Hong Kong International Airport (HKG)
Chek Lap Kok, Hong Kong

Standing, looking at the departure boards, the handsome Asian man subconsciously chewed on his lower lip. He hated the fact that he had agreed to this. But there was nothing else to do.

It was a matter of duty and loyalty

And he knew all about loyalty.

His family was Nung, ethnic Chinese that had lived for generations on the mean streets of Vietnam, carving out an existence as criminals and mercenaries, outlaws known for being as ferocious in loyalty as they were in battle. His father, his brothers, and all his uncles had fought alongside the large Americans in their green berets, had listened to the smoking men in their ill-fitting suits, and had continued to fight for a free Vietnam where the Nung were looked down upon as bandit scum: a fight for which all the men of his family died, either quickly under the treads of NVA tanks as they stormed through Saigon, or slowly from the hunger and disease in the Thai refugee camps. So he knew all about loyalty.

He knew even more about betrayal.

The men of his family had lived by the gun for many years: against the Viet Cong, and before them the Viet Minh, and before them the Japanese. Now he would continue in that legacy, and live by the gun for the glory of his Triad, and for the survival of his family.

He was the last now; all the family had traveled across the seas to a new life in America, where they could make their own path.

His great-grandmother, the matriarch of the family was the only one besides himself who had refused to emigrate. He still remembered her words.

"I have walked down enough roads," she had said when faced with the possibility of leaving Vietnam.

After bringing her family through the fall of Saigon and out of the death of the camps, no one would begrudge this last wish. When she breathed her last words, Kwan was the only one of her children to be there to hear them.

"I have no regrets, little one. I chose to live this life, and I chose to die this death."

Kwan had tried to display outwardly the honor she deserved, but his attempts only caused her to sigh, as if she regretted his loyalty. She spoke to him of the hardships she faced, the pain spent to see her children live. But he did not see the purpose of her words, only feeling the weight of his duty grow heavier.

"You are a strong man to live without hope, little one. But it takes even greater strength to hope among death." Reaching out, she had found his hand and pressed into the palm her Buddhist amulet, curling his fingers over the metal. "You must find that hope, my little one. That matters so much more than if you ever find a new life."

As the speakers overhead announced his flight, he shook himself back into the present. These thoughts did little to ease his mind as he shouldered his carry-on and prepared to board the plane to America, and continue his family's tradition of death.

San Francisco International Airport (SFO)
South San Francisco, CA

When the plane landed at San Francisco International Airport, Kwan disembarked and found a man holding a sign with his name on it waiting at the gate. After being shuttled through customs, the man took his bags and led him to the exits. At the curb sat a dark sedan, and the man opened the back door for Kwan, then stowed the bags in the trunk. Once Kwan was in, he slammed the door and got into the passenger seat up front as the driver started the car, pulling onto the road.

In the back, Kwan looked across the compartment at the First Elder, who handed him a folder with photographs of the targets.

As he looked them over, the First Elder explained who they were and what priority they were to be eliminated. Kwan listened and looked at the photographs as the car sped along, and realized that the assignment he'd been sent on wasn't as clean cut as he'd been told. The folder he had on his targets included an old man and a woman.

He wasn't adverse to killing old men and women on general principle, but something seemed wrong about this.

Still, it really didn't matter, because what he liked or didn't like had no relevance in the matter. He was here to do a job.

The First Elder then pushed across the limo floor a large duffle bag. Kwan seized it by the handles and pulled it into his lap. Inside was a high powered rifle and scope, a shotgun, several handguns, ammo for all of the weapons and a bulletproof vest with a black jumpsuit. On top of it all was the key to a hotel room and a key for a rental car. Nodding, he zipped the bag up again and looked at the large Italian man before him.

"Scully, Carmine and Skinner are your top priorities. They're to be terminated at all costs. The rest are secondary," the First Elder explained. "Take the car and wait at the warehouse. If they happen to find this location, I want to make sure that you're waiting for them."

With that, Kwan nodded again. They sat in relative silence until the car finally stopped in front of a small hotel. The man who had met Kwan at the gate opened the door and ushered him out. From behind him, Kwan heard the First Elder say one last thing.

"If you screw this up, there will be no going back."

And then the door closed, leaving Kwan to figure it out on his own.

New York City
Offices of the Consortium

The silver haired man known to Mulder and Scully as the Well Manicured Man sat at the head of the table, even though it wasn't his seat any longer. The First Elder had moved him aside. First by arranging the death of his companion Dr. Benita-Sayers, then by going behind his back and creating a new power struggle within the group.

Mulder's near suicide and the attempt on his associate's life a few days afterward had only made the division more apparent.

Now, Mulder had been taken off the streets and moved to a location without the group's authorization. It was a foolish move. Not more than a day ago Dana Scully and Assistant Director Walter Skinner had left for San Francisco from Newark. After tying in the New Jersey connection, he had no doubt that they were homing in on the First Elder.

And he was more than willing to do anything that would aid them.

Across the room, he heard the door softly open and the stench of burning tobacco waft through, preceding the man smoking the cigarette.

"Give them whatever they might need to locate Mr. Mulder before our associate does something rash," the Well Manicured Man said in a deep voice, sliding across the long table a file with Skinner's name on it. "You're to contact me if anything goes wrong or the situation changes."

Reaching over, the Cigarette Smoking Man picked up the manila folder striped with blue and thumbed through it.

"San Francisco," he commented in a soft, smoky tone. "I've always loved the fog."

With that, he took a long drag on the butt and plucked it from his lips. Grinding the remains into the ashtray at the end of the table, he gave a slight grin and walked back out the door, closing it behind him.

At the table, the Well Manicured Man turned to look out the window at the New York skyline, and wondered just how long it would be until he had his rightful place back.

Residence of Reggie Earle
1003 63rd St.
Oakland, CA

Scully sat at the kitchen table watching Reggie clean the S&W 9mm that he'd taken along on their little adventure to San Quentin.

"Reggie," Scully said, getting the man's attention.

He looked up and regarded her seriously, his fingers never stopping their slow, even movements as he cleaned the barrel of the weapon even as he kept his eyes focused on her as he listened.

"I need your help. Skinner said that you could get anything. . . " Scully began, sitting on the chair, her arms wrapped over the back where her chest pressed against the wood, as her knees pushed against the legs. Her eyes dropped as she considered her train of thought and where her next words would take her.

After San Quentin, she'd been thinking a lot about her ability to protect herself and make a significant contribution in the hunt for Mulder. She didn't want to be the helpless female who needed the men to protect her. She needed to equalize the playing field to her advantage.

"It seems that I don't stand a chance with just my service weapon out there. I need something more."

"Like what?" he asked, curious.

There was a long pause before she lifted her gaze back to Reggie's. Within her blue eyes, he saw something that reminded him of his year in 'Nam. A change that took over men, letting them accept and even revel in the horrors they had to do there. And in the FBI agent's eyes, he saw something similar.

"I want to be a god. . . " she replied, as she set her service weapon and the matching spare on the table with a loud thud, making her request clear.

Scully had never cared much for guns. She always knew how to use them, her father and brothers had taught her to shoot, and the FBI had honed those skills. But for Scully, the gun was just a tool, a necessary part of what sometimes had to be a dirty job.

The Bureau gave its agents a wider latitude in their personal weapons than most law enforcement agencies, but Scully took as much interest in her choice of sidearm as she did in the manufacture of her scalpels.

Most agents accepted whatever firearm the Bureau was assigning as their "standard issue" that month. The few gun-nuts that did carry a personal pistol usually chose hand cannons, but Scully had used the freedom to buy a pocket pistol: she had wanted a small gun that would least get in the way of her real job as a pathologist. Having to use her weapon had seemed as likely to Scully as one of her clientele getting up off the table and walking out the autopsy room.

Then she had been assigned to the X-Files and Fox Mulder.

It wasn't long before she'd mothballed the pocket pistol and took to packing a true service weapon like Mulder. It was even less time before she'd taken the pocket pistol out of mothballs and took to carrying it as a second carry gun. It was only after she'd lost Mulder and her badge to that madness in New Mexico, alone facing the very real dangers she couldn't define with just her little .380 Sig that she vowed to never feel so naked again.

So she armed herself well. Faced with an endless array of choices with their esoteric arguments for and against, Scully went with the devil she knew: a pair of Sig-Sauer P226 9mm semi-autos. One she used as her service weapon. The other, she kept as a "just in case" gun.

And now "just in case" was here. The only issue was carrying them. That was where the request she had made of Reggie came in.

You couldn't go into an unknown situation without enough firepower to get out again. So she had to carry both with the least amount of difficulty. She'd stopped wearing her shoulder holster in favor of the clip waist holster, as that seemed to be the smartest and easiest way to carry her gun in the field these days. The only problem was she didn't have something that would allow her to carry both of her guns at once, and with the odds stacked squarely against her, she was going to need that firepower.

Finally Reggie returned to the kitchen with a nondescript black nylon duffel bag. He tossed it onto the table and pulled the zipper open, exposing the contents.

A rig.

Quickly she reached out and picked up the soft brown leather contraption, her fingers nearly caressing the soft, well worn material and her nails flicking at the brass buckles.

The rig held twin holsters which were connected by straps that crossed across the back to a set of magazine pouches that would fall lower down the wearer's back, packing enough clips to supply your average Hong Kong action flick hero. Between the pouches, the straps intersected upon another, smaller holster. As she looked at it, she realized that her old .380 Sig could easily fit inside, giving her an added weapon in a diagonal quick cross-draw across the back. She hadn't packed it, but she had been sure she'd seen one in Reggie's stores downstairs.

Slipping one arm through, she adjusted the strap on her shoulder, then slipped her other arm through the opposite strap. After tugging the rig into place, she slipped the weapons into their respective spots and gauged the weight. The holsters rested deep under her arms and close to her sides.

It felt good. Too good, in fact. The thought that she consciously knew that she was now more dangerous than ever frightened her on some level she hadn't even been aware of. She was crossing the threshold now. And there was no going back. It was like the door to a darker part of herself was opening, and she didn't know how it integrated with the rest of her. She was starting to feel different, and she wondered if Mulder would even recognize her when he saw her again.

Skinner walked in just then, and stopped cold. The sight of his agent stunned him. He had always been aware of her quiet strength, fierce determination and consistent expertise, but this. . . this was an armed and dangerous 5' 2" of red-headed intensity. Shit, now he understood why Mulder always came back from every misadventure. He had a Valkyrie in 3 inch heels by his side every time he went into the field.

Hell hath no fury like Scully pissed off, he though with both humor and apprehension.

After a minute, he remembered why he was there. He'd gotten a call from the smoker. He still didn't know if he could trust him, but Cancerman had made it clear that there were people that wanted Mulder found. So he didn't have much choice but to take the information on faith.

"Scully," he started, and watched his auburn haired agent turn to regard him with an intent blue gaze, "I've got an address."

Continue to Part Five