An Alex Krycek backstory for the Sanctuary universe
Russian childhood to the car bomb
A piece of advice: You don't want to live a life that's been planned out for you in advance. Especially if the guy pulling the strings is hoping to rule the world. At least from behind the scenes, and until he decides to hand it off to an alien race. And what he wants from you is for you to ask "How high?" as soon as he tells you to jump. Don't bother thinking for yourself, either, or having other plans; wouldn't want to look ungrateful for all he's done for you. Remember, this is the son of a bitch who handed his wife over to be used as a guinea pig in the consortium's hybrid experiments and saw himself as noble and sacrificing for doing it.
Of course, I didn't know any of this at the outset. What I knew was that I lived in a big cement building in a frozen land with sixty or so other skinny, dull-eyed kids. There were pale green walls and metal bunk beds, wary-eyed minders who kept you in line, squabbles with other kids, school. Meals, though they weren't enough to put any padding on any of us kids. Work in the institution's vegetable garden during the short summers, growing food to get us through the next long winter. And for anyone who managed to stand out in spite of the conditions there, a chance to go on to some sort of normal life.
Well, except for me. My road map was already planned out, remember? Every three or four months, this American man would come to see me. He told me he was my father. He'd ask me what I was learning, and whether I was being good. It was hard to understand his words, because the guy who was supposed to be teaching me English had a pathetic accent. But the old man's smiles spoke volumes. They were as thin as the winter sun.
He'd tell me about my family: a mother who'd had no use for me, and her husband who refused to let me live in his house. I had a brother, and he lived with them because he belonged to the husband. My sister was there, too, but that was because the husband didn't know she was my father's. And me, I was here because I was special, because there were important things I'd need to do when I grew up. He'd bring me little things when he came: a pen that said Yankees, a pair of American sneakers. As soon as he left, the other kids would taunt me: Americanets, americanets! even though I'd grown up as Russian as the rest of them. Then the older kids would beat me up and take whatever trinkets the old man had left me.
Even that, I figured out eventually, was part of the old man's plan. By making me an outsider, I'd have to learn to be tough, to protect myself.
Of course, what the old man told me about my family wasn't the straight truth; it was the script he wanted me to buy into, one that would eventually work to his own advantage. But I didn't know that. Nights, I'd lie in my bunk, as still as I could get, waiting for the mattress to warm up enough that I could fall sleep, and I'd ask myself what I'd done or what did I not have that I'd been so disposable to them. Why couldn't I be in America with my brother and sister? No matter what the old man told me, I didn't want to be here and 'chosen'. When you're eight, you'll trade any mission in the world for a soccer ball of your own and a room in a house where you don't wake up shaking from the cold and the gnawing in your stomach.
One thing I decided early: I was going to play my cards right. I was going to make it out of there to something better. I wasn't going to be dependent on the old man or anyone else.
So every few months there'd be these visits. The old man would show up and act like he was interested in what I'd been doing, but he was really there to make sure they were carrying out his orders, molding me the way he wanted. And on every visit he'd drop the word about my brother. Fox had done well in school that semester. Fox was getting tall. Fox was away at summer camp, water-skiing or swimming. The only swimming I'd ever done was in a dirty bathtub, or in mud puddles in the fields when it was rainy and we got into fights. Though you'd get punished for that; we were no use to them sick or damaged. Nothing to eat for a day and twice the penalty for anybody caught sneaking you bread.
He didn't say much about my sister, except when he started talking about my 'mission'. She'd been taken by bad men and I could save her, he said, giving me one of those pasty smiles he was so good at. But what did I care? She was only a name to me, a story, and without her, maybe Bill Mulder might have a change of heart and consider filling her place with a threadbare kid who'd really appreciate the things he provided.
Nice fantasy, but it was never going to happen. Instead, I contented myself with the fact that I had a brother who could leap tall buildings at a single bound. In a way I hated him, but it made for a kind of good fantasy, too: a brother like a secret weapon who might come to your rescue, someday when he knew you existed, like a knight with a shining sword. Not that I was waiting around hoping; there was too much to do just to survive day to day. But it was a good thing to go to sleep with at night. It gave me something no other kid there had and I held onto that.
The older I got, the more the old man told me, a little at a time. Aliens would've been hard to swallow, but then he took me to Tunguska and I saw the black oil for myself, and what it did to a man. Ate lunch afterward with the bigwigs--real food, not the slop we got at the orphanage--meat and everything--but I ended up throwing it all up; I couldn't keep from imagining little black worms crawling around on my plate. If the old man meant for it to shake me up bad, he got his wish. I was eleven at the time.
When I was twelve they took a group of us bigger kids on a mountain hike. In reality, it was a test to see who the strong ones were. I was first to the top with almost a quarter mile to spare. After that, they started giving me a little more responsibility. They let me go into the town to pick up supplies. Mulder'd just started college. At thirteen I gave away my virginity to Lena, the town whore-in-training. She was a nice kid, a little slow in the head but she treated me like a real person. Six months later they found her on a roadside one early morning, frozen to death. She'd been beaten and raped. She was fourteen. Shook me up in spite of everything. Those were the markers of my young life.
At fifteen the old man sent me to a military camp. I spent the first year as errand boy, cleaning officers quarters and then weapons, learning what each was and how to break it down and put it back together and what it was used for. The officers I worked for treated me like shit at first. I had a hidden card to play if I needed it--the old man's leverage--but I wanted to make my own success. I started bringing them bits of information I'd picked up by keeping my ears open and eventually they realized I was worth having on their side, and we came to a truce. When I was sixteen they let me start training in earnest. Mulder was finishing up his B.A. and heading for Oxford.
By then I was beginning to seriously envy Mulder his privileged life. Or rather, the life he lived was beginning to seem incredibly naive to me, having so much handed to you without having to work for any of it. I didn't know about the way he'd taken Samantha's disappearance, the way it had fucked with his head and how things had gone at home for him afterward. I felt a little sorry for him about his dad, though--the coward who'd nearly sabotaged the Project, our hope for a future, and then had slunk off like a common village drunk to sit somewhere in the shadows, clutching his bottle.
I didn't obsess over any of this stuff; it was just a backbeat inside my head because I was busy learning. One thing I'd figured out: if you were good at what you did, you were going to move up. You could get power one way or the other and that meant fewer people telling you what to do. I learned to make connections, to keep secrets that were more valuable not known and to expose the ones that mattered. AFter a while nobody asked where I grew up. Nobody laughed. I was my performance, and I was determined to make it the best I could, to have it carry me right on out of this backwater and on to bigger things. Sure, I was going to have to claw my way up the ladder past guys whose rank had been bought, not earned. But smart'll outdo rich stupidity every time.
My efforts did bring me some notice. The old man claimed to be impressed. He told me what I needed next was experience under fire. Seeing things first-hand, I'd learn a lot. But I'd seen the guys who came back from Afghanistan, and I'd heard the stories. It was common knowledge: the way families who could afford it paid their sons' way out, and how over half the men who went ended up sick with hepatitis or malaria or dysentery. It had been a losing effort for years but the bureaucrats were too busy saving their political asses to call a retreat.
It didn't make much sense, that going there could help me. For the first time I was broadsided by the realization that the old man's agenda wasn't about me at all. If I survived--that was the part he never came out and said--then I'd be hardened, experienced, sharp. The kind of tool he was looking for. And if I didn't... Well, it was pretty obvious that I was expendable, even after all the years he'd put into me.
My time in the field could have been worse, though. I was 'spetsnaz'--special forces. We got better equipment and better food, such as it was: boots you could actually climb in, backpacks that distributed a load. I was 'sheltered' again, the way I had been growing up, though few men knew. The old man wanted me kept out of the worst of the danger, but you can't escape danger in a war zone. I was a sniper and I got my practice, all right--on old turbaned guerillas, tough young men, resistance leaders or even my occasional countryman in the middle of gunning down old village men and women. I got that they were pissed about losing their friends and that it was payback, but there's got to be a limit somewhere. Let your instincts take over completely and everything goes to hell.
Sometimes it's surprising to find out where your limits are, if you've got any left at all. One time I came back into camp to find a bunch of guys waiting in line for their turn at a local woman they'd tied to a couple of crates. I barely stopped to think; I aimed my weapon and put a bullet in the back of her head from a good eighty meters. Scared the shit out of the guy who'd just stepped up. Don't know if it was her screams; maybe she reminded me of Lena. I just stood there, shaking inside, and nobody said a word. For a minute I thought they were going to jump me, but then they all backed away. They kept their distance after that. They would've killed her when they were finished anyway, and what kind of life would she have had if she'd lived? I'd seen the look on women like that before. They were barely more than ghosts.
The old man had come before I left for the fighting, to give me a pep talk and to bring me American vaccines nobody else had access to. So I managed to make it four months without getting seriously sick and I was only hit once, grazed near the shoulder and it healed up okay. Then the old man said the word and they pulled me. Flew me out and the old man met me in Tashkent--posh hotel, plenty of food. It was the obscene after what I'd come from. Spent a lot of time soaking in a hot bath and dreaming about some fantasy woman I wasn't even going to try looking for with the old man around. But I managed to keep my head the best I could. Inside, I was a mess like anybody else suddenly pulled from combat, but I put on my best sane face and told him I wanted to learn more about the vaccine program outside Krasnoyarsk, that I could work myself in in whatever capacity and be his eyes and ears. And he bought it. It was just what he wanted to hear.
So Mulder was at Oxford and I was the old man's mole; at least, he thought I was. But I was starting to realize that his great crusade to save the planet might be just as full of shit as the war I'd been a part of--politicians and generals climbing a career ladder back in Moscow with their Mercedes and their women and their big apartments while poor boys and poor men got sick or shot or drank themselves to death over the pointlessness of a stupid political war. There was one important difference, though: There was going to be another war coming, one that'd make Afghanistan look like a backyard brawl. And I wasn't going to let myself get lost in that, not for the sake of anyone's bureaucracy. The only way to keep from getting flushed down the drain was to look out for yourself, and I was going to make sure that I did.
When I got to Krasnoyarsk they set me up as a lab assistant, a position where it was easy to tap into the progress of the vaccine project. I didn't have any background, but it was common enough practice for someone to buy a position for themselves or a relative. They taught me what I needed to know, and I stayed eager and hung around the right circles so I knew what progress the research was making. That was where I met Maria Ivanova. She was always working. She'd even sit around on her break with a pad of paper and a pencil, doing calculations while her coffee got cold. There was some kind of bureaucratic mess-up with funding for the vaccine project and things weren't moving fast enough for her. Her husband was one of the ones in charge; I think that was strategic to her when she married him. Anyway, they argued more and more and finally the breakup came. But her ex-husband wasn't going anywhere; he was part of the system. So the move was hers. The rest of them tried to act like it didn't make any difference that she was leaving, but it was obvious that the work went downhill after that. Ivanova was smart and self-confident and she got what she wanted one way or the other. She didn't let anybody walk over her and I liked that. There was also this thing in the back of my head; I knew what had happened to her parents and I guess it tied into my own horror as a kid at seeing the black oil take a man over. For her, fighting this battle was no abstraction, and I understood what that was like.
After a while my cover job started to grate on me. Especially after my time in the war, I figured I had better things to do than clean flasks and petri dishes and hang around waiting to hear about the latest infighting. Maria and I traded a few comments in the cafeteria, enough for both of us to realize we had something in common: we were in this for ourselves, not for the greater glory of the program. Then one afternoon she left me a note and I met her in a park after hours. She said she was thinking about leaving and I said I knew about other programs--vaccine research--and I'd tell her if she told me more about the status of the work she'd been doing. So we swapped information, but she was hitting on me, too. Looking back, I think it was a just a test to see how I'd react, a maze for the lab rat to run. Maybe she'd be able to tell whether I was a promising candidate for her next lap dog. But I fell for it. Hell, I hadn't been with a woman in ages and if she was offering, who was I to say no? But it turned out bad. I don't play lap dog. We both went away mad--too much of ourselves exposed and nothing gained for the effort. She left a week or so later, said something about a teaching position in Leningrad.
I could see that bureaucracy was going to kill this project's potential, so I figured it was time to move to higher ground. There was vaccine research going on in the U.S. but my English was poor and I needed some time for myself. I mean, I'd lived my whole life for the old man, a piece of clay he could press his stamp into, and I'd gone straight from Afghanistan to Krasnoyarsk because I was afraid of what he might have thought up for me after that. It was a pre-emptive strike, taking the reins into my own hands. As much as I could without making it obvious, anyway. But I'd been eight months in Krasnoyarsk and I felt like I was I was treading water. Or like I was caught in a loop that could keep running forever.
So I told the old man I wanted some time, that the Russian research was on hold and I wanted to learn something about diplomacy. Diplomacy could come in handy... or at least, it would sound good to the old man. I'd made a few connections in Moscow through a commander I'd known before the war, a guy who'd learned perfect English just for the challenge of it and who'd always ribbed me about my poor accent. So I went to see this guy Petrovich, ex-military, and he put me in touch with an American businessman's wife, former school teacher, who helped me work on my English--Mrs. Brandt. She was a stickler, gray hair in a bun and never a single strand out of place, but it was a good thing. After a while I'd go places American ex-pats hung out and I could pass myself off as being from Denver or San Francisco.
Then Petrovich told me about this group he had going to Spain. They were supposed to interview some old Civil War veterans and I thought what the hell, they might have something useful to say and it was someplace new--someplace sunny and with beaches and a whole different way of life. Sounded like vacation, and when had I ever had one of those? Reminded me of the old man's stories when I was a kid, of Mulder at summer camp. Why didn't I deserve that, too?
Our group spent two months going from place to place, down the Mediterranean coast and then inland heading north, talking to old men and hearing their stories, taping them for Petrovich's project. And then in León I met Victor in a bar. We'd both had too much to drink and he was loud and funny and I was sitting there in the shadows as usual, but we bumped into each other and started talking and swapping stories. Victor had this picture of himself as a revolutionary of sorts--a freedom fighter--but in the end the only one he was trying to liberate was himself. He was the bastard son of a rich landowner, living in the shadow of his legitimate brothers, and I guess that gave us something in common. I'd never been the loud or funny type. Maybe I was trying to figure out what made him tick, but he was an interesting guy.
He was good at coming up with women, too, and by the time the group was ready to move on, I'd had my fill of old men and their stories. I'd caught Victor's bug and just wanted to loosen up--for a little while, anyway--and he'd offered to show me around. He had a little allowance from his father, hush money, and between that and my five-finger discount, we spent a couple of months floating around the country, seeing the sights and hanging out, going to discos and trying our best lines on pretty tourists, because Victor was right about the locals: you couldn't get to first base with them. Scandinavians and Americans were a different story, but I learned pretty quickly not to say I was from New York or L.A. or San Francisco; it was too easy to come up with someone who actually knew those places. Eventually the novelty started to wear off and Victor and I decided to go north, to France.
I knew the old man was going to go crazy, wondering where I was and if his investment had run away. But he probably knew he had me hooked, too. Behind everything like a backbeat, always sitting there where the food and the wine and the scenery and the occasional women couldn't block it out, was the picture I could never quite get out of my head of the black oil taking over that thin skeleton of a man, and the knowledge that invasion was hanging over us all. I was living on borrowed time.
I started getting antsy. For as much as we had in common, Victor wasn't like me; he wanted nothing more than to grab the kind of life for himself that he thought he had coming, but he wasn't his brothers and he never would be. He needed to take a clear look at himself, and whether he ever would have or not I'll never know, because about that time we stole a watch and a billfold from the wrong car and ended up being ambushed by a couple of mob types just as we came out of a restaurant with full stomachs. Five minutes later Victor was past tense, bleeding out of a head wound between overturned apple crates in an alley. I hid under a produce cart for an hour, shaking, then slipped away and out of the city.
It was my wake-up call. I went back to Moscow and Petrovich and he assigned me to a little embassy spying. It sounded useful enough to the old man and I learned a lot about gathering information. I stayed with it for two years, and toward the end of 1988, he sent me to the Russian embassy in Prague. It was at a big political gala that I met Ché. He was a hacker, barely seventeen and with this thin, fragile face that could have been either young or old. The local politicos were after him for breaking into their files. He had this dream of going to America, and I guess I figured I was going to need an ally when I got there; I knew I'd end up there eventually. So I found out a little more about what he could do, and I talked to some contacts I had where I worked, who talked to somebody who got him a passport and a visa to go to D.C. and work in the Russian Embassy there. I knew he wouldn't stay with them; he had his opinion of the Russian bear. Ché's slogan was 'for the people', and to him that meant little people, people with no influence--everyday people. Ché's the true revolutionary in the end. Staged revolts always leave the little guy in the dirt; they get caught up in their own flash and importance.
It made me focus more on America, sending Ché over. The old man was starting to worry about Mulder by then. Mulder'd been through the academy and had just earned his first gold star with that Monty Props capture. But now the old man started to let on to how much Samantha's disappearance had affected him. I think he was afraid Mulder might try to use Bureau resources to check out the files on her, that he might find something out of order and start looking into it himself. So I pressed the old man a little about coming over; maybe there was something I could do to help out. He was impressed with my English--that I'd done that at my own initiative--and he brought me to Virginia and set me up as a stable hand at a horse farm.
I wanted more. I was pretty pissed at first, stuck in another 'apprenticeship' like the one I'd had when I was fifteen, but I figured I'd make the best use of what I had in front of me. After a month or so I realized that the woman who came so often to ride or to stay for a week at a time, Dr. Charne-Sayer, was a medical researcher. Actually, it was a lucky break. I'd kept in contact with Ché and he came down one Saturday; he was the one who recognized her. And then I realized I was onto something bigger. They were milking her for information even though she didn't know it and the old man had put me there to see if I'd figure it out.
There was a Brit who came around, Charne-Sayer's lover, and I figured out how he fit in, too. A couple of times the old man even came to talk to him, though I kept myself in the shadows. I let it go on for a while, keeping records of what I'd found out... though not everything. I knew even then I'd just be shooting myself in the foot by showing I had what it took to compete with the old man. Then, when the time seemed right, I gave him what I'd gathered and it worked. He was impressed. He told me I was ready for the next step.
The old man didn't have much to say about Mulder in those days. He was working for the VCS, but he'd undergone regression hypnosis by then; I'd had Ché keep track of him. I guess it was the residue of that little-boy fantasy--the brother thing. Sometimes I'd think about what it'd be like if we ever met. What would he think of me? Would he have some sense that would tell him there was a connection between us? Idle speculation--the residue of a kid's dream--but it stuck with me anyway. I'd gotten the feeling the old man wanted to keep us apart, though. Then he sent me to L.A.--Malibu--to infiltrate a biotech company. I was supposed to snoop on some research they were doing. But then it turned out one of the execs was a hacker in his spare time and he'd stumbled across the movement of Project medical supplies headed for the train car researchers. He'd end up being my first hit for the old man.
Harrison rode dirt bikes in his spare time. I figured out his schedule and took him out in the dry December hills just off Mulholland one Saturday afternoon. Could've easily been an accident, some teenager out for target practice whose bullet went farther than he thought. But it took me three shots. And I was acutely aware that this wasn't any war zone. There were million-dollar American homes tucked away in the hills and I was nervous as hell. My first two shots were wide and by the time I'd squeezed off the third, he'd moved farther away, but I nailed him. It hit me as soon as I saw him fall: this was America and I was a wanted man now. They were going to be looking for me.
There'd never really been any consequences before; I'd been protected by the old man or by the fact that it was war, or by the long shadow arm of the Russian military. I could hardly sleep for two nights thinking about what I'd done. I even went back and watched them check out the crime scene looking to see if they'd recover my first two bullets, but they never did. The old man called me to congratulate me and I said what now? And he said stay; it'll look suspicious if you disappear.
So I did, for another couple of months, but it wore on me; I wanted out of there. In my spare time I'd go sit on the beach and just stare out at the water. It was only going to get worse from here. The old man's assignments were going to dig me in deeper and deeper, but I couldn't see any way out. Go off on my own and what? Sit around with a beer and a remote in my hand until the ships came screaming down from the sky and we were all taken over by the Oil? There was no way to block out that vision, to walk away and have any kind of normal life.
For a while I'd had as normal a life as I'm probably ever going to get, though, that six months I was with CalEmergent. Had an apartment, clothes, even a motorcycle. I actually had a suit and tie hanging in my closet. Had a girl for a couple of those months.
There were women everywhere you looked--available women, not girls hidden behind half a dozen suspicious relatives--but most of them had something to do, someplace they were going. They didn't have time for a guy who didn't open up, and I'd never been a talker. It wasn't me and anyway, it could be deadly in my line of work, letting out enough that people would remember you, dropping details they could use to trace you. So pretty soon they were out of there--the ones with big plans--and that left those without. But most of that batch wanted you to talk, too.
And then I met Patty in the grocery store. I literally ran into her, not looking where I was going, my mind caught up in the ins and outs of the old man's larger scheme. We had one of those awkward scenes you see in movies, and somehow it led to drinks and small talk and then back to her place. I think she was lonely, mostly, and having somebody to lay there holding her was worth going ahead and getting undressed for. I spent the night and left in the morning before she woke up, but by that afternoon--it was a Saturday--I found myself back on her doorstep and she was glad to see me. We ate dinner and drove up the coast on my bike, sat and watched the breaking waves fluoresce in the darkness and went back to her place again.
Patty'd come from Iowa, just wanting to make her getaway from corn country, but she was never headed toward the glitz of Hollywood. All she wanted was an opportunity to make a life of her own away from the long family shadow of her basketball-playing brothers. She was a receptionist at a place that sold paper products, and she was a little overweight and on the quiet side, but she also wasn't out to trick me; she was sincere and that counted for something--a lot, actually, because the last woman I'd been with in Russia had been sent to spy on me.
Anyway, I got to where I'd find myself on Patty's doorstep every Friday afternoon and she'd open that door with one of her big smiles, like I was a total surprise--a welcome one--and we'd spend the weekend together. It was good practice for playing the American. She'd cook me common American foodss like macaroni and cheese or strawberry shortcake--she made that for my birthday--and I'd have to think on my feet, come up with a quick answer for something I'd never anticipated, like was I used to having the strawberries sliced or crushed? We didn't go out much--not anywhere I might be spotted. We'd go hiking in the hills sometimes, or we'd rent movies and eat ice cream and then end up in bed. She never pushed me by asking too much; I think she was afraid I might go away. But it was nice--a nice lull in my crazy life, the kind of thing you look back at later and don't regret. I admired her spirit, too. Patty was starting at the bottom but she was saving up money to go to school on the side. She was the type who'd do a solid job at whatever she put her mind to.
When I started thinking about going to her place mid-week, I knew I was in trouble. And by then I had the hit to plan. So I'd do that, go riding up off Mulholland after work, and on weekends if Patty suggested a drive, I'd make sure it wasn't there. Must have been getting quieter than usual, too, because she noticed my mood, though she didn't say much. Probably thought it was something she'd done, but I said it was just work, things were dragging there and I was thinking of heading for Portland or Seattle; I knew I'd have to leave eventually and I might as well lay the groundwork.
The day I shot Harrison I told myself I was going to stay away, and I did for a while. But I couldn't sleep. I was a mess and by midnight I was at her door again. She'd already gone to bed and was half out of it, but it was probably better that way. We just went to bed and she cried against my shoulder without making any noise and I just held her and let her hold me. If she'd known what I'd done, she'd have taken off and gotten as far away from me as she could. The next day was awkward. Both of us could see the end coming, and I told her I was flying to Portland the following weekend to go job-hunting.
I didn't go back after that. I wanted to; that was what scared me the most. I couldn't afford to be sentimental. Still, I couldn't help but feel bad for her. It was going to hurt her, my leaving. I'd always been a believer in sink or swim. Rough times shook out the weak from the strong; there was a reason for it. But Patty deserved better.
Finally ended up leaving a note on her doorstep with a bouquet of flowers. I switched markets, took to shopping in another neighborhood so I wouldn't run into her. Six weeks later the old man sent me a plane ticket and I was on my way north to the Sacramento area. He wanted me to go to a bunch of little towns looking for death records of John or Jane Doe minors in the late seventies. It was a weird assignment but I knew the old man didn't do anything without a reason. Spent a week or so, checked every little wayside town in Sacramento and Placer counties. One thing I noticed: Every place I was supposed to check was within a 25 mile radius of McClellan Air Force Base. In the end I didn't find anything that stood out, or a pattern. So I took what information I'd gathered and headed back to D.C.
The old man had always had something glowing to say about Mulder before, something meant to set me off a little or make me feel the need to compete, but not this time. He was having a hard time trying to figure out where to ship me off to next, and in the meantime I did a little investigating of my own with Che's help and found out that Mulder played basketball on Wednesday afternoons, just pickup games at a park. So I went there, sat there sweaty-palmed and watched. I'd seen a few pictures of him when I was little, but I had to have Ché pull me a picture from the DMV database so I'd know what he looked like now. He was a good ballplayer, held his own with the best of them. He looked like he was close to my height, give or take an inch, and when he sat down to take a break he seemed to get lost in thought, as if the scene around him had disappeared. He didn't bother to look around and check the area for anything standout the way I would have, but then he'd probably never been on the run from anybody. He never even saw me.
Found a few places where FBI agents hung out and I listened to the talk there. Mulder had a reputation, all right, partly as the crack profiler the old man had said he was and partly as a crackpot. Seems he'd gotten the idea his sister had been abducted by aliens and he wasn't afraid to talk about it, which was pretty stupid, actually. Not the part about believing, but letting other people know it was what he thought. My estimation of him took a nosedive then. You don't give yourself away like that. He didn't seem to care what people thought of him, and it occurred to me that this could be part of the reason the old man had suddenly shut up about him. It hadn't passed me by, either--that assignment he'd given me out in Sacramento. Child Jane or John Does. Maybe he was afraid of Mulder looking for Samantha and stumbling across something vital. The old man had said she'd been taken. He'd said others were taken, probably adults as well as kids, but he'd said kids to impress me at the time.
But it didn't mean they hadn't been returned. Or he could have lied to me. The group was experimenting on people, trying to make hybrids. The old man had mentioned it in passing, though I'd discovered more details from Petrovich, who had his sources. They had to be keeping them somewhere, and kids could be just as useful as adults; so often kids can put up with more before they give out. It gave me a chill to think about it, not that he might have used my sister--she was nothing but a name to me--but how expendable she was. How expendable I was. The fact that he had offspring meant nothing to the old man; it just made us convenient tools or weapons. It made me realize I was going to need more in reserve for the future than just the old man's reassurances. Talk was cheap.
Looking back, I think the old man realized exactly what Mulder would do given the ability to investigate his sister's disappearance, and that he could easily get out of line. Maybe he'd planned all along to partner me with Mulder to keep him reigned in, or maybe he wanted me waiting in the wings just in case. Better safe than sorry. At any rate, he enrolled me at UVa. Spent almost two years studying political science and history, a lot of which wouldn't be worth the paper the textbooks were printed on in the real world; I knew that from my experience in the field. It was a role, being a student. Like everything else. I'd made it through cleaning weapons and cleaning stables; I could do this, too.
So I went to lectures and did a little studying, but it made me antsy, sitting around reading a bunch of boring texts by people who hadn't lived the stuff--the power and the crises and the intrigues and the wars. If my test scores dipped too far Ché'd hack in and bump them up a notch or two. But in my spare time I wasn't letting any grass grow. There were a few jobs for the old man--some domestic, others out of the country--people who were double-crossing the Syndicate or keeping their financing operations from feeding cash into the Project. And I traded favors with Petrovich; I took it slowly, but I started to find out details of the hybrid programs--about the German scientists and the Japanese and the failed hybrids buried in New Mexico. And the coldest twist of all--the fact that they were working on the old man's wife. In his own twisted way he probably felt like he was doing something patriotic, sacrificing her like that.
Mulder was starting to really push the limit, and the old man's response was to put X-files in his way where he'd trip over them. Mulder took the bait. Only he took it a little too far. He might be naive, but he was determined; I had to give him that. So then the strategy was to put the brakes on Mulder by pairing him with someone who wouldn't buy his theories. But you know how well that worked. Scully saw something in him--I think they saw something in each other--and though she wasn't about to give an inch when his theories were out in the stratosphere, in the end she disciplined him, which made him more effective at the Bureau instead of less.
When the old man's plan for Scully didn't work out, he pulled me from UVa, manufactured a degree and got me into the Academy. I was going to get a shot at managing Mulder myself and it made me nervous as hell. Probably it was the residue of that kid thing I'd carried with me for years. I was going to have to keep Mulder in line, but at the same time I wanted him to be something to me, or at least, I was hoping he might be. The old man had never felt like family; he was more like my handler. So I spent four months going through 12-hour-a-day training at the Academy, working to keep up with the academics, trying even harder not to look as competent as I was with a weapon, or reacting to those impromptu situations they're always staging for you. Anyway, I made it through just fine. By then the old man'd had the X-files closed, but I guess he knew Mulder's stubbornness pretty well, and I was going to have to be the one to keep his nose out of where it wasn't supposed to be.
I don't think I slept more than an hour the night before that first day playing his partner. I could see now how the old man had built up my attitude toward Mulder over the years. I knew the stakes; I knew Mulder had to be kept from exposing the Project, but that other part of me still wanted this partnership to turn out to be something real. So there I was, Double Agent Krycek, walking through that room, heart in my throat, coming up to his desk--his desk--and freezing. But I made myself go on. Put on my best face, gave him my line about the case being mine first. And he didn't have the time of day for me. If I'd been wearing a sign around my neck that said 'I am your brother', I don't think he would have noticed.
Mulder knew what he wanted and he was going to do it his way. Well, I wasn't going to let it drop that easily, so I pushed back and he gave in... or at least, he let me think he had. That was when he ditched me. He was self-centered, a prima donna. No, a fool: you've got to look beyond your own ego in this business if you expect to stay alive. But when I finally caught up with him, I started to see how he worked, and he was good. He was incredibly intuitive, had a feel for clues the way a safecracker has a feel for the dial under his fingertips. He saw through Cole at the end, that's for sure. It sure as hell was more than I was able to do. And Scully, when we caught up with her--there was definitely something about the way they worked together, where only half if it had to be spoken and the rest was understood, like the communication between a good horse and rider.
Well, I did exactly what I was supposed to do, gave perfect reports to the old man, and though I was pissed about Mulder treating me like a nobody, by the time we started the next case he seemed to be softening. He actually acted like I was human, but then it was off to that hostage negotiation with Duane Barry, and Mulder was busy. This time it was everybody else who treated me like a non-person. I stood there watching Mulder talk to this crazed man, trying to figure out whether or not his determination and his commitment overrode his stupidity in the end. I mean, everything he was, he telegraphed to everyone in the room; he may as well have had it printed on the front of his shirt. If they're going to stop you, Mulder, you don't go telling them what you think, or what you're going to do. You keep your mouth shut, you play the good little agent, and when you've got them lulled and they're not looking, you do what you have to. How long would Mulder have lasted where I'd been, in Russia or Afghanistan? Still, he had guts going into the travel agency like that. Barry could have freaked and it could've been a bloodbath, everyone wasted. Mulder went because he believed. He went because he had to know what Duane Barry might know about his sister, even if it got him killed. And he did a damn good job of handling Barry in the end.
He did too good a job for the old man. And since Scully'd stepped in to help Mulder again, the old man decided it was just too good an opportunity to pass up. So he tipped Barry to Scully's location, gave him some story about the aliens wanting her real bad, that if he took her, they'd bypass him for her, and he took the bait. And Mulder, he lost his head. Any logic he had flew right out the window. You gotta figure you'll be fresher, and think better, if you get some sleep. Not Mulder; he'd probably see it as a measure of his lack of commitment to his ex-partner. Nearly drove us off the road to prove that commitment, and then he tried covering for what he'd done, insisted he was okay. Right. Self-delusion--one of this world's great killers. Not only could he not see his limitations, he wasn't even interested. He tried ordering me around again up in the lodge, but by then I was sick of his shit and I let him know I wasn't going to take any more of it. Of course, at that point Barry was on his way out and I had to get out of there, because it was all too obvious who'd been the last one in the room with Barry, and who'd been in the control room with the tram operator.
So I'd spent some time with my brother after all these years. I'd saved his ass by starting that tram up again before he could climb high enough to electrocute himself, and he still knew nothing about who I was. It had been one big bust, like a helium balloon that pops as soon as you finally get close enough to touch it. I was mad at Mulder for being such a prick, and I was mad at myself for having had hopes that we could be something in the first place. And I was mad at the old man. I'd figured he was finally on the verge of letting me into the club, but the first time I asked for information he slammed my nose in the door. No rights, only orders to be carried out.
I was destined to be his mule for life.
Not if I could help it.
But it seemed to be what the old man had in mind. After that it was Project security--train schedules and bringing scientists in and out, coordinating, gathering evidence on what they did in their off-hours. Then six months later he called me in and told me he had an important security leak. Turned out to be Bill Mulder; he'd had regrets and was about to spill his guts to Mulder about the Project and his part in it. Wasn't hard to pull that one off. The guy was sloshed half the time anyway, which didn't make him any too alert, and I'd had issues with this man all my life. He was the guy who hadn't wanted me in his house, the reason I'd grown up in a cement compound with radiators that heated about an inch from the wall. He was the reason I was a guy hiding in his shower stall instead of someone like Mulder with his Oxford degree.
Or so I told myself to psyche myself up. Unfortunately, Mulder showed up like a stray dog who won't go away. He must have seen me going out that window, or behind the house, because when I got to his apartment building to swap out the water softener canister, he spotted me and nearly killed me. Would have, if Scully hadn't shot him. At least somebody was thinking on their feet. But he got his chance to wail away on me. Except for the fact that it hurt, I could've laughed: there was Mulder raining his emotions down on me like my own personal storm cloud. But when I thought about it later, he had a point. A right: I'd killed his father, a man he'd cared about for whatever reason. Unlike me. If somebody'd shot the old man, I probably would've bought them a drink.
As usual, though, Scully went too far, swooping down to pluck Mulder out of danger and then depositing him right on top of the train car holding the evidence of the first hybrid failures. She became my next assignment, but I had a new guy tagging along, the old man's latest lap dog, Cardenal. He had a little too much of that flare-up, anarchistic thing that's part of his culture, and nothing works in this business like subtlety. So we went and set up in Scully's apartment and waited. But when the door opened, it wasn't Scully at all; it was another woman. I always double-check my target, but Cardenal was jittery. He fired before she'd even managed to hit the light switch and the damage was done. All I can say is I'd played this scene out in my head a dozen times before we went in, and what finally happened just didn't compute. I guess I was in shock because the only thing I could think to do was to get the hell out of there, to put some distance between us and this mistake. Which was a stupid move because now they knew we were after Scully. We might as well have taken out a full-page ad in the Washington Post.
The old man and I had words. There was no way to put a good spin on what had happened, but if he hadn't given me a nervous shit like Cardenal to babysit, there wouldn't have been a problem in the first place. He wanted me to take responsibility for Cardenal but I wasn't about to bend over and kiss the old man's ass when I hadn't wanted Cardenal along in the first place. Might've been smart, though, looking back. Puckering up, that is. The syndicate was giving the old man a hard time about the mistake, and the fact was we should never have left Scully's apartment without that body. If Scully's sister had just disappeared, there would've been no evidence pointing to us or our intentions.
But at the time I felt like I'd lost too much ground already to give up any more. After Duane Barry I'd been given nothing but surveillance and muscle jobs. I'd been waiting all my life to break into the inner circle and It was pretty obvious I hadn't been on any fast track lately. I wasn't about to let this thing with Melissa Scully sink my chances completely.
But going head-to-head with the old man... I was young. I should've known better. And I should have suspected something when his mood seemed to lighten. If nothing else, the fact that he assigned three of us to retrieve the DAT tape, not two, should have set off alarm bells. But I was focused on the tape itself, and on strategy. So we set off to shadow Skinner and caught up with him in the hospital stairwell. Once I had that tape we were out of there in a hurry and I have to admit my mind wasn't on the bigger plan, on whether the project would be safe now from any one of a dozen groups out to prove that aliens had come to this planet. I was hoping what I had in my pocket was the Holy Grail, that delivering this tape would get me out of the doghouse once and for all and send me back up to where I should be.
And then we stopped at a convenience store. I don't know whether it was Cardenal's delivery when he said he could use a beer or the fact that I just happened to glance toward the door and see them both looking back at me. My mind froze; I knew it was the old man sending me off. But my body reacted in time and got me the hell out of there. Just barely, anyway. Took off on foot, but I twisted my ankle when the blast knocked me over, and I didn't make it very far before I couldn't go on. Managed to make it into a little diner and use the phone. I called Ché, the only guy I could think of who'd help me, and waited over an hour till he was able to borrow a car from a friend and come pick me up. Spent the whole time shaking. If they'd done a door-to-door, I would've been history.
So there it was: I was out, crumpled up and thrown away like a piece of unread junk mail. No matter the twenty-seven years of prepping me, sending me here and there to gain experience, even college time and the Academy. He'd never take anybody standing up to him. Hell, I even rated lower than that stupid fuck Cardenal who couldn't control his trigger finger. But then Cardenal knew how to bow and scrape. I'd always figured I'd earned some rights, letting the old man lay out practically every step I'd ever taken. Hell, I wasn't just somebody he'd hired off the street. But I guess the shared genes didn't count for much. He'd said as much already, after Scully was taken: no rights, only orders to be carried out. And his wrinkled ass to kiss for the privilege.
Spent a week at Ché's recovering, putting up with his efforts to mother me and his worry over my silence. Inside I was boiling mad, but more than that I was scared shitless. All my life I'd been primed for the invasion and for being one of the few to have a fighting chance in spite of the odds. Now I was locked out, the danger bearing down on us, me outside screaming and pounding on a cement door and nobody on the other side who was going to listen. If they heard anything at all, they were probably laughing.
But I took the lesson. I wouldn't make the same mistake again--let anybody control me the way the old man had. I thought about my sister, too--how he'd had no regard for her, either, whoever she was, aside from her easy availability as a lab rat. If what I'd assumed was true. And then I thought of Mulder--naive, idealistic Mulder, the guy who'd had life so easy there wasn't a scar on his body. He didn't know any of this, about colonization or hybrids. All he knew was the sister he'd grown up with had been taken by little green men and he was ready to throw his career out the window to find her. If it meant losing his position and sitting out in the gutter, he'd do it. I didn't get it. Nobody I'd ever known had been worth that kind of commitment. He was a dreamer and my mind condemned his lack of practicality. My gut, though, it envied him his conviction just the same.
I knew I needed to get myself out of the country but I wasn't leaving empty-handed. I had
the DAT tape. It was everything I had now--my protection, my resource, my bank account--and I was going to make it work for me. Me alone. I knew I couldn't go back to Russia safely; it'd be too obvious a place for the old man to look, and he had his connections there. So when my ankle was better, I headed for Canada. Some information I'd gotten through one of Petrovich's sources indicated there was some kind of pre-colonization groundwork being laid in Alberta and I needed to find out what it was.
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