought that it could happen to Sari terrifies me. Even this close, her 
face is blurry through my tears, and I run my fingers down the curve of her 
cheek to reassure myself. "I don't want to read about the cops finding your 
body abandoned in a dump, like Kenneth. I just... everyone who gets near us 
seems to get hurt, Sari, or killed. I'm afraid for you, and for Langly's 
girlfriend Deborah. I'm afraid for anyone who gets too close to us. We're 
disaster magnets. It's why we live like this. It's why we're alone all the 
time. Maybe we should be. Maybe it's just too dangerous for us to have 
anyone near us. Maybe... maybe you should stay away from the Pinck 
investigation, and stay away from us, as well. Maybe you should go home, and 
just live your life. Forget you ever met me." I'm on a roll now, but she 
interrupts me. 

"What's past is past, John. I can't bring your friends back, or the woman 
you love, much as I wish I could do that for you. Maybe this will sound 
funny, but I'm used to living too close to trouble. I'm used to living with 
it as a constant companion, sleeping in the same bed with it. I've lived in 
dangerous places and done dangerous things, John. Do you think that spending 
a year in an ashram in Shiva's holy city of Varanasi -- you'd know it as 
Benares -- begging for food and living mostly in the street wasn't 
dangerous? I lived in a place where some of the people in the streets would 
gladly slit your throat for a rupee or two. I didn't join some white-guy 
vacation ashram where they feed you all the vegetarian food you can eat 
while you worship at some over-rated fake guru's feet all day. This was the 
real thing. Our guru taught that darshan, the seeing and being seen by the 
divine is found in the faces of those who are most in need. Service to the 
outcast and downtrodden is service to the divine. Begging in the streets, 
owning nothing, knowing the poverty and illness of the people, and the 
religious unrest between the Hindus, the Sikhs and the Moslems that goes on 
every day; that's where we come face to face with the gods. Our 
responsibility is to everyone. Do you know what we did there?" she asks. 

I shake my head, silent. I knew that she'd lived in an ashram. Frohike read 
her files to me. But I never knew what it had been like for her. I'll admit 
we thought she'd been in what she refers to as a 'white-guy vacation 
ashram,' filled with Americans and Europeans who'd paid heavily for the 
privilege of some charlatan's company; more of an innocent following a 
delusion than a woman risking her life to live her beliefs. 

"We helped maintain a home for lepers, in association with the interfaith 
arm of Mother Teresa's work. Since I spoke better English than most of the 
other sanyasin, I was asked to be the liaison to the British and American 
consulates. Our guru thought my being American might help our work, avoiding 
the racist attitudes he often found dealing with the Europeans. Along with 
teaching English and the usual daily chores, it was my job to find medicine 
and supplies. Because we were Hindu, not Catholic, we didn't get support 
from the church, or from any of the other Christian mission groups. They 
were more interested in spreading their religion than actually helping ease 
the suffering. That's where I honed my skills in rhetoric, John; in the 
streets of Varanasi, amid disease, starvation, filth, and the contempt of 
many in the upper castes, because we worked with everyone. Because we 
practiced the true spirit of Bhakti yoga; service, compassion, and devotion. 
This, despite the sanyasa's traditionally honored position in society. 
Caste-based discrimination was explicitly outlawed in 1947, but it's still 
there. We turned no one away, not even the so-called 'untouchables.' And we 
struggled every day to find enough to make sure everyone ate, had adequate 
medication and bandages, clean sheets, and sanitary facilities for 
treatment. There were 100 of us doing the work, and 350 people suffering 
from various degrees of leprosy. And we made it happen, John. We built a 
place of safety, healing and love for the people with our own hands, our 
persuasion, and our dedication." 

I had no idea that living in India had been like this for her. I've heard 
stories about the dangers of the streets outside the tourist areas. So this 
is the crucible where Sari's social conscience was shaped, where she learned 
her refusal to give up, even in the face of what must surely have seemed 
lost causes. She doesn't sound angry, bitter, or disappointed at what must 
have been the constant frustrations of her work, or the hazards of life in 
the streets. It doesn't surprise me that this woman chose a spiritual life 
of service, devotion, and compassion. It shines through in the way she lives 
her life, in what she does for a living, and how she treats the people 
around her. She's much more courageous than I ever realized. I wouldn't live 
the way she did there. I don't have that kind of courage. I've obviously 
seriously underestimated her, but it doesn't make me worry any less about 
what could happen if Pinck decides she's too dangerous to their project. 

"Sari, I understand that you lived in a very dangerous situation. I'm not 
suggesting you can't take care of yourself. Obviously, you can. All I'm 
saying is that I'm concerned. This is a very different kind of danger than 
what you've faced before. It's one I've been living with for a long time, 
and I just want to make sure you're going to be all right." 

She sighs. "I'm not ignoring what you're saying, John. Believe me, I have no 
more desire to get hurt than you have to see me hurt. You've told me the 
kinds of things you've been through, and for the most part, I believe you. I 
don't know about this alien stuff," she says with a smile, "but you've shown 
me proof of a lot of your other allegations. I'll take your words to heart. 
And I'll be careful, I promise. You're concerned, and you're already 
involved, so of course you and the guys will help. All I ask is that you 
take me seriously, and not underestimate me. Just because I'm a woman 
doesn't mean that I'm some helpless shrinking violet. Some things scare me 
more than others, yes, but I can stand my ground when I have to, and I have 
my share of resources and people to call on, as well. Think of it as the 
legacy of a life of service." 

Her words are a relief. She leans her head on my shoulder and puts her arm 
around me, allowing herself to finally relax in my embrace. I can't ask for 
more than what she's offered here. I wish that she'd put a little more 
distance between herself and Pinck, but at least I know she's taking this 
seriously, and that she's much more capable of dealing with danger than I'd 
suspected. I still can't quite escape the image of her threatening Langly 
with a ski pole, but I know there's a lot more to Sari than that. I hold her 
tight. "Thank you. That's all I want. Just to know that you're willing and 
able to ask for help if you need it, and to know that we'll be in on this so 
we can help watch out for you." 

Langly shouts from the office area. "Hey guys, I found our research maven." 

FROHIKE: 

Byers and Sari return from the TV room. Whatever they talked about, it must 
have been uncomfortable. They both look pretty somber as they join us. 

"Check this out," Langly says. "Our researcher has a name." 

"N. Jackson," I read from the screen, if only for Byers' benefit. 

Sari goes all pale. "Jackson?" she says, kinda shocked. 

"Somebody you know?" I ask. 

"If it's the same person, yes. She... she's my inside source at Pinck." 

"You mean you weren't getting your info from another hacker?" Langly asks. 

"No. Nicole was finding files for me and sending them to me in a number of 
different ways. She'd send bits and pieces as she found them, and it seems 
she came across enough information that she was going to start a page of her 
own, so that it got out there more quickly than my work through official 
channels." She's looking really nervous now. 

"Or maybe she was discovered, and was trying to get the information out 
before she could be silenced," Byers says quietly. I don't like that option. 
Not one bit. 

"Oh, gods, you don't think she could be..." Sari looks like she's on the 
edge of panic, and she looks over at Byers. He looks close to panic too. 
Suddenly, I know what they were talking about in there. 

"Well, why the hell would she do it this way?" Langly asks. 

"She doesnšt know much about computers aside from the programs she uses at 
work," Sari answers. "I guess she figured that if she went through a web 
design group and didn't have her name on the page, she might be safe." 

"Not with these people," Byers says. "And not when they've got a hacker out 
there looking for leaks and destroying the evidence." 

"How long ago did this other hack happen?" Sari starts pacing back and 
forth. I've seen this in Byers before. Some people just seem to think better 
when they're moving. I don't know how they do it. Pacing drives me up a 
wall. 

"A couple days ago," Langly says, "but what worries me more right now is, 
like, do they know you two are connected?" 

"The connection's tenuous," Sari replies. "We met at an anti-war protest 
during the Gulf War. Her position in R&D at Pinck gave her access to some 
unique information, and we both suspected that Pinck had something to do 
with Gulf War Syndrome. We've kept in touch through some very convoluted 
methods, and mostly only contact each other when we find something 
important. I don't know that anyone would know we've been in touch. She 
keeps tabs on a lot of things, not just Pinck, so there would never have 
been a reason for them to suspect an inside leak before this. At least, I 
don't think there would. We have to find her, see if she's still all right." 

"Whoa, baby, what do you mean 'we'?" Langly's getting twitchy. "Like, I got 
Deb coming here Friday. I ain't gonna be doin' nothing dangerous while she's 
around." 

"She's my friend. She's been helping me with this stuff for years. If she's 
in trouble, I can't just desert her. I have to do something." God, she 
sounds like Byers, too. I'm starting to have some second thoughts about the 
two of them getting together. We'll probably end up in twice as much trouble 
as usual. 

"Langly," Byers interrupts, "everything we do is dangerous. And if you 
haven't told Dr. SaintJohn that, she shouldn't be coming here. She needs to 
know what kinds of things we get into, and the risk she's taking by being 
around us." I was right about his conversation with Sari. I should have 
known this would be on his mind. And it starts me wondering about what 
Langly's told his chickadee. And what I should tell Ms. Scarlett. 

"Oh, hey, no way I'm gonna drag Deb into this kinda life!" 

"That's what you're doing by bringing her here for a visit," Byers insists. 

"We can keep her out of it. We don't have to tell her everything. I mean, 
she knows some about what we do. Isn't that enough?" Langly's wheedling at 
John, and Byers isn't buying it. 

He hits back, hard. "It isn't enough, if someone tries to use her get to us. 
Did you ever stop and think that the people we care about could be used 
against us, the way the Consortium has used Agent Scully to try and stop 
Mulder? What do you think Agent Scully's disappearance was all about? Her 
being taken to Antarctica? Why do you think she's constantly in danger?" 
Langly freezes. So do I. We've both been willfully ignoring this. Obviously, 
it's been weighing heavily on Byers recently. 

"And what about Sari?" I ask him. Then I turn to her. "Do you understand how 
dangerous it is to be around us?" 

"Clearly," Sari says, crossing her arms. "It's not my idea of a walk in the 
park, but I've been in much more dangerous circumstances than I think you 
realize." Byers is standing behind her, nodding, looking like he'll take 
both of us on if we object to Sari's words. "I won't be frightened away from 
my friends. When I stopped running from Barry, I knew I had to accept 
whatever risks came with living my life as it is. I know this is dangerous, 
but I need to help Nicole. If being your friend means facing more things 
like this, then I'll face them. You guys have given me my freedom, won me a 
major victory, and more than likely saved my life. How could I walk away 
from you, or from Nicole? What kind of person would I be if I did? Would you 
walk away from me if I were in that situation?" 

Langly and I look at each other, then at Sari and Byers. I know beyond doubt 
that Byers would never turn his back on her, no matter what the 
circumstances. "No," I answer for all of us. "You know we wouldn't do that. 
We couldn't." 

"How am I ever gonna tell Deb all of this?" Langly asks, his voice quiet, 
worried. 

"You'll know," Sari says, "when the right time comes." 

End part 5

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