Dawn of a New Day
Sequel to: Fall of Night
he ride up to Washington with the remainder of his team was taken in silence, with each person caught in their own thoughts of Savannah and Kellett. In hindsight, Jerome recalled how often those two had worked closely together over the past week, never straying too far from each other's company. His own relationship with Savannah had soured several weeks earlier and, surprisingly, he had not truly cared that much. Now he felt guilty, wondering when she had become infected, and how. Had their quarantine procedures failed in some way or had this occurred outside of the laboratories?
Looking back to last week, he did recall her and Kellett going out into Houston to collect data on the Mothra, convinced that the increased attacks on livestock in the area were down to Mothra feeding on the cattle herds. He had known from the start that both were the same blood group and so susceptible to mutation rather than becoming a food source, but neither had mentioned any problems when they returned the next day.
Jerome felt his lips tightening, not quite understanding why they had come back at all let alone said nothing. Perhaps the human in them had hoped to see a cure before the mutation was complete. Perhaps they kept silent for fear of being treated like the other Mothra captured by the scientists, only to spend their last few days as humans suffering test after test rather than being the ones working towards their own salvation. Perhaps they had every intention of telling, believing they could hold off the mental transformation from caring human to callous insectoid, unaware that the line between was so thin that they never realized when they had crossed it until it was too late.
Whatever the reason, the Savannah who died in a hail of bullets was not the person he had respected and cared for deeply. That Savannah had lost all her compassion and, in the end, had seen only food when she looked at him.
He was so lost in his thoughts that he barely noticed the passing of the miles but he registered when they left the interstate and turned off down a series of smaller roads leading to the CDC remote facilities. He was given deferential treatment as he left the car, filled with self-mocking laughter at the thought of being considered a leading authority on the Mothra when he could not even recognize two within his midst.
A tall, athletic man in an expensive suit worn with casual ease stepped out from the main entrance, eyeing him curiously before holding out his hand in greeting; he introduced himself.
"Dr. Horne? Former FBI Special Agent Fox Mulder."
Jerome grasped the hand and frowned because Mulder was looking at him as if they should already know each other but Jerome was convinced he would recall the handsome FBI agent if they had met before. He wanted to ask what he meant by former-FBI as he did not look old enough to have retired. Jerome knew the FBI had extensive laboratory facilities used to uncover criminal activities within their jurisdiction. Perhaps Mulder had taken a consultancy position or a sabbatical in his chosen field before the Mothra became a major world disaster. He waited but Mulder offered no more information on his skills.
The moment passed and they headed inside, with Jerome determined not to waste any more time than strictly necessary, for every minute wasted brought humanity closer to the brink of extinction.
"How long have you worked with NASA?"
Jerome took a sip of his coffee and stared tiredly across the table at the lanky ex-FBI agent who had taken to following him around. Strangely enough, Jerome actually found that comforting rather than an annoyance, and that surprised him.
"Two years as Chief Medical Physician." He saw the interest in Mulder's face and forestalled the next question. "Before that I was in research specializing in biophysics. I'm an ex-Navy pilot and was part of the astronaut program. Went up a couple of times." He pointed up towards the ceiling with his free hand. "I was too young for the Apollo missions but I had hopes of becoming permanent Shuttle crew." He gave a wry grin "You can always use a medical doctor in space."
Mulder nodded, staring at him as if he was a bug under the microscope.
"You ever been to Tunguska?"
Jerome stared at Mulder in bewilderment. "That's where a meteor hit back at the beginning of last century. I went there fifteen-twenty years back to study meteorite fragments during the summer but didn't find anything of great interest."
"But you found something," he stated and Jerome frowned anew because he had not thought of Tunguska in years. He shook his head because he truly could not recall what they had found, if anything.
He had gone there simply because his best friend, a xenobiologist, had wanted to look for fossil evidence of alien life in the fragments recovered, and it seemed like a great adventure at the time. He recalled the Tunguskan forest full of young trees replacing those flattened by the meteor strike but little else. Jerome had always figured they must have spent too much time drinking what passed for vodka with the locals as his memory of that time was shaky at best. He had spent most of his undergraduate years in an alcoholic haze after all, though he outgrew that practice as soon as he returned from Tunguska to start working on his doctorate.
"You ever been there?"
"Once. Five years back."
Jerome leaned forward, suddenly intrigued as Mulder looked like a man who had seen something and wanted to tell someone about it. "What did you find?"
"A lot of one-armed men."
Jerome pulled back in bewilderment as that was not what he had expected to hear. "I don't recall seeing anyone like that."
Mulder stared harder at him and then grinned, the smile lighting up his whole face, sending a surge of interest straight to Jerome's groin. "Probably before your time."
Jerome knew his color had heightened but Mulder's grin merely widened as if he enjoyed toying with Jerome. Jerome's only saving grace was he was convinced that Mulder felt the same desire for him but memories of Savannah intruded, reminding Jerome that they had vital work to do. He had to believe that they would find a way to stop the Mothra.
The first breakthrough came when Mulder noticed an anomaly within the reams of data taken from the numerous tests and experiments performed in Houston. They had been feeding the data into the supercomputers provided by both the CDC and FBI but Mulder had zeroed in on this anomaly on a hunch. Jerome looked at him in awe. How could anyone simply have a hunch that might possibly turn the tide in this battle for survival? Jerome stared at the data scrolling down the screen, amazed that his limited knowledge of genetics was good enough to follow what he was seeing.
They had amassed this data back in Houston when Jerome's team had managed to capture two newly infected Mothra, keeping them together to prevent premature death from social isolation. They had studied them for the few days it took for them to fully mutate, taking biological samples at regular intervals and feeling desperately sorry as their personalities changed from terrified human to coldly-calculating insectoid.
One of the reasons why Jerome and his team had left Houston for the safe zone was purely because the data had become corrupted on their own computer equipment under suspicious circumstances and all the back-ups had gone missing. Seemingly, they were left with no option but to recreate the tests from scratch. The number of Mothra in the Houston area had multiplied exponentially so gaining new test subjects was not an insurmountable problem. However, the real concern lie in the increased danger of remaining in an infested area, and the fact that someone - or something - had already managed to stall their work here, which only added to the danger. It was obvious now that Savannah and Kellett had destroyed all their work in order to protect their emerging species.
Jerome's foresight had given them one other option. He had made multiple back-ups of the data each night, one of which he had sent out on a hunch of his own, without consulting anyone else on the team. At the time he had felt a little guilty but figured the fewer people who knew about the data, the better. It was the only copy that made it across the checkpoint into the north but one was all they had needed to continue with their work.
In hindsight, Savannah must have planned this, knowing Jerome was a pilot and wrongly assumed that he would be allowed to fly the helicopter to the other side of the safe zone, taking her and Kellett with him. She could not have anticipated them being forced to land on the wrong side and still made the mistake of believing they would be ushered across with no security checks rather than taking the opportunity to evade capture with Kellett. Her mistake had cost her life but Jerome knew that was a sacrifice the Mothra would make without compunction or compassion. Swarms of Mothra had already reached across the Atlantic into southern Europe and Africa, and even as far as China. South America, Mexico and the southern states were no longer safe places for humans and it was only a matter of time before the colder northern states fell too. Already, Jerome was hearing of breaches in the electrified fences spread across the country with secondary defense lines going up immediately but, which each breach, the safe zone grew smaller.
What Jerome could not understand is what the Mothra expected to eat once they had devoured their current food source. Once all the humans were dead or mutated, how would they support their numbers? He voiced that thought to Mulder.
"We've introduced a new predator into the food chain that has no natural enemies apart from us, their prey. Once they run out of food, they'll either die off as a species or they'll turn on each other and a new natural order will balance out eventually."
"But in either case, we won't be here."
"How long do you think we've got?"
"That depends on you, Alex."
"Sorry?" Jerome tilted his head. "Who's Alex?" Understanding flared through him, recalling how Mulder had looked at him during their first meeting. "I remind you of this Alex, don't I? Was he someone important to you?"
Mulder looked a little chagrined at what must have been a slip of the tongue. He tried to hide his embarrassment but Jerome saw right through him. He saw the pain in Mulder's eyes and knew that Mulder had cared for this Alex, perhaps even loved him. His own hopes sunk as he realized that Mulder was not so much interested in him as he was in the person that Jerome resembled. Pushing his hurt aside, Jerome leaned forward.
"Tell me about Alex."
Mulder stared across the tabletop at Jerome Horne, seeing the beauty of the man who looked too much like Alex Krycek for it to be mere coincidence. Either they were long lost twins, separated at birth - or they were clones. Mulder was used to dealing with the improbable and seemingly impossible so he knew that either could be the case. He had already dismissed any possibility of them being no relation, of them being a simple anomaly, especially when Jerome mentioned that he had been to Tunguska.
He looked a little closer, seeing the fine lines around the intelligent green eyes, watching the flutter of long dark lashes as Jerome accepted this intense observation with just a little unease. His mouth held the same softness with a deep cupid's bow on top. Such a pretty mouth, a kissable mouth, with lips that had touched his cheek once, so long ago.
From the timing, and from Jerome's well documented life and provable career, Mulder knew he was looking at the master copy. He could imagine it now, the younger version of Jerome Horne in the forests of Tunguska, falling foul of the Consortium. Mulder knew he recalled little of relevance from that long-ago expedition because he had, most likely, spent part of it drugged and unconscious while they tested and eventually cloned him.
He had long thought of Alex Krycek as a heartless bastard but perhaps that was because he had been conceived in a test tube and grown in a cylinder, born as an adult with false memories imprinted to give him the necessary social cues needed to complete his assignments. Mulder wondered exactly how old Alex had been on that first meeting; twenty-eight years or only a matter of months. He had seemed so green at the time, so fresh and innocent. Perhaps he was back then, just a newborn taking flight for the first time.
Alex had broken through his conditioning though. He had turned on his masters and their corrupt plans for the world, joining the human resistance against colonization and fighting for the future of humanity just like Jerome was doing now. Perhaps that was something the Colonists had missed in Jerome's genetic make-up when they chose him as a test subject. Perhaps he had been genetically encoded through many generations to be a protector and savior of humanity rather than a means of hastening its demise.
But Jerome was not Alex as there was more to being a person than mere genetics. A person was the sum of their experiences and Jerome had never lost an arm in Tunguska while trying to get Mulder inoculated against the Black Oil, or been left to die in an underground silo, or joined a human resistance, working with Fifth Column aliens to save humanity. For Alex, the end had justified the means, and he had died in an underground parking lot with a bullet through his brain. With his mind wrapped up in Scully and her child, and the impending end of everything he had fought for, Mulder had not even cared at the time. He had driven away leaving Skinner to deal with the body. It had taken Mulder months before he registered the enormity of that loss to both humanity and to him; months before he stopped to consider all that Alex Krycek could have been, all they could have accomplished together and to recognize how much Alex had loved him in return.
After that, nothing had seemed right anymore.
The saddest part was that he could have come to love Jerome had he met him first but all his passion was locked up in the memory of Alex Krycek. Beautiful Alex who had wanted to die in that parking lot, for why else would he have left himself so exposed? Why would he have reached for his gun knowing Skinner hated him and would shoot to kill? He'd imagined Alex once, when they put him on trial but it wasn't the same as having the real man standing in front of him, of having Alex's breath warm on his face as he leaned in to kiss him, restoring his faith.
"He looked like you but..." But he wasn't you except, possibly, at the beginning, he added silently before forcing another grin.
"But?" Jerome's forehead crinkled in that familiar way, with a line deepening between his wide-spaced green eyes, when he realized Mulder did not intend to say anything more.
"This breakthrough?" Mulder changed the subject, bringing it back to humanity's latest dilemma.
"The biochemists are working on a toxin that will affect only Mothra and the moth-like creatures they originally came from."
"Like myxomatosis for space moths."
"Exactly," Jerome breathed softly, and Mulder's gut clenched at the familiarity of the softly-spoken tone, knowing he was tormenting himself with his memories of Alex in what had to be the weirdest form of masochism.
"When do they plan on testing it?"
"Soon." He shook his head. "Just wish there was more time. Perhaps we could have created a magic bullet to attack the Mothra DNA and reset them back to human. Instead..."
Jerome trailed off but Mulder could guess at the unspoken words and had no answer to them. The toxin would wipe out all of them. None of the mutated humans could be saved. He pursed his lips, understanding the grief Jerome must be feeling, knowing he felt the weight of all the deaths upon his shoulders. It had been Jerome's call as chief medical physician to ensure Collins was placed into isolation the moment they suspected something was wrong with the man. Instead, the first of the space moths had incubated inside Collins and then escaped, starting the chain of events that had led to this world-wide disaster but Mulder knew that few could have anticipated these life forms existing in a hibernation state in the depths of space for perhaps countless millennia and then finding Earth an ideal hatching ground. He was one of the few that could believe in the seemingly impossible, aware of the existence of other creatures that had survived the harshest conditions before slithering into a human host. The Black Oiliens had arrived back on Earth within the Tunguskan meteor, reawakening their brethren from a deep slumber that had lasted millions of years.
Alex had been instrumental in holding them back, and in defeating them, and he would forever remain an unsung hero except in Mulder's heart and mind. Perhaps Jerome would find a different place in the history books - if humanity survived.
The test was only a partial success. It seemed callous but they had waited until Kellett's body was consumed by the moth creatures hatching inside him and then tested the toxin on the emerging creatures, watching as they withered and died immediately. However, the toxin had little impact on the Mothra, with the half-human, half-insectoid mutations seemingly protected by their human DNA. Jerome knew that unless the Mothra could breed among themselves, missing out the moth step of the process, then they would die out as a species but humanity would have been wiped out long before then.
With too little time remaining, it was the end of the world as they knew it.
They released the toxin into the air above every major city anyway, aware that it bought humanity nothing but a little extra time. Outside of the US, the media reports became sporadic as each country contracted into smaller and smaller safe zones. Images of flame throwers burning Mothra by the hundreds were interspersed with pleas for families to let go of family members going through mutation. Jerome's thoughts returned to the camp outside the safe zone and to the screams and gunshots that started after dark when the Mothra were most active, wondering how many had died or begun the short process into Mothra that night alone.
Feeling the heavy weight of failure, Jerome stripped down to his boxers and collapsed onto his bed, staring up at the ceiling where an ordinary Earth moth was flitting around the single light source. Unable to stand it any more, he pushed up and crushed it in his hand feeling a twinge of guilt at killing an innocent creature. He slumped back down on his bed and let his thoughts drift back over the past few months, barely holding the despair at bay.
A soft knock on the door pulled his attention back and he cleared his throat before giving permission for whoever it was to enter, and sitting up when Fox Mulder entered his room. He watched as the former FBI agent shut the door behind him and took the few steps needed to reach the bed. Without preamble, Mulder loosened his tie and draped it over the nearby chair before removing his jacket. Jerome watched as Mulder slowly undressed, no longer caring that he was not he person Mulder truly wanted.
Once Mulder was naked, he sat down beside Jerome and ran his hands over Jerome's chest, fingertips stroking over a nipple to bring it to a peak as delicious sensations sang through his otherwise numb body. Jerome shuddered as Mulder's soft lips replaced his fingers, arching up into the almost tender caress as a wicked tongue licked over the sensitive nub. A hand drifted down his body, palm warm against Jerome's cool flesh and Jerome closed his eyes, throwing back his head as those agile fingers stripped the boxers from his body before they wrapped around his hardened cock. A few firm strokes had him thrusting into the warm hand; a few flicks of Mulder's thumb over the sensitive head and a slight twist at the top of each stroke had him murmuring Mulder's name, low and needy, breath almost hissing between his teeth as the gentle assault continued. He felt a greased finger push inside, stroking deeply and in perfect rhythm to the hand on his cock. It felt so good. So very good. A cry caught in his throat as one last stroke pulled him over the edge, the scent of his release filling the air even as it splattered over Mulder's hand and across Jerome's belly. He sighed as the last shudders raced through him, limbs heavy and unresisting as Mulder pushed back his knees, and pressed against his loosened hole.
Jerome gasped as Mulder breached his body, pushing through the ring of barely loosened muscle. It hurt and yet it felt perfect, the burning pain of abused muscle a reminder that he still lived, and that while he lived there was still hope. He lay unresisting as Mulder thrust deep into his body, accepting the feverish kisses, licks and bites on his exposed throat as Mulder plundered his ass. Pain and pleasure merged as Mulder changed the tempo of his thrusts, over and over, until he was drawing out only sparks of pleasure from Jerome's body, almost torturing him with the promise of another release. Mulder took himself to the edge again and again, his expression pained every time he stopped, every time he willed his impending release back under control. He seemed to be waiting for Jerome to be ready once more, his hand gently stroking the half-softened column of Jerome's cock even as his own cock brushed over that sensitive place inside Jerome's ass. Another couple of erratic thrusts sent more sensations skittering through Jerome, the hard nip of teeth over a nipple had him gasping as he hardened in Mulder's hand.
"Want to feel you come while I'm inside you," Mulder whispered, finally confirming the fractured thoughts that were racing haphazardly through Jerome's mind.
Another few strokes and Mulder had what he wanted, the intensity of the Jerome's climax tensing every muscle in his body, clamping down hard around the cock buried deep in his ass. He cried out this time, unable to catch the sound in his throat but so grateful that it was muffled against Mulder's sweaty body. Several almost brutal thrusts rocked into Jerome, shoving him along the bed and smacking his head against the headboard but he didn't care as he rode out the exquisite pleasure before slumping with Mulder heavy and panting collapsing over his chest, his cock still buried deep within Jerome.
Afterwards, they lay in a tangle of limbs, bodies thrumming from the pleasure that had liquefied their bones.
"Why?" Jerome asked softly, even though he dreaded the answer.
Mulder gave him a lazy grin. "Because you're everything he should have been."
"But I'm not him...and I never want to be even if I could change."
There was no second breakthrough, only hope for the future that came from an unexpected source. Unexpected because according to Mulder the man standing before them was dead. He was also the spitting image of Jerome, right down to the frown line between his narrowed green eyes. His head canted slightly as he appraised Jerome, a small smile playing about his lips as calculating eyes drifted down the length of Jerome's body before returning to his face.
"You're the original," he stated cryptically before dismissing Jerome to focus on the stunned man standing beside Jerome.
"Alex?" Mulder croaked, and Jerome knew without ever looking into Mulder's eyes that he had already lost him to this hard and dangerous looking version of himself.
Part of Jerome wanted to fight back, recalling their single night of passion and wanting more, and yet a greater part of him recognized that both of these men were damaged. Perhaps together they could heal each other because Jerome knew, instinctively, that he would never have been enough for Mulder. His body might mirror that of the stranger, of Alex, but their personalities were a lifetime's experiences apart. He saw Alex's eyes widen slightly as realization swept through his clone, knowing Alex could see the need and want in Mulder's eyes. For a moment, Jerome could almost read Alex's mind, seeing a reflection of that desire focused back as if Alex and Mulder were the only two people left in the room, and then Alex looked away.
"My...friends can't help us eradicate the mutants..."
"Mothra," Mulder stated solemnly and Alex's lips quirked into a sad smile, making Jerome wonder if he had a similar love for old Japanese monster-of-the-week films as him, except Jerome never wanted to see another monster film after this. Reality was terrible enough.
"...but they can take what's left of humanity to safety."
Jerome was both intrigued and confused by this statement, wondering where on Earth they could survive but Mulder merely nodded, with eyes bright with bitterness and his lips a tight line before he spoke softly. "Looks like the Colonists get the planet after all."
Alex glanced at Mulder and gave a secret yet bitter smile before turning to Jerome. "You don't think these things just came from nowhere."
"They came from a small meteorite shower that struck the space shuttle Oklahoma..."
"And of all the planets in all the galaxies in all the universe, this shower just happened to be passing this world?"
Jerome looked away because, put like that, the chances of that happening were astronomical but it had happened, and as much as Jerome would like to have someone or something else to blame for the disaster, he knew it lay squarely on him. He looked back as he felt something solid drop onto his shoulder, eyes widening as he had not noticed the prosthetic but Mulder's words about one-armed men suddenly made sense. He wondered if Alex had lost his arm in Tunguska but further thoughts were pushed aside when he looked deep into eyes that were almost the mirror to his.
"The Colonists are an alien life form that has been preparing this world for colonization for over fifty years. We came so close to defeating them." Alex looked away but not before Jerome saw the grief in his eyes.
"I don't understand. If these...colonists have the planet then...?"
"Where do we go?" Alex raised his eyes to the sky and, instinctively, Jerome looked up too, his mouth falling open in utter shock as a large circular mass slowly blocked out the sun.
"Other ships will be picking up humans in other countries. They'll try to save as many as possible but at least five billion, closer to six, just went the way of the dinosaur." He gave a sardonic smile. "I know what you're thinking...but you weren't to blame."
Two weeks later, Alex looked around at the numbed and shocked refugees as they were taken onboard the great ship with what few possessions they could hold and led towards the cryogenic freezer units. He knew there were others who were more afraid of the aliens than of the Mothra, caught between two uncertain futures and preferring 'the devil they knew'. These were the same people who refused to leave their homes when hurricanes and earthquakes struck and Alex hoped that a good number of them could be persuaded to take a chance on their alien benefactors before it was too late. Yet he could understand their paranoia as he had lived in the dark shadows all of his life. It had not helped that rumors had spread through the refugee camps, of the ships being huge refrigerated larders filled with humans for food. A wry smile twisted Alex's lips as, two years ago, that would have been the truth with the Colonists collecting humans as incubators for more of their kind. Now, those same ships were the key to their survival, keeping them in storage while the great ships traveled across the vast reaches of space to a new home where they could begin again. This journey would take at least forty years but Alex did not intend to make use of the cryogenics. A smaller number of humans would remain awake to look after the sleepers and prepare for their future.
He had to smile at the coincidence, recalling biblical references to the Israelites, led by Moses, remaining in exile for forty years. Now he had to wonder if that story was history or prophesy.
He snorted softly in derision. Maybe the plague of Mothra and the flight from Earth would fall into the same kind of religious mythology after thousands of years. Technically, he could still be around to witness it.
Looking at Jerome Horne, he finally had his proof that he was not the original. He had always suspected that he was a cloned human incubated in one of the tanks within the Consortium. He had memories of a childhood but now he knew it was partially Horne's childhood with the rest taken from other sources to make it fit better with the new identity given to him.
Alex rolled his shoulders, aware that with Jerome Horne among the survivors the possibility of having a new body cloned with all limbs intact was within his grasp. His own DNA was not considered reliable enough for cloning as the process was not exact, introducing small anomalies that could make his new body non-viable. Using Horne's DNA would reduce substantially the probability of a genetic disorder being introduced during the process. Plus he did not have to stop with one cloned body. Other clones could be made at the same time that could be stored, empty of personality and life, until he needed a new body. Or better yet, he could take advantage of the Colonist technology to create a body that was self-regenerating.
Except, he would have to persuade Mulder to do the same as Alex could not imagine a universe without Mulder close by, and preferably by his side. He needed Mulder more than he needed air to breathe.
The Consortium had tried to condition him from the start and Alex took a lot of pride in knowing he was a failure in their eyes. He had broken through their conditioning, questioning their actions, and all because of Fox Mulder.
Mulder was his first assignment and no one could have anticipated his reaction to being with the often charismatic, handsome and highly intelligent man. He had fallen for him from the moment he stood in front of Mulder's desk all those years ago and stared into those incredible chameleon eyes. The laconic air might have fooled many but Mulder had fascinated him from the start with his eidetic memory and his ability to tap into it, producing the most amazing theories that invariably turned out correct.
Betraying Mulder had been one of the hardest decisions of his life. Even so, he had no regrets over killing Bill Mulder. Mulder's father had made plans to sacrifice his son in order to save his own miserable hide, just as he had already sacrificed Mulder's sister, Samantha. Years later, the reason became clear when Spender revealed the love affair that had culminated in the birth of Fox Mulder. Alex should have guessed that Fox was not Bill Mulder's biological son, adding one more piece to the jigsaw puzzle that was slowly building into a terrible vision for mankind. Eventually, Alex had seen too much of the picture, helped along by the Englishman who took him under his wing after Tunguska and showed him how far the Consortium would go to save their own lives at the expense of everyone else on the planet.
Faking his death at Skinner's hand had been one of the easier decisions. He had already set it up so Skinner hated him with an intensity that would ensure he reacted exactly how Alex wanted, given the right set of circumstances. Alex knew exactly which buttons to press to force Skinner to pull the trigger. He knew he could not die, not even from a bullet through the brain. That particular piece of information had come to him during his incarceration in the silo following the Piper Maru incident. A normal human would have died from dehydration and starvation long before that military group snuck into the silo complex seeking weapons, and found only him. Later Alex learned that he was a prototype for the super-soldiers, one that could survive and even regenerate from any injury - eventually - though all the research to that point had been focused on keeping his brain alive and in working order. The feeling among the Consortium scientists were that they could always clone a new body and re-house his brain in it, but only if his brain was intact. Later 'models' had improved efficiency for regeneration, having more in common with the Black Oilien than with humans.
Movement caught his eye and he turned to see Skinner standing at the end of the corridor as if conjured up by his memories. They stared at each other for several long seconds before Skinner turned and walked away. Alex cursed softly under his breath. He ought to have realized Skinner would be brought onboard this ship along with the thousands of other refugees from the Washington safe zone. His first thought was that this could be a problem but Skinner had not looked at him with cold fury. If anything, he seemed subdued perhaps even contrite, which seemed impossible but then so many impossible things had happened to all of them over the past few years.
Any further thoughts were sidetracked when Mulder approached him, his solemn expression brightening fractionally when he saw Alex. Before Mulder could join him, Alex felt the still slightly intrusive thoughts of one of their alien benefactors calling to him. He answered carefully, knowing he had little choice but to concede to their request to leave the planet. Alex had hoped for a little more time to persuade those who had chosen to remain behind in some misbegotten belief that they could hold back the Mothra. Mulder noticed his distraction and raised an eyebrow.
The thrum of the great engines answered for Alex but he still stated what should have been obvious to both of them.
"It's time to leave."
Mulder looked perturbed. "What about all the others?"
"We can't help them. There's no time. The Mothra have breached the safe zone in dozens of places. They're advancing on the ship."
Mulder looked as though he wanted to argue further but then his eyes dropped in resignation; Alex hated seeing him look so powerless. He was used to the vibrant Mulder who argued every point and came up with brilliant solutions to every problem but, for once, Alex knew there was no other solution. Logistics alone decreed that they could not save everyone but he had hoped they could have filled all of the hundred thousand cryogenic units but 87 percent would have to be enough.
Along with the other seven ships hovering over the few remaining safe zones on the planet, there ought to be sufficient genetic diversity to ensure the survival and continuance of the human race.
With mixed feelings, he moved through the winding corridors towards the control center, taking comfort from the sleeping humans lining the walls and from the quiet footsteps following on behind him; Mulder's footsteps.
Seeing Alex Krycek had shocked Skinner even though he had learned to believe in the impossible. Yet, strangely, he felt no anger at seeing him, having exorcised that raging part of him when he pulled the trigger back in the underground parking lot. Following the shooting, he had spent many a sleepless night wondering when someone would blackmail him over the killing as Krycek's body had disappeared before he could make a report. All that was left was the remnants of blood, gore, and shards of bone from the exit wound, staining the ground where Krycek had fallen.
It was not a righteous shooting.
Since that day, his mind had replayed those last few minutes over and over. He knew he could have stepped over and kicked the gun aside because Krycek had no means of snatching it up, not with the cumbersome prosthetic. Instead, he had shot to kill, with his desire to see the end of the man responsible for so much horror in all their lives. Except Krycek had never done anything without a reason. Every deed, no matter how nefarious it might have seemed at the time, eventually led to good, and not just for him, Scully and Mulder but for everyone on the planet. Even now, with every reason to hate humanity for the pain and suffering inflicted upon him, Krycek had reached out to the alien rebels and renewed hope for the future.
Part of him wondered what kind of person Krycek would have been if he had not fallen foul of Spender and the old men of the Consortium. Certainly, the fresh-faced, green FBI agent who had requested an assignment with Mulder all those years ago had both intrigued and enthralled Skinner. The bright green eyes and naļve smile, filled with excitement and promise, had made Skinner feel jaded at the time.
Skinner grunted as he turned the corner and walked straight into another person coming in the opposite direction, his hands reaching out to steady the other man.
"Excuse..." His apology froze upon his lips as he took in the wide-spaced green eyes and sinfully long dark lashes on a handsome but so familiar face, wondering how Krycek managed to get ahead of him. Only then did he notice that both of the arms he held in his grip were flesh and blood; this was not Alex Krycek. Even without the hard plastic prosthetic, Skinner recognized something more peaceful about this man that spoke of a life that had not been spent in subterfuge, skulking in dark alleys.
Before he had the chance to say another word, Skinner felt the deep thrum of engines firing up, reverberating through the metal corridors of the ship.
"I'd hoped we'd have more time to persuade the others," the Krycek-look-alike stated softly, his eyes now shadowed with grief.
Skinner nodded, belatedly realizing that he was still holding onto the other man's arms. He let go and took a step back.
"I guess you're one of the watchers."
Skinner nodded. While the vast majority of humans slept through the long journey, ten people would take it in turns to watch over them. After a few years they would awaken the second group of ten and once another few years had passed by, they in turn would awaken a further set that would complete the circle and awaken the first set when the time came. And so it would go on until they reached the new world.
As an Assistant Director to the FBI, Skinner had made a case for his inclusion in this first set of watchers. Though others could claim a greater right, having Fox Mulder on his side had given him the leverage to get what he wanted, except he had not realized until just a few moments ago that Mulder's authority came through Alex Krycek.
The man held out a hand, a tiny smile playing about his lips. "Dr. Jerome Horne. I'm a watcher too."
"Twins?" Skinner had to ask because the likeness was uncanny.
"Clones...except I'm informed I'm the original."
Skinner smiled as he recalled wondering what Alex Krycek would have been like without the Consortium. Perhaps he was about to find out.
Over the long days and nights that followed, Jerome watched Mulder while Mulder watched Alex, seeing them dance around each other because neither had enough courage to take a step forward and reveal what they truly wanted from the other. He knew Mulder's approach to him had been one of desperation, knowing that Mulder did not care enough about him to fear rejection but it was different with Alex. Alex was the one Mulder wanted with every fiber of his being.
Jerome knew he was involved in his own courtship dance with Walter Skinner. He had seen the way Skinner watched him, knowing he was being compared favorably with Alex; perhaps more favorably because there seemed to be some history between Skinner and Alex that had left its mark on both men. Tonight he planned to do something about that but first; he needed to speak to Alex.
He found Alex in the control room studying the navigation controls. Jerome had a feeling that Alex liked to know how everything worked just in case something ever went wrong. As always, Mulder was hovering nearby, throwing out the occasional dry remark that said everything and nothing. Yet Jerome knew that Mulder was every bit as paranoid as Alex, gleaning every scrap of information possible and storing it away in that incredible photographic mind. Between the two of them, Jerome bet they would learn how to fly this ship within a few weeks.
He looked up at the navigation charts and saw the images of the other great ships flying in formation with them. He still found it hard to believe that they had been forced to flee from the planet that had given birth to the human race but at least he had started to come to terms with the role he had played in their forced exodus. Alex was right. It had all been too much of a coincidence once he knew of the Colonists and their insidious plans to take over the planet, killing every human eventually. In truth, Jerome felt worse for Alex, Mulder and Skinner as they had thought the war was over with humanity victorious. His own battle with aliens had stretched on but a few months but he could see the battle fatigue in some of those chosen to be watchers. All of them seemed to know something about the conspiracy but none seemed as weary as Alex. His body was battered and mutilated, his spirit almost broken but Jerome knew how to fix both of those problems.
He had communicated with the aliens taking them to safety, asking them about the clone procedure and had set in motion the creation of a new body for Alex. It was the least Jerome could offer a man who had put the whole world before his own needs.
As for his spirit, only Mulder could heal that.
Keeping his voice low, Jerome leaned in close to Alex. "He slept with me because you were dead, and I reminded him of you."
Alex's eyes widened, with myriad emotions swirling in the green depths. Jealousy and pleasure vied for control, anger and love flashed across his expressive features along with, finally, the realization of what Jerome's words entailed. Mulder had slept with Jerome because he could not have the man he wanted, because he had wanted Alex. Only Alex.
A new emotion flooded his eyes - joy.
Alex nodded once and moved away, his eyes flitting across the control room to where Mulder stood, seemingly oblivious to everyone around him, though Jerome knew far better. With a last backward glance, Jerome left the room. What happened next was between the two of them but Jerome had a feeling that this was one time when there would be a happy ever after.
As he walked into the large room set aside for the watchers, Jerome saw Skinner's flicker of interest, and he smiled.
It had taken the loss of their world to bring them together. Jerome knew the nightmare of the past months would remain with him for a long time to come but, for the first time since the fall of night for humanity, Jerome could see the shimmer of light on the horizon that promised a new day would dawn.
As Skinner turned and offered him a gentle, beckoning smile, Jerome knew that the hope-filled horizon was not just for the human race, but for him too.