Book 4: Rapids.
Series: Light, Water, Muses. An alternate universe for a variety of television series. See disclaimers below.
Category: The continuing saga of Reflections/ Resurgences/Refractions.
Pairings: not yet!
Personal disclaimer: Jane and Steph are mine.
Author notes: The Vince Scully being the voice of God in LA, if memory serves correct, is nearly a direct quote from an interview with Chris Carter. I distinctly remember that he said that it was this icon that gave his name for our lovely red-head agent.
Disclaimer: "ER", see Chapter 1.
Disclaimer: "The Division", see Chapter 1.
Disclaimer: "The X-Files", see Chapter 1.
Disclaimer: "Xena Warrior Princess", Created by Rob Tapert, produced by MCA Television entertainment, Renaissance Pictures, Studios USA Television and Universal TV.
Spoilers: Remember, The X-Files as we know it, does not exist in this alternate universe. Mulder, Scully and Reyes are in their original FBI jobs as profiler, forensics and field agent. Also, the uber-Xena is not a new concept, but this is my take on it.
Summary: Now that events are moving ahead, Dace gets to Chicago. Once there, she meets up with some old friends and makes a few new ones.
++ Jane Pappas ++
I sighed unhappily at the blinking edelayed' on the arrivals screen. Dammit, I was gonna be here all night from this damn ice storm rolling in. But Gramps had asked me to do this favor for him and I never turned the man down. Now, why he asked me to bring along Steph, I had no clue. Hell, I didn't even know who I was picking up. He had only smiled in that benign, teasing way of his and told me, "oh trust me, you'll know."
Silverback never did anything without a damn good reason, so I trusted him and watched for flight 1247 from San Francisco. It made me think about how sad my benefactor had been to lose the Red Queen and then watch his old friends drift apart. Hell, even the Lady hardly rang anymore. Then again, he'd seemed awfully happy about the mystery guest, so perhaps this was a portent of good news. It was well after midnight and there were only a few people waiting. Steph had dozed off an hour ago, but I was too keyed up with curiosity and being in a strange place. It had been years since I had picked up a client at the airport, as I was far up enough on the food chain to be above this kind of scut work.
The only other resident of note was a small, compact woman with flaming red hair and an air about her that had my subversive side perking up in interest. Oh, she was a cool customer, this one. Dressed in an expensive and impeccable business suit, she carried herself like a predator. Fascinating.
The screen suddenly changed to a blinking 1:35, and I breathed a sigh of relief. The pilot must have snuck in just ahead of the storm. Sweet.
After some time, I was woken from my half-doze by the murmur of voices and I jumped to my feet after smacking Steph awake. "C'mon, it's down."
Grumbling incoherently, Steph clambered to her feet and nearly tripped herself in the process. My second-in-command had been working too hard lately. New Year's was a blow out at the clubs and we were still recovering. And that insane attack on those two leatherdykes had the Scene scared and quiet all the sudden. I hated it. Why the hell did some asshole pockets of humanity feel the need to impose themselves on others? Drove me nuts...
People were coming down the tunnel that led from the jet. And I shrugged off my internal rant. Which one was the person I was supposed to recognize?
I spotted the movement of a heavy leather jacket and chaps and was proud to see it, so public like this. A flash of gold hair, the familiar lanky body...
By Aphrodite's gauzy skirt...
Recognition dawned and I cried out in delight before I could stop myself.
++ Dana Scully ++
The shout startled me, but not unduly so. Airports always brought out people's most extreme behaviors. I almost grinned at the startled look on the Hell's Angel woman that was the receiving end of the flying tackle. Ignoring them, I hoisted my sign to chest level and watched the crowd exiting the plane.
Then I realized something.
Bet that tall woman in the motorcycle leathers was who I was looking for. It would fit the subculture we were dealing with. She didn't appear to be looking for anyone but her talkative friend, but it wouldn't surprise me if Mulder had forgotten to let her know that she was getting a ride. The small blonde gave up her grip on the tall one to let her curly-haired buddy come over and get a hello.
Only she didn't just get a hug.
It was probably a good thing that Mulder hadn't come himself to pick DeLorenzo up. He struck me as being a typical perverted male. The women kissed like they went way back. Again, I wasn't surprised, due to the nature of the case.
Then the tall woman spotted me and her double-take was comical. She gestured to her friends to stay put and stalked over to me. There was no other word for it. She moved like a cat, loose-limbed and dangerous. It was fascinating and a little frightening. I had to force myself not to step back as she slithered well into my personal space, looming over me. Sparkling sapphire eyes bored into mine and her smile was slow and sensual. "You know, I have a pretty distinctive name. Are you looking for me?"
Normally, I would be offended by this total lack of professionalism, but there was something compelling about her feral charm. "I recognize your voice from the phone. I'm Agent Mulder's partner on this case."
Her smile deepened. "Do you have a name? After all, you already know mine."
Now she looked utterly delighted. "Like Vince Scully?"
Puzzled, I cocked my head curiously at her. "Who?"
Her exaggerated look of shock made me grin faintly. "You don't know Vince Scully? He's only one of the most famous radio announcers ever. He was like the Voice of God in LA. I grew up listening to Dodgers baseball games." Now I had to smile for real, impossibly charmed by this stranger. Even if I hardly had a clue what she was talking about. Suddenly she went all gentle, her voice low, charming and faintly apologetic. "Hey, Dana Scully, I need you to play along with me for the benefit my pals over there." The engaging smile deepened, and I was shocked to find myself grinning helplessly back. "Unless you'd like to explain to them the real reason I'm here."
"Play along?" I parroted, hardly recognizing the teasing note in my voice.
"Trust me," she purred seductively and I found myself doing just that.
I even managed not to jerk away when she leaned down to kiss me.
++ Dace ++
Knowing that Tarzan and Cheetah were watching, I had to make up why the hell this severely dressed woman was looking for me. Ah hell, I liked kissing strange women. Especially cool, gorgeous red-heads. Agent Scully stiffened when I bent down and covered her gorgeous full mouth with my own, but otherwise didn't move. Rubbing soothing circles on the small of her back, I coaxed her to relax. Fortunately, the Amazons were positioned in such a way that they couldn't get a really good view and I was able to keep it chaste. "See? No tongue," I teased quietly before straightening up and getting back to business. "Thanks for meeting me here. Let me arrange a time to meet my friends and I'll be right with you."
"Okay," she hummed back quietly, full mouth turned up in a faint smile. Plucking the name card from her fingers, I stalked back over to the two Amazons.
"I suppose I should have told Silverback that I was meeting someone here. Of course, I never actually spoke to him. I'm sorry guys. Can I meet you somewhere later?" I temporized while folding up the card to hide my real name. Oh, Jane probably knew it, but I had to attempt to keep both my allure and daylight life intact. Jane sighed dramatically and waved expansively at the world in general.
"You always did have a thing for redheads in business drag. I'll have you know, Dace, that we waited here half the night. You owe me."
Oh, the fierceness never reached her eyes, which danced with humor. I made a great show of looking penitent, batting my eyelashes and pouting. "I promise. Where do I find you two?"
"There's a new Amazon district on the south end. Just have a cabbie take you to Club Staff and Scroll in Cook County. If you can't find one of us, look for Pony or Sally."
I was pleased that my closest Amazon buddies were still around. "Excellent. Hey, Tarzan, give me a number to contact you." Resisting the urge to glance over at my FBI contact, I held Jane's curious blue-green eyes. "I think it might be important." There was a subtle knowledge in her wise gaze. Very little escaped Jane Pappas' notice. Very little. It was no coincidence that I had shown up right after the attack in her city. Steph, who still wouldn't meet my gaze, produced a pen, and Jane scrawled a phone number on the card that bore my hated married name. Why the hell hadn't I ditched the stupid four syllable mouthful along with the sham of a marriage? That reminded me, I had to contact my divorce lawyer and make sure that ugly business was still on track. Jane's voice jerked me from my thoughts.
"That's my personal cell. Guard it with your life." She was only half kidding and I knew it. "I'll be keeping an ear out for you." And they were gone, just like that.
Sighing at the pressure bearing down on me, I scrubbed both hands over my face for a moment, feeling the brush of the card stock on my skin. Then I gave my silent companion a weary look. "I'm all yours, Scully."
++ Fox Mulder ++
I had been tracking this guy nearly from the beginning. His MO was so distinctive that I was able to zero in on Chicago within hours of the attack. All over the coffee table was all of my files on the serial that I'd dubbed eSnake-Eyes'. There was something different about this nut, and I had been in the profiling business for a very, very long time. There was something about the way he stalked and killed that was so animal-like that he kept me fascinated. Not to mention the unusual commonality of his victims.
February 12,1998, Detroit. The first attack, a gay female couple leaving a leather bar, was classified as a random hate crime at the time. September 6,1998, New York. Two men this time, again both leather players, and once more classified as a random hate crime. January 23,1999, Boston. Two women again, same circumstances. August 14,1999, Miami. Two men, same thing. March 13,2000, Atlanta, two women. September 23,2000, Denver, two men. February 4,2001, Las Vegas, another pair of women. July 18,2001, Vancouver, BC, two men. And now, January 3,2002, Chicago.
What was driving this man? He was obviously viciously angry, but he was also astonishingly adept at what he was doing. Multiple victims beaten to death, some only a few meters from other people, and there were no witnesses. Nothing. The brass back in DC wanted this one done by the book, but I had other ideas.
A key in the door snapped my attention up. It was Agent Scully, who'd I asked along due to her forensics expertise and flawless reputation at the FBI training facility at Quantico. Behind her was a tall, striking figure looming behind her. "Agent Mulder, I'd like you to meet Inspector Candace DeLorenzo," my new partner introduced the towering blonde Amazon.
"Fox Mulder," I forced myself to murmur politely, trying not to stare. A slow grin spread over her fine features and her grip was painfully strong.
"Call me Dace," she purred and turned away to flop down on the couch. Abruptly, she was all business, despite the wardrobe. Was that a manly-lookin' bulge in her jeans? "So, fill me in."
"I'm a profiler for the FBI and this guy caught my eye about a year and a half ago. The only link I have is the victims. A few random hits on the leather community could go unnoticed, but it's the same way every time. A gay couple, killed within shouting distance of a favorite club or playhouse. No witnesses, no one ever hears a thing, even though the victims are savagely beaten." While I spoke calmly, Dace's expression never changed, but her eyes darkened. "There doesn't appear to be any pattern to who the victims were outside of their nocturnal lives, nor any similar body type, or coloring."
"Only the leather Scene."
"Exactly. All of the details are in these folders. The only thing I could figure out from reconstructing the victim's movements, is that they all commented to friends that they felt as though they were being stalked, but nothing could ever be proven. Whoever this perp is, he's invisible."
Dace eyed me sharply. "Invisible?"
"Not literally, of course, but it's astonishing that no one has ever seen or heard anything. Until Sandy Lopez."
"Yes. She's the first concrete link we have to this man. There will be a sketch artist in town later today to talk to Sandy and there are four agents guarding her and the primary vic, Sylvia Dale, around the clock. I won't lose either of them or this guy again. There's far too much to lose. No one's ever gotten a good look at our serial before. Even the few clues I've managed to gather from friends and acquaintances is that the victims were merely uneasy. There was nothing concrete."
"Until they turned up dead."
"Exactly. The half-dozen comments were all along the lines of, ehe/she felt like she was being watched, or stalked, like animals do.' It's not an uncommon symptom of a stalker, to induce those kind of feelings, but I just have a gut instinct that there's more to this guy than that."
"Does he have a name?" Dace asked quietly as she leafed through the files, not looking at me. I was taken aback by the question.
"I have no idea who he is. I've dubbed him Snake-Eyes."
"Snake-Eyes," Dace mused thoughtfully.
++ Dace ++
I'd heard every word, but was concentrating on the photos and documentation. At least the various crime scene units in all the cities had been thorough. There were dozens and dozens of photos, all of them painfully gory. These people had died simply because of their recreation. Whoever this Snake-Eyes was, he was brutally violent and obviously fiercely strong. Some of the photos were barely recognizable as human. "No sexual crime?"
"No. He merely kills them."
Suddenly, Agent Scully jumped into the conversation. "In fact, the victims suffered as little as possible for this kind of crime. There was no indication of torture. Snake-Eyes just wants them dead, not to make them suffer needlessly. The behavior certainly smacks of a hunting animal. If he took trophies from his victims, it was something very discrete."
I counted seventeen victims, plus a woman hooked up to a multitude of medical equipment, and a battered doppelganger of Magda. The dates on the photos were all in July, August and September for the male vics, and January, February and March for the women. "You're sure it was just these eighteen?"
"Snake-Eyes is pretty consistent about when he kills. However, I did search VICAP for similar MOs and nothing matched closely enough. The Canada hit was nearly overlooked, but better communication between law enforcement agencies was one of the few good things to come out of nine-eleven."
Scanning the main folder, I noted that he had hit Vancouver nearly two months before the terrorist attack in New York, and this new hit in Chicago was the most recent. "I agree that this Snake-Eyes certainly isn't looking for attention. Though he could hardly ask for a more controversial group of victims." I sounded bitter even to my own ears and Agent Mulder eyed me with sympathy and wariness.
"I think that may have something to do with why he chooses them. And why only gay couples? Not an easy target."
"Could that be why he does it?"
"I have no doubt. The real question is, why does he do it at all? So far, my strongest theory is the animal one."
Something rumbled deep in the darkest shadows of my soul. The great, tawny cat that had haunted my dreams since before I could remember blinked out from the darkness and I shivered. As a kid, I had told my mother about the dream-cat. At first she'd patronized me about it. Then something about the whole thing suddenly scared the hell out of her and she'd forbidden me to even mention the cat. For years I'd forced myself not to acknowledge the golden eyes that I could actually feel the weight of.
Sylvia had acknowledged the power of the cat, but no one could understand how real she felt to me. Now she was rumbling with a soft, fierce threat deep in my guts.
No, this was not the first time I wondered after my own sanity.
++ Dana ++
Dace was staring sightlessly at the photos, her mind far, far away. There was a subtle change across her body language, and when Mulder moved to speak, I stopped him with a gesture. In the quiet of the room, Dace's breathing shifted, becoming deep and slow, the air whirring softly through her nose. A strange sound trembled there, a nearly soundless growl that made my bones vibrate in sympathy. The play of her body wasn't the person I had met at the airport, but a hunched, ready slouch.
My mother had cats as companions, and damned if Dace didn't look just like one of them coiling up to pounce.
"Dace," I spoke quietly, but firmly. And when her gaze jerked up, for the briefest instant, I swear her eyes gleamed gold. Then the blue blinked and the brain behind the eyes reasserted itself. "Are you okay?"
The faint growl faded, and once more Dace DeLorenzo breathed as though she was a bipedal human, not some great cat trapped in a human body. Clearing her throat, she spoke in a tense voice. "I have a sneaking suspicion that this case may hit closer to home than any of us realize."
After that strange interaction, the briefing went much more smoothly as Mulder passed on what he knew of Snake-Eyes. I tossed in the occasional comment, but mostly observed our new helper. There was something fiercely magnetic about her. Eventually we were all yawning in the wee hours of morning and crept off to separate rooms in the big hotel suite.
With just a few hours of sleep under my belt, I headed back to the hospital, my thoughts on the enigma of Dace. The staff of Cook County General barely acknowledged me, still pale and shaken by what had happened to a close friend. I didn't know exactly what role Sandy Lopez played in this hospital, being a firefighter, but it was an important one. When I checked in with the security detail, I learned more. Agent Gray rubbed her eyes wearily, dropping her guard for just a moment while I watched her back. "Nothing happened ma'am. Per your orders, only the three designated female staff has been allowed to see the victims. The story of Dale dying broke this morning."
"Good job," I praised the younger agent, sympathetic to her exhaustion. Few things could be more boring than guarding two bed-ridden victims. And few things could be more stressful than knowing someone was still hunting them. "Your relief should be here soon." Gray smiled wearily and pulled herself back together to once again play guard dog. As much as no one had wanted to do it, Silver Dale had been moved to a private room in a mostly-empty outpatient wing. Barely alive from the violent beating she'd taken, the blonde woman looked fragile amidst all the ICU equipment. I quickly checked her over, and documented the new and deeper bruising that had shown up in the last fourteen hours or so. Poor woman...
Sandy Lopez was watching me soberly as I stepped around the curtain to her half of the room. The severely shattered arm was lashed tight into traction, her entire upper body held immobile by the equipment. The white gauze contrasted starkly with her Hispanic coloring and the spot of seeping blood above her covered left eye. "Mornin'," Lopez said quietly and I met her one-eyed gaze. So much pain there. I hated my job some days... "How is she doing?"
"Stable. I wish I could tell you more, but her injuries are so extensive that I still can't believe she was able to walk to your car."
Wincing, Sandy lowered her gaze for a long moment, before she could look at me again. "You said there would be a sketch artist in? Because if I don't do this soon, I'm not sure I'm gonna be able to do it at all." The heartbeat monitor began to pick up and I hurriedly moved to calm her.
"Hey, hey, it's okay. Take this at your own pace. We all know that you've been through a horrible trauma and we're sympathetic to that. Yes, there's a hurry to this, but not to the extent that it damages you further."
"Thanks," Sandy whispered thickly, squeezing my comforting hand. "Hey, Agent Scully, do you think my girlfriend can visit me?" I must have winced, because Sandy actually smiled faintly. "She's an OB doctor in this hospital, Joan Golfino. If you guys could make an excuse to why she might be in here, I'd really like to see her."
Now I understood why the staff looked so upset. Sandy was more than just a fellow soldier for the cause of public safety. "How could I refuse such a heartfelt plea? You just leave it to me."
I stuck around with Sandy until a frantic woman who stood at least as tall as Mulder rushed in. Sobbing Sandy's name, she dropped into the chair beside the bed and I discretely left the room for a few minutes to give them some privacy. Then the sketch artist showed up and the next phase began.
++ Dace ++
My dreams had been full of great leaping cats, her eyes flashing gold and diamonds in the green-tinged dimness of my mindscape. When I was a kid, I had a few therapy sessions and had tried to explain the way the inside of my head looked. Come to think of it, that was about the time mom forbade me to talk about the cat anymore. She was a cougar, because the first time I'd seen a picture, I'd screamed and dropped the picture book. Yeah, I was a strange kid. The flat, golden gaze, round pupils, dark ears and the mustache of black bracketing in the short, powerful muzzle. There was no mistaking the dream creature that had been with me all my life.
I was almost ten when I had firmly shut the dream cat out of my thoughts. By the time I'd grown disgusted enough to run away from home, she was silent. Once Sylvia allowed me to fully explore the more extreme corners of my personality, I had seen the low, tawny shape, the flash of yellow eyes. But not like this; not so strong that I could hear her breathing, growling, feel the press of paws in my brain and the tickle of thick fur.
This was so not the time for this! A nervous breakdown was perfectly understandable, but not now! Magda's desperate look haunted me, as did the photos of the victims. Why the cat was suddenly back was beyond me.
Unless she had something to do with Snake-Eyes.
Could there be more people like me? I'd considered the possibility before. If there were others... it made sense that I should be drawn to them, right?
There was no sense in driving myself insane with these questions, so I scrambled from bed and did my morning routine. Mulder blinked in surprise as I swaggered into the room, once more fully in character. "I'm going to go meet up with my Chicago contacts in the Scene. I'll call you if I learn anything." Before he could say a word, I was gone.