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Summary: In the post-Project future, Mulder enlists the help of a much-changed former Gunman.
Spoilers: Vague references to fourth-season dialog.
Notes: Not as serious as "All The Mulders." Mainly a chance to give my favorite Gunman a personality quirk or two and a happy ending.
Disclaimers: The X-Files belong to Chris Carter and Fox network... until the aliens take over.
Rating: G

ONE OF THE BYERS (1/1)

By Alloway (steiner@acadiacom.net) Comments welcome.

For months I routed the merchandise through obscure roads, false identities, and foreign ports; it was exhausting work, but the crate of mint condition, 16-ounce cherry-scented L.A. Looks hair styling gel was worth the effort.

I am convinced that hair gel is the key to understanding Byers.

Byers(1) that is.

I am Byers(166); my sibs and I are the sysops for what used to be the United States of America. But back to the hair gel.

The photographs they gave us indicate that Byers was a man who wore suits in a world where men wore jeans. It takes an unbelievable amount of effort to assemble all of that clothing properly, not to mention the precise combing of the hair and beard. With practice we have managed to get our dressing times down--we overcame the initial necktie confusion, and Byers (130) through (133) eventually recovered from their injuries--but the fact is that a neat appearance was obviously of supreme importance to Byers.

My theory is that this explains the unprecedented smallness of the space into which Byers(1) packed. Cloning is simple, of course--DNA was designed for copying--but to successfully pack and pour a complex human personality with abilities intact and stable is notoriously difficult.

If you've ever had to clean up after a rogue Mulder you know what I'm talking about.

But you can pour a Byers, suppress all memories, and come out with computational talent, an orderly mind, and plenty of brain room left to absorb any alien technology of your choosing. If I didn't know better, I'd say that Byers signed on just so he could get his hands on the alien computers; the urge to learn is that strong, that instinctive.

But the embarrassing truth is that Byers pours perfectly. Although our training instructs us to be content with what we are, I know it looks like there's not much to us.

I prefer to think of myself as complex...but extremely tidy.

***********************

And so I am a nice new Byers, content to dress in suits and run computers for many years, until one day a hairy arm yanks me out of harness and slams me onto the floor. My eyes widen as I see that it is a rogue Mulder. Oh no, I think, this is how we lose all the Byers.

"You can't kill me," I blurt out. "I'm the one who places the restock orders."

"I know," the Mulder hisses, and indeed he does not kill me.

He teaches me how to hack instead. Well, actually he teaches me that there is such a thing as hacking, and I figure out the details. I had never realized that you really *can* go places you're not allowed to go.

Wow. Hacking is fun.

We go into the cloning systems and the planning systems and systems where I can't even figure out what they're for. The Mulder has me tell the computers that it really isn't much of a problem that all the nearby aliens have stopped breathing. The alarms stop ringing, which is nice. The Mulder has me do a lot of other things too--he has a plan, he says. "A long-term plan," he calls it. "Unfathomable. Untraceable."

"Is this how it used to be?" I ask the Mulder, who presumably has been allowed more of a memory than me. "You'd come barging in and demand that I hack through all these systems, so you could carry out some unfathomable plan?"

The Mulder makes a little noise: a sob or a laugh, I can't tell. "Yes," he says.

Next I ask the Mulder why Byers always looked so serious in the photos. After all, if he got to do this kind of work all day long, shouldn't he have been happy?

The Mulder spends a lot of time trying to explain paranoia to me, but I fail to understand it. It is much more complicated than hacking.

Finally the Mulder makes me scan overseas, to the island where Scully lives. I should have known this was where he was heading. This is where they always go. At least he doesn't want to hijack me, like the poor Byers-es in the (40) and (50) ranges; I had to archive those reports, and they were quite distressing. Fortunately, this Mulder is content to watch and plan.

The control systems to view the island are difficult, and while I am still trying to get the video and sound tuned to Byers' standards--I am sure Byers had very high standards--the Mulder has yanked me out of harness. I mentally replay the previous moments: a short blond man with glasses and a rifle--Frohike--smiles at Scully. "Off to do some funky poaching," he says. "You want rabbit or deer?" The scene looks harmless enough, nothing upsetting, yet here I am on the floor again.

The Mulder is quiet for a while. Finally he hauls me to my feet, plugs me back in, and whispers a question: "Why'd you do it, Byers?"

"You told me to--"

"Not that. Why'd you let them clone you?"

I am frozen in place.

Clones don't ask that question. Not ever. And now that I know to look harder I see that the rogue Mulder is cut up pretty badly, as is usual.

What is not usual is the blood. The blood is red.

My brain shrieks in protest as I realize that the Mulder, this Mulder, is *THE* Mulder. I'm standing next to a rogue *original*. I'm not licensed for this, I think in horror.

Alarms start whooping again and the--and Mulder tenses until I shut them off. "Turning me in?" he demands.

"Nonono," I stutter. "It's just, well, an adrenaline rush tends to short out the interface, and I guess I sent some...unusual...commands to the weather satellites." There is an odd look on Mulder's face. "I canceled them," I add hastily. I can still feel some pretty high tidals going over the southern part of the state, but I don't want to unsettle him further.

It's too late; he's backing his way out of the room, away from me. The infamous Agent Fox Mulder spooked by a Byers: revenge at last. "I'll clear a way out for you," I tell him, resigned. "And Mulder--you need to do something about that blood."

"Okay," he says distractedly. "Byers...sorry..." And he is gone.

Sorry that his clones keep destroying my clones? Sorry that I'm not the Byers he was expecting? Sorry that we're not all still together, sitting in a dingy office somewhere hacking computers and drinking beer? Hard to tell.

I never knew that originals were so difficult to understand.

***********************

Years pass. After I file the report of an industrial accident, class 10-13-D (rogue Mulder), the halls fill with replacement aliens. I use my new skills to retrieve the case of hair gel, and my sibs and I have a wild but well-groomed celebration.

Whether Mulder's plan continues on, whether he alters it or is even alive to alter it, I do not know. Life goes back to normal.

Then one day we get the news that Agent Scully has agreed, all these decades later, to be cloned. I am chosen to greet her and guide her. It is a logical decision; she knows me and will be comfortable with me, and I am a dependable and even-tempered servant.

That took much, much hacking. Or, as we now say in honor of our late friend Frohike, "funky poaching." I do not think this is what he had in mind, but it seems to fit somehow.

Scully is watched, incessantly, as Agent Mulder never was. Even with the combined efforts of all my series I can only manage to get her outside and alone for a little while. It is a beautiful night; she listens quietly as I tell her all I know. She must be disappointed that I don't know Mulder's whereabouts, that I don't understand his plan, but she is careful not to show it. She just lowers her eyes, nodding, and says, "Thank you, Byers(166)."

Mulder never thanked me. I think I like Scully better.

Then she asks the question that clones never ask and originals always do. Why. Seeing my hesitance, she folds her arms and leans back against the tree. "I'll go first," she declares, fixing me with her gaze. After spending the day with her, I can understand why Mulder needs her; she is a force capable of taking on anything, even him.

Her calm expression disappears for a moment as the words come out of her, slow and sure. "For Mulder. For me. Because I have to tell him--" and then the calm is back again.

"That's it?" I say hesitantly. She nods.

"Tell him what?"

She shrugs. "Just tell him."

Now it is my turn: why Byers agreed. I awaken the ability that Byers wanted--wanted so desperately that the memory of it remains clear although I can recall nothing else.

It's a good night for it. Full moon.

I tear off my clothes and let the fur ripple over my body. Eyes fade to yellow as claws and teeth expand and sharpen. Of course, I could just morph straight to the final product, but this is how Byers always envisioned it.

Scully is staring. "Byers wanted to be a werewolf?" she whispers.

I shift my face and neck slightly, so I can form words. "Yes, but I--"

Scully jumps and makes a squeaking noise. "Oh. Sorry. It's just that that thing with the lips is scary."

"Really?" I ask eagerly. She shakes her head up and down emphatically. Wonderful, I think; I cannot wait to share this with my sibs. "Agent Scully?" I say hopefully. "Why did Byers want to do this? What exactly did he want to do?"

"Want to do?" She is taken aback. "Oh, let's see...in the movies werewolves spend a lot of time running through the forest and, uh, eating things..." Good, good, I think. We've been doing it right. "As to why. Whoo..." She sucks in air over her teeth. "I'm at a loss. Can't explain, sorry. I never knew...your original...very well, but he always reminded me of the saying that still waters run deep." She glances up and down at my seven-foot, hairy form and mutters, "Very deep."

I barely hear her. Still waters, I think. Still and deep. I am reeling. The original, the one and only Agent Scully--a woman of complexity and character to rival even the famous Agent Mulder--is at a loss. My brain is sending me one word at a time, all I can handle: She. Cannot. Explain. Me.

I *knew* the hair gel was the key.

Later Agent Scully teaches me how to howl--"I used to do that a lot at night, on the beach," she explains, blushing a little. She tosses back her hair, points her nose to the moon, and lets go with an amazing noise. All my fur stands on end.

Do wolves really sound that lonely?

I am sure that alarms are sounding somewhere by now, but my sibs are handling them. Nothing to worry about, alarms. It's just one of the Byers. Packs well, nothing special.

Ha.

Harrooooooo...

Agent Scully and I howl at the stars.

THE END


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