An Uncertain Sacrifice

By [Brantley Thompson Elkins]


This isn’t how anyone would actually want THE X-FILES to come out. But remember Clyde Bruckman? He looked at Mulder and told him that there might be worse ways to go but that, frankly, he couldn’t think of one more undignified than auto-erotic asphyxiation. What if Bruckman was prophetic? What if he did see how Mulder would die? How could that be reconciled with the fulfillment of Mulder’s quest?


Mulder was somewhere, but that was all he could say. He was naked and alone.

Around him, there was only soft white light. He could feel the floor of his prison beneath his feet, and touch it with his hands, but there was no other way to distinguish it from the rest of his surroundings.

Neither space nor time had any reality here. He supposed he had been here for days, but without a watch he had no way of knowing. He had slept several times, but he had no idea how long. Nor could he reckon his waking hours.

The place was utterly silent. It must have absorbed sound, somehow. Mulder could not hear his own footsteps, and when he tried to speak or shout or clap his hands, the sounds seemed to vanish, like water into desert sand.

He had tried at first to discover the extent of his prison. There was no way totell one direction from another, of course, but he tried as best he could to walk in one direction. After perhaps 30 paces, the medium--whatever it was--began to resist him. He could feel nothing obstructing his progress, but his steps would become ever slower and more difficult. Yet, when he gave up, the seeming resistance would vanish.

Although he had seen neither food nor water, he felt no hunger or thirst. Perhaps they fed him while he slept. His bodily wastes vanished instantly, although he could not tell how. They must have seen to it. There had to be a they.

He thought he knew what they were doing. Sensory deprivation. During the Cold War, intelligence agencies had used black rooms to break the resistance of enemy agents--or so he had been told. The human mind could not long remain sane without stimulation. That was the complication for intelligence agencies, of course; once a prisoner became psychotic, it was difficult or impossible to get any useful information from him.

He tried to postpone the inevitable by turning his mind inward. He thought about his life, reviewing it in every detail. He thought about his parents Bill and Teena; he thought about his sister Samantha, and the night she disappeared.

He thought about his career at the FBI, and how it led to the X-Files--and beyond. Most of all, he thought about Scully.

But resistance was futile, he knew. They would keep him here until they broke him. He wasn’t sure what they wanted of him, but there was little doubt as to who they were. Whatever this place was, it was not a human place. He tried not to think about them, to deny them that victory. But he failed, of course. He began to imagine what he might say to them, or they to him.

He was never certain where imagination ended and reality began. Perhaps there was no reality. Perhaps he was already insane. Perhaps he had been insane all along. This place might, after all, exist only in his mind. In any case, he saw nothing. No little green men, no lizard monsters, no shapechangers. He heard no voices. Yet he felt, somehow, that he was having a conversation--if only with himself.

They even gave him a reason for this place, or he gave himself one.

Communication was difficult with humans, they explained, as they themselves had no speech. A few gifted humans like the boy Gibson Praise could touch them mind to mind, but he could not: the god module in his brain was not sufficiently developed. Only by cutting off every other sensation could it be stimulated to function.

They were not the ones known to him as the Colonists, they wished him to understand. They did not approve of the Colonists, but neither did they oppose them. They did not consider themselves involved in any way.

Then why had he been brought here?

In answer to your prayer.

I have been praying for this?

Ever since the one you call Samantha was taken from you.

Is she here?

No. We had nothing to do with her taking. As we said, we have had nothing to do with your kind.

Can you return her?

We could. But we have no reason to.

The Colonists--could you stop them?

We could, but again we have no reason.

Why do you have no reason. Can you not see the evil in them?

Can you not see the evil in your own kind? Why should we aid them?

The Colonists might become a threat to you.

They are no threat to us, nor is your kind. Rid yourself of those delusions.

Then to see justice done?

We have no interest in what you call "justice." And if we did, that justice would fall equally on their kind and yours.

You will do nothing, then?

What would you give for our assistance?

My life?

Your kind gives its lives too freely already, and only for the most foolish or base of motives. You came close to taking that course within recent memory.

I sought nothing for myself.

So you imagine. But you are wrong. In your own self pity, you sought the pity of those closest to you. You would have made them hostage to your own vanity.Only your anger towards your enemies stayed your hand.

Whatever you think of me, sacrifice may de called for in the struggle against such enemie.

An old excuse, repeated endlessly by the murderers among you. They imagine that the wanton sacrifice of life justifies its wanton taking. Your entire history is one of mass slaughter portrayed as heroic struggle and sacrifice. Your kind has never valued life; only vanity and vainglory.

There is much more to us than that. Surely you have seen it

They could make the same claim. What do you know of them?

The conversation, if it was a conversation, seemed to continue endlessly in much the same vein. Mulder realized that he was getting nowhere. Although he was not physically tired, he was weary of the argument. He wished that there could be an end to this. He wished he could return home, even if he had accomplished nothing here. He wished that he could see Scully once more. They reacted to that last in utter condescension.

You imagine that you are here to save your kind, and yet in the end you can think only of your biological urges and emotional needs.

You are beyond such things, of course.

We are not discussing ourselves. We are discussing you. You offer to give up your life, and yet you cannot even give up your human attachments.

But our human attachments are what makes us human.

So much the worse for you, having so few such attachments.

This is so banal, Mulder thought. That was the argument against so-called channelers who claimed to be bringing humanity the wisdom of god-like entities: they never had anything truly original or interesting to say. He’d heard better from any number of ordinary humans--even that insurance salesman (What was his name?) who knew how everyone was going to die. He’d even predicted.... Only, how had he known about......?

Exactly, said the aliens or the voice in his mind, or whatever it was. It told him what he must do. Help was available--but there would be no credit to him, let alone glory. That was the price. No one else must ever know what had happened here.

Abruptly, Mulder found himself back in his apartment. As he prepared to do as he had been instructed, he knew that it might be futile. He might have been nowhere, in conversation with no one. It didn’t matter. If he could not stop the Colonists by this act, he did not want to live in the world they would bring. He had to take the chance. Survival was not the ultimate ideology, after all.


The Elders had gathered again at the Diogenes Club in response to an urgent summons by Strughold himself. Only in the gravest cases did he preside; it was customarily left to the First Elder.

"We have lost contact with the Colonists," Strughold announced.

"What do you mean, ‘lost contact?’" asked Cancer Man. "Their bases are deserted," Strughold said. "There in no response on any channel."

"What of their police?" wondered the First Elder.

"They know nothing more than we do," Strughold confessed. "They have lost faith in us," theorized the First Elder. "They have advanced their timetable. No other explanation is possible."

"The end is near," moaned the Second Elder, breaking into sobs.

"Control yourself," interjected Cancer Man.

"Can we not distribute the vaccine?" asked the Third Elder, .

"Our supply is hopelessly inadequate," said Strughold. "Furthermore, they may have devised the means to render it ineffective."

"We can at least impede the process. We can destroy the farms and the bees."

"This has already been ordered," said Strughold. "But we must assume that the Colonists have weapons adequate to their needs, else they would not have abandoned their collaboration with us."

"We should have listened to Lord Hastings," lamented the First Elder, referring to the Well-Manicured Man.

"It would have changed nothing," cried the Second. "We were fools from the start. They never--"

He was interrupted by the sound of a commotion outside the room. Suddenly the door burst open. A squad of U.N. troops in blue helmets swarmed into the room, surrounding the Elders. A moment later, their commanding officer stepped through the door. Without further ado, he announced his business:

"Conrad Strughold. Vito D’Annunzio. Fritz vom Acht. Roland Spender. Jean Luc Laval. Harold Lansky. Luther Smythe. You and each of you are charged with high crimes against humanity. You will come with us immediately."

"How dare you?" Strughold protested. "Do you know who we are?

"We know exactly who you are," the U.N. officer responded. "And tomorrow, the entire world will know."


Walter Skinner and Dana Scully were in a small conference room at FBI headquarters, watching the news on CNN. There was a large monitor in an auditorium, of course, and everyone who didn’t have urgent business had crowded in there. But these two, Mulder’s only true friends in the Bureau, had wanted to be alone together.

Some of the scenes had been endlessly replayed. The arraignment of the Elders before the International Court at the Hague. The burning of once-hidden corn fields around the world and the destruction of bee domes--now supervised by U.N. forces. Mass arrests of Consortium agents in the United States, Britain,France, Germany, Japan and elsewhere. The situation was unclear in Russia,where civil order--fragile under the best of circumstances--seemed to have dissolved completely.

There were pockets of resistance, although not where they would have been expected. Nearly all the military forces involved in the Project had surrendered or gone over, once learning how they had been deceived by the Elders. There had, however, been a pitched battle at Roush Technologies headquarters near Phoenix, where security guards and technicians had barricaded themselves in the main laboratory. The Army, impatient with fighting corridor-to-corridor, had retreated and called in an air strike that demolished the entire complex.

"He could have lived to see this day," Skinner said. "He should have."

Scully could only break into sobs, as Skinner held his arms around her to offer what comfort he could. She did not respond to his embrace, but she did not reject it either.

There was a knock at the door. A young woman entered. Skinner had no idea who she could be, but Scully seemed to recognize her. After a brief struggle to regain her self-control, she spoke.


"How did you know?"

"I’ve seen you before -- seen your likeness, at least."

"It wasn’t me, but I think I know what you mean. I’m the real one. They....

tried as hard as they could to keep it from me. But I had some inklings. And now.... what we’re seeing on TV."

"They’re denying it at the U.N., of course," Skinner broke in. "No aliens, no clone farms. Only a plot by a fascist cabal to take over the world by bringing it to its knees with a plague. They’re pretty vague about how they found out, too. But that’s not what you came here to learn, is it?"

"They said I could find you here. I had to find out about Fox. Is it true what they said on the local news?"

"He was found dead this morning," Skinner confirmed, as Scully began sobbing again. "Do you really want to hear the rest?"

"I never really knew him," Samantha said quietly. "They wouldn’t let me know him. But I’ve heard so much about him. Even about what..... I meant to him. I can’t believe he could have done this. It’s so.... undignified."

"I can’t believe it, either," said Scully, recovering her own composure. "I don’t care what they say--no sign of forced entry, no sign of a struggle. I know that it’s not true. Or if it is, that--I know this sounds crazy--he must have had good reason."

"How do you know?" Samantha asked.

"He was my partner," Scully replied.

After that, there was nothing else to be said. Skinner, Scully and Samantha silently watched the unfolding news--news of a world that had been saved, but would never know, as they would never know, how and by whom it had been saved.

Dec. 28, 1998