A Sequel to "Missing"
by Stephanie Moffett
.........."Rocky! Wake up!"* * *..........Rocky awoke to find the sun
shining across his face. He smiled. It was Saturday. He could sleep in.
Maybe he could head down to the juice bar later, and tell everyone about
the wild dream he'd had. He hadn't realized that his imagination was so
good. Billy breaking into his house? With a gun? Ranting about how "they"
were after him? He chuckled as he rolled over.
..........Rough hands shook Rocky. He pushed
them away in irritation, not bothering to open his eyes."Go away.
It's too early."
.........."Rocky, come on! Please!"
..........Rocky slowly opened his eyes, not
really awake but disturbed by the frantic whispered pleas. "Billy?"
..........Billy was standing over his bed.
Rocky looked at him and then at the digital clock. It was three in the
morning. In the moonlight, he could see the beads of sweat on Billy's face.
"What... what're you doing here, Billy? How did you get in?"
.........."I used my school ID to jimmie
the door." Billy sat down on the edge of the bed. Rocky could see
that his friend was trembling. "Look... Rocky, I'm in a lot of trouble.
Could I borrow your car... and maybe some cash?" As he spoke, car
lights flashed through the window. Billy ducked, and closed the blinds.
.........."Billy...." Rocky got
out of bed. It was entirely too strange, even for a practical joke, and
it wasn't really like Billy to try to scare people. And Rocky was scared.
"Calm down. Tell me what happened. Maybe we can figure something out."
..........Billy took a deep breath, and slowly
let it out. "Rocky," he said slowly, his voice icy with fear.
"I'm putting you at risk just by being here. I shouldn't even involve
you... but Tommy's aunt has a deadbolt lock and I couldn't get in. Believe
me, the less you know, the better."
..........Rocky rubbed his eyes and tried
to think. "Why? Has Lord Zedd done something to you, Billy? You're
really acting strange."
..........Billy ground his teeth in frustration.
"Rocky... I'll make this simple. I am in danger. I need your car.
No discussion, no talking it about. There are people after me... I can't
tell you who or why." He hesitated. "It happened once before...
you can ask Tommy... he remembers some of it... but I can't put the team
at risk again. If I tell you any more, they'll come after you. Believe
me, if there was any other way...." His voice trailed off. "I
have to leave. It's the only way."
..........Rocky slowly nodded his head."Okay...."
He opened his desk drawer and handed Billy his car keys and some spare
cash. In truth, Rocky was not really thinking at all. He was sleepy. Yeah,
Billy was acting awfully odd but then, who didn't have their moments? His
sleepiness left him a second later when, as Billy pocketed the cash, Rocky
caught sight of a pistol tucked in Billy's jacket.
.........."What are you doing with a
gun, Billy?" he asked, his worry clearly heard in his words. "Look,
whatever trouble you're in, a gun isn't going to solve it."
..........Billy grabbed him by his pajamas
and slammed him into the wall. "Don't you get it Rocky? They shot
Tommy trying to get to me the last time! They almost destroyed the Rangers!
These people play for keeps! They know who to come for this time and if
they find me..." His anger passed. "I'll do what I have to to
protect you guys." He let go of Rocky and unclasped his commincator.
He handed it, and his power morpher, into Rocky's unwilling hands. "Take
these to the command center... if I have them on me when they find me...
well, it's safer this way."
..........Rocky's head was spinning. "Isn't
there anyone who can help?"
..........Billy hesitated, not wanting to
involve Rocky any further. "There were some FBI agents... Mulder and
Scully... and some guys... the lone gunmen.... No. Rocky, don't get in
this any deeper." He stepped through the door. "Thanks Rocky...."
.......... And then he was gone. Almost as
if he had never been there at all.
..........And caught sight of Billy's communicator
and morpher sitting on his desk. He picked them up, not really understanding
for a moment, and then it hit him. He hadn't been dreaming. He looked for
his keys. They were gone. So was about fifty bucks.
..........He did the only thing he could think
of. He put Billy's morpher and communicator in his gym bag, got dressed,
and went looking for Tommy.
* * *.........."Rocky?" Tommy smiled
a little. Rocky had that "just got up" look... uncombed floppy
hair, rumpled clothes that had obviously been thrown on without regard
to fashion, and a dazed look in his eye. "Are you ok, buddy?"
He gestured to a seat. "Sit down... have a juice... it's on me."
..........Rocky sat down. He eyed Tommy for
a moment, not quite sure what to say. "Tommy... we have a big problem."
He opened the gym bag and showed Tommy the contents. "I think Billy
is having some sort of breakdown...." He explained what had occurred
the previous night, noticing that Tommy grew paler as he spoke. "Is
Billy really in trouble, or what?"
.........."Rocky...." Tommy leaned
in close and lowered his voice. "We can't talk about this here. It's
not safe. Let's go to the command center."
.........."Okay... I'll call the other
Rangers...." Rocky said hesitantly. He was getting concerned.
.........."No!" Tommy put his hand
over Rocky's communicator. "Don't call anyone... just us. It's bad
enough that you're getting dragged into this. The less the others know,
especially Adam and Aisha, the safer they are. Come on." He dragged
Rocky into a deserted hallway and they teleported.
..........At the command center, Tommy ignored
Rocky and faced Zordon. "Zordon... it's happened again. What're we
..........The panic in Tommy's voice momentarily
threw Rocky off but he was starting to get irritated, despite his confusion.
"What is happening again? We're safe here, whatever that means, so
tell me. I've got a right to know!"
..........Tommy kept silent for a long moment.
Finally, "Rocky... Billy really is in a lot of trouble. A while ago,
before you and Adam and Aisha knew us, ... well, we did a science fair
project together on cold fusion. Billy did most of the research, you know."
Rocky nodded, research was Billy's thing on the team. "Anyhow, these
people... government people... wanted the plans. They didn't know which
one of us had actually made the thing so... they started kidnapping people.
Jason first, then Zack, Trini, and Kimberly.... They would've gotten me
too but these FBI agents messed up their plan. I got shot...." He
revealed the scar to Rocky, "I was unconscious for almost a day. By
the time I woke up, Billy had convinced the agents that he hadn't been
responsible for it... the government made it look like Billy did it, you
know... and they figured out a way to get the plans to... some people and
get Billy off the hook." He looked up at Zordon. "I guess that
.........."The government is after Billy?"
Rocky pondered. "Why?"
..........Tommy rolled his eyes. Rocky could
be so dense sometimes. "Because Billy's really smart. They want him
to make stuff for them. Bad stuff... these are really bad people. Rocky,
the last time we got real lucky. They didn't connect us to the Power Rangers,
but they didn't try real hard either. If they grab Billy and really aggressively
question him...." He waited for that to sink in. As Rocky turned an
off grey color, he continued with, "You know... the others don't even
remember this happening. I asked Kim about it once... she thinks she was
on a camping trip. They were brainwashed, I think, to not remember. And,
I was lucky I didn't get killed. It was just dumb luck that Billy had tried
to teleport them out and got the power coins before anyone realized what
.........."Oh man...." Rocky's voice
trailed away. "That's why he gave me his power coin. Can't we do anything
to help him?"
..........Zordon spoke finally. "Tommy,
Rocky... I fear there is very little you can do. While Billy has assured
the safety of the team by relinquishing his power coin and communicator,
he is still in a great deal of danger. Tommy, we can be sure that you and
Kimberly are being monitored by government forces." Zordon sighed.
"There is nothing I can do to help Billy that will not reveal his
secret identity as a Power Ranger. And, if Billy is captured, there is
the possibility that he may be forced to reveal the rest of you."
.........."Rocky, you can't tell the
others." Tommy's voice was deadly grim.
.........."Yes, Rocky, you must keep
silent." Zordon warned.
.........."Wait a minute." Rocky
held up his hand. "People are gonna notice that Billy is gone, and
honestly, I don't feel right about this. I mean, it's like Billy is buying
our safety with his own. There's got to be something we can do." He
hesitated. "I know we aren't supposed to use our powers for personal
gain, but come on.... What if they hurt Billy?"
.........."Rocky," intoned Zordon,
"You must accept this. Even if Billy had never become a Power Ranger,
he would still be in danger. This situation would still have happened.
The power you use to fight Lord Zedd and Rita's evil is not to be used
lightly... while I detest the actions of this rogue government organization,
I cannot sanction the use of your powers. It would only lead to further
endangerment of the team."
.........."But...." Both Rocky and
..........Zordon frowned. He wasn't happy
with the situation either. "Billy has chosen the only route open to
him, and in doing so has removed the rest of you from much danger."
He frowned even more. "Consider that before you do anything. As I
said, I can not sanction the use of your powers, but otherwise, if you
think you know of a way to help...." His voice trailed off. Zordon
was really worried too. In truth, he wanted to call in all the Rangers
and send them off to search for Billy. But, he knew that would only worsen
the problem. Using the power to rescue Billy would only lead to the eventual
discovery... and destruction... of the Power Rangers. As much as he wanted
to, he could not interfere. One Ranger could be replaced... all six could
.........."Well...." Tommy mused.
"Maybe I could try to find those agents... they were based in Washington
D.C.... or the lone gunman?"
.........."Gunmen." Rocky corrected.
"No, you have to stay here. They're probably watching you. I'll go."
.........."Rocky, be careful."Zordon
warned."The power can not protect you from these people."
* * *..........Mulder knew the day was going
to be wretched the second he woke up. It was raining. Downpouring, actually.
And, for May, it was cold. He could see his breath in the damp air. He
loathed rainy days.
..........He ended up late getting to work.
Scully was already there, bent over her paperwork. They had a lot of paperwork
to catch up on, and today was the day to get it done. Another reason the
day was wretched.
..........Scully, bless her considerate soul,
had brought him a coffee. It sat on his desk, a light mist rising above
the plastic top, scenting the dank room with the more pleasant smell of
.........."You're late." Scully
said, but her tone was cheerful. She didn't mind the occasional desk day.
A nice quiet day... a rarity in the X-File division. No sociopaths threatening
to kill her, no vampires, no demonically possessed children. Just some
filing. A good day."There's donuts on the filing cabinet."
.........."No thanks." He sat down
at his desk and started thumbing through the work. There was a mountain
of paper. He sighed, and pulled out a bag of sunflower seeds. He started
to munch. It was going to be that sort of day.
..........Or maybe not. There was a hesitant
knock on the door. The two agents looked up. Standing by the glass window
in the door was a young man in a red windbreaker. Not a man, Mulder corrected
himself, a boy. A tired looking, soaked, and shivering boy who was nervously
glancing over his shoulder even as he waited for permission to enter.
.........."Come in." said Scully.
She watched carefully as the boy entered. Like Mulder, she was intrigued.
The kid was too old to be a lost tourist, though he did sport a visitors
badge on his jacket. He looked familiar, but she couldn't place him. Maybe,
she thought, he reminds me of someone else. She couldn't quite put her
finger on it... there was just a look, a hint of something.
.........."Um... I don't have an appointment."
The kid stepped into the room, and closed the door. "I'm looking for
Special Agents Mulder and Scully."
..........Mulder pulled out a chair and gestured
for the boy to sit. "I'm Agent Fox Mulder," He pointed to Scully,
"That is Agent Dana Scully, and we've never been asked for an appointment
so I guess you're ok. Do you want some coffee?" He was trying to put
the kid as ease. Like Scully, he was struck by the weird vibes of familiar-but-not
that the boy gave off. The kid took the cup of coffee gratefully. Mulder
let him sip the hot beverage for a few moments. "Now," he said
in his best 'dealing with children' voice, "Can you tell us your name?"
.........."Rocky... well, my full name
is Rockwell."The kid seemed a little embarrassed. "Rockwell DeSantos,
but people call me Rocky." Rocky could see what Tommy had meant when
he said that the FBI people were freaky. Mulder and Scully's office seemed
to be a shrine to the abnormal and strange. Pictures of UFO's, various
occult items... sunflower shells all over the floor. But so far, they seemed
ok. Still.... "Look, is it safe to talk in here?"
..........Mulder was taken aback. Scully,
meanwhile, smiled slightly. It was seldom that anyone beat Mulder at the
paranoia game, though the kid at first, second, and third glance, did not
look like the type. To her, he looked too innocent, as if the nervousness
was roughly overlaying a normally trusting personality.
.........."I think we probably safe here."
Somehow, Mulder didn't think that the kid was about to blurt out some top
secret info. And really, the office was pretty safe. He and Scully hadn't
done any really touchy business recently.
.........."Could you close the blinds?"
Rocky asked. Scully did so, wondering what was up. She got her answer.
..........Rocky shyly pulled out his power
morpher. "I'm a Power Ranger. We really need your help." He quickly
explained the problem to the shellshocked agents.
.........."Whoa... just hold on a minute."
Mulder held up his hand, "When did you become a Ranger?" He was
confused. Mulder had kept an eye on the news coming out of Angel Grove,
what little there was, and there had been no mention of new rangers.
.........."Well, I replaced Jason."
Rocky said brightly. "He and Trini and Zack went to Switzerland to
help achieve world peace."
.........."Of course." muttered
Scully. She could see that Rocky's story had cranked Mulder into 'stop
the conspiracy' mode and she made a move to stop it. "Rocky... before
Billy disappeared, can you say, without a doubt in your mind, that he was
completely fine?" Power Rangers, evil beings on the moon, the government
chasing after inventive teens...Scully could accept such things, but only
if all other avenues had been investigated first. "Did he seem completely
rational... no strange behavior?"
.......... Rocky thought seriously about it.
In fact, he thought to himself, Billy had been acting kinda strange. Nervous,
mostly... and quiet. Irritable too. The last few days before he ran off,
talking to Billy had been like walking through a minefield. Everything
set him off. Rocky had, on the long bus ride to D.C., considered those
things but explained them away. Billy was afraid that the government was
coming after him... it seemed like a reasonable explanation. Now, though,
he understood what Scully was hinting at. "Well, he wasn't completely
normal...but we've all been under stress." Rocky hesitated. "At
first, before Tommy told me about all of this... I thought maybe Billy
had... you know... really lost it. You don't think...."
.........."It's a possibility."
Scully said. Mulder frowned, but said nothing. Scully might have a point,
he mused. Having met all of the Rangers, he could honestly say that Billy
was the only one that... had that look. That look that said someone might
be, in the tiny subconscious corners of their overly rational mind, having
a pretty hard time coping with the implausible. Mulder knew that look.
He knew it well. On the other hand, there was a history of government involvement.
.........."I think checking all angles
would be a good idea." he said simply.
patience was wearing thin. "We have nothing to check. We don't have
a case. I'm going to take a guess and say that Billy Cranston hasn't even
been reported missing." She looked at Rocky. "Well?"
.........."I didn't tell the police."
he said. "Tommy said not to. And Billy's parents went on vacation
last Friday, so they probably don't know he's gone."
.........."There," Scully said,
"is the problem. Mulder, we have absolutely no authority to investigate
a crime that may or may not have occurred."
..........Rocky stood. He'd heard enough.
The agents seemed like nice enough people, but they weren't able to help.
And, Scully's suggestion had opened an ugly can of worms in Rocky's head.
He had, after all, just given his car keys to Billy, not questioning his
friend's motives at all. "Look, I didn't mean to bother you...."
He edged towards the door.
..........Scully sighed. The kid had that
sad, pathetic look on his face that she couldn't resist. "I suppose...we
could at least introduce him to the Lone Gunmen." Not an idea she
relished, but she did want to help the kid.
.........."Why Scully....but what about
our paperwork?" Mulder teased. "I know what this is really about...you
just want to see Frohike." She glared and he quickly shut his mouth.
* * *..........The Lone Gunmen were hard at
work getting the latest issue of their magazine of the same name ready
for publication. Still, they greeted Mulder as an old friend, and gave
Scully their usual attention. "You look lovely, Agent Scully."
Frohike said, not looking up from his computer.
.........."It's always a pleasure to
have a beautiful woman visit." Byers said. Langly nodded along, he
was busy electronically scrambling his voice for a phone call. Byers looked
behind the agents and spotted Rocky. "Hey, what's this?"
.........."He's a boy scout." Mulder
said, "He's earning his badge in black government operations today."
.........."Really?" said Byers.
He eyed Rocky. "So, do you know that every phone call you make to
a foreign country is monitored by the NSA?"
.........."The government wants cellular
phones to catch on so that they can monitor the moves of all citizens at
any given moment." Frohike added, still at work.
.........."And don't forget," Langly
added,"Scooby-Doo cartoons are really about getting high."
.........."Okay." Rocky nodded.
He had to admit, he'd always suspected that Scooby cartoons were about
..........Mulder waved away their comments.
"Lay off the kid. We're here on business."
.........."It's not business." Scully
interrupted. "It's... personal."
.........."Well, anything for you, Agent
Scully." Frohike said. The others nodded.
.........."Angel Grove, CA." Mulder
said. "What do you know?"
.........."Lowest crime rate in the country."
Byers said quickly. "Reports vary but apparently a band of vigilantes
known as the Power Rangers serve as crime prevention."
.........."We have two sources there."
added Langly. "One goes by the online name of Bulk. He's even more
fun than you, Mulder. He constantly insists he has proof that these vigilantes
are aliens or the missing link. A real loon. And we don't say that lightly."
.........."The other one," Frohike
said, "we think might be a government disinformationist. He goes by
the tag 'the Professor.'"
..........Byers nodded." There might
be some cause for concern with him. He generally drops us a line every
Sunday... but not this Sunday. Too bad, really."
.........."Yeah," said Langly. "A
disinformationist but a smart guy. One time, after he was through insisting
that these ranger characters were really teenagers chosen by a ten thousand
year old mentor from outer space, he then starts explaining the basic principles
of quantum mechanics and why Star Trek is technically inaccurate in its
depiction of teletransport."
.........."Um...." Rocky knew it
was Billy they were talking about. The nickname came from "Gilligan's
Island." He had no idea that Billy had been fending off investigation
though. "Do you think something bad happened?"
..........Byers considered. "It really
depends." he explained. "His last couple of messages were odd.
He insisted he was being followed. He complained of being watched. Even
said he was risking the lives of others... but then, this is computer communication
we're talking about. This could just be the fantasy of some bored kid...
though the professor has always covered his tracks a little to well for
the average adolescent."
.........."Speaking of teens," Scully
steered the conversation back to the original problem. "We can't seem
to find one. We were hoping that you could possibly track some information
.........."Name?" Frohike asked.
He sat poised by the keyboard.
.........."William Cranston." Mulder
said. "Age 17. Lives in Angel Grove. Might have a missing child warrant
.........."Nope, he's not being looked
for." Frohike glanced through the info. "No warrants... no police
record... hell of an I.Q...." He looked up. "Got anything else?
.........."He's got my car." Rocky
said. He gave Frohike the plate number.
..........After a few minutes, Frohike said,
"Got something...." He frowned grimly. "Agent Scully, you
know I hate to give you bad news... but this just isn't good. A car, same
model, color, and plates as this kid's was found off a secondary highway
near the Olympic National Forest. There were numerous bullet holes in the
driver's door, and blood found on the driver's seat and the steering wheel.
..........Mulder broke the deadly silence.
"Well, at least we can rule out the nervous breakdown theory."
* * *.........."I don't get it."
Rocky said as they walked out of the airport terminal. "If you know
that Billy drove my car up to Washington State...why are we back in Angel
.........."Because," Scully said
patiently, "There's a good chance that, while Billy seems to be trying
to cover his tracks, he might have left something behind that'll tell us
.........."Ran off." finished Rocky.
"I get it...like, clues and stuff. Like in a Hardy Boys mystery."
He ran up ahead to grab their luggage for them.
.........."I'll be Frank Hardy,"
Mulder said wryly to Scully, "And you can be Joe. Is it just me or
is our young friend ....lacking intellect?" To Mulder, the kid seemed
about ten cents shy of a dollar.
..........Scully shook her head. "He's
an Angel Grovite...it's just innocence, Mulder. Don't worry, I'm sure he'll
..........Rocky came back with their luggage.
"Well, what are we doing first?" He smiled winningly.
..........Both Mulder and Scully cringed.
"We,"said Scully, "will be dropping you off at your home.
I'm sure your parents must be worried sick." But suddenly, remembering
the general Angel Grove attitude toward child care, she wasn't so sure.
..........She was right. "My dad left
us a couple years ago." Rocky said brightly, "And Mom really
has her hands full with the other kids. And, before you mention it, it's
spring break at school so I'm not missing anything there either. And, what
if Lord Zedd comes after you? Admit it, you need me."
.........."Why would...Lord Zedd,"
and Mulder choked back laughter, "come after us?" Mulder knew
all about the various happenings in Angel Grove. He simply didn't see what
the high lord of evil would want with him.
.........."Well, for starters, he probably
knows that Billy is out of contact with us." Rocky's face grew grim.
If Billy had any sort of trouble with Lord Zedd, the team would never know.
Another reason to worry. "And its been a couple days since there was
..........The FBI agents didn't like it. Bad
enough that they were investigating a case that, under any definition,
really belonged to the local authorities. To drag along a teenager was,
well... wrong. The black government forces had shown, on several occasions,
that no mercy was the rule, not the exception.
..........Rocky had an idea of what was bothering
them."Look... I put myself in danger almost every day. I know the
risks. I also know that you two are completely unprotected from Lord Zedd."
He lowered his voice. "As a Ranger, its my job to protect you... and
you are at risk."
.........."Has anyone ever been killed
by Lord Zedd?" Mulder wasn't trying to make light of the situation....
though it had always been a trifle hard to reconcile the fact that the
only thing keeping the earth safe from magically powered evil forces was
a bunch of teens, but he did know that, if Billy Cranston was indeed running
from government sources, the likelyhood of people getting killed was pretty
high. Whatever protection having Rocky around would give them from Lord
Zedd wasn't worth it if the kid ended up with a government issue bullet
in his head. The government had been more than willing to kill Tommy Oliver
just to draw Billy out of the woodwork.
.........."Just the people who work in
the business district." Rocky said quickly. "You know...when
buildings get crushed and stuff. And sometimes, people get killed by monsters
shooting them. Oh, Tengu warriors do mess people up if we don't get there
in time. That doesn't happen much... but"
.........."Why would anyone want to live
here?" Scully couldn't help it. "This place is ...." Her
words trailed off... she didn't want to offend the kid.
..........Rocky leaned in close, as if giving
away secrets. "We have real low taxes, Agent Scully. And, the weather
is really nice all year round." He stepped back. "I'll go get
us a taxi!"
* * *..........The Cranston home was dark.
Mulder checked his gun, as did Scully. They had told Rocky to wait by the
garage, fearing that they might find some potentially violent situation
inside. After all, there was no real proof that Billy Cranston had even
left Angel Grove. Granted, Rocky's car being found riddled with bullets
up near the Canadian border was odd, but that could have been arranged
by a wily, genius teen as a decoy. For all they knew, the kid was holed
up in his house.
..........Mulder grabbed the door knob. Not
surprisingly, it was unlocked. Angel Grove, he thought to himself, the
only city in the U.S. where people don't lock their doors. He swung the
door open and he and Scully entered.
..........It was empty, as far as they could
tell. Nothing out of place, every thing looking neat. The place looked
like a fifties sitcom...right down to the cute photos of the kid on the
wall. It was just like Mulder remembered... very"Cleaver-esque".
..........Scully checked out the kitchen.
"The refrigerator is stocked... and there's a list of instructions
on the counter for dinner preparations. Whatever's going on, Mom and Dad
don't seem to be in on it. There's a number here for their hotel in Hawaii."
.........."Hawaii? They left the Beaver
by himself?" Mulder chuckled to himself. He found the basement steps.
"Let's check out the Batcave."
..........They could'nt find the light switch,
and Mulder noted that, unlike the last time he entered the Cranston basement,
there was no etheral glow coming from the electronic equipment. Behind
him came a click, and a beam of light played along the stairwell.
.........."I hate dark stairwells."
Scully muttered behind him. "What do you expect to find down here,
..........He turned on his own flashlight.
"He had enough stuff down here to make his own cold fusion reactor."
His light flashed across a worktable. A clean worktable. He thought back
to his last visit. He dropped the light down to the floor, and sure enough,
there was a pile of papers and electrical bits. He sniffed the air. "What
is that stench?"
.........."That computer's been beaten
in." Scully pointed her light to the wrecked piece of equipment.
.........."Signs of a struggle."
Mulder said as he checked out the destruction. "And look...."
He held his flashlight still. On one of the counters were several cigarette
butts. "A calling card."
.........."Or," Scully countered,
"A deliberately laid clue left solely to suck you in further... Mulder,
think about what you're dealing with. There are many cases of intellectually
advanced teens snapping, and leading authorities on wild goose chases.
It could be a cry for help. He knows that it will attract your attention."
..........Mulder stepped around a table and
scanned the floor."No, Scully... this attracts my attention."
She stepped over for a look. Sprawled on the floor, staring up at the ceiling
through sightless eyes, was a dead man. Scully kneeled down and checked
the body. The man had been shot in the chest, and been dead for several
days. Since Friday evening, she guessed. "He's got a shoulder holster...
but no gun. And, there's no ID."
.........."Well," said Mulder as
he bent down to examine the corpse, "I'd say this is definitely a
cry for help."
..........The lights suddenly came on. Scully
and Mulder spun around as one, diving behind the worktable for cover. They
came up, guns pointed at the stairwell.
..........Only to see Rocky. "Geez...don't
you guys know how to turn on the lights?" He sniffed the air. "Ehhh...what
died in here? Billy must've left something out."
.........."That is one way of looking
at it." Mulder muttered. He gestured for Rocky to come closer and
showed the kid the body. "This wouldn't happen to be anyone you know,
would it? The milkman maybe?"
..........Rocky's eyes bugged out. Up until
that moment, he had been treating the whole situation like a typical Lord
Zedd scenario. Not that he didn't think Billy wasn't in danger...but the
idea that people were trying to kill his friend...and that someone, possibly
even Billy, had killed another human being in a place as familiar as the
lab.... He checked out the corpse. "No...it's not the milkman...it
looks like the guy that was subbing for Mrs. Appleby in advanced physics...
I think his name is...was Mr. Temple." Rocky considered his words
carefully. "He was new at school...I'd never seen him before... but
he seemed okay."
.........."Not the way you'd expect a
paid killer to act." Mulder added. He started thinking out loud, ignoring
Rocky's shock and Scully's irritation. "They came after him... threatened
him maybe, and tried to kill him. He somehow got the better of a trained
killer... not that surprising considering his martial arts training."
.........."Um...Agent Mulder," Rocky
said hesitantly, "How well do you know Billy, anyhow? I mean, Billy
isn't.... bad at karate but... um... he isn't exactly an expert, either."
He gestured to the cluttered lab. "That's not really his specialty."
..........Scully shifted through the debris.
"He's the team think tank?" Scully had never really thought about
the hierarchy of the Rangers... she'd tried to forget the entire episode...
but now, she found herself curious. "So, you think it's unlikely that
he could've overpowered an armed gunman?"
..........Rocky hesitated. "It would
been difficult... but he could've done it. You should never underestimate
the strength of the human spirit, Agent Scully."
..........She nodded, slightly amused by the
kid's naivete. "I never do. I also never underestimate the strength
of a psychotic. Do you know that it's possible for people in the throes
of insanity to perform incredible feats of strength?"
.........."Jumping to conclusions, aren't
you?" Mulder asked.
.........."Aren't you?" she countered.
"Consider Occam's razor. The simplest solution is the most likely
to be true. What do we really have here? Some definite evidence that in
last few days, Billy Cranston became increasingly paranoid. We have some
cigarettes... which for all we know, he may have smoked himself. We have
a corpse with a bullet hole. A corpse tentatively identified as the boy's
.........."Don't you think it was a little
odd that the substitute physics teacher was carrying a concealed weapon?"
.........."It's not against the law."She
walked around the body, forming her own scenario." The teacher, Mr.
Temple, noticed that one of his top students seemed to be acting odd. He
stops by for a visit... not realizing the paranoid delusions of the student
were in full force. Billy assumes that it's one of the evil government
agents sent to "get him" and reacts violently. In the tussle,
he gets the gun, kills the teacher and runs off."
..........Rocky sat down on the stairwell,
and tried to think. "There's a problem with that." he said suddenly.
"Agent Scully.... Billy wasn't acting really weird... just kinda nervous.
You really had to know him to pick up on it... and Mr. Temple was only
in school for a day or two. And... even if Mr. Temple had noticed, and
was concerned... Remember, Billy came to my house real late, like three
in the morning... in a hurry, like he was being chased. If he'd just killed
Mr. Temple... then I'd kinda wonder what this teacher was doing at the
house that late." He sighed heavily. "I have to admit though...
Agent Scully's idea makes a lot more sense.... If that's really what happened,
Billy'll end up in jail, won't he?"
..........Both agents were silent. Finally,
Mulder spoke. "I'm not convinced that the government isn't involved.
This is all too convenient.... and you, Rocky have made some good points.
We still have to check out this Temple fellow, and the crime scene up in
Washington before I'll change my mind."
.........."And no," added Scully,
"he more than likely wouldn't go to jail. If Mulder's right, this
never... officially happened. And if I'm right... Billy's age and mental
state would probably land him a short stay in a psychiatric hospital."
.........."Which," Mulder said simply,
"wouldn't be a bad thing if Scully's right."
* * *..........They ended up in the park. They
had gone to the school to check on "Mr. Temple," who they quickly
discovered, didn't seem to exist. According to the school, there had been
no sub called in for advanced physics... the kids had study hall for two
..........Mulder didn't like Angel Grove Park.
He didn't much like Angel Grove either... the whole place had a creepy
feel to it. He was reminded of the old film "Invasion of The Body
Snatchers..." all the people in San Martin looked so normal, but there
was an underlying feeling of something not right. That was the way Angel
Grove made him feel. Mulder fully expected to touch something and find
it slime coated.
.........."Well... you guys want lunch?"
Rocky asked. At that moment, a horde of Tengu warriors dropped down from
the sky. "You guys don't know when to quit!" He took a martial
stance, while Mulder and Scully gaped about at their attackers. "Red
..........He morphed. Both Scully and Mulder
were suitably impressed, but they quickly realized that the kid was badly
outnumbered by the purplish giant birds. Scully pulled out her pistol,
and nodded to Mulder. "You take the ones on the left, I'll take the
..........He grinned. To Rocky he shouted,
"Get down!"The kid dove, thinking that the agents were warning
him of a sneak attack. In a way, they were. They opened fire. In seconds,
the air was filled with pained squawking and purple feathers.
..........Rocky looked around. The ground
was littered with dead Tengu, which slowly disintegrated, leaving piles
of purple feathers. Mulder stepped from behind the tree where he'd taken
cover and nudged one of the piles. "Well," he said to the kid,
"You said you wanted lunch... you like white or dark meat?"
.........."None for me," said Scully,
in a rare playful mood, "I prefer extra crispy skin."
.........."How very high fat of you,
Scully." Mulder retorted.
.........."Are you two through?"
Rocky was trying hard to control his anger, but it came through. "You
coulda killed me! And there are kids that play here! There's a reason why
the cops let us handle these things!" As he lectured them, the other
Rangers finally responded to the situation.
.........."Jeez, what happened here?"asked
.........."These idiots opened fire!"
Rocky said, more to Tommy than to the rest.
.........."Didn't anyone tell you not
to?" Adam asked. "We specifically told the police to warn newcomers."
.........."We are not idiots and no,
no one mentioned that when attacked by giant birds, it wasn't cool to defend
ourselves!" Scully's patience limit had been reached. She grabbed
Rocky by his ninjetti outfit and shook him. "You didn't exactly say
don't shoot the giant purple birds, Rocky!" She let go, and put a
hand to her forehead. "It's this town... it's gotta be this town."
.........."How come she knows your name?"
Aisha asked Rocky.
.........."Yeah...." both Kimberly
and Adam glared at Rocky.
.........."Uh-oh... guys, believe me,
this isn't as bad as it looks." Rocky was going to explain but then
remembered his promise to Zordon and Tommy. He looked beseechingly at Tommy.
..........Tommy understood his dilemma. "All
right look. We're all," and his gesture encompassed Mulder and Scully,
"going to go back to the command center and discuss this...."
He noted the FBI agents looks of concern. "This is a team... we shouldn't
be keeping secrets."
.........."Well... shouldn't Billy come
too?" Adam looked around. "You know, its not like him to not
.........."Really," said Kimberly.
"I haven't seen him since Friday, and we were supposed to study together.
And where have you been, Rocky?"
.........."Guys...." Tommy took
a deep breath and tried to regain his patience, "We'll discuss it
at the command center. Let's go." He and Rocky grabbed the FBI agents
and they all transported.
* * *.........."Now, let me see if I've
got all this," Kimberly paced around and command center while the
other Rangers and the agents watched with worry. "I was kidnapped
by the government, Tommy was shot, and our physics teacher is lying dead
in Billy's lab? Have I got this summed up correctly?" Rocky and Tommy
nodded. "This just too weird!"
..........Mulder chuckled. "Trust me
kid..." and he gestured around the room, "It only gets better."
..........Adam ignored the chatter. He was
considering the situation carefully. He knew he didn't have Billy's lightning
wit... but with Billy gone, someone had to do the thinking. "You know,
I understand why you guys never said anything about this, and I think I
understand why Billy didn't want the rest of us involved... I don't understand
though, why didn't you two,"and he pointed to the agents,"go
to Washington first? Honestly, it seems to me you'd probably find him there,
not here." The other rangers nodded.
.........."That's assuming that the government
has anything to do with this," Scully said patiently, "And I'm
not ready to say that it does for sure."
.........."And," Mulder said, "Let's
not kid ourselves. Whatever theory we accept, it doesn't change the fact
that Rocky's car was found full of blood and bullet holes. Now, we did
call the various hospitals... and morguesÉ to see if Billy turned
up. There was nothing. Who ever was responsible, it doesn't matter. The
outcome of this is well...."
boomed Zordon. "Rangers, I fear Agent Mulder is correct...you must
be prepared for bad news."
.........."So..." Rocky turned to
the agents, "when are we going to Washington?"
.........."Yeah." Kimberly added.
"Billy's in trouble...we have to help him." The other rangers
.........."And what if you all get killed?"
Scully asked. "Maybe you didn't understand... the odds of Billy even
being alive at this point are so low..." She turned to Zordon. "Help
me on this."
..........Zordon nodded. "Rangers, I
must advise against this. I suggest you allow Agents Mulder and Scully
to continue their investigation.If the government was involved, we can
be certain that you are all being monitored."
.........."I think one of us should go
with them." said Tommy. "I don't think Lord Zedd has picked up
on the situation yet, but if he does...."
.........."That would be a wise decision."
Zordon eyed the agents until they nodded in agreement.
.........."I'll go." Rocky chimed.
"After all, if their watching anyone, it's Tommy and Kimberly. And,
maybe they haven't picked up on Adam and Aisha yet... I'm the logical choice."
.........."Are you sure?" asked
.........."It's the best way." Rocky
said with finality.
.........."Well...ok, but watch your
back." Tommy said, while the other rangers nodded. They waited, until
Mulder and Scully nodded in defeat.
..........If they hadn't been happy about
dragging Rocky along before, they were really not thrilled now. Still,
there wasn't really a good reason to say no... even to Mulder it seemed
as though the chances of government involvement weren't too high. The odds
suggested they'd find Billy Cranston dead in a ditch somewhere.
* * *..........The sheriff of Port Lewis was,
Mulder realized after a few moments, rather awed by the FBI agents. An
unusual attitude. Normally the local authorities resented the presence
of FBI investigators, but the roly poly sheriff, Sheriff Dinkins was his
name, seemed to be almost exploding with desire to give out information.
.........."Over here," Dinkins led
them through the small station, "is the impound area. That's where
we put the car." He held the door open and Mulder and Scully stepped
out into the lot, with Rocky trailing behind self consciously.
..........The car was the only one in the
lot. Riddled with bullets, and with all the windows blown out, the car
was totalled. Scully peered into the driver's side. There was dried blood,
both on the seat and on the steering wheel. Scully scraped some of it into
an evidence bag. "Do you know his blood type?" she asked Rocky.
.........."You mean the blond kid's blood
type, right?" said the sheriff. "Well, we never got a chance
to get him to a doctor before some of your government friends messed things
.........."Excuse me?" Scully was
surprised. There had been no mention of finding anyone at the scene. Rocky
let a smile cross his face... it was good news...sort of at least.
.........."You're looking for the kid,
right?" Dinkins waited until they nodded. "Why?" The sheriff's
face grew stony.
.........."He's my friend." Rocky
said simply. "And Agent Mulder and Scully agreed to help me and my
..........The sheriff studied them intently.
"So... this isn't an official investigation?"
..........They shook their heads. He smiled.
"Good," he said, "because, officially speaking, I didn't
find no kid in that car. Why don't you folks come to my office and have
* * *..........Dinkin's office was neat but
purely functional. No decorations at all, save a small, aging photograph
of two little boys, which Mulder assumed were the man's children. They
sat, the agents and Rocky on an aging leather couch, and the sheriff behind
his desk. Dinkins stared at the photograph for a second, and then turned
his attention to his guests.
.........."We got a report of a high
speed chase taking place out on the road by the park." he began. "I
got out there just in time to see the kid's car spin outa control into
a ditch. I pull up by it, and my deputy sees the chase car, a big black
Ford 4-door, make a u-turn and peel out of there. We called that in to
the other cars but no one caught'em. I see the kid holding his head and
go check on him." The sheriff paused. "Must've cracked his head
on the wheel... happens a lot even with seat belts. He gets out of the
car, sees me, and tries to take off but at least one of them bullets got
him. In the leg, not too bad... back in the war, we'd have called it a
good wound. So I grab him, ask him what the hell is going on, and he clams
up. He wasn't hurt too bad as far as I could tell, so I put him in the
backseat of the car to take him to the hospital."
.........."Did he escape?" asked
Mulder. That, he thought to himself, would have shown a lot more resourcefulness
that Mulder had ever given the kid credit for.
..........The sheriff shook his head."No...
he was pretty done in. What happened is that we get a call over the radio
from some fed ordering me to bring the kid right to the station. Now, you
don't ignore something like that. Now, these guys grab the kid... pretty
rough, and throw him in our only cell. I didn't like that, and I told'em
so. We go into my office and discuss... if you want to call it that."
He snorted in disgust.
.........."Let me guess," Mulder
said wryly, "They took over the investigation... it was a matter of
..........The sheriff nodded. "They told
us not to make any records." Dinkins eased back in his chair, musing
pensively. "And then, it gets strange. It was late, you know. Dark
outside. The government people were in my office, both of them... I didn't
put a guard at the kid's cell... it just didn't seem necessary. Anyway,
I was arguing with these fellas when the lights went out. The whole town
blacked out for about five minutes. When they came back on, I went out
to check on the boy... and he was gone. The cell was still locked."
The sheriff laughed. "Boy, let me tell you, those government folks
weren't too happy. And, I still haven't figured out how the kid did it...
in a power outage, the lock automatically clamps down. Same kind they use
in big prisons."
.........."So then what happened?"
..........Dinkins waved his hand. "Oh,
they looked all over the town, but no kid. I suspect he ran off into the
park. Good place to hide, really. The agents... oh, they told us not to
say anything...you know the routine."
..........Mulder nodded. "Sheriff, I
have two questions for you, if you don't mind."
.........."First, when the power outage
occurred, did you get any calls about strange lights in the sky?"
Mulder ignored the glare from Scully.
..........And his hunch was right. "Matter
of fact," said Dinkins, "We got about thirty calls complaining
about low flying planes, ball lightning, and weird lights. Think it's connected?"
.........."Maybe." Mulder said noncommittally.
"My other question is personal." He waited until Dinkins indicated
that it was all right. "I assume you were sworn to secrecy. Yet, despite
.........."Yes." Scully, too, was
curious. "You're putting yourself at risk for a teenager who's name
you don't even know. Why?"
.........."Two reasons." Dinkins
leaned back in his chair. "First, that kid didn't... seem like a threat
to national security. I've been a cop for a good long time. You can tell
a good kid from a bad one...he was a good kid. And second," He leaned
forward and tapped the aging photo. "Those are my two boys. They both
died of cancer about six months after that picture was taken. It went through
them like wildfire. My doctor said that, when I was in 'Nam, I was exposed
to Agent Orange... screwed up my genes, and passed 'em on to my kids. They
never had a chance, he said."He looked at the agents."No one
ever told me that Agent Orange was dangerous... it was a matter of national
secrecy. I find, the older I get, the less important national security
means to me." He looked at the photo again, and then at Rocky, "You,
son, are about the same age as my youngest would've been. So was your friend.
Somehow, I can't believe that the safety of the free world is worth hunting
down a seventeen year old like a dog. That reason enough?"
* * *.........."So, whats with the weird
lights, anyhow?" Rocky had to admit, he was struggling to keep up
with the information. He wasn't a stupid person, but he knew that sometimes
things just didn't click with him. He wasn't dumb, he did fine in school,
but he often missed connections that seemed obvious to others. For instance,
he could not comprehend what the lights in the sky had to do with the power
outage. And just how did Billy get out of the cell, he wondered. Billy
was great, he knew, with mechanical stuff, but getting out of that high
security cell was the Macgyver move of the century... and Billy was no
.........."Yes, Mulder, what is with
the lights?" Scully's tone was sarcastic. She had a pretty good idea
what Mulder's theory with the lights entailed, and she was not pleased.
The case was already strange enough.
.........."Power outages are often associated
with reports of UFO's." Mulder told Rocky, hoping he wouldn't have
to explain further... Rocky, he had noticed, wasn't a quick study.
..........Rocky considered. "You mean...
you think the UFO's... the aliens... got Billy out of jail." He took
a bite out of his hamburger. "That's crazy."
..........Scully raised her eyebrows at Mulder
in amusement as she sipped her soda. Mulder decided to press the kid...
mostly for his own amusement. Somehow, he didn't think it would be difficult
to outmaneuver the kid. "Well, Rocky," he began, "Do you
deny the possibility of alien life?"
.........."No." Rocky sensed he
was being made fun of. Mulder's tone was like that of a parent to a very
young child. It ticked him off. "There's all kinds of alien beings,"
he lowered his voice so the other patrons of the diner didn't overhear
him, "I know... we sometimes work with them when we visit other planets."
As Mulder's jaw dropped, Rocky congratulated himself. That'd teach him
to tease me, he thought with amusement.
.........."You've... been to other planets?"
That little tidbit was not shared out the last time Mulder hooked up with
the Angel Grove teens.
.........."A few...." Rocky said
nonchalantly, enjoying Mulder's discomfort. "Phadoes, Edenoi... we've
met aliens here too. The Bookala. Billy and it really got along well...."
His voice trailed off, remembering the reason why he was sitting in a greasy
diner in Olympia as opposed to being home.
.........."Do you have proof?" Mulder
didn't doubt the kid, but proof would be nice, if just to wave in the face
.........."Agent Mulder... We don't ask
our alien friends for ID." Rocky sipped his soda. "That would
.........."Really, Mulder... you wouldn't
want to be discourteous. Scully covered her smile with her hand.
.........."But seriously..." Rocky
continued, "Lights in the sky aside... we're at a dead end, aren't
we? I mean, Billy hasn't exactly left a trail of bread crumbs through the
forest. Who hangs out in a national park, after all?"
..........Mulder looked up from his burger,
a smile flashing across his face. "Who hangs out in parks? Park Rangers."
He stood, leaving his lunch half finished. "Let's go."
* * *..........The ranger held his Smokey the
bear hat in one hand and the photo in his other. "Yeah... I've seen
this kid. I think," he qualified. "The kid I saw seemed a little
spaced out, if you know what I mean."
.........."Could you be a little more
specific?" Scully was patient. She didn't expect a medical diagnosis
from the ranger, but his description was a bit vague.
..........The ranger rolled his eyes. "Spaced
out... you know. High as a kite. On drugs, maybe. Maybe having a mental
disturbance... we get more of that than you'd think. In fact, the last
time I saw this kid... he was talking with the local nutcases." The
ranger pointed across the parking lot to where three older men were standing,
smoking cigarettes around a trash can.
.........."Well, if he didn't seem okay...
why didn't you help him?" Rocky was appalled.
..........The ranger scoffed. "I'm not
a social worker, kid. I spend most of the day dodging bullets from the
loggers and the environmentalists... Your friend wasn't breaking any laws
so what could I do? Every time I walked near, he ran off. As long as he
wasn't being disruptive, I can't interfere." The ranger donned his
hat and walked off.
.........."I don't believe how cold that
guy is." Rocky said suddenly.
.........."You don't get out much, do
you?" Mulder started walking across the lot to the three men the ranger
had pointed out. "Welcome to planet Earth. Sometimes I think you kids
live a vacuum where the fifties never ended."
voice had an edge to it. There came a point where she thought baiting Rocky
was simply not funny. Besides, they had work to do... and Rocky, unlike
Billy, the only other ranger they'd ever really talked with, seemed easily
hurt by Mulder's rudeness. Innocence, she thought to herself, can be a
..........The men smoking by the trashcan
barely glanced at them as they approached. One sociably offered them his
flask. They didn't seem, to Mulder, to be particularly crazy. Dirty, yes.
Unhealthy, certainly. Suffering from obvious mental illness? He couldn't
tell, though he was on his guard. He held out the photo he carried to the
men. "The ranger over there said that you men might have seen this
boy. Have you?"
.........."Who wants to know?" The
tallest one puffed cigarette smoke in Mulder's face.
..........Mulder started reaching for his
badge and then stopped. He looked over the men. Older than him, ragged...
a sudden show of authority might scare them off. By the furtive glances
they were making at the picture, he knew they had at least seen the kid.
So, instead of pulling out his ID, he said softly, "It's my son. He
ran away. My wife and I," and he pulled the surprised Scully closer,
"are worried sick."
..........The three men glanced at each other.
Finally, one said, "Yeah... we seen him all right. Real polite he
was. Didn't say nothing about running away."
.........."He said the government wanted
him for evil alien experiments." said another. "You know, where
they get alien scientists to plant electrical devices in humans..."
.........."Don't forget the mutilated
cows." said the tallest. "They steal cow organs too. Did you
.........."We had heard something to
that effect." Mulder flowed with it. "Did he mention where he
..........The three men looked at each other.
Then, oddly, they started obviously examining Rocky. Finally, the tall
one said, "Look... did you beat him? Cause we saw bruises on his face,
and I ain't telling where he said he was going if you're gonna hit him."
.........."Don't forget the burns, man."
.........."Burns?" Rocky asked...
but suddenly, as he looked at the smoking men's hands, he flashed back
to the night Billy had left. Billy had grabbed him by his pajamas, slammed
him into the wall...and on the back of his hands... hadn't there something
strange? Dark spots. He hadn't been paying attention and until then, it
hadn't registered but he knew then what he had seen. Cigarette burns, like
the men standing before him. Except that the burns were on the backs of
Billy's hands... Rocky didn't know much about smoking but he did know that
burns happened when a person let the cigarette burn down on their fingers.
Burns on the back of a hand were... intentional. An ugly thought.
..........Mulder again took the situation
in stride. "No, of course not. Look, our son has a condition...epilepsy.
He hasn't had his medication in a couple of days now."
.........."We're really worried about
him." added Rocky. the three men looked at each other, swayed by Rocky's
.........."He was asking about the old
caverns." the tall fellow said. "Wanted to know how to get up
to 'em. He was real nervous... didn't say why he wanted to go there."
.........."It's awful lonely up there."
added the man with the bottle. "Quiet. You can see the stars for miles."
.........."You oughta take better care
of your kid, mister." The tall man continued. "He didn't look
.........."We'll take that under advisement."
* * *..........Scully opened the map over the
car hood. "The caverns are located all over Strega Mountain. He could
be anywhere." She gestured to the small wooded clearing they had pulled
off into. "This can be our base camp."
..........Rocky raised his hand, a habit from
school. "Um..., you know, I'm all for searching the woods but... we
don't have any food. And, it's cold. I vote we get some supplies before
we do this. We won't be doing Billy any good by getting messed up in the
..........Mulder nodded. He was hungry too,
and it was cold. He could see that while Rocky was damn anxious about his
friend, at the same time he was shaking from the cold. The kid was in the
same light windbreaker from before. No gloves on his blue fingers. Mulder
himself was feeling the wind's bite. His trenchcoat was not meant for extensive
outdoor wear. He also had no gloves. Scully, he noted wryly, was wearing
a nice, warming looking parka complete with down filled gloves.
.........."I've got some extra gloves...."
Scully pulled out some old ratty gloves but Mulder shook his head.
.........."Look... Scully...why don't
you look around for the kid. We'll head back into town, get some supplies
and join you." He glanced at his watch. 2pm. "We've got about
four hours of daylight... it'll only take us an hour to get in and out
.........."Okay." Scully pulled
a back pack out of the car's trunk. She pointed to the map. "I'll
start looking in this area. We'll meet in, say, three hours?"
.........."Agreed." Mulder motioned
for the kid to get in the car, but Rocky hesitated.
.........."Whats in the bag, Agent Scully?"
He was simply curious... Agent Scully was a different breed of woman. Most
of the females in Rocky's life were like his friends Kimberly and Aisha.
Nice but not too serious.
..........Scully gave the kid a smile. "Just
some emergency items. A flashlight, matches, an emergency blanket, some
candy...a first aid kit." A tranquilizer for your friend if he's still
alive... but that she kept to herself. She hoped Rocky didn't have his
hopes up. The men at the trashcan had last seen Billy four days ago. Four
days in the cold and wet... and who knows what else was wrong with the
kid. Add in the car accident, the gunshot wound... in six days Billy Cranston
had managed to accumulate more life experience than was really prudent.
She figured the kid was probably dead by now. Exposure... or possibly an
accident. If they were lucky, they would find the body.
..........Scully waited until they drove off
to start climbing up the steep hillside. She was depressed. As a pathologist,
she didn't mind corpses... she just didn't like having to hunt them down
* * *.........."Yeah mom, I'm fine."
Mulder listened for a second to Rocky's conversation and then went into
the general store. He figured the kid would be fine for a few seconds without
..........He grabbed some sandwiches from
the deli and some soda. After a moments thought, he added in a bag of sunflower
seeds. It could be a long search, after all. As he went up to the counter,
he glanced at the newspaper rack. On the front page was a picture of Billy
..........He grabbed the paper and scanned
the story. Evidently, Ward and June were more conscientious about leaving
the Beaver home alone than he had given credit for. According to the paper,
they had gotten concerned when they failed to reach their son on the phone
after trying several times. They had a neighbor check on the house. The
neighbor had found an unidentified dead man in the basement. The police
were theorizing that it was some sort of kidnapping or perhaps a burglary
gone bad. They believed that the Cranston boy was being held by the burglars/kidnappers
and were asking police in surrounding states to be on the lookout. It was,
Mulder realized, a very nice cover story.
..........He bought the paper along with the
supplies and went out to grab Rocky. The kid was sitting, slumped over
in the phone booth. Mulder thought nothing of it... the kid was tired.
So was he. Then, he saw the broken glass at the kid's feet. He dropped
the bag of groceries and ran to the booth.
..........Rocky was out cold. Mulder quickly
checked him over. It looked as though someone had snuck up behind the boy
and slammed his head into the glass wall. And, what was this? An envelope
addressed to "Agent Mulder" pinned to the kid's jacket. Lovely,
Mulder thought as he opened the envelope... Federal Express does muggings
..........There was just a brief message.
Wait by your motel room phone. How cryptic, Mulder thought to himself.
He looked at the boy, still unconscious. Scully would be all right for
a while. She'd have to understand.
* * *..........Scully cursed as she slipped
on a moss covered rock. The ground was damp and there was a light mist
in the air. She considered turning around but decided against it.
..........The truth was that there were obvious
signs that someone had been through the area recently. Bark torn off of
trees... footprints by a stream. A fire pit, soaking wet true, but again,
with footprints around it. She still hadn't found the caves the men had
spoken of. More importantly, she had that creepy, tingling fear that someone
could see her.
..........She looked up ahead. Through the
trees, she could see a clearing... and a dark cave opening. Aha, she thought.
She glanced at her watch. Her three hours was almost up. Oh well, Mulder
..........Stepping carefully around the boulders,
she spied a flat patch of ground. Grateful for even a few steps of easy
footing, she went for it, not noticing how laid out the whole area was.
Until she plunged ten feet down.
.........."Ahh!" she shrieked in
surprise. A pit trap, of all things. She wiped herself off and looked up.
She heard rustling above her. She tensed.
..........A ghostlike blond haired wraith
peered over the edge. "Hey... you're not the sasquatch."
.........."Billy?" She looked closer.
In the waning light, it was hard to tell... but she was pretty sure. After
all, who else would be out in the woods?
.........."Agent Scully... what are you
doing in my sasquatch trap?" The wraith was irritated. She held out
her hands in a gesture of peace. There was no telling what sort of mental
state he was in... whoever it was. She was pretty sure but... and even
if it was Billy, he was armed at last check.
.........."Billy...." she said hesitantly.
.........."That is no longer my name."
said the wraith in a low growl. "I've transcended to a higher plane
of existence." She heard the click of a gun safety flicking off. Uh
.........."I'm sorry." she said
quickly. "I didn't know. I didn't mean to offend you." She waited
a moment until she saw the barely visible shock of blonde hair nod in acceptance.
"So... what should I call you?"
..........There was a long pause. "Well...."
he said thoughtfully. "My spiritual name, I've discovered, is Ten
Sticks... but for you to use it would suggest a certain degree of familiarity
that is not appropriate at this juncture." His vocabulary hadn't suffered,
Scully noted. "You may call me... Will."
.........."Like Will Riker on Star Trek."
He paused again. "Did the aliens send you? Or did Rocky completely
disregard everything I told him? Everyone is against me, you know."
..........Oh boy.... someone was having a
serious break with reality. Paranoia, hallucinations.... She squinted in
the darkness. Sure enough, she spotted dark bruises on the kid's face.
The steering wheel, she recalled, a head injury... a bizarre stressful
situation to begin with. "Will... I just want to help."
.........."Oh right." he growled.
"You all lie. I believed you and Agent Mulder when you said you weren't
going to tell about us... but what was the first thing that physics teacher
asked me? Who are the new rangers, that's what! Well, I didn't tell, even
they were lighting cigarettes and putting them out on my hands!"
..........Scully kept her hands where the
kid could see them. She made no sudden moves. The first thing to do, she
thought to herself, was get out of the pit. Then, maybe I can get him to
take a Valium or two. "Will... I didn't even know there were new rangers
until your friend Rocky told me."
.........."You know, it's becoming obvious
that Rocky can't keep a secret." In the growing darkness, she could
barely see him standing over the pit. "Well, are you going to stay
there? I really doubt the sasquatch is going to walk into an already filled
trap, you know."
.........."You know... the sasquatch.
I think he lives with the giant and the dwarf."
.........."And you want to catch him?"
Scully realized as she pulled herself out of the pit that Billy was keeping
the gun on her. Nice and slow... always remember that he's not rational
.........."Yes." He waved her out
ahead of him and pointed towards the cave. She noticed that he didn't bother
covering up the pit. She decided not to mention it. They started walking
to the cave. He continued with. "The aliens are afraid of the sasquatch."
.........."The aliens?" The kid
was beginning to sound like Mulder.
.........."You know...the aliens. The
ones with the needles." The kid shuddered. "There were a lot
of needles... and bright lights... and the cigarettes... Agent Scully,
there was blood everywhere. Even on me."
..........Well, Scully thought with something
akin to horror, if Billy Cranston hadn't been a good candidate for a nervous
breakdown before, he certainly had the inside track now.
* * *..........Mulder sat by the phone, chewing
on seeds and keeping a close eye on his young companion. Rocky, upon coming
to, had been "worshipping the porcelain god" so to speak for
well over an hour. Ordinarily, Mulder would've taken the kid right to a
hospital but he had a feeling that this case was different. Besides, he
had to wait by the phone. That was what was important. Rocky would live.
..........Rocky staggered out of the bathroom
and crawled onto the nearest bed. He curled up around a pillow. He wanted
to cry... his head was hurting that badly. Agent Mulder had made an icepack
for him but it wasn't helping. He groaned and closed his eyes.
..........Mulder shook him. "Don't go
to sleep. Here... have a seed."
..........Rocky looked at the bag of salty,
oily seeds and cringed away. He never wanted to see food again. He was
getting to the point that he didn't care if he ever saw Billy again either.
Stupid Billy... why couldn't he share his problems the way every one else
did. Jerk... ruining Spring Break for everyone...causing him to get stuck
in a hotel room with a grade A flake like Mulder. He scowled at the FBI
..........Mulder ignored it. He was not there
to mother the kid. He wanted the phone to ring. And, he admitted to himself,
he was a little worried about Scully. It was getting dark. The park was
fairly remote. But then, Scully wasn't a child... she'd understand.
.......... The phone rang. He picked it up.
.........."Agent Mulder... how good to
hear from you." There was a long, audible drag. Mulder could almost
smell the smoke. "I had no idea you were a player in this game too."
.........."Where is the Cranston boy?"
Mulder didn't want to play games.
..........A low chuckle. "We have him
under surveillance. I'll be up front, Agent Mulder... William Cranston
is a secondary concern. For a variety of reasons, I find him to be... unsatisfactory."
.........."What? Didn't like the way
he killed your hired thug?" Mulder said coldly. Dealing with the Smoking
Man always got his temper up.
.........."The only concern you need
to have is with me, Agent Mulder. Understand this..."Another long
drag. "The boy will be killed if we do not come to an agreement, as
will your partner."
.........."You've got Scully?" The
.........."My organization has need of...certain
skills. Skills that Mr. Cranston, amongst others, posses. My first choice
was the Cranston boy... circumstances have changed my mind. The boy in
your hotel room... which is it? Jason Scott or Rockwell DeSantos?"
.........."None of your damn business."
.........."Agent Mulder... put the boy
on the line." There was another long drag. "Now... before I give
my man orders to open fire."
..........Mulder hesitated. He didn't like
the implications. The voice on the phone was going to try making a deal
with Rocky. Rocky, while not exactly a half-wit, was also not exactly an
experienced negotiator. Mulder could almost see Rocky trading a cow for
magic beans. But... there was really no choice. He handed Rocky the phone.
"Someone wants to talk to you."
..........Rocky took the phone. "Hello?"
Mulder watched as the boy frowned. "No, I'm sorry... but that would
be unacceptable. Yes, in this situation... I do have the authority to make
this decision. No, it would be the same from any of us... I wouldn't bother
trying that." A long pause. "I'm sorry you feel that's necessary...
but I think you're underestimating Agent Scully. Its obvious you underestimated
Billy." Another long pause. "Yes, you've underestimated Agent
Mulder and me too." Mulder was starting get impatient but then Rocky
abruptly hung up the phone.
.........."Well?" Mulder asked.
He didn't like the pale shade of grey Rocky was turning.
.........."He said... he said...."
Rocky's knees gave out and he sat down heavily on the bed. "He said
that if the Power Rangers didn't take assignments from his organization...
he'd have Billy killed. Agent Scully too. I said no... We can't do that
sort of thing, Agent Mulder. It's wrong."
..........Mulder heard the horror in Rocky's
voice. The kid was honestly appalled at the idea of working for a bad government
organization. The kid was also rather obviously repulsed by his own actions.
"You did the right thing, Rocky."
.........."Yes." Rocky said flatly.
"But that doesn't help us, does it?"
..........Mulder grabbed his jacket. "You
feel up to a hike?" Rocky nodded. "Good. We're going back to
the park. That's where we left Scully.... and that must be where Billy
* * *..........Scully looked at the cave walls
and wondered just what was going on in Billy's head. A large portion of
the space was given over to mathematical scrawls. Her education had been
in physics - she understood some of the basic concepts that Billy had started
with, but... She traced some letters with her hand in awe. If she understood
the math correctly, while digging sasquatch traps and waiting for the aliens,
Billy Cranston had apparently solved the problems with time travel and
matter transport. She knew the kid was bright... but this was stark evidence.
She wondered if the government had any idea just what they were dealing
..........Probably not. She remembered the
kid from her prior encounter. A nice kid, a kid that didn't understand
why the government didn't just ask for his ideas. Exactly the type of kid
that civics teachers drooled over. And exactly the naive, wholesome sort
that was attracted to government service like moths to a streetlight. He'd
probably volunteer his services if asked. She didn't understand what the
instigators of the whole weird scenario were trying to prove.
..........The rest of the wall space was taken
up with a rambling flowchart detailing exactly how to build an interstellar
space vehicle, including a detailed plan of the ship and an extensive star
chart with labeled destinations and distances. She was boggled.
..........There was nothing else in the cave,
she noted. No blankets, or food... or remains of food. No wrappers or cans....
she wondered. Exposure, coupled with a lack of food, could be causing a
lot of the problem. Starvation was known to cause hallucinations... maybe
the kid was not completely gone.
.........."Will..." she said hesitantly.
"What have you been eating up here?"
..........The kid looked away from the wall
he'd been staring at. "I've transcended the need to eat." He
paused. "And... there isn't very much to eat around here."
..........Score one for the no food theory.
Taking in the kid's physical state, she made another guess. "Have
you transcended the need for sleep too?" Lack of sleep was a known
cause of temporary mental illness.
..........He nodded. "The aliens come
when I sleep." He shivered and Scully could see fear on his face.
"I can't sleep. They'll get me. Or the sasquatch will.... Everyone
is after me."
..........That was a subject she wasn't sure
it was wise to get into. Depending on his delusions, he could easily lump
her into the category of everyone. Still... gun or no gun, she was curious.
She leaned up against a wall and sat down. "So..." she said softly,
"Do you know how you got here, Will?"
..........He sat down near the entrance of
the cave, keeping the gun up and constantly glancing out into the growing
darkness. "It was an accident...." His voice was shaky. "I
didn't mean to kill him... he was trying to shoot me... the gun got twisted
.........."I'm sure...." Scully
waited. She wasn't a psychologist... but she had dealt with the unstable
before. And the kid's words were the first bit of good news she'd had on
the case. Self defense.
.........."I had to leave. I had to protect
..........Whatever psychiatrist ended up with
Billy as a patient, mused Scully, was going to have a real hard time separating
what was real and what was fantasy. "Will... what happened to Rocky's
car?" A fairly safe topic, she thought.
..........The kid flinched. "Rocky is
going to be so mad. The government guys shot up the car. They threw me
in jail... they said they were gonna kill me... Do you think Rocky will
be mad? I didn't mean to wreck the car...."
.........."Probably not. He's been worried
about you." She tried to sound reassuring. "How did you get here?"
.........."The aliens...." The kid
shook even more. "But they said not to tell anyone about that."
From the way the boy was trembling, that little message had been quite
emphatic. "It's pretty cold...."
.........."Yes." Scully agreed.
"I have some matches. I could start a fire..." As she reached
for her bag, the kid raised the gun.
.........."Don't." His hands were
shaking, but Scully knew that at that range, the bullet would kill her.
..........She let go of the bag. "Okay,
.........."Why are you calling me Will?
My name is Billy, Agent Scully." The gun lowered a bit as he stared
blankly at her. The level of confusion the kid was in was written on his
face. In a way, Scully was deeply relived. Unstable at the moment, yes,
but there didn't seem to be anything wrong with Billy Cranston that food,
sleep and reassurance wouldn't cure. Of course, getting him to calm down
and go with her to a hospital was probably not going to be easy.
.........."I'm sorry. Billy, why don't
you want a fire?" She was cold and she didn't understand.
.........."The sasquatch will find us."
He turned away and stared out into the falling darkness. "It's a mean
sasquatch, Agent Scully."
.........."Angry... dark... No fire..."
From the terror on the kid's face, she decided to go along with it. Besides,
if he passed out from the cold, her job got much easier. He was just about
nodding off anyway.
..........From outside, there was a sudden
noise. The kid jumped up, pistol in hand. Scully felt sorry for the hapless
forest creature that'd come too close.
.........."Don't come any closer!"
The kid grabbed at his chest suddenly and dropped to his knees. As Scully
watched, he pulled what looked like a tranquilizer dart out of his chest.
He held it up, looking at it in abject horror. "I... Agent Scully...
they're coming for me." His eyes rolled back in his head and he fell
..........Scully pulled her own gun out and
reached over to check the kid's pulse. He wasn't dead, though his breathing
was getting shallow. She picked up the dart. No make or identification...
though she didn't really expect to see "U.S. Evil Organization"
embossed on its side.
.........."Not bad, eh?"
..........Scully jumped at the low raspy voice.
Standing before her was a large, black clad burly man holding a trank gun
casually in one hand and a 9mm pistol in the other. The guy was a huge
specimen of a human being, almost as broad as he was tall, and he was tall.
And with the hairy hands and face, all that Scully could see, the whole
sasquatch fantasy suddenly made sense to her.
.........."Damn kid." The burly
man nudged the boy with his toe. "Never sits still. Let me tell you,
I've had so many shots ruined because of this kid's hyperness. And those
damn pit traps...."
.........."Must've been inconvenient."
.........."Hey look, it's nothing personal,
but I have to kill you both." The burly guy raised his weapon. "I
..........This was, Scully thought, almost
exactly her worst nightmare of her own death. Trapped in a cave in the
woods with a near psychotic genius teen and being shot by a ape-like government
thug. She looked around for some sort of exit. There was none. She briefly
entertained the idea of trying to disarm the thug or use her weapon but
it was really impossible.
.........."I'm really sorry about this."
The thug slowly took aim on the boy. Suddenly, a red splotch appeared on
his chest. His face took on a surprised countenance and blood dribbled
out of his mouth. He fell to the ground.
.........."My apologies, Agent Scully."
A tall distinguished looking black man stepped into view. None other than
Mulder's mysterious informant. "I was hoping to take care of this
before you were threatened. Is the boy alive?"
.........."Yes...." Scully leaned
over Billy protectively. "What are you going to do?"
..........Mr. X held out a cell phone. "I
was thinking of calling an ambulance
.........."An ambulance?" That was
.........."Or perhaps a rescue unit...
the terrain is a bit rough." Mr. X casually waited for some sort of
response. When he got none, he said. "Agent Scully... I'm not the
enemy here. Neither is my organization."
..........The pointed way he spoke of his
organization got Scully wondering. "Your organization.... this wasn't
..........Mr. X rolled his eyes in disgust.
"Agent Scully, we serve the United States government. Anything that
threatens its security threatens us... and anyone that defends the United
States from possible invasion does not deserve the barbaric treatment that
young Mr. Cranston has been subjected too."
.........."Then you know about the Power
Rangers...." Scully was more than surprised, she was shocked.
.........."Most of the key decision makers
in this country have been briefed on the Angel Grove situation." Mr.
X allowed. "My organization's interest in Mr. Cranston has been put
on hold until that situation is resolved. Once that resolution occurs,
we were planning on recruiting him in the usual manner."
.........."Oh really?" Scully said,
"And that is what? Clubbing him over the head?"
..........Mr. X frowned darkly. "No.
Someone with his potential would be offered educational opportunities through
the government. A little gentle prodding, coupled with some perks, and
William Cranston will volunteer his services to us. That is the way we
prefer to do our recruiting. No one stays with us against their will. We
like our people happy, and we could make William Cranston very happy. But
not until the Angel Grove situation is resolved."
..........His words made a great deal of sense
to her. She had been wondering why the government was being so... brutal
about the whole business. "Look... if you're not behind this... then
whats going on?" She nudged the unconscious boy's body with her toe.
"Who's behind this? And why?"
..........Mr. X sighed. "My organization
has what we call'finder's rights' to Mr. Cranston and... others. Some members
of more international organizations became upset and employ their own recruitment
methods... crude as they are. When Mr. Cranston proved too difficult...."
.........."He was used as bait for the
others...." Scully said slowly.
.........."It didn't work, of course."
Mr. X added. "Our intelligence already discerned that, but... others
needed to find out themselves. There are a rare few people in this world
that can't be bought or threatened. Inconvenient, but it can be dealt with
if you have patency. I have patience." In the background, Scully could
hear Mulder and Rocky shouting. She turned and looked. Sure enough, Mulder
and Rocky were blazing a trail with flashlights.
.........."So... now what?" She
turned back to Mr. X, only to find him gone. Figures, she thought to herself
as Rocky and Mulder found the cave.
* * *.........."So you really don't remember
trashing my car?" Rocky asked.
..........From his hospital bed, Billy shook
his head. "Honestly Rocky, I don't even remember asking for your car.
This whole thing is so fuzzy. I'm just glad its over."
.........."And hopefully," Scully
added, "These shadowy government organizations have reconsidered their...
interest." Both Billy and Rocky nodded along.
..........Mulder stepped around the hospital
bed. "I have a few questions...."
.........."Okay..." Billy said hesitantly,
"But I really don't recall very much."
..........Mulder didn't expect to get much
from the kid. From Scully's tale of paranoid hallucinations and from talking
to the doctor, they were probably lucky the kid could say his name, let
alone account for all the missing time. Still, he had to try. "Do
you remember being locked up by some government agents?" he asked.
The kid nodded hesitantly. Despite Scully's warning look, he pressed on.
"You were in a high security jail cell...but you got out. How did
you do it?" Mulder waited. Between the sheriff's testimony and the
boy's ranting, he had a theory.
..........A theory Scully didn't approve of.
She gave him a disapproving look. But, as she watched Billy obviously struggle
to think of an answer, she had a feeling that the question was not going
to be answered.
..........She was right. "I really don't
know, Agent Mulder." Billy's voice was apologectic. "I remember
getting thrown in there and one of the guys was saying they were going
to kill me... then it gets all blurry. I remember a white light... then
I remember waking up in a ditch."
.........."Weird...." Rocky added,
"But at least you're ok. That's what's important." Both boys
..........Mulder gave up. He and Scully walked
out into the hallway and he threw up his hands in frustration. "Dammit
Scully! I know something happened."
..........Scully sighed. "Mulder... the
electrical interference the sheriff described could have caused a power
outage. The locks failed. The boy escaped."
.........."It could have been extraterrestrials."
.........."Yes, it could." Scully
agreed. "But there's no proof, and your witness can't remember where
he was for a period of six days. Even if he gave you an eyewitness account
of how he was abducted, I would question it simply because he wasn't rational.
Mulder, let it go." She walked off.
..........Mulder sighed. He would let it go...
for now. In he back of his mind though, he knew something had happened.