Author: Sue (email@example.com)
Rating: M-14 (for mature audiences)
Category: Gunfic (Story)
Spoilers: Those you recognize.
Timeline: Events happening not too long after 'Three
Of A Kind.'
Summary: The discovery of a deep-cover covert
operation doing the Government's dirty work
in plain sight under the guise of environmental
activism and charity projects... And many
other discoveries along the way.
Disclaimer: All X-Files characters and
references are property of C. Carter and Company,
Morgan & Wong, 10-13 Productions and FOX. The
British chick's mine.
Thrown Back - 1/18
Lone Gunmen Office
11:13 P.M. (EST-DST)
"It's me still up. And how many times, huh?"
Langly heard Byers' long, drawn-out sigh filter
across to him. "Fro's beat. Hiked off to
dreamland early. Ragged to the bone trying to
make heads or tails outta that trash he and I
pulled off one of the Sat-B's."
"You'll want to see this, Ringo." He cleared
his throat, wiping the knowing smile from Langly's
Munching on a mingy three-day old Pop Tart,
Langly moseyed over to have a look-see. Inspect
the cause of Byers' excitement before sitting
down to polish off the rest of the meal he'd
bribed Frohike to fix.
"How'd you get in? Reverse netsplit, a quick
Meta refresh; then X2DSL piggyback via Aero
Byers' shoulders were uncommonly lively as his
fingers jigged nimbly over his customized
APIS/EMACS launching pad, known to laymen, and
women alike, as a keyboard. He hit 'Return'
before answering his lanky friend.
"Don't get so excited. It's not what you think.
I'm in an Excite private chat. Put your eyes
back in your head. There's no security risk
whatsoever. Our blocking and masking, remember?"
Langly stuck his tongue out at him. "Ooooh, ain't
we 'twicky.'" Cracking wise, he said, "Got a
live one?" The teaser stuffed the rest of the
stale, bargain basement pastry into his mouth.
"The Sensual Chat rocks! Did I ever tell you about
this biker babe who wanted to meet me in front of
Lincoln's throne? Talk about stac--."
Byers snorted loudly enough for Langly to mistake
it for a sneeze. After he thanked the winking
blond for blessing him, he said, "That's *your*
"No. Not freakazoids."
Byers squinted up at his youthful looking friend.
He seemed even more youthful tonight in the
diffused glow of the wide screen's neon-hued
lights behind his black frames. "Spare me the
gory details; any details, period that end with
it was, 'awesome' in two seconds flat. I'm
"Damn-skippy. She wanted me, on her bike.
Near the freakin' Smithsonian, and get this...
while we're both chewin' Hubba Bubba between
gropes. I booked, setting a new land speed
record for bailin'."
"Wait, please," Byers silenced, while his fingers
banged out a speedy reply. "Now, watch..."
"What the hell...who're you rappin' with?"
With a self-contained moue, Byers replied, "Esther."
Arching his comeback, Langly said, "Get out.
Uploaded versions, series two through the square
root of 'pie' Nairn?"
Byers shook his head. "Original uplink." He
brought his nose closer to the screen. "Gotcha
for once," he tossed at his speechless cohort.
Such moments didn't happen often.
"Byers, man. C'mon. This is me you're messin'
with." Smacking his cagey friend lightly on
the shoulder he opined aloud, "I thought she
and her multi-replicates were avoidin' our jungle
circuitry like the plague for good after 'Hike
dissed her beyond retrieve with his demented
downloaded version of the Victoria's Secret
catalogue. You don't mess with a butchy chick's
head like that." Langly softly belched. "Even
if she *is* AI to the extreme max now." His
calculating powder blue eyes grew. "Wha'cha do?
Make peace via Lara Croft, waving an olive
Byers sniffed, trying hard to ignore his
blustery friend. "She's offering us help;
Lord knows we could use it from whatever source
Langly cast a wistful glance over at his
gastronomic delights, figuring they had to
have grown very cold all this time. "Too bad
it wasn't her body when she had one; I could
have shown her a good time. I think she kinda
had the hots for me when we first met."
Byers grunted and shifted in his seat,
imagining a Nairn-Langly coupling, and he
recoiled. "What woman was that? Ringo, this
is me you're bull-shooing. The me who knows
what a babe in the woods you are, so just
stop. You were incapable of making direct
eye contact with Esther."
"Ha, says you," Langly negated. He tossed
his meal another forlorn look. "What kind
of help? The kind that helps us with
Phoenix's black ops?"
"You can answer that," Byers replied as he
typed it, shifting with fidgety movement in
the ergo' chair. "Unexpected, but appreciated."
Tonelessly, Langly responded, "You don't mean?"
"Exposing that freebooter Cypress during that
benefit gala in New York for the Cetacean
Reclamation Society was no accident. That
woman was born to be AI. Her re-programming
of the fractal projector's digital loop and
micro speculum to expose that imposter on those
smooth domed walls during the light show was
inspired genius. Wish I'd been there."
"What benefit? Who got exposed?" Langly was
shaking his head in utter disbelief.
"Oh, that's right. I forgot. You had no way
of knowing." Sheepishly then he said, "Esther
was responsible for Willis' exposure and
"Willis--she brought down Willis?" Langly's
stab of surprise creased Byers' forehead.
"Nairn did that, huh? So, like, how come you
kept me and Doohickey in the dark? 'Cos ya
did, and doin' stuff like that sucks. Or does
he know *too*, and I'm the only one who was
barred from the club, dude?" Langly jabbed.
"What's the uptrend with that?" There was no
justification in his mind. "That's just plain
wrong. For as long as we've known each other,
that's not how we operate, and you know it.
Why the damn no-share?"
Byers nodded in complete agreement, but he did
have justification. "Esther's stipulation.
She wanted it kept under wraps until she was
Langly shoehorned, "Who? Who's Hillary?" He
used Byers' shoulder as a light punching bag.
"Clinton?" he breathed, rife with skepticism,
his voice incrassating. He stared at the screen
"Now you're just being facetious."
"It's the code name for..." Following several
brisk knocks at the door, "Our visitor." Byers
swiveled the chair around after typing: <Thanks,
Esther replied: \Anything for you, John. Gotta
go. G lite in league with a GSM gopher client
calls. You know the drill. Make her welcome.
Tell her I'm handling it. She'll be fine>
Byers, feeling acutely forlorn then, smiled.
The thought that Susanne hadn't contacted him
in months crowded him. How he missed hearing
her voice. The way she laced things with
Langly studied the surveillence monitors'
flickering image several seconds before
twitching. He was caught betwixt and between
precaution and prima facie mezmerization.
The sleek, dark-haired woman filling the
technorectangles registered as an attention
"Check *her* out..." Looking spooked, the
pale hacker just stood there.
"That's not the Batman-Superman Adventures
hour you're watching, or your Xena pinup for
that matter. Langly, open up. Let her in,"
"Oh, oh--yeah. I'm on it."
Suddenly a ranting voice sliced the stillness.
"Who the devil's that? I'm tryin' to catch
forty winks plus back there and with all that
"Good evening..." the visitor quavered,
slipping past a round-eyed, curious Langly
once he'd opened the door.
Could her skirt be any tighter? He considered,
managing a thin smile which masked suspicion.
Though form-fitting, the sheath was neither
short nor tacky; just tight. It went well with
her chestnut-colored leather jacket and those
supple curves of hers, the attentive blond
couldn't help but notice, what with his eyes
glued to her every move.
"Forgive the imposition at this beastly
hour," the willowy woman, with tapered-cut
She possessed a whiff of a Sloane Rangerish
accent, as it so happened, and as she had
entered, she had looked behind her both ways
before she let Langly close the door.
...Weird-sounding chick... Langly looked
"I just hope I wasn't followed. One can
never be too careful."
Nodding in total agreement, Langly moved not
a muscle. Absentmindedly he barred her way
for a second time.
She continued to address the bemused man in
a hushed, lilting voice. "This *is* the
domicle of the Lone Gunmen? Yes?" Still,
the impasse. "Might I?" Making small
movements of wanting to venture in further,
she wondered if she'd done something out of
place. Despite Esther's virtual assurances,
she began to question the wisdom of coming
here, judging by the piercing looks of two
of the three men.
"Yeah, okay, but...like," Langly stammered,
not meaning to sound dense. He was suspicious,
but began stepping aside, caught up in her
regal bearing. "S-Sorry," he said, "but uh?"
His next stumble of words sounded like a
chummy first cousin to afterthought. "Hillary?
"Yes." She was nodding. "Well, that's an
on-line moniker. A quirky alias really, if
you will. I'm like that. Quirky, that is."
Coming from around him, she went on, "My real
name's Margot Aparenridge." Her eyes ransacked
their chaotic lair and, unable to determine
why, she relaxed, feeling at home after being on
the run for so long.
"What do you want with us?" Frohike bit off
She marveled at the chunky frowner dressed in
comical, faded blue PJs. "Esther said I
should seek you out. We can help each other.
You see," she let her voice trail, "I'm
trying to break cleanly with the past." She
winced, a pained look replaced the serenity, and
her voice faltered. "Gustin Max. He was my,
my...boyfriend." She bit down on her quivering
"Hey, like are you all right?" Langly, wearing
a doubful expression, cast chary eyes at Byers
who nodded, indicating they should let her go
"Gustin Max...infiltrator of foreign governments,
bodyguard for, and to, high profile assasination
targets, an overthrower of third world armies
armed only with a Swiss Army Knife, a brace of
paperclips and balls of baler twine. Fitfully
easy undertakings for the wiley likes of him."
"So, those sundries of his exploits have a basis
in fact," Byers said, sounding more positive
than inquisitive. "Hence, the data we compiled
on him is accurate."
"Max' praxes aren't the stuff of myths. He's
disarmed many a nuclear bomb with nothing more
than a hand-held can opener, a spatula and
mechanisms from a micro wave oven."
She vibrated from anxiety, wanting to say more,
but hesitated, deciding it was wiser to hold off
as she read the meditative expressions on their
faces. What was the plausibility factor here?
Would they be so willing to help her if they
knew *everything*? Esther had promised not to
tell; she'd leave that up to Margot.
The Gunmen had been thrown into high-digest
mode, even Byers, who at this stage had more
of a handle on the present situation.
"This is about Phoenix," Frohike trumped.
Aparenridge nodded, looking solemn. "It is."
She glanced up at the arcane and the mysterious
suspended from the dropped ceiling. "I trust
this conversation is being recorded. For
purely archival purposes."
Langly's heart skipped a beat. Frohike's frown
disappeared into thin air, and Byers rose from
his chair with arm extended to grasp her hand.
"Welcome, Margot," he graciously bestowed.
"Esther has preceded you, speaking strictly
from an on-line perspective."
"To be sure. We've been in constant contact
with each other."
Following his hearty handshake, she removed her
backpack, smiling as she set it down, pleased
to have had the presence of mind to snatch her
laptop, stuff it in before her ex had prevented
her from doing so.
"And you are?"
"John F. Byers." His friends waited for him to
say, 'At your service.' He didn't, though.
Frohike wondered about her bruises. "You can
call me Frohike, pretty lady." He held off on
shaking her hand. He could see she was mulling
"It feels good just to stop feeling so jumpy."
She sighed deeply, giving Langly another
sweeping look, wishing he'd stop gawking at
her so. "I'm parched. Would it be bold my
asking for a beer? Assuming you have any."
Frohike's lips snaked, forming a wry smile,
and thought that their not having beer on hand
was like a junkyard dog de-fleaed. He went to
get her a brew.
"I waited for Esther's communique in the
railway station all day. Waiting for her to
tell me when it was safe to make my way here.
I've been a bundle of nerves. Too uptight to
even eat or drink anything."
"Why the station?" Byers asked, wondering
what was taking Frohike so long with the beer.
He was all aflutter with the barrage of
numerous questions. He made a mental note
that her skin had a porcelain quality. "You
didn't fly in on the shuttle?"
"Not the best idea, according to Esther. I
rode aboard the eastern corridor express from
Penn Station as she instructed through my
Palm-P. She told me to wait in Union Station
for further instructions. I hid in the Ladies'
W.C. most of the day. I'd like to explore the
station though, one day, when I haven't got
so much hanging over my head."
The pair of Gunmen exchanged reciprocal facial
expressions of speculation. Was it their
overactive imaginations, but did it sound as
though she was giving it to them piecemeal?
"Where do you know Nairn from?" Langly inserted,
stepping closer into her, toning down his
intimidation. That was one of Byers' questions
too. Langly tried to make his perusal of her
face casual. Battered women were high on his
list for receiving compassionate support. It
looked like this chick had taken some hard
knocks, literally. His skin crawled as specific
childhood memories from his past flooded back to
He wondered whether the bruise near her carotid
was recent; the purpled dark-red yellow stain
standing out like a beacon against her stark,
gauzy white flesh. In fact, the more he looked
at her, the more he noticed various areas of
discoloration on her face in varying degrees of
"Since Britain and beyond." Her eyes lit up.
She had her memories too. "Cambridge, then
graduate school. NYU's and Columbia's, in the
The whistle escaped from Byers before he could
Margot shook her head with a sigh. "How I
miss those days."
"What's your discipline?" Byers asked.
Trying not to sound so wistful, she said
purposefully, "Cetology. I'm affiliated with
the CRS. Well, that's done now; the sham of
an environmentally proactive organization that
it is. It has no right to continue, in light
of the recent indictments."
"I agree," Byers seconded.
"I'm ashamed to think I was ever associated
with such fraud."
"Stuff happens," Frohike observed, coming back
in time to hear the tail end of her comment.
"Hell, yeah. Lotsa stuff," Langly chimed in,
making it unanimous, seeing Byers nodding too.
"Here's your beer, pretty lady." Frohike handed
her the green-stained glass bottle. "Heineken
work for ya, Miz 'A'?"
"Works marvelously, darling." She winked, and
followed it up with a stiff belt. Frohike
grinned, watching her raise the bottle to her
lips for a second hit, liking it when women
drank straight from the bottle. "Make it
Margot," she'd encouraged after swallowing.
"Margot," Frohike obediently repeated with a
"You gentlemen should have witnessed the night
that free-booter Willis was seized at the planetarium
fund-raiser, held at the Rose Center For Earth And
Science. Our silver-tongued President, Douglas
Faulkner, disavowed any knowledge of Willis' suspect
affilations." Margot shook her head, throwing her
glance to the floor. "I felt so dirty throughout
the whole proceedings."
"It must have come as quite a shock," Byers
said, looking commiserative along with her.
"What a lot of rubbish it was. Douglas'
denial--this, in the face of his partisanship
with Phoenix. Never mere allegation since he's
been involved with their covert project up to his
placid eyeballs. The proof has been bloody
difficult to get at. If it weren't for Esther..."
Margot's intense eyes captured Byers' then. He
hadn't been woolgathering.
Langly, wanting to appear as though he'd known
about the recent expose, had known about
everything, all along, nodded in conjunction.
"Max had told me he had something else to attend
to which precluded his attendance at the event.
When I got back to the apartment, he had blood
in his eyes. Said it was all *my* fault Willis'
cover had been blown. He was right of course,
but I wondered how he'd learned of it."
"Most likely an informant," Byers slid in, being
well familiar with similar situations, part and
parcel to the realm of discovery gone wrong.
"Yeah," Langly agreed, "some snitch from left
field probably ratted you out."
"It's okay," the well-meaning blond assured
soft-spokenly, even making so bold as to touch
her shoulder with a halting hand. What passed
for a wince managed to offset the strain which
had cropped up on her face.
She pressed her lips together until the color
got pressed out. "I ran to a women's shelter on
the Upper West Side to spend the night, praying
I'd be safe. Hoping against hope he'd never
find me." Her face went limp, and took on an
odd cast, almost as though she were smelling
cabbage boiling right under her button nose.
"It was also the night Esther gave it to me
hammer and tongs. She made it clear that if
I wanted to get out, help expose the CR Society
and its involvement with the Phoenix project,
I should contact your operation post haste.
Primed as you are for bringing certain sensitive
things to light."
Her weary eyes sought those of the Gunmen.
What she saw in Byers' and Langly's bolstered
her confidence that heeding Esther and coming
to them had been wise.
"Mulder, another source, who's with the FBI,
and his partner, also a friend, have kept us
up to speed on the slant from their end."
Frohike took another swig from his bottle.
Margot hestitated, on the cusp of wanting to
tell them everything there was to tell, but
she was afraid. Not yet; it wasn't the time.
Of course, when it would be the appropriate
time was still unclear.
"I hope my coming here was all right, despite
Esther's zealous encouragement. I wouldn't
want to risk--"
"We're up to our funky asses in-- Like wha'?"
Langly looked at his pals, mystified. "What
I do now?"
Byers shook his head, giving Langly one of his
more pointed 'you're beyond hopeless' looks.
Langly blinked before continuing, determined
that Byers' delusional superiority did not
color his tone. There were worse things than
being manners-challenged. "We're bein' extra
careful since Mulder's last visit. Nothing or
nobody's gonna stop us. This story's too big,
and that's totally cool."
Margot smiled at him, admiring his fervor, his
"By tomorrow, it should all come together."
"What happens tomorrow?" Frohike intercepted
the conversational football after upending his
bottle again, and the loud swallow. The slick
beverage hit his stomach like a searing
locomotive; the burning sensation was the best
part. He burped, then shrugged.
Byers' head wagging picked up where it had
Margot removed her customized laptop from her
JanSport, and asked, almost sounding apologetic,
"UNIX-GB friendly? So I can download the
"Lady, you got yourself a link-up," Langly
said, admiring her transparent torquoise
notebook from afar. "Oh yeah, that's cool.
I'm supposed to get one like that, soon." He
lifted the ultra-thin computer out of her
hands. "Won't be much to compensate for. I'll
interface it with litestep-indi. There won't
be a problem."
"Esther's told me quite a bit about you men."
Margot's steely sky blue eyes were the unearthly
color of a Siberian husky's. Langly smiled at
her shyly again. "Only the good stuff, I hope."
Byers and Frohike exchanged a look, having noted
the playfulness in Langly's voice.
"I wish I'd been let in on the big secret about
Esther being in on this from the jump," Frohike
carped, glaring at Byers and Langly as though
they had been in league with each other all
Langly shrugged at his short and stocky confrere,
knowing exactly how he felt. "We're in the same
boat, 'Hike. Hey, maybe being AI this long has
mellowed her out a little."
"How much you wanna bet?" Frohike angled.
"It came as a shock when she contacted me in the
manner she did," Margot said, yawning.
"Yeah, that's Nairn," Langly added, taking her
laptop over to his work area.
End Part 1