This story was written...oh, I dunno. Ages ago. It's just taken me a long time to get it onto the Webpage. I've tried to create the most physically repulsive bad guy I could think of. I hope you like her :) Aside from that, the Characters Mulder, Scully and Skinner are the property of Chris Carter and 1013 Productions and have been used without permission, which doesn't particularly worry me since they're never likely to read anything I've written.

If you like my story, I'd love to hear from you. *:) amanda

Abduction cases were always the worst. More than anything, Scully hated what they did to her partner. When she'd first got news of this one, she'd actually gone into Assistant Director Skinner's office and asked him...begged him, not to put them on the case.

Skinner seemed almost amused by her request, "You've come a little late, Agent Scully."

Scully knew immediately what he was going to say next, "Mulder's already been here, hasn't he?"

"..and I gave him the go ahead. If I had realised this kind of case was causing you so much stress, I would have said no."

"It isn't me that has trouble with the abduction cases, sir," she said quietly.

The abductions did to Mulder what drink did to an alcoholic. They were bad for him. They hurt him. But he just couldn't leave them alone. He was always convinced that this one would be the big one. This one would contain the answer. This one would take him where he wanted to go, to the holy grail of abductions; a solution to the enigma of his sister's disappearance.Scully slumped, dawdling back to the office she shared with Mulder in the basement.Skinner's acquiescence to Mulder's stupid request seemed like a betrayal. She knew that Skinner knew how much these cases hurt Mulder. Skinner also knew damn well that Mulder was dogged and unrelenting in solving cases like this, and that Scully would always be around to pick up the pieces.

Their office smelled like dust. Mulder had been rummaging around in some of the older, grubbier files. He was casting about, delving through drawers when Scully came in. He didn't even look up, "Pack your bags, Scully we're going to Vermont."

"I know," she said.

This time he did look up. His glasses were askew on his nose and there was a smudge of dust on his cheek, "What'samatter?"

"Nothing Mulder," she flashed him a brief, lame little smile, "Just planning what I'm going to pack."

It might have been the kind of case that would have required Mulder's expertise in creating psychological profiles, even if he hadn't volunteered his services. The local police were baffled by the array of people who had vanished and were relieved to get a little outside help. In less than a week at least five people had vanished, apparently into thin air. It was the sort of weird occurrence that had the people in the area locking their doors and pulling down their blinds, afraid to go out after dark. The fact that two of the people had certainly disappeared when the sun was high in the sky only increased their panic.

Mulder frowned at the police chief's brief, "At least five? Do you mean five or more than five?"

Hopkins shrugged, "We're not sure about Elsie," he said, "Elsie was...a local character, she spent a lot of time fossicking about town...you know. Sometimes we wouldn't see her for a while, and then she'd turn up, larger than life and louder than ever..." he smiled apologetically.

"What you're saying is that Elsie was a mentally ill derelict, and you don't really want to add her to your list because you think she may have wandered off into the woods to die," suggested Scully bluntly.

Hopkins looked slightly taken aback, "Agent Scully, Elsie was a harmless old woman who lived by her own rules and never bothered anyone. Certainly it wasn't the kind of lifestyle most of us would choose, but she did no more harm than an old cat, and I don't feel it was my place to insist that she be locked away in an institution somewhere. For the most part we do a good job of looking after t he folk who live about here."

They went over and over the list of victims and the thin collection of leads and suggestions the police had come up with. Elsie Hooper, in her late seventies, had last been seen rummaging in a rubbish bin at midday in the carpark at Mc Donalds. Glenda Shanahan, 35 and divorced had said goodbye to her colleagues at St Agnes's nursing home at 10 p.m and didn't show up the next afternoon for work. Pete Rocca, 18, never came home from basketball practice which he finished at 8:30 at night. Ten year old Sarah Gooding had taken her pocket money and her bicycle. She bought some packets of cookies at Mc Donalds, but never made it to her friend's house where she was going to share them. A forty seven year old travelling salesman called Sam Rosken disappeared between his motel room in town and his next port of call. They found his car parked legally by the side of the road. Twenty five year old Robbie Benner left work early and never made it home to his wife.

There were interviews with families. Benner's wife was clearly heartbroken by his disappearance. She accepted the possibility that her husband may have walked out on her, though found it unlikely. If the FBI weren't going to believe in something as abstract as his love for her, there was the black and white evidence of untouched bank accounts. If he was going to leave home, he'd need the funds.

Sarah's parents were distraught, pleading with Mulder and Scully to do something. Begging them to "get" the person who had taken their little girl. Offered to sell their house if it was a ransom that was required. The interview was eating at Mulder, he seemed to be able to feel the need coming from these people, though very little of it showed beneath his icy demeanour.

"We'll do what we can," was all he said as they left. Scully could see he was shaken. This one was a bit close to home. There was even an older brother.

Pete Rocca's parents insisted he was a good boy, a little wild but really a good boy at heart. They didn't seem overly concerned with his disappearance and refused to put him in the same category as the other missing people. Pete sometimes needed to satisfy a wanderlust, they said. Mulder wondered about the different possible interpretations of "good".

Mulder and Scully climbed back into the car and Mulder said, "Mc Donalds."

"It's too early for lunch, Mulder."

"We're not going there for the food, Scully."

"Oh, just the playground?"

They rolled up to the Mc Donalds on the highway. It probably wasn't the greatest advertisement for fast food franchises, at ten thirty in the morning the place was dead. A single slow-moving, moonfaced man mopped his way across the floor while two teenagers smiled through their pimples at Mulder and Scully, eager to serve.

Mulder and Scully flashed their FBI badges at the staff and had the immediate attention of everyone except the man with the mop.

"We want you to look at some pictures for us," said Mulder. The smiling manager and smiling staff nodded, eager to please. They'd been through this whole routine with the police several times already, but they didn't mind going through it once more, if once more would mean a jogged memory, or some little piece of evidence falling butter side up.

Those that had been working on the appropriate days remembered Elsie with her head in the bins and Sarah buying her cookies.

"I served her," lisped one of the girls through her braces, eyes momentarily dewing, "I hope you find her, I really do."

The staff moved back to their positions, called by the beeping of oil vats and the sudden arrival of a woman with two small children. Mulder and Scully were left with the manager.

"What about him?" said Mulder, motioning towards the moon faced man who had now left his mop somewhere and was reassuring himself about the state of the rubbish bins.

"Lex is intellectually challenged," said the manager, "I don't know if he'd be able to recognise any of the people in the pictures."

"Does he recognise you when he comes in to work?" said Scully.

"Of course," laughed the manager.

"Then we'll try him on the photos."

As Lex came over Scully could see that her first impression of him as Downs Syndrome was quite wrong. The flatness of his face was relieved by a long, almost Roman nose that made her think of a bull terrier dog. Lex smiled amiably at the strangers. He picked up the photo of Elsie and looked closely at it, "I know dat lady," he said finally, "She come in the carpark and look inna bins. Da manager, Miz Williams, she sed don't make dat lady eat rubbish. Take her some burgers. So I done dat."

"You did that?" said Mulder, turning to the manager.

Williams shrugged, "Elsie never did any harm and there was no harm in us feeding her occasionally."

"What about these other pictures, Lex?" Scully pushed the pictures over to him.

He peered for a long time at the picture of Sarah, "Don't know," he said finally, "Lotsa kids come in here.

"What about this lady?" Mulder pushed the picture of Glenda Shanahan over to Lex.

Lex stared at the picture and shrugged, "Don't fink so."

Scully stood beside him and looked over his shoulder, "Look," she said, and used a paper napkin to cover up the floral print dress Glenda was wearing in the photo, "What if the lady was wearing a white dress, and had her hair pinned up like this," Scully demonstrated with her own hair how Shanahan might have looked.

Lex's eyes widened, "Oh, dat lady. Dat nurse lady. I know her. She comes here alla time and has coffee."

"Did she come here last week? Last Tuesday? Do you remember?" Mulder was almost diving down the man's throat, oblivious of the manager's slow headshake.

"Oh, yeah. She come in da carpark but she din't have any coffee dat time."

"Why not?" said Mulder, "Why didn't she come in?"

Lex dropped his eyes evasively away from Mulder's and smiled and shrugged his shoulders.

The manager continued to shake her head, "Lex couldn't have seen her that night," she said, "He wasn't here, he wasn't rostered on."

Mulder and Scully returned to their room, flipped through their notes. Scully was surprised to see that not only had Mulder somehow managed to procure a roster from the Mc Donalds, but a list of the staff home addresses.

"What do you want that for?"

"I thought I might drop in on Lex and have a chat with him...while there's no one around to tell him what he's supposed to be thinking."

"I don't think it'll get you very far, Mulder."

"I'm curious about Tuesday night. He was quite certain he'd seen Shanahan."

"I think he was very impressed with you, Mulder. He'd probably have said he served cheeseburgers to Elvis if he thought you'd want to hear that."

"I think you're wrong, Scully. I think if he'd been that eager to please then he would have said he knew all of them. But he didn't. He did say he knew Shanahan though, and for some reason he really was there with her in the carpark on the night she was abducted."

"I think you're clutching at straws Mulder."

"I think Lex is aware of a whole lot more going on than people give him credit for. He gets off at five this afternoon. I'm going to pay him a visit then."

Scully would have spent more time arguing with Mulder if the phone hadn't interrupted her. It was the police with the news that Sarah Gooding's body had been found.

The area to the west of town had, during some distant, optimistic time, been set aside as an industrial estate. Indeed, at one stage there had been a couple of factories working there. But all that was long ago. The factories had fallen into ruin and the land was wild. Unmown, for the most part unused. Some enterprising kids had built themselves a BMX track on one corner, but most of it was wild, turning in some places to woodland that merged with the forest beyond the city limits. Sarah's body could have lain there for days.

Yellow police tape flagged the area. Officers stepped cautiously about as though almost superstitiously aware of the possibility of destroying evidence with their feet. Scully crouched by the child's body, face down in the long grass. The photographer had finished with the scene, a forensic specialist came to take soil samples from beneath the body. As soon as they rolled her over Scully knew that she had not been out there long, she doubted that even hours had passed since Sarah's body had been dumped, the grass was hardly crushed. Beyond that she also saw the ugly, bloody wound in the child's aabdomen that had undoubtedly been the cause of death. There was little blood at the scene. The child had died elsewhere.

Scully stood, peeling her rubber gloves off and went to find Mulder who was pacing the perimeter of the crime scene, his face turned towards the wooded area beyond.

"I'm going to hitch a ride back in the ambulance, Mulder. I want to get on to the autopsy as soon as possible."

"The fun never stops for you, does it Scully?"

"I don't think she's been dead more than a day."

Mulder nodded, "I've got something I want to check out here."


"I thought I saw something in the woods."

Scully could feel her teeth grinding together. Just once it would be nice if just once they could follow a straight lead without having to deviate in order to satisfy Mulder's continued need for the fantastic. "Bigfoot, Mulder?"

"No. I thought I saw Lex back there."

Scully raised an eyebrow and checked her watch, it was only five forty, still, that was ample time for Lex to get from the Mc Donald's to where they were. "Could be just curiosity."

"Could be," he agreed.

The sun cast slanting patterns through the late afternoon of the woods. As he walked Mulder was aware of the sound of voices behind him, the police would be there for hours yet. They were setting up lights around the crime scene, there was always the hope that they would find something.
There were small sounds in the woods. Mulder startled and then smiled at a squirrel which peered down at him from its branch. Tree rats on steroids. He liked them though, they had personality. A breeze brushed past his cheek and he heard the leaves shuffle amongst themselves, not the hiss of dry autumn leaves but the warm hush of spring leaves. Things were growing about him and it made him feel good. He had half a mind to go back to the motel and put on his running shoes and track pants and get out and really enjoy this wood.


He turned. The voice behind had surprised him, though he assumed it was one of the police officers come to ask him something. Instead he found himself gazing into Lex's guileless pig-dog face.


Lex's predator's mouth twisted itself into an innocent smile, "Hullo agent Fox."

"I thought I saw you come into the woods. What are you doing here Lex?"

"I was lookin after my friends."

"You want to tell me about these friends?"

"I wanna show you to them Mr Fox," Lex grabbed his arm with a brutal strength.

Mulder gently disengaged Lex's fist, scratching the back of his hand on the man's long fingernails as he did so, "There's no need to be rough, Lex," he said gently.

Lex smiled an unforced apology, "Sorry Agent Fox."

Aside from some bruising and superficial cuts, what had happened to Sarah Gooding looked to Scully like nothing so much as butchery. There was no sign of sexual interference, only the abdominal wound. Brutally performed, the child's epigastric region had been hacked open and part of her liver had been chopped off, apparently with a butter knife, or something very like one. The only thing was, Sarah Gooding had been dead before any of this took place, and Scully wasn't sure why or how.

It was right about the time that he decided it would be a good idea to contact Scully that Mulder realised he was in trouble. Pain shot through his left hand where Lex had scratched him, but his fingertips were numb. When he reached for his cellular phone it slipped from his grasp. He stopped to pick it up but Lex grabbed him with the same bone crushing grip and this time would not be dissuaded.

"You won't need dat fing now," said Lex quietly.

"I thought I'd like to call Agent Scully, Lex. You remember her. She'd like to meet your friends too."

"Yes, I memember Agent Scully. She's nice."

It was encouraging to know the colour of the blood flowing through the man's veins was as red as anyone's. "I can phone her up and she can come and visit your friends."

"Not today, Agent Fox. Only one at a time is enough."

"I bet your friends get lonely out here in the woods, Lex. Don't you think they'd like to meet Agent Scully?"

"No. She's a bit small really."

"Small for what?"

"A bit little. My friend din't want small ones. You're big. You're da right size. My friend will like you. She'll want you."

"Was Sarah too small, Lex?"

"Who Sarah?"

"The little girl."

"Oh, dat kid? Yeah, kids are too little. I'm not allowed to bring kids any more."

Beyond that there was little Mulder felt he could say. He tried to reason with Lex but the man's capacity turned any conversation into a circular mess of illogic. He apparently had no concept of what haad been done to Sarah, beyond the fact that she wouldn't talk to him any more. Even that, however, did not surprise him in any way, it was apparently normal for people to cease communicating with Lex, once they met his friend.

Mulder's left hand no longer worked at all. The pain where Lex had scratched him was gone now, in its place the kind of numb cotton wool feeling of a local anaesthetic that was slowly spreading its way up his arm. Lex had a firm grasp on his right forearm. He couldn't even reach his gun, although the minute Lex let his guard down that was exactly what Mulder intended to do.

They came to a fence within the woods. It had been there for a long time, things were growing through the wire. The top of the fence was bent over and lined with razor wire so that it looked as if it had been designed to keep things in. Lex guided Mulder along the outside of the fence. Rusted signs gave dire warning. Within the fence was Government property. Trespassers would be severely dealt with. Mulder thought that whoever had arranged those signs to be there perhaps realised that there would be more than a fine involved for whoever found themselves on the wrong side of the fence.

There was a small clearing and a break in the fence. Lex did not hesitate in pushing Mulder before him through the hole. As they walked on through the wood, Mulder could see that it had changed. The limbs of the trees seemed twisted into ugly, leering shapes. There were no birds or squirrels, only the sound of insects, the steady high pitched whine of wasps.

"Dis is where we need to be now," explained Lex. The friendly, casual tone never left his voice. They were standing in front of a low concrete block building, mostly overgrown with ivy and moss. There was no outer door, only a hole where one had once been, hidden back in the shadows.

The place was filthy inside. The building had obviously been derelict for decades.

"Where's your friend, Lex?"

"You gunna meet her now in a minute."

The anaesthetic feeling had gone all the way up Mulder's left arm and was now spreading down his left side and across his chest. His right hand had gone cold and blue from Lex's tourniquet grip so that when Lex eventually did let him go his fingers felt like sausages and he groped for the gun but was unable to even remove it from his holster. Lex didn't even notice, just ushered Mulder on with a "hurry up" and pushed him into an internal room. Mulder wondered if he would have time between the feeling coming back into his hand and the numbness that was now creeping down his right arm, to actually use the gun. He tried to flex his fingers and work the feeling back into them, but already the strength was going out of his wrist.

Lex ushered him into an inner room. The smell hit him before anything else. It was sweet and putrid and pungent. It was shit. The yoghourty pap smell of a baby fed human milk. There wasn't a great deal of it about though, obviously Lex's talents with the mop and bucket were being put to good use. Mulder had no problem identifying the other people in the room. In the far corner was a mass of white that had to be the bulky form of Glenda Shanahan, still in her nurse's uniform. Beside her was stretched the six-foot five length of Pete Rocca. Though he couldn't see their faces clearly, Mulder knew that the other two large male forms had to be Sam Rosken and Robbie Benner. He could not see Elsie Hooper, though a bundle of rags in one corner might have been the bag lady.

Mulder tried to turn to Lex, to speak to him, but the numbness had overcome him now and his tongue felt like thick flannel so that he couldn't talk around it. All of the strength had gone out of the left side of his body, and the upper part of the right side. He was only managing to stand because he still had some feeling in the lower part of his right leg. Lex stood before him, peering, his predator's smile glowing innocently beneath his pigdog nose. He reached for Mulder's stomach and grabbed his shirtfront and the end of his tie. He ripped the shirt with a sudden slashing motion that sent Mulder reeling, and nearly throttled him with the tie. Mulder crashed against the wall and tried desperately to keep himself upright with the little remaining strength and feeling in his right leg, but the upper part of his body had already gone over his centre of balance and he toppled, sliding slowly to the ground.

Mulder was stunned and faint. Lex had been inadvertantly holding Mulder's tie when he had torn open the agent's shirt and the tie had tightened around Mulder's neck. Now it was so tight that he felt himself moving in and out of consciousness. He felt as if his head had expanded and all the membranes in his sinuses had swollen so that it was hard for him to breathe. There was a hissing sound in his ears and his vision had become dim and grey. He wasn't sure if it was minutes or only seconds later that he heard Lex.

"My friend is coming now," he said to no one in particular.

Mulder wasn't sure if it was an effect of hypoxia, or if there was some other reason, but he felt an unaccountable and somewhat embarrassing sense of arousal after Lex had spoken. From the room beyond, at first merging with, and then overwhelming the hiss of his own vascular system, Mulder could hear the ponderous shuffle of Lex's friend.

Lex had always referred to his friend with the female pronoun, other than that, there was no reason to ascribe any gender to her. If he'd had enough free brain cells for musing, Mulder might have wondered how she'd fitted through the door. She was almost seven feet tall, and stooped, so that it was very hard to judge just how tall she might have been if she had stood upright. She seemed almost as wide as she was tall and aside from the fact that she wasn't green, reminded Mulder of no one more than Jabba the Hut. She was naked. Great folds of flesh hung from her face and body. It was almost impossible to identify any features. Blackcurrant specks above the expanse of her cheeks must have been eyes. Wet smacking sounds came from beneath a coarsely haired upper lip and gobs of moisture fell from the same place. Mulder wondered if this awful behemoth had bitten a chunk out of Sarah Gooding's liver.

Lex's friend bent low over Mulder and he was afraid she would fall upon him and smother him. What was worse was that her proximity seemed to increase the now awful feeling of arousal. She squatted laboriously and then crouched beside Mulder. It was difficult for her, her thighs were so enormously fat that she had to squat with one knee on the floor and the other foot planted squarely. She loomed over Mulder and grunted to herself. Her hand came snaking towards his face. He could see long, ugly nails like the horny feet of foundering ungulates. He could feel his consciousness slipping into the grey area again, and he fought for a moment. There was a terrible pressure on his neck which was suddenly relieved. When he opened his eyes again Lex's friend had Mulder's tie in her hand. She let it fall to the floor.

Mulder almost huffed a sigh of relief at being able to breathe again, but now the friend reached out once again. This time she grabbed him by the arm and dragged him so that he was no longer up against the wall of the room. She lay him completely flat upon his back and then moved over him, straddling him with one sumoesque thigh on either side of his belly. Mulder could feel vomit rising in his throat and dismay and anxiety setting his heartbeat galloping. The friend was not actually sitting on him. If she had been, he felt certain she would have killed him. She swayed just above him, her bulk supported by the mass of her thighs. All sorts of appalling thoughts about what her next move might be swirled through Mulder's head, and most of those thoughts seemed driven by his now quite tangible arousal. This appallingly elephantine nightmare must have been sweating pheromones against which Mulder felt utterly helpless.

A moment later what Mulder saw both confused and revolted him, for beneath the mountainous bulges of stomach and pudenda a rigid member had erupted from the friend's anatomy. Whether she was, as Lex had insisted, female was moot, for she possessed an appendage that no human had. At first sight Mulder had thought it was a penis, but a man of this bulk was more likely to have a retracted penis than one of this size. Even as he watched it continued to grow until it stuck almost a foot out in front of the lowest verandah of flesh above it. Mulder could see also that the appendage was rigid by nature rather than the haemodynamic cause that swelled a human penis. The appendage was hard and shiny, like the chitin carapace of an insect, and from his angle and the few inches' distance that separated him from it, Mulder could see that it was sharp.

The friend grunted to herself, a low, subhuman sound, and backed her way along Mulder's body until the appendage hovered an inch or two over the flesh that Lex had bared when he tore Mulder's shirt. The friend leant forward and angled herself so that the appendage now rested on the upper part of his abdomen, just below the right hand side of his rib cage. The friend sighed and leaned forward, taking her weight upon her hands, which she positioned on the floor on either side of Mulder's head. She had turned his head to one side so that he was not smothered. His body still felt anaesthetised so that Mulder had no sensation of pain, but he was still in no doubt about the moment that the appendage pierced his body.

The friend began to grunt and sway. Her body rocked his and a sound like sighing or purring came from the cavernous bulk of her throat. He was literally encased in her flesh which enfolded him with gentle, irresistible pressure. He could feel the lump of his gun pressing into his back. Mulder was rocked in her overwhelming rhythm and the most appalling thing of all was that he could feel himself responding. He could feel the pressure of her thighs against his groin and through the anaesthetic feeling Lex had left him with, the lump of his own rock hard penis grinding between his belly and the jelly bulk of some part of her anatomy that he didn't want to think about. He was being violated. Something was raping him with an appendage like a knife, and his body was responding in a way that left him feeling totally betrayed. Though he could neither speak nor move, he wasn't beyond an emotional response. He felt tears of frustration and rage and disgust slide across his nose and drip onto the floor. When he came, he wasn't really aware of it, he was thankfully too overwhelmed by the gasping and shuddering of the creature above him. So earth-shatterring was her climax that he feared she might expire upon him, but a moment later she rolled to one side, her ugly appendage already retracted back inside her, though he saw splashes of blood on her thighs, and knew that it was his.

Mulder could feel wetness. The humiliating damp patch in his pants. The slow trickle of blood from the wound in his abdomen. He wondered just how much damage Lex's friend had done.

Sarah Gooding's parents were in the foyer. Scully avoided them, taking a rear exit from the building. They wanted answers but all she had was more questions. Basically Sarah had died of acute anaemia. Her haemoglobin count was 3.4, the oxygen carrying capacity of her blood had diminished to the point where her body could no longer function. There was no question that this was the cause of death. The question now was what was the cause of Sarah's anaemia?

Scully had checked the little girl's recent medical history. She'd been given all the normal shots for childhood illnesses. Her most recent trip to the doctor had been six months earlier when she had been given antibiotics for tonsillitis. There was no indication of anaemia at that time. There was no indication of disease process in the child's body. Scully needed to think, but she knew full well that the minute she told Mulder what she had found he was going to start looking for vampires or something.

Beyond that, Sarah's blood contained some strange compound that looked like an anaesthetic drug. Scully took the drug profile to Dr Mc Kay, an anaesthetist who agreed with her about the probable effects of the drug. It would work as a muscle relaxant on all striated muscles. This drug would cause a kind of paralysis on all the skeletal muscles, all those under conscious control. The specialist did not think that the drug would affect smooth muscle or cardiac muscle though.

"The digestive system would still be functioning," Mc Kay said, "and the heart would be okay. The thing looks to me like a non depolarising muscle relaxant. It's got a really potent looking profile, though. You wouldn't come out of it really easily, it would lock right into the neural receptor site. You'd have to turn it around with a shot of atropine or neostigmine, something like that."

Scully spent the night engrossed in medical records and pathology books, looking for some clue, a disease that she might have missed that could have explained what happened to Sarah. It wasn't until the next morning when she went to the front desk at the motel that she learned Mulder had not returned at all the night before. She went in to the police station and talked to several of the officers who had been at the crime scene the previous day. Some of them had seen Mulder go into the woods. Apparently Scully had been the last person they'd seen talking to him.

Elsie Hooper had suddenly turned up, as was her wont, rummaging through the bins at the back of Safeway and singing a nonsensical but happy song.

Lex organised his captives like a small child playing with toys, lining them up and moving their limbs around. He never seemed to sleep, always attending to the people who, like Mulder lay conscious but helpless. Lex put bunched up clothing under their heads and ankles and rolled them from side to side and it occurred to Mulder, reminded by Shanahan's white uniform, that Lex was actually nursing them, trying to protect them from pressure ulcers.

He stripped away Mulder's belt and gun and wallet. He was not interested in any of them, and apparently only removed them because they were likely to press into Mulder and eventually cause an ulcer. He tossed them carelessly onto the heap of rags that Mulder had at first thought might be the old bag lady, Elsie Hooper. He could see the gun lying there, half out of its holster and if mental energy could have an effect on the physical world, then Mulder would have moved a mountain, so enormous was his frustration. Instead, he could barely focus his eyes. Sam Rosken the travelling salesman lay nearest the heap of rags. His hand was inches from the gun. Mulder's eyes met Rosken's for a moment, but the older man simply looked resigned. Apparently even though he had been in there for days, the anaesthetic effect had left him every bit as paralysed as Mulder.

Lex spaced them evenly across the floor and a moment later Mulder became aware of the shuffling sound of Lex's friend approaching. She peered cautiously round the corner of the door and grunted, as though agreeing with herself that it was safe to come out. She surveyed the line of bodies on the floor and went to Pete Rocca, who was lying on the end furthest from the door. Mulder's head was turned away from Rocca, so he was unable to see what was happening. He wondered if it was going to be a repeat performance of the rape the day before. She had done it to all the others. He had seen similar tears in their clothing, though the wounds she had inflicted seemed mostly healed. From behind him he could hear choking noises, a spluttering sound, and then a gag. A moment later he felt the massive warmth of the friend's thigh as she straddled Glenda Shanahan, beside him and the whole procedure was repeated.

Mulder was afraid. He didn't want the humiliation of what had happened the day before to be repeated. But this time there was no sense of arousal. Mulder just felt hungry, and he wondered if he was feeling the friend's hunger. He wondered if the hole in Sarah Gooding's body had been bitten there by the friend.

The monstrous friend staggered to her feet and raised herself, slightly swaying, above Mulder. She straddled him, sitting over him as she had done the day before, and suddenly Mulder was overwhelmed with a feeling of hunger and thirst. The friend positioned Mulder's head so that he was staring straight up at her. She stuffed a scrunched up rag under Mulder's neck so that his head was bent well back, making it hard for him to breathe. A moment later the sight of one elephantine breast, white and pasty, dimpled with fat and smeared with saliva dominated his field of vision. Mulder felt his stomach churn with dismay and with sudden need. She lowered the breast so that the areola of the nipple overwhelmed his mouth. A moment later he felt his lips and jaws being forced apart as the nipple engorged and pushed its way into his mouth and down his throat.

He couldn't breathe or move. For almost half a minute the nipple stayed in place, pumping him full of monster's milk. His airway was completely blocked. Then she withdrew it and Mulder coughed and choked as the others had done. After he felt his breathing steady, she came back with the other breast. When she was done, Mulder felt exhausted and replete. He watched the same performance repeated on Sam Rosken and Robbie Benner, though some time during the show he fell asleep. He wasn't aware of Lex coming in and wrapping them all warmly with blankets.

It was late afternoon by the time a search party had been organised, and getting on dark when a member of search and rescue stumbled over Mulder's cellphone.

Scully was almost angry with him. If he took care of his things a bit better this wouldn't happen. It was too bad it hadn't occurred to him to carry a spare cell phone as well as a back up gun. After Scully identified it, the phone was placed in a plastic bag. Later it would be dusted for fingerprints. Possibly used as evidence...Scully hoped only Mulder's prints would be found on it.

As night fell completely the woods were lit by blazing flashlights flickering as they drifted about through the trees. Scully came upon what seemed a rather surrealistic scene, a group of people standing under a canopy. There was steam rising from cups and someone had provided plates of sandwiches and chocolate bars. It looked like a fairies' party in the woods, there were bluebells blooming under the feet of the revellers. The police chief was there with a map, and after equipping herself with hot coffee and food, Scully went to join him.

"We'll be dividing the search into this sector, and over here," he said, indicating widely spaced areas on the map.

"What about in here?" said Scully.

The chief avoided her eyes, embarrassed, "We...can't go in this area, Agent Scully, it's beyond our jurisdiction."

Scully was confused, "What do you mean? Surely we're not at the county line yet?"

The chief shook his head, "No, it's..." he looked about and then taking Scully by the elbow, backed off so that they were standing in the shadows at the edge of the small clearing, as though being in the dark would make what he had to say harder to be overheard, "The land in between is Government property. We're forbidden access."

"Surely then you can get whoever searched it the first time to come and search it this time. Was it the Army?"

The chief looked down at his feet, "There was no first search, Agent Scully. No one's been on that land at all."

Scully had no intention of causing a scene, but it was painfully hard not to, "Are you telling me that when those people went missing you never searched that land?"

"We wanted to, Agent Scully, we asked permission and we were told no. It came from very high up."

"Mr Hopkins, five people have disappeared, a little girl is dead, and now my partner is missing, and you're telling me that you haven't searched properly for them because of some ... bureaucratic demarkation dispute? You're supposed to have some kind of responsibility in this town. We'll be searching in this area Mr Hopkins. Under my orders."

Scully led the search into the forbidden zone. She was sure it wasn't her imagination that made the trees seem to twist into deformed shapes and loom at her from the shadows. Hopkins strode along beside her, keen, now, to search this area, as though Scully had given him the mandate to be there.

"How dangerous is it here,?" asked Scully, "They weren't using it for a minefield were they?"

Hopkins looked rather sick at the thought, "Not quite. There were factories here back during the Korean war. There were all kinds of rumours about what exactly they were working on here. Something that might have been an early version of Agent Orange, is my guess. Kids don't even come in here much. You can't see it too well in the torchlight, but the trees are kind of...spooky here and there's a lot of really ugly insect life. Wasps and hornets and spiders, that kind of thing."

"Are any of the factories still standing?"

"A couple. I think."

"Are we going to need protective clothing before we search them?"

Hopkins shrugged, "I honestly don't know."

"We'll go in as we are then," Scully decided, "Just have people standing by with protective gear if we need it."

Hopkins nodded, and as they walked he phoned for appropriate help.

A warm breeze stirred the dust and dirt and woke Mulder up. He had been rolled onto one side and he was staring at the back of Robbie Benner's not very clean neck. There was a tickling sensation where Lex's friend had stabbed him with her strange appendage.

Lex had been moving them about again; rearranging them. Mulder had the impression that during the stunned absence of his sleep Lex had cleaned him up. The breeze carried with it scents and sounds from outside the building. Mulder wondered at the sounds, squirrels? Raccoons? Wolves? But with the likes of Lex's friend in this part of the forest, surely they had to be werewolves, rather than the regular kind. Then suddenly Mulder could hear the sound of human voices and one of them was Scully's. He would have breathed a sigh of relief, had he been able.

He couldn't turn to see the people come in to the room, but he knew it was Scully the minute he felt the hand on his head.

"It's me, Mulder," the tone was a mixture of concern, exasperation and relief. She rolled him gently on to his back and he would have smiled at her if he could have.

There was noise and confusion around him and Mulder found it difficult to focus on what was going on. He tried to follow Scully with his eyes, but she kept stepping beyond his visual range, and then it was hard to pinpoint her voice within the clutter of speakers. He was being rearranged again, this time by Scully and a police search and rescue officer. Scully told him that he would be all right and that there were ambulances coming. Mulder wondered where Lex's friend had gone.

An ambulance must have arrived. Men in medical looking attire were loading Glenda Shanahan onto a gurney. They tucked a blanket around her and strapped her down. Scully was talking to another man, possibly some kind of medical specialist from the way she was deferring to him. They seemed to have come to some sort of agreement, and a moment later they were crouching down on either side of Mulder

"Mulder, this is Dr Mc Kay, he's an anaesthetist. We think we can do something about the paralysis drug that's been used on you. Dr Mc Kay's going to give you a shot of atropine."

The doctor seemed to be fiddling about for hours. A simple shot wasn't enough, he wanted to insert a cannula into Mulder's vein for this. Mulder stared at the lanky form of Pete Rocca being loaded onto a stretcher. Scully and Mc Kay had taken his jacket half off and then tore down the right sleeve of his shirt.

"Hordes of crazed women trying to get at your body, Mulder?" said Scully indicating the torn shirt. Little did she realise how very close to the truth her suggestion was.

Giving the injection seemed to take an inordinately long amount of time. Mulder suspected he must have dozed off during the procedure because he was suddenly aware of Sam Rosken being carted out and Dr Mc Kay removing something from his arm.

"You're going next," Scully told him. Robbie Benner had already gone. Mulder was last out the door. The whole process must have used up every ambulance within an hour's drive. The drug Dr Mc Kay had given him was beginning to work, Mulder could feel the pinprick where the cannula had gone into his arm, and the first faint fuzzing of feeling in his fingers. His hand escaped the blanket that the ambulance officers were trying to tuck around him and just before they loaded him into the back of the car, he was able to extend his fingers to Scully's hand. He squeezed her fingertips once, very gently and was pleased with his progress.

Scully followed the ambulance in her car. Her stomach churned with fear and anxiety as she drove. She hadn't missed the ugly wound in Mulder's abdomen. The others had wounds in similar places and various stages of healing. She wondered if the stabbing had some ritualistic significance, or something more sinister. She left her car parked, she hoped, out of everyone's way in a corner of the ambulance bay and was aware, the minute she got out, of a commotion around Mulder's ambulance.

The ambulance officers were fighting to keep her partner calm, but he was thrashing on the gurney and bellowing in pain. The blanket had fallen off him and he had lost a shoe and broken a strap, trying to twist himself into a foetal position.

"Mulder, Mulder!" she tried to force his attention but he seemed oblivious, "Come on, it's me, it's Scully. We're at the hospital now. You're going to be all right."

His face was awash with tears of pain but she had finally got through to him and the bellowing subsided into ragged gasping, though the thrashing continued and the nature of it drew Scully back to her student days of women in labour or the throes of cholecystitis. "Scully. Oh, god, Scully, it hurts. She put something in there. She put something in and it's..." he couldn't complete what he was saying. He threw his head back, pressing his grey face back into the pillow, arching his body up off the gurney. Scully bit down on her lip and reached over to him. He grabbed her hand in a bone crushing grip, making it his sole focus against the pain. His grasp did not slacken until Dr Mc Kay prepared him for surgery and the anaesthetic took effect.

At some stage someone had been speaking to Mulder. Or at least he thought they had, and he thought it might have been Scully. He wasn't certain, though, because he had been annoyed at having been woken, and after mumbling to them, had gone back to sleep. A woman had shuffled around him, stuck a thermometer in his ear, talked to him, held his hand, taken his blood pressure. He wasn't clear if this had happened once or a number of times.

Now somebody had their hand on his head. Someone was riffling through his rather dirty hair, and though he didn't like it being dirty, he did like it being riffled with. It had to be Scully. No one else did that.

"Hi," she said.


"How are you feeling?"

"Is it gone?"

She nodded, "You came out of surgery about an hour ago. We got the whole thing. There was only one. We took a slice of your liver with it. It was pretty firmly attached. I've been doing some tests on it."

She looked more upset than she should have, "Was it...malignant?"

She seemed surprised and a little confused by the question, "Malignant? No, of course not, it was...more like a parasite." She looked even more upset and he wasn't sure why.

"Liver fluke?"

"I have some data on the...thing right here in my bag. I'm not sure I want to show them to you though."

He eased himself up the bed a little so that he was no longer lying flat, "Show me, Scully."

There were pictures mainly of something small and curled up. The buds of limbs were visible, the primitive streak of a spinal cord, and the small dark bulge of an eye.

"It looks like a foetus," he said finally.

"What you're looking at is the equivalent of about six weeks' gestation. I can't account for the rapid development, other than to try and guess at the non human DNA."

"This thing has alien DNA?"

"I said non-human, Mulder. We don't know what it is, but we're looking at more of an insect origin than other worldly. Non human DNA accounted for about twenty percent. The thing was growing off your liver. Only as well as forming a kind of placenta, it was literally absorbing your liver. And you got off light. I'd hate to the Robbie Benner's doctor, telling him that he can never have kids."

"What happened?"

"The one growing in him had started forming a kind of feeding network throughout his body. Most of his testicles have gone. Glenda Shanahan's lost her ovaries. You should see what happened to Sam Rosken."

"Do I really want to know in my weakened state?"

"He had lung cancer. Had. He's clean now. There are patches all over the inside of his body, it had metastased, and then something had gone in and cleaned it up. Every drop."

"So whatever it is, it thinks cancer's candy. It's weird. Not even something as..." he thought of Lex's friend leering down at him, "...disgusting as that is totally evil. It's really weird," he paused for a moment, considering what had happened to himself and the others, eventually he looked back at Scully, "What happened at the factory? Did they find Lex or the...or his friend?"

"We got Lex. He can't tell us much. He just doesn't have sufficient mental capacity to be able to really judge his actions properly."

"Did you do a DNA check on him."

"He's human, Mulder."

"When he scratched the back of my hand I lost all sensation. He can't be human, he has curare fingernails."

"We found the substance on his hands. He said his friend likes to lick his fingers."

"Have they found his friend yet?"

"Not yet, we don't really have a description of the friend. The Army will be coming in here to talk to you about that so that they've got something to go on."

"She'd have to rate up there in the top ten of my most unforgettable characters, Scully. So how is the Army involved in this."

Scully shrugged, "The usual way. I've already had Skinner biting my head off for trespassing during the search for you."

"Do we know what the factory was used for?"

Scully shook her head, "The whole thing's been pretty well covered up. Aside from not wanting anyone to go near the area that the factories were built on, the Army is refusing to admit that any of it exists. As far as I can figure out there were experiments involving defoliants going on during the Korean war. Something went wrong and the Army's trying to pretend it never happened."

Mulder stared at Scully for a little while, "Do you have to work hard to be that naive, Scully, or does it get easier the more you practice it?"

"I don't know what you mean."

"It's obvious. The DNA in that little foetus contains non-human elements. This is part of it. This is all part of it, Scully,"

She opened her mouth as if she was about to protest his assumption, but he interrupted her before she could speak, "And you know what I mean. I'm talking about experiments that probably predate Purity Control. I'm talking about early attempts at gene splicing. Whatever the hell it was that thing planted in me was part of a failed attempt at a hybrid life form. Only it wasn't a total failure, because Lex's friend was a mature, reproducing adult."

Scully listened to him rant, stared at the pictures of the thing that had been growing inside her partner. She didn't speak for a long time, "Mulder, there's something I didn't tell you. We were able to get an accurate match on fifty percent of the genetic heritage or your...the thing that was removed from you. One of the parents is on record."

"The human half?"

"It's you, Mulder. Lex's friend didn't just plant that thing in you, it literally turned one of your liver cells into a functioning gamete and fertilized it. You were pregnant, Mulder," she did not smile, "How do you feel about abortion?" she slumped back into her chair and her hand reached towards her neck. She wanted to reassure herself with the little cross that she sometimes wore, only this time she didn't have it on.