ExodusBy Chandri MacLeod

Fandom: The X-Files Rating: PG Pairing: noneWarnings:None Summary: Humanity lost the war when Fox Mulder and Dana Scully Surrendered. Now all that was left was running. Disclaimer: They're not mine, alas. I'm just using them for fun.

"Do you ever think of it as futile?"

Sharris Symon asked the question into a rising wind. She decided, ten seconds later, that she'd received no reply because the wind had swallowed her voice; her companion had not heard her. Another ten seconds passed before, turning to her right, she changed her mind. Talia Sheppard seemed, indeed, not to have heard her, but Sharris doubted the wind had had anything to do with it. Talia seemed only half-there - she leaned against the rough pasture fence with her chin atop her folded arms, staring cross the rolling fields that spread out in every direction from where they stood.

The farmhouse behind them was empty. Once it had been a heritage landmark; now it stood abandoned. In small towns people still followed their instincts. This entire town had fled over the course of a fortnight, packing up their families and little else and vanishing quietly into the hills, leaving their dwellings and their posessions relatively undisturbed. The town's atmosphere of vacancy called to mind unnerving parallels with a certain New Mexican folktale. It was as if the people had simply vanished, plucked from the complications of their lives with no warning.

It should have made them uneasy - any normal person would have been bothered by the unnatural quiet, sensing imaginary eyes at their backs; but they knew, all too well, that the real danger lay elsewhere, far away, and not here yet. Likewise, Talia's eyes were as distant as her thoughts.


Her dark-haired friend sighed, but didn't turn. "I've been thinking that for a while now."

Sharris leaned against the fence next to her. "Oh, good. I'm glad it isn't just me."

They spent several moments in silence, the wind whistling past them. Finally Talia lifted her head. "When they died; I felt cheated," she said. Sharris raised an eyebrow as her friend turned to look at her. She saw anger in her face as she went on. "They deserved better than that."

Sharris sagged against the fence, shaking her head. "You know there's nothing you could have done."

"I could have killed that damn woman when I first thought of it." The words came quickly and angrily, and Sharris found herself stepping backward out of instinct. The emotion behind the words had shoved at her like a physical blow. When the fervency faded, and only the guilt remained, as it had been for months now, present and sharp, she leaned forward again.

"No," she said, as she'd said, now, more times than she could count. "You couldn't."

Talia held her eyes for several seconds, gaze narrowed, as if wringing something from her, then dropped her eyes, and sighed. "No," she admitted. "I couldn't." She glanced over her shoulder at the empty house, at the car parked five metres behind them. "But how do I tell that to them?"

"He can't possibly blame you for it," Sharris scowled. "Any more than he blames himself."

"And how do I tell her?"

Sharris looked back at the car. "Tell her what we've always told her."

"But it isn't true anymore," Talia said, her voice tight and uncertain. She clutched at the rough boards of the fence. "We lost, Shar. How do we tell her that we were beaten? That he was beaten?"

Sharris turned from the car to her friend, uncertainty in her own thoughts turning to desperation and, strangely, resignation. "I don't know," she said, quietly. "I guess I always thought... I had this stupid idea that hoping made a difference. But it doesn't anymore, does it?"

Now it was Talia who looked at her, then shook her head, slowly, reluctantly. "No," she said. "I don't think it can."

"So what's left?"

For a moment Sharris wasn't sure which one of them had spoken. She realized afterward that neither of them had. But looking into Talia's face she knew the question had been asked.

"After hope?" Sharris leaned against the fence, chin atop her folded arms. They'd be here, soon. "I guess... carrying on, anyway."

By the time they arrived it was already full dark. They had planned things that way, both for the sake of their guests and for the sake of keeping themselves off of any possible radar. The area was empty of civilians (what Lily had started calling them) and the only people present were themselves and the others. Their own kind.

By eight o'clock, there were eleven of them, sitting in the living room and going in and out of the kitchen. Almost no one spoke - it wasn't necessary, for them, but they wouldn't have spoken, anyway. The silence was by consensus. They were mostly adults, but they came, some of them, with children, ranging in ages from four to thirteen. Lily was the eldest of those present, older than the oldest boy by two months, and she'd been holding court in the kitchen until they were all sent to bed, all five of them. Lily made six. She'd been put more or less in charge of the group, and went along to bed only under protest. She rarely got time with children her own age - almost never. Certainly never ones who could understand her.

Skinner didn't arrive until nearly ten. He pulled into the dusty drive with great caution, judging by his speed. Then he sat in the old sedan for long minutes before Sharris saw him open the driver's side door, and then he stood looking around, almost with suspicion. Sharris stepped down from the porch, muttering to herself, and approached. When he saw her, he looked uncertain, almost on the point of retreat - but he held his ground.

She came within a few feet of him and stopped - Skinner was sweating, haggard. She knew he must have been driving for days, but there was more in his demeanor than exhaustion. He was nervous - almost hostile. Paranoia radiated off him in waves.

"Hi," he said finally, after long moments of silence.

"You're late," she said, without preamble. "Did you have any problems?"

"Nothing I couldn't handle," he said, tilting his head toward the car.

"Though we had to switch in Moncton. The RCMP were sniffing around when we stopped for lunch."

Sharris looked down at the car - it was encrusted with thick mud. All she could see of the plates were that they were from New Brunswick. She grinned, then looked at Skinner. "Mud? A bit low-tech for the FBI, isn't it?"

He shrugged, and she saw him halt a smile halfway through. "When in doubt, go with the basics. We didn't have any trouble after that. Come to think of it, we didn't see a single human being East of Port Hood. Your doing?"

"'Fraid not. People started clearing out two, three weeks ago. Gone inland, we think."

"People know," came a voice from inside the car. Sharris leaned down. Gibson Praise looked up at her, solemn, as always.

"They knew months ago," she agreed. "You plan on staying in there all night?"

Now Gibson actually smiled, and Skinner, watching, exhibited surprise. As the boy opened his door and stood, stretching, Sharris glared at him.

"Gotten used to thinking of the kid as cargo, huh?" she said coldly. Skinner started, and looked at her.

"No. I just-- he doesn't smile much."

"I don't know about you, Skinner, but I rarely feel in a good mood around someone who's afraid of me."

She came around the car - Gibson was looking up at the house. "You more hungry or tired, kid?" she asked. Gibson turned to her.

"Tired," he said. "But is Lily still up?"

Sharris grinned. "As if you didn't know," she said. "I'm amazed she wasn't down here ten minutes ago. Well, go on." She nudged him toward the house.

"Everyone's waiting. They'll know you're here and in a minute they'll stop pretending to be asleep to please their parents. I should warn you, though - Lil's got herself a whole little army up there. You might have some competition."

For a moment, Gibson's face clouded with something that surprised even Sharris, though it pleased her. Jealousy, and petulance; both perfectly healthy emotions in a teenage boy. Without another word, Gibson walked toward the house.

When the screen door slammed behind him a few seconds later, Sharris straightened, and said, without turning around, "There's still supper in the kitchen." Then she followed Gibson inside, leaving Skinner still standing next to his car, one hand resting on the roof.

It was morning again before they managed to gather the various confusions and details of two dozen people together enough to move out. When they did, in a long caravan of varied cars, dust-coated and mud-caked, not a readable license-plate in the lot of them, they went at randomly-spaced intervals, so that the caravan didn't look like what it was. First went the family with the most young children, in a minivan with "Celebration, Florida" license plates, looking for all the world to the uninformed like naive American tourists on holiday to the wild reaches of the Maritimes. Nine cars later went Skinner, who had managed to beg a place in their caravan without begging, his stolen car with the New Brunswick license plates still caked with mud and fitting in beautifully. In the last car of the caravan - the old Toyota whose Nova Scotia license plates declared its surroundings "Canada's Ocean Playground" with cheerful diffidence for the situation - came Talia and Sharris, Lily and Gibson in the back seat.

The teenagers had already been warned - quiet, except around strangers, when they were to be as rude and rambunctious as possible. Nobody fleeing would dare draw so much attention to themselves as tourists did. At the moment the two of them were staring at one another in complete silence, both adequately superior to the adults in psionic strength to keep the conversation shielded. An hour into the trip neither Talia nor Sharris missed Lily and Gibson's fingers creeping toward each another across the upholstery of the back seat. An hour after that they were both asleep - it was early morning, not quite six. Their fingers were tangled together as if by accident. Sharris and Talia shared a grim and amused smile.

In the early morning light, the knowing would have looked and called their flight an exodus.

Sharris wondered if all over the world, the knowing weren't doing just that. She knew their kind was fleeing, everywhere, holing up, shoring up, hiding, waiting, some readying to fight. Fight what, no one was quite sure - some were, actually, she knew. But most astute enough to worry it out were powerful enough to have been driven mad, or close enough to feel too guilty to carry on. She fancied that the two of them had probably known best, after the boys. She knew the others thought so. It was enough to trust them to lead them to relative safety. She wondered about safety. But more often, she wondered about sanity. Theirs, mostly.

But she imagined, all across the world, the knowing sharing glances, tilting their heads at floods and rains of frogs, at strange movements of the moon, winking across drinks and morning fogs, knowing what all this meant. Seeing it coming and acknowledging it as something they had awaited all their lives.

She rather thought she could do without portents, these days.

As the sun came up, the caravan turned onto an empty freeway, one car after another vanishing into the glare of the morning sun.

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