What if Skinner had gone to rescue Scully in Antarctica in Fight The Future?
This was all Skinner knew through official channels: Mulder was in an induced coma to alleviate the swelling in his brain from a gunshot. Scully was missing, even though she was supposed to have been brought to this hospital in an ambulance.
As he stood by Mulder’s comatose body, the details were being filled in by a rag tag trio of men who claimed to be Mulder’s friends. Detail One: Mulder had phoned for an ambulance for Scully, who had a bad reaction to a bee sting, even though she had no pre-existing allergy. Detail Two: Mulder was found shot in the street. Street surveillance tapes showed the bullet originated from an unregistered ambulance. Detail Three: The ambulance had driven to a military airport and then disappeared from the Lone Gunmen’s tracing abilities.
Guns in ambulances. Bees with unnatural stings. Skinner knew these things too well. It was too coincidental that Mulder and Scully were assigned to domestic terrorism after the X-Files were closed. The Syndicate, which had shadowed his Assistant Director office during his time at the FBI, likely hoped that the basement duo would be accidentally killed by a bomb in the line of duty. When that failed another intervention was necessary, and for the third time Scully had been taken by these conspirators and Mulder nearly destroyed in the process.
Skinner knew if either of them died, the other wouldn’t survive. He also knew that he couldn’t live with himself professionally and personally if the agents in his care – during an OPR enquiry – didn’t get the best from him. Walter Skinner was taking a stand for personal justice. Official channels wouldn’t help him find the truth, or Scully. Knocking on the wired perimeter fence of a military base wouldn’t get her back, presuming she was still there.
“Mulder told us he’d been contacted in his usual haunt. He’d hit the place hard after the first OPR bout,” one of the trio offered.”
“It’s a place to start,” Skinner agreed. “You three, make sure no-one enters this room unless verified medical personnel. Take photos as evidence if you have to. There’s surveillance at the end of the corridor monitoring this room’s activities but it’s not FBI sanctioned. Do you understand?”
Skinner was surprised at how well he fit into Casey’s bar in his office clothes. No-one recognised him for him, or for Mulder and Scully’s boss, as he headed towards the back and the toilets. One door read Out Of Order. He paused to listen to see if a secret meeting was taking place. Then he heard a car trunk close through the ajar fire escape door. His instincts told him to unbutton his weapon holster and proceed.
“Mr Skinner,” An English accent punctuated the cold, night air. Dressed in an immaculate black suit, the man couldn’t have looked more out of place in this dirty alleyway. Nor could the polished limousine where he was tending to the trunk.
“Is Agent Scully in there?” Skinner abruptly asked.
“Mr Skinner,” The Englishman began, “Let me assure you that I find this aspect of my business unsavoury. Agent Scully is alive and still human, but only for the next ninety-six hours. Please, “He gestured to the rear passenger car door as he walked forwards, “I can provide you with her location and the means to save her humanity.”
Skinner hesitated, noticed he was holding a small black pouch. Without taking their eyes off each other, they approached their respective doors and entered the vehicle. It reversed out of the alleyway immediately, passing iconic American Institutions such as the White House. Skinner wasn’t feeling particularly patriotic. He had people to save.
“Are you Mulder’s informant?” Skinner began. “Was it you who sent them to Dallas, where Scully retrieved the fossilised bone fragments which she presented to OPR?”
The Englishman smiled, “No. I have contacted Agent Scully previously in the hope of saving her life. Tragically, it lead to the death of her sister, when one of my associates chose Alex Krycek’s partner to be her assassin. The shooter, you already know the fate of.”
Skinner shifted uncomfortably at the memory of being shot himself by the same man, and his ongoing altercations with AWOL Krycek.
“You said you could help me save Scully’s life,” Skinner returned the conversation to the present. “This had better not involve scrubbing toilet floors clean or your driver will be cleaning your blood off the upholstery.”
“You Americans,” The Englishman jibed, “always resorting to guns and violence.” He pulled out a small gun from the door, and Skinner reflexively reached for his own. He’d already shot at one member of the Syndicate. He was prepared to do the same to this man. But instead of pointing it at Skinner, he rested it in his lap, pointing it at the back of the driver.
“I find my colleague’s actions towards you distasteful. The Syndicate members wished to conduct our solemn business with dignity, but it revealed unsavoury aspects to our characters. If you wish to pursue the path of revenge, I can offer you the location of the so-called Cancer Man and Alex Krycek. But I hope that you, like I, have come to choose love and hope over duty.”
The Englishman held Skinner’s gaze, sizing up the character of who he was. After a moment, the Englishman handed over the black pouch. Skinner kept one eye on the gun in the man’s lap while he unrolled the velvet to reveal a small vial, a needle, co-ordinates to Antarctica, and a key card to an unknown location.
“I know you have often wondered about the scope of our work, and if your suffering by my colleague has been worth it. Decades ago, we were approached by an alien race which walked the earth millions of years prior. They offered to spare my group in exchange for helping them use all other humans as a slave race, as hosts for the Black Oil which controls the life form. A virus, if you will. We were told to create genetic hybrids with alien tissue and tissue from human ova, so the Syndicate and chosen relatives would survive colonisation. Relatives like Fox Mulder’s sister.”
Skinner contemplated this succinct information about what he’d suspected for many years, about Mulder’s broken family and Scully’s cancer. “A virus? Like the ones being carried by bees?”
“One method of global distribution, using transgenic crops infected with the virus from which bees would take the pollen. You’re aware of the test outbreaks to see the rate of infection, against which we had no defence. In secret, we developed a weak vaccine, which you now hold in your hands.”
Skinner felt the weight of the small vial. It was a tiny hope, but hope none the less.
“Once my associates learn what I have told you, my life will be over. Introducing the vaccine into the alien environment where Scully is kept may trigger awareness in the colonists that will end the delicate alliance. Until recently it was believed that the human race would be used as hosts, that we would survive as slaves. Now, new facts have presented themselves that means we will be used as gestational vessels that won’t survive the birthing process. We have been blinded by selfishness to save ourselves. Now our only hope is in your hands. Good luck, Mr Skinner.”
The Englishman leaned forward, raised his gun and shot the driver point blank in the head. He turned the gun on Skinner. “Get out. You have precious little time to save Agent Scully.”
Skinner stared down the barrel. He’d just witnessed a murder, and his sense of bureaucratic justice swelled within him. But he knew that the Syndicate would just cover it up, the way they had covered up Scully’s sister’s death and numerous inconveniences before that. What mattered now was his original objective – getting Scully back safely. For his sake as well as Mulder’s. Mulder was having a bad influence on him.
As he walked away from the car, he heard the rear door open and close, and the same for the driver’s door. It was followed by an almighty explosion, engulfing the car and the presumed three bodies of the driver, the Englishman and Mulder’s informant stowed in the trunk, in flames. The hope of finding Alex Krycek also went. Skinner picked himself off the floor, and checked that the vial containing the vaccine was still intact, before heading towards a private airport. If his bearing readings were correct, he was going to Antarctica.
48 hours later
South 83 Deg Lat
East 63 Deg Long
Skinner was used to no sleep and harsh environments from his Vietnam days, but none of them were this cold. He had gone snow blind, he was sure of it, staring at the same white and perpetually heading to what he hoped were real mountain ranges. He was going to die in the middle of nowhere, believing the word of an Englishman that claimed to know a lot about him, his agents, and how the world worked. At some point, he’d discovered other snow tracks and followed them to a snow dome base where the key card had allowed him entry. Finally, the humiliation of sneaking around undetected to clean up crime scenes at the Cancer-Man’s bidding paid off. He found himself hiding among a conveyor of pods entering another structure underground.
Given he struggled to admit to himself in life after death, even after his own near-death experience as a soldier, admitting to himself that humans were storing other humans in an infinite collection under an ice sheet in Antarctica didn’t compute. If Mulder had suggested what he was now seeing with his own eyes, he would have told him to take the rest of the day off, and for Scully to perform psychic evaluation. But the cold was real – he was staring at blocks of ice with people suspended inside. Modern people, Neanderthal people, all races and colours. All naked. All trapped. All prisoners of a silent war, deep within enemy territory.
Common sense told him to look where the conveyor system was taking the new arrivals, and it was there that he discovered an open pod on the floor. He recognised them as Scully’s clothes which she had worn at the OPR hearing, where they had told her she was being transferred to Salt Lake City, Utah, and she had handed him her letter of resignation. He hadn’t filed it. If she survived this, she wouldn’t want to quit. This was proof of a conspiracy, and it was too cold for camera equipment to work to collect impartial evidence. He did notice her cross, and he picked it up and safely stowed it in one of the numerous jacket pockets. He had faith to keep looking.
Just as the weather had been fortuitous, so was finding the pod Scully was in. The butt of the flashlight slid off the icy exterior, so he retrieved the gas canister from her transport pod and hit squarely in the centre. A successful blow, and cold goo fell out and through the grated floor. Skinner pulled at the icy prison, until Scully was fully exposed in front of him, held in place with organic tendrils.
“Scully? Dana?” he asked, the cold air taking his voice and replacing it with condensation. He figured he had to inject her with the vaccine in order for her to regain control from the alien virus. No sooner had he administered it, she started choking. He pulled a tendril from her mouth, and watched the other coils wither and release her into his open arms.
“S-S-Skinner?” she whispered into his ear. “W-Wh-Where’s Mulder?”
Skinner tried not to laugh. “Mulder was shot. He’s in a hospital being looked after. You’ll be there soon. Can you help me dress you?” There had been times where Skinner would have happily seen a naked Dana Scully, but the floor grating looked uncomfortable. Her co-ordination was terrible, and after shedding his outer layers for her, he stowed the dregs of the vaccine in his remaining layers. Carrying her was easy. Leaving the complex was not.
Suddenly, the world shook. The Englishman’s words about the vaccine triggering an awareness seemed too literal. Were they on an alien spaceship?! He didn’t want to find out. Either he was sweating from fear, or the place was warming up. Water started dripping and cascading through the grated floors. People in the pods started to change. The exit suddenly seemed a lot further away, and Scully lapsing out of consciousness on a vibrating ship while grey-skinned creatures fought their way against icy prisons was not the plan. This wasn’t Scully’s fate, and nor was it his. A slimy hand made a grab for his leg and he punched it away. It retreated back to its pod, trying to make a bigger hole to escape from.
“Stay with me, Scully. You have to tell Mulder about this,” he encouraged. She smiled and was revived to steady her steps towards the stairs up to the domes. The base was being evacuated; the monitors flashing red with “CONTAMINANT” and the sound of Sno-Cat engines were getting fainter. The cold of the open Antarctic air was sharp contrast to the heating interior. Skinner stowed Scully inside his vehicle, and tried the engine. Some kind soul had filled it up with the half he had retained for the journey back. No sooner had he started after the tracks ahead of him, that cracking sounds came from behind. The snow couldn’t churn fast enough under the treads. He put a protective arm around Scully. They had proof. They weren’t going to die without telling Mulder and the world.
The snow went black in the shadow of the spaceship blocking the sun, which then flew over them and into the distance. There was no cloud above them, and Skinner prayed that a human satellite was in orbit to capture this. Scully was a rag doll under his arm, but he implored her to look up at the inhuman technology flying away. The next miracle was getting to the airfield before sunset, so Scully could receive medical treatment rather than dying of very Earth-based hypothermia.
Mulder thought he had died and gone to heaven. Skinner had picked his side and openly believed in aliens and government conspiracies. Satellite data the Lone Gunmen retrieved showed a massive circular craft of unknown origin leaving the Antarctic ice sheet and flying off. Scully had the dregs of a vaccine against the Black Oil virus which she was replicating after Skinner had successfully administered it to her. The Lone Gunmen also gave him the bee which had stung Scully; further proof of the conspiracy. It was also proof that he hadn’t imagined the events of the corridor with her. In his feverish dreams, he pictured him sitting in the car with the Englishman, and going on a fancy flight to Antarctica to rescue Scully which may or may not have involved mouth to mouth resuscitation. In reality, he was comforted that people knew of his connection to her, and that they would help them be together rather than use it to tear them apart.
He wished he’d been shot in the head sooner.