Attack of the Killer Cockroaches

by Susan P.

     Date: Thursday, October 31, 2002 7:40 PM
     Well, it's Halloween, so here's a treat for y'all! (well, i
     hope it'll be a treat :)
     Susan

     Title: Attack of the Killer Cockroaches
     Author:  Susan P. <suzotchka67@poulli.net>
     Pairing: Scully/Reyes (sort of) Reyes/Berenbaum (sort of)
     Codes: Pre-slash f/f--slashy subtext, PG, alternate-
     universe, episode-related
     Spoilers: up through and especially including Season 3's
     "War of the Coprophages."

Archive: ScullySlash, Down in the Basement, ambermagic, erm...and anyone else I've given prior permission to. Anyone else, please ask first.

Summary: And alternate universe take on "War of the Coprophages." Mulder who? Monica Reyes is Scully's partner in this universe.

Author's Notes: This is in response to a challenge posted to the Scully_Reyes list by AmberDragon. Her challenge: "Take any one episode from any season and write in Reyes instead of Mulder. No backstory needed, unless you want one. We'll all just go with the fact that Reyes was Scully's partner from the get-go." Thanks to AmberDragon for coming up with such a great idea! This episode and "Syzygy" were the first--and, so far, only--episodes that came to mind when I thought about it, and I'll finish 'Reyes-ing' "Syzygy" soon, I hope. I shamelessly 'borrowed' dialogue from the episode itself and relied heavily on the transcript posted at the X-Files transcript directory: http://xftse.philedom2k.com/scripts/scripts.php This particular transcript was done by Vic--to whom I owe Much Thanks!--and can be found here: http://xftse.philedom2k.com/scripts/312war.txt I've focused primarily on the Scully/Reyes interaction (with a little Bambi and Dr. Ivanov thrown in). I just added my own bits in here and there to the existing dialogue. :-) About the title... I have a certain fondness for the B-movie "Attack of the Killer Tomatoes" and, while the content of this piece bears no resemblance to that tale, this title was better than 'Coprophages, We Don't Need No Stinking Coprophages!' so...don't give me grief about it. <wink>

Disclaimer: None of the characters used herein are mine, neither are the basic details of the story (the X-file). They belong to Carter, 1013, Fox, etc. & to Darin Morgan, who wrote the episode. I take full credit for my own additions and changes to it, however. This was done purely for my own and, I hope, others' enjoyment and not for the sake of making a profit

Feedback would be wonderful, either on-list or sent to: suzotchka67@populli.net


Attack of the Killer Cockroaches
by suzotchka67@populli.net

--Miller's Grove, Massachusetts--

She peered through the car's windshield and up into the night sky, "Look, Scully, I know it's not your inclination but... did you ever look up into the night sky and feel certain that... not only was something up there but... it was looking down on you at that exact same moment and was just as curious about you as you were about it?"

"Reyes, I think the only thing more fortuitous than the emergence of life on this planet is that, through purely random laws of biological evolution, an intelligence as complex as ours ever emanated from it." Scully divided her attention between the task of cleaning her weapon and the conversation with her partner, "Uh, the very idea...of intelligent life is not only astronomically improbable but, at it's most basic level, downright anti-Darwinian."

"Scully ... what are you wearing?"

Scully's answering laughter was both reward and unwitting torture. Reyes sighed, confident that Scully would misinterpret its cause. "I understand what you're saying, but I, I, I just need to keep looking."

"Yeah, well, don't look too hard. You might not like what you find."

"Isn't that what, uh, Doctor Zaius said to Charlton Heston at the end of 'Planet of the Apes?'"

"And look what happened."

Reyes smiled, then squinted as a pair of headlights shone brightly in her face. She spotted the inactive lights atop the vehicle and realized it could take awhile.

"Scully, I've got to go."

"What... Reyes, what's going on?" Scully hears the click and then the dial tone. "Reyes?" She hangs the phone up, shaking her head. She liked her partner, but Monica could get so distracted by her quest sometime that she became abrupt. And that drove Scully crazy at times.


After she'd followed the sheriff and gotten involved with the investigation into the exterminator's death, Reyes called Scully back, hoping her partner might be able to offer some insights into the case.

"Hello?"

Reyes knelt over the body in Doctor Eckerle's basement. "I think you better get up here."

And how are you, Agent Reyes? Scully thought. No, no, don't apologize for hanging up on me earlier. I understand. "What is it?"

"It appears that cockroaches are mortally attacking people."

"I'm not going to ask you if you just said what I think you just said because I know it's what you just said."

"I'm crouching over a bug exterminator whose recently deceased body was discovered with cockroaches crawling all over him. The local sheriff says that two other bodies were found in the same condition this afternoon."

"Where are you again?"

"Miller's Grove. It has a large science constituency. The other incidents involved a molecular biologist and an astrophysicist and the witness to this case is an alternative fuel researcher. These reports are not coming from yahoos out in the boondocks."

Reyes barely listened to the conversation between Sheriff Frass and a still panicked Dr. Eckerle, already focused on getting her partner to come up and examine the body.

"Were there insect bites on the body?" Scully asked.

Reyes asked the coroner and replied, "no."

"'Cause you know, Reyes, millions of people are actually allergic to cockroaches. There have been reported cases of fatal reactions. It's called, uh, anaphylactic shock."

"Anaphylactic shock?"

"Mm-hmm. Many such reactions have occurred to entomologists or, uh, exterminators."

"Okay, we'll check that out."

Reyes seemed almost disappointed. "You still want me to come up?"

"No, no, no, I'm sure you're right. Thanks, Scully."


Scully had just begun bathing Queequeg when the phone rang again. Damnit. She grabbed a towel and dried her hands.

"Stay," she told Queequeg as she picked up the phone. "Hello?"

"I take it back, Scully, I think you better get up here."

"Another roach attack?"

"Yeah, and this was no allergic reaction. Two witnesses claim they saw the victim screaming about cockroaches burrowing into him."

"Are there still insects in the body?"

"We haven't located any yet, but there are wounds all over the body."

"From the cockroaches?"

"Well... the victim did attempt to extract the insects using a razor blade, but we're not sure all of the incisions are self-inflicted, except for the severed artery."

"Well, was there any evidence of drug use at the crime scene?"

"Uh, well, he did have a homemade lab set up, but I'm not sure what he was producing." Reyes made the mistake of taking a whiff of whatever the deceased had been cooking up in his basement. "Aw man, smells like a septic tank!" She nodded to one of the investigators, indicating the container, "Would you make sure this gets analyzed, here?"

"You know, Reyes, there's a psychotic disorder associated with some forms of drug abuse where the abuser suffers from delusions that insects are infesting their epidermis. It's called Ekbom's Syndrome."

"Ekbom's Syndrome?"

"The victim cuts himself in, in an attempt to extract the imaginary insect. Still want me to come up?"

"No, uh, you're probably right." She sounded oddly disappointed, even to herself. Thing is, she wasn't sure if she really wanted there to be something strange and unexplained about these deaths or if she just wanted the excuse to see Scully. "I'm sorry to bother you."

"It's no bother. Bye."

Scully turned the phone off and set it down, turning back to finish with Queequeg, only to discover that the lathered-up pooch had run off. She heard a yelp and shouted, "hey!" before running off after him.


"I see the correlation," Reyes told Sheriff Frass, "but just because I work for the federal government doesn't mean I'm an expert on cockroaches."

"So you're saying you don't know anything about the government's experiments being conducted here?"

Reyes perked up. "Experiments?"

"A couple of months ago, an agent claiming to be from the department of agriculture sets up base on a couple of acres across town. Nobody knows exactly what's going on out there. It's top secret, very hush-hush."

"What are you suggesting?"

"Killer bees were a genetic experiment gone awry, let loose on an unsuspecting populace. Who's to say the government hasn't created a new breed of killer cockroaches?"

That might just be a little too far-fetched for her to believe. Maybe. "You might want to keep that theory to yourself, Sheriff. No need to create a panic."

Then they hear someone shouting for help and run to check it out.


Scully was snuggled up on her couch, reading "Breakfast at Tiffany's" when the phone rang again. She had no doubt who it was--Reyes was obviously on a mission and determined to drag her into it. She just picked up the receiver and asked, "Who died now?"

Reyes was standing over the body of Dr. Newton, the local M.E. "The medical examiner. His body was found next to a toilet, covered in roaches. I really think you should come..."

"A toilet? Check his eyes. Is one of them bloodshot with a dilated pupil?"

Reyes bent down and opened one of Newton's eyes, which was extremely dilated and red.

"Yeah," Reyes replied, fighting the urge to look around to see if Scully were nearby. How could she know that?

"It's probably a brain aneurysm."

"Brain aneurysm?"

"Straining too forcefully is very common causation for bursting a brain aneurysm."

Okay, that was a bit of a leap, though Scully was probably right about the cause of death. Still... "Well, how do you explain the roaches, though?"

"Did you catch any?"

"Almost," Reyes replied, embarrassed even though Scully couldn't know that she'd let one get away earlier because she'd lost her cool when the one she'd thought was dead twitched in her hand.

"I don't know what to tell you, Reyes. I just hope you're not implying you've come across an infestation of killer cockroaches."

Reyes heard the skepticism in Scully's voice and was a little self-conscious about the fact that she was beginning to consider the sheriff's theory.


--USDA base; Miller's Grove, Massachusetts--

Reyes scaled the fence and just as she landed her phone rang. She answered, "Reyes."

"Reyes? I've been doing some research."

Reyes starts to walk, listening to Scully, who's at her computer, eating ice cream out of the box.

"Back in the mid-'80s, there was a cockroach species previously only found in Asia. And since then, it's made an appearance in Florida. They've now completely established themselves in this country.

"Do they attack people?"

"No, but they do exhibit behavior different than our domestic breeds. They, they fly for long distances and they're attracted to light."

"But do they attack people?"

"I'm suggesting that what's happening out there might be the introduction to this country of a new species of cockroach. One that is attracted to people."

"Well, that all makes perfect sense, Scully. I don't like it at all. Did you know that the federal government, under the guise of the Department of Agriculture, has been conducting secret experiments up here?"

"Reyes, you're not thinking about trespassing onto government property again, are you?" Bad timing, Monica thought, as she inserted her lock-pick gun into the lock. She didn't bother replying.

"I know that you've done it in the past, but I don't think that this case warrants..." Scully started, but Reyes cut her off.

"It's too late, I'm already inside."

Scully hit her palm on the desk in frustration and sighed. She didn't know why she was surprised, but she still lived in hope that Reyes would listen to the voice of reason a little more often. Not tonight, apparently. Well, if you can't beat 'em.... "Well, what's going on? What do you see?"

"I'm in a house. It's apparently empty."

"What does the place look like?" Scully took another bite.

Reyes moved through the dining room, aiming the flashlight around. "It's a, uh... typical two-story suburban house. Nice big living room, sparsely furnished...Nice carpets... fireplace..." Reyes moved into the kitchen, "nice kitchen. Modern appliances," she looked at the wallpaper, which seemed to be rippling. "Moving walls."

"Moving walls?"

"Yeah. They're rippling." She poked the wallpaper with the flashlight and cockroaches poured out. "Oh! Cockroaches!"

"What?!"

"Cockroaches," Reyes replied, trying not to sound too freaked out. "They're everywhere." The cockroaches were covering the walls, appliances and the counters. They ran all over the floor and across her feet. "Ah, I'm surrounded." Well, so much for not sounding freaked out.

"Reyes, you've got to get out of there right now!"

"Noooo!" Reyes screamed.

"Are you all right? What happened?"

"Ah... Flashlight went out."

Someone flipped on the light in the kitchen Reyes was standing in.

"Reyes, what's going on?"

Reyes was grinning slightly as she replied absentmindedly to Scully's query. "Got to go..." she hung up. Suddenly, cockroaches were the last things on her mind

"Reyes! Monica!" Scully yelled into the phone, even though she could hear the dial tone plainly. Damn, that woman could be infuriating! Calm down, she told herself, she's in an empty house, she sounded perfectly calm, if a little distracted, right before she hung up. She's fine. She'll be fine. At worst, some guard or police officer probably just discovered her. Or maybe she just made some fascinating discovery about the cockroaches and she would no doubt call to consult her about it any minute now. I will not worry about Reyes. Whatever trouble she might be in right now is something she walked into readily. I will not worry. I won't.

Her resolve did not keep her from staring at the phone for quite a while afterward, however, willing her partner to call her back and explain what happened.


Meanwhile, back at the USDA site, Reyes lowered her phone, staring at the beautiful woman in front of her. Well, well, well... If she couldn't have Scully by her side this weekend, maybe she could spend a little time with this lovely creature. Maybe even engage in a little harmless flirting--if the woman was straight, she probably wouldn't even notice, and if she wasn't...

The woman interrupted her burgeoning fantasy with a question, "May I ask why you're trespassing on government property?"

"I'm a federal agent."

"So am I."

Oh, really. Monica pulled out her badge. "Agent Reyes, F.B.I."

The woman mirrored her actions. "Doctor Berenbaum, U.S.D.A. Agricultural research service."

"Doctor Berenbaum, I'm going to have to ask you a few questions."

"For instance?"

"What's a woman like you doing in a place like this?" Gee, what an original opening, Reyes chided herself.

Reyes followed Berenbaum into her office and research lab.

"By studying how insects respond to changes in light, temperature, air currents, food availability, we can determine the best ways to eradicate them."

Okay, this setup could be legitimate, but, "why all the secrecy about your research? You've got some of the good townspeople suspicious."

Dr. Berenbaum smiled. "You expect us to advertise that we've intentionally infested a house in their neighborhood with thousands of cockroaches?"

Good point. Reyes nodded and gestured to indicate the other room. "Yeah... but those, those cockroaches... are they, uh, a normal species?"

"They're a common one."

They moved over to sit at the Dr.'s desk.

"Have you ever come across, uh, a type of cockroach that, uh, is attracted to people?" And speaking of attraction... Does she have any idea how cute she looks in those little shorts? I wonder what Scully would look like in those? And those eyes, those lips...

"Most cockroaches have been known to actually wash themselves after being touched by humans."

"Really. So, you've never seen an instance where a cockroach actually attacks a human being?"

"Well, there have been cases where a cockroach has crawled into a person's ear, nose..."

"Nose?" Reyes made a little eww face despite her best efforts to control the impulse. Anyone who worked that closely with insects had to have a high tolerance for them. She slumped back in her chair, then noticed a strange looking device with a positively huge cockroach perched atop it.

"What, what is that there?" Reyes rolled her chair around behind the doctor's, angling to get a closer look.

"Oh, it's just a pet project of mine. Since an insect's exoskeleton is a dielectric surrounding the conductive medium of its body fluid, when introduced into an electrical field, the brushed discharge will result in a colored flare." She pressed a big red button and the exoskeleton glowed blue.

"What is that supposed to prove?"

"Well, it's my theory that UFOs are actually insect swarms."

Reyes stared at her.

"I don't know if you know anything about UFOs, but all the characteristics of a typical sighting are shared with nocturnal insects swarming through an electrical air field... the sudden appearance of a colored, glowing light hovering in the night sky, moving in a non-mechanical manner, possibly humming."

Reyes nodded, trying not to seem as excited as she was that the lovely doctor had an interest in UFO sightings.

Dr. Berenbaum continued, "creating interference with radio and television signals."

Reyes nodded even more excitedly, all the while biting her tongue to keep from mentioning the lost time phenomenon and how it might possibly contradict Berenbaum's theory.

"Then suddenly disappearing."

"As, uh... as nocturnal insect swarms. That's, uh... that's fascinating." It was an intriguing theory, almost as fascinating as its proponent.

"Everything about insects is fascinating. They are truly remarkable creatures. So beautiful, and so honest."

Oh God, her geeky enthusiasm was so cute. "Honest?"

"Eat, sleep... defecate, procreate. That's all they do. That's all we do, but at least insects don't kid themselves that it's anything more than that."

Berenbaum even managed to make all that sound sexy. Reyes fidgeted in her chair.

"Does my scientific detachment disturb you?"

"No. No, actually, I, I find it quite refreshing." She did. Even during her most heated disagreements with Scully, she always found Scully's devotion to science and rationality incredibly...attractive, fascinating, alluring. She couldn't help but wonder what it would be like to have that kind of devotion and enthusiasm directed at her. And it was just as appealing coming from Dr. Berenbaum, such that it was all she could do to keep from leaning in and capturing those full lips with her own.

They stared at each other, smiling. Reyes's phone rang and they both snapped out of their trances. Knowing who it must be, Reyes pulled out her cell only long enough to murmur, "not now," before shutting it off and replacing it in her coat pocket. She didn't want to even hear Scully's voice right now, knowing it would distract her from the woman in front of her. She wanted to live in the possibility of this moment, rather than dwell on what she felt sure she couldn't have.

"You know, um... I have always found insects to be very interesting."

"Really?"

They stared at each other, smiling again, neither quite noticing when the cockroach's back glowed again.


--Miller's Grove Motor Lodge--

Reyes couldn't sleep. She checked her covers, then nervously checked under them for roaches, feeling idiotic for needing to do so. She sat up, brought her hand up to her face, brushing away at what wasn't there, blowing air through her nose, just in case. Then she brushed her other hand through her hair a few times before flopping back down onto the bed. Sighing, she turned over, picked up the phone and turned on the light. Rubbing her eyes for a second, she dialed.

Scully was at home, lying in bed with her phone right beside her head on the pillow. She tried to ignore the flutter of worry in her stomach. Tried to sleep in spite of it. Tried to quash the urge to throttle her partner for putting her through this. Suddenly, her phone rang and she snatched it up before the first ring ended. "Reyes, are you okay?"

"I can't sleep."

Can't sleep? Can't SLEEP?!? She's been trying sleep and hasn't bothered to call until now? "What happened at the U.S.D.A. site?" she asked as calmly as she could manage.

"They're conducting legitimate experiments. I met an entomologist, Doctor Berenbaum, who agrees with your theory of an accidental importation of a new cockroach species."

"Did he give you any idea of how to catch them?"

"No. But she did tell me everything else there is to know about insects." Unfortunately, insects were about all they managed to discuss, which no doubt had contributed to her little bout of insomnia.

"She?"

Reyes climbed out of bed, heading toward the bathroom. "Yeah, did you know that the ancient Egyptians worshipped the scarab beetle and possibly erected the pyramids to honor them, which may be just giant symbolic dung heaps?"

Fine, you want excrement trivia... "Did you know the inventor of the flush toilet was named Thomas Crapper?"

Reyes laughed a little. "Bambi also has this theory I've never come acro..."

Scully's eyes widened at the name and she cut Reyes off. "Who?"

"Doctor Berenbaum. Anyway, her theory is..."

She still couldn't believe she'd heard right. "Her name is Bambi?"

Reyes walked over to the window. "Yeah. Both her parents were naturalists. Her theory is that UFOs are actually nocturnal insect swarms passing through electrical air fields."

Scully still couldn't get past it. "Her name is Bambi?"

Reyes rubbed her forehead. "Scully, can I confess something to you?"

Oh God, please don't let this have anything to do with 'Bambi!' "Yeah, sure, okay."

"I hate insects."

Okay, this I can deal with. "You know, lots of people are afraid of insects, Reyes. It's just a... it's a natural, instinctive..."

Reyes sat at the foot of the bed. "No, no, no, I'm not afraid of them. I hate them. One day back when I was a kid, I, was, uh... I was climbing this tree when I noticed this leaf walking towards me. It took forever for me to realize that it was no leaf."

"A praying mantis?"

"Yeah, I had a praying mantis epiphany and, as a result, I screamed. No, not... not a girlie scream, but the scream of someone being confronted by some before unknown monster that had no right existing on the same planet I inhabited. Did you ever notice how a praying mantis' head resembles an alien's head? I mean, the mysteries of the natural world were revealed to me that day, but instead of being astounded, I was... repulsed."

"Reyes..." Scully couldn't resist, "are you sure it wasn't a girlie scream?"

Speaking of screams, Scully heard one in the background before Reyes could manage a comeback. "What was that?"

But Reyes' mind was already focused on trying to figure out where the scream had come from. "Oh, I got to go." She hung up.

"Rey... no...oh" I am gonna kill her when I see her, I swear. Scully sighed and hung up the phone, barely resisting the urge to hurl it at a wall.


Scully was already packing her suitcase for her trip to Miller's Grove when the phone rang. She picked it up. "What happened this time?"

"One of the motel guests died."

"Reyes, I'm coming up there right now."

"Scully, I think this man died simply from a reaction to the cockroaches."

"Two cases of anaphylactic shock in the same day in the same town is highly improbable."

"No, I... I'm saying that I think this man simply had a heart attack." Sheriff Frass walked in and handed her some papers. "Word about the cockroach infestation and the deaths related to it has gotten out and... I think this man simply saw some cockroaches and...scared himself to death."

"Regardless, Reyes, something strange is definitely going on up there." And I'm sick of you hanging up on me at crucial moments.

"Maybe not. All your conjectures have proved correct. The exterminator did die from anaphylactic shock. The teenage boy did die from self-inflicted wounds and was getting high off methane fumes derived from burning manure. The medical examiner did die from a brain aneurysm."

"I still haven't been able to explain the cockroaches at all those sites."

Reyes spotted something in one of the reports. "Or the fact that their exoskeletons are made of metal."

"Metal? What are you talking about? Reyes?"

Reyes noticed the roach trap sitting under a table in the most recently deceased man's room.

"Reyes, I'm coming up there."

Reyes was already focused on the next possible clue and absently replied, "whatever," as she knelt to retrieve the roach motel.


--USDA Base; Miller's Grove, Massachusetts--

Bambi and Monica looked at the cockroach under a large magnifying glass.

"Can you tell what kind of cockroach it is?" Reyes asked.

"I should be able to. The abdomen's still attached and we differentiate species by their genitalia. Oh my God..."

"Is it abnormal?"

"I'll say. He's hung like a club-tailed dragonfly. Excuse me." She moved past Reyes and put the specimen under a microscope to examine it further.

"Does it still look unusual?"

"Well, yes. For an insect genitalia, but maybe not for a microprocessor."

"You're implying that this insect is mechanical?"

Bambi sat back from the microscope, allowing Monica to take a look. "But, what am I supposed to be looking at here?" She looks back at Bambi, "Have, have you ever seen anything like this before?"

"Only in science journals. I've read about an artificial intelligence researcher who designs robots that resemble and behave like insects. I've never seen them myself, but I've often thought of visiting his lab."

"He works out of this town?"


--Massachusetts Institute of Robotics-

One of Dr. Ivanov's insect-like robots moved up to Reyes as she listened to the doctor explain his research. She backed away, but the robot followed her.

"I used insects as my model, not just in design but by giving them the simplest of computer programs. 'Go to the object. Go away from moving objects.' Governed only by sensors and reflex responses, they take on the behavior of intelligent, living beings."

"So this one is just programmed to head towards any object moving within the field of its sensors?" Reyes asked.

"No."

Reyes backed away some more, but the robot still followed.

"Then why is it following me?"

"It likes you."

She could live with that. The mechanical version was much easier to take, for some reason. Reyes followed Ivanov over to one of the computers in the lab and sat down to look over some of Ivanov's schematics.

"Your contract is with NASA?"

"The goal is to transport a fleet of robots to another planet and allow them to navigate the terrain with more intricacy than any space probe has done before. It, it sounds slightly fantastic, but the only obstacle I can foresee is devising a renewable energy source. In any case, this is the future of space exploration. It does not include living entities."

"I'm just speculating here, but if extraterrestrial life-forms do exist..."

"Oh, there's no need for speculation, I believe they do."

Wow. She could get used to this. Not having to defend some of her most basic assumptions while the other party (or parties) looked at her like she was the one from another planet. "And assuming that they're more technologically advanced than we are, and if your own ideas about the future of space exploration are correct, then..."

"Then the interplanetary explorers of alien civilizations will likely be mechanical in nature. Yes. Anyone who thinks alien visitation will come not in the form of robots, but of living beings with big eyes and gray skin has been brainwashed by too much science fiction."

Reyes looked away, shrugging slightly. Ivanov stared at her. Reyes took out the small evidence bag containing the insect legs that Bambi had identified as mechanical.

"Can you identify this?"

"I'm not really good with bugs. A cricket's leg?"

"Try it under the microscope."

Ivanov dumped the contents out in a small petrie dish and looked at the contents. He placed one of the legs under the microscope. His eyes widened as he examined it and he pulled back to stare at the far wall, mouth open in astonishment.

"Are you all right, Doctor Ivanov?"

Ivanov nodded, barely, but he didn't turn to look at her.

"Can you identify that?" Reyes asked.

Ivanov shook his head slightly and mouthed something inaudible.

"Sir?" Reyes prompted again.

Only then did Ivanov look at her.

"It's... beyond my comprehension."

They just stared at each other for some minutes, neither quite knowing what to say.


--Miller's Grove, Massachusetts--

Scully pulled into a convenience store on the outskirts of town. She walked in and looked at the panic around her. A car crashed into another outside, right after she walked in and she turned around in shock. She barely listened to the altercation between the drivers and continued into the store when a man nearly knocked her over trying to get out. She walked over to the register and asked the clerk, "excuse me, do you sell road maps?"

The clerk nodded.

"Could you tell me where they are?"

A customer urged the clerk to hurry up, prompting Scully to ask, "what's going on here?"

"Haven't you heard about the roaches? They're devouring people whole."

Scully just looked at the woman.

"Everybody's getting the hell out of here."

"Have you seen any cockroaches yourself?"

"No, but they're everywhere." She ran off and the next customer, a male, stepped up.

"Roaches aren't attacking people, lady. They're spreading the Ebola virus." He threw a bill on the counter and picked up his stuff, "look, keep the change." He looked back at Scully on his way out. "We're all going to be bleeding from our nipples!"

Scully had had enough. "All right," she yelled, holding up her badge, "all right, listen up." Surprisingly, people actually stopped to listen. "I'm Agent Dana Scully from the Federal Bureau of Investigation. I am assuring you that you are not in any danger. Everything is going to be okay if you just calm down, and start acting rationally. Now, where the hell are those road maps?" She looked at the clerk again.

Two women in the store eye the last can of 'Die! Bug! Die!' on the shelf and start fighting over it, knocking over a candy display in the process. After the chocolate pieces scattered all over the floor, one man screamed, "roaches!" and it was all over. Everyone in the store but Scully fell over themselves trying to get out the door.

Scully calmly walked over to the felled candy display and picked up one of the opened boxes, taking a breather and sampling the chocolate therein.


Later, back at the USDA base, Bambi examined the cockroach Reyes had picked up outside Dr. Ivanov's lab.

"Well, it's a cockroach all right. It's not like the leg segment you had me examine earlier. It's just a typical cockroach."

"Even the..."

"Yes, even the genitalia is normal. Cockroaches are common in this area at this time of year. It's one of the reasons I set up my study here."

Reyes banged the button for Bambi's pet project and the cockroach lit up. They both stared at the glowing cockroach for a little while before Reyes took her hand off of the button. Her phone rang and she sat down to answer it.

"Reyes."

Scully was still in the convenience store, standing behind the desk, calmly examining a map of the area. "Reyes, this town is insane."

"Where are you?"

"I'm in a convenience store on the outskirts of, uh..." she stopped to examine the map again, "civilization. Look, I think I may have a lead. Remember that Doctor Eckerle who was the alternative fuel researcher that witnessed the exterminator's death? Well, the fuel that he's researching is methane gas... methane derived from manure."

"Manure?"

"He has an import license to bring in animal dung samples from outside the country. Now, maybe you can confirm this with your Doctor Bambi..." Scully couldn't resist that little dig.

Reyes just looked up at Bambi, not replying.

"...but I think that cockroaches are dung-eaters, and if so, some of them may have been shipped accidentally in some of the samples. This fuel research facility could be ground zero for the infestation." She popped another candy piece into her mouth.

"Scully, if an alien civilization were technologically advanced enough to build and send artificially intelligent robotic probes to the farthest reaches of space, might they not have also been able to perfect the extraction of methane fuel from manure?"

Bambi smiled at her, having been listening. Reyes looked up at her, hoping she was impressing Bambi rather than creeping her out. It was hard to tell whether Bambi's smile were indulgent in a 'please continue' way or in a 'don't antagonize the inmates' way.

Still, she'd already stepped in it, so to speak, so why not continue? "An abundant and replenishing energy source on a planet filled with dung-producing creatures."

Scully clearly wasn't impressed by her conjecture, if the dead silence on the other end were any indication.

Scully stood there, chewing her candy slowly and thinking a moment. "Reyes, I think you've been in this town too long."

"Where's the research facility located?" Reyes asked, not rising to the bait.

Some minutes later, Reyes and Berenbaum pulled into the parking lot of Alt Fuels in Miller's Grove.

"Wait, Bambi. You better wait here until I make sure it's safe."

"Well, be careful. We still don't know what these cockroaches are capable of, if they're even cockroaches."

"Well, I'm not so much worried about the roaches as I am about the human element."

Reyes went in. She heard the chirping noise and moved to examine one of the dung samples, which had a cockroach crawling on it. Dr. Eckerle fired a shot at her, hitting the sample she'd been intent on studying. She spent the next several minutes trying to convince the panicked researcher to calm down and relinquish his weapon.

Meanwhile, Scully pulled up alongside Reyes' car, spotting the woman inside. "Let me guess... Bambi."

"Monica told me to wait out here while she checked inside first."

'Monica.' Scully unbuckled her seatbelt and got out of the car.

"Should I come along with you?" Bambi asked.

"No... this is no place for an entomologist." Particularly not one named 'Bambi.' She took out her gun, checked the clip and walked toward the building.

Inside, Eckerle watched cockroaches crawling over the dung heaps and chirping. "Why are these roaches making those weird noises?"

Reyes replied, hoping to distract him, "In Madagascar, they have roaches that hiss by blowing air through the holes in their upper thorax."

"Really? How, how do you know so much about them?"

"I don't. That's why we shouldn't kill these, but capture them for further study. Now, please... put the gun down."

Eckerle looked at the gun, taking a deep, jagged breath. "Have I lost my mind?"

"No. You've just had a very stressful day that's affected your ability to think clearly. Your judgment is a little clouded right now."

"It is?"

Reyes nodded, reaching for the gun. Eckerle pointed it at her and Reyes straightened back up."

"Then how do I know... that you're not a cockroach?"

Reyes resisted the urge to make a sarcastic comment and backed away as Eckerle approached.

Scully walked through the dark facility, shouting for her partner, "Reyes? Reyes!" She sighed and took out her cell phone, dialing the oh-so-familiar number.

Reyes was still trying to calm Eckerle down. "I assure you, Doctor Eckerle, I'm just as human as you are... if not more so." I'm certainly saner than you are, at the moment. Suddenly, Reyes' phone rang, its pitch sounding suspiciously like that of the cockroaches' chirping, even to her own ears. She looked over at the pocket containing her phone before glancing up at Eckerle. Shit! Talk about bad timing...

"You are one of them!" Eckerle shouted, before firing at Reyes. She ducked and the bullet hit one of the methane pipes, causing fire to spew out from it. Eckerle fired a couple more times, causing even more fires.

Reyes took off running, catching up to Scully on her way out.

"Reyes!" Scully shouted.

"Get out, Scully! This whole place could blow!"

They ran outside and Reyes motioned to Bambi. "Get down!"

Bambi put her head between her knees as Reyes and Scully ran for cover. They ducked behind Reyes' car as the inside of the facility exploded in fire, flames bursting out of the windows and spraying everything with manure. Bambi looked back at the agents, who were covered in it.

"Crap," Reyes groused.

Later that morning, as police fire crews and paramedics sifted through the wreckage, Scully and Reyes looked at each other while they waited for word on Eckerle. It was raining and they both stood under an oversized umbrella.

Frass walked toward them, wearing a raincoat. "It's like a crematorium in there, I don't think we're going to locate the doctor's remains."

"Or anything else, for that matter," Reyes replied.

"Still, it's not as bad as some of the other fires we had last night."

"There were others?" Scully asked.

"Four, to be exact. Plus eighteen automobile accidents, thirteen assault and batteries, two stores were looted, thirty-six injuries all total, half of them from insecticide poisoning... but, we didn't receive any reports on cockroaches or otherwise for the last couple of hours. Maybe this town's finally come to its senses. You two ought to go home and get some rest. You look pooped."

Reyes looked down at Scully, smirking at Frass' joke. Dr. Ivanov rolled up to them, an umbrella attached to his wheelchair. Bambi stood nearby, also holding an umbrella, and watched him intently.

"Agent Reyes? They told me I could locate you here. Those, uh, segments you showed me earlier... may I examine them again?"

Reyes shrugged and reached into her pocket. "Well, they're completely desiccated... just like the molted exoskeleton." She handed the bag to Ivanov.

Bambi spoke up, "You know, many insects don't develop wings until their last molting stage. Perhaps whatever these things were, they had their final molt and have flown off back to wherever they originated."

"Yeah, that would explain everything," Scully mumbled.

Reyes looked at her and was about to say something when Ivanov spoke up.

"May I borrow this, Agent Reyes, for further study?"

"I've already had a similar sample analyzed, it's nothing but common metals. What do you hope to find from it?"

Bambi chimed in again, "his destiny," catching Dr. Ivanov's attention.

"Isn't that what Doctor Zaius said to Zira at the end of 'The Planet of the Apes?'"

Bambi nodded, smiling, "it's one of my favorite movies."

"Mine too," Ivanov laughed. "I love science fiction."

Reyes just looked at them.

Bambi continued addressing Dr. Ivanov, "I'm also fascinated by your research."

She and the doctor moved off, already embroiled in a discussion of each other's research.

Bambi asked, "Have you ever considered programming the robots to mimic the behavior of social insects like ants or bees?"

"As a matter of fact, I have."

"You know, I read in November of '94 in 'Entomology Extreme'..."

"Oh, I remember that..."

"Your article about colonization..."

"Yes, I really enjoyed writing about that..."

Reyes watched them leave, already mourning the loss of a potential...something.

"Smart is sexy," Scully quipped, suddenly relieved at being rid of 'Bambi.'

"Yeah," Reyes sighed, looking at her partner.

"Well, think of it this way, Reyes. By the time there's another invasion of artificially-intelligent, dung-eating robotic probes from outer space, maybe their uber-children will have devised a way to save our planet."

Scully was having entirely too much fun at her expense. "You know, I never thought I'd say this to you, Scully ... but you smell bad." She smirked at her partner before walking away, taking the umbrella with her.

"Reyes? Reyes! Hey, wait!" Scully shouted, but Reyes just kept moving. Oh, hell no. Not this time. Scully took off after her partner, breaking into a run for the few strides necessary to reach Monica's side.

"Okay. Look, Reyes, you've spent the better part of the last two days interrupting my weekend at odd moments and then cutting me off in the middle of a conversation. I'd think you could put up with a few cracks from me about your little friend, 'Bambi.'"

Reyes had turned toward Scully, finger up and mouth half-open to reply when Scully's words sank in. Really sank in. "Oh," was all she could manage for a moment or two. "Well, I'd say we're even, but I suddenly get the feeling that I'm the one who needs to make something up to you...."

Well, that was relatively easy. If only she could be sure that Monica would behave any differently when the next case she became obsessed about came along. But, she'd worry about that when the time came. Scully smiled at her partner. "Tell you what. Give me first dibs on the shower in your room and we'll call it even...for now."

Reyes looked doubtful. "First dibs?" she grimaced, "I don't think I could stand to wait. Any chance we could just share?"

They began moving again, heading toward where their cars had been moved.

"Ha!" Scully replied. "You wish!" She hesitated a moment, realizing too late that her statement could've been read a couple of ways. "Besides," she continued, trying to distract them both from thinking about any double meanings in her statement, "someone has to take our clothes out to be burned. I vote you do it."

"Me?" Reyes complained. "How did I--?"

"Ah, ah, ah," Scully broke in, "who was talking about owing whom, just now?"

"Oh. Yeah. Right." Damnit.

But, in the end, the sight of a freshly showered, barely-dressed Scully passed out on her bed when she got back to the room made it all worthwhile. Reyes didn't so much as look toward the shower until Scully showed signs of stirring. She managed to keep her distance while watching her partner sleep, afraid that the odor still emanating from her would wake Scully. Still, those few quiet, precious moments spent observing her partner in this state would be enough to fuel her fantasies for weeks to come. And Scully's all-too-obvious attitude toward Bambi Berenbaum left her wondering whether her assumption that Scully was hopelessly straight might have been in error. Scully had seemed almost jealous of the entomologist, but Reyes couldn't quite understand why. She had hopes, however, more now than before...

The End.

(c) October 2002
 

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