LANDSTUHL REGIONAL MEDICAL CENTER
WEDNESDAY, JULY 7th, 2010
Scully's body clock was completely shot. Pakistan was ten hours ahead of Washington DC, India was an hour behind Pakistan, and Germany was four hours behind India. She hadn't had more than a few hours of sleep since Monday, and she hadn't eaten a regular meal since Sunday morning. That put Scully at six hours behind insanity.
That was why, she assumed, she hadn't felt the need to sleep until early this morning until after she had finished briefing Skinner, US Army General Hager, Indian Army General Himmat, Major Calhoun's new commanding officer, and a dozen other individuals whose names went in one of Scully's ears and promptly flew out the other.
The last twenty hours had been a blur of activity, and she was still running on an adrenaline high through most of it. Mulder was brought in to the Ramstein Air Base via a Chinook helicopter. It seemed a little overkill to Scully, dragging a massive, 46,000 lb flying fortress across four time zones to transport one injured FBI agent and his partner. The thought hadn't crossed her mind until later, but it was probably PR that drove that decision.
From the Ramstein Air Base, he and Scully were med-evac'ed to the Landstuhl Regional Medical Center where Mulder would receive treatment until it was deemed safe for him to fly. He was moved from the trauma center to a surgical suite, back to the trauma center, up two levels to a temporary room, and then to a semi-permanent room in another suite of the building.
And while this movement went on, Scully couldn't conduct her usual bedside vigil or even sit in the waiting room and stressfully anticipate seeing him. Instead, she was kept occupied on video conference via a secure laptop. It appeared that most of the officials involved in the international mess they found themselves in were not willing to wait for her written report.
She had nearly taken Skinner's head off when he called her cell phone, but then had almost broken down and cried when his first and only question was, "How is he?"
Mulder required surgery to stop internal bleeding from the building collapse, and to internally stitch his right bicep where a shard of glass had been embedded from the Humvee explosion. The building collapse had also left him with a concussion and multiple broken ribs. Both of his shoulders were dislocated and had to be reset after he was hung in a tortured position for nearly two days. His right arm, the doctors believed, was kicked out of its socket and was so severely dislocated that, coupled with the bicep injury, it could lead to permanent damage. The burning torture he endured left second and third degree burns on his back. They were monitoring his heart for tachycardia after he sustained multiple high voltage electric shocks, and he was dangerously dehydrated and malnourished almost to the point of brain damage or death. The short answer to Skinner's question was ‘not good.'
He was still unconscious when Scully finally fell asleep at his bedside, laptop in her lap with the video conference window open but no one on the other side. Shortly after that, Mulder's eyes finally opened.
LANDSTUHL REGIONAL MEDICAL CENTER
WEDNESDAY, JULY 7th, 2010
His world had been black for so long, he was sure he had gone blind. Ages ago, he was ripped away from the technicolor, wonder-filled world offered to him while connected to the Bari Trasadi. After making the decision to direct the weapon's energy in on himself and collapse the building, Mulder was thrust from that world of amazement and entered a dark, dusty and pain-filled world where his delirious thoughts confused his view of reality.
He had lived in that world until this moment, when he came back to hear the steady beep of his heart monitor, and see Scully familiarly at his bedside. He smiled. It was the first pleasant sight he had seen in so long. He wanted to reach out and touch her, but his arms were too sore and heavy to move. His right arm was heavily bandaged at the bicep and hung in a sling at his chest. Breathing sent small shots of pain through his chest, but it was dulled by painkillers administered through an IV in his left hand. He carefully tested his boundaries, wiggling his toes and fingers, checking to make sure there wasn't permanent damage.
He cleared his throat and winced. It felt like he had strep throat. He reasoned that the pain was probably caused by the intubation he underwent during whatever surgery they had performed on him. "Scully," he said, his own voice surprising him in its weakness.
She stirred, and looked groggily at him for only a moment before her eyes opened wide and she smiled that brilliant smile he was waiting to see. He returned it. Then they said, not in perfect unison but nearly so, "I thought I lost you..."
They smiled again, Scully chuckling softly and trying not to cry as she slipped her hand into Mulder's. She squeezed, even though Mulder didn't have the strength to squeeze back.
LANDSTUHL REGIONAL MEDICAL CENTER
FRIDAY, JULY 8th, 2010
"I'll bet you a lunch you miss that shot."
"You keep this up and you'll be buying me lunch every day for the next two weeks."
"We'll see. Take the shot."
Mulder squeezed the small foam basketball in his left hand as the physical therapist had instructed, rotated his shoulder as far as he could despite the near-blinding pain in his ribs, and then lined up the shot about six feet from the small basketball hoop five feet off the ground. He sat in a chair, still too weak to stand on his own through his PT session but too prideful to sit in the wheelchair the entire time. Especially with Antoine watching.
Antoine Good was a Private First Class in the Army who had been at Landstuhl for the past two weeks. He had been injured in Afghansitan, a roadside bomb taking the nineteen-year-old's left leg just below the knee. Already walking laps in the indoor track, Antoine was a no-nonsense, competitive, friendly kid, and he and Mulder had PT at the same time of the day. It was right after an 1100 lunch hour, so Mulder ate light the last two days. The painkillers were screwing with his stomach and that alone was enough to make anyone nauseated, let alone going through the excruciating pain of physical therapy.
But Antoine was a news buff and had been following Mulder's ordeal before he ever met him. When the agent arrived and they ended up in PT together, Antoine set out on a mission to get the sullen older man moving as fast as was safe for him. The physical therapist set the goals, and Antoine pushed Mulder to exceed them.
The foam ball left Mulder's left hand and soared the short distance to the hoop, bouncing off the rim and shooting in Antoine's direction. He caught the ball mid-air and grinned at his older friend. "I'll have lasagna with sausage, please. A side of beans, maybe...and ice cream for dessert. Lots, and lots of ice cream."
Mulder rolled his eyes. "I say, I say, go away, boy. You're botherin' me," Mulder responded in his best Foghorn Leghorn voice. He caught the return pass of the foam ball neatly in his lap, and tried again.
Scully walked in at that moment and began to observe from the door frame. Mulder saw her, and this time not only did he miss, but he managed to hit the backboard of the man next to him. His physical therapist retrieved the ball while Antoine laughed.
"Don't you have exercises of your own to be doing?" Mulder asked, slightly annoyed.
"Whoa, chill, dude. You were doing fine till your partner walked in...hell, half the guys in here messed up on their last rep." That apparently was the wrong thing to say, because Mulder's expression led to Antoine's immediate, "Just kidding."
The teenager rose from his seat on the edge of the physical therapy bed, grabbed his cane, and patted Mulder gently on the left shoulder. "Gotta go anyway, my session's over. Keep at it, man. See you tomorrow."
Mulder waved tiredly, and his physical therapist said, "How about we move into cool-down stretches now? Then if you feel up to it today, we can start electric stimulation."
Mulder froze. He could hear the blood rushing past his ears and his vision blurred. The small portable heart monitor he was wearing began beeping furiously. "What did you say?" he asked, his voice almost inaudible.
The physical therapist looked confused. "Agent Mulder? Are you feeling okay? What's wrong?"
Scully ran over in a second and was at his side, kneeling next to the chair. "What's up, Mulder? Talk to me."
He placed his thumb and forefinger on the bridge of his nose and closed his eyes, trying to breathe normally as he realized what had just happened. He couldn't let this start. He had to nip it in the bud. He didn't speak for a moment, but when the heart monitor's beep slowed to a normal beat, he said in a soft voice, "Electric stimulation...yes. I want to start. Today."
LANDSTUHL REGIONAL MEDICAL CENTER
SATURDAY, JULY 9th, 2010
"They set multiple bombs targeting the hospital, the military base, and some of the Jeser bases they knew of. I was able to deactivate these bombs by redirecting energy from the locations they tried to brainwash me with, to the locations of the bombs."
"And how did you know the locations of these bombs?"
"The Bari Trasadi gave me that knowledge."
"That's the last thing Agent Mulder remembers, Sir."
"Is that true, Agent Mulder?"
"It's the last thing I remember until I woke up here."
Hager nodded his head, and said, "Well, then. Thank you for your testimony, Agent. I know you've probably given it ten times before. Thank you again for your service. Get some rest." The general signed off, leaving Mulder and Scully staring at Skinner's concerned face.
"You okay, Mulder?" Skinner asked.
"No," Mulder answered, and Scully gently smoothed her hand over his thigh. He was sitting up in bed now. His broken ribs were still painful but his energy level was high enough to drive his wish to get the ‘administrative shit', as he called it, over with.
"You should get some rest," Mulder's boss told him, but his tone was caring and genuine, and he glanced at Scully on the screen.
She got the message, and nodded. Mulder was well aware that there was a secret communication going on, but he didn't really care. He had just recounted every gory, gruesome detail of what was done to him. Thankfully, Skinner had the presence of mind to record it. Now he wouldn't have to do it again until he spoke to whatever psychologist the Bureau threw at him.
"Good night. I'm going back to sleep. Take care, both of you," Skinner said. He gave Mulder a quick smile, and then signed off.
"I'm sorry you had to do that," Scully said softly.
Mulder nodded, but promptly changed the subject. "Antoine and I are meeting up after physical therapy this afternoon. The doctors already okayed it. We're going outside to the courtyard for a walk."
Scully skeptically raised an eyebrow. "Did Bureau security okay this, too?"
"They want to come. We're fine with that."
Scully smiled, but was hesitant about the idea. She knew Antoine was in need of a ‘project' to center himself around just as much as Mulder was in need of competition to take his mind off the physical and emotional pain. They had a symbiotic relationship, and Mulder acted as a mentor to the young soldier as much as Antoine acted as a coach to Mulder. But she worried that the nineteen-year-old would push Mulder to do something he wasn't ready for.
"Just don't be stupid, Mulder. Bring a walker."
"Why? Antoine uses a cane." Mulder's smart reply cane, and Scully rolled her eyes. Typical Mulder, expertly evading every subject he didn't want to talk about.
He had barely spoken about his ordeal since he arrived at the medical center. Scully didn't want to push him, so they had remained mostly silent about it. But the time had come today to give his official statement, and he hadn't practiced.
Scully spent the early morning with him, listening as he recounted the entire thing to a picture of General Hager that she had the front desk print off. She figured it would be more helpful to look at the picture while he spoke, both because it was to Hager that he would be speaking, and because it meant he didn't have to look in her direction.
It was clear he felt guilty about his actions. He felt as though, even though his intentions were to save every wrongly-labeled "terrorist" from death-by-dust, he had instead failed them. He was able to save most of them by redirecting the energy from the Bari Trasadi to the bombs that the Indian military splinter group had set. He even managed to take out multiple terrorists in the process. But he hadn't saved every innocent. And he had risked Scully's life, directing the energy down upon the Indian hospital ruins where he was kept prisoner. Scully had been in the building at the time, looking for her partner with a team of Marines and Major Calhoun.
That was why he could barely look at her when talking about his experience. Despite her insistence that he did nothing wrong, he still felt like he had failed.
An instant of recognition flashed in his eyes, and he said, "Scully!"
She responded with an inquisitive look.
"There's one more thing we have to do...we have to talk to the State Department."
"Mulder, the military said they would-"
"No, no, this isn't administrative shit. Well, it is. But it's not related directly to the Bari Trasadi. I owe someone a favor."
"Okay...I'll get Major Calhoun on video and ask him who we should talk to."
Fifteen minutes later, they were connected with a State Department official who gladly accepted Mulder's call. For some reason, it had been remarkably easy to get a hold of US officials in the past few days. "Agent Mulder," the man said, and pasted a smile on his face. "What can I do for you?"
"I need a favor. It's not going to be extraordinarily easy, but I owe a little boy a one-way ticket to the United States."
The man initially hesitated, but then looked away from the camera at someone Mulder and Scully couldn't see. He nodded, and then turned back to Mulder. "I think we can make that happen, Agent Mulder."
DULLES INTERNATIONAL AIRPORT
THURSDAY, JULY 15th, 2010
Mulder was profiling again. Scully could tell, because he was silently scribbling away on yellow paper, his left hand writing significantly sloppier notes than normal. He had been at it for about an hour, completely ignoring the stares he was getting on the plane. In fact, when Scully leaned over, he had incorporated the stares into his profile.
When they landed and he clicked his pen closed, Scully asked, "Okay, so what's the verdict? Was it Colonel Mustard with the revolver in the Billiard's Room?"
He grinned. "Nope. But we're about to be famous."
She raised an eyebrow.
"We've been kind of out of the loop in Germany...busy for the past week and a half, and not really watching the news. On purpose."
That much was true. They had avoided the news because neither one of them wanted to watch the talking heads proclaim the answers to the events overseas. They both knew the "experts" were as likely to guess that Flukeman was responsible as they were to guess the true nature of the Bari Trasadi. Not even General Himmat believed that Mulder had found the true Bari Trasadi and that it had been buried beyond recovery in the rubble of the collapsed hospital in India. For that reason, Scully hadn't bothered to expound upon the fact that they had recovered a laptop with alien script on it. She simply had it shipped back to DC, and planned to begin the language analysis as soon as she returned to work on Monday.
"Go on," Scully told him.
"Well, there have been several clues as to what's about to happen when we get off that plane. First," he said, rising with everyone else but wincing in pain almost immediately, and sitting back down. He held up his hand, stopping Scully from helping him. He took a moment, and then tried again. He was on the isle seat in the front of the plane with plenty of room, but his ribs were still extremely sore, and it was difficult to get up with only one hand free.
His second attempt to rise was successful, and he continued. "First, Antoine already knew who we were before I ever even got to Physical Therapy."
"Did you end up getting his email address?" Scully asked, and Mulder nodded before he continued.
"Second, Antoine mentioned multiple news broadcasts and had intimate knowledge of the entire ‘adventure'. Third," he started, pointing at his bag under the seat. Scully's face flashed with recognition and she immediately bent down to get it, clearly having forgotten about it. "Third," Mulder repeated, "we were able to get in touch with the State Department and get Alam into DC in record time. I've never seen a bureaucracy work so fast without a sex scandal being behind it."
"Finally, everyone on this plane has been staring at us since we boarded."
"I'm not convinced that this took you an hour to figure out," she said, and Mulder began moving forward. He couldn't walk quickly yet, but he was able to walk without assistance.
"It didn't. That was the initial conclusion. This profile," he patted the yellow notebook he had tucked in his sling, "is my justification to Skinner as to why I don't have to do the press conference."
"An inevitability of political game theory, Scully," he said. They were almost to the terminal. "All of this fame...it ties directly to the November elections. Everyone wants the photo-op with the crippled FBI agent."
Scully frowned at his choice of words. There was still no indication that the damage to his right arm was permanent. He was doing well in physical therapy, but the fact that he wasn't healing as quickly as he wanted to made him impatient and somewhat cynical.
They stepped into the terminal, and were completely shocked. They both guessed at the fuss the press was making, but neither one of them expected the crowd they were met with. There had to be at least five hundred people standing in a roped-off section of the terminal, with American flags and "Welcome Home" signs, cameras flashing and cell phones clicking, and countless reporters with microphones hoping to catch a sound-bite or two. The crowd erupted into a roar of cheering and applause the moment they stepped past the threshold, and the FBI agents they were with escorted them through an already-secure aisle in the crowd.
Mulder spotted several people in the audience who were more subdued than the crowd waving their banners and flags. There were veterans there, some in full uniform and others just wearing a military hat or jacket, some sitting in wheelchairs and some with prosthetic limbs, some solemnly holding POW flags, and still others holding nothing in their hands, but nodding their silent approval as he walked past.
Mulder was wrought with emotion. On the one hand, he was touched that people, for once in his life, actually cared. He was getting recognition for something he had gone through. He had fought for justice, and somebody paid attention. On the other hand, he hadn't completed the job. Innocents still died. So he felt guilty, like he didn't belong there, like it was Scully who they should really be cheering and clapping for.
The crowd continued as they made their way past the terminals and into the general airport area. They were both astonished at the size of the crowd. As they continued to walk and saw that part of the larger hallway had been roped off to accommodate onlookers, Mulder reasoned that there had to have been at least 2,000 people who had come to see him get off of a plane. Perhaps there was more to it than the November elections, after all...
Standing on the escalator on the way down to Baggage Claim, Mulder expected there to be no other surprises. That was why he nearly stopped walking when he was met with the sight of little eight-year-old Alam from Pakistan standing with two FBI agents in his lime-green Crocs, nearly jumping up and down in excitement. It was clear he wanted to run over to Mulder, but an agent's firm but gentle hand on his shoulder held him back.
"Agent Mulder!" the boy yelled with a slight accent. "Agent Mulder! Over here!"
Mulder's shocked smile grew into a wide beam as he made his way, slowly but surely, over to Alam and his small contingent of guards. There were a few more adults in civilian clothing, and one woman knelt down and put her hand on Alam's shoulder, seemingly explaining something to him. He nodded, serious for a moment, and then turned back to Mulder who had finally reached his location.
He threw his arms around Mulder's waist, burying his head in Mulder's stomach and beginning to cry. Mulder was a little surprised at Alam's greeting. He had spoken to the boy for about ten minutes in Pakistan, and managed to take advantage of his fifteen minutes of fame to get the orphaned kid out of a dangerous situation, but he literally hadn't seen him or spoken to him since their initial conversation.
"Thank you for bringing me here, Agent Mulder," Alam said softly, almost too quiet to hear.
Mulder winced as he patted Alam's back. The boy had his head almost exactly where one of his ribs was broken. "I'm gonna keep an eye on you, Alam. I'll make sure they find you a good home here, where you can grow up safe, okay?"
Alam pulled away and said, "I want to search for answers like you. I want to be an FBI Agent and find answers to questions and help people."
Mulder smiled. "One step at a time."
"When I'm older, I'll help so many people that they bring an entire town to the plane to see me, just as they did for you," Alam continued as if Mulder hadn't spoken, and indicated the dwindling crowd at the top of the escalator.
Mulder and Scully realized that the amount of people Alam had seen in this airport were probably more numerous than anything the boy had ever seen before. The technology that he was seeing, as well, was probably more impressive than anything he had dreamed of. Conveyer belts, escalators, elevators, planes, and even air conditioning were all things that his poor village didn't have. As soon as he had arrived in America, someone had given him new clothes that fit him well, but he had kept the lime-green Crocs that he had received from a charity shipment back in his village.
For this small boy, Mulder thought, the past few days had been completely transformative and he had only his shoes as a remnant of his old life. In the boy's mind, probably from watching the television and hearing the FBI agents and social workers talk, this 180 degree turn his life had taken was all thanks to Mulder. It was easy to see why Alam thought of Mulder as his hero despite having only spoken to him for a few moments.
Mulder placed his hand on the bright eight-year-old's shoulder and said, "You're free now. You and the other children who were in danger have been brought to this place under something called ‘political asylum'-that means that the United States decided that your old home was too dangerous for you to stay, and were willing to give you permission to come here and stay instead." When Alam nodded his comprehension, Mulder continued. "You've got a really amazing opportunity. You can grow up and do all of those things now. All you need is to want to do them."
Alam nodded again, and Mulder smiled. He hoped he had said the right thing to the little boy. If not, he reasoned, there would be plenty more opportunities to see him again. He was keeping a close eye on this one-there was something about the child that struck Mulder as particularly special.
He patted Alam's shoulder one more time, and then started to walk with the FBI agents and Scully to the car's location just past the Hertz rental counter.
But before he could go, little Alam called out, "Agent Mulder! Allah watched over you! You came home!"
Mulder stopped for just a moment, turned back, and gave the boy a smile and a nod before he continued. Scully slipped her hand into his, and they left the airport and got into the car to drive to their townhouse.
EAST ROOM, WHITE HOUSE
SATURDAY, JULY 17th, 2010
"While he was in captivity, we worked closely with the Pakistani and Indian officials, as well as the FBI agents present and in Washington DC. Two agents the Army would like to recognize for their particular dedication to finding Agent Mulder are Assistant Director Walter Skinner, who played an important role in organizing the FBI search effort, and Special Agent Dana Scully. Agent Scully is not only Agent Mulder's partner, but was the forensic pathologist assigned to the Bari Trasadi investigation and was at the forefront of the search for Agent Mulder while he was a POW," Major Calhoun spoke to a full room as cameras flashed, clicked, and beeped.
Twenty minutes later, they were honored with the presence of General David Patraeus, brief though it was. "By the time they found Agent Mulder, he had managed to disable a rogue group of ex-Indian military militiamen who allowed their prisoner to operate a device they had constructed in hopes that he would be capable of operating it. Agent Mulder is a world-renowned expert on ancient technology and had recently given a publicly-available speech on the Bari Trasadi at Georgetown University. The perpetrators in India had constructed a similar device to the one specified in the ancient legend, but were unable to control their creation. This resulted in the catastrophic deaths of thousands in both India and Pakistan. Multiple villages in Pakistan were flattened with no survivors, and thousands were killed in subsequent terrorist attacks in India. The Bari Trasadi War, as Indian President Patil has named it, is the deadliest event in India in decades. Agent Mulder, though gravely injured and within inches of his life, managed to not only gain control of the Bari Trasadi device, but also re-direct its use in such a manner that destroyed it and simultaneously destroyed multiple terrorist strongholds. Agent Mulder saved the lives of millions of civilians who would have perished in terrorist attacks, and he saved the lives of any military personnel who would have engaged in defensive action to protect US security interests abroad. His actions were integral to the success of our mission in the Middle East, and essential for our security here at home."
After Mulder shook Patraeus' hand and the General left to attend to his duties, several other important officials spoke about security, missions of peace, and heroism.
It was nearly an hour later that they heard the Vice President state, "The President sends his apologies for not being able to be here to present this award to Agent Mulder in person. It wasn't a difficult vote. Both houses passed the resolution in record time after hearing the facts from all sides. There is no doubt in anyone's mind: the entire world is safer today because of what Agent Mulder accomplished only eleven days ago. Therefore, it is my honor to award Agent Fox William Mulder with the Congressional Gold Medal, the highest civilian award. Will you please step forward, Agent Mulder?"
Mulder rose as smoothly as he could and made his way to the podium, where he was presented with a small box. Inside was a unique medal, the only one in the world exactly like it. Carved specifically for him and what he had done, it was inscribed with his name and the year, and a brief description of why it had been issued.
As Mulder reached with his good arm to accept the box, thousands of megabytes of pictures and video captured the moment so that it would live on forever.
WEDNESDAY, JULY 21st, 2010
"How did you keep your sanity during your ordeal? Does the FBI train their agents to withstand torture?"
Mulder's facial expression had twitched at the question, and he frowned while watching the DVR'ed press conference. He sat with his nephew Matt on the couch in the family room. Maggie had taken Claire to get ice cream. They had been at the summer house for the past few days, attempting to get away from the press and have some peace and quiet. Scully was back at work, deciphering the alien text from the laptop. The most disturbing news she had was that she had found Strughold's name in the text.
There would be time to address that, though. For now, Mulder was recuperating with his family and relaxing at a place where he actually felt safe.
He was nervous about showing the press conference to Matt, even though the twelve-year-old had begged non-stop until Mulder finally caved and turned it on. It was Scully's fault for recording it in the first place.
"Ben Sherwood is a survival expert who's written a book called, The Survivor's Club," Mulder explained on video. "In that book, Sherwood details what an average, non-trained person can do to adapt to a new situation. And that is the key. Adaptation. One has to be able to transcend their situation by accepting it and moving forward with whatever circumstances they're handed."
Typical cookie-cutter crap, Mulder thought. He looked over at Matt, who was glued wide-eyed to the television, absorbing every word Mulder spoke.
"Agent Mulder, how does it feel to be the only FBI agent to ever receive the Congressional Gold Medal?"
"Honestly? I truly was just doing my job out there, doing what I had been trained to do, and I would gladly return the medal in exchange for the lives of those who were lost in the attacks."
"Agent, is it true that you spend most of your time and Bureau resources hunting for clues into the existence of extraterrestrials?"
"No, that's incorrect. The X-files is an officially-sanctioned division of the FBI that investigates unsolved cases, specifically pertaining to unexplainable scientific phenomena. Occasionally, unidentified airborne objects are investigated as part of that directive, but just as often my partner, Agent Scully, and I are looking into unexplainable deaths and instances where cutting-edge science isn't able to identify the root cause of a crime."
"Congressional Gold Medal recipients have been known to start charities after their receipt of the Medal, particularly as a way to use donations they've received themselves. Do you plan to do something of this nature?"
"There was a group of children I met in Pakistan who were orphaned in the attacks. I've already started a college foundation for these children. Now that they've been brought over to the United States for political asylum, they'll be able to have a future."
"Agent Mulder, do you plan to appear on talk shows and keep up your public image?"
Mulder smirked on camera. "I don't know about you, Sir, but I've got a regular job. Next question?"
"Okay, I think we've seen enough of this now," Mulder reached for the remote.
"No, please, Uncle Mulder! It's only a few more minutes long!"
Mulder sighed. His attempt at ending it here wasn't going to happen. And that meant that Matt was going to see...
"-what you thought about when you were re-wiring the Bari Trasadi to attack the terrorists and explode? Did you believe you were going to die as a result of your actions?"
Mulder's expression on the screen turned from kidding to deadly serious, and if anyone thought his responses were scripted before, they would know from the hurt on his face that he wasn't reading from a script now. "What I thought about, primarily, was my family. My partner's family has become like my family. I thought about my niece and nephew, and..." he chuckled, but the smile didn't reach his eyes. "To be perfectly honest, I was delirious with hunger and thirst, and I don't remember all of it, and what I do remember is a little jostled. But I remember very clearly thinking that I would probably die, and that there were still people out there who were hell-bent on destroying our freedom and the world's freedom...I remember thinking that I didn't want that to happen. And that I would do anything...that I will still do anything, to protect the population of our country and our world. Even if it's at the expense of my own life. This is the duty of every federal law enforcement officer, and it's the duty of every responsible citizen to look inside themselves and think about whether they are willing to do the same."
Like most emergencies and near-death experiences, the Bari Trasadi incident started as a clear sequence of events and eventually devolved into what Mulder and Scully would later remember as disjointed scenes in their lives. They would both recall, with sharp detail, every moment when their lives were on the line. Scully was not cursed with an eidetic memory as Mulder was, but even if the accuracy of her memory failed, she would still believe the events to be as vivid as a movie.
But once the adrenaline left their systems and they were no longer in mortal danger, their memories would only store the times when they felt intense emotion. Mulder waking up in the hospital. Scully's slew of video conferences after the event. Physical therapy sessions with Antoine. Recounting the horrific incident to General Hager. The crowd at the airport, and seeing Alam at Baggage Claim. The award ceremony, and the press conference. And the time with Maggie and the kids. These moments would remain in their memories for years to come, and would serve as moments of closure and clarity in the midst of a great tragedy.