Brave New World by DTS
Summary: Jarod goes to NNL for Miss Parker's birthday but the celebration is cut short when someone known to them breaks into Project Backstep. (7 Days/X-Files)
Categories: Crossovers Characters: Jarod, Miss Parker, Sydney
Genres: Action/Adventure
Warnings: None
Challenges: None
Series: None
Chapters: 1 Completed: Yes Word count: 15879 Read: 2512 Published: 05/05/05 Updated: 05/05/05

1. --------------------------------- by DTS

--------------------------------- by DTS
This is the 5th story in my ongoing crossover series. ("Trust Someone", "7 Days to Pretend", "Building a Better Mousetrap", and "Thicker Than Water") I want to thank everyone who has read my works and dropped a few ideas my way. If anyone has any ideas of where I can go next, please let me know! I would also like to thank my two betas, BladeMistress and Kyliexoxo. It took first place in the 2004 Pretender Fan Fiction Awards for Best Crossover!
None of the characters are mine, but I would like to thank the creators for imagining them and sharing with the rest of us!

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
Brave New World
By DTS

==How many goodly creatures there are here!
How beauteous mankind is! O brave new world
That has such people in it!==
Miranda in The Tempest

Lying on his stomach on a bluff overlooking the base, Mulder trained his binoculars on the gate. There wasn't much traffic as it was in the middle of the desert. Despite this, the base was heavily guarded. For him, that was like waving a red flag. It took him long enough to find this place that didn't exist. He had always wondered about this place, especially after having been to Area 51.

His life had changed drastically over the last couple of years-some good, some bad. He lost his job but got the girl. He grinned at the thought. She willingly joined him in his life on the run, staying in sleazy motels while they searched for the truth.

"Mulder, what's going on out there?" Scully's voice came over the headset.
"Nothing. Just trying to observe as much as possible before going in. You have the plans ready?"

"I've mapped out your route so there shouldn't be a problem. Just turn on your transmitter when you're about to go in."

Mulder waited another twenty minutes as those who worked the "daily grind" left. He made his way to a culvert away from the fences that they learned conveniently housed a sewer run-off that led into the base. He turned on the transmitter. "You receiving me, Scully?"

"Perfectly. And no, they won't be able to pick up our conversation," she said anticipating his next question.
Mulder couldn't help but smile. Dana had become quite the hacker. "Any alarms or cameras?"

"Taken care of."
"Right. Here I go." Mulder entered the pipe and walked along hunched over until directed by Scully to stop and climb a ladder to his left. "Clear?" he whispered.

"Clear. There's nothing else registering." That was good enough for him. The grate at the top of the ladder opened with a little effort into a shaft with only one opening. He knew this was where he had to go.

Mulder found himself in a converted hangar with banks of instrument panels and monitors about. On one side there was something rather large hidden in shadow. He was drawn to it, knowing somehow that this was the reason the base existed, the reason he was here. As he got closer, he could see it was a large blue sphere. Its purpose was indiscernible, but with the gantry surrounding it and the wires and hoses connected to it, he would guess it housed some sort of power source-or was one.

As he walked closer still, he heard Scully's insistent voice in his ear. "Mulder, get out of there now! You must have tripped a silent alarm. Security will be there any second!"

He heard her but couldn't move, entranced by the sight in front of him. He couldn't say how long it was before he became aware of the guards.
"Turn around slowly, hands where I can see them!" declared a southern accent.
Mulder did as he was told, taking note of the number of guards with guns aimed at him. "Mulder, I'm cutting our connection. I'll wait at the rendezvous."

"Take that headset off him," ordered Boss Man. "Lord only knows who he's communicating with."

The headset was ripped from his head and he was searched for weapons and surveillance equipment. "Do I get a hat check ticket for those?"

The security men said nothing but just shoved him forwards until he came face to face with Boss Man. "How did you get in here?" he demanded. "This is top-level security!"

Mulder kept his mouth shut. Any smart comment he came up with would only make things worse at this point.

"Fine! Just take him down to lock-up while I tell Talmadge what's happened." Boss Man stormed off.

"Don't wrinkle the suit, fellas. It's hell to iron," Mulder said as he was strong-armed in the opposite direction.

**************************************************************************

Jarod looked at Miss Parker and was pleased with the change that had taken place. Her hair was done in a softer style and her clothes had been chosen for comfort rather than intimidation. But what most amazed him was the fact that she was smiling and laughing; probably the happiest she had been since being with Tommy. She now had a brother she trusted and liked and co-workers that were true friends.

Frank had kept him up-to-date on Miss Parker's adjustment to life at Never Never Land. Needless to say, the others were shocked when Frank and Donovan came from Delaware with her in tow. Thanks to a little string pulling, Bradley Talmadge, head of the Backstep program, got her NSA approval and clearance. Nate Ramsey, head of Security, made it his job to try and catch her up on something. After all, she was a Parker. He put up a fight when Bradley assigned her to Security but once he saw her in action he learned what the rest of them had already known, that she was damn good at her job.

Frank had also told him that she was now rooming with Olga. It was only intended to be temporary, but since decent apartments in the immediate area were hard to find and the fact that the two were getting along, it became permanent. It seemed that Frank had accomplished what his father wanted.

"What are you smiling at, Einstein?" she asked.

"You finally got a normal life," he told her.

"I'm still working for an organization on a project I can't talk freely about."

"But you have to admit there are a few more perks. You actually like your associates."

"There's always one to make you miserable."

"Hey!" interjected Frank, hurt.

"I meant Ramsey. How do you put up with that ass?"

"Working with Mr. Ramsey has its moments," said Olga.

"Yeah, like the time you planted the camera in his shower," laughed Donovan.

"Don't you even think of trying something like that on me."

"I wouldn't dare," Frank said with a grin.

Olga's cell phone chose that moment to ring. "Yes? Oh my God. Of course. We'll be right back." She ended the call.

"What is it, Olga?" Frank asked.

"There's been a security breach at the base and we have to head back. I'm sorry, Jarod," she said, looking at him.

"That's all right. I'll hang around for a couple of days. You know my cell number if you need to reach me."

He shook hands with Frank and Donovan as they said good-bye. Olga shook his hand as well as gave him a small kiss on the cheek before following the men. Then he was looking at Miss Parker.

"Thank you for coming, Jarod. It means a lot to me," she said, taking his hand.

"You should know I wouldn't have missed this."

"When I didn't hear from you-not even a phone call-I thought you gave up on me."

"Never. I just thought you needed time to adjust to your new life without any ties to your old one. Frank kept me up-to-date on everything."

She smiled then, a smile that showed she knew someone cared. For Jarod, that was all he needed to know he had done the right thing. She released his hand to join the others.

"Happy birthday, Miss Parker," he said over his shoulder.

*****************************************************************************

Frank leaned forward from the backseat. "So, Olga, what did they say?"

"Not much, only that they found a man inside the hangar. Ramsey has him locked up waiting to see what information they can get on him."

"Someone actually made it into the hangar? Someone's butt's gonna be in a sling once Ramsey finds out who slacked off," said Donovan without taking his eyes off the road.

"But how did someone get inside the perimeter, let alone the hangar?" asked Miranda. "Ramsey has every way in covered."

"It's thanks to me that he knows about even half of those "

"What do you mean?"

"When I first started, I was confined to the base and, well, I didn't like it."

"I can see why you and Jarod got along so well. So what's going to happen to the, ah, sightseer?"

"There won't be an open trial-if there is one at all-since they can't admit to the existence of Backstep," said Donovan as they were waved through the gate. "More than likely, he'll be locked up somewhere."

The four rushed inside and to the briefing room where Talmadge and Ramsey were waiting. A collection of communication equipment was on the table. "This is what you found on him?" Frank asked.

"Yeah, all top quality stuff, too," said Ramsey, picking up a piece at random.

"His partner must be close by," said Talmadge, "probably in a van."

"Any luck finding out who he is?" asked Donovan.

"No, he hasn't said a word. We're lettin' him stew for a bit, then we'll go get his prints."

Talmadge turned on a monitor to show a man dressed in black, sitting calmly in a holding cell. "As you can see, he's taking this quite well. Not at all what we expected."

Frank walked up to the monitor for a closer look. "You may not need to get those prints." He motioned for Miranda to join him. "Take a look,"

She peered at the grainy face on the screen. "You're right. I think it is him."

"You know him?" Ramsey asked Frank in disbelief.

"Yeah, if it's who I think it is. I met him in Nebraska a couple years ago."

"I first saw him in New York with a mutual friend about four years ago, then again in Nebraska with Frank," Mira added.

"You told him what you did?" demanded Ramsey. "Parker, of all the dumbass things..."

"Nate, this is not the time," Bradley said, stepping in before the two began to trade insults-or blows. "What can you tell us about him?"

Frank exchanged a look with Miranda. They couldn't say anything about Mulder until they knew what was going on.

"Perhaps we should let Frank and Mira speak with him first. If he sees them as friends, he might be more open," said Olga.

"Aw, come on!" groaned Ramsey.

"That's not a bad idea," added Donovan. "The whole exchange will be recorded so you don't have to worry about anything."

Talmadge finally relented and Frank and Miranda walked down to the holding cells. "I am not looking forward to this."

"What are you talking about?"

"As you know, I don't have many good friends. I included Mulder in that group. What will he think when he finds out I work on a project he's 'investigating'?"

"Frank, you can't spend time worrying over what might happen. Mulder was with the FBI and he'll understand that you couldn't discuss what you were doing. He may not like it, but he can't fault you for it."

Frank grinned. "Thanks for being a straight talker."

"That's what family's for, right?"

Frank reached out and opened the door.

********************************************************************************

Scully drove the van into town and pulled into the hotel parking lot. There was no doubt that Mulder was locked up and it wouldn't be long before they discovered his identity. Any computer search would alert the FBI and then there would really be trouble. She sighed and brushed the hair out of her eyes. She would wait here for a couple of days before heading out to the rendezvous. All she had to do was act normal and she wouldn't attract attention.

She checked in and told the clerk her cover story of being a nature photographer here for some desert shots. That seemed to satisfy his curiosity and he handed over her key without any further questions. That hurdle behind her, she climbed the stairs thinking about the nice hot soaking bath she'd take and then the soft bed. Tomorrow she would listen for any news of Mulder.

As she was inserting the key into the lock, she heard a naggingly familiar voice. "Agent Scully?"

She turned to see a man somewhere in his mid- to late-thirties with black hair that just about covered his ears. As he got closer, she could see the mole and his brown eyes. She knew him, but how? He smiled, waiting for her to remember and then she did. "Jarod? You've changed. I almost didn't recognize you." She opened the door and motioned for him to go in. "And I'm no longer with the FBI."

"I know, but I wasn't sure what to call you."

"Everybody calls me Scully. Well, everyone except my family." She dropped her bag on the bed and collapsed next to it.

Jarod sat in the only chair in the room. "Even Mulder?"

"Especially Mulder. After all this time we're still more comfortable using last names."

"And where is Mulder? I know we have a bit to catch up on."

"We're to meet up in a couple of days."

"Funny, I thought he was already in the area."

Scully looked at him, forgetting how intuitive he could be. "What makes you say that?"

"The base up the road, mainly. I know it's the type of thing he likes to investigate."

"Really? I didn't know there was a base around here." He was getting too damn close.

"Scully, I know you were up there and he's been caught. I was just with a group from the base and they had to leave due to a security breach."

"Were you *with* them or were you just in the same bar?"

"I've known most of them a few years. Only two are aware that I know what goes on there. As far as the others are concerned, I only know where it is."

Scully stood and began to pace the room in frustration. Even though both Mulder and Jarod had tried to explain the latter's talent, it still boggled her mind. There had to be a way to use his abilities and get onto the base to save Mulder without making him renege on a promise. "What if you made up passes with high enough clearance?"

"I don't think even I can get something with the clearance necessary. Besides, how would we explain our presence? As far as we know, they haven't told anyone outside the base of what happened, and, with what's happened since I last saw him, we can't afford the wait."

Scully sighed. She was not thinking clearly at all. Jarod was right in that they couldn't wait that long.

"Let me see what I can do," he said as he took out his cell phone.

******************************************************************************

Mulder heard the lock on the door open and pretended to be entranced by the ceiling tiles. He was not going to act wild and paranoid for them. It wouldn't take long before they found out he was a wanted man.

"See what you get when you don't call ahead for reservations?"

Mulder sat up at the sound of that cocky voice. "Frank?" He then saw his other visitor. "Miss Parker?"

"You certainly have fallen hard, G-Man."

"You two certainly got here quick to break me out." He fell back into his previous position. "You work here," he said without hiding the betrayal he felt.

"I doubt I'd be let anywhere near this place otherwise," Frank joked.

"How long?"

"About six years now. C'mon, you can't be angry with me for not telling you. This place is so top secret that only a handful of people outside the base know what goes on here."

"But that's exactly why it needs to be exposed, made public."

"Making its existence public would be more of a hindrance than a help," Miss Parker said. "Believe me, this is not some secret evil that feeds upon an unsuspecting public. This project is beneficial and has saved countless lives." She looked at Frank as if for confirmation.

"Oh, yeah, countless lives."

Mulder could hear the earnestness in their voices and knew this wasn't just some spiel they were trained to say in such an occasion. "OK, I'll give you that-for now. I still can't be found here." He was afraid to say more, knowing they were being watched.

"We don't have all that much pull here," Frank told him, "but I'll see what I can do."

Miss Parker's phone rang. "Parker." She looked at Mulder. "Just a second."
She started for the door. "Finish up," she told Frank. "We've got a lot to do." She left the room.

"She hasn't changed much," Mulder commented as Frank made to follow her. "Still bossy."

"Isn't that the way older sisters are supposed to be?" He left.

**Whoa! Frank and Miss Parker brother and sister? Jarod had to have had a hand in discovering that piece of information. Frank must feel good knowing that she left her whole life behind her to come here. That meant she was no longer chasing Jarod. I wonder how he feels about that.** He sighed and resumed his contemplation of the ceiling.

*******************************************************************************

Once outside in the hall, Miranda could speak a little more freely. "Jarod, when I made that comment about your phone calls, I didn't mean for you to start right away."

"I'm at the hotel in town with Scully, Mulder's partner-"

"The red head from New York."

"The same. I take it you know about Mulder."

"Frank and I were just in his cell. He came here to expose Backstep and there's no way he'll be walking out of here." She could hear a muffled conversation. "What is it?"

"He's a wanted man."

"He said as much."

"But did he tell you it was for first-degree murder?"

"First-degree?" She lowered her voice. "That can't be right."

"According to Scully, Mulder's enemies felt he knew too much and paraded his beliefs on alien conspiracies in front of a military court. No one believed him, of course, and he was convicted. Scully and another friend within the FBI broke him out."

All that and he was still carrying out his crusade instead of laying low like
any sane man would. Another like Jarod.

Frank came alongside her. "Who is it?" he mouthed.

"Let me tell a couple more people and see what we can come up with." She looked at her watch. "I'll call you in a couple hours." She closed her phone.

"So what's going on?"

"Get Olga and Donovan and we'll meet in your room."

Thankfully, Frank didn't ask why, but walked beside her in silence.

*****************************************************************************

Olga watched along with everyone else as Frank and Miranda spoke with Mulder. She figured that since the man knew both of them, that meant he had to have been in Nebraska that time Frank went to help Jarod.

She looked at the two of them and saw how they worked off each other as if they had been doing it for years and not just a few months. When Frank and Donovan returned from Delaware with Miss Parker in tow, her initial reaction-once she got over her shock-was jealousy. Once she was introduced as Parker's half-sister, she was immediately relieved followed closely by shame for harboring such feelings when neither she nor Frank had openly declared their feelings towards each other.

Once the story of their escape had been related, Olga offered Miranda a place to stay until she became adjusted enough to want her own place. After spending a number of nights talking over glasses of wine, she had gotten to know her houseguest and invited her to stay on as a roommate. Olga could tell that Miranda never had any true girlfriends to share such intimacies with, or even be silly with and was happy when she accepted.

She excused herself from the security office and said her good-nights as she walked the corridor to her office. She gathered a few files and her purse before turning to leave. Frank was standing in the doorway, his hand raised to knock. "Mr. Parker, I was just on my way home. It's been a long day."

"It's gonna get a bit longer. We're having a little chat in my room. Mira and Donovan will meet us there."

********************************************************************************

What is it?" The voice coming through the phone was tinged with a combination of impatience and boredom.

"Mulder's here at NNL. He was caught right after breaking in."

"Does anyone know who he is?"

"I think a couple of people do, but as far as I know, they haven't told anyone else he was FBI."


"Have they run his prints yet, or a photo?"

"I don't know. I haven't heard anything about that yet."

"We should have people there within a few hours. More than enough time to be there first. You've done well. Keep me posted."

"Yes, sir." Finally able to report news of such magnitude, the caller switched off the cell phone and returned to work.

********************************************************************************

Jarod put his phone in his pocket and told Scully of what he had learned from Miss Parker without revealing her name. It didn't matter; she had already heard his side of the conversation.

"The person you spoke to knows Mulder," she stated, sitting at the foot of the bed.

Jarod mentally winced at that oversight. "There are actually two people there who know him. One of them you know as well."

"Jarod, you have to be more specific than that. There is a large number of people who fit the bill."

"New York City, Christmas 1999. The time we met, actually." Jarod remembered that moment on the sidewalk near Rockefeller Center. Scully considered him highly suspicious as Mulder practically dropped everything to meet him and was then taken by Miss Parker, Sydney, and Broots. An exchange was set up at Grand Central. The group from the Centre didn't know Scully was in New York and that's what made Jarod's plan work.

"That woman who was after you, the one who took Mulder, she's there?" She buried her face in her hands. "She knows he was FBI."

"She won't tell anyone unless she knows they can help. She's changed, Scully. She just needed a reason to leave the Centre." She looked at him, waiting for him to elaborate. He should have known a simple explanation wouldn't be enough. "Miss Parker had begun to question what was happening at the Centre but still wasn't willing to make the break. Not until I had proven that a man we both knew was her brother did she leave."

"I thought it was family that kept her there."

"It's a bit complicated. He's her half-brother, actually. As far as everyone there was concerned, he died at birth. In actuality, he was sent to an orphanage in Philadelphia. He went through a number of foster homes before joining the Navy, and then the CIA."

"Wait a second. Mulder said there had been an ex-CIA agent with you out in Nebraska."

"Did he tell you his name?"

Scully thought a moment. "Frank Parker. Did she know at the time?"

"No. I was able to get samples to do a DNA test and proved they were related."

"And it was the result of those tests that persuaded her to leave?"

"It's a bit more complicated than that." He went on to tell Scully of the trip to Blue Cove and how Frank was kidnapped off the street by Lyle, his subsequent torture, and the manner of how Raines and Lyle learned the truth of Frank's birth.

"Why would the fact of his birth matter so much?"

"The Centre has been treated like a Parker dynasty. Since there was no question of Frank's parentage, he represented a threat to Raines and Lyle."

"Since he wanted no part of what was going on, they were under no threat."

"Just knowing he existed was enough of a threat for them. Parker and I, along with Frank's best friend, rescued him. As we were leaving the building, we were stopped by Mr. Parker-a man we all believed dead."

"Frank got to meet his father."

Jarod nodded. "Only for him to be shot by a man he called son. With Mr. Parker dead, Miss Parker -and Frank-had no protection. Frank brought her out here and got her a job."

"And no one from the Centre has figured out where they are?"

Jarod gave a slight laugh. "Miss Parker was the best they had. She knows how to cover tracks. Plus she and Frank have the government to assist."

"You can't always count on that."

"They're a tight-knit group out there. Anywhere else, Frank would have been brought up on charges a number of times."

"You really trust them?"

"I have done before and I'm still here. I think I'll make up an ID just in case." He looked down at the former federal agent. "Don't worry, Scully. We'll get him out."

********************************************************************************

Donovan was just leaving the briefing room when Olga and Frank found him. "There's a meeting in my room"

"What for?"

"Mira called it after getting a call on her cell."

"Three guesses as to who." Craig couldn't help but admire how well she had adapted to her surroundings. Those outside her small circle of friends tended to give her a wide berth, whether out of fear or respect, he wasn't sure. She had slowly started to show the wicked sense of humor she shared with Frank but she still wouldn't take nonsense from anyone, which made Ramsey wonder how the two Parkers could be related. "Any idea why?"

"I'm guessing it has to do with our guest." Frank didn't want to name him out in the hallways.

"You can't mean to help him escape?" questioned Olga

Craig motioned for her to lower her voice. "With it being someone they both know, I wouldn't put it past them. Plus, with Jarod in town..."

"He'd be the ideal unknown element." She looked at Donovan. "We have to keep him from doing anything wild," she said as if Frank wasn't right there.

"And that is a job in itself." He held the door open for her.

Frank walked in and grabbed a beer from his mini-fridge. "Want one?"

"No, thanks," Donovan said as he sat. "We still have to drive home."

"Oh, yeah, right." He took a swig from the bottle. "We'll wait for Mira to get here before we start."

"So, who is this guy?" asked Donovan.

"Name's Fox Mulder. Used to be with the FBI."

"Aren't you afraid of Mr. Ramsey overhearing everything?" asked Olga as she occupied the other chair.

"He gave up trying to bug the place ages ago. I periodically scan for them anyway. We're clear."

Mira came in at that moment. "Ramsey and Talmadge have already put in a call to the FBI. They must really want him bad because they're sending two agents out tonight. They should be here in a few hours."

"We'll have to call Jarod and see if he can get here first."

"It won't work if the FBI is sending two agents," said Olga.

"Mulder's partner is with Jarod now," Mira confirmed. "All we have to do is make sure they arrive before the real agents."

"And just how do we do that?" Donovan asked. "Have them wait and waylay the agents on the way in?"

"We might have to bring Hooter in on this," said Frank.

Mira's reaction to the mention of the base's technical whiz kid was amusing. "You can't mean to bring him in on this. The more people mean a bigger chance of a screwup."

"He may be able to set something up that can help us provide a diversion. Besides," Frank gave a crooked smile, "I think he'll do anything you ask."

The glare she bestowed on her brother couldn't help but make Craig smile. "So what do we need to do?"

"Run interference. I need to get to Mulder and let him know what's going on. I doubt Ramsey'll let me anywhere near him since they found out he's wanted by the FBI."

"Ramsey wouldn't let you near him because you're friends and you might want to break him out," stated Olga.

"And for once he'd be right. So, are you with me?"

"I might be able to talk to Bradley about some intel," said Donovan.

"I could try to distract Ramsey by trying to discuss the breach in security," put in Mira.

"I guess that leaves me to talk with Mr. Owsley."

Frank finished his beer and grinned. What made Donovan worry was the fact that he had seen that grin any number of times when Frank had put forward one of his many insane schemes. They never seemed to come out right.

*******************************************************************************

Ramsey sat at the desk in the Security office watching the monitor that showed the man down in lock-up. His prints had come back with the result that he was wanted for the murder of an army officer. The search had flagged the FBI and they were sending two agents out. Nate looked at the man lying on the cot and staring at the ceiling. He had to know that the FBI was on the way. Yet he showed no signs.

His eyes glanced over the computer screen where he had pulled up the man's record. Fox Mulder had been one of the best profilers the FBI had seen but it was his penchant for the supernatural that got him relegated to the basement of the Hoover Building in DC and something called the "X-Files".

Mulder had also put it about that there was a consortium of powerful men who were conspiring with aliens in a take-over of the planet. "Of all the cockamamie stories. Leave it to Parker to make friends with the loonies."
There was a knock on the door. "Come in." Parker's sister entered. She was definitely a looker with her shoulder-length brown hair and deep blue eyes. He still couldn't get over the fact that the two were brother and sister. "What are you still doing here? Thought you would have continued your celebration."

"Not after the break-in we had. I think we should go over the building plans and find out how he got in."

"He's a lone conspiracy nut. We can wait until morning."

"We can't be sure he was alone," she continued. "You saw the communication gear. He could have been doing a live webcast or something. Maybe that's why he's so complacent, sitting in his cell like that."

Ramsey had to admit she had a point. With all the technology it would be easy for a wanted man to arrange some way to speak to "followers". "You know him. Would he do something like that?"

"Two years ago, I would have said no. But, then he wasn't a wanted man."

Just knowing there was an outside possibility that knowledge of Backstep's existence had been compromised was enough to make Nate sweat. "The FBI will be here in a few hours. We need to find out who else knows of Backstep." He stood and headed for the door.

"You're going to question him now?"

"What's wrong with you? You're the one who convinced me others might know where he is."

"I think he'd be more willing to talk to Frank than you. Granted, he was pissed when he learned Frank works here, but they still have a friendship. He'd just see you as a pompous ass."

"Fine. You get Parker and I'll tell Bradley."

********************************************************************************

Bradley Talmadge was looking down at the prisoner transfer papers that were waiting for his signature. He had heard stories of this Fox Mulder over the years due to the man's strong belief in aliens and that the government was keeping such reports secret. A number of years ago, Mulder had even attempted to break into Area 51. If Mulder learned what Backstep actually was and how it was fuelled, there would be chaos. Of course, there would be those who wouldn't believe a word but for every five of those, there would be one who did believe. They had to find out just what he did know and if he had the chance to share it with someone before he was taken. He'd have Nate look into that.

There was a knock on his office door and Bradley looked up to see Donovan standing there. "Is this a bad time?"

"No, Craig. Come in. I was just looking over these transfer papers. What can I do for you at this hour?"

"I just thought I'd check with some contacts regarding possible hot spots and I wanted to fill you in on what I learned."

Bradley had a feeling that this was part of a plan cooked up by Frank to keep him busy. "Just prioritize in brief. I need to check with Ramsey on something."

"Oh, of course. There's talk that the Palestinians are planning to assassinate the Israeli President Sharon in the next week or so. It also looks like North Korea is mobilizing forces near the 38th Parallel for a possible invasion of the South."

Before Craig could continue, Nate stuck his head in the door. "I'm gonna have Parker try and get some information out of this guy before the FBI gets here."

"Nate, are you sure-"

"I know what you're thinking, sir, but that area'll be locked down tighter than a drum; guards posted at every door. No way Frank'll get this guy out."

"Very well. I'll join you and we can observe the interrogation." Bradley looked at Craig. "Was there anything else?"

"No, sir," Craig said easing. "I'll just make a few calls before I go home."

"Get some rest. From what you've told me, we might be busy in a few days."

"Good night, sir." He paused at the door. "Ramsey."

As he walked with Nate to the observation room, Bradley couldn't quell the notion that some of his best people had their own agenda regarding Fox Mulder.

*******************************************************************************

Andrew "Hooter" Owsley stared intently at the equation that took up the majority of the old-fashioned swivel chalkboard as if willing the solution to come to him. Before he had joined Backstep, he would have needed to squeeze this in with such needs as toiling away at some boring job. Here, he was allowed to work on outside projects in addition to puzzling out temporal physics and how the Sphere actually worked.

Yeah, there was a tightass here like at any other job, but he was offset by Frank, who was cool, and both Olga and Frank's sister were really hot.
There was a polite cough from behind him and he swiveled in his chair to see Olga there. He ran a hand through his hair in a futile attempt to calm his wayward spikes. "Olga, Dr. Vuckavitch, what can I do for you?" *I know what you can do for me.*

"You know what happened earlier tonight?"

"Oh, yeah, that guy who made it into the hangar. His communication gear was top-notch. Pretty much strictly government issue."

"He used to be with the FBI. He is a friend of Frank and Mira."

*Uh-oh. Here's where we go against orders.*

"We need your help. Is there someway you can arrange it so we'll know when the real FBI are here?"

"Why? No, wait, don't tell me. The less I know the better. I might be able to dig up something. When do you need it?"

"As soon as possible. They are supposed to be here in a few hours."

"OK, check back in a couple hours. I'll let you know what I have."

"Thank you, Mr. Owsley." She left.

With a slight smile on his face, Hooter turned his back on the puzzling equation and began to think on his new challenge.

********************************************************************************

Frank lay back on his couch while he waited for the plan to go into effect. If he were anywhere else, Ramsey would know he was up to something. He had to think of what he could say to make Mulder believe and trust him regarding the rescue. He'd have to be quick before Ramsey caught on.

"Hey, Parker! Get up off your butt!"

Parker groaned. *Mira was supposed to keep him busy.* "What is it, Ramsey?" he asked, sitting up.

The head of security stood in his doorway. "I want you to question your friend again."

*This is too good to be true!* "Why me? Your guys afraid of the FBI?"

"Your sister pointed out that he might still hold critical information that can't leave the base. He might relax enough around you to let something slip."

*I've got to give Mira credit. She's a first class manipulator.* "Sure, Ramsey." Parker slipped on his shoes and followed after Ramsey to the cells. "What exactly do you need to know?"

"How much he learned about NNL and if he shared anything. Don't screw up, Parker." He shut the door, leaving Frank alone in the hall with the guard.
Taking a deep breath, Frank motioned for the guard to unlock the door and stepped in. Mulder didn't even get up. "I need to talk to you, Mulder."

"Frank, I'm not telling you anything. You're wasting your time."

"You know if it were up to me, you'd be halfway to California by now. However, we're being observed and there are armed guards posted at every exit. Even if you had *help* on the *outside*, you couldn't get out of here. Hell, a *genius* couldn't get out of here." He emphasized the right words, hoping Mulder would get the message.

Mulder scoffed as he swung his legs around and sat at the edge of the cot. "You're basing this all on one meeting over a year ago. Right now, you're merely *pretending* to be my friend in the hopes I'll tell you what I saw tonight. It's not gonna work, Frank."

"Mulder, the FBI is on the way here and I don't think they'll be as kind in their questioning. Then, of course, there's that whole murder rap. . ."

"Your bosses are just afraid I'll spill what I know to the wrong people and they want to know what that is so they can put the proper spin on it."

Frank decided to take another tack. "OK. Who would you rather have in possession of this information? The people who have run the project for years without any major screw-ups of the FBI where there is a lot of political in-fighting with the possibility of the information being used for personal gain?" Mulder still said nothing. "OK, it's your funeral. Just call me if you change your mind." Frank walked to the door. **5...4...3...2...**

"I guess you are the lesser of two evils. This really must be something major if you can't let any other organization know."

"Big time," Frank said, pulling up the metal chair. "This is Change-the-World big and I would not like to see it fall into the wrong hands." **Again.**

"Well, you and your superiors," he said with a nod to the cameras, "can rest easy because all I saw was a large blue sphere in the hangar."

"Anyone else in on this?"

"Just one. If anything went wrong they were to go to the rendezvous and wait three days. If I didn't show up by then, I wasn't going to."

"Will he cause any trouble trying to get you out?"

"No. We knew this was a possibility. He may move on to expose something else or just try to blend back into society. I've no idea."

Frank stood. "I'm sorry, Mulder, but there's nothing else I can do."

"That's all right, Frank. I feel a little better talking to you. Just keep me in mind the next time you do, well, whatever the hell it is you do around here." He held out his hand.

Frank grasped it in a firm shake. "No problem, buddy."

********************************************************************************

Scully came out of the bathroom to find the hotel room empty. Jarod must have headed back to his own room for some reason. Too bad she didn't know where it was because he seemed to be on to something. She looked at the bed and wished she could just lie down and sleep for twenty years-or at least twenty minutes. It was then that she saw the note on the pillow. All it said was Room 103. J. With a slight groan, Scully decided to change into one of the few business suits she saved for such an occasion. When things started moving later, she probably wouldn't have a chance.

Once changed, she went downstairs and knocked on the door to Jarod's room. She heard the creak of a chair and soon the scrape of the chain lock as it was removed. "Come on in, Scully."

She pushed open the door and was surprised by the neatness of it. She had become so used to Mulder in a hotel room with clothes and papers strewn about that seeing a man's hotel room with everything in its place was strange.
Jarod sat back down at the desk where his laptop was open at a familiar page.

"Like the suit." His fingers practically flew across the keyboard. "I take it you still have your old FBI ID. I have a couple somewhere. We'll just give you a new name, do a little cut-and-paste and. . .voila."

"Do I get a word in here?" Scully pulled out her ID card. "We've already changed our names."

"Of course. I should have realized."

"What are you doing inside the FBI's mainframe?"

"We need the correct clearance and transfer papers in order to pick up Mulder. We also need the signature of the head of the Vegas office. We both know what sticklers they are for paperwork and protocol."

"So you're saying all we need are proper IDs and forged transfer papers?"

"And luck and support from our friends on the inside." The printer hummed as the forms were spit out. "I do wish we had some government plates for the car, though. We know they're close enough to drive so wouldn't bother with a rental."

Scully afforded herself a smile. "If we stop at the van, I might be able to find something."

Jarod gave her a smile. "Always prepared, eh?"

"A regular Boy Scout." She helped him gather the papers. "So, is this everything?"

"Yes. Now, we get the plates from your van and drive off close to the base and wait for the go-ahead call."

********************************************************************************

Mira stretched back in the chair. She had gone over the security plans like she had told Ramsey she would. Tomorrow she would give them to him to look over but right now she needed to check with Frank to see how things went with Mulder. After that, it would be time to check with Owsley and find out if he came up with something to use against the FBI.

It seemed that whenever she got around him, she reverted to her old ways. Just put him and Broots together in a room with a computer and they'd both be in heaven. What was it about techno-geeks that did that to her? Maybe it was the way they nervously babbled in a language only they could understand instead of answering a question in simple terms.

She stood, organized, the papers and folders, then left to track down her brother. After almost a year, it still felt strange to use that phrase. She had a brother she liked as well as a job that made her feel useful in the grand scheme of things. And she had Jarod to thank for it all. She allowed herself a smile. All those years chasing Jarod to bring him back to the Centre and he turns around and gets her out.

She knocked on Frank's door and entered at his "Come in." He was stretched out watching ESPN. "How can you sit there watching sports with all that's going on?"

"Have to act like everything is normal." He sat up and motioned for her to join him on the couch. "Thanks for getting me permission to talk with Mulder, by the way."

"I figured it would be better if Ramsey thought it was his idea instead of trying to go behind his back." She sat on the couch. "How did things go?"

"He seems resigned to it all. I tried to let him know that his partner and Jarod were on the outside and that we had a plan. I think he caught on. It was strange seeing him like that, Mira. I mean, I only met him the one time, but he seemed, I don't know, more 'with it', I guess."

"I've seen a number of people like that; people who've just given up. I just wonder if he really has, or if he's putting on an act."

"That would make me feel better." Frank looked at his watch. "Let's check with Hooter and see what he's come up with."

They walked through the empty halls to Owsley's lab. "Where are Olga and Donovan?" she asked.

"They ran out of excuses to stay. It would have been strange if they had stayed this late for no real reason." He knocked on the closed door before entering. "Hooter, what have you got?"

Owsley looked up from his computer screen like a proud child ready to show off in front of grown-ups, which, in a sense, he was. "I settled for what would be the easiest and least confrontational." He turned around to his computer again and Mira and Frank looked over his shoulder.

"What are we looking at?" she asked as she watched a small blinking dot move across the screen.

"I hacked into the Vegas office of the FBI and checked the car requisition forms. The car is equipped with OnStar so I just reprogrammed the directions. It'll take them another hour or so to get here."

"You devious genius!" crowed Frank. "That is perfect. It gets them out of the way without hurting them-or making them aware that anything's wrong."

Mira pulled out her phone and dialed Jarod. "Everything's a go. The FBI agents are miles away on a wild goose chase."

"If that's the case, who is in the dark sedan with government plates that just passed us?"

"What?" **Christ! This could be the group that set Mulder up in the first place!** "OK, Frank and I will see what we can do. Sit tight." She ended the call. "Thanks, Owsley."

"What's going on?" Frank asked as she strode out of the lab.

"Somebody else had the same idea. A car with government plates passed Jarod and Scully on the road here, and, thanks to Owsley, we know it's not the FBI."

"We have to get down there and tell Bradley that they're not FBI!"

"And when he asks how we know, what do we say? We sent the real agents on a wild goose chase in the desert? Face it, Frank, there's nothing we can do right now."

"There might be something else we can do. If these guys take Mulder away, we can have Jarod ambush them and get Mulder away."

"Sounds good to me." The two came to an abrupt stop when an armed guard blocked their path. "What's this?"

"I'm sorry, ma'am, but no one is allowed past this point until the prisoner transfer is complete."

"We have important information regarding the transfer."

"I have my orders, sir."

Mira turned to her brother as they walked away from the guard. "So, c'mon, Duct Boy, how do we get down there now?"

"All the ways I know will take too long. You might as well call Jarod."

Mira knew he was right. They couldn't stop the transfer now if they tried. She called Jarod again. "There's been a change of plans. They've closed off access to the cells and Frank and I can't get there. You and Scully will need to set up an ambush or something."

She heard him relay the message and Scully's muffled response. "Scully doesn't believe we'll get the chance. They might just shoot him and dump his body in the desert somewhere."

"And what do you think?"

She never heard his response as gunfire erupted from the main entrance. "Son of a-" She slammed the phone shut and raced with Frank to where a group had gathered, staring at the ground.

Bradley saw them coming and halted their approach. "He's gone."

She glared at the "agents" who stood rather smugly over Mulder's body. "Let me guess: shot while trying to escape."

"That's what the agents said."

"And you believe them?" questioned Frank. "C'mon, Bradley, you were watching when I spoke to him. You know he was ready to give himself up."

"Frank, the FBI would not lie about shooting a man."

"Exactly."

Bradley looked at Mira. "Do you know what he's going on about?"

"We had reason to believe that they aren't FBI," she said with a look at the two men watching over the removal of Mulder's body.

"Do you have any proof of these allegations?"

"No."

"Without proof, my hands are tied. I'm sorry your friend is dead, but he was a wanted murderer."

"I don't think that was true either," muttered Frank.

"What was that?"

"Mulder knew a conspiracy existed and I think they framed him. He's obsessed with his conspiracies and aliens, sure, but he's not a killer."

"I can't accuse them without proof. Until you can find something, we will treat this as an unfortunate accident and continue with business as usual."

********************************************************************************

Jarod closed his phone and stared up the road in the direction of the base. Something had gone horribly wrong. The rest of the way was open so there was no chance of them making it there unseen. They would have to rely on the Parkers for their information.

"What is it?" asked Scully.

"I don't know. She hung up on me."

"He's dead."

"You can't be sure of that. It could be anything."

"Jarod, these men want Mulder silenced permanently. That's why they rigged the trial. They've been waiting for another chance to get at him. What better way then to have him shot during a prisoner transfer?"

Jarod took a sip of the coffee he insisted on buying. Not knowing how long they would be waiting, he wanted some comforts. He then broached the delicate subject. "Scully, have you thought on what you would do if he is dead?"

"What do you mean?"

"Will you continue the crusade or will you try to return to a 'normal' life?"

"I never really gave it much though. I knew it might happen someday, but I shoved it to the back of my mind, not wanting to dwell on it. I'd like to continue Mulder's work, but I don't know if I'm cut out for doing it solo. And then part of me wants a place of my own in the suburbs where I would, oh, I don't know, teach high school biology."

"Whatever you decide let me know if I can help." He started up the car. "I think we had better go back to the hotel. There's nothing we can do here."

*****************************************************************************

Bradley gave Frank the next day off. Needing to get away from the base, he took a car and went into town where he met Jarod and Mulder's partner in a diner. Both looked like they had spent a restless night. Scully's eyes were red-rimmed and puffy from crying.

He slipped into the booth next to Jarod. "I'm really sorry about what happened," he said mainly to Scully. "We didn't think they'd try anything on the base."

"Of course there were no witnesses," she commented.

"Mira and I told our boss about them being fakes, but he couldn't do anything without proof. When the real agents showed up an hour later, he realized we were right."

"You checked and learned the FBI has no agents by those names," put in Jarod. "And they have disappeared."

"And we're running out of time."

"What? Are you working on some deadline?"

**Christ, I forgot she doesn't know!**

"He means that any possible leads are getting cold every minute," Jarod said, coming to the rescue.

Scully looked at them both and Frank could tell she knew something was going on that they weren't telling her.

Jarod flagged down a waitress and they all ordered coffee. When she had gone, Frank decided to test the waters regarding Scully's reaction to changing the past. "Have you ever though of 'what-ifs' or 'if onlys', Scully?"

"Non-stop since last night."

"Me too. If you had the chance to go back and tell Mulder not to go to the base, would you?"

"Knowing he was going to die, yes, I would."

"But would he listen?" asked Jarod. "From what I know, Mulder would be hard to convince when he's-"

"Obsessed? Yes, he can be. Depending on the argument, I might get through to him." She looked at Frank. "What's with the hypothetical questions?"

Frank ignored the question. "What if information came from Jarod?"

"Why not you?" Jarod asked.

"Mulder knows you better. We only met the one time and we really didn't talk much about our pasts."

"But he did know about you, Frank," Scully told him. "He knew you were with the SEALs and the CIA. He even knew you were institutionalized before joining an NSA project known only as Backstep." She stared down at the coffee she cradled in her hands and Frank could almost see the gears turning in her head. "You've perfected time travel," she said in a hushed voice. "That's why you're asking these questions." She looked up at Jarod. "You knew about this?"

"I pieced it together like you did a few years back when I first met Frank. If they found out I know about what Backstep is, well, let's just say I'd be locked up longer than I was at the Centre."

"But how? It's only been theorized and dismissed as impractical. The physics alone..."

"Believe me, I know. I can't figure out if I'm actually older or younger than everyone else because of it. As for the science behind it, I really can't explain, as I don't understand it myself. Besides, as Jarod said, it's dangerous enough that you even know about it."

"So you can go back and save him, make sure none of this happens!"

"My missions are decided by an NSA panel. They won't send me back to save the life of a man they believe to be a murderer. So unless some major disaster happens in the next six days, I can't do anything."

"Why six days?"

"For reasons Frank is wisely keeping to himself, he can only travel back seven days." Jarod finished his coffee. "So, how is Miss Parker-I mean Miranda handling this?"

"Oh, she was pissed off last night when it happened, but she was more contemplative last night when she drove home. I saw Olga this morning before I came here and she said she thought she heard her crying in her sleep."

"I'd better leave her alone then. I take it she has the day off as well?"

"Yeah, Bradley felt guilty over not believing us in addition to knowing that Mulder was a friend. Things'll be back to normal tomorrow, unless..."

"Unless disaster strikes." Scully reached for her wallet.

"No, it's on me," declared Jarod as he pulled out a few bills.

"All I can say is keep an eye on the news. If a Backstep is ordered, someone will call to let you know." Frank made to leave the booth. "Is there a word or a phrase I can use to let you know what we tell you is the truth?"

After a moment, Scully smiled, a sight Frank found heartening. "Mulder's favorite saying: The Truth is Out There."

"I like it." Frank stood. "It was nice meeting you, Scully. Sorry about the circumstances. Jarod, we'll call you later." Frank left the diner feeling a little better about what happened.

*******************************************************************************

Scully decided to stay in the area for another few days despite the risk or remaining in the area where Mulder had been taken. Hopefully they believed Mulder with his story about a rendezvous. At least she had friends here. She smiled at the thought. Strange, she barely knew any of them, yet the link to Mulder made them friends. According to Jarod, Frank spent most of his time on the base since his "contribution" was so crucial. His sister, the formidable Miss Parker, lived with Olga Vuckavitch, a scientist on the project.

Jarod mentioned that she should spend some time with them where she could talk and "bond" with other women instead of staying in her hotel room watching news reports waiting for a disaster. She couldn't help it. She needed to know that Frank would be going back.

A rapping on the door made her peer cautiously through the peephole. Outside, two women dressed casually though elegantly, waited. She shook her head. They could only be Miss Parker and Olga Vuckavitch. She opened the door. "Come in, ladies. Please excuse the mess. I wasn't expecting company."

"We thought as much," said the redhead with a Russian accent.

"Dr. Vuckavitch. I've been waiting to speak with you these past two days regarding the scientific aspect of the project." She cleared off the edge of the bed so one of them would have a place to sit.

"I'm sure it was after talking with Mr. Parker," the doctor said, sitting in one of the chairs by the window.

"He only hinted at a few things, never telling me outright how it worked. Besides, if he does go back, I won't remember anything."

"As you said, 'if'," put in Frank's sister who looked very different from four years ago. "I didn't think I'd be seeing you again, Agent Scully."

"It's no longer 'Agent', Miss Parker, as you well know." Scully looked the two of them over. "What can I do for you? I do have pressing matters."

Miss Parker looked at the computer screen that was showing news reports from all over the world. "Scully, we know what you're going through. I lost my father a little over a year ago, and Olga lost her husband. You can't stay in a hotel room and watch the world go by. It's time to join it."

"I will go out and join it when I'm sure that's the way it's going to be."

"We are here to drag you into the world, kicking and screaming if need be," said Olga. "We were thinking lunch and perhaps a few drinks."

"I can't. I-"

"We don't want you to forget Mulder," said Miss Parker. "Except for a few hours. You need to relax and unwind. When was the last time you went out with girlfriends?"

Scully couldn't answer. It had been too long. They were right. She did need to get out. "Let me just freshen up."

********************************************************************************

The night Mulder was shot, Mira drove home in shock, her anger having faded. She had seen men killed before, even done some killing herself, but this was different. This was someone she knew who was killed for a secret. The fact that Mulder was wanted for murder was in their favor, but it was still messy. She never would have accepted job performance like that at the Centre.
She pulled into the driveway of the house she shared with Olga. She turned off the engine and sat behind the wheel for a moment to gather her thoughts-and strength-before finally managing to trudge wearily up the front steps and use her key in the lock. Olga had left the hall light on, and, after locking the door and setting the alarm, she went up to her room, kicked off her shoes and fell onto the bed, not caring if she wrinkled her clothes. She felt more drained than ever. Somehow, she didn't think she'd ever forget this birthday.
Thanks to Talmadge, she had the next day off and slept in. It was almost noon when she got up. When she looked in the mirror, she saw eyes that had cried in the night. God, she hadn't cried in her sleep since...since Tommy. She took a deep breath. Tommy was gone; there was nothing she could do about that. However, there was a chance that they could undo Mulder's death. Well, that Frank could undo it.

She slipped on her cotton-terry robe and walked downstairs. Olga, bless her, had the coffee warming. Practically on automatic pilot, Mira got a mug, poured the coffee, and added cream. Stirring the coffee, she walked out onto the sunny back terrace and curled up on a cushioned seat, her left leg tucked underneath. If she was going to make it through the day, she would have to keep herself occupied with chores and errands so there would be no time to think on what happened. Tomorrow she would be back at work and there wouldn't be any time to dwell on things.

She stared out into the yard as she finished her coffee. Taking a deep breath, she stood and headed back inside. She rinsed the mug in the sink then headed upstairs to shower and change before continuing with her plans for the day.
Some hours later when she was in the middle of dusting in the living room, her cell phone rang. "Parker."

"Miss Parker, how are you coping?"

"I think I'm handling it OK, Jarod. You?"

"As well as I can be. The thing is, I'm leaving tonight but I was hoping you and Olga would keep an eye on Scully. I can't get her to leave her hotel room. I was hoping you might have a better chance at that."

"And how do you expect me to do that? We really didn't see eye-to-eye at our last meeting."

"She knows you've changed and tried to save Mulder last night. All I was thinking was that perhaps you could talk her into joining you for drinks and dinner-or lunch, whichever works better. You've all experienced loss and you can empathize with her. Just make the effort, Miss Parker. Think of it as a favor to Mulder."

"I'll talk with Olga when she comes home and see what day we can do it. You're not planning to stay around?"

"You know I can't stay too long in one place. Besides, either way, there's nothing I can do." He ended the call.

She closed her phone and replaced it on the counter. **What did he mean by 'either way'? He knows about Backstep! I don't know why I'm surprised, except that he's kept the fact secret from the power players. I guess I have to help keep his secret now as well.**

*******************************************************************************

Three days after meeting with Jarod and Scully, Frank made his way back to his room, more subdued than usual. Time was running out. If he were to go back in time to save Mulder, something had to happen soon. Everyone walked on eggshells around him without mention of Mulder. At least he had Mira to share the grieving period. Bradley tried to get him to visit the base shrink but he didn't want to talk about Mulder with someone who never knew him.
He passed one of the lounges favored by the off-duty and paused when he heard a phone call that sounded suspicious. He waited in the hall and listened to the one side.

"Yes, sir, everything went smoothly. They were gone before anyone realized the mistake. Thank you, sir." There was a pause before he continued. "That is always a possibility, sir, but I don't think I can. It's always monitored. Yes, sir. At the first opportunity."

Frank heard the phone click shut. He peered around the corner and saw the guard place it in the pocket of his jacket as it hung on the back of a chair. He then left to visit the john. Frank walked in, pulled out the phone and checked the last number dialed: Washington DC. **This is the guy that sold Mulder out to the conspiracy!** He then thought on the bit of conversation he heard. **Since these guys wanted Mulder dead, odds are they don't want the possibility that it could be undone. I had better warn them about this guy and have some extra security put around the Sphere.** Armed with this information, Frank sought out his sister.

He was nearing the labs when he heard Donovan call out his name. He stopped and waited for his best friend to catch up.

"Hey, buddy, what's up? You look real determined."

"I just heard something that has me a little pissed off."

"I'd say more than a little."

"Have you seen Mira?"

"Yeah, she was over in the Security office."

"OK." He strode off leaving Donovan in the middle of the hallway. He stopped and turned around. "You coming?"

The two friends continued on to the Security office and knocked on the open door. Mira looked up from her computer screen. "Hello, boys." She looked at her watch. "It's a little early for lunch, but I guess I can take a break."

"Frank has something he wants to share," said Donovan as they walked into the room.

Frank shut the door behind him. "Remember wondering how those other guys got here as fast as they did?"

"They intercepted the call to the FBI or were monitoring the site in case there was action regarding Mulder," said Mira.

"I think we have someone earning a little extra pay." Frank relayed what he heard.

"So you think he's going to try and do something to the Sphere to prevent you going back and preventing Mulder's death? Why would he risk it?"

"Donovan, these guys are siding with aliens who want to colonize the Earth-or believe that. From what I understand, this group runs Washington. Hell, I wouldn't be surprised if they have members in every world capital." Mira and Donovan looked at him as if he had sprouted two extra heads. "Anyway, with power like that, they really wouldn't care about whatever instituted a Backstep, just as long as Mulder stays dead."

"All right," said Mira as she turned to face the computer. "Let me pull up a record of all the guards and you tell me if you recognize him."

Frank pulled up a chair and watched as she pulled up a photo of all the guards and security people on the payroll. Close to thirty minutes later, Frank saw him. "That's the one!"

"Ryan Dixon. He's been here two years. I wonder how much stuff he's told them in that time," commented Mira. "OK, I'll see if I can re-work his schedule to keep him away from the Sphere, or at least lessen the time he's there. I think we should also instigate periodic checks of the Sphere and the surrounding area as part of new security measures resulting from the recent break-in."

"Sounds very official. Think Ramsey'll go for it?"

"Oh, he'll love it," said Donovan. "Make him wonder why he didn't think of it."

The phone on Mira's desk rang. "Parker. Yes, he's here. All right, we'll be right there." She replaced the receiver. "That was Bradley. I think we've got ourselves a Backstep."

********************************************************************************

Jarod paid for his cheese steak and root beer before stepping onto the boardwalk. There was still a slight nip in the air but the natives were taking advantage of the sun walking along the beach and boardwalk, and even playing games at the few open arcades. A number of stands were open to try and cash in on the weather. Further up the way, he could hear the telltale music of a merry-go-round.

He found an empty bench that faced the ocean. After the desert, this was a welcome change. He knew that if anything happened, he'd get a phone call and things would start over again. Time was getting short. There were only three days left before it would be too late.

Finishing his lunch, he walked down to the beach and strolled north. In the distance he could see Manhattan. He remembered hearing that there were people who watched from the beaches on 9/11. He looked a little closer and he could swear he saw smoke rising from somewhere in Lower Manhattan. If it were just a regular fire, he wouldn't be able to see it from here. It looked like this was it. He hurried back to his rented apartment and put on CNN. There it was in full color: smoke and fire in New York City.

"Word is coming in now that the bomb was somehow smuggled into the New York Stock Exchange and went off at around 11:00 this morning. Trading was in good form at the beginning of the week and it will be some time before identifications can be made." She paused as new information came over her earpiece. "Word has just come in that there were two identical bombings in London and Tokyo at the same time. So far, no group has come forth to claim responsibility. We will have more on that in the coming hours. We now have a link to London."

As the coverage switched to London, Jarod's thoughts went back to the desert. The moment they heard of this at Never Never Land, they would be on standby. There was no way they could ignore attacks like this on vital financial institutions. He then thought of New York and if there was anything he could do-if he could even get into the city.

*******************************************************************************

Two more days passed and the final piece of intelligence they had been waiting for arrived. The man who placed the London bomb had been caught, and, under interrogation, confessed that the bombings were masterminded by Dimtri Telnos in Malta. They had met for the last time on Thursday in a small house on the outskirts of Mdina. No, he had no idea where any of the others were now.
"Frank, all you need to do is call us with this information and we can have the authorities in Malta pick them up," directed Talmadge. "This has to be the first thing you do upon arrival as time will be close, even allowing for the time difference."

"Sure thing, Bradley. I have no other agenda for this trip."

"All right then. Let's get moving."

They all filed out of the conference room and Frank pulled Olga aside. "Call Scully and let her know what's going on. She'll be able to relax a little bit."

"Certainly, Mr. Parker." She left for her rooms.

He then looked at his sister. "Any luck with our mole?"

"We haven't given him the chance yet."

"We have to leave him conveniently alone so he can do whatever to the Sphere."
"And if he does damage it, we may not have time to repair it in order to save Mulder." She paused a moment. "However, if he realizes the Sphere is beyond his reach, what's the next thing he'd go after?"

Frank caught on to her plan. "We let him get to me and Donovan. Or let him *think* he's gotten to us. I like the way you think. C'mon, we gotta let Donovan in on the plan."

********************************************************************************

He was on his break in the guards' room trying to figure out how to get to the Sphere this close to a Backstep when an alternate plan presented itself. Two other guards going off-shift were discussing just that subject.

"I still find it strange that so many of us have to guard that thing. You would think they'd have more people around Parker and Donovan."

"Yeah, but they can fight back if someone comes after them. Besides, they're usually with a group of people which would make them hard to get to."

"'Cept at night. Course, there's security, but there are ways around it. Everyone knows that."

The two guards left the room and he had his plan. All he had to do was keep Parker and Donovan out of it long enough to prevent them going back to save Mulder. It was known they both loved to drink so maybe it was time for a little Mickey Finn.

********************************************************************************

"Where the hell is Parker? Christ, you'd think he'd know by now what's riding on this!"

"Calm down, Nate. We can always have Craig prep should Frank prove to be 'indisposed'," stated Talmadge.

"Last time I saw them, they were heading for Frank's rooms," said Hooter from his place monitoring the Sphere's functions.

"Yeah, they're probably passed out drunk." Ramsey said no more after a glare from Bradley.

At that moment the phone rang with an internal call. Bradley picked it up. "This is Talmadge. What? Are you sure it's not just-- Very well, I'll be right there." He replaced the phone. "The countdown is on hold as of right now."

"What's going on?" demanded Ramsey.

"That was Olga. It appears that both our chrononauts are unconscious. She thinks someone drugged the beer." He left for the infirmary.

"Great, now what're we gonna do?"

********************************************************************************

With everyone worried about Parker and Donovan, he had the chance to slip away and make a phone call. "Yes, sir, it's done. No, I could not damage the Sphere, but I have incapacitated both pilots so there will be no chance of saving Mulder. Yes, sir. Thank you sir." He closed the phone, glowing from the praise of his superior.

"Hm, I wonder what they'll think when they find out you lied," said Mira in her steely voice of old. "In my experience, it does not bode well." She nodded and two guards went up to wither side of the man. She walked forward and removed his gun. "I don't think you'll be needing this anymore."

"What are you talking about?" he tried to bluff.

"Oh, please. I heard your part of the conversation. You remember, the part where you admitted getting Frank and Craig out of the way." She switched on the speaker that carried the live feed from the control room. The countdown and pre-flight checks were continuing as normal. "See, the thing is, we've known about you for a few days now. Frank overheard you and we've been watching, making sure you were never alone in the hangar. We needed you to think you had succeeded in order for you to call your boss. Thanks for playing along!" she called as he was led away to the cells.

She rushed to the control room. "It's under control, Frank. Don't forget to tell us." She saw him give her a "thumbs up" on the monitor.

Olga glanced up from watching the reactor's power gauge. "Reactor at 100%, Mr. Parker. Engage!"

Electricity crackled about the Sphere, growing until a blinding blue light filled the hangar. When those in the control room opened their eyes, the Sphere was gone.

********************************************************************************

After one of the worst bone-rattling Backsteps, Frank undid his helmet and sat there panting, sweat and blood dripping down his face. He stood and stripped off his orange flight suit, his mind going over what needed to be done. First thing was to get to a phone. For some reason, whenever he took a cell phone with him, it never survived the trip. He released the hatch and miraculously found himself in the hangar. **Sunnofabitch! It actually worked! Now I won't have to call Jarod.**

He clambered down the steps and immediately headed for the briefing room as they would all know by now that he had arrived. He opened the door and the others looked at him expectantly. "In a few hours' time, four men will meet in Mdina, Malta and plan the bombing of the stock exchanges in New York, London, and Tokyo. They all went off at the exact same time. The London bomber was caught and he gave the name of the ringleader, Dimitri Telnos." He poured himself a glass of water from the pitcher in the middle of the table.

"Is that the only information you have?" demanded Ramsey.

"What else do you want? His shoe size? Boxers or briefs?" He polished off the water.

"Do you have the address, Frank?" asked Bradley before Ramsey could butt in again.

"Oh, yeah." Frank rattled off the number and street.

"I'll get this information off right away. Well done, Frank." Both Bradley and
Ramsey left.

"So, we still on for tonight?"

"What?" asked Mira.

"Your birthday celebration. I thought we were going into town."

"Did I have a good time before?"

"Of course."

"There's no arguing with that," laughed Olga.

"Count me in," added Donovan.

"Great. Let me just shower and change."

They all left the briefing room and walked down the hall. Coming towards them, Frank spotted the face he was looking for. "You!" The man pointed at himself. "Yeah, you. C'mere." The man approached him and Frank immediately grabbed his right arm and twisted it behind his back.

"Frank, what the hell are you doing?" demanded Donovan. "You're gonna break his arm!"

"He's a plant, a mole, working for some group out in DC. He tried to drug us last time around in order to prevent a Backstep."

"You have proof of this?" asked Olga.

"Yeah. I overheard a conversation of him talking with his boss. Later, Mira
did and heard him admit that he did it."

"That's good enough for me," Mira said. She put in a call to Security and soon two guards arrived to take their "former" associate into custody.

They stopped outside Frank's rooms. "Give me half an hour."

Twenty minutes later Frank was showered, dressed, and entering the garage. He noticed that both Olga and Mira had used he time to freshen-up and Donovan had changed into civvies. They climbed into Donovan's car and were soon on the road to town.

"Hey, Donovan, can you pull over for a sec? There's something I gotta do."

"Did you have another reason to Backstep?" questioned Olga from her spot in the front passenger seat.

"I think of it as an added bonus." He opened his door and looked over at Mira.

"C'mon, you can help me." He then turned to Donovan. "Hold tight. This shouldn't take long."

He and Mira walked away from the road along a dirt track. "What is it we're looking for?" she asked.

"A van. Either grey or white. I can't remember."

"And when we find it?"

"You'll know what to do."

******************************************************************************

Mulder made some last minute adjustments to his all-black ensemble. "They do say it never goes out of style," he joked to Scully.

"Are you sure you have to go through with this?" she asked as she brought up the base schematics on a computer screen.

"Scully, you know how much I need to do this." He walked up behind her and placed a hand on her shoulder. "This place is even more secret than Area 51. There have been stories circulating about alien sightings and other weird happenings in this general vicinity. Everything will be all right. We chosen the best way onto the base, and, even more importantly, into the cluster of main buildings."

She swiveled around to face him. "I don't know what it is. I just feel that something awful will happen when you cross the perimeter."

He could hear the tension in her voice and tried to put her at ease. "If you were anyone else, I'd put that down to a premonition." He looked at his watch. "I have 2030."

"Same. If we lose contact or if you're not out by 2400, I'll go to the rendezvous as planned." There was a tapping on the sliding van door. "Who the hell is that?"

Mulder held a finger to his lips. If they thought the van abandoned, they'd continue on their way. Either that, or go off in search of the former occupants.

The knocking sounded again, a bit more insistent this time. There was a muffled conversation that sounded like a man and woman debating what to do next. Then the man's voice called out, "C'mon, this ain't Nebraska! Ya gonna make us wait out here all night?"

Mulder grinned. **Why doesn't it surprise me?** He remembered going to Nebraska two years ago after receiving a request for help from Jarod, a man in search of his past. While there he met a former CIA agent now working for the NSA at some top secret government project. If Frank was stationed on this base, he wouldn't be turned in to the authorities. "It's OK, Scully. I know him."
He unlocked the door and slid it open. Frank Parker stood there, a broad grin on his face. "I was wondering if you were gonna open up or drive off."

"Yeah, well, we were hoping that you were going to be the one to leave." He joined Frank on the ground as Scully moved over to the door. "Frank, this is my partner, Dana Scully. Scully, Frank Parker of the NSA, and, unless I'm much mistaken, he's with the base."

"Nice to meet you, Dana," Frank replied, not even trying to lie about Mulder's conclusion. "My partner's around here somewhere. She had a phone call." He smiled crookedly in an I-Know-Something-You-Don't kind of way.

"I thought you worked best alone."

"Yeah, but I'm not above asking for help when I need it. 'Sides, when it's family, you can't really get around it."

Mulder was puzzled by that last comment. Frank had told him he was an orphan with no known family.

"Well, if it isn't Mr. G-Man."

Mulder turned at the sound of that voice and froze, stunned, at the sight before him. This was not the woman he expected. Gone was the severe business suit and hairstyle. Instead her hair was longer and slightly curled and she wore dark slacks, a light roll-neck sweater, and a leather jacket. "Miss Parker?"

"Don't be so surprised, Mulder." She smiled. "Jarod performed the DNA tests after Nebraska. I've been out here for over a year now." She looked over at Scully. "We were never properly introduced. Mira Parker." She held out her hand and Scully slowly put out hers and they shook. She then faced Frank. "We had better head back before the others leave without us."

"Whoa, I'm not leaving without an explanation. What's going on? How did you know we were here?"

"Mulder, I know what you're planning. It won't have a happy ending, I can tell you. I'm just trying to get you to put this off."

"Did your bosses send you out here? The public has a right to know what goes on in there, Frank."

"Maybe someday they will, but now is not the time. The truth *is* out there, Mulder, but if you're not there to find it, what good is it?"

**How does Frank know about that phrase? Maybe he's right. Getting myself killed won't help anything; just add to a large list of martyrs.** He looked at Scully. After hearing what Frank had to say gave her "premonition" a little more bearing on his decision. "All right, I won't try to get in this time. But that doesn't mean I won't try later."

"I wouldn't expect you to give up trying. You wanna join us in town? We're having a little birthday celebration."

"Sure, why not? My earlier plans were cancelled."

********************************************************************************

Jarod took a swig of beer before looking at his watch. Frank and the others ought to be showing up soon. He smiled as he thought of actually spending Miss Parker's birthday with her. From all the emails he had received from Frank, it seemed that she was settling in to her new life better than expected. He was glad that she had finally gotten away from the Centre and given a chance to lead her own life the way she wanted to, not according to someone else's rules.
He looked up as the door opened and saw Donovan and Olga enter. He waved and they came over and joined him at the bar. "Where are Frank and Miss Parker?"

"They should be in any second," said Donovan. He looked over the room, searching for a table. "We might need to push a couple together. Frank picked up a couple strays," he added for Jarod's benefit.

"Strays?" He looked to the door again and saw Miss Parker enter side-by-side with...Scully? That was unexpected. Directly behind them were Frank and Mulder. "Did Frank just log some frequent flier miles?" he asked Olga, who knew that Jarod was aware of what happened at the base.

"Yes. And on the way here he said he needed to make a stop. Mira went with him and they returned with Scully and Mulder. You know them?"

"Yes. I met Mulder almost five years ago in San Diego. I met Scully later that year in New York." At that moment the new arrivals made it to the bar. "Happy Birthday, Miss Parker."

"Oh, wonderful, another birthday surprise," she said, trying to recapture her sarcasm and disdain of old and failing miserably. She smiled. "Thank you, Jarod."

Jarod then shook hands with Mulder. "Didn't think I'd be seeing you here."

"Frank can be very persuasive."

"It looks like Donovan has the table ready," said Frank. "You guys go get settled and I'll order us a pitcher of beer."

They walked over to the table, Jarod next to Scully. "It's good to see you again, Scully. A lot has happened to us both since we last met."

"And not just us. Miss Parker-Mira told me how you helped her leave the Centre and Frank told me how he got to finally meet his father. You've been rather busy."

"As have the two of you. I heard about what happened. Is there any way for Mulder to clear his name?"

"Not as long as those in power refuse to believe the truth."

As everyone sat down and Frank returned with the beer, Jarod announced, "I think that for tonight we should leave all the cruelty of the world outside and just have a good time. It will still be there in the morning."

This was heartily agreed upon and over the meal they traded stories of previous jobs and missions. It was interesting to see how much they all had in common considering their different backgrounds.

As they mellowed after the meal, Jarod's phone rang. He excused himself and walked some distance away. "Jarod, it's Sydney. Broots and I were thinking of Miss Parker throughout the day. We can't believe that no one has been able to track her down. We were wondering..."

"Just a second, Sydney." Jarod held the phone to his chest as he walked back to the table. "Someone wants to talk to you," he told her.

Miss Parker took the phone. "Parker."

Jarod smiled slowly as he watched her speak with Sydney. As the man had acted as her conscience during the years of The Chase, he could just imagine the conversation as she assured him she was fine.

Frank caught his sister's eye. When she looked up, he pointed at himself, signifying that he wanted to talk to the good doctor as well.

She nodded. "OK, Syd. Yes, you can tell Broots. I'll find some way to contact you later. Hold on, there's someone else who wants to talk to you." She passed Jarod's phone to Frank.

"Hey, Sydney. Yeah, it's me. She's doin' great." He listened as Sydney went on about something. "No, I don't think that would be a good idea. I'm sure we can think of something. You, too." He shut off the phone and returned it to Jarod.

"I think it made him feel better that we were together," said Jarod, placing the phone back in his pocket.

"Thank you for that," said Miss Parker.

"No problem."

Olga tried to stifle a yawn. "I'm sorry. I was up early this morning preparing a new series of tests for Mr. Parker."

Frank gave a crooked grin. "See fellas, she can't keep her hands off me."

"Yeah, it is getting late," put in Donovan. "Some of us have to work tomorrow."

Jarod looked across the table at Mulder and Scully, knowing that if Frank hadn't done his job, neither of them would be here. "So, what's next for you two?"

"I don't know," Scully answered. "Whatever file piques his interest next."

"There are rumors of a secret government project going on deep inside Cheyenne Mountain." Everyone else at the table glared at him. "All right. I'll stay away from secret government projects for awhile." He gently swirled the remains of his coffee. "What about you?" he asked Jarod.

Jarod thought over the few plights that had caught his attention before coming to Nevada. Some were more mundane than others; things he had already done, but there was one that provided something new. "The Keys," he responded.

"You are looking a little pale," commented Miss Parker.

"That would make you the pot, wouldn't it?" joked Frank.

"Chauffeur's leaving, folks. Time to divvy up the bill." Donovan reached for his wallet.

Everyone followed his lead and soon they were heading for the door.
"I'm sorry we only had a few hours to spend with you, Jarod," said Olga.

"That's all right. I'll hang around for a couple of days. You know my cell number if you need to reach me."

"I think we'll stay the night at a hotel before heading off in the morning," said Mulder.

"I want to thank you for what you did," Scully said to Frank. "I'm not exactly sure what it was, but I know it was big."

"All in a day's work," he said with a smile.

"It was good to see you again, Jarod," Mulder said as they shook hands. "With both of us criss-crossing the country, I'm sure we'll bump into each other again."

"Take care," Jarod said to them both. "I don't want to be reading about you in the papers."

The two former FBI agents left the restaurant.

Jarod then shook hands with Frank and Donovan as they said good-bye. Olga shook his hand as well as gave him a small kiss on the cheek before following the men. Then he was looking at Miss Parker.

"Thank you for coming, Jarod. It means a lot to me," she said, taking his hand.
"You should know I wouldn't have missed this."

"When I didn't hear from you-not even a phone call-I thought you gave up on me."

"Never. I just thought you needed time to adjust to your new life without any ties to your old one. Frank kept me up-to-date on everything."

She smiled then, a smile that showed she knew someone cared. For Jarod, that was all he needed to know he had done the right thing. She released his hand to join the others.

"Happy birthday, Miranda," he said over his shoulder
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