Read Ground Zero (The X-Files) Online

Authors: Kevin Anderson,Chris Carter (Creator)

Tags: #Fiction

Ground Zero (The X-Files) (8 page)

BOOK: Ground Zero (The X-Files)
2.84Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

“On my way!” Victor hung up the phone.

61

THE X-FILES

Dooley sat back in the creaking old chair, trying to get comfortable. The air-conditioning was turned up too high in the old barracks building, so he had not taken off the denim jacket that covered his red flannel shirt. With his long hair and bushy beard he looked like a mountain man. His demeanor intimidated many of the people around him, particularly those who didn’t work for him. Bear Dooley didn’t think he was all that difficult a taskmaster, so long as everyone did what they were expected to do. If they weren’t willing to do their jobs, then they shouldn’t have bothered to apply in the first place. Victor and the other engineers who had been on Dooley’s team for several years understood that he was perfectly easy to get along with, that he trusted them and their abilities—but his team members also knew they’d better run for cover if they ever let him down. Out in the halls, the construction workers continued their hammering and pounding, tearing down the walls. Plastic sheeting lay draped over everything as the laborers ransacked another wing of the building.

The barracks’ outside door opened, and redheaded Victor Ogilvy bounded up the wooden stairs, then down the linoleum hallway to Dooley’s temporary office. He burst in, his face florid, grinning with the eagerness of Jimmy Olsen hot on a news story. His wire-rimmed glasses slipped down his nose.

“Here’s the satellite printouts,” he said. “And here’s the overlays.” He spread the projections on Dooley’s cleared desk, weighting the curling edges with a stapler and a pair of scissors.

“See the storm clouds here, Bear? Ninety-five percent probability that this depression will follow the path I’ve marked with red dashes.” He traced a

62

GROUND ZERO

big-knuckled finger along a contour in the Western Pacific, just past the International Date Line in the Marshall Islands.

“I’ve looked for projected landfalls, and there seems to be an absolutely perfect target—right here.” Victor’s finger completely obscured a minuscule dot that looked like a printer’s error in the middle of the ocean. “Bingo!”

Dooley looked down. “Enika Atoll.”

“It’s in the ephemeris,” Victor said, then jerked his head over to Dooley’s bookshelf.

Dooley leaned back in his chair to grab the thick book, blowing the white gypsum dust from its spine. He riffled the pages, studying the nautical coordinates and finding the brief listing for Enika.

“Oooh, exciting,” he said, reading the brief description.

“A big flat rock out in the middle of nowhere. No recent photos, but it sounds tailor-made for our purposes. No existing settlements, not even any history.”

“Nobody will ever notice anything there,” Victor agreed.

“Let me see those weather charts again.” Dooley reached forward, snapping his fingers to make Victor hurry. The younger man spread out the charts again, showing the angrylooking knot of cloud swirling across the ocean like a clenched fist.

“Hurricane warnings have gone out to all the adjacent islands. There’s not much in the vicinity, only a few sparsely populated islands such as Kwajalein and Truk. It’s even in U.S. protectorate waters.”

“And you’re sure the storm is going to hit land there?”

Dooley asked. He was already convinced, but he wanted someone else to say it.

Victor gave an exasperated sigh. “Look at the size of that storm system, Bear! How could it miss? We’ve got a week until projected landfall—that’s an eternity 63

THE X-FILES

as far as weather projections go, but not much time to set up our preparations…if we decide to go, that is.” The whipthin redhead stepped back, shuffling his feet as if he had to go to the bathroom badly.

Dooley fixed Victor with his best don’t-give-me-any-bullshit glare. “What do you mean,
if
we decide to go? Is there anything to recommend against it? Be straight.”

Victor shrugged. “Nothing that I can see—but it’s still your call, Bear. Without Dr. Gregory, you’re the one pulling all the strings.”

Dooley nodded, knowing full well when he could trust his people—and this was one such time. “All right, let’s start making phone calls. As of right now I am activating Bright Anvil. We’re on our way. Let’s get the Corps of Engineers flown out to Enika, get our destroyer on standby down at Coronado Naval Base ready to move out as soon as we arrive.”

Victor nodded quickly. “We’ve already done the paperwork with the Department of Transportation for the SST. The Bright Anvil equipment, diagnostics, and the device itself will be shipped down to San Diego posthaste. The Coronado Base is waiting to receive it.”

Dooley nodded. Sending the SST, or Safe Secure Transport, was no minor task, requiring clearances from numerous counties, the federal highway system, as well as city commissions.

“Pull everybody’s travel papers. We need to get a move on,” he said. “I’ll be with the first crew going out to Enika. Support Team B—that’s you, Victor—will be ready to take a transport plane out to the islands once everything’s set up.”

Victor scrawled copious notes in handwriting that Bear Dooley had once foolishly tried to decipher, but never again. Breathless, Victor looked as if he might suffer from a stroke in his excitement.

64

GROUND ZERO

“Let’s go. No time to waste,” Dooley said. The young assistant scuttled toward the door, but Dooley called after him. “Oh, and Victor?” The other man turned, blinking owlishly behind his glasses, his mouth partly open.

“Don’t forget to pack your swim trunks.”

Victor laughed and disappeared down the hall. Dooley stared down at the maps and weather charts again, letting a smile creep across his face. Finally, after all this time, they were moving on to the next step. There could be no turning back once the wheels started moving. Besides, he had to admit he wasn’t terribly sorry to get away from those nosy FBI investigators. He had work to do. 65

NINE

Stop Nuclear Madness! Headquarters,

Berkeley, California

Wednesday, 12:36 P.M.

Scully took the rental car and drove alone into Berkeley, following once-familiar highways. Now, though, she sensed she had become an intruder in a place where she had previously felt at home. Heading down Telegraph Avenue toward the campus, Scully saw that the university remained basically unchanged. It stood like an island of ferociously independent culture—the People’s Republic of Berkeley—while the rest of the world went on its way. The unbroken string of pizza joints, student art galleries, falafel stands, and recycled clothing shops made her feel warm with nostalgia. She had spent her first year of college here, getting her first taste of independence, making her own choices on a day-to-day basis.

Scully watched the usual smattering of students, some on old bicycles wearing white helmets, some 66

GROUND ZERO

jogging, some even Rollerblading. Young men and women wore clothes that were somehow one step sideways from fashion; they moved as if their every action was a Statement. Behind the steering wheel of the new car—itself out of place—Scully surprised herself by looking down at her conservative business jacket and slacks, her professional briefcase, with some measure of embarrassment.

As an undergrad at Berkeley, Dana Scully and her friends had laughed at people very much like what she herself had become.

Scully parked in a public ramp and walked out into the sunshine, pushing sunglasses up on her nose and scanning the streets to get her bearings. She walked along, glancing at kiosks that announced student film festivals, rallies, and fund-raising events.

A black dog lay panting beside a tree to which it had been leashed. A long-haired woman sat on a blanket in front of a strewn display of handmade jewelry for sale, though she seemed more interested in strumming her guitar than in pressuring potential buyers. Outside the door to an old apartment complex, a cardboard box stuffed with ragged paperbacks begged for customers; a sign taped to the box announced that the books were “50 cents each!” A coffee can sat next to the box, awaiting contributions. Tracking addresses by the numbers on the sidewalk, Scully finally found the Stop Nuclear Madness! Headquarters in a tall old building that looked as if it could have been the set for a courthouse in an old black-and-white movie. A diner and coffee shop shared the street level of the building with a large new-and-used bookstore that catered to students buying and selling their used textbooks as well as grabbing a quick read between exams.

A short flight of concrete steps led down from 67

THE X-FILES

the sidewalk to below street level. An easel propped beside the stairs held a posterboard with stenciled letters announcing the protest group and something called the “Museum of Nuclear Horrors.”

Scully went down the stairs, her heels clicking on the cement. The place was typical of temporary headquarters on any university campus, she thought. The owners of these old buildings specialized in low-rent, short-term-lease offices, utilizing their extra space as quick-setup bases for political campaigns, activist groups, and even tax-preparation businesses around April. On the building’s outside wall she noticed a faded Civil Defense symbol, the three-bladed radiation sign surrounded by deep yellow, identifying the lower levels of the building as a bomb shelter in the event of a nuclear emergency. Scully stared at the symbol for a minute, thinking of the irony…and experiencing a sense of familiarity as well. She had been in places like this many times during her own student days. She pushed open the basement door and entered the Stop Nuclear Madness! Headquarters. She felt transported back in time. She remembered when she had been younger, filled with enthusiasm to change the world.

Even in her first year she had been a good student, dedicated to her physics classes and to learning. She knew how much money her parents were spending on tuition, a good portion of her father’s Navy salary, just to give her the chance to go to a big university.

But swept up in the alienness, the excitement of a culture so different from her military upbringing, Scully had flirted with activism. She read the pamphlets, listened to her fellow students talk far into the night, and grew more and more upset at what

68

GROUND ZERO

she heard. Believing everything she read and discussed, she had spent long sleepless nights in her dorm room, imagining what she could do to Make a Difference. She had even contemplated joining one of the protests scheduled out at the Teller Nuclear Research Facility—but ultimately she had been too practical to follow through on the idea. Still, her involvement had been enough to let her engage in spirited discussions—no, she decided to be truthful with herself: they had been outright
arguments
—with her father, a conservative and dignified Navy captain stationed at the nearby Alameda Naval Air Station. It had been one of the first subjects on which she and her father had truly disagreed. That was before she had decided to join the FBI, which had also brought her parents’ disapproval.

Scully loved her father greatly. She had been profoundly affected by his recent death just after the Christmas holidays. He used to call her Starbuck, she called him Ahab…but that was all in the past. She would never see him again. Scully had spent only a year at Berkeley before the Navy had transferred her father, and she herself had gone to the University of Maryland to study. Most of their wounds had been bandaged a long time before, and no doubt her father had simply considered her brush with the protesters to be an example of the brashness of youth.

Now that she stood on the threshold of the Stop Nuclear Madness! Headquarters, those sore spots grew tender again. But Scully had not come here to join in the protest movement this time. She had a death to investigate. And some of the clues had led her here.

As she entered the small offices, the woman behind the desk turned to give her an automatic smile—but froze with instant suspicion upon seeing

69

THE X-FILES

her professional garb. Scully felt a sinking in her stomach. The young receptionist was in her early twenties, with skin the color of light milk chocolate and bushy hair knotted into a medusa swirl of dangling dreadlocks. Her necklace consisted of enormous rectangles of enameled metal; the voluminous wrap covering her body was a dizzying geometric pattern—some sort of Swahili tribal dress, Scully decided. She glanced down at the fancy engraved nameplate—probably a minor concession of importance for the volunteer workers—on the table that served as a makeshift front desk.

“Becka Thorne.” Beside the nameplate, the table held a telephone book, telephone, an old typewriter, and some preprinted leaflets. Scully pulled out her ID. “I’m Special Agent Dana Scully from the FBI. I’m here to speak with a Ms. Miriel Bremen.”

Becka Thorne’s eyebrows went up. “I…I’ll see if she’s here,” she said. Her voice was cold and uninviting, her guard up. Again Scully felt a pang of disappointment. Becka Thorne seemed to be pondering whether or not to lie. Finally she got up and glided to the back of the offices, her colorful wrap swishing as she moved. Somewhere out of sight behind movable fabric partitions Scully could hear an overworked photocopy machine churning out leaflets. While she waited, Scully studied the posters and photo enlargements mounted on the wall, presumably the Museum of Nuclear Horrors promised on the sign outside. A computer-printed banner had been tacked up at ceiling level, proclaiming in large dot-matrix letters: “WE’VE ALREADY

HAD ONE NUCLEAR WAR—WE MUST

70

GROUND ZERO

PREVENT THE NEXT ONE!” Grainy black-and-white enlargements of awesome mushroom clouds adorned the painted cinderblock walls. They reminded her of the hallway in Dr. Gregory’s home. There, though, the photographs had been trophies occupying honored positions. Here they were accusations. One poster listed known international atomic bomb tests and the amount of radiation each aboveground blast had showered into the air. She saw a chart with rising bars that showed the increase of cancer in the United States attributed to such residual radiation, particularly strontium 90 contamination in grass consumed by dairy cows, which was then carried into their milk and ingested by children who poured it over their artificially sweetened breakfast cereals. As the bars rose from year to year, the numbers appeared staggering. Another display listed the islands that had been destroyed in the Pacific Ocean, with pathos-filled photographs of natives from Bikini Island and Eniwetok Atoll as the U.S. military evacuated them from their island paradises to make way for atomic bomb tests.

BOOK: Ground Zero (The X-Files)
2.84Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

Other books

CONCEPTION (The Others) by McCarty, Sarah
Edison's Gold by Geoff Watson
The Center of the World by Thomas van Essen
A Passion for Killing by Barbara Nadel
Saturday's Child by Dallas Schulze
The Solid Mandala by Patrick White
Waiter Rant by Steve Dublanica
Take a Risk (Risk #1) by Scarlett Finn