The phone number Sam had given him was a D.C. area code, so Neil decided to drive for awhile before he made the call. Eventually, he stopped at a rest-stop and his first thought was calling his wife.
If they had figured out who he was, that he was involved in this, it could be a compromising thing to do. But not calling her didn’t seem like an option. In the end, he paid some guy twenty bucks to use his cell-phone, in case whoever it was had thought of monitoring all the phones at state rest-stops.
“Where are you?” Alice asked him as soon as he said ‘hello’. “I tried calling your cell and some half-asleep man answered it. He said he found it in a trash can,” and she whispered the last bit, like it was a disgraceful secret she was hiding from the neighbors.
“I had to throw it out,” he told her but didn’t elaborate any more. “Listen, I’m okay, but I can’t come home right now and I need you to do something for me.”
“Of course,” and Alice sounded calm and reserved, which could only mean that he did not sound calm and reserved in the slightest - they balanced each other like that.
“I need you to take the kids up to that place in the mountains we stayed that one time. Just for a few days, until I can come get you.”
“You want us to go?” she asked, incredulous. “What about the kids’ school and my job? I have that charity event for the women’s shelter in two days, Neil. You can’t be serious?”
“Do I ever ask you to do irrational, spur of the moment things? Ever?”
“No.” It was simple and he knew she understood.
“Don’t call anyone…I’m sorry, hon, but not your friends or the neighbors or even family. There are too many people to call and every second could put you and the kids in danger. They may already know who you are. Just pack what you need, stock up on food supplies and just…go. Please, just go.” It was a plea and it was all he could do for her now.
“We’ll go,” she said softly. “But you better come for us. Dammit, Neil, you better come for us.”
“I promise. I’ll come for you.”
Neither of them said ‘I love you,’ because they both already knew.
He called the number on the business card just after dinner, afraid to wait too long, to drive all the way to D.C. if it turned out these people, these associates of Sam’s couldn’t help him. He wasn’t sure what he would do then. He could go to any number of scientist friends of his own but the image of Dr. Linden crumpling to ground made him wary of contacting someone he knew, putting them in danger like that.
The phone rang three times and then an odd clicking noise occurred and the line went dead. Neil dialed again and this time it only rang once before a man with a Chinese accent said, “Ling Laundry. We wash.”
“Oh, uh,” and he wasn’t sure what to say because apparently Sam had given him the number of a Chinese dry cleaner. “I think I have the wrong number.”
“You no need wash?” the man asked.
Neil took in a deep breath, thought about Sam swinging himself up into the semi-truck with Jenna and riding off, placing the fate of the world in Neil’s hands.
“I’m sorry. My friend, Sam Marion, gave me this number. He said you could help me with a spot of trouble.”
“Sam doesn’t give out this number,” the voice said and now the accent was gone, replaced by a Midwest American man with a slight growl of disbelief.
“We found something.”
“Then why isn’t Sam calling us?”
“He’s been compromised.”
There was a long pause and Neil thought maybe the man had hung up on him.
And then, “How soon can you be in D.C.?”
Neil waited on a park bench in the chilly early morning air. The moon was still out when he had rolled into D.C. but now the sun was just beginning to creep up, splashing the world with warmth and color.
Neil had been sitting in the exact spot that the man had told him to wait, but so far his only company had been a raccoon and a man selling meth, which unfortunately Neil knew because the man offered to sell him some. He was starting to wonder if anyone was actually coming; if this guy had been playing him, if he wasn’t as loyal as Sam thought he was, if whoever it was had gotten to him already.
He pulled his wallet out of his back pants pocket and opened it, reaching in for the only family photo he had in there. His son had just turned eight last month and had started on a pee-wee basketball team. His daughter was coming up on five and he wondered if she had insisted her mother pack every one of her tutus when they fled the house.
He smiled, bittersweet at the thought, and ran his finger along the picture of his wife’s beautiful shining face, her delighted look at whatever ridiculous thing Neil had said right before the camera had clicked.
He put the photo back in his wallet.
Neil had just started to stand up, give up on this route all together, sure no one was coming, when a blue van pulled up right in front of him. The side door slid open and a man stuck his head out. He was short, slightly balding and wearing large glasses.
And he was staring at Neil with something akin to shock.
It only lasted a second, maybe less, and then the man was motioning him into the van. “Hurry up, get in here,” he hissed, as if there were anyone around to hear him.
Neil paused, hesitated slightly at getting inside the vehicle. He could hear the police officer in his head saying, “He was last seen getting into a suspicious blue van with an unsavory looking fellow at the park in the early morning hours. The only eyewitness is a less than reputable meth dealer.”
“Hey!” the man barked at him and now the whispering hiss was gone. “If you want our help, get in the goddamn van.”
Neil nodded, grabbed his sweater from the park bench and climbed into the van. The door slid shut with a resounding ‘crack’.
They drove for a half hour or so, Neil sitting on the floor of the van amidst stacks of newspaper. He tentatively touched the papers but didn’t pick them up, too intent on keeping his eyes on the window, trying to figure as much information about where he was headed as he could.
There were two other men in the vehicle besides the short man who had beckoned him inside; a man with long blonde hair, glasses and a pointed nose was driving the van and a well-dressed man with a neatly manicured beard was sitting next to him, watching Neil with a mixture of suspicion and kindness.
Eventually they stopped outside what looked like a warehouse and the bearded man jumped out and went about opening the large doors. There seemed to be a complicated security system and Neil couldn’t be sure from his obstructed view but there was quite possibly a retina scanner.
Once the van pulled inside, Neil followed them to another sliding door, smaller now, and watched as they went through the security process again. He noted there were cameras everywhere and though going inside with them made him abnormally nervous, he at least had peace in knowing whoever it was that was chasing him would never get in.
The inside of the building looked as though these people lived here; with a kitchen and a couch and a long table with stacks of papers and computers laid out across it. The men made sure the place was securely locked up before finally turning to him.
“What happened to Sam?” the blonde man asked and he sounded anxious and pained.
“He’s alive,” Neil told them and watched as all three men visibly relaxed. “They knew his face. We couldn’t take any chances, he had to get off the grid.”
“What is it? What did you find that made them come after you?”
“Don’t you even want to know who they are?” Neil asked them. “Don’t you even want to know who I am?”
“We know who you are,” the bearded man told him. “You are Neil deGrasse Tyson, astrophysicist. We are big fans.”
“Normally, anyways,” the shorter man told him, eyebrows drawn together tight. “Right now you are kind of a bearer of bad news. We like Sam. He’s a good informant.”
“An informant for what?” Neil asked, louder this time, taking a step back, unsure of himself now. “Who are you guys?”
The bearded man looked at them all first for confirmation, waited for their slight head nods before answering. “My name is John Byers. These are my associates, Melvin Frohike and Richard Langly. And we are The Lone Gunmen.”
They all stood stock still, staring right at him and it was almost like the room itself was holding its breath.
Then, “What the hell are The Lone Gunmen? Did Sam send me to some goth punk band?”
“You’ve never heard of us?” Langly, the tall blonde, asked in disbelief.
“Ouch,” the shorter man, Frohike, mumbled. “Like a punch to the gut.”
“We’re a newspaper,” Byers exclaimed and picked up a random paper lying on the table and handed it to him.
Sure enough, across the top of the page read, “The Lone Gunmen,” and the article beneath went on to talk about a secret project named Manticore that, from what Neil could grab from a quick skim, was producing some sort of human-animal hybrid super soldier.
“Huh,” Neil said. “That’s interesting.”
“Trust me, we know our stuff,” Frohike told him and grabbed the paper from his hand.
Neil didn’t, of course, trust them. But he did trust Sam; he did trust the boy who had been chased just as he had, who had lost his mentor and boss, who was running for his life now just like Neil.
And Sam trusted these guys, however off-kilter they seemed to Neil.
That was enough was for him.
“Okay, if you know your stuff,” Neil said and pulled the small piece of meteorite from his sweater pocket, “then what do you know about this?”
The three men leaned forward, eyes wide and unblinking.
“What the hell is that?” Frohike asked at last.
“I think you better start from the beginning,” Byers added, while Langly just headed towards the coffee maker.
Neil took a seat on a stool at the table and said, “It all started when I was waiting for The Daily Show to come on.”
“The man in black,” Langly started and Neil just snorted through his nose.
“Man in black…do you know how ridiculous that sounds? This isn’t a movie or a conspiracy novel. This my life!” He pounded his fist on the table, exhaustion leading to frustration, and the breakfast plates from where Frohike had cooked earlier rattled and shook from the weight of it.
“We get that,” Byers said calmly. “And we get how absurd this all seems to you. Alien life forms are not a widely popular belief.”
“No,” Neil told him and pointed a finger at the man, “Aliens I totally believe in. I would never be so egotistical as to think that we are the sole form of life in this universe. It’s the government conspiracy and men in black that I can’t quite get a handle on.”
“Well, you better try,” Langly told him and started clearing the table. “Because they sure as hell have a handle on you now.”
“Tell us about him,” Frohike said and steered the conversation back where it had been, trying to figure out just what had happened out there. “This man in black with the gun, you said he had a glove on one hand and that he spoke some foreign language. Do you know what language?”
“Russian. I think. It sounded like Russian.”
The three men exchanged glances with one another, a silent conversation going on in front of Neil’s eyes.
“We should call him,” Byers said and Frohike just shook his head.
“I think he is stuck working that bank robbery.”
Langly ran his hands through his long blonde hair and fastened a ponytail in place. “That’s the damndest thing I have ever heard. Fox Mulder, working a bank robbery. This is more his kind of job and we need him. The FBI has massive equipment to test this thing out and we are not set-up for it here.”
“Think about what you are saying,” Frohike said, warning creeping into his voice. “You are suggesting we take the only piece of evidence that Krycek and ol’ Smokey haven’t gotten their hands on and walk it right into the FBI building. As if we know who on the inside can be trusted. We have to be smarter than that.”
“But Mulder can…” Langly started and Byers held up his hand.
“Frohike is right. We can trust Mulder and Scully, but no one else. We leave them messages and hope they can come soon. In the meantime, we see what we can find out about this meteor.”
Neil was pretty sure the three men all came to an agreement then, heads all nodding in unison at Byers’ suggestion, but it was hard for him to be sure through the hazy vision and the way his eyelids were drooping shut.
“Man, you need some sleep,” Langly told him. “You can take my bed. In the back,” and he got up to lead the way.
There were three separate bedrooms in the back, small and well-lived in. Langly’s room had a bed, a dresser, two bookcases and all the remaining wall space lined with shelf after shelf of various old vinyl records.
The bed was not very comfortable but the blankets were warm and Neil fell asleep wondering how many Grateful Dead albums there were lining the walls.
He only awakened when Frohike came barging into the room, banging the door against the opposite wall and shouting, “Neil, get up! You have to see this! It’s the fucking apocalypse, man!”
The end times weren’t quite upon them, but it wasn’t looking good.
Neil sat on the couch still wrapped in the quilt from Langly’s bed, a fresh cup of coffee in his hands. On the TV, a reporter was standing at a large crash site, where another meteor had collided with a 747 aircraft just outside of Dallas, Texas.
No survivors had been found yet.
The channel went back to the news station where the anchor began gravely telling the world how this was the seventh meteor to hit ground inside the continental United States in the last four hours. It was the sixty-ninth meteor to hit Earth worldwide as of eight am eastern standard time that morning.
“What time is it now?” Neil asked.
“Almost four,” Byers told him and handed him a plate of chicken strips.
“You should have woken me.”
“We figured you needed the sleep. Besides, we didn’t know at first. We were all a little distracted with the shiny new toy you brought us.”
“What have you figured out?” Neil asked and began eating the offered food.
“Not much,” Frohike told him from the other side of the long table. The computers had been cleared off and replaced with microscopes and chemical sets. “It doesn’t burn, it doesn’t bounce, it isn’t affected by acid, it can’t be shot.”
Neil raised an eyebrow at that last one.
“I tried,” Langly confessed. “The bullet bounced off it and ricocheted into our bowling trophy plaque.”
“We won the division championship last year,” Frohike told him proudly.
“We have discovered one thing,” Byers said and held up an old Wooly Willy toy, the kind with the bald man’s face on it and the tiny slivers of metal incased inside. The magnetic wand that accompanied it was no bigger than a child’s pinky finger but, if applied to the outside of the Wooly Willy board, could be used to direct the shavings of metal in to some sort of hairpiece for the poor man.
“Well, tell me what you’ve discovered then, because it apparently isn’t that they have made toys after the 1950s,” Neil said dryly.
Byers held the small red magnetic wand over the piece of meteorite. Nothing happened at first, but the closer the wand got to the rock, the more it almost seemed to be shaking, rocking back and forth slightly. Neil blinked his eyes, trying to clear his vision and be sure of what he was seeing.
When the magnet was less than an inch from the small silver object, the rock suddenly rose up in the air and clinked its attachment to the child’s play toy.
It was attracted to the magnet. Which meant that some part of it must be metal.
“How did you discover this?” Neil asked, thrilled at this new information, no matter how small it was.
“It was an accident,” Langly said with a little bitter to his voice.
“Langly was dinking around with the toy, waiting for his turn to try a test out on the rock,” Byers explained and then cast dark eyes at his associate, “during which he opted to shoot the damn thing.”
Langly looked almost sheepish at that.
“Frohike got annoyed with him and grabbed the wand out his hand and clink, the rock just suctioned itself right to it.”
“That happen to you a lot?” Neil asked them. “You stumble on things by accident like that?”
“You be surprised how often,” Frohike said dryly.
Neil looked back at the TV screen. Three more meteors had landed across the globe in the last twenty minutes.
The math did not seem to be in their favor.
Neil sighed. “Well boys, I think maybe it’s time we told someone what we know. Don’t you think?”
Rocks were falling from the sky at a steady rate now.
Two hundred and eleven worldwide, at last count.
Neil’s urge to go out and investigate, look at more of these rocks, see if they were the same as the one sitting on the table now, was building rapidly. He was a scientist and scientists study. Of course, that urge was nothing compared to the one that told him to go to his wife and kids - that this was the end.
He didn’t do either of those things though. Instead he sat in a warehouse bunker with three strange men and poked at the rock with far more limited capability than he would have had back at the Space and Science Observatory.
He wondered if Sam and Jenna were safe.
The buzzer rang on the side door and all eyes looked to the security monitor on the wall. A woman stood outside; short, red hair, black power suit and heels to match.
She looked around, back behind where she had come and Neil saw her hand twitch to her gun, hidden under the flaps of her suit coat. She checked her surroundings, then looked up at the camera mounted on the outside of the door.
The look she gave was anything but pleased.
Frohike buzzed her in.
“This had better be serious,” the woman said by way of greeting. “I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but we kind of have a situation going on out there. And people are starting to get restless.”
“Trust me,” Frohike told her and put a reassuring hand on the small of her back. “You’re gonna want to see this.”
But the woman wasn’t listening anymore. Instead she was staring at Neil with a look of anxiety.
“Come here,” she hissed at Frohike and quite literally dragged the man into the corner of the room where Neil could very clearly hear her say, “Tell me you didn’t kidnap Neil deGrasse Tyson.”
“What? No,” Neil said from the couch and stood up. “No, no one kidnapped me. I…well, I got into their van willingly.”
The woman raised her eyebrows at him. “Uh-huh.”
“I did. I have something that I think might be of use. Or, well, I did. I mean, two hundred and eleven meteors have made ground now so the information might not be as important as it seemed yesterday when people were trying to kill me…”
“Krycek and Spender Sr,” Langly cut in, and the woman’s features were suddenly marred with something akin to hate.
“…But I know where the first meteor landed. If that helps,” and he edged closer to her, pulled himself up to his tallest height and stared down at the woman. “If I think you can be trusted, that is.”
“I came into this den of inequity of my own accord,” she told him. “Does that gain me bonus points or strike marks?”
“The judges are still out on that one.”
The woman smiled then and something about it put Neil a little more at ease.
“Special Agent Dana Scully,” she said and held out her hand. “I am a big fan.”
Neil started to laugh, the whole situation suddenly seeming absurd, but then the sound of gunfire echoed out and they all turned to look at the television.
The writing at the bottom of the screen read ‘Detroit, Michigan’ and there were people running, screaming, smoke billowing up from the streets of empty buildings and shattered windows.
Behind that, rising up from the fire, it came.
The not-quite-metal rocks - all about the size of small houses - had risen up, quite literally. They were floating now, ten feet off the ground and moving through the air at an alarming rate. Though really, any rate of movement was alarming, especially since they also seemed to be opening fire as well.
The news screen now read ‘Santa Fe, New Mexico’. The live feed from Detroit had turned to what looked like static but Neil quickly realized was actually smoke billowing out across the city. The news station had cut the feed then and moved to another city where they could clearly see the destruction.
The shooting seemed to be indiscriminate. Much to Neil’s horror, the outcome seemed to be a laser that pierced straight through the target and burned them from the inside out.
People were literally on fire on the streets of Santa Fe.
Scully sat stunned on the couch next to him and Byers had taken his cell-phone into the other room for privacy. Neil supposed he was saying good-bye to his loved ones.
Frohike turned the channel to something local and found that the streets of D.C. had flooded with people, smashing windows of stores and making off with TVs and other goods. One man ran out of a convenience store, arms full of Hostesses cupcakes. A group of young men pulled a woman and her two kids from their car and made off with it and the luggage they had tied to the top. The news feed had a reporter’s voice running over it, but Neil could read the mother’s lips as she screamed, “Just save my babies!” Another imaged showed a man jumping to his death from a fifteen story building and outside of a church, a preacher herded his panicked congregation onto a bus, all clutching bibles to their chests. In a less than reputable neighborhood, cameras caught two men dragging a woman into an alley.
“What the hell is going on out there?” Frohike whispered.
“There is one of those things thirty miles outside the city limits. It’s only a matter of time before it starts shooting and those people know it,” Langly said and his voice was oddly devoid of emotion, like he was shutting himself off for the end.
“I should have gone to my family instead of getting in your van,” Neil said and avoided looking at their eyes. He didn’t need the pity. He pitied himself enough as it was.
“Mulder,” Scully said and Neil realized she was talking into a phone that Byers had handed her, a large satellite phone that must be the only thing he had been able to get a signal on. It seemed everyone was calling their loved ones, but Neil had told his wife to leave hers behind, so no one could trace the GPS.
“Listen, I don’t know where you are, but the streets are a mess and whatever those things are, the one outside the city will be operational soon. I’m at the Lone Gunmen’s but I’m going out there to hook up with the first police unit I find.”
Frohike made a noise of distress that came from deep inside his chest.
“We need to start corralling as many people as we can into underground parking garages,” she said into the phone. “If you get this, I have my phone.”
“And you’re taking the satellite phone too,” Byers told her and the look of gratitude on Scully’s face made Neil want to cry. In all likelihood, this woman was going to her death.
“If you can get here, they have some information that will be helpful and someone who needs to get to whoever can help. Even if that whoever is Spender. Just…just get here, Mulder. And I…I just…” and she choked on it, voice caught in her throat, “Just be safe.”
She hung up the phone and Neil resisted the urge to reach over and comfort her. When she stood up, the other three men descended on her at once and Neil went and busied himself at the kitchen counter, let them have their moment. Then a small hand was on his back and he turned to look at her.
“You don’t have to go out there,” he said but he knew she would. Something about her reminded him so much of his wife and he knew she would never stop trying to save the world.
“When my partner gets here, I need you to trust him like you trusted me. Tell him everything you know. No detail is too small. I can save as many people as I can but this, this is what you can do,” she told him and put the small piece of rock in his hand, curled his fingers around it. “If we make it through this, I’d really like you to sign a copy of your book for me,” she added with a sad smile.
“If we make it through this,” he told her, “I’ll sign my book and pay for dinner.” When he shook her hand, he smiled down at her and added, “Godspeed, Agent Scully. Godspeed.”
He didn’t watch her walk out the door.
The Lone Gunmen were packing ‘go-bags’, stuffing essentials like water and first aid kits and nutrition bars into large black backpacks. Frohike took a photo of the three men - standing in front of what looked like a life-sized version of the Alien from ‘Aliens’ - and removed it from its frame, folding it up and slipping it into the front pocket of his bag. Byers took a framed photo of a blonde woman off the desk in the corner and packed it away in his bag as well.
“We should have made a bag for Scully, in case she gets trapped somewhere,” Langly said then and Byers shook his head.
“With the way the streets are out there, someone would have just snatched it from her. And anyways, you know Scully, she would have just ended up giving all her supplies away to some woman with a kid or something,” he said with fondness.
Neil rubbed at his eyes and watched Langly start making a fourth bag.
“For you,” he said when he caught Neil staring.
“Where is it exactly that you think we are going?” Neil asked him dryly. It was too late to try to get out of the city - the news was reporting that the roads were jammed with out-flowing traffic and people had started abandoning their vehicles, dragging their children and suitcases along the side of the roads heading out of town, opposite from where the alien rock had landed.
And even on foot, it was far too dangerous by now.
Byers cast a sidelong look at the others and then sighed. “Well, we’re not leaving you behind so…there are old tunnels under the city. Early versions of a sewer system and old Cold War shelters and some of them connect with each other. We bought this property because there is a tunnel that comes up in our storage closet and leads to an underground bunker.”
“We’ve done some remodeling,” Frohike added.
“Security-wise,” Langly told him.
“Uh-huh,” Neil replied and sat down hard on the kitchen stool. “In a bunker with the three of you is never where I saw my final days.”
“I think maybe I dreamed this once,” Langly said. “You were definitely there but so was Mila Jovovich, so…yeah,” he faltered when he saw Neil’s expression.
Neil was scrubbing at his face again and he felt hot and sticky and wrong. He picked up a piece of paper on the table and started scribbling, his eyes beginning to blur but whether from the seeping flow of adrenaline or the tears forming there, he wasn’t sure.
If the alien ships stayed in the cities, stayed away from the countryside long enough for the military to make advances against them, there was a chance Neil’s family might be safe. But the odds he would make it out of D.C. itself, did not look good. He never thought he would miss watching his children grow up.
“I need you to do something for me,” he said and his voice sounded rough and odd to his own ears.
“Anything,” Frohike told him plainly. “Whatever you need.”
Neil handed them each a small slip of paper and watched their eyes read the words written there.
“This is where I sent my wife and kids,” he started and then stopped, let himself breath through it before going on. “I know it is a lot to ask, that you probably have loved ones you’ll want to keep safe too, but if anything happens to me…”
“We’ll find them,” Byers told him. “We’ll find them and we’ll keep them safe. I swear it.”
They each folded their slips of paper and put them in their pants pockets.
Neil nodded, hand unconsciously clutching the edge of the table.
“You should go take a shower,” Byers suggested.
On the TV screen, citizens of Dallas, Texas had taken to the streets with shotguns and were firing at the alien spacecrafts - Neil supposed that was what they ought to be calling the meteors now. The bullets were bouncing off the crafts much like Langly’s bullet had done, but it wasn’t stopping the people of Dallas, who kept firing even as their neighbors burned around them.
“That seems an odd thing to do at a time like this,” Neil answered him, eyes flicking away from the TV screen long enough to meet Byers’ own.
“You look exhausted and you haven’t had a shower in days and this may be your last chance. We can finish packing up, be ready to go when you are done.”
“He’s right,” Langly said and Neil followed his eyes to the computer screen where the National Guard were converging on the city. Now that the President was safe, the people of D.C were finally getting some attention. “This may be your last chance.”
“It may be everyone’s last chance,” Neil said and headed towards the bathroom.
He let himself relax in the shower, let the heat and the steam wash over him as his muscles loosened and he pushed the dark thoughts of the outside world and its impending doom from his mind. But when an image of his wife flashed through his mind unbidden, Neil let out a choked-off sob and collapsed to his knees, the water of the shower mixing with his tears as he cried and cried and tasted the salt of it all.
He wished, more than anything, that he just gone to bed that night and never answered the damn phone.
When his sobs subsided at last, he struggled to stand on shaky legs and finished washing himself, rubbing off the sweat and grime of the last few days, the last traces of the dirt from that hillside in Kansas, what felt like a lifetime ago.
There was a knock then and an unsure voice asked, “Dr Tyson?” through a crack in the now slightly open door.
“Uh, yes?” he answered, checking to make sure the shower curtain was drawn tight.
“I just…” and he could tell it was Byers now. “We all thought we’d eat the last of the ice cream. You know, since we can’t really take it with us. It may be all we get for a long while now, if you want to join us.”
Neil smiled that these men, who probably always expected to spend their final days together, would invite him to join them in their last hurrah - even if that last hurrah was just eating the rest of the Rocky Road.
“That would be nice,” he said and he honestly meant it. “Let me just get dressed.”
He waited for the sound of the door clicking shut again before stepping out of the shower and reaching for a towel. He had dried off and had managed to get back into his boxers, when there was another knock on the door, this one much firmer than the one before.
This time a woman’s voice accompanied it, hard and insistent. “Dr. Tyson?” and she pounded on the door once more. “Neil!”
“Yes?” he said and then, “Agent Scully?”
She opened the door with a bang and he only needed to take one look at her face - covered in dirt and sweat, with a streak of blood along her left cheek - to know that things had turned sour very, very quickly.
“Grab your clothes. We have to move,” she said and her voice never wavered, but her hand stayed on her gun the whole time.
“I’ll just…” he stuttered and made to put his pants on.
“Now,” Scully hissed at him and her eyes were huge and wild in the bathroom light.
Neil gathered his clothes into a bundle in his arms and followed after her.
They rounded a corner from the bathroom and stepped into what Neil had thought was a storage room but in fact looked like the ultimate security set-up. There were several monitors on the wall and from what Neil could tell, these guys had cameras on every corner for five blocks. He wasn’t even sure how that was possible.
The Lone Gunmen were in the room, stuffing a few various electronics into their bags and Langly looked over at him with shocked eyes that Neil was sure had very little to do with his current state of undress.
On the security screens, Neil could see five SUVs surrounding the warehouse. Men in SWAT outfits were in a proper formation, guns at the ready and one of them was frying out the Gunmen’s advanced security system with something that Neil was going to categorize as a do-hickey.
Behind the man with the do-hickey stood the only two people not in SWAT outfits; a woman, tall and lean, with shocking red hair and a very tight black outfit and a man, broad shoulders, all muscles peeking out from underneath his black tank top, jeans leading down to a pair of military issued combat boots. He held a crossbow and she held two guns and both looked very comfortable with the weapons in their hands.
The security screens shorted out momentarily and then all the overhead lights flickered and when the monitors came back up, they showed the image of the warehouse doors blowing inwards.
The woman said something, clipped and direct, and the SWAT team moved in.
“Follow me,” Frohike said and Neil found himself running after the man, clutching his pile of clothes to his chest.
They went into the very back of the building and Langly and Byers moved a large crate off to one side and there, underneath where the crate had been sitting, was a trapdoor in the floor. Frohike yanked it open and inside all Neil could see was a deep dark nothing.
The whole building shook then and a loud echoing boom rang in Neil’s ears.
“Who the hell are they that they breeched our security?!” Langly asked and he sounded beyond frightened.
Neil could hear the sounds of voices and footsteps coming down the hall towards them. Whoever they were, they were in the building now.
“Go,” Frohike hissed and Byers slid down into the open hatchway and then there was the sound of his feet clanging against a ladder.
Byers’ head disappeared from sight.
“You go next,” Frohike demanded of Neil and he wanted to protest, wanted to say Scully should go next, but the federal agent had already moved her body between Neil and the open entryway, her gun at the ready.
“Go!” Scully shouted as the SWAT unit rushed into the room.
Neil dropped his pile of clothes on the floor and crouched down, hand out to brace himself.
Then there was a hissing noise and something flew through the air from overhead. The whole room lit up, bright blue and electric, and everything crackled around them.
Agent Scully hit the floor with a thud, her body seizing up. That’s when Neil noticed it - the arrow sticking out of her left leg. It was the arrow that was crackling, sending waves of electricity through Scully’s body like a taser.
Her gun fell to the floor.
“Scully!” Frohike cried and released his grip on the trapdoor, shutting Byers down there, alone in the darkness.
Frohike rushed to Scully’s side and reached for her, but Scully gurgled out a strangled noise and then, clear and sharp, the word ‘go’.
Frohike took a deep shuddering breath and looked up, met Neil’s eyes and said, “I hope you find your family,” before diving for Scully’s gun. Neil spun and lunged for the hatch, as Langly yanked it open again.
And then, through the rushing in his ears, Neil heard the very distinct sound of a gun cocking and a shot ringing out, but only the look on Langly’s face told him who had been hit.
Scully’s gun skittered across the floor.
The man in the sleeveless shirt dropped down from above - though where he had been perched Neil couldn’t tell - and cocked his head at Neil.
“Adam,” he barked, without looking away from Neil’s face, “get the agent!” It was an order, clear and simple and very military in style and Neil saw a larger man; 6’4”, 250 pounds of muscles and broad shoulders, drop down next to Scully and pull the still crackling arrow from her leg.
“Dr. Neil deGrasse Tyson?” a voice asked then and Neil turned his head slowly and saw the red-headed woman pointing her gun directly at him. “I’m going to need you to get dressed now.”
Neil knew - it was not a request.
Part Three can be found here.