Welcome To The Harem

[XFVCU 1x07] Prism by Deslea R. Judd and the XFVCU team 1/2
Summary: A killer with a penchant for games poses a challenge to the entire team - and a crisis for one of their number. Part of the XFVCU Virtual Series (http://xfvcu.deslea.com). Complete author credits: Deslea R. Judd, CindyET, Emily M., Eodrakken Quicksilver, Lara Means and Maidenjedi.

This story is part of the XFVCU Virtual Series. See past
episodes at http://xfvcu.deslea.com, and watch for next
week's episode, Fort Sumter by Lara Means. Reyes is
reunited with her old mentor to investigate a series of
murders going back forty years - but with roots even older
than that.

XFVCU Episode 1x07
An XFVCU Team Collaboration
Copyright 2003

DISCLAIMER: Characters not ours.
ARCHIVE: Yes, just keep our names, headers, and footers.
SPOILERS/TIMEFRAME: Set eighteen months after The Truth.
CATEGORY/KEYWORDS: Post-series, casefile, XFVCU.
SUMMARY: A killer with a penchant for games poses a
challenge to the entire team - and a crisis for one of
their number.
VIRTUAL SERIES SITE: http://xfvcu.deslea.com
AUTHOR SITES: See the notes at the end.
FEEDBACK: xfvcu@deslea.com

NOTE: This story is a collaborative effort by Deslea,
CindyET, Emily M, Eodrakken Quicksilver, Lara Means, and
Maidenjedi. The "Prism" of the title is twofold - the
different view of the perpetrator by each agent, and the
different view of the agents by the authors. Writing
credits are listed in full at the end.


Her name was Yolanda.

He will think of her at odd moments throughout his life.
Sometimes he will see himself as her victim, held tight in
her embrace as she draws his life away. Sometimes he will
be her cohort, watching as she takes one life after
another, basking in horrified delight and imagining that
one day she will derive from it the union she craves.
Sometimes he will be her lover, sinking into her, filling
her with his seed and wishing it would take root inside
her and make her human once more.

Sometimes they will be what they really were -
adversaries, locked so deep in each others' heads it was
as though he was inside her. Those times, he will think of
her that last day, and he will know that it was the only
thing to be done, but he will never accept that it was
right. It was wrong, and he will log it with a thousand
other wrongs and never forget that it was wrong.

It is a miserable excuse for integrity. He knows this. But
when she reaches out to him from within the recesses of
his faltering mind in the final moments of his life, he
will be glad that he held fast to it anyway. He will thank
her for strengthening his resolve.

And then he will take her hand, and he will meld with her
once more.


Somewhere, a cellphone was ringing.

"It's not mine," Diana mumbled.

Jeffrey groaned. "It's five a.m.," he protested. "Who the
fuck wants me at this hour?" He pulled himself up out of
bed and picked up his jacket off the floor. The ring grew
louder as he got it out of his pocket. "Yeah," he said,
stumbling back into bed and pulling the covers around him.

"It's Brad. Where are you?"

"Diana's," he said. "She says she hates you."

Follmer made a sound of amusement. "We've got a case. Body
found up in Baltimore in the water. Want me to swing by
and pick you up?"

"Thanks," Jeffrey said, pleasantly surprised. They were on
easier terms these days, but still, they tended to keep
their boundaries up, even now. "That would be good."

"I'll be there in twenty minutes." He hung up.

Diana was already up, pulling on her dressing gown. "I'll
make coffee," she said.

"Oh, Diana, go back to sleep," he said, knowing it was

"I'm awake now. May as well get moving."

He made a gesture of defeat. "Thank you," he said, and he
showered and dressed as quickly as he could.

By the time he emerged, she was dressed, the kitchen
smelled appealingly of coffee, and she was typing on the
computer, smiling in the light of the screen. "Alex says
hi," she said over her shoulder.

"Just Alex?" he said, gulping his drink down.

"They had a late night. Some kind of political dinner. And
Marita's not a morning person - especially now."

"That VA fundraiser. Yeah." He nodded, taking his cup back
to the kitchen. "What's on the agenda for you two today?"

"UFO sightings in Alabama. Almost certainly a false report
- we've been there before."

"Hack work, then."

"Pretty much. We're taking it easy, heading out on a nine
o'clock flight."

"Think of me while I'm slumming it in Baltimore," he said
as headlights shone in through the windows. "There's my

"Will do," she said, kissing him when he leaned down on
his way past.

He let himself out.


"So. What is it, and why is it ours?"

"Similarity to a case we had a couple of years ago,"
Follmer said, keeping his eyes on the road. "A man drove
his car over a drawbridge into the Potomac. Witnesses say
there was a woman with him. She wasn't found, but when
they fished him out, there was bruising on his ankle. As
though he'd been pulled down."

"Do we have an ID?" Jeffrey wondered.

"Going by the licence plates, guy's name is Andrew Gawler.
He works for the Environmental Protection Agency. He's
been in the news a bit lately, speaking out about clean

"Where's the connection?"

He looked at his partner, askance, but then the lines of
his face eased out. "Sorry, Jeffrey. I forgot. This one
came down the pipe while you were...away." He cleared his
throat. "It's a carbon copy of a case a couple of years
ago. Guy named Carl Wormus, also an EPA guy, also with a
bee in his bonnet about water purity, murdered in
identical circumstances."

"We didn't catch the killer?"

"Not in any formal sense. But according to Monica, it was
Shannon McMahon. She admitted to it pretty openly.
Something about averting contamination of the water
supply. I'm not clear on all of the specifics - I wasn't
in on the operation until just after that - but she's
emailing us the report."

Jeffrey frowned. "Shannon's gone respectable these days,
though, hasn't she? She was court-martialled for breaching
her security clearance if I remember rightly."

Follmer nodded. "They backed down and gave her an
honourable discharge, I think. But we know she gave
information to Knowle Rohrer about the Buchanan case.
She's not above suspicion."

"But something this blatant-"

"Oh, I know. I don't think it was Shannon. I think
someone's gone out of their way to create an X File." He
pulled in to a gas station. "I need to fill up. Want

Jeffrey shook his head. "Thanks."

Follmer took his time paying, and stocked up on candy
while he was there. Despite his refusal, Jeffrey had a
sweet tooth, and Brad was trying very hard to get along
with him. Fighting simply took too much time away from the
job, and these days, they needed all the time they could

"So are we going to have any problems with the local
P.D.?" Jeffrey asked when he got back in the car.

"Doesn't look like it. The diver who fished out the body
also worked the Wormus case. He was the one who suggested
it might be one for us. The local precinct is swamped, and
they were happy for an excuse to palm it off."

Jeffrey shot him a look. "It's too easy."

Follmer gave a single nod, but he didn't reply.


"Medically, it's an open and shut case," the coroner said,
peering up at the crane that worked even now on pulling
the dead man's car from the Potomac. "Hardly worth getting
out of bed for."

"Someone could have mentioned that," Jeffrey muttered.

"Has an autopsy been performed?" Follmer wondered,
suppressing a grin.

"Nope. Accident happened at two-thirty. By the time I got
here, the decision had already been made to call the feds.
He's halfway to Quantico by now. But I can tell you right
now, it's not rocket science. He went in the drink,
someone held him down by the ankle, and he drowned." He
shrugged. "Going by the pattern of the bruising, I'd say
your suspect is a very strong woman, or possibly a man
with very small hands. That tallies with the witnesses -
they say there was a woman riding with him."

"Surely the perpetrator would have drowned in normal
circumstances, too, though," said Follmer. He wanted the
coroner to suggest a hybrid perpetrator before he did.
That would go down better with Jeffrey.

The coroner held up his hands. "I stay out of that creepy
shit. As far as I'm concerned, your perp was a scuba
diver. If that makes me a fool, it also makes me one who
can sleep at night."

Jeffrey was smirking.

Follmer gritted his teeth. "Well. Thank you."

"No problem. I'm going back to bed. Detective Portia over
there will tell you anything else you need to know."

"Very smooth, Brad," Jeffrey said as an aside as the
coroner departed.

Follmer shrugged. "Just covering all the bases."

"It could be a scuba diver, you know."

"Yeah, she pulled a tank out of her pocket and put it on
while the guy wasn't looking. Come on."

Jeffrey shrugged, mimicking him. "Just covering all the

He ground his teeth again, but said nothing.


"We were lucky," Detective Portia said, leading them to
the wreckage of the car. "Usually there's virtually
nothing useable at a water scene. Hair and fibre is lost
or contaminated, fingerprints washed away. But this
time...we got lucky."

"There's a surprise," said Jeffrey, with a sidelong look
at his partner.

Portia was oblivious to the sarcasm. "It was. We got an
earring. It was caught on the upholstery."

"A distinctive design, by any chance?"

"Quite. A garnet set into silver. The sort of thing you'd
pick up at a flea market. Thirty bucks at a guess."

Follmer nodded in recognition. Monica used to buy things
like that. "Can we see it?"

Portia nodded. "Right this way."


"Your name is Shannon McMahon, you're thirty-eight years
old, and you're formerly a Master Sergeant in the USMC,
honourably discharged last year, is that correct?"

The dark-haired woman before them sat back, crossing her
arms. "Honourable only in name. I'm pretty disreputable in
enlisted circles these days. They don't take too kindly to
breaking ranks." She shrugged a little. "What's this

Follmer leaned forward. "Miss McMahon, two years ago you
disclosed to Agent Doggett that you killed Carl Wormus."
Her easy expression faltered, but she merely waited for
him to continue, and he didn't press her. She'd been
careful not to admit to the crime before witnesses, and
there was no forensic evidence. That was a case they'd had
to forfeit even after she resurfaced. "I am not going to
ask you to comment on that incident at this time. However,
are you aware that an identical murder took place

"Identical in what sense?" Shannon wondered.

"Same place, same M.O., same victim profile. Can you
account for your whereabouts last night?"

"I was a speaker at a fundraising dinner for medical
relief for test subjects in Washington. It went late.
Several hundred people can vouch for me until eleven p.m.
Even a couple of your own people, in fact - the Kryceks
were there. Marita was a speaker as well."

Follmer glanced at Jeffrey, wondering whether they or
Diana had mentioned the event. Jeffrey gave a slight nod.
"What about after that, Miss McMahon?"

"A group of us sat up in the bar, drinking. Gulf vets,
mostly. It was your standard war stories bull session -
how we worked hard and fucked hard and don't we have balls
of steel. All that crap. At least a dozen people could
vouch for me until five this morning."

"Can you provide their names?"

Shannon nodded. She rummaged on her desk for a notepad,
found one, and began to write, consulting her PDA from
time to time. "So am I a suspect?" she wondered. She
didn't seem particularly concerned about the idea.

Follmer glanced at Jeffrey. Gave a single nod.

Jeffrey took the lead. "Assuming your alibi checks out,
no, you're not. Our thought is more that someone is trying
to create a case matching yours - possibly with a view to
framing or discrediting you. Do you have any enemies?"

Shannon laughed. "Agent Spender, I'm a test survivor who
advocates for veterans victimised by our government. I
have about two hundred million enemies in this country
alone. You of all people should know that."

Jeffrey flushed, and the nerves in his cheek made his
last, residual scarring flicker, but he went on
regardless. "Anyone specific?"

She shrugged. "No-one springs to mind. Anyone active in
the test survivor community would have known about the
dinner, and that rules out just about everyone. If the
objective was to frame me, they didn't do their staff

Follmer frowned. It occurred to him that it might be a job
from within - a clumsy, easily disproven attempt to frame
Shannon that might then be blamed on her enemies to
discredit *them*. "Who would we talk to for more
information about the dinner? Who organised it?"

"Lots of people, but you could start with my aide. She's
my eyes and ears. Her name is Yolanda Wainwright." Shannon
glanced down at her watch. "You can use this office to
speak to her if you wish, but I need to leave you. I have
a meeting upstairs."

Both the partners nodded and rose. "Thank you," said
Follmer. "Before you go, can I just ask if this is
familiar to you at all?" He pulled the evidence bag with
the earring from his pocket and handed it to her.

Shannon's eyelids flickered.

"Not at all. Sorry."

Follmer shrugged. "It's not a problem," he said easily.
"Could you have this aide of yours sent in to talk to us?"

"Of course," said Shannon. Her face was bland.
Inscrutable. She looked from one to the other one last
time, and then she left them.


"What do you think?"

Follmer looked down at the earring. "She knows where this
came from. Beyond that, it's hard to know. I can't help
thinking, if she was part of this she'd be smarter about

Jeffrey nodded. "So what are we looking for here?"

"Either someone very stupid, or very smart, depending on
what they were trying to achieve."

"Either way, it has to be someone who knows what Shannon
did to that guy two years ago."


They were interrupted by the door opening behind them.
"Agents Follmer and Spender?"

They turned. The voice belonged to a woman, standing
patiently in the doorway. Dark hair, not as solid as
Shannon. Younger - maybe ten years younger.

"Ms Wainwright?" Follmer said.

"That's right. Miss McMahon said you wanted to see me.
Sit," she added. They complied, and she did the same,
coming around Shannon's desk to sit at the seat her
employer had vacated. "What's this about?"

"How long have you worked for Miss McMahon?" Jeffrey
asked, bypassing the question completely.

"Twelve years, on and off. She was my commanding officer
in the first Gulf War," she said. "I got a medical
discharge last year, after the news broke, and I needed a
job. Shannon had just started working for Veterans'
Affairs, and she gave me one."

"You're a test subject?" Jeffrey said kindly.

Yolanda nodded.

"What sort?" Follmer said roughly. He didn't like to do
it, but Jeffrey didn't leave him much choice. Damn the way
he lost his edge with them. It happened every goddamn

He'd expected coldness from Yolanda, maybe defensive
anger, but she looked at him with sudden warmth. Almost as
though she approved. It puzzled him.

"I'm a supersoldier," she said. "Version 2.0, Shannon
calls it. The Gulf War model. That was what prompted her
to tell Marita to start with, you know. She found out what
they were going to do in the fall of 1990, and she talked
until she found someone who would listen. Marita started
digging, told your deputy director, and the rest, as they
say, is history."

Ignoring Jeffrey's look of warning, he said, "Ms
Wainwright, do you have pierced ears?"

She laughed. "Agent Follmer, that's a trick question with
our kind. Piercings heal up, you see." She smoothed back
her hair, baring an unblemished earlobe for emphasis. "But
I have been known to pierce them for special occasions."

"Such as the fundraiser?"

She inclined her head.

"Agent Follmer," Jeffrey cut in, "can I see you outside
for a second?"

Follmer stifled a sigh, and nodded. "Can we use the outer
office for a moment, Ms Wainwright?"

Yolanda was transparently amused. "Go ahead."

"Way to kill a perfectly good interrogation, Jeffrey," he
hissed when they got outside.

"We shouldn't even be interrogating her! I saw how you
went after her when you heard about her medical discharge.
You're only after her because she's a test subject."

"Yes, I am. You know why? Because only a test subject
could have done this one. Not to mention the fact that she
almost certainly knows about Wormus." He made an
exasperated sound. "You know, sooner or later, you're
going to have to start seeing these people as suspects, or
one of them's going to get the drop on you."

Jeffrey opened his mouth, clearly ready with an indignant
reply, but they were interrupted by Yolanda. She opened
the door to Shannon's office and cleared her throat.

"You *do* know that enhanced hearing is part of the
package with us, right?"

Both partners shifted uncomfortably. Follmer coughed.

"Well. If that's all, gentlemen, I need to get on with
things. We've got a stack of photographs through from last
night and I need to sort out the best ones for release to
the media." She passed between them and went to her desk.
"Here's one with your people," she said, picking one up
and holding it out. "Have it as a souvenir."

Jeffrey took it, nonplussed, and Follmer looked over his
shoulder. Marita and Alex were there, standing back on the
left, Marita's free hand perched on the top of her belly
as she sipped orange juice from her glass. Alex was
smiling at her. In a huddle near them, Shannon, Yolanda,
and two men were talking. Follmer vaguely recognised one
of the men as a senator, but it was not this that drew his
attention. It was Yolanda, in sharp focus on the extreme
right. Her dark hair was drawn back, and she was wearing
those silver-and-garnet earrings.

"Ms Wainwright," he said, pointing to the earrings in the
picture by way of explanation to Jeffrey. "I'd like you to
accompany Agent Spender and myself to Baltimore Field
Office for questioning."

If she was disturbed by this, she didn't show it. A smile
played around the corners of her mouth. "Am I under

Follmer glanced at Jeffrey. They didn't have enough, and
they both knew it. "Not at this time."

"Then no, I don't think I will." She rose from her desk.
"But I'll tell you what, Agent Follmer. Why don't you come
for a walk with me? You can ask what you want to ask, and
maybe I'll answer. Meanwhile, Agent Spender here can go
and pump all my colleagues for information about my
movements and research my background and whatever else he
needs to do while you keep me occupied."

Not for the first time that day, Follmer had a nagging
feeling that he and Jeffrey had been played from start to

"Why not?" he said, more confidently than he felt. "Agent

"Whatever you want," said Jeffrey, looking from him to
Yolanda in apparent confusion. He could see the connection
he seemed to have made with Yolanda, Follmer could tell,
and it bugged him because he was outside it.

Not that Follmer understood it any better himself.

"Then it's settled," said Yolanda. She nodded to the door,
and started walking. "Agent Follmer?"

He followed her.


"Why did you do it?"

Yolanda laughed. "I gave you more credit than that, Agent
Follmer." She looked younger, laughing there in the
morning sun, and it occurred to him that she must have
looked like this when she was changed. She was, what,
seventeen back then? He tried to imagine it - tried to
imagine going off to war in the first place at that age -
and he couldn't.

"Oh, I know you wanted to give us an X File. You knew
about Wormus, but you admire Shannon and you didn't want
to implicate her, so you handed us a carbon copy on a
night when she had a cast-iron alibi." He frowned. "But
that doesn't explain why you did it. Why you wanted us.
The motive beneath the motive."

"That's poetic. More poetic than I'd expect from a man
like you." She sighed with seemingly genuine regret. "I
can't answer that one, Agent Follmer. If I did, it would
defeat the purpose."

He frowned. "I don't understand."

"No, I know you don't," she said reflectively. "But you

"How?" he demanded. "You handed us this, Yolanda. On some
level, you must want us to solve it. So throw me a bone

Yolanda was smiling. "Tell you what. Let me make you a

"It's a bit early in the day."

"Very funny." She went on, "You get your team to question
me. Each one of them, one on one. If you can figure out
why I did it, I'll give you a confession. Signed, sealed
and delivered."

"You've got to be kidding."

She shook her head. "It's no joke. I'm interested to see
what you come up with. Seriously."

Follmer shielded his eyes against the sun. "Do you have
any idea how overworked we are? I can't send for them all
for something like this. What guarantee do we have that
you'll live up to this bargain of yours?"

"My word. As a Marine." Her expression was suddenly grave.

He thought about it. If nothing else, it was a unique
opportunity to do some fact-finding about supersoldiers
from the source. To separate the fact from the mythology.
Deep down, he knew perfectly well that most of the agents
would jump at the opportunity. Scully and Doggett might
quibble about it, but their partners would bring them

"All right," he said at last. "You've got yourself a


Krycek met her in a churchyard on the high ground of the
city, where Baltimore started to turn into Baltimore
County. It was historic, this place; people of interest
were buried here. But today it was too grey for tourists -
heavy warm smog, and humidity threatening to become rain.
On sunny days the churchyard was historic; today it was
just old. The noise of cars gliding back and forth on the
cracked road was a muffled white roar, but there were no
people, no one to hear them.

As he walked up, she was standing with her coat held
around her, peering down at a set of graves. She would
have looked absorbed, but he could somehow tell that she
was paying close attention to his approach.

"A mother and her son," she said. "His wife is on the
other side. Do you think he loved his mother more?" She
sounded bemused.

"I thought we were here for an interrogation," he said,
"not a eulogy."

She looked up at him evenly. "First, turn that thing off."

Krycek flinched. "What?"

"I can hear the tape recorder in your pocket," she
continued patiently. "It makes a high-pitched humming
noise, and I can hear it. It was almost covered up by the
sound of the myoelectric mechanisms of your arm -" she
gestured to it "- but not quite."

Krycek looked at her for a moment. Then without a word, he
took the little recorder from his pocket, held it up, and
clicked it off.

"Cheaters never prosper, Agent Krycek." A smile played
about her lips, and she turned to stroll further up the

He followed her. They walked carefully around the little
stone church, using the square stepping stones in the
slick, muddy grass.

"So what's the game here?" he asked. "You're playing
Spender and Follmer for fools, I can see that much." They
paused in front of a set of stone tombs. "Playing
Roadrunner to the authorities' Coyote. Paint a yellow
dotted line, and watch us run our faces smack against the
wall." He placed his palm flat against the incised letters
on the front of one of the tombs, and leaned against it a

"I'm not toying with Agent Follmer," she said.

Krycek raised an eyebrow at her.

The corner of her mouth twisted. "I intend to keep my word
to him," she amended. "Divining my motive will earn you my

He shrugged. "But what difference would it make if I tried
to question you? You're the one who set up this game, and
you're holding all the cards. I question you, I don't
question you - you've already got it in your head whether
you're going to sign that confession or not, and if it's
part of the plan that you tell me why you killed Andrew
Gawler, then you'll tell me."

He observed her reaction carefully. She squinted into the
sky with an unreadable expression and tucked a strand of
black hair behind her ear. "That's an awfully defeatist
attitude. It must do tremendous things for your case
clearance rate." She leaned her shoulder against the
corner of the church. "You're here - you obviously intend
to question me. And why wouldn't you? Aren't you curious
about me?"

"Of course," he said.

The wet wind blew some of her hair into her face. She
jerked her head to flick it aside. "Then why not ask?"

"Because I think you're going to lie to me."

She laughed. "Sometimes we tell lies so often that we
start to see them everywhere. Don't you find that to be
true, Agent Krycek?"

His eyes narrowed. "You want to make this about me?"

She shrugged carelessly, pushing off the church wall and
walking out among the cracked and weathered gravestones.
"Why not? If you won't play my game, I'll just have to
change the rules." She glanced at him over her shoulder to
see if he was following. He was. "I wonder about you too,
you know."

He breathed a short laugh. "So do a lot of people."

"I suppose that's true enough. But here's what I want to
know." She stopped and turned to him. "When you look at
me, do you see a beautiful woman? Or a beautiful machine?"

They stood there in the wet grass between the tombstones
for a minute, looking at each other. The wind blew her
hair across her face again; this time she didn't brush it

"I see both," he said.

She nodded. "That makes sense. You're an expert at seeing
both sides, aren't you? And you know the line between a
man and a monster-" she broke off. "They made me what I
am. And they made you too. That's what they do:
manufacture killers. Maybe they just haven't seen enough
horror movies - they don't realise that the monster always
turns on its creator."

He didn't let himself feel her words. "Did you ever
actually read 'Frankenstein,' in school?" he asked
casually. "What the monster really wanted was a mate."

She closed her mouth tightly.

"What do you want?" he asked. "You want to be arrested?
Convicted? You want that? Do you realise -" he stood
closer to her, and lowered his voice, though there was no
one to hear. "Do you realise that prison isn't the worst
thing that can happen to you?"

She paused. A flicker of some feeling passed across her
face. "Follmer doesn't know that."

"No," Krycek said. The mist was starting to condense into
rain again. "But there are people who do."


Diana sat in her car outside the diner, chewing a mint and
trying to determine just how to go about this. The woman
waiting for her inside was a piece of work, and what she'd
gone through certainly hit home. Considering what Jeffrey
had endured in the conspirators' abortive bid to make him
what this woman had become, Diana was not without sympathy
for her, but it was muted by antipathy and unease.

It wasn't that she was a killer. Diana worked side by side
with killers. She considered one of them her closest
friend. She trusted him with her back every day.

But in a way, that was exactly the problem. Watching Alex,
all these years - watching him struggle with what he'd
done and what he'd become - she couldn't find it within
her to sympathise with this woman. Her cavalier attitude,
her callous murder of a man simply to get their attention
- it appalled her. It made a mockery of the integrity Alex
had strived for when all around him seemed hell-bent on
taking it away.

Diana crossed her arms, frowning. Whatever her feelings,
she was going to have put on her game face and handle this
like any other case. Any other suspect. Fastidiously, she
checked her hair in the visor mirror, touched up her
lipstick. Game face, she thought again. This is business.

She'd worn a pair of slacks, and refrained from wearing a
jacket. She wanted to create an image that Yolanda could
trust, something more feminine than what she might have
come up against thus far. Diana was practical; she
realised that it hardly mattered, because a suspect will
either talk or she won't. Clothes certainly wouldn't swing
the situation. But it couldn't hurt.

Looking in the window as she walked to the door, and
seeing Yolanda dressed nearly identical to herself, Diana
had a sinking feeling. Here was a woman who knew how to
play the game, who would fall for no subtle diplomatic
gestures. It'd been a long time since Diana had done this
on her own, and she was questioning whether she could play
the heavy.

Yolanda didn't look up when Diana took the seat across
from her. She was reading a newspaper, and picked up a mug
to take a sip of coffee. She immediately made a face.

She looked up then, and a Mona Lisa smile graced her face
as she locked gazes with Diana.

"I never put in enough sugar." Her smile widened slightly
as she reached for another white packet. "You're Agent
Fowley, I presume."

Diana nodded, returning the smile. "And you're Yolanda

A waitress came up to the table, smacking her gum loudly.
"What will you have?"

Diana didn't take her eyes off Yolanda, who did likewise.
"Coffee would be fine."

"Decaf?" The waitress' voice was far away and echoed
reflexively in Diana's ear.

"Regular's fine."

The waitress walked off, and Diana folded her hands on the
table in front of her. The formica top was sticky and
grains of sugar littered it in places.

Yolanda tapped her newspaper. "I see I've yet to make the
front page."

"I didn't think you did it for the attention." Diana heard
the edge in her voice and dug her nails into the backs of
her hands.

Yolanda's gaze flickered down, and she looked at Diana
again, not smiling at all this time. "I did it for the
attention I got. Not all of us can afford to make up
stories and hide in plain sight. Not all of us can claim

Diana didn't let her irritation show this time. Yolanda
might not have been trying to bait her with that slight
about Jeffrey. But she'd known so much about Alex, known
the buttons to push and how far and when. It made Diana
wary, and that was making her lose her usual cool.

The waitress came back, still popping her gum, and set a
hot mug down in front of Diana. She didn't bother with
sugar, and took a deliberately long sip, burning her

"What is this about, Yolanda? You want sympathy?"

"I want you, all of you, to pay closer attention. There's
more at stake than you might have guessed."

Diana thought of the scar on Jeffrey's cheek, of the half-
hidden accusations on the editorial page of the Post and
the blatant ones on tabloids that made him swallow hard
and clench his jaw. "I doubt that very much, Yolanda."

"Agent Fowley," she said it deliberately, demanding some
proper use of titles, a little less familiarity. "I'm not
unaware of what your colleagues have endured. But it isn't
over. And you still haven't asked the right questions."

"Are you in danger?"

Yolanda swallowed some of her coffee, grimacing again and
trying to pull her lips into a smirk. "When haven't I
been? For that matter, when haven't you?"

"It's been a long time," Diana sighed and put her hands in
her lap. She had the feeling that she knew this woman
better than she wanted to. "Why did you do it, Miss
Wainwright?" She tried to make the concession clear.

Yolanda looked out the window. "You'll find out, Agent
Fowley. In the meantime, go home and make him feel loved.
He needs it, because that scar on his cheek isn't the only
one he escaped with."

She didn't look at Diana as she dropped a five-dollar bill
on the table and left the diner. Her long dark hair swung
slightly, and Diana imagined what her neck might look like
underneath it.

She turned the newspaper around so she could see what
Yolanda had been reading.

It was the editorial section of the Post. There was no
reference to Jeffrey, but a caricature of a Marine, being
guarded by a troop of grays on one side, and doctors on
the other.

Diana went home and called Jeffrey, and let him know he
was loved.


"I hope you don't mind me coming here," Jeffrey called,
peering at the framed pictures on Yolanda's wall. He could
trace the years with the patches on her arm.

Yolanda came out of the kitchen into the lounge. "Agent
Spender, I'm your prime suspect in a first-degree murder
case. I'm hardly in a position to object to you coming to
question me." She handed him his coffee and paused at his

"I thought you might feel more comfortable at home." He
pointed to one photograph, the oldest. "That one of you
and Shannon McMahon - was that in the Gulf?"

She nodded. "Basra. It's very important to you that I feel
comfortable. Why is that?"

Jeffrey shrugged. "Your kind, as you put it yesterday,
haven't had the best experiences with law enforcement."

She snorted. "My kind are not served by preferential
treatment, either."

He was taken aback. "Who says it's preferential?"

"Agent Spender, I read the transcripts of your testimony
to the Congressional inquiry, and Agent Mulder's as well.
You were a hard-ass back then. I'm assuming you still are,
otherwise you wouldn't have a job. But not with us.
Wouldn't you call that preferential?"

Jeffrey frowned, drinking from his mug to mask his
confusion. This was a discussion he'd had many times with
Brad, of course, but it was the first time he'd
encountered it in a fellow test subject. She seemed to
have some objection to his solicitude, and he hadn't the
faintest idea of what it could be.

"It isn't preferential to tailor your responses to the
individual," he said at last. "Not if you tailor them for

"And you just happen to tailor them for us on the basis
that we're misunderstood nice guys. That's certainly what
Shannon's PR machine would have you think," she said,
nodding at the most recent picture, of herself and Shannon
in civilian clothing. "Let me let you in on a little
secret, Agent Spender. Not everyone they did this to was a
good person. There are plenty of assholes who went to war.
And there are plenty of people who weren't assholes when
they went off to war who sure made up for it when they got

He wasn't quite sure how to respond to that. "What do you
think of Shannon?" he asked abruptly.

The question seemed to jar her. "I - I admire her," she
said at last.


She glanced at him sidelong. Wary. "She was the first,"
she said after a moment. "She and Knowle. I had her there
to guide me after it happened. She didn't have anyone. I
don't know how she did it."

"Must have been nice to have her there." Too late, he
realised that the warmth suffusing his voice was a

She made a sound of disgust. "Jesus. I can't believe they
let you out without a guardian. You wouldn't last five
minutes in the NIS." She turned on her heel, calling over
her shoulder, "Come with me, young Jeffrey. Let's talk."

He had the discomforting image of a dog trotting at its
master's heels when he followed.

"Just for a minute," she said, passing through her front
door onto the porch, "let's suppose that you were going to
do some investigating during your sojourn through Yolanda
Wainwright's early life." He felt his face grow hot with
humiliation. "Why do you think I did it?"

"I think it was a cry for help." He leaned against the
wall, aware too late of splinters from the wood cladding,
but determined not to give up any more ground with her by
showing discomfort.

She seemed unimpressed. "Really."

"I think you're grasping desperately for anything that
might help you figure it all out. You did it to Shannon,
and now you're doing it to us."

"I think you're projecting," she said over the top of her
mug, leaning back against the railing. "I think you do it
to *us*. Probably to your girlfriend Agent Fowley there,
as well."

He didn't rise to the bait. "Why else would you have
started this ridiculous charade?" he demanded, as though
she hadn't spoken. He thought he saw a flare of approval
in her eyes. "Why else would you have handed it to us on a

"What if you're wrong?" she snapped. "What if all this is
just for kicks? What if I'm a fucking psychopath and I do
it again and again and again?"

"Are you?" he wondered.

She held him levelly with her gaze. "You tell me."


"I just don't know."

Follmer didn't think he'd ever heard Diana betray doubt
before. She exuded confidence and poise, and Yolanda had
rattled her. He had no idea why.

"There was a lot of double-talk," she went on at last. "A
lot of stock lines about us missing something important,
about it not being over - as though she had political
motives. But I don't think that's what's really going on

Krycek shook his head, sitting down on the arm of the
couch beside her. "Neither do I. She speaks of being made
into a monster, but it's personal. It's about her, not
about them."

"She said I was asking the wrong questions," Diana said,
"but I don't know what she wanted me to ask." She shook
her head. "I got the feeling I wasn't really who she
wanted to talk to."

"Going through the motions?" Follmer wondered.

"A little. As though she already knew she wasn't going to
get what she wanted from me."

Follmer frowned. "But what does she want?"

Jeffrey spoke for the first time. "I don't think she
knows. I don't think this is a test we have to pass, where
she knows the answer and we have to guess. I think she's
waiting for one of us to say the right thing, and she'll
know it when she hears it."

Krycek sat forward. "Follmer, do you really think she's
going to give you that confession?" He seemed genuinely

Follmer shrugged. "The odds are against it. But I think
she has a sense of fair play. Stranger things have

Krycek's tone was careful. Measured. "Have you considered
what you'll do if she does?"

"Oh, it'll be a political football when we charge her, but
that goes with the territory."

Krycek opened his mouth, glanced at Diana, then shut it
again. He said mildly, "I suppose."

Follmer filed away that look in his mind, and he asked
Jeffrey about it later, but Jeffrey was as mystified as


Doggett tugged once, twice at his suit collar before
giving in and pulling down his tie to undo the top button
of his over-starched shirt collar. The air was heavy with
humidity, and uncomfortably warm even in the shadow cast
by the abandoned factory building in the late afternoon
sun. He leaned back against the hood of his car, thinking
too late that his pants were going to get filthy.

He saw her in silhouette at first. The sun was at her
back, making him squint and casting an eerie glow around
her. He relaxed a little as she stepped into the shadow
and her features became clearer. The hard soles of her
heels echoed against the buildings in the mostly deserted
industrial park.

"Agent Doggett." She stood next to him, close enough that
he had to crane his neck to look her in the eye.

"Ms Wainwright. I don't like games."

She laughed. Her laugh was light and pretty and seemed
incongruous with the person he believed her to be. "A game
perhaps, but there is a tantalising reward at the end. A
signed confession must appeal to a cop such as yourself.
And surely you enjoy the art of a good interrogation."

He shrugged. "This ain't exactly the sort of interrogation
I'm used to."

She simply smiled and leaned back against the hood as

"You know," Doggett said, "I never got what they were
thinking with you guys. It seems like a damn stupid thing
to do in my opinion."

She looked at him, genuinely curious. "What's that?"

"Creating something that can't be killed. Anything with
that much power is bound to be a hell of a lot more
trouble than it's worth."

She nodded. "Desire - for anything, money or power or sex
- it clouds judgement."

"Yeah, that's true," Doggett said. "So what clouded your
judgement? You strike me as the sort of person who'd be
after power."

She raised an eyebrow. "What makes you think my judgement
was clouded?" she asked.

Doggett said nothing and looked out across the deserted
parking lot. He wondered how sure they were that no one
was listening. Krycek had told him about the experience
with the recording device, so he supposed her hearing
would tip them off to any eavesdroppers, but the idea was
still there in his mind.

"You were a Marine," Yolanda said abruptly.

Doggett looked up at her apparent non-sequitur. "Yeah," he

"Does it occur to you that you could have been me?"

Doggett flinched. He rested his hands against the car
hood. The metal was cool against his palms. "Sometimes."
But just on days ending in 'y', he thought.

"I think you think about it more than 'sometimes,'" she

"I think we're talking about you and not me," Doggett
said. How had he ended up on the defensive?

She nodded in apparent agreement, but asked "Do you
believe in aliens, Agent Doggett?"

He frowned, annoyed with himself for allowing her to get
control of the conversation and lead the topic away from
herself. "It's kind of hard not to these days."

"I mean, do you believe that the aliens are the ones who
created us?"

He shook his head. "No, I don't."

"Neither do I."

Doggett felt his eyes widen. "No?"

"No, I believe that the government used alien DNA, but I
don't believe that they had any hand in what happened to
me and the others," she said.

"There aren't many people who think that way any more."

"But you do. And I do. We aren't so different, you see."

He stopped himself from rolling his eyes. "We share the
same theory and a job - a former job in my case. That
doesn't make us the same. I don't list murder as one of my
hobbies. I like to take my anger out on punching bags
instead of people. You get angry?"


"Angry at the people who did this to you?"

"Would you be?"

"Hell yes. I'd be pissed off."

"Well then," she said quietly. He realised that she hadn't
really answered her question, but he doubted she would

"So do you kill people when you're angry?" Doggett asked.

She laughed.

"Right," Doggett said. "It's never that easy, is it?"


Baltimore was not entirely unlike New Orleans, Monica
thought as she made her way along the brick walkway down
to the inner harbour. A city with a lot of history, a
sense of worldly dilapidation. People had lived here a
long time, not thinking about what they were doing. Layers
and layers of people and smog and trash, all packed
together. Rowhouses and landfills, and sardine-tight
graveyards in the middle of city blocks.

Yolanda was sitting on a bench near the aquarium, a
building that stood pressed up against the edge of the
water. It was near the landing where the water taxis
stopped, and the skeletal old trawler tethered there
indefinitely, decaying under the unseasonable holiday
lights strung across its masts. The afternoon was fading,
and tourists trickled out of the aquarium in threes and
fours, dragging cameras and backpacks and children. There
was a knot of commuters on the landing under the bus stop
sign, looking irritable and thin.

Yolanda was watching them all with the intensity of a
wide-eyed child in front of the dolphin tank.

"Miss Wainwright?" Monica said quietly from behind her.

She barely turned at first, but then seemed to shake
herself from a reverie, and got up. "We'll need to talk
where there aren't people," she said in an oddly subdued
tone, and started walking towards the abandoned shipyards.

Monica followed, and they walked until the brick became
sinking gravel under their feet. They walked until the
inner harbour was just a glow of light.

"I'm not sure why you asked for this," Monica said
cautiously, trying to feel the suspect out. "And to be
perfectly honest, I'm not really sure what I'm supposed to

"All you have to do is figure out why I kill."

"Don't you know?"

Yolanda said nothing.

"If you don't, then I can't really find out by asking you,
I guess."

Yolanda still said nothing. They walked.

"You've killed others," Monica said.

Yolanda smiled. "What makes you say that?"

"Because you said 'tell me why I kill', not 'why I
killed.' So you've killed before. You make a habit of it."

"I've killed many times," Yolanda said neutrally, stepping
over a ground-down curb. "I was a Marine. It's part of the
job description."

"But after the Gulf," Monica said. "Since then, you've
killed more people. Civilians, like Andrew Gawler. He
wasn't the first."

Yolanda shook her head, and shrugged. "Everybody dies."

"You don't," Monica said.

"No," Yolanda answered with a secret smile, and something
in her eyes that Monica couldn't help seeing as pain.

They passed the skeleton of a warehouse, surrounded with
parked cars and covered with elaborate graffiti. There
were some kids on the upper level, setting up sound
equipment. Their conversation drifted down in blurts and
snatches on the breeze. When it was dark, this would be
where the kids would come to dance all night and do
ecstasy, and drink endless cans of Seven-Up to keep from
passing out.

Yolanda paused in her tracks, sidled up closer to the row
of still cars, and continued walking. Monica glanced
behind them, looking for the reason. A full minute passed
before she heard the growl of an over-tweaked engine, and
then saw a battered red pickup truck carrying some equally
battered teenaged boys.

"Hey ladies!" shrieked one as they roared past.

Once they were gone, Yolanda smiled again. "They wouldn't,
if they knew what I was."

Monica had no answer for that. "Is it hard to deal with
the heightened senses?" she asked instead, as they kept
walking. "It must have been a long time since you've
experienced total silence."

Yolanda seemed to hesitate, but nodded.

"A lot of the time it must seem like people are shouting.
Would it be better if I lowered my voice?" Monica asked,
doing so.

For a moment, a war of emotions played out over Yolanda's
face - rage, delight, and grief. She settled on a stony
look. "It isn't necessary," she said in a strained voice.
"I'm used to the volume."

"You're used to people not considering your feelings,"
Monica said. "I think that's sad. Hardly anything is
*necessary*. It's the unnecessary things that make life
worth living...or even bearable."

Yolanda tossed her hair out of her face. "Should I expect
others to accommodate me? Should I enjoy special
treatment? As a citizen, I already enjoy equal protection
under the law." There was an undercurrent of bitter
sarcasm there. "If I demand additional rights, it can be
seen as seeking undeserved favour."

Monica cocked her head. "I didn't say anything about the
law. I don't think the common courtesy of speaking softly
to someone with sensitive hearing is going to turn
supersoldiers into an upper class immune to prosecution."

"It singles us out as different," Yolanda snapped.

"You are different," Monica returned gently. "But you're
still human."

They must have walked all the way around somehow, because
they found themselves on the edge of the harbour again.
There were water taxis were slowly puttering their way
across, their clusters of yellow lights like pinpoint
constellations. The water was deep brown and darkening
with the coming evening, scattered with floating debris
and swelling like oil.

The water - the last thing that Andrew Gawler ever saw.