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Balance Of Power by Lara Means
Summary: Deslea's rec: "The Beginning's AD Maslin has power and smarts, and she knows how to play the game. But in this what-if scenario, she finds that it's not her game anymore. Lara captures the pressures of the X Files coupled with the ordinary pressures of Maslin's position very well. A good command of an older woman's voice and oddly endearing pragmatism of the character make for an intriguing read."

TITLE: Balance of Power
AUTHOR: Lara Means
E-MAIL: darknesslight@aol.com
WEBSITE: www.geocities.com/larameans_2000
RATING: PG-13 (language)
ARCHIVE: Gossamer, Spookys, Xemplary, NO (I'll submit
directly); Ephemeral, M&S, YES. Anywhere else, please ask.
I'll say yes; I just like to know where the kids are at the end
of the day.
DATE POSTED: 05/28/01

DISCLAIMER: I don't own them. Heck, I don't even own my name.
It all belongs to 20th Century Fox. No infringement intended.

SPOILERS: Fight the Future, The Beginning, Drive.

SUMMARY: Mulder and Scully's new supervisor contemplates the
available options.

AUTHOR'S NOTE: Written for The PURity Virtual Summer Season
Challenge, "What If?" -- change one element of on-screen canon
and speculate. Assistant Director Maslin (played by Wendie
Malick) appeared in the two OPR scenes in "The Beginning;" no
first name is given for her, so I called her Rachel. In this
alternate reality, she supervises Domestic Terrorism and Kersh
supervises Corporate Crime.



written by Lara Means

If he clenches his jaw any tighter, he'll break his teeth.

She doesn't look any more relaxed, but she's making a better
show of it.

And the other one, sitting just behind them, appears so serene.

I glance around at the men sitting at the table with me, at
Skinner's noticeably empty chair. I hate that he's not here.
He should be. If any of us has a right to be here, he does.
But that wasn't my call.

I look down at my notes, at the course that's been charted for
the two people in front of us. And again I wonder why these two
merit so much attention. I look up again, at him. I can't look
away as I tell him this. I have to look him in the eyes.

"As I said and as I am forced to reiterate, Agent Mulder, the
FBI is not here for vendettas or for the grinding of personal
axes. Now, this holds not just for you but for everyone at the
Bureau. You force us to put a point on this. To make some hard
changes. You and Agent Scully will cease all material
association with the X-Files. Refusal to do so will end in
immediate dismissal. A probationary period will be set. You
will now report..."

No. This isn't right. I can't do this. I can't just hand them
over like this.

Dammit, if Skinner were here, I'd call a recess and confer with
him -- his is the only opinion I want right now. I know what
the others think should be done. But Skinner isn't here. I
have to follow my own best instincts.

"You will now report to the Domestic Terrorism Division, under
my direct supervision."

A.D. Bart looks over at me sharply. Kersh does a slow-burning
glance in my direction. Arnold just shakes his head. And once
again, I'm wishing Skinner was here.

Mulder and Scully don't react that strongly -- they don't know
I've just changed the game plan. Fowley, though... her eyes
narrow ever so slightly and her spine stiffens almost
imperceptibly. It's almost as if she expected a different


I close the file in front of me and fold my hands over it. "Are
there any questions?"

Mulder shakes his head, his eyes never leaving mine. "No."

He and Scully stand and head toward the outer door, his hand
finding its way to her lower back. It's an automatic gesture,
one I almost envy somewhat. Apparently, Fowley does too -- she
hangs back a bit, watches as they leave the room ahead of her.
The moment the door closes behind the agents, my colleagues

"Dammit, Rachel, that wasn't your call to make!" Bart shouts,
shoving out of his chair. "We discussed this --"

"-- and failed to reach a unanimous decision. As head of this
review panel, don't I have the right to make a judgment call?"
Arnold won't look at me. Neither will Kersh, but he's in this
up to his eyeballs. "Or is that position an honorary thing?
Because I'm the only female Assistant Director in the Bureau?"
I can tell Kersh takes exception to that -- he's one of two
African-American A.D.s -- but he won't say anything. He can't.

"They don't belong in Domestic Terrorism," Arnold says quietly,
trying and failing to be the voice of reason.

"They don't belong in Corporate Crime, either," I tell them,
shooting a look at Kersh. "Someone doesn't want Mulder and
Scully split up -- they don't want him back with Violent Crimes
or her at Quantico. So it's up to us to allocate the Bureau's
resources in the best way still available to us. In my view,
that's Domestic Terrorism."

Finally, Kersh stands. He stares daggers at me, not looking at
the others. "They were supposed to come to me."

I meet his glare and hold it. "You want them that badly, Alvin?
Feel free to go over my head."

And I leave. Because I know if I stay a minute longer, I'm
going to slap the hell out of somebody.

x x x x x

I'm still fuming when I get to my office -- to her credit, Lisa
recognizes this and pours me a fresh cup of coffee. She
deserves a raise.

I'm about ten minutes into preparing for my afternoon meetings
when I hear the door to the hallway open -- no one uses that
door, especially not to come *in* to my office. The man
standing there is older, in his sixties, gray hair. He doesn't
have a pass, but he does have a cigarette in his hand.

"Can I help you?"

He smirks at me, taking a drag on his cigarette. "I believe I
can help you, Assistant Director Maslin."

"There's no smoking in this building, sir. Put that out,

The man ignores my request, takes a few steps closer. "I can
offer you assistance, guidance in dealing with Agent Mulder. He
can be... rather difficult at times."

Okay. This just got interesting. I give him a look that seems
to encourage him.

"I've been watching him, his progress, for years. I believe I
have a special insight into how his mind works. What drives

"What will be driving him in the foreseeable future is
preventing domestic terrorism, Mister...?"

The man sidesteps my question by looking for an ashtray.
Finding none, he drops his half-smoked butt into my coffee cup
and lights up another. "Background checks and investigating
fertilizer shipments won't fuel his passion. But you know
that." That was my last cup of the morning, and it was nearly
full. I rise slowly, leaning forward on my fingertips, and
regard this interloper with controlled fury.

"Put out the fucking cigarette. Get the hell out of my office."

He smirks at me again, not doing either. "Knee-jerk decisions
aren't becoming to you, Ms. Maslin. Don't say something you'll
live to regret."

"The only thing I regret, sir, is not locking that door." I
touch the intercom button on the phone. "Lisa? Get me

The man's smirk becomes a twisted grin, and he gives me a little
half-bow from the waist. "We'll talk again soon." Then he
goes, cigarette smoke wafting after him.

The intercom buzzes. Lisa tells me that the head of building
security is on line two. I tell her never mind and follow the
trail of smoke to the hallway -- the smoking man has

Returning to my desk, I pick up the phone and dial, private line
to private line.


"It's Maslin. Can you talk?"

A pause. "Sorry, it's not a good time."

My turn to pause. "Can you meet me?"

"I think so."

"Upstairs in ten."

I don't wait for a response.

x x x x x

I like coming up here. Nobody else ever does, so it's private.
Due to building height restrictions in D.C., the roof of the J.
Edgar Hoover Building provides a nice view of the city,
unencumbered by urban clutter.

And I can light up without anyone seeing.

I've almost finished my first Morley Light Menthol when Walter
Skinner joins me at the roof's edge.

"Thought you were quitting."

"I was. Until my unexpected visitor triggered a craving."

He goes pale, like he's going to be sick.

"Who is he, Walter?"

"Not somebody you want to fuck with." He looks at me a moment,
then shakes his head. "What the hell were you thinking,

"That it was the right thing to do. Is he one of those men
Mulder was going on about? Part of this 'shadow conspiracy'?"
He nods slightly. "And you believe all that?"

"I believe this part of it. That man, the people he works
with... they have power. I've seen it. Hell, Rachel, I've --"

"What does he want from Mulder? Especially now? I'm assuming
he pulled some strings to get him and Scully taken *off* the X-

"I don't know," he tells me, shaking his head. "Maybe... maybe
he wants Mulder out of the Bureau, wants him to resign."

"So he was going to stick them in Corporate Crime under Alvin
Kersh." Skinner shrugs, and I light another cigarette. "And
I've upset his plans."

"What did he want, why did he come to see you?"

"Said he had 'advice' for dealing with Mulder."

Walter actually laughs at that. "He doesn't know how to deal
with Mulder any better than the rest of us." His humor fades,
and he stares into my eyes. "Watch yourself with this man,
Rachel. I'm serious."

"Look. Walter. I don't buy any of that bullshit Mulder was
spouting about aliens and bees and colonizing." I lay a hand on
his arm, try to reinforce this tenuous connection we have going.
"But I know that you've seen things, elements of this...
conspiracy. And I believe you. I trust you."

"You know as well as I do that Mulder won't let go of the X-
Files just because he's told to."

I nod, and we stand side by side staring down at the traffic.
Considering our options. Finally, I stamp out my second
cigarette and turn to him.

"The way I see it... you supervise the X-Files, I supervise
Mulder and Scully. If there's occasionally a little overlap...
that isn't necessarily a bad thing."

He's quiet for a moment. Suddenly a chill runs through me --
what if Skinner's been turned, if he's on the wrong side? Then
he gives me a tiny smile.

"No, it isn't." I return his smile, and he continues. "But the
agents involved... *none* of them can know. This has to stay
between us, Rachel. For everybody's safety."

"The stakes are that high?"

"The highest. The fate of the human race."

Here's where he loses me. "According to Mulder."

Walter takes a deep breath and stares off toward the Mall.
Toward the monuments we've erected to ourselves, our
accomplishments. Our losses. For some reason I choose this
instant to remember that he's a Vietnam vet. That he's fought
one guerrilla war already.

"Rachel... in the years I've known Mulder... I've seen things.
Things I can't explain. Now, I'm not ready to sign off on the
whole idea of little green men or aliens taking over the world.
But the rest of it? It's plausible. And the men involved will
stop at nothing to reach their goals. So, like I said... watch
yourself with the smoking man."

If his intention was to put the fear of God into me, he's

He gives my shoulder a squeeze and heads for the stairs, leaving
me alone with my thoughts and my cigarettes. I light one and
make another vow to stop smoking first thing tomorrow.

x x x x x

Mulder and Scully stand in front of my desk, choosing not to
sit. She's practically at attention, he looks like he could
give a flying fuck what I think. I'm looking at their expenses
from their little side trip to Nevada with a mixed sense of
horror and hysteria.

"Justice Department jet... out-of-state use and over-mileage on
your rental car... unauthorized use of a private vehicle that
now has a big old nasty blood stain all over the back seat..."

Mulder twitches a little at that. I know that, for some reason,
he feels guilty about Patrick Crump's death. But this is their
first time being called on the carpet in front of me. They have
to learn what I'll tolerate and what I won't.

Scully opens her mouth to say something, but I cut her off.
"Sit down, agents." They exchange a look. "Sit." They do.

"Tell me what you accomplished in Nevada."

Another look between them, then Scully speaks. "The DOD has
agreed to shut down their antenna array in central Nevada."

"And that balances things out?"

"I believe so, yes."

"I see. Of course, you're aware they were planning to shut down
that array anyway." Mulder gives out a snort. "Something
funny, Agent Mulder?"

"Yeah -- you buying that load of bull."

I can feel my eyes narrow. "You may have been able to get away
with that level of insubordination with A.D. Skinner... but that
won't fly in this office. Am I clear, Agent?"

His eyes narrow, too. "Absolutely, A.D. Maslin."

"Something else you'll find," I tell them, "I like to be kept in
the loop. I don't micro-manage my agents, but I insist upon
staying informed. If you're working on one investigation and
happen upon information pertaining to... other matters... call

Neither of them takes their eyes off me for a very long moment.

"Questions, Agents?"

A look passes between them, and I can almost see the unspoken
communication flowing between them. They turn back to me, and I
do my damnedest to keep my expression as blank and noncommittal
as possible.

"No, ma'am. No questions," Scully says.

"That'll be all, then."

I turn to my paperwork as they get up and move for the door. I
watch out of the corner of my eye as Mulder opens it and ushers
Scully past him, his hand on her lower back like before. Then I
feel him look back to me, holding that look for quite a few
seconds before leaving.

I actually breathe a sigh of relief when they're gone.

God, I want a cigarette.


Written by Lara Means: My Stories - http://www.geocities.com/larameans_2000
Lara's Favorites: A Rec Site - http://www.geocities.com/recsbylarameans
CharlieFic: The Forgotten Scully - http://www.geocities.com/charliefic
XFMostUnwanted: Doggett & Reyes Fic - http://www.geocities.com/xfmu_jdmrfic