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[XFVCU 1x06] Skyland by Eodrakken Quicksilver Part 2 of 2
Summary: Krycek and Fowley are called in to investigate two murders at Skyland Mountain, dredging up old memories and resentments. Part of the XFVCU virtual series.

Skyland Part 2 of 2
X Files: VCU 1x06
By Eodrakken Quicksilver

VIRTUAL SERIES SITE: http://xfvcu.deslea.com
AUTHOR SITE: http://www.morosophy.com/sun
FEEDBACK: eo@morosophy.com

Alex had enjoyed this, once. The play of mind
against mind. Pursue. Parry. Double back. But it
had been a long time since he'd played this side of
the game - the hound instead of the fox, as it
were. Some days, it seemed like another life ago.

It was not the same room where he'd questioned
Duane Barry, but the mirror image of it, on the
other side of the observation room. Another narrow
white room with a cheap table and three metal
chairs, lit by stark, clinical fluorescent light.

Ian Parsons Reese, age twenty, was waiting for
them, sitting and drumming his fingertips against
the cracked formica tabletop. His legs were too
long to fit comfortably under the table, making him
look every inch the gangly adolescent. His muddy
red Nikes stuck out into the room, past the table
legs. He watched carefully as the detective and the
two agents came into the room. He seemed to take an
immediate interest in Alex, sizing him up and
watching him keenly, with his head tilted to one
side. Like a bird.

"Did you ever get a feeling like you missed the
boat?" he said.

Alex sat down carefully in one of the chairs across
the table from him, meeting his gaze. He just
looked steadily for a while, as if reading all of
Reese's secrets in his eyes. It was a predatory
look that he'd had a long time to perfect; Diana
knew it well, though she sometimes wished she'd
never see it again. The boy shifted uncomfortably,
but didn't look away.

"What size shoes do you wear?" Alex asked finally.

"Thirteen," Reese said.

Alex nodded.

"Why did you kill Rebecca Austor?" Detective Warsaw
asked icily.

Reese threw her a very brief, bored glance - not
even a flicker of recognition, of relationship. "I
don't know who that is."

Warsaw dropped the crime scene photos in front of
him. "That would be the woman you strangled last
night," she ground out, her jaw set hard. "Or are
you going to claim you don't remember it?"

He didn't so much as glance at the pictures. He had
set his eyes again on Alex's face. Diana noted this
- pathological killers often can't resist examining
pictures of their own victims.

"You don't want to look at these?" Alex said in a
tone of faint, disingenuous surprise. "Mm, what
about these ones..." He pushed several of the
photos off the top of the stack, until he got down
to the other crime scene. "What about Jason
Hankins, why did you kill him?"

"You're asking as an expert on the subject, I
guess," Reese said musingly. "Out of professional
curiosity. The killer agent. You look taller on

The fingers of Alex's hand jerked sharply into a
half-fist. Like a tic. But he said nothing.

Warsaw, however, made a move as if to object,
uncomfortable and impatient, but Diana stopped her
with a touch on the forearm.

"Could you give us a minute?" Diana asked quietly.

Warsaw hesitated, looking at Alex. The last time
she'd left him alone with a suspect in a room like

"I'll be here," Diana said, though she hated having
to say it, and couldn't look at Alex when she did.
But Warsaw did leave. She'd surely be in the
observation room.

Diana sat down at the table, next to Alex. He and
Reese were still keeping up their staring contest.
Alex's eyes were now narrowed, and he was leaning
slightly closer in, like a cat willing to wait all
day for a mouse to come out of its hole. Reese was
sitting further back from the table, one arm draped
over the back of his chair and dangling carelessly.
But Diana saw the tightness in the muscles that led
up to his neck, and the careful way he had placed
his feet on the floor, not allowing himself to

"How did you get them to come to the mountain?"
Diana asked calmly.

"I didn't," Reese said with a coy tilt of his head.

Alex licked his lips. "Then who did?"

He smiled crookedly, and let out a low, smoky
laugh. "The mountain made them come."

Diana glanced at Alex, who was holding the suspect
with a very deliberately level gaze. "How is that
possible?" she asked quietly.

Reese answered, but it was almost as if he hadn't
heard her speak. He still hadn't taken his eyes off
Alex. "The mountain...is everything. I dream about
it. When I was fifteen, I dreamed about a big fat
woman - big breasts, big thighs, big pregnant
belly... And I started touching her..." Reese's
eyes fell closed as he remembered. "...and her legs
were made of dirt and muddy snow, and her hair was
a forest of little trees. And I realized - she
*was* the mountain. Between her legs it was where
the river starts in the summer, Skyland River." He
let out another voiceless laugh of muted, horrified
delight. "That was my wet dream," he murmured. "And
I'm *gay*."

"And that was when you first felt this connection
with the mountain?" Diana asked matter-of-factly,
drawing a slow spiral on her notepad as she watched
him. Not bored, Alex knew - just thinking.

The smile fell off Reese's face, and he opened his
eyes. Annoyed, maybe, that his story had met with
such a cool reception. He nodded.

Diana tapped the tip of her pen against the notepad
and drew herself up, a process of gathering that
Alex recognized as meaning that she was trying to
find the best way to put something. "When you were
younger...did you ever have anything...unusual
happen to you? Anything you couldn't explain?"

"I've never been abducted by aliens, if that's what
you're getting at." His mouth twisted into a smirk.
"Though I've had an anal probe or two."

Diana raised an eyebrow. Alex had to stifle a laugh
at the sick absurdity of it, in this situation, in
this room.

"Never had any missing time?" Diana continued
gamely, figuring there was no point now in being
anything but frank. "Lost hours or days you didn't
remember? Injuries you couldn't explain?"

He laughed. "I don't believe in that crap. It's all
the government. CIA and shit." The smug self-
righteousness of an adolescent boy who thinks he's
smarter than everybody else.

"But you believe Skyland Mountain is talking to
you," Alex said dryly.

Reese looked sour again. "I only know what I feel."

Alex paused. He looked at Reese's hands, lying on
the tabletop on either side of the stack of crime
scene photos. Reese had black dirt jammed deep
underneath his fingernails, shoved far into the
bed. The tips of his fingers were red-raw.

"What do you feel?" Alex asked, his voice hoarse
and dangerous.

Reese inhaled deeply through his nose. "I feel...I
feel asleep."

"Dreaming?" Diana asked.

"No," he said, not looking at her. "Asleep while
I'm awake. It's like there's two of me... the
person I used to be, when I was fifteen, before
this all started happening. I think that person
still exists, but I can't get to him. He's asleep.
This person, the person I am now, he's made up.
It's like there's two of me...and one is sleeping
inside the other. Did you ever get a feeling like

Alex only looked pale and grave.

"Most people don't get feelings like that," Diana
said neutrally. "Do you feel like you're numb? Does
it take a lot to feel anything?"

Reese's head snapped around - he fixed her with a
narrow-eyed gaze. "Don't talk to me like I'm a
child," he warned. "And don't talk to me like I'm

"Are you insane?" Alex asked sharply.

Reese turned slowly back to meet his eyes again. "I
don't feel insane. I feel like I'm late to a

"And that's why you go to the mountain."

"Very good," Reese said dryly.

"What does it feel like," Alex said, "when you go
to there?"

Reese paused, arms crossed over his stomach and
peering up at the ceiling. He smiled painfully.
"Well, you know... it's like being a faggot."

"How's that?" Alex prompted, though Reese would
surely have told them either way.

"I mean, it's like before you know you're a
faggot," Reese clarified. "You fuck and fuck and
fuck these girls, and it's *like* what you want,
but it's not what you actually want. Never get a
really satisfying come out of a girl, can you?
That's what it's like."

"Going to the mountain. That's what going to the
mountain is like."


"And that's why you killed Rebecca Austor and Jason

Reese chuckled breathily, looking at Alex again.
"Boy, you think I've never seen a cop show, or
what? You think I'm gonna get tired, or I'm gonna
start thinking you're my friend, and I'm just gonna
come out with it? I hope you don't think I'm that

"It's important to you that people don't think
you're stupid," Diana echoed.

Reese pointed at her, giving Alex a what-did-I-
tell-you look. "See? That's police work. It's not
important to me that people don't think I'm
stupid," he continued patronizingly to Diana. "It's
important to me that people don't think I'm a
murderer, so that I can go home tonight."

"Well," Alex said sharply, and slapped his palm
down on the tabletop with a bang, pushing himself
to his feet. "It's pretty obvious," he continued in
a tone of dead calm, "that we're dealing with a
criminal mastermind here, Diana. I don't see any
point in continuing to question him, do you? We're
just wasting everybody's time."

Diana shrugged her jacket on, following his lead.
"I completely agree. But there's one thing you've
forgotten, Mr. Reese."

"Oh yeah?" he asked, looking relieved in spite of
himself. "What's that?"

"You've been booked for trespassing. Nobody's paid
your bail. You're not going home tonight."

"Or to your girlfriend," Alex added, jerking his
head in what he thought was the direction of the

Reese's face suddenly hardened, and he leveled Alex
with an even stare. He raised his arm to point dead

"It's that way," he said.

Behind the mirror in the observation room,
Detective Leah Warsaw swallowed hard.


Alex stopped to stare at his reflection in the
motel bathroom mirror. He looked about as bad as he
felt, the harsh yellow light accentuating his
exhausted pallor and the shadows beneath his eyes.
He'd been sweating in these clothes all day, and
now they were even filthier from tackling Ian Reese
in the dirt. He turned on the tap and ran his wet
hand over his face, more to bring himself back to
reality than to get clean. He felt like showering,
but he was too tired.

"Reese said he was fifteen when he started dreaming
about the mountain," Diana was saying from her
perch on the bed, one leg curled up beneath her.
"That would have been 1997 - the year the rebels
immolated the group of hybrids right here in
Skyland. He said he hadn't had abduction
experiences, but he's certainly more than capable
of lying."

"I'm getting a feeling like everybody's a liar in
this town," Alex said bitingly, emerging from the
bathroom and toweling off his face. "But even if he
was a test subject, there's nobody to call him now.
That's one thing he said that is true - if he's
going up that mountain, there's not gonna be
anybody to meet him there. He's not going because
he wants to be abducted, he's going because he
wants to strangle people."

"But why are the people up there in the first

"You're saying they were test subjects too."

"We don't know they weren't. We should get Agent
Scully to examine them."

He glanced sharply out the window with a short hiss
of dissatisfaction.

"She'll know what to look for," Diana pressed on
insistently. "It won't be a problem. She's... a

"But you know who's gonna come-" He'd been about to
say 'come trotting along at her heels'. "They come
as a package," he amended.

"Well," Diana said with an attempt at a smile,
"life is like that sometimes. But listen - if we
investigated near the site in Kazakhstan, we might
find the same thing we're seeing here."

He sighed, but reluctantly nodded. "I'll call
Marita about it, she can speak to her contacts.
It's the middle of the day in Kazakhstan."

"And I'll call the coroner and have the bodies
delivered to Agent Scully. We can drive back
tomorrow morning. You look like you need to sleep."

He couldn't deny it.


Alex met Marita at the coffee shop kitty-corner
from the Hoover Building, at a table outside. He
studied the faux-marble tabletop, traced the
pattern with a fingertip. Like fudge-ripple ice
cream. She was visibly pregnant now, and he just
wanted to look and look and look at her, but he
didn't want to *stare*, so he looked at the

"My contacts were understandably closed-mouthed,"
Marita said. "But I was able to determine that
there have been similar cases near the site since
1997. People running away towards the site, somehow
drawn to it. But no reports of violent deaths. I
wasn't even able to determine whether the people
involved were test subjects. My contacts offered to
look into it, but that could take a while. But
either way, you couldn't attribute the cases to
general panic. The news of the colonist threat
hasn't disseminated into the population in rural
Kazakhstan the same way it has here."

He nodded. "Well, okay. I mean, that's not what
you'd call conclusive, but it's something, and I
wouldn't want to ignore it. So it helps." He
hesitated, glancing over at the man reading a Tom
Clancy novel at the next table. The man was
absorbed, holding a cigarette and letting it
smolder and drop its ashes into the glass tray on
the table. "How are you?" Alex said in a lower

"I'm all right. I...felt a kick." In her tone was
something like excited, joyful dread.

"Oh God, that's-" Alex cleared his throat and
swallowed. He reached over to place his hand on her

A sharp crash. They both jerked their heads around
- it was just the man at the table next to them. He
had knocked the glass ashtray off his table; it lay
in tiny fragments at his feet. "Shit," the man
hissed disgustedly, putting out his cigarette on
the table top and leaning down as if capable of
picking up the mess with his bare hands. He glanced
at Alex and Marita's tense faces - hers grave, his
annoyed and accusatory.

"Sorry," he said, though he did not sound like he
was. "Waiter?"

Alex glanced at his watch. "Oh - I really have to
go, I'm supposed to meet Diana." He pushed himself
up from the table. "We had Scully re-examine the
bodies..." He glanced awkwardly at his wife, as if
the baby could hear, and he should moderate his
language. He shook his head, laughing slightly at
himself. "Well, I have to go."

Marita cocked her head with a puzzled smile. "Okay.
Will I see you at home tonight?"

"I don't think so," he sighed, looking over at the
stout brown Hoover Building. "Depending on what
Scully finds, we're probably gonna drive back up
again. I'll call you, though."

"All right," she said.

He turned to say goodbye again, and had to stop.
She was squinting into the dying afternoon sun, and
still had the remains of a wry smile about her
mouth. Her hair was all coming loose from its bun.

He leaned down and kissed her softly. "Bye," he


She watched him go, and sat at the table for a few
minutes while she finished her lemonade. She
watched the waiter clear up the mess from the man
with the Tom Clancy novel. Sweeping up ashes and
tiny glimmers of broken glass on the ground.


Diana was waiting on a bench outside the exam room
door. Perhaps she'd wanted them to go in together -
a sort of show of solidarity. She was looking at
him with unveiled curiosity as he approached. "Is
everything okay?"

"Everything's...fine," he said, determined to keep
his attention on the matter at hand. It was what he
would have done when he was younger, he thought.
"You were right - there have been similar reports
coming out of Kazakhstan, from the other immolation

She nodded, hit her palms against her knees, and
got up. "Well, that's more or less what I thought.
Let's see what else we can get."

And so they went in.

Scully was standing in the middle of the room with
a clipboard, heels together, well-groomed as
always. All her walls up. Mulder was standing off
to the side with his arms crossed, the very picture
of protective indignation. A bodyguard...a soldier.

Alex muzzled his annoyance, choked it down. "As you
were," he muttered with a vague wave of his hand.
If possible, Mulder stiffened even more, and now
Alex had to fight an urge to laugh. Diana touched
his arm uneasily, but he shrugged her off. "Doesn't

Scully pursed her lips, sharp cat-eyes flicking
from Mulder to Alex and back again. "Agent Fowley.
Agent Krycek. Let's get down to business, shall
we?" she said tightly. She began posting the X-rays
on the light boxes, one by one, talking as she
went. "Ian Reese and Rebecca Austor each have
implants in the backs of their necks, though
nowhere else in their bodies. Jason Hankins's X-
rays show nothing out of the ordinary, though in
his case, any implants in the head area may well
have been lost due to the nature of his injuries."

Scully turned, and took a little glass vial out of
a plastic tray and placed it down on an empty metal
gurney with a tiny clink.

"However," she continued, "none of the three show
any signs of experimentation or hybridization. No
scars. Ms. Austor's ovaries were in working order.
It's possible that they were tagged shortly before
the colonists had to pull out, and were never
actually subjected to tests."

"I hate to ask," Diana began quietly, "but isn't
there an elephant in the room here? How do we know
the colonizers aren't really calling these people?
How do we know they haven't returned?"

"But no one's been taken," Scully said. "Isn't that
correct? Why would the colonists call for their
test subjects and then not conduct any tests?"

"Our suspect claimed not to have had any abduction
experiences," Diana said.

"Then it's political," Alex said. "Somebody's
trying to make it look like test subjects are
dangerous. We know our contact with the local PD is
lying to us; she has some kind of agenda."

"Then what were the victims doing wandering around
in the woods in the middle of the night, and how
did Reese know where to look for them?" Diana
asked. She turned to Mulder. "We've had some
information that similar cases have been seen at
the other burn site, in Kazakhstan. I think we're
looking at some kind of...fallout."

"That's possible," Mulder said. "Whatever mechanism
the colonists used to call the test subjects could
be on an automated timer, or it could be activated

Alex breathed a short laugh. "Come on, let's be
honest, Mulder. We don't really know *what's*
possible. You're just guessing what they're capable
of, the same as everyone else."

Mulder looked at him like something found on the
bottom of a shoe. "Well, right now guesses are all
that's holding your case together. Unless you have
some inside information you're not sharing with

Diana stared at Mulder, not quite able to believe
he'd implied what she thought he'd just implied.

Alex's eyes narrowed. "All I have is what our
suspect said, and he told me he'd never had an
abduction experience-"

"They let *you* interrogate him?" Mulder

Silence dropped like a heavy metal gate.

Diana tensed. Scully's eyes flitted over to Mulder,
but she said nothing, and stood very still.

Alex ran his tongue over his lips. "Why wouldn't
they, Mulder?" he said hoarsely.

Mulder shrugged. "I just thought they would have
learned their lesson, that's all."

Diana's eyes went wide. "Fox-"

Alex interrupted her, speaking low and fast: "I
think any good cop would be happy to work with
somebody who's willing to do what's necessary to
protect the operation, as opposed to standing on
the sidelines letting somebody else do the dirty

"What the hell is that supposed to mean?" Mulder
shot back.

Alex let out a harsh laugh. "We were partners! I
was green as hell, and I didn't know - We were
partners. We were partners, you were supposed to
watch my back. I don't know, I just have to wonder
which of us is the good cop, because - Do you ever
think about anything besides yourself? 'Cause all
right, maybe it didn't faze you to think about what
was gonna happen to me after I had to kill Duane
Barry to cover *your* tracks, and okay, maybe it
didn't bother you to cut the losses and leave
Marita rotting in that hellhole-"

Diana put her hands up: "Alex - Alex, hold on-"

"Even though- even though Marita is the one person
we have to get down on our knees and *thank* for
saving all our sorry asses from being wiped off the
face of this sorry planet in the first place -
okay, okay, but what I don't get -"

Mulder tried to break in, with Scully's hands on
his arm as if to hold him back: "Okay, you know
what, you can just take your-"

But Alex raised his voice, not backing down,
talking over Mulder's objection: "No, listen, what
I don't get, what I just don't get at all, is
didn't you give a shit about *her*?" He was
pointing at Scully, who suddenly looked white as a
sheet in either rage or horror or some sick
combination. "It didn't bother you to let her get
taken, out of your own goddamn recklessness? It's
not like I'm a criminal genius, Mulder, it's not
like I didn't *want* you to get to her in time. But
no, it was all you, it was all what you wanted, and
who gives a flying fuck who dies, or who I have to
kill, or if I get my entire - no, not my career, my
entire *life* jerked out from under me, and I have
to become this- killer-"

He faltered.

Mulder was pale now too, a mirror of Scully's white
face. Not rage - shock.

Diana took a tight inbreath, just wanting to put a
stop to this before it went any further. "Alex-"

Alex waved her off, looking like he wanted to find
somewhere to spit. He turned on his heel and
stalked out into the hallway, leaving the door
swinging violently behind him.

Mulder, Scully, and Diana were left standing there,
staring at each other. Diana's arms suddenly felt
heavy, and in the quiet, they could hear the wall
clock ticking the seconds away.

Mulder spoke: "I didn't know-" And whatever it was
he didn't know, he could not quite get it out, but
the anger was drained from his voice; now he just
sounded exhausted. And Diana understood.

"It's all right, Fox," she said.

Scully shifted uncomfortably, but said nothing.


Diana came out after him, striding down the
corridor. He was sitting on a bench, leaning back
with his head against the wall. She started to say
something, but bit it back and said something

"In the future, I'll just do the talking with them.

"Fine," he sighed. He sat up straight. "Fine," he
said again, and he sounded less tense than she had
heard him sound in days. He sounded...tired.

"He didn't know you felt that way, Alex," she said.

"Would it have made any difference if he had?"

"I'd like to think it would have, yes," she said
quietly. "I'd like to think it will. From now on."

Alex cracked a smirk. "Well, I'm still not about to
go out and have a drink with the guy."

Diana smiled crookedly. "I don't think anybody
expects that. But if you just step back..." She
trailed off. "There's time."

He didn't answer.

"Well, where do we go from here?" she said. "Ian
Reese killed those people, but without a
confession, without forensics, we just don't have
the evidence to charge him. He'll get slapped with
a fine for trespassing, and he'll be on his merry

Alex shook his head. "We have to go back up there.
They can't hold him much longer. We can look at
scenes, look at the evidence again. If he walks,
more people die. And Detective Warsaw knows more
than she's telling us. It might be time to break
out the big stick."


Leah Warsaw sat in the office of the county jail
with a newspaper open in her lap, but she was not

She could feel each star of Cassiopeia like a hot
needle point in the back of her neck.

She had gotten very good at ignoring it, since it
had gotten so much fainter this past year. She
hadn't needed to go to the mountain in a long time.
But what she wasn't used to yet - what she'd never
expected - was the sense of loss.

Every few seconds, there was a scuffle of sneakers
on concrete, and a muffled *thud*.

Ian Reese was throwing himself against the bars of
his jail cell.

Warsaw appeared in the dark corridor, her round
face like a pale white moon. "Stop it," she said.

He stopped. His left cheekbone was bruised red-
blue, and he was holding his left arm stiffly at
his side, pressing his chest against the bars. "I
can't. You know I can't."

"Is there somebody out there?" Warsaw asked,
stepping out of the light from the open office
door, and into the darkness. She came right up
close to him, and she could feel his rapid shallow
breath on her face. "I mean...there's somebody out
there tonight, on the mountain. And you want to go
get them."

"Someone has to," he said.

"Why does it have to be you?"

He started to smile, but it turned into a wince
with his banged-up face. "'Cause I'm the only one
who gets it."

"I get it," she said. "They can't get what they
want. Somebody has to give it to them."

"*Yes*," he said savagely, pressing himself even
harder against the door, the fingers of his right
hand going white as he clutched a bar, trembling.
"They *want* to be taken away. Somebody has to take
them. I can't take them where they want to go,
but... at least I can take them away."

"It's like missing time," she said softly.

He hesitated. "What?"

"When it all goes dark," she said, "and you come
back to yourself, and it's later. Minutes. Days.
And the time is just...missing. I always thought
that being in the missing time must be just like
being dead."

He paused again. He shook his head, eyes gone
vacant. "I've never...I've never had that."

"I know," she said. Like comforting a sad child.
"You've never been where you want to go. I have. I
just never knew it was real."

He just looked at her.

"You could take it out," she said. "If you took it
out, you wouldn't feel it anymore."

His hand automatically moved to touch the back of
his neck, but stopped before it got there. His gaze
wavered. "I don't...I don't want to get sick."

She nodded. "Neither do I," she said. "Let's go to
the mountain."


They were on the road that forked off to the
mountain, under the brilliant stars. Alex's cell
phone rang.


"Agent Krycek," panted the staticky voice on the
other end, "are you in town? Ian Reese is gone from
his cell, and Detective Warsaw isn't answering her

Alex hit the brakes.

Diana had been slumped down in her seat; she jumped
to attention. "What the-?"

"They're gone," Alex said, tossing the phone into
her lap and turning the car around. "They're gonna
go up the mountain. Tell 'em we need backup."

And they drove.


Warsaw drove him in her messy little jeep, as close
as they could get, until the car gave out, stuck
and groaning in the uphill dirt. Then they walked
up, and further up. It was rocky, and he stepped on
her foot a couple of times. They walked until they
couldn't get any closer to where they were being
called. Cassiopeia gleamed bright overhead.
Taunting them. Screaming for them.

"Don't cry, okay?" she said nervously, though he
hadn't started yet. He hadn't been about to,
either, but as soon as she said it, tears started
welling up.

"She draws me out here...but it's not real. You
bitch-" And his voice cracked, coming down low and
rough and savage, his face twisting. "You *bitch*.
There's nothing *here*!"

"It is real," Warsaw said. She placed her hand on
his arm. "It *was* real. You're not insane."

"I'm so tired," he said brokenly.

"I know."

"You have to promise you'll do it," he said, his
voice growing childishly plaintive now. "I want to
go, but not if you don't promise you'll take them
for me. The rest of them. When they're called. When
they come. You have to take them, or else they'll
be waiting forever. Promise."

Her face was in shadow. "I promise," she said.

He felt a pull, and fell to the ground. He
scratched half-heartedly at the dirt. His fingers
were so raw already. "Please," he said.

A roost of sleeping birds scattered at the gunshot.

Flash of headlights. The growl and gravel-crunch of
an approaching car. She turned, wide-eyed, stock-
still like a deer before a predator.

They got out of the car with weapons drawn.

"Federal agents," the woman said. "Detective, put
your weapon down now!"

"I'm a liar," Leah Warsaw said. When she opened her
mouth, she tasted wet salt, and it was only then
that she realized she was crying. "And I'm a

She brought the gun to her temple.

At the second shot, there were no birds.


Diana walked out into the hospital corridor. Alex
was sitting with his face in his hand.

"Reese was DOA," she said. "Warsaw only grazed
herself. When she's lucid enough, they'll charge
her. She released him intentionally. Drove him up
there of her own free will."

"First degree murder," Alex said flatly, not
looking up.

"Maybe," Diana said. "But she was in treatment.
Paranoid schizophrenia with a second axis of
dissociative fugue." A combination that spelled out
*test subject*, clear as day. "She's awake. I heard
her asking to have the implant removed. If she's
still singing the same tune when she knows what
she's saying, I don't see any reason why a judge
would deny the request."

"She'll get sick," he said.


"What time is it?"

She looked at her watch. "It's three-thirty in the

He swore. "I told Marita I'd call."

Diana put her hand on his shoulder, and squeezed.
"Why don't you go home to her instead? We can't do
anything more here."

He nodded, and stood up.


On the highway, she glanced in the rear view
mirror. In the back seat of the car, Alex was fast
asleep with his head on his shoulder, the side of
his neck exposed. The dark silhouette of Skyland
Mountain bulged on the horizon.

Diana shook her head, readjusted the mirror, and
kept her eyes on the darkened road ahead.


AUTHOR'S NOTES: Many thanks to Maidenjedi for the
fast and fine beta, and of course to Deslea for
organizing this terrific project, and for inviting
me to come play.

Join the post-episode discussion here:
or feedback the author at eo@morosophy.com