DISCLAIMER: They are not mine, I'm just rubbing them together to see
what happens. I have nothing except my funny dog, so don't sue me.
Beta Reading: If you want to, please get in touch with me. PLEASE!!
(English is not my first language.)
AUTHOR'S NOTE: I never actually watched the X-Files except by accident if it was on, so what, if anything, that I know about the show, is only from reading fanfiction and episode guides. As for Harsh Realm, it's a crying shame the show was canceled in my opinion.
SPOILERS: All of Harsh Realm, not sure about X-Files, probably not, except some very rudimentary stuff.
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.
By The Raven
The last thing Special Agent Dana Scully remembered was chasing a suspect down an alleyway, a suspect that she along with Agent Monica Reyes and her partner Agent John Doggett wanted to talk to with regards to a spate of reports about a rogue group of vigilantes who has been terrorizing several Washington DC neighborhoods. The reasons that the threesome were pursuing this particular case and this particular suspect, were as usual shrouded in the ever present blankets of secrecy that existed around all things in and or near the X-Files. Agent Scully also remembered pain, the kind of pain that accompanied being shot, a pain that she knew too well. Then there was nothing, well, almost nothing... Just the heavy blackness of unconsciousness and the strange dreams and sensations that it could accompany.
Consciousness came slowly to Dana Scully and along with it, the feeling of having missed time, maybe lots of time, maybe only a few minutes. As she collected her awareness, using her skills as a Doctor to assess her body for injuries and her mind for what it could recall, she begun to realise that first, she was not indoors, and second, she was not wearing clothing that she could identify from feel alone. Snapping her eyes open and looking around in a panic, Scully realised that she was lying on her back in a dense forest. Judging from the light, it was late afternoon, and by the foliage, she guessed that she was somewhere in the Northwest of the USA, that was assuming she was in the USA. This was not the first time Dana Scully had woken up in the wrong place and at a loss as to how she got there, but it was the first time that she had woken, without the injuries that she knew that she must have had. She knew that she had been shot, and she knew that not enough time had lapsed for her to have healed. The fact that she was not suffering from muscle atrophy, and that her body felt no different then it had a day ago, told her that it had not been long at all since she had been shot.
It was a confused Dana Scully who slowly rose from her forest bed and took stock of her situation. Looking down at herself, she noticed that she was wearing what looked like a mishmash of army fatigues and hiking clothing, her utility belt held a field knife, a Glock 9 mm, ammunition and a pair of leather gloves. She also appeared to have a small rucksack and am MP-5 machine gun. More confused then ever, Scully took off the rucksack and examined its contents. It contained rations, a canteen, a length rope, more spare ammo and an electronic device that Scully did not recognise. Her pockets revealed a garrote, paper, pencil and a map. Scully sat down after repacking her strange equipment carefully. No point in looking a gift horse in the mouth and she still had no idea what she was doing here, where here was, and how she had gotten to this place. Someone had taken time to provision her, but how had they done that? Scully could feel a headache coming on as she tried to process this information and soon a troubled sleep overcame her tired body and mind.
As she slept, Dana woke up briefly, though not completely and became aware of harsh electrical lights and lots of beeping noises and pain, pain in her body and in her head. The brief awakening however, barely registered in her consciousness and soon she had fallen back into restful sleep again, unaware of having even woken up.
Moments or hours later, Scully did wake up completely, now twilight was enveloping this strange place that she had found herself in and still she was at a loss as to what to do. Deciding that movement was better than being still, and feeling well rested, she checked herself one more time and started to walk towards the setting sun. One of the first things she noticed about the forest she was walking through, was that in spite of the obvious abundance of plant life and the occasional bird singing, it seemed almost sterile, or untouched. Scully was beginning to wonder if she was somewhere like Siberia, in late summer or early autumn. The trees would give her no answers, and the weapons she was equipped with made her think that any people she might find would not give her any either.
As she walked, she marveled at whoever had equipped her, each piece of clothing fit her perfectly and the odd seeming combination was actually very comfortable to wear. Absorbed now in trying to walk quietly but quickly and keeping her direction straight, Dana failed to notice that someone was shadowing her movements. Her 6th sense worked in cities, in alleyways, while perusing case files or talking to people, it had not real practice with the environment that she had found herself in. As she walked, ever confused about where she was, her stalked gained on her, every hundred yards, coming a few feet closer, soon to be on top of her, soon. Dana suddenly stopped, looking around her suspiciously, not able to categorize the sensations that she was feeling. Something was off, something more than the whole situation that she had found herself in. Something...
As if answering her unspoken thought, the forest erupted just next to her, causing her training to kick in. The Glock was brought up to bear, the finger squeezing the trigger even before her mind registered her actions, the loud bang sounded deafening in the relative quiet of the forest she was in. The figure who had risen up stumbled and then fell heavily, moaning with pain, causing Dana to scan her surroundings warily and move towards her intended assailant, or at least that's what Dana had assumed anyway. Keeping her gun trained towards where the prone figure lay, Dana tried to see through the darkness, but it was proving to be nearly impossible to do. Suddenly, the forest was almost quiet again, no birds or moans were to be heard, just some gentle rustling of leaves by a slight breeze that had come as the sun had set. Fearing her assailant dead, Dana carefully made her way to the spot she had seen him fall and proceeded to examine the ground as best she could. There was nothing, the fallen person had vanished, or so it seemed, which proceeded to unnerve Dana Scully even more. Turning away she secured her weapon and moved away from the spot, realising that continuing her journey through this darkness would do her no good, instead she would rest and move again at first light. Maybe tomorrow would bring her a measure of success when it came to figuring out where on earth she was and what on earth was going on. Dana continued walking for another hour, carefully picking her way through the moonlit forest, before finding some shelter on the lee of a large boulder. Tomorrow answers would come, hopefully.
Agent Scully was up and moving as soon as the sun cast slivers of light through the forest. She had discovered that the rations that were in her pack were somewhat edible and the water had been clean, and had also remembered why she did not like roughing it as she was forced to relieve herself during the night, but now a new day had dawned and she was filled with energy and expectation about it. Deciding to consult her map now that there was enough daytime to do it, she was disappointed to learn that it was a map showing what appeared to be a military base and its immediate surrounds. Things were getting more and more strange, as though she carried the weapons of a soldier, she did not wear any kind of uniform, BDU pants and some ALICE equipment notwithstanding. Maybe there would be answerers today, but in any case, she would not, and could not sit still and wait for them to come to her.
It was early afternoon when Agent Scully came to the edge of the forest that she had been traveling through, and now as she stood looking out over the open area she had come to, she tried to decide what her options were. If she left the forest, she would be exposed to everyone, and everything, but if she stayed in the woods, she would probably not find anyone quickly enough before her rations ran out. She needed answers, she needed to try to contact FBI headquarters and to try to get some help, somehow. Making her decision, she took the safety off her MP-5 machine gun, thanking her instructors for the thoroughness of their training, and made her way out of the forest into the open. The sun immediately made its presence known, causing Dana to utilize some of the things she seemed to be supplied with. Pulling the had that had been dangling off a cord on her ALICE vest onto her head and loosened the collar of her jacket. It was time to move...
Agent Scully was unmolested as she moved across the rolling plain towards what looked like a large lake, but as she moved she saw the unmistakable evidence of conflict. Some part of the area she was walking through were torn and scarred by a not too long ago battle and in several places she saw shell casings from a variety of weapons. No evidence of bodies or blood, but then again, who knew what else this land had in it, in regards to weather or animals. Gripping her gun more firmly she continued her walk, eyes wary, body ready. As she moved, she allowed a small part of her mind to think about her son and her mother, realising that they would keep eachother company until she returned and that her friends, Agents Reyes and Doggett would protect them unfailingly. Though she derived some comfort from that, she was still worried and missed her son terribly, all the more reason to survive the now, and get back to her son, her mother, her own slice of the world as quickly as she could.
Minutes flowed into hours and Dana was forced to stop to eat and drink, realising that she would need to find a clean source of water soon. She allowed herself a small rest, with her eyes closed against the bright sunlight hidden by a hillock. The few moments of relaxing would refresh her better than sleep. Constant vigilance was very tiring, especially for her, as she was so unused to having to act and think like she had been doing on a constant basis. It was while she was resting her eyes that she heard it, the sounds of a struggle of some sort, not very far from where she was sitting. Instantly alert, she swept her hat from her head, ignoring how her red hair was pressed flat against her sweaty scull, and looked around, trying to localize the direction that the struggle was coming from. After making an educated guess, she started to move as quietly as she could in the direction she had chosen, well aware that she was no soldier and that she was moving on instinct alone. The sounds were getting louder, telling her that she had indeed chosen the correct direction to travel in. She had traveled about a hundred yards when she came upon the source of the sound, and what she saw caused her mouth to hang open for a few heartbeats before she collected herself and tried to decide as quickly as possible how she could intervene in the situation she was witnessing.
Florence was fighting for her life against impossible odds, surrounded by hostile's, a platoon of Republican Guards, outgunned and due to the sheer weight of being outnumbered so many to one, outclassed. The soldiers obviously wanted her alive, as they were making no attempt to shoot her, but it was only a matter of time before she was shot in a leg at the very least. Florence felt her fist connect with an assailant that had gotten too close and felt his answering blow snap her head back violently. In a moment, she would draw her gun, but only after she knew there was no other way out, as they would shoot to kill as soon as she did that. There was still a chance to get out of this situation alive, so she would try to use it, dying was not something she was in a hurry to do.
Suddenly, there was a staccato burst of gun fire and several of her assailants fell. Florence was no fool, she immediately drew her gun and proceeded to use it with deadly efficiency, any opportunity was a gift and it was something she intended to utilize as well as she was able to. The Republican Guards were reacting to the gunfire now, firing wildly in the direction that it had come from, showing Florence yet again that they were only soldiers in principle, not in heart. As she used the opportunity to move away from her captors, firing as she went, she spared a thought for Hobbes and Pinocchio, who were consummate and professional soldiers from the ground up. They would have never behaved in this way, but they were far away from her right now, trying as always to fulfill the mission, to play the game until the end. There was more gunfire and then silence, and Florence watched as several of the Republican Guards digitized back to the 'real world', the others simply lay there moaning due to their injuries. Florence was well trained, she immediately confiscated spare ammo and rations, she would need them, and the rest of the soldiers would either die, or be rescued soon enough. Florence felt rather then heard the movement, spinning towards the new threat she raised her Uzi only to stop mid-motion and now it was her turn to stand and gape at the sight before her.
Recovering from her momentary shock, Dana Watched as the lithe woman fended off multiple attackers. Her fists and feet flying and her knees and elbows doing damage as well. The fight was about to become more serious, as Dana knew that it was only a matter of moments before the woman would be forced to use deadly force, and that in turn would bring it upon her. Making a judgment call, and also appealing to her sense of what was just and fair, Dana decided that the woman needed help. She raised her MP-5 and carefully sighted a soldier, the trigger responded immediately, and a man fell. Using the ensuing confusion to her advantage, Dana felled 3 more men in quick succession. By this time the woman had raised her own weapon and was making quick work of what remained of her attackers. The woman moved like a trained assassin, there was no waste as she spun and turned and then, after the staccato bursts from the Uzi the woman held, there was silence, aside from the moaning of the wounded and dying. Dana did a quick check of the immediate surrounds for more hostile forces, before turning back to the battle scene before her and moving towards the woman who now stood examining her environment with the care of a watchmaker. The response to her approach was immediate, the woman raised the deadly Uzi towards her with her finger on the trigger. Dana stopped, keeping her own MP-5 trained on the woman, now they were at a impasse. Do they decide to get to know eachother, or do they kill eachother. Dana saw shock register on the woman's face for a few heartbeats, before it returned to am impassive unreadable state.
As she recovered from her momentary shock, Florence registered that she had been helped by a woman, who, even from the distance that they stood, looked like a formidable person. Wild red hair crowned the woman's head and her hands held her weapon with the casual efficiency of someone long used to handling guns. Deciding that if the woman wanted her dead, she would be, Florence deliberately flipped the safety on her gun and secured it to her body harness. Now she would just have to wait and see what happened next. The woman hesitated for only a fraction of a moment, before she too secured her weapon and approached the depression where Florence had just recently been fighting off her attackers. The woman stopped three arms lengths away from Florence and was silent, seeming to wait for something, anything to happen. Florence allowed herself a few moments to look at the other woman's features, taking in the fine bone structure and the sharp blue eyes, noting weapons and what she would of the woman's build beneath the equipment and clothing she wore. Finally, the woman broke her silence, and said, "My name is Scully, I mean you no harm. Can you tell me where I am?"
Dana was hoping that the woman spoke English, or at least some language that she had a handle on such as Spanish, French or even German. The woman had remained still and silent as Scully had approached her and closer inspection had allowed Dana to see that the woman was not much larger than herself, had large brown eyes and looked deadly and intelligent. The silence seemed to stretch on for hours, before the woman abruptly knelt, causing Scully to flinch towards her gun in reflex, before she saw what the woman was doing. She was writing in the dirt with a long and elegant, but frightfully dirty finger. The words formed quickly and it said, "I am Florence. This is the Yukon, Canada, Harsh Realm." The woman stood up, looking at Scully and seeming to wait for something to happen, though what, Scully was not sure of. "You can't speak?" Scully said quietly. The woman shook her head and pointed to her mouth. "From birth or...?" Scully dearly hoped that the woman had not been subjected to something barbaric like the removal of her tongue, so much so, that she just had to know. The woman looked at her curiously and then pointed to a scar on her throat, motioning Dana closer so she could see. The Doctor in Scully immediately recognised a healed bullet wound, and that same Doctor also saw that the injury would have cost Florence her larynx. Nodding Dana carefully took her pack off and ever so slowly reached into it, not wishing to startle her new friend. Taking out the writing gear that she had found there, she gave it to Florence and said, "Take this, if we are to be able to communicate, you will need it. Do you sign at all?" Dana watched as the woman took the writing implements and seemed to caress them momentarily before looking back at Scully's face and moving her hands. Battle language, what soldiers used in combat when people had to be silent, rudimentary signals such as, stop, go, quiet, down, run, numbers, and then various symbols for looking, checking and the like. It was good to know that Florence knew the language, and that Scully herself knew the same battle language. "Wait a minute, Harsh Realm?" Scully said loudly after she had finished processing everything that she had observed and learned in the past few minutes.
Florence winced in sympathy when she heard Scully's angry and frightened exclamation. So, this woman was not part of the program originally, which was intriguing in of itself, but she did not behave like a glitch, so what was she doing here? Florence dismissed those thoughts for later contemplation as her new friend was becoming agitated and Florence wished to ease the woman's confusion anyway. She signaled to Scully in the battle language. "We go, not safe." Florence saw blue eyes narrow and Scully's body tense for a moment, but then after she looked around at the now silent Republican Guard, she nodded and spoke. "Lead the way, you seem to know where we are and I have no idea at all." With those words, Florence nodded and proceeded to stuff the clips of ammunition into her bag, giving Scully a portion to carry. The clips would not work with either of their weapons, but the ammunition would, so they could reload their own clips if needed. Florence noted with approval that Scully carried a H&K MP-5 and a Glock, both good and reliable weapons, they would fire filled with mud and underwater and bastardizing ammo was not a problem with them. Florence finished her preparations and after doing one more check, she scuffed out the writing she had made in the sand and proceeded to lead Scully away from the area where this small but deadly skirmish had occurred.
Scully followed her mysterious guide quietly for the next few hours, Dana was not a stupid woman, she knew that safety was more important than answers at this point, but she would get her answers before the day was over. In the meantime she was taking silent lessons from Florence, emulating the way the woman walked, in an attempt to make her footfalls more silent and trying to make her normally economic movements even more economical if that was possible. Florence called, or rather signaled a halt so that they could eat and drink and relieve themselves, not to mention just sit for a few moments. While they were in the resting portion of the break, Florence was writing onto the paper that Scully had given her. Dana saw seeming endless streams of small but neat looking handwriting appear as Florence attempted to explain the situation to her. Florence for her part was trying to figure out the best and quickest way of explaining the impossible to her new companion, she knew that the other woman would probably not react well to the situation, and Florence's gentle soul was loathe to cause such agony, but there was nothing to do, except tell the truth. She compressed her initial thoughts and explanations onto the back and front of one of the sheets of paper. She meant to save it, and use the ground and signals as much as possible, for all she knew this was the only paper she would have, and she wanted to put it to good use. Florence resolutely put away the writing goods and handed Scully the piece of paper and waited. The cat was out of the bad, now it was just a matter of seeing what would happen next.
Special Agent Dana Scully had done many things in her life, and as part of the X-Files, but as she read the paper that Florence had presented her with she found her mind descending into disbelief. This was a computer program, called Harsh Realm, a replica of the real world, but filled with conflict, cataclysm and violence that touched all of its inhabitants. Where there was not martial law, there was anarchy, with most of the players being innocent bystanders, as extendible as pawns in a chess game. The paper went on to tell Scully that it was likely that she would not believe, yet, but soon enough she would see the evidence with her own eyes. There were two men, whom Florence knew, who were attempting to play the game to its completion, in order to liberate this world and safeguard the real world from the harm someone called Santiago intended. No Republican Guard could be trusted, and most ordinary people were so concerned with survival, that trust was in short supply. Florence also told a little about herself and the order of healers that she belonged to and of how she was helping and fighting where and when she could. Scully put the paper down and placed her head on her arms, trying to absorb what she had just been told, knowing that it was the truth, deep inside, but still not wanting to believe it. She thought back to the experiences she's had in the past day or so, of bodies disappearing, digitizing and that snippet of what felt like a dream, where she had surfaced from unconsciousness to what looked like a hospital. Scully jumped when she felt Florence touch her arm gently, partially in comfort, but also to rouse Dana, they had to get moving again, find somewhere safe to spend the night. Dana looked up into eyes that were large and dark, yet filled with compassion and said, "I believe you, but I don't want to. The things I have dealt with in the 'real world' have taught me to accept what is not acceptable or what seems unreal. I wonder how I got here, and what I am doing here..." Dana trailed off as Florence collected the paper to use as tinder later and the two women got up to walk for a few more hours until nightfall. Dana found herself watching Florence as the woman pulled her pack on and checked her gun, seeing how her olive drab tee shirt pulled across her chest as she flexed her body and felt a stab of what felt like disappointment when the woman closed her jacket against the encroaching chill. 'Come on Scully, get a grip, you've known her for a few minutes, you're not in the 'real world' and for all you know you're dreaming. It hasn't been that long has it?' Dana punched out her inner monologue and followed Florence into the deepening twilight. She hoped that more answers and reasons would come to her soon, sooner rather than later, she was starting to feel impatient. An impatient Dana Scully was not a good thing...
As the moon rose into the perfectly star lit sky, Dana watched Florence make a small fire to give the illusion of warmth and cast some shadowy light over their small camp, in reality the lee of a hillock, that mostly cut the prevailing wind. Florence had added a sweater to her tee shirt and jacket ensemble and the two women were settling down to wait out the night. Eating more rations and drinking from canteens that had been filled earlier during the day the women sat in silence and cleaned their guns, Florence showing her how to empty a magazine and load the bullets into another one, and Scully finding that she was getting used to the necessary silence that surrounded this mysterious woman. Florence write her another sheet of answers and facts, telling her how to eat in Harsh Realm, one had to find processed or ready made foods, as any animals would digitize and any plants had to be eaten quickly and raw. The woman also gave Scully more information about the Republican Guard, and the game, though she was not very forthcoming about herself. Dana finished the note and watched Florence burn it in the embers of their small fire before letting the woman in on some base facts about herself. "My name is Dana Scully, I am an FBI Agent, I'm from California, but I live in Washington DC. I have no idea how I got here, but I am glad I met you here regardless." It seemed like a strangely intimate thing to say to an almost stranger, but Scully had learned long ago that time was precious, and if you wanted to say something, you better say it when you think of it, as you might not get another chance.
Florence watched as Dana fell into a troubled sleep, wondering at why fate had brought them together in this digital world. Florence could tell that the other woman was good in her heart, but Florence had also learned not to have high expectations, she had been in Harsh Realm long enough to realise how futile that was. Maybe it was an anomaly that Scully was here, maybe there was a reason... Florence remembered Pinocchio telling her about how Hobbes' mother had been in Harsh Realm briefly, seeming to be able to travel between the digital world and the 'real world' due to her terminal cancer depriving her of full consciousness in either world. Dana Scully seemed fully functional and fully conscious in this world, but Florence wondered what was happening to her body in the 'real world'. As in prompted by her thoughts, Dana Scully's body seemed to stiffen and a bluish electrical charge traveled along it, the prelude to being digitized. Florence rose in alarm, concerned for her new friend and not knowing what this new development meant. It could mean so many things, so Florence did the only thing she could, she moved closer to Dana and rested her hands on the woman gently, focusing her sight inwards and trying to offer her support, in any way she could. It was not a question of healing Scully, nothing so simple, Florence would just need to be patient and hope that whatever was happening, that it would somehow work out.
Dana Scully decided that waking up to be one of the most disorienting things she could think of. This was the second time in as many days that she had woken up and not had any idea where she was or what was going on, only this time, she hurt like she had been on the receiving end of a semi trailer. She catalogued the sensations of the environment that she found herself in this time, no longer sure of any reality, and if she could actually trust her senses to tell her any truths. Quickly identifying the fact that her mouth was glued together by what felt like days old saliva and also keenly aware of a breathing tube she wondered how the hell she had managed to get to a hospital. She did not remember any gunfight, and with that thought she started to worry about Florence. Where was she, what was going on! In a panic she pried her eyes open to try to look around, only to find herself unable to see due to what felt like bandages wrapped around her eyes. Her struggle obviously attracted some attention, as quickly she felt hands trying to hold her down and heard voices, but was unable to identify any of them, or tell what was going on. Dana felt her consciousness leaving her again and fought against it, she had to find out what happened to Florence and she had to fight whoever was holding her down, but it was no use. She slipped away into the world of dreams and knew no more after that.
Unbeknownst to Dana Scully, Florence was keeping watch over her digital body, trying her best to make it comfortable and hoping that whatever was going on, that Scully was ok. It was about 5 hours before dawn that Scully seemed to stabilize and Florence was able to curl up to try to rest. Whatever was going on with Dana, seemed to have resolved itself for the time being. Deciding to stay close, Florence curled up within touching distance of the other woman and fell into the half sleep that she had trained herself to adopt, knowing that in Harsh Realm, it never paid to let your guard down very often, and not for any length of time. There would be plenty of rest either when she digitized, or when the game was won. Before she closed her eyes, Florence looked at the face of her companion, admiring the fine lines and beautiful features. Time was of the essence here, so Florence knew that if she wanted to get to know this woman better, she would have to move fast, as at any moment, her new friend could be taken from her. There had to be some reason this woman was in Harsh Realm, and Florence needed to help her find it, or maybe, it was some glitch. It was almost impossible to tell, so Florence was operating on intuition and instinct alone. With those thoughts, she finally managed to fall into a doze, hoping, as she knew Scully did, that she would find the answers soon.
Scully woke with a start, bring her gun up to bear and fighting off imaginary attackers, her actions causing Florence to leap to her feet and bring her Ruger up to bear. Not sensing or seeing any threat, the turned to look at Scully, seeing the woman's intense confusion and fear. Reacting instinctively, Florence moved towards the other woman and put her hand on her arm in a gesture of support. Her eyes asked the question that her voice would never be able to. Scully looked into Florence's amazing eyes, and she cleared her before speaking, "I dreamt, or something, of waking up, and of being held down and of pain and having a wound dressing over my eyes..." Scully trailed off and secure her gun before sitting down and rummaging into her pack for something to eat. The sun would be up very soon and they would need to move out just as soon as there was sufficient light to do so. Dana felt self conscious and a little flustered, so she covered it with eating some protein bars and swallowing some glucose pills with cold water. Feeling like she would kill for a cup of coffee, she watched Florence prepare herself for moving out and found herself admiring how the other woman moved herself, and hoped, that somehow, she would grow to know this enigmatic woman better. The women were soon ready and moved out, Florence having indicated with battle language, that there was a chance of increased Republican Guard patrols and for encountering other inhabitants of Harsh Realm today, so they should bring their level of alertness up a notch or two. It would not do to be caught out and be killed off or made captive, Harsh Realm was not very forgiving of mistakes and in the end, they were all pieces of the game, no matter how reluctant they were to play.
Scully was finding herself getting very used to her silent companion, and as they walked the realised that Florence did communicate quite a lot, even without using battle language and written notes. The woman had been mute for a long time and had adjusted to her 'impairment' remarkably well. Scully could only hope that if something like it happened to her, she would possess the grace that Florence did about it. As they walked, Scully found herself again musing darkly about what she would do for a cup of coffee, and then chastising herself for being foolish and illogical. This was not reality even, it was a digital world, how could it be that her digital self would crave something like coffee? As Dana walked a few paces behind Florence, she allowed herself to look at the other woman from time to time and mentally shook her head. It seemed her digital self wanted more than a little coffee too and this was no time to allow for distractions of this sort. Suddenly, Florence raised her hand and signaled stop, Scully did so instantly and all but held her breath as Florence seemed to taste, touch, smell and see the air around them for a few heartbeats. Her hand moved quickly and Scully dropped to the ground on command with Florence following a moment later, her Uzi coming up to bear and her whole body still. Scully had brought her MP-5 to bear the moment Florence had signaled the stop and now the women lay on the cold and damp ground, perfectly still and waited for whatever it was that Florence had sensed to happen. Moments seemed to trickle by like hours and Scully gradually felt her awareness focus into a sharp pin head and her cold hands gripped her gun more carefully. Florence moved her hand slightly, signaling to Scully that they needed to creep forward slowly and carefully and find more cover as soon as possible. With that, the other woman started to lead the way as Scully carefully crawled across the forest floor after her. After a small eternity passed, the women were hunkered down in some undergrowth, tense and ready for anything, and Scully once more could not imagine what it is that Florence had sensed, as she could pick nothing from the air at all. As if summoned by her thoughts, what looked like a small regiment of soldiers appeared about 200 yards to the east, rom behind a ridge in the forest. The men were wearing camouflage and were well armed, Republican Guard, but what were they doing here, in the middle of nowhere Scully wondered. of course, it was only the middle of nowhere as far as she knew, maybe this was a strip of forest surrounded by habitation, cities and military posts, time would tell. As the women waited, the soldiers came closer and closer and when they seemed to be within breathing distance, Scully finally saw something that shocked her. The sight giving her pause and causing her to become still as the air around her and to ease her finger over the trigger of her gun, ready for anything and everything.
The soldiers were force marching a group of people, who looked like refugees, bedraggled women and children and a few handfuls of men staggered along, exhausted amid the cruel proddings of the soldiers. As the sad entourage moved by, Scully got a good look at the people that the soldiers were cruelly prodding forward and she could not help but wonder at this digital world that she had found herself in. Though she did not believe on the surface of her mind that this was not 'reality' in her heart of hearts, she knew that what Florence had told her was true. The woman waited for a good half hour after the soldiers and their prisoners had passed before they moved out of hiding and stretched their limbs out, having cramped from coldness and immobility. Florence took out her paper and spent a few minutes writing Scully a detailed note, before taking a drink from her canteen and handing the note to Dana to read. As she read, Dana found herself feeling an inner horror as Florence told her about what and where it was likely that the people they had witnessed were going. Concentration Camps? Dana was incredulous at the thought and felt a sense of horrified anger flare as she continued to read the note. Crumpling it she stuffed it into her pocket and turned to Florence. "Is there anything we can do?" She asked in a low voice, wanting Florence to answer that there was something, but not daring to hope. Florence nodded and made some signals, 'Follow, scout, go see.' Though the battle language was inadequate for communicating complex thoughts, Florence's face more than made up for it. Dana fond herself filled with new purpose as she and Florence started to follow the route that the soldiers had taken, though they did more much more slowly and used a different, though just as invisible path in the forest. Guns at the ready with safeties off, they moved quietly, concentrating all their sense on what lay ahead and each of them preparing plans, based on what they might find. They would have to consolidate ideas later, when they had a better idea of what they were up against, but for now, both women moved with purpose. It was imperative to disrupt the Republican Guard and thus Santiago's plans whenever possible, as any of the Harsh Realm denizens could hold the key to the end of the game and any event could bring the end closer. Minutes became hours as the women moved towards wherever the Republican Guards had gone, stopping only to refresh themselves before moving onwards towards whatever lay ahead of them.
It was late afternoon when the women arrived to what appeared to be the outskirts of the area where the camp was. It was obvious, as the ground was crisscrossed with tire tracks and the vegetation was damaged and trampled. Scully and Florence buried themselves into the vegetation for the duration of the daylight, not moving, barely breathing, not talking until nightfall when the cover of darkness would allow them more freedom of movement. There was too much risk in moving around in the daylight, and the women needed space and time to scout out the camp and make some kind of plan of attack. Eventually night fell and the women were able to stretch out their bodies and relieve themselves. Florence write a quick note to Scully, outlining what they needed to find out: Numbers of soldiers, equipment, camp layout, they also needed to steal or acquire some explosives from somewhere if they were to have a hope of breaking anyone out or mount any kind of adequate defense. The women agreed to meet back at this location in an hour and before they moved out, they both double checked their clothing and equipment for any identifying markers. If captured, it would not do to be caught with anything, such as magazines from Republican Guard soldiers, so they were left behind in a sack under a bush, with retrieval being a low priority if the shit happened to hit the fan for some reason. Florence was able to whistle, and she indicated that to Scully, meaning that she would whistle an agreed upon combination if everything was ok when they were due to meet. With that, the women moved out in separate directions and started to do their scouting and reconnaissance mission, with the aim of obtaining supplies and information that would be needed to complete this particular mission.
As the women carefully approached the outskirt of the base, they had to
avoid sentries, guards and patrols, every foot forward, took what felt
like 10 minutes and pretty soon adrenaline and muscles ready to leap
into action at any moment had them both feeling almost dizzy with hyper
awareness. In Harsh Realm, the game could be changed, and they might
wake up in Mexico in the morning, so things had to be done quickly and
efficiently without any prolonged haggling about how or why. Florence
contemplated this as she inched her way into a jeep and confiscated some
Claymore mine mines that she found in the back. As Hobbes like to say:
"It's just a game..." But to the inhabitants of this reality, it was
much more than that. For many, Harsh Realm was the only place that they
existed, and they were programmed to be as sophisticated and independent
as any of the humans who were wired into the simulation. So in reality,
this was reality to millions of sentient beings, and they would do what
was needed to insure that their reality continued. Others like Santiago,
wanted control of the 'real world' as well as Harsh Realm, they were the
ones that had to be stopped, as like any sentient creatures, the people
here wanted freedom and peace. Florence stopped her musings and
concentrated on her surroundings, mentally making notes about the camp's
defenses and the numbers of its defenders. She cast a thought to Scully,
and hoped that the other woman was having a measure of success. It was
half an hour before they were due back at the meeting point and would
need to start executing their plan. Florence started the track back the
the meeting place, now moving with even more care, aware that it was
often the thrill of perceives success that led a person to make fatal or
Special Agent Dana Scully was making her way through a cadre of vehicles
that were on standby near the gate of the compound. Using everything the
FBI had taught her about being an Agent, and everything her Father had
taught her about stalking prey, combined with her experiences at the
X-Files and her senses, she moved from vehicle to vehicle, looking for
supplies, observing the camp and blending in with the night. It would
not to do to be caught now, before the planned raid on the camp, so she
took extra care as she moved. The clock was ticking though, and soon she
was forced to abandon her quest and make her way back to the rendezvous
point to meet up with Florence. Then they would have to see about
executing some kind of plan. Dana knew that not only did they have to
free the prisoners in the camp, but they had to impede the Republican
Guard from simply recapturing them with impunity. As she moved, she
checked her now heavy pack and pockets for the good she had managed to
confiscate, some Claymore mines, some sticks of old fashioned dynamite,
grenades, magazines of ammunition compatible with Florence and her guns
and some rations. All would be put to good use, and with that happy
thought Dana made her way back to the meet up point, being careful as
she went, as she too had learned the lesson of prudence, especially
towards the end of a successful mission or case.
The women managed to meet up without trouble and upon examining their
supplies, made a plan of action. They had to break into the camp and
free the prisoners, also, they would need to disable vehicles as much as
possible. Florence told Scully through a note about what she had seen of
the inside of the camp. It looked like forced labor, timber and rock
crushing and smelting. Scully and Florence would only be able to get the
ball rolling, the rest would be up to the inhabitants of the camp, the
hope was that they would overpower the soldiers, whom they obviously
outnumbered, and escape. The women lightened their loads of non
weaponry, carefully hiding it with the mild hope of being able to
retrieve it, but there was no saying if they would even survive. For
Florence, the risk was acceptable, and Scully had not only been caught
up in the game, and wanted to genuinely help, she felt that her fate
would be decided in this world, somehow. The women moved out together
this time, laying wires, explosives and readying dynamite, which they
intended to throw like grenades when necessary. Florence had reminded
Scully, that the Republican Guard were not true inhabitants of Harsh
Realm, and any of them dying meant that they theoretically woke up in
the 'real world' so killing them was not actually, making them die, as
it were. It made Scully much more free in speaking up on sentries and
cutting their throats, though she was quite startled that she could do
this even in this theoretical place. Either the men were poorly trained,
or so off guard that their training was not doing them any good, as
though Scully did not think she was that bad, she was not under any
illusions about her abilities.
By the time the women had reached the perimeter fence, they were
sweating profusely and their breath was ragged from adrenalin coursing
through their veins. Florence wired the detonating cables and prepared
to blow half a dozen jeeps and a hundred feet of perimeter fence, they
were counting on the confusion and the surprise to hamper the guards
from operating to peak efficiency and also they would attempt to blow
more fence and vehicles when they were inside the camp. Florence touched
Scully's arm, looking at her for conformation of the woman's readiness
and received a tight nod, to which she nodded back before turning to her
detonator. With a vicious twist the deadly pyrotechnic display was on,
now they had just minutes to act and to move, easing under the wire at a
location where they had dug and cut the wire to allow them to fit they
moved through the shadows as the expected melee issued. Quickly they
isolated the prisoners quarters from the guard barracks and were able to
open two rooms before being spotted. Now was the time for dynamite and
it really was now or never. With shaking hands Florence lit a fuse and
threw the primitive TNT at an approaching group of Republican Guard
while Scully shot out the lock of another door, prisoners were beginning
to pour out, moving like an angry storm, picking up fallen weapons and
stones as they went. Scully and Dana ran through the compound raining
dynamite and grenades and breaking open a munitions warehouse in the
progress. Scully whistled to get Florence attention, and then snatched
up their remaining Claymore, pointing at it and the warehouse. Yes, it
was an excellent idea, the warehouse was away from the rest of the camp
for safety and security, so setting fire to it would not put the
escaping prisoners into too much harms way, theoretically at least.
Working like demons, the Claymore, a couple of grenades and the
remaining sticks of Dynamite were set up and then the women sprinted
away, with Florence turning to make the 50 yard shot with her Ruger, not
that hard on a 2 foot wide target with the compound illuminated as it
was. Florence tackled Scully to the ground as the explosion ripped out
and became the catalyst for whatever else was in the warehouse to start
to burn and explode. The women needed to get farther away and also
needed to get out of the camp, so crawling like moles, they made their
way through the dirt, it was only a matter of moments before the really
big explosion was likely to happen. There was no telling what was really
in that warehouse and neither woman wanted to find out the hard way. The
deafening boom that followed stunned both woman and everyone else in the
camp as well for a few moments and then the women rose and started to
run, it was time to get out. The prisoners had flowed out of the camp
into the woods and the heavily outnumbered Republican Guard was only
making a token effort to stop them, as there was not a lot they could
During the first big explosion, the prisoners had all but toppled the
fence in their escape attempt and now the burning and exploding
warehouse would do plenty to distract the Republican Guard so as to
allow the rest to leave. Dana and Florence were lying under one of the
guard barracks, catching their breath and waiting for the right
opportunity to get out of the camp and escape into the woods. The
presence of this camp, meant that there was habitation not too far from
here and they wanted to avoid it if possible. Large concentrations of
Harsh Realm civilians always spelled uncountable trouble, something
which Florence, and thus by default Scully, wanted to avoid. It was time
to move, they had to be out before the chaos died down, or they risked
capture or death. Moving on quiet feet, guns at the ready they crept to
the perimeter fence where there was less activity and slowly made their
way through it. Deciding to abandon the cache of supplies in favor of
one of the jeeps, which was no doubt fully stocked, they made their way
to the array of vehicles, this group having been so far overlooked by
the escaping prisoners and soldiers looking to secure supplies and
recourses. They had almost made it to the jeep, when they heard it, the
sound of marching feet, there was no where to go, and they were caught
in the open. Scully and Florence did not wait, rather they emptied their
magazines in the direction of the sound and bolted towards the jeeps.
The response was instantaneous, with hot led pouring from the direction
that they had shot in, they scampered into one of the vehicles and while
Florence started the jeep, Scully fought a haphazard fire fight with
what remained of the nearby guards. The darkness was on their side and
Florence swerved the jeep away from the camp, bullets glancing off the
heavy metal sides and solid tires of the vehicle. This was a true
military conveyance, no frills and no extras, no even a windscreen, as
she drove, Florence became aware of how quiet Scully had become and
hoped that the other woman was all right, as she was unable to stop and
check, not until they were at the very least a few hours away from the
camp. As soon as day broke, the Republican Guard would bring in their
resources to find the escapees and those responsible and by that time
the two women needed to be far away and had to have had a chance to
ditch the jeep. It would stand out like a sore thumb in the woods, and
the Republican Guard would be looking specifically for its own
equipment. As the car jostled, Florence heard a low moan from Scully and
realised in horror that the woman was injured. This was not good, making
a judgment call Florence sopped the Jeep and expended her sense into the
night, no sign of pursuit, maybe she could at least check Scully before
they had to move. Feeling a thrill of fear and regret at the thought
that her companion would die, Florence ran her hands over Scully's body,
reminding herself to be clinical in this dire situation. What she found
gave her great pause, Scully had been shot in the arm and upper chest
while she had been fighting off their attackers. The wounds would not be
able to wait, Scully would die and digitize and who knew what would
happen to her 'real self'. Florence turned and tried to make herself
comfortable, placing her hands over the wounded areas and turning her
focus inwards, feeling the healing power run through her and into
Scully. After some time, Florence decided that she had done what she
could, and it was now up to Scully. The woman now in a fitful sleep and
Florence needed to make time if they were to survive this debacle and
tell the tale of it tomorrow.
Special Agent Dana Scully was making her way through a cadre of vehicles that were on standby near the gate of the compound. Using everything the FBI had taught her about being an Agent, and everything her Father had taught her about stalking prey, combined with her experiences at the X-Files and her senses, she moved from vehicle to vehicle, looking for supplies, observing the camp and blending in with the night. It would not to do to be caught now, before the planned raid on the camp, so she took extra care as she moved. The clock was ticking though, and soon she was forced to abandon her quest and make her way back to the rendezvous point to meet up with Florence. Then they would have to see about executing some kind of plan. Dana knew that not only did they have to free the prisoners in the camp, but they had to impede the Republican Guard from simply recapturing them with impunity. As she moved, she checked her now heavy pack and pockets for the good she had managed to confiscate, some Claymore mines, some sticks of old fashioned dynamite, grenades, magazines of ammunition compatible with Florence and her guns and some rations. All would be put to good use, and with that happy thought Dana made her way back to the meet up point, being careful as she went, as she too had learned the lesson of prudence, especially towards the end of a successful mission or case.
The women managed to meet up without trouble and upon examining their supplies, made a plan of action. They had to break into the camp and free the prisoners, also, they would need to disable vehicles as much as possible. Florence told Scully through a note about what she had seen of the inside of the camp. It looked like forced labor, timber and rock crushing and smelting. Scully and Florence would only be able to get the ball rolling, the rest would be up to the inhabitants of the camp, the hope was that they would overpower the soldiers, whom they obviously outnumbered, and escape. The women lightened their loads of non weaponry, carefully hiding it with the mild hope of being able to retrieve it, but there was no saying if they would even survive. For Florence, the risk was acceptable, and Scully had not only been caught up in the game, and wanted to genuinely help, she felt that her fate would be decided in this world, somehow. The women moved out together this time, laying wires, explosives and readying dynamite, which they intended to throw like grenades when necessary. Florence had reminded Scully, that the Republican Guard were not true inhabitants of Harsh Realm, and any of them dying meant that they theoretically woke up in the 'real world' so killing them was not actually, making them die, as it were. It made Scully much more free in speaking up on sentries and cutting their throats, though she was quite startled that she could do this even in this theoretical place. Either the men were poorly trained, or so off guard that their training was not doing them any good, as though Scully did not think she was that bad, she was not under any illusions about her abilities.
By the time the women had reached the perimeter fence, they were sweating profusely and their breath was ragged from adrenalin coursing through their veins. Florence wired the detonating cables and prepared to blow half a dozen jeeps and a hundred feet of perimeter fence, they were counting on the confusion and the surprise to hamper the guards from operating to peak efficiency and also they would attempt to blow more fence and vehicles when they were inside the camp. Florence touched Scully's arm, looking at her for conformation of the woman's readiness and received a tight nod, to which she nodded back before turning to her detonator. With a vicious twist the deadly pyrotechnic display was on, now they had just minutes to act and to move, easing under the wire at a location where they had dug and cut the wire to allow them to fit they moved through the shadows as the expected melee issued. Quickly they isolated the prisoners quarters from the guard barracks and were able to open two rooms before being spotted. Now was the time for dynamite and it really was now or never. With shaking hands Florence lit a fuse and threw the primitive TNT at an approaching group of Republican Guard while Scully shot out the lock of another door, prisoners were beginning to pour out, moving like an angry storm, picking up fallen weapons and stones as they went. Scully and Dana ran through the compound raining dynamite and grenades and breaking open a munitions warehouse in the progress. Scully whistled to get Florence attention, and then snatched up their remaining Claymore, pointing at it and the warehouse. Yes, it was an excellent idea, the warehouse was away from the rest of the camp for safety and security, so setting fire to it would not put the escaping prisoners into too much harms way, theoretically at least. Working like demons, the Claymore, a couple of grenades and the remaining sticks of Dynamite were set up and then the women sprinted away, with Florence turning to make the 50 yard shot with her Ruger, not that hard on a 2 foot wide target with the compound illuminated as it was. Florence tackled Scully to the ground as the explosion ripped out and became the catalyst for whatever else was in the warehouse to start to burn and explode. The women needed to get farther away and also needed to get out of the camp, so crawling like moles, they made their way through the dirt, it was only a matter of moments before the really big explosion was likely to happen. There was no telling what was really in that warehouse and neither woman wanted to find out the hard way. The deafening boom that followed stunned both woman and everyone else in the camp as well for a few moments and then the women rose and started to run, it was time to get out. The prisoners had flowed out of the camp into the woods and the heavily outnumbered Republican Guard was only making a token effort to stop them, as there was not a lot they could do.
During the first big explosion, the prisoners had all but toppled the fence in their escape attempt and now the burning and exploding warehouse would do plenty to distract the Republican Guard so as to allow the rest to leave. Dana and Florence were lying under one of the guard barracks, catching their breath and waiting for the right opportunity to get out of the camp and escape into the woods. The presence of this camp, meant that there was habitation not too far from here and they wanted to avoid it if possible. Large concentrations of Harsh Realm civilians always spelled uncountable trouble, something which Florence, and thus by default Scully, wanted to avoid. It was time to move, they had to be out before the chaos died down, or they risked capture or death. Moving on quiet feet, guns at the ready they crept to the perimeter fence where there was less activity and slowly made their way through it. Deciding to abandon the cache of supplies in favor of one of the jeeps, which was no doubt fully stocked, they made their way to the array of vehicles, this group having been so far overlooked by the escaping prisoners and soldiers looking to secure supplies and recourses. They had almost made it to the jeep, when they heard it, the sound of marching feet, there was no where to go, and they were caught in the open. Scully and Florence did not wait, rather they emptied their magazines in the direction of the sound and bolted towards the jeeps. The response was instantaneous, with hot led pouring from the direction that they had shot in, they scampered into one of the vehicles and while Florence started the jeep, Scully fought a haphazard fire fight with what remained of the nearby guards. The darkness was on their side and Florence swerved the jeep away from the camp, bullets glancing off the heavy metal sides and solid tires of the vehicle. This was a true military conveyance, no frills and no extras, no even a windscreen, as she drove, Florence became aware of how quiet Scully had become and hoped that the other woman was all right, as she was unable to stop and check, not until they were at the very least a few hours away from the camp. As soon as day broke, the Republican Guard would bring in their resources to find the escapees and those responsible and by that time the two women needed to be far away and had to have had a chance to ditch the jeep. It would stand out like a sore thumb in the woods, and the Republican Guard would be looking specifically for its own equipment. As the car jostled, Florence heard a low moan from Scully and realised in horror that the woman was injured. This was not good, making a judgment call Florence sopped the Jeep and expended her sense into the night, no sign of pursuit, maybe she could at least check Scully before they had to move. Feeling a thrill of fear and regret at the thought that her companion would die, Florence ran her hands over Scully's body, reminding herself to be clinical in this dire situation. What she found gave her great pause, Scully had been shot in the arm and upper chest while she had been fighting off their attackers. The wounds would not be able to wait, Scully would die and digitize and who knew what would happen to her 'real self'. Florence turned and tried to make herself comfortable, placing her hands over the wounded areas and turning her focus inwards, feeling the healing power run through her and into Scully. After some time, Florence decided that she had done what she could, and it was now up to Scully. The woman now in a fitful sleep and Florence needed to make time if they were to survive this debacle and tell the tale of it tomorrow.
Scully found herself being reluctant to wake up, her mind was tired and so was her body, but someone kept shaking her gently and eventually Dana gave in and opened her eyes. She blinked in confusion for a few moments, before Florence's face came into focus, mere inches from her own. The amazing eyes of the other woman were looking into her own with equal parts concern and urgency and Dana, in her sleep befuddled state found herself enraptured. Without thinking, she raised her hand and gently touched the face that was hovering so close to her own, her now very rough and not very clean hands, gentle, as she explored the contours of the face she had unconsciously coveted from the moment she had seen it. Dana was lost in the moment and some part of her brain noticed that Florence did not pull away, rather her big eyes opened in wonder and she seemed to be leaning into the caress and was trembling slightly. After a few long moments, Scully snapped herself out of it, as her mind woke up and she remembered why she was lying on her back in a stolen jeep in the middle of some godforsaken place with this beautiful woman, and that now was not the time for anything like this to be happening. She removed her hands from Florence's face and sat up, clearing her throat from accumulated gunk and said: "I was shot..." She trailed off as she examined her body and found no evidence of the wounds she had received, even her clothes seemed to be intact. Florence whipped out her paper and wrote furiously by the light of the torch clipped to her equipment. After a few long minutes she tore the small note off the sheet of paper and handed it to Scully, who took it and squinted at it in the poor lighting, wishing not for the first time, that whatever had put her into this simulation, had thought to either correct her eyes, or provide her with her glasses. The note explained that Florence had the ability to heal wounds and illness that occurred in the game and that she had used a digital wand in one of the supply boxes to repair Scully's clothing as it was clothes. "The wand, or whatever, does it 'heal' as well?" Scully asked, and Florence took the sliver of paper from Scully and wrote on its other side. Scully read the hasty scribble, where Florence explained that yes, the wand could 'heal' as well, which is why soldiers carried it, but it was not necessarily a safe or reliable option and Florence preferred to rely on her own abilities and methods. Scully nodded and rose out of the jeep to help Florence go through the supplies. They found some magazines, emptying them into a few small bevy bags, rations, full canteens which they took two each and they also took two digital wands. Some concussion grenades, rope and anoraks completed the things that they decided they could carry easily and use and then they pushed the jeep into a gully in the forest floor, working like mad in the predawn light to throw branches, dirt and moss onto it, hoping to at least delay its discovery and allow for a better escape.
Their tasks completed, they checked their equipment one last time and headed out, needing to make as good time as they could before dawn and then move carefully and cautiously once dawn appeared. Both women were deeply tired, and they were actually searching for some kind of shelter that would afford them a day or two of rest. It made no sense that they simply moved until they dropped, and though Scully's injuries were healed, her program was in need of downtime to repair itself completely and Florence's use of her energies meant that she too would not be harmed by some rest and relaxation. Neither woman made any mention of the unguarded moments that had occurred when Scully had first woken up from her injury induced sleep, right now was not the time to focus on that, they needed to be safe before anything else was given any attention. The women decided to over extend themselves and moved fast and hard throughout the day, zigzagging and doubling back over themselves and making efforts to cover their tracks, eating and drinking as they walked and pausing only to take care of nature's calls. Dana privately marveled at the level of realism that this simulation had, its physical needs were as pressing and as realistic as they were in the 'real world', making her wonder about how realistic it might be in other ways. It was a long time after dark when the two women finally stumbled across a small river, which would offer them the opportunity to wash themselves and the piles of boulders on its banks might provide them with a measure of shelter that was something more than open sky. Florence knew that they needed a few days of rest and to wash, as Harsh Realm also included disease and pestilence, it was after all designed to be as realistic as possible and decades of research and planing and programing had gone into it. Florence called a halt as she felt herself sway on her feet and the women spent some time finding a suitable pile of boulders to use as shelter. After dumping their equipment, they spent an agonizing 45 minutes building piles of stones along perimeter of their chosen camp, which would easily be knocked over, thus acting as an early warning system of sorts. Then, without a word or any other preparation, they fell to the ground and into an exhausted sleep, neither making any effort to doze or to keep watch, they were simply too exhausted to even try.
Morning came without incident and the two women woke up feeling much better than they had the day before and after scouting their area, they made plans to clean and check their equipment, and then themselves. The water in the river was freezing cold, but anything was better than the layers of sweat, grime and grease covering their bodes and their clothing. So, the two women spent time rinsing out their clothing and pounding them on the rocks, before swimming in the shallows and rubbing their bodies with the coarse sand on the banks of the river. It was not much, but it would do, and thankfully the weather was smiling on them today, the sun shining warm and bright, allowing them to dry the wet clothing effectively. The day passed quickly, with them women eating and caring for their weapons and finally the clothing was dry enough to put on as night begun to fall. The whole day had been too busy to allow for much thought at all, so it was not until they were getting ready to sleep, huddling together for warmth in their slightly damp clothing that Scully and Florence finally allowed thoughts to wander. Unbeknownst to eachother, both women were thinking of the previous morning, when Scully had touched Florence's face so gently and the two women had seemed to form a connection on some deeper level. It was Dana who finally turned towards the other woman, looking at her in the moonlight that sneaked its way into their shelter through slits in the rock, their fire long banked for the night so as not to attract any unwanted attentions. Dana felt her breath catch in surprise as she found Florence wide awake and looking right back at her through the night, her eyes bright sports amidst the shadows of her face. They had not even known eachother for a week, yet Scully felt a connection to this woman, a strong connection that she treasured deeply. She wondered if Florence had any thoughts about her, and as if prompted by her silent thoughts, Florence reached her hand out to touch Scully, moving slowly and deliberately, so as to give the other woman the time to move, or block or even leave. The touch on Scully's face was tentative and shy, allowing Scully to catalogued her responses and notice the heavy callouses on Florence's hand. Without thinking, she turned her face into the touch and a low hum emitted from her chest, the sound conveying at the very least contentment, but to Florence's ears it was music, as the underlying meaning of it was that Scully wanted her touch. Dana took a few heartbeats before she raised her own hand and put it over the one that was exploring her face so carefully in the darkness. Time stood still as the women simply looked at eachother across the night, seeming to try to make up their minds as to what they wanted to do next, what they should do next and what was possible to do next.
Special Agent Dana Scully had faced all kinds of things in her life, from being shot, to being run over by cars, to giving birth and performing her first autopsy, she had even faced female lovers before, and male ones, though if she was totally honest, the male ones had been for the sake of propriety, at a time when she was not sure of her self, when she had been much younger. She was no longer inclined to ignore her true self and her deepest urges, and here, in this place, at this time, with this woman, she certainly had no reason or desire to. She moved her hand up Florence's arm to her shoulder, using it to bring the other woman closer to her, giving Florence every opportunity to pull away, look away, or change her mind. The other woman did not resist, did not look away and did not change here mind, rather she allowed herself to be drawn closer and after a moment, she felt the press of Dana's soft lips against her own, the touch was tentative and asked questions, the sort of question that only Florence could answer, that only Florence would answer. Florence encouraged Dana to be firmer with her mouth by adding her second hand to her first and pulling Dana to herself, wrapping her arms around the other woman's shoulders, no longer shy at all now that she had made up her mind and received the answer to her own unasked question. Dana let out a low purring moan from the back of her throat, releasing her carefully collected control and allowing her body to do as it wanted. Never before had Dana felt this kind of connection from what was a simple and chaste kiss and when she felt Florence open her mouth and seek entry into Dana's mouth, Dana felt the bottom of her world fall out and realised that for this she would walk through broken glass barefoot, hell on her lips if needed. Maybe this was why she was in this place, she was here to find this woman, and experience this connection, this feeling, this... Love? As Florence's hands tugged at her tee shirt, demanding access to her body, to her secrets, to her, Scully's mind stopped trying to analyze and she simply allowed herself to feel and to experience. Dana's hands impatiently pulled Florence's shirt over her head while Florence for her part was making quick work of Dana's clothing, which they paused to lay on the cold and hard ground under them as the moonlight in turn revealed and concealed strips of pale skin and tangled limbs and the night was made alive with the sounds of beauty.
Dawn made its way like a thief across the autumn landscape, and when it reached the section of boulders where Dana and Florence were curled up together under their mutual clothing, it stole its way in, seeming to pause over beautiful faces and patches of soft skin. The light caused both women to stir, though they had only fallen asleep an hour or two ago. Dana was the first to open her eyes, briefly confused by the tangle of warm skin that was wrapped around her before remembering with a lascivious smile the reason why she had a woman, and not just any woman, Florence wrapped around her. A moment later, Florence opened her eyes, instantly alert, looking around for a startled moment before her eyes fell on Dana's smiling face. The smile was contagious and Florence found her face bursting with happiness as she squeezed the delicately protesting Dana to herself for long moments. The day was not waiting however, for the new lovers, so reluctantly they rose and dressed, stealing kisses and caresses, long looks and soft touches in the few moments they had to just be two women making love. Soon enough, they would have to be soldiers and survivors again, soon enough they would have to fight and run again, but now, for these precious moments, they were lovers, getting ready to go out. Florence was no fool and they did have a saying that still waters ran deep, she knew that she had fallen, and fallen hard for the red head, and she also knew that there was nothing she could do about it. Savoring the look that Dana was giving her, the unguarded visage of her lover telling her what words could not, Florence drew Dana to her for one more lingering kiss, inhaling the scent of her lover, trying to memorize it. Dana smelled slightly of sex, a testimony of their nocturnal activities and her mouth was still tinged with Florence's own taste. Smiling Florence released her lover and looked out into the dew covered morning, taking in the moment. She impulsively pulled out her paper and write Dana a note, handing the woman the paper and feeling a blush crawl up her neck to her face. Dana smiled and took the note, eyes filled with warmth as she read what Florence had written. "I will always remember this moment, this time, you, no matter what happens." Dana folded the note and kissed the tip of Florence's nose and then she said, "I will as well, I do not know why I am in Harsh Realm, but I am grateful that I am here." With those words, the women went to fill up their canteens and walked out of the protected valley that the small river had created. For the few steps it took, they were lovers, but as soon as they entered the forest, they one more became soldiers.
The day was peaceful with no signs of pursuit and very little of human activity, making the women feel more relaxed and adding the occasional smile to their serious visages. Without the Republican Guard hunting them or the risk of hostile Harsh Realm denizens bothering them, they were happy to walk at a steady pace. They did hope that they would reach something, before their rations ran out, but for now they were glad to be at nothing, alone. after a brief stop for lunch and relief, the women continued walking, with Florence having assured Dana that they were actually going somewhere. Dana was waling a step behind Florence, the forest not allowing the women to walk abreast and she was absorbed with watching the gentle sway of the other woman's hips, it was because of this, that Dana saw it before Florence did, a booby trap that they had inadvertently tripped. Dana watched in horror as the huge log swung out of the trees, it would hit Florence, Dana felt her heart clench and pushed the other woman with all her might, reacting on instinct alone. The log missed Florence, but it struck Dana full on, breaking half a dozen ribs and bursting an artery near her heart. Dana gasped for breath, coughing up blood and unable to drawn breath she tried to orient herself and as she did she saw the bluish energy traveling across her body. Florence had by this time picked herself up and rushed to Dana, but it was too late, as she watched, Dana began to digitize and Florence felt tears burst from her eyes. Unable to say what she wanted she moved her lips, hoping that Dana could read them, somehow, the other woman had to be told, had to know. Dana felt Florence's tears fall onto her face and looked at the woman, unable to move any part of her body, she saw the lips move and then repeat their movement. In the heartbeat it took her to comprehend what Florence had communicated, Dana felt like she was falling, falling and there was no pain. With a last ditch effort, she managed to move her own lips, though sound no longer came out of her mouth, then the digitizing took her, leaving Florence kneeling on the ground weeping like a small child. She had managed to catch the movement of Dana's lips before the other woman had vanished and she knew the truth now. Dana had come to Harsh Realm to save her, for some reason, it was imperative that Florence live and something had made sure that it would happen. Florence rose, picking up her fallen gun and stumbled away into the forest, weeping as she went. She had to live, she had to complete the game, maybe then she would see Dana again, until then, she would weep and she would remember. For now, she had to move, had to keep going, when it was night, she would mourn, right now it was just too dangerous and she was damned if Dana's sacrifice would be for nothing. As she moved, Florence allowed herself a single replay of what Dana's lips had said before she had digitized. "I love you Florence."
Dana Scully woke up gasping, screaming and thrashing. She felt tubes and wires connected to her body and pulled at them, ripping several off and many more out. Feeling hands on her body she lashed out, hearing the telltale smack of flesh upon flesh with a degree of satisfaction. opening her eyes, she looked around frantically, she heard screaming, and only absently realised that it was her own voice. Gradually the room came into focus and more hands were added to those trying to gently restrain her. She heard a voice, "Dana! Dana! Agent Scully! It's me, Monica Reyes. Stop, you are safe, you are ok, Dana!" Eventually the voice penetrated her skull and she looked blearily into the warm brown eyes of her fellow Agent, allowing the woman's touch to calm her down. The she remembered Florence, forgetting for a moment that she was not in Harsh Realm anymore she rasped out, "Florence!" The confused look that Monica Reyes gave her was enough to jar her back to reality. Dimly she heard Agent Reyes tell her that she had been shot, and had been in a coma for almost a week. Agent Monica Reyes looked down at the woman, who had succumbed to her weakened state and was lying down once more, passively allowing a shaken nurse to reattach the wires and tubes that she had ripped out when she woke up. Monica's heart wrenched painfully when she saw tears start to roll down Dana's face. Her already weakened state making her seem so very fragile and small and the tears just adding to the overall effect. Monica touched the other woman briefly before leaving the ICU room and calling her partner and the Assistant Director with the good news. Dana opened her eyes when she heard the nurse finally leave her, knowing that the woman was no doubt shook up from the violence that had come with Dana waking up. It was then that Dana felt something in her hand, it felt like paper... Confused she opened the crumpled wad up and felt her heart stop for long moments when she saw what it was. It was the note that Florence had written her, when they had left their river sanctuary. How it was possible, that she had this, was beyond Scully's comprehension, but then again, so was the fact that she had been in Harsh realm at all. As she closed her eyes, she replayed Florence's lips moving, what she had said before Scully had digitized. Florence had said, "I love you Dana."
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