An Alex Krycek backstory for the Sanctuary universe
An unexpected incident in Texas turns
A couple of weeks later some seriously unlucky Texas kid fell into a hole that just happened to contain a pocket of millennia-old black Oil, and all hell broke loose. Another six days and the Brit was confetti, blown to bits in his limo after passing a vial of vaccine to Mulder so he could save Scully, who'd been picked up by the group and hauled off to Antarctica. Naturally, Mulder followed her like a bloodhound.
In the end he managed to get her back, but not without setting off alarm bells that had the potential to bring Armageddon down on our heads early. The vaccine Mulder injected into Scully spread through the Antarctica ship's holding system almost instantly... at least, according to Mulder's communications with Skinner, which the group intercepted. The old men sat up half the night wringing their hands over how they were going to spin the evidence of a vaccine to the Colonists. Finally, sometime after midnight, word came in that a military satellite had witnessed the explosion of a large circular craft 150 miles above the surface. The report's details meshed with the window of time when the ship had taken off. You could see the wrinkled foreheads around the room smooth out, the shoulders go slack.
But we still needed a cover story for the Colonists, who were going to want to know why their ship had suddenly taken off. Mechanical failure wasn't going to cut it as an excuse; the ship had been there for years, running on a low degree of standby power; it hadn't had a single problem in the past. Leave it to Mulder to be the catalyst for an interplanetary incident.
But solid ideas for building plausible deniability weren't coming. Even the old man was keeping his mouth shut, probably because hauling Scully to Antarctica had been his bright idea. Long about 3 a.m., though, I was getting damn tired of the ringing silence, the occasional grunt and the cigar smoke. All I wanted was to go home, get some shuteye and hopefully get rid of the headache that had settled in behind my eyes. Why I was even there? I guess they'd gotten used to seeing me; it had become routine, the Brit hauling me along to meetings to prove he had me on the required leash. Though the Brit was gone now--a fact the old men carefully avoided discussing--and still they'd called me in. Who knows what they had in mind, or whether it was just force of habit.
Finally I found myself clearing my throat. "Tell them it was sabotage--their Rebel enemies." I'm not sure I'd actually expected to say it out loud; it wasn't really my place to take part in their discussions. The sound of my voice quickly put me on alert, and I watched bodies around the room straighten. "Look, what's going to do you the most good? Send their focus somewhere else, toward the shadows lurking in the woodwork. Say someone on the craft saw one of those faceless men before it happened. Then let 'em stew in their own assumptions. It's going to take the spotlight off us, right? And it can't hurt to have them jumpy, wondering if the Rebels are watching them, ready to attack."
There were the usual grunts and frowns at first, but I read something on the old men's faces I'd never seen there before: a kind of stirring, like suddenly they'd noticed me for the first time, seen me as something other than trouble.
"What about Mulder?" came a voice from the shadows. "If not for him, this crisis would never have occurred."
"An automobile accident should take care of the problem," the chairman replied in that dry voice of his. He'd always reminded me of someone's butler.
"A severed brake line," someone else said.
"No," I cut in. "Any evidence of foul play and Scully won't drop it until she finds out who was responsible."
"Take care of her, too, then," shrugged another.
"I'll take care of Mulder." The old man stood, flicked his lighter to the end of a Morley and sent out a cloud of smoke. "Remember that there are those who look up to him, who would take on his mantle, as it were, if it appeared he'd been martyred. There's no need to forcibly remove Mulder from the picture if he can be made to do it himself."
"What do you mean?"
"Take the shell off a snail and what happens? It shrivels up of its own accord." The old man put the cigarette back to his lips. "Take away Mulder's access--his purpose--and he'll soon lose the will to keep fighting his little crusade." He paused. "Look at how unstable... unhinged... he became when his father was killed."
The old man glanced at me with a sharpness I wasn't expecting.
"Mulder will take himself out of the game," he went on, looking past the men in the room and out the darkened window. And that amused smile of his pulled at the corner of his mouth. He was going to enjoy every minute of taking Mulder down. It would be some kind of slow torture.
The meeting broke up and I grabbed a taxi back to my hotel. Standing bleary-eyed in front of the bathroom mirror, brushing my teeth, it suddenly hit me: I'd said 'us'. Telling the Colonists that the Rebels were behind their ship's take-off and crash would take the focus off us. As if I were one of them. Maybe that's what the darts coming from the old man's eyes had been about. Then again, it wasn't far from his typical reaction to anything that had to do with me... unless he was trying to butter me up because he wanted something. Hopefully he'd missed what I said. It'd been late, everyone in the room exhausted. Maybe I was just being paranoid.
Whatever. It was too late to think. About anything. The immediate danger of an alien strike had passed, the surfaced Oil and the problems it caused had been taken care of, and all I wanted was to hit the sack and get away from the steady backbeat of pain in my head. I shook a pill out of the container on the shelf, swallowed it, chased it with a glass of water and hit the sack. Hopefully in the morning, things would be looking a little better; they'd make more sense and the patterns would be clearer.
But when the morning sun on my face woke me, my mind was already going. Hauling Scully off to Antarctica had been based on underestimating Mulder's ability and willingness to leap tall buildings when he was motivated enough. The danger of underestimating Mulder: I'd have to file that away. It could come in handy someday.
Turned out I was right on two counts. The old men took my advice, and the Colonists swallowed the line they fed them about the Rebels being the cause of their craft's explosion. And it did seem that I'd made an impression on the old men: They sent me to organize a small aircraft hangar they kept at Martin State, a little airport outside Baltimore, and it didn't take me long to figure out that I wasn't just on clean-up detail. Later, with the old men's confidence in me a little higher, I'd find out it was a drop point for something important: beryllium, a difficult-to-process metal with critical military applications that they were picking up under the table from a production plant somewhere in the heartland and then selling to the highest bidder to help finance their hybrid research. I managed to contact Tolya in Moscow. He was aware of some of the feelers the group had put out, as well as the kinds of potential customers who were looking for what the old men were dealing: small rogue states looking to overpower their neighbors, underground scientists, terrorists.
It showed me again, in case I'd had any doubts, just what kind of scum the old men were, though I knew that if it had been a case of me trying to finance the secret vaccine with no other way to do it, I might have done the same thing. The difference was that I wasn't trying to fuck over the planet's entire population just to save my own butt.
The old man probably would have objected to the way I was being given an entre into the group, but as soon as word came in that the Colonists had bought our explanation about the Antarctica ship, he took off for New Mexico to oversee the research being done on Gibson Praise. Most likely he figured Gibson was his golden boy, that the kid might hold some new secret to survival, and he wanted to scoop the rest of the group and use the knowledge himself, if it were true.
Frankly, having him off my back was a huge relief; he wasn't there to question how I'd managed to access the Russian vaccine, or to think about whether Marita's infection had come as a result of something other than her loyalty to the group. I knew eventually he'd be pressing me for answers to those questions, and I'd have to be ready with answers I could get him to swallow. Anything to keep him away from the truth.
In the meantime, the way my luck had turned with the old men gave me something better to focus on. I hadn't figured on ever getting an invitation back to the inside. For as much as I hated the old men and what they were doing, the reality was that by going it alone at this point, I'd have no contacts, no leverage, nothing to work with. The only thing that made sense was to get as far inside as they'd let me until a better option came along. I'd gather up all the intel that came my way and save it for whatever use it might have later on.
Another six weeks and things weren't looking nearly so rosy. Some of the captured Oil managed to infect a Roush worker in Arizona, and it wasn't until it had gestated and the screamer took off, leaving two dead humans and a lot of blood behind, that the group was alerted. The news media were onto it, so there was a rush to find the thing and destroy it. The old man took his little captive bloodhound Gibson to sniff the screamer out, but the kid managed to escape and ended up with Mulder and Scully. The group got him back, but only briefly; somehow Gibson managed to give them the slip at the power plant after the screamer holed up there was found and neutralized.
The old man stayed in the area a good week, spearheading the search for the kid, but it seemed Gibson had vanished into thin air. Diana'd managed to get him out of the facility and secure him with electrical tape she found in the panel van that had brought him there, but when she came back, the kid was gone. There were no torn bits of tape, nothing he could have cut it with, no sign of a struggle. They brought in sniffing dogs, but the scent trail evaporated outside the van. If one of the alien groups had swooped in and sucked him up, there'd likely be some sort of reaction shaking out, but we never heard anything.
The old man had people beat the bushes for miles around. They even scanned the area surrounding the power plant with infrared in case the kid was hiding out in the desert somewhere, but they didn't find a thing. Finally they turned the search over to a couple of bounty hunters, and the old man returned to New York. For me, the timing couldn't have been worse. He could see right away the way things were going, how the group was starting to regard me, and it was too much for him. He managed one of those pseudo-earnest smiles of his. He wanted to train me, he told the rest of them. Guide me. Teach me. Make me more valuable to the organization. There were nods all around, as if not a damn one of them saw what he was doing.
So Diana and Jeff, the old man's other spawn, ended up in charge of the X-files after they had Mulder kicked off and handed over to Kersh. And me, I ended up on the end of the old man's choke chain. Because he knew I was never going to sit up, bark or roll over the way they would.
I never did figure out exactly what the old man's plan was during the couple of months that followed, whether he was testing me or trying to make me crack, and it was clear he wasn't about to come out and tell me; he liked it better when I was twisting in the wind. But separating a person from familiar surroundings--especially when you don't give them any idea of when they might get back to the familiar--is a proven way of disorienting them, like putting a hood over somebody's head and taking them for a drive in the back seat of a limo. And the old man had things to do. So for the next couple of months he dragged me with him from one place to another and he barely let me out of his sight. First stop: the Brit's Colorado place, which we turned inside out. I barely slept, jacked up on the adrenaline that came with waiting for something to turn up that would tie the Brit and me together. It didn't happen, though he did find the name of Dr. Carrie Phillips, the woman who'd treated me after the Brit pulled me out of the silo, penciled in an old notepad in the nightstand of the room where I'd spent so much of my recovery. My worst moment was when we drove into town to her campus office and he wanted me to go ask her about her contact with the Brit. I pointed out that a one-armed guy asking questions was something likely to stick in her mind, so eventually he went looking for her himself--one of the few times being an amputee has actually come in handy. Thank god Carrie was out of town at some conference.
We were there for three days, but luckily we didn't come across anything else that would connect me to the Brit. Or that would connect Marita and me, for that matter. The Brit probably figured that at some point a member of the group would drop by unannounced looking for evidence that he had a secret side agenda. After all, he'd never exactly hidden the fact that if certain of the group's decisions had been his to make, things would have gone differently.
When we left there, we caught a flight to the U.K. to do the same thing at his London estate. Leaving Colorado, it was such a relief to be headed to a house I'd never been in before, where I didn't have to think about how to react to familiar things as if I'd never seen them, that I slept probably ten out of the twelve hours between O'Hare and Heathrow. The Brit's wife had been gone for years--she'd been part of the hand-over of family members to the Colonists in 1973--but he had a caretaker for when he wasn't around. We introduced ourselves as 'close business associates', announced his death and after a little wrangling were given access to his files and computer. Once again, my pulse was doing double-time, but nothing incriminating turned up. It may have been strictly business between me and the Brit, and he sure as hell hadn't been thinking of the potential fallout for me when he passed Mulder that vaccine and got himself killed, but at least he'd kept my name out of his records. I had to give him that.
I was starting to think about sleeping in my own bed and working past the return trip's jet lag, getting back and setting up some kind of relative normal, whatever the hell that might be now--but no dice. Instead of returning to the States, our next stop was Tunisia, where the group was setting up a new corn growing operation to replace the stateside crops they'd had to destroy after Mulder and Scully saw them. It would be safer this way, no chance of Mulder or anyone else who might be suspicious stumbling across the grow, and the group had a good front there. Tunisia'd always had to import corn because its soil was too saline to grow the stuff, but Strughold went in with a high-tech system that made cultivation possible. The government was all too happy to let them do whatever they wanted in exchange for the technology.
We were there for a week. The first morning the old man took me along, so I got the grand tour of the operation, but after that he left me in town with a driver who was supposed to be there 'for my convenience' but who was really just a minder. Given where I'd grown up--the way you naturally developed a radar for doublespeak and hypocrisy--I don't know why the old man even tried to disguise the fact. Like I wasn't going to notice. Anyway, I let Ramy give me the tour of Gabes, where we were staying--the market, the oasis, the grand mosque, the waterfront, the casino--but mostly I spent time walking the beach beyond our hotel, Ramy a good twenty paces away, a big man with a thick carpet of a moustache, quiet, like a herdsman keeping an eye on a flock of sheep or goats but sniffing the wind, too, for any sign of an approaching threat. It had been years since I'd been in a Muslim country--since my stint in the Afghan war, followed by that weird 'homecoming celebration' the old man had put together for me in Tashkent afterward. The celebration had been his, really: his little investment had survived combat and had picked up some new skills he'd be able to exploit. Over time, I'd done a pretty good job of suppressing my Afghan days, but they were starting to leak back in now. Which clipped my already-short fuse down to almost nothing.
Sitting around with too much time on my hands, I was starting to wonder what the hell I was in for. I was definitely starting to curse the Brit. If he hadn't swiped that vial of vaccine and handed it off to Mulder, I wouldn't be in this mess. I'd have some autonomy, and a collaborator if I needed one, even though the Brit hadn't been doing me any favors the last couple of months. Now I was treading water at best, in limbo, no contacts. Which was probably just what the old man had in mind. And it was getting to me. Lying in bed at night, my pulse felt like the clock ticking down to Colonization. I could feel the weight of what I wasn't getting accomplished: no plans, no connections, no progress. It left me itching to do something--contact Tolya to see what was going on in the rest of the world, update with Ansbach, check in with Che; it had been a good three months now, and who knew what the guy was up to. But I couldn't risk it; I wasn't going to lead the old man to the few people I had left. Definitely not to Che. I'd just have to wait it out, watch for my opportunity.
Evidently my moment wouldn't be coming anytime soon, though. Twenty minutes after lifting off from Tunisia, headed toward the Atlantic, our plane made a big southward arc and the old man announced that we were headed for Antarctica. The shock of it sent my frustration level through the roof, but I slapped on a passive face. I wasn't about to let him see what he was doing to me.
The Colonists had settled a new ship into the snow not far from Druzhnaya 2, an abandoned Russian research base. A section of the old base, patched back into service, would make a convenient hub for incoming Consortium researchers, and for housing support staff. They were just getting started, so things were a little primitive, and there was the need not to have lights running at night that could be picked up by satellite photos. Which wasn't much of a problem because it was November, the beginning of Antarctic summer, and the place was getting sunlight from four in the morning until eleven at night.
This time the old man didn't even take me along to see the ship. Which was fine with me; I had no desire to set foot anyplace I knew there was Oil, even if it was supposedly locked away in a bunch of pods. So I was left to to fend for myself at the station, not that there was anything much to do. The yellowed stack of Russian magazines made for a few hours of amusing reading, but aside from that my main options were to poke around the abandoned buildings or watch the stealth construction going on, burrowing down to build below the aging pre-fabs in order to hide the group's presence, the work timed to avoid known satellite passes. Sometimes I'd walk down to the bay and look out at the water crowded with eerie blue icebergs. It was another world--eerie, empty world. It brought too many thoughts of how the whole planet might end up someday, when the aliens had used us up and moved on.
I thought far too much at Druzhnaya. About the irony, for one thing, of being stuck in a second Russian outpost that the old man had hauled me to. Thirty-one years and I hadn't been able to shake the old buzzard. Temporarily, yeah, but he'd always been around, waiting in the wings to snag me again. Maybe I wouldn't be doing any worse by taking off and going it on my own once we got back to civilization. Che could help me set up a new identity. I could go back and base myself out of Moscow or St. Petersburg, use Tolya's network of contacts to gather whatever useful information I could.
Another idea that came--one I would never have believed I'd be giving a serious thought to--was to check out of this rat race altogether. I mean, there was no guarantee I wouldn't be run over by a truck a few weeks down the road even if I decided to stay and fight. It was tempting on the face of it: take off and settle someplace like that island I'd visited once off the coast of Canada. Hike in the woods, watch killer whales breech from the porch of a little cabin, fall asleep in a rocking chair only to wake up with the late afternoon sun on me, everything around me quiet. Block out what was coming and soak in the world's details that I'd always had to run past, scrambling after that big goal... a goal I had about a snowball's chance in hell of reaching anyway, given the way the chips had fallen.
Who knows whether I could actually have pulled it off--you know, turned off the constant alarm in the back of my mind and sunk into the moment, pretended there wasn't a piano hanging over our heads with the support ropes fraying. But taking off would have meant admitting the old man had won. I wasn't ready to give him that satisfaction.
It was early December by the time we got back to New York. I was hoping the rushed pace of the city, all the holiday fuss and the change of scenery would take away the dreams I'd started having in Antarctica--about Andrei, from the camp. After I lost the arm I promised myself over and over, before the Kazakhstan attack, that when things settled down I'd find some way to pay Andrei back for everything he'd done for me, because if not for all his pushing, I never would have recovered from losing the arm. 'You have important work to do,' he'd say in his quiet, no-bullshit way, knowing just how carefully to nudge me so I wouldn't push back.
Yeah, well, obviously he'd read me wrong. What was it Mulder'd said? A couple drops short of bone dry? Okay, so Mulder's a self-righteous dick. I didn't make Andrei string himself up like that--it still burned me up, that he'd done that--but I sure as hell was responsible for what came before: I'd held a gun to the head of the one man I was seriously beholden to in this world and made him do things he'd never have agreed to in his worst nightmares.
In D.C., there was a new normal in Mulder's old basement office. Jeffrey was playing gatekeeper, but he made a piss-poor one if you ask me. Where Mulder'd been invested in believing, Jeff was just as stubbornly--stupidly--determined not to. Nobody was going to be investigating anything the group considered sensitive under his watch. Which was what the old man had in mind, I guess. Mulder and Scully had been taken from Skinner and handed to another A.D., and Diana was there as Jeffrey's keeper... not to mention where she could conveniently show up on cue to taunt Mulder or throw Scully off-balance. Mulder and Scully were being given nothing but grunt work, but Mulder hadn't gotten frustrated enough to put his hand inside the cookie jar that would get him fired for good. Yet.
That, after all, was what the old man was waiting for.
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