An Alex Krycek backstory for the Sanctuary universe
An exploration of Krycek's recovery from the silo experience through integration into the Russian vaccine project
I'd hit the jackpot, though I didn't realize it at first. I'd come to in a strange place, barely strong enough to get out of bed, and with no idea of who I was with, friend or foe... okay, opportunist or foe. There was this nagging feeling of having been way too cold, of having lost time--maybe a lot of time--and just as my head was beginning to clear, the first of the flashbacks slammed into me. I could feel the oil slithering under my skin and all I wanted was to crawl straight up the wall to some kind of safety that didn't exist. I could barely breathe.
Seeing the Brit walk in in the middle of my little terrorfest didn't help, either. My first coherent thought, when I finally had one, was that he'd come to take me to the old man so he could work me over some more, the way a cat hooks its claws into a half-dead mouse and bats it around until all the life's finally beaten out of it. Eventually the doctor got me settled and gave me some kind of sedative. When I came around again, the Brit was there and it was awkward. I actually think it embarrassed him, you know--to have been there earlier, to have watched me go through that. Which made two of us. But the fact was, I was wrong about the Brit's agenda. He'd developed some serious doubts about the group's ability to keep their work a secret. Specifically, he was worried about the old man's sloppiness; evidently he'd made a couple of critical errors recently and had just shrugged them off. So the Brit had decided it was time to step outside the circle and reinforce the group's original goals from the shadows.
But it wasn't something he could do alone, and that was where I came in. I was available, I had no love for the old man, and I was a research bonus, too--a specimen who might be able to advance their knowledge of how the Oil affected human physiology. Triple payoff for the risk he'd taken in fishing me out of that hole in the ground, but there was a big bonus in it for me, too. The thing I'd wanted more than anything else was a way back into the group and it was lying right in front of me now. The Brit needed somebody and I was there. I fit the bill and I was more than willing.
Because he knew he'd need my cooperation in the long run, I had some leverage from the start, and that first night we negotiated some ground rules. He wanted to find out what the Oil had done to my body, and I agreed to tests. But no unnecessary tests and no extended hospital stays. I had free rein in my spare time. He wouldn't put a tail on me; anybody followed me around and I'd be out of there. And I got access to my test results. Cooperating bought me a chance to recover in safety and in return he'd get medical information now and my potential help later.
I wasn't under any illusions of having him wrapped around my finger, though. I knew if I screwed him over he could easily let the old man know where I was and the old man would forgive him in his sick joy at having me back. Best case scenario would be the Brit feeling like I was in this as deep as he was, so I offered him a little item of information I'd never told anybody in this country. Except that when I tried to get the words out, they wouldn't come. He sat there in his leather chair, waiting while I tripped over my tongue, only able to get as far as, "He's my..."
Finally I managed to spit out something about the old man and I sharing the same genes. The Brit didn't say a thing but his eyes got big enough. When he finally spoke, he started in on how he'd known about the old man's daughter, of course; they all had, because her mother was one of the early researchers, killed in some lab accident. Didn't take the Brit long to realize this was all news to me and I think he actually enjoyed seeing my reaction. It was a good thing in the end. While I was gritting my teeth, trying not to show anything, he sat there smirking but it made me realize, like Mulder's phone in the face, that this guy wasn't out to play my fairy godfather. It was business--it was war--and we were all on our own in the end, scrambling for whatever we could get. Alliances were for however long they were useful.
He left the next day, needing to get back to New York before he aroused the suspicions of the group, but before he went he told me Diana had worked with Mulder for a while and that she'd spent the last three years in the European operation, keeping tabs on abductees. It was like the old man--to have somebody else he hadn't bothered to mention to me, somebody he could whip out when he needed her like a pistol from an ankle holster. My guess was she hadn't grown up in any institution. Sometime, when I was through here, I'd have to check the woman out.
I spent the better part of the next two weeks under the watchful eye of Dr. Carrie Phillips, trying to regain my stability and undergoing a series of medical tests. Phillips was a hard-to-catalog blend of researcher and single mom, and in a way she treated me a lot like she treated her son. But not like a kid. She treated you like you she was really interested in you--like you were actually worth spending time on. She'd walk through every procedure with me in advance because she wanted me to understand what they were going to do to me and why. And because she knew exactly how edgy I was. The flashbacks had made me a walking time bomb and I never knew how much time was left on the clock.
Carrie didn't hover, though; I was grateful for that. I needed my space. I'd lost ten days of my life and I felt a little like I was behind a glass partition looking out on a parallel universe. I wasn't ready to step out on the playing field yet--wasn't even sure there was solid ground out there--so I sat on the sidelines and watched: the hospital people, the scenery outside, Carrie with her ten-year-old, Tyler. She was like a mother wolf with that kid, intent on giving him the tools he'd need to deal with life. They made quite a team, the two of them. But it was almost too much, seeing what Tyler had. I'd known too many kids who'd lived the flip side.
My days were divided between tests, rest and enough light exercise to ease me back into normalcy, a pretty acceptable routine except for the flashbacks that hit when I least expected them. Right from the start, Carrie urged me to face them head-on. She wanted to know what I saw, but she never pushed. If I couldn't talk about it, she'd back off, but I knew she was right; I couldn't leave Colorado hauling that kind of baggage around with me. So I did what she asked. I told her, and we talked it out, figured out strategies for getting past the images and the panic. She never smothered me with sappy female sympathy. Instead, she wanted me to be prepared, the way she wanted Tyler to be ready for what the world might throw at him.
In the end, the Oil left me like a smart house burglar, taking all traces of itself away except for some antibodies that Carrie was running tests on and the messed-up tissue around my eyes and nose and mouth, which were healing pretty well after a couple of weeks. By then I only looked like I'd been in a bar fight. I'd regained my strength, we'd wrapped up the tests, and with a baseball cap and a pair of shades I could travel without attracting much notice. So I bought myself a plane ticket, flew out of Denver and after a few intermediate stops to make sure I wasn't being traced, I headed for Ché's. I needed to put some distance between myself and the Oil experience. Maybe between myself and Carrie Phillips, too. With Ché I was safe. Ché and I had an understanding. He knew when to back me up and when to leave me alone. Anyway, we had business to discuss.
Luckily for me, Ché had been in touch with Lilly. She'd gone back to Singapore and so far nobody'd found her or come around asking questions about the guy she used to work for. My money was still safe, stashed away in a series of cozy Zurich bank accounts. I had Ché start to trace this woman I was supposedly related to. He managed to come up with her early Bureau days and her time with Mulder. Made me almost feel sorry for poor old Mulder. He's always so damn sincere and the old man's daughter had wrapped herself around him like a python, all in the service of daddy's plan; the X-files and whatever else the two of them had going was a setup from the get-go. If Mulder didn't know yet... well, if he ever found out, it was going to knock him for a loop.
From what the Brit had said, the group hadn't gotten anywhere on a workable vaccine. Made me wonder what the old man's angle was. He'd known about the Tunguska project all along, but obviously he wasn't sharing with the group. Maybe he figured if the Russians found the magic formula, he could bring it to them at the last minute--sweep in and save the day. For a price. He'd make sure there'd be some big payoff in it for him. But I needed to be the one with the magic bullet. When the syndicate got desperate, I had to be able to give them what nobody else could. It would be the ultimate bargaining chip. But it meant working around the old man if he still had eyes and ears in the program. It could turn out to be a suicide mission. In the end, though, the vaccine was the key to everything. I'd done my time playing host to the Oil and I damn well wasn't about to do it again. And Tolya, my contact in Moscow,said they'd been making headway with the research, so I was going to have to check it out, find some new contact who hadn't known me from my time in Kraznoyarsk... and who wasn't in the old man's pocket. With any luck they'd already have a formula that worked.
Then again, maybe not. It never pays to be too optimistic if optimism means burying your head in the sand. Maria Ivanova might still have ties to the project. She might know the status of the work, but I'd lost track of her after she left Krasnoyarsk. Ché did some checking on her. The closest he came was finding her under her parents' name--Vanek--on the American University registers with a degree in medicine. But there was no specialization, no residency or records beyond the degree itself. It could have been somebody else, or incomplete records. Or she could be here; the notation could be a fake put there for her own convenience. But when he did more checking, Ché heard that she'd been seen around St. Petersburg. I'd check it out, but only if I needed to. Ché'd nailed it when he started calling her Madame Piranha. I'd look for another way into the project if there was one.
I spent a week at Ché's but I was getting antsy to have a spot of my own again, a little breathing room, and as always, the clock was ticking. I needed to set myself up in Russia and start greasing the right palms, connecting with people who could get me somewhere. Ché wasn't sure I was ready to hit the road. He'd caught me in the middle of a couple of flashbacks but I told him I was okay; if I needed the help, I'd be staying. And he knew I wasn't just feeding him a line. We've never lied to each other.
I met the Brit in New York on my way to Europe. I wanted to know how they got Oil for their vaccine trials and he said the supply was spotty, that occasionally somebody would dig some up and they had people at FEMA who'd rush in, take care of any evidence and retrieve what Oil they could for the work. I said I might be able to find him a steady source; that was one of the things I was going to be working on. He wanted to know more--it showed in his eyes--but he had the smarts to keep his mouth shut because he knew I wasn't about to give anything away. If he wanted what I had, he was going to have to wait for me to come to him. Before I left he handed me an envelope I didn't open until I was airborne. Diana's address was inside. It clinched my decision to spend a few days in Paris before I went on to Moscow.
Amazing how much the little things tell you about a person. I spent the first day watching her apartment, though I didn't have any excuse that would get me past the concierge and up to where she lived. Luckily for me, though, she had a little balcony window on a side street across from a small pension and I managed to get a room with a window right across from hers. It was an old neighborhood, nothing fancy but it provided good cover; she wasn't hanging out in an upscale diplomatic neighborhood and that was smart. There were red geraniums planted on her balcony. She'd open the door in the morning and water them in her bathrobe and then leave the window open until she left, which let me and my binoculars pick up a little of the interior--small place, older furniture. She was dark-haired like the old man and went around with this seared-in grim expression that only changed for the guy she woke up with one morning and a little old lady in the open-air market she was trying to wrangle a bargain out of. She'd turn the charm on or off, and when it was on she looked about as sincere as the old man. On the third day I dressed down a little, brushed up my best from-the-heartland Russian English and ran into her--literally--on the street. She wasn't happy, not even when I put on my sincerest apology. I asked her for directions to the St. Lazare train station but she pushed past me in a hurry and said she didn't have time. She was pissed, actually. Kind of on par with my initial introduction to Mulder, but then what was I expecting? And you've got to figure: if I'd bumped into by my ragged alter ego that morning, I probably would've been pissed, too. Wonder what she would've thought if she'd known we had more in common than just that space on the sidewalk.
When I got to Moscow I looked up my old friend Tolya. He was a snoop, a half-on-the-inside, half-on-the-outside kind of guy. The usual bureaucratic undercover work was his day job, but on the side he dealt in more exotic information--mind-control projects, human cloning efforts, UFO-related stuff. He knew about Tunguska when I'd first come from there, which surprised me at the time. Tunguska was supposed to be top-secret, but not because they were trying to fight the future. Hell, they didn't know a thing about the coming invasion. They were just trying to combat the Oil that came out of Tunguska rock before it became a real threat. That and, once they were protected, find a way to develop it as a weapon. You've got to laugh, you know, knowing the Oil wants the planet and then watching these guys prepare to lob the stuff at other humans as a territorial weapon. Sometimes as a species we're not too bright.
Anyway, I set myself up in Moscow--in a decent hotel since I had the money, though I wasn't flashy about it--and grew a beard and spent a little time getting used to the place again. America had changed me more than I'd figured it would but I had to buckle down now and do what needed to be done. I found out that Maria Ivanova's ex-husband Nikolai was off the project and there was a new guy heading it now--a Colonel Lev Dmitriyevich Semenov. My first thought was to ask Petrovich about him, but I was pretty sure I'd be better off if Petrovich didn't know I was in town. There were people who knew Petrovich who knew the old man, too. For the price of some black market American goodies, Tolya put me in touch with a scientist who'd spent some time on the project.
My biggest fear was that this informant, Chernov, might be in the old man's pocket, but Tolya checked him out first and said he was safe. What I learned at our first meeting came as a relief. He remembered the American who used to come periodically and talk to whoever happened to be in charge, but his visits had stopped about two years after my stint at Kraznoyarsk. Not a gradual falling off of visits, Chernov said, but abrupt; the old man just hadn't come back and Chernov remembered some speculation at the time about why. It made me wonder what the old man was up to, but at least it meant I was reasonably free to set my plan in motion.
It wasn't the only bit of information in my favor. While there'd been progress toward a workable vaccine, funding was low. Really low; they were practically prostituting themselves for money and Semenov was hot to have the project succeed, not only for his own career but because he was like a bulldozer. Given an objective, he was going to see it succeed one way or the other. Word had it he was a brutal son of a bitch. But maybe brutal was what was called for here. Stand around picking your nose until the Oil came and all your precious research would be for nothing.
If anybody'd known how much money I had sitting in the bank at that point, they would have been telling me to make my life a little more comfortable--buy a Ferrari or a nice apartment, or shoes as expensive as the Brit's. Make it easy on myself. But capitalist habits make you conspicuous, and standing out was the last thing I needed. Anyway, I'm more inclined to save for a rainy day, partly, I guess, because I know how often it tends to rain. And here, finally, was the payoff for guarding my money well. The vaccine project needed funding, and I needed that vaccine. For once I was in a position to make my dreams a reality. I gave myself a timetable--six weeks to make contact, through intermediaries--to let the word filter through that I represented somebody who was willing to finance the research. Another couple of weeks for formalities and contact, then a month or so for them to hire more people if they were needed while I worked my way into Semenov's confidence. I'd have the inside track on any progress and I could probably wrangle some of the Oil-filled rock to ship off to the Brit as well. He could slip it to Charne-Sayer on the quiet and her research could go forward a little more quickly. Wouldn't hurt anything to have two teams working on a vaccine.
So I set my trap lines, so to speak, and hunkered down to wait. The worst of it wasn't wondering whether Semenov would take the bait or not, though. It was knowing that when I got to Tunguska, I was going to have to face the Oil again. I wasn't sure whether I could pull that off without freaking, not even after all of Carrie Phillips' help. Imagining the Oil was one thing; watching the real thing--even through a double-paned window from an adjoining room--was going to be a whole different scene. It made me think of Carrie, though. I hoped she'd taken me seriously when I'd told her she should break away from the Brit the first opportunity she got. She wasn't naive, but she wasn't ready for the stakes that went along with playing the Project's games. And the last thing that kid of hers needed was to lose his mother.
Lev Dmitriyevich was a figure straight out of the Third Reich, bald and fit and taut, with wire-rimmed glasses. 'Ruthless' was probably the best word to describe him. Like any experienced military man, he knew how to delegate and control. He also knew not to leave an operation to run itself, so there was only one time I met him anywhere beside the camp, and that was on an overdue few days off he was spending at a dacha on the Black Sea. It was his treat, equal parts indulgence and asceticism--evenings of food, drink and available women followed by days spent on the water, fishing and talking about the research or military strategy. I never let him know that I was actually the financier of his little project instead of the middle-man I'd purported to be, and he never let loose and confided in me completely, but he told me enough. We were strictly business partners and that's the way I wanted to keep it. I couldn't help thinking how Maria Ivanova would have wanted this man in charge of the operation when she was working here. For the work's sake, anyway. She would've been a powerhouse for him. On a personal level she would've hated him, though. I saw what the girls looked like when they came out of his room.
I spent six months swinging between contact with Lev Dmitriyevich at the camp, occasional meetings with the Brit in London, arranging shipments of the rock to the U.S. and keeping an eye on what Mulder was up to. People might laugh at Mulder but he was a bellwether and it would've been foolish to ignore him. The old man's government cronies were working on some kind of mass mind control project but it didn't interest me beyond the fact that Scully had gotten sucked into it during an investigation and nearly shot Mulder. Would've been bad from a strategic point of view--who would we listen for if Mulder wasn't there to play canary in the mine for us? But beyond that, the incident had probably shaken the guy to the core. He depended on her like he depended on his right arm, even though they were yin and yang. It'd be overwhelming, you know--to be able to trust somebody that far in the first place. But then to have her suddenly point a gun at you, so you'd wonder if you'd ever be able to trust her again... That must have shaken up his world.
Lev Dmitriyevich kept the vaccine program on track and my funding bought the addition of a new researcher. Andrei was what you'd describe as focused hovering at the borders of obsession, an outside-the-box thinker who wasn't about to let go of a dilemma until he'd solved it. Lev liked him and kept him supplied with test subjects, though we'd already lost so many prisoners that they were starting to go out and round up locals to use. I found myself in charge of helping grease the wheels of prisoner transfers from other camps to Tunguska. It would've given me the chills if I'd let myself think about it, knowing exactly what those men were facing--a lot better than Lev and his doctors every would, though they watched the procedures and I never did. If this project worked out, thousands of sorry sons of bitches just like the ones lying under those wire nets would have a chance to survive something nobody at all was going to survive if the invasion started before we came up with a vaccine. I just blocked out the ugly details and did my job.
Finally we started to see results. Andrei spearheaded the development of a variant formula and not only did the new subjects develop immunity, they actually started to survive instead of succumbing to the side effects we'd seen so much of before. I'd wait to be vaccinated until Lev and Andrei were confident enough in the formula to do the same, but I started to lay out my strategy for presenting the vaccine to the Syndicate. The American research still hadn't produced anything viable according to the Brit. Which was perfect for me, in a way. If I showed up on their doorstep with the magic formula, I had a damn good chance of being welcomed back into the fold. Well, taken in, anyway. Once I had a foot in the door I could work on being liked.
The more I ran it over in my mind, the more my plan looked like a sure thing, and that in itself started to worry me. Shit happens, and who should know that better than I do? I started to look at the negative possibilities more closely. I could get caught taking the vaccine out of the camp, or something could happen to it compositionally before I got it to the group. Show up with a non-functional vaccine and every one of those old geezers would want to kill me personally. I could deliver the vaccine intact and the Brit could come up with something against me, to drum me out once they had what they wanted. But he still didn't trust the old man's influence on the group; he'd need me again. There were a thousand different ways it might play out and I couldn't anticipate all of them, but there was always the feeling in the back of my head that I needed to hedge my bets. Why should I trust any of the old men? If it weren't for Bill Mulder's vaccine idea, they would've been perfectly content to negotiate their own salvation and let the rest of the planet go to hell. And who could I count on to stick with the agenda and not turn?
The only one I could think of was Mulder. For as near-sighted as he was, for as easily read and naive, he was committed. He'd follow through with what his dad had in mind. But he'd need to be protected from the Oil. His sincerity wouldn't mean a damn thing if he was vulnerable.
About that time I got a message from the Brit. There'd been a leak--a potentially bad one. An alien clone who was supposedly helping lay the groundwork for invasion had decided he didn't like the company agenda. He'd shown himself in a public incident, healing somebody of a gunshot wound, and Mulder'd picked up the trail from there. The old men had scrambled to have the renegade taken out of the way, but in the process they discovered a mole of the old man's had been reporting to Mulder, and Mulder's mother had a stroke after a confrontation with the old man. Mulder'd taken off looking for the clone, hoping to get help for his mom.
Now what could be more typically Mulder? The fate of the world is at stake but what's he doing? Chasing down help for his mother. My mother. I'd never wasted any energy thinking about her since I was a kid asking the standard question--you know, what it was about me that made me so expendable compared to the two she'd kept. So she'd had a stroke after some argument with the old man. How often did they see each other? Did the two of them just get together to argue for old times' sake? I wasn't about to get sidetracked thinking about her and anyway, Mulder had her covered. It was all he thought about: the family he was trying to patch back together. Not that it was any ideal group to begin with. When the time came, if I needed his cooperation, I'd probably have to dangle Samantha in front of him as bait.
In the end a bounty hunter dispatched the clone and the damage was controlled. Or so they assumed. They were catching their breath back in New York but it made me think about the guy I'd run across in Alberta. He wasn't satisfied with the status quo. Was he the one who'd gone public? Was he a clone? And if there were more of him, was it only the one who was disaffected or was the whole group ready to leak information to humans ready to hear their story?
It was more than a passing curiosity. The guy'd spoken in riddles, almost, but I was pretty sure there was something big behind his word games. I booked myself a flight to Alberta, wondering what I'd find and what he'd offer me this time, what he'd do if I started asking the questions I'd been too messed up to think of the first time I was there.
It was a different trip this time, I had to admit: no ride across the border in a boxcar, no stolen sedan, no need to constantly look over my shoulder. But when I got there, I found the compound deserted. The houses were still standing but the crops were gone and the bee operation had vanished, the work of a couple of skip loaders that had filled in the gap in the hillside. On the return flight I tried to recall Smith's words. What had he said they wanted? To live, to express themselves--something like that. Not to be confined. Confined to what? Whatever worlds they were inhabiting now? It was a weird comment, a strange thing to have picked to say. Confined.
The unexpectedness of what I discovered in Alberta only reinforced the fact that I needed to cover myself in as many different ways as I could. What if we had a clone rebellion and the aliens found out and got pissed enough to invade now? If the planet were under attack, Mulder would have to drop his personal search and fight back. He wouldn't just lie down and sacrifice himself, faced with the Oil or the screamers.
But he wasn't immune to the enemy we'd be facing. Doing something about that would have to be my next priority.
© bardsmaid 2005 |