XTC
by Henry Wyckoff
Crossover: XF, DW (4th Doctor), HL, ST:Voy, and the world of David Eddings



Chapter 20

Round, Round, Round Go the Deuterons!


Jan sat on the rock, looking at the mequite tree, its branches waving in the wind. He had healed up mostly, but not completely.

Chakotay stood behind him, "Are you all right?"

Jan nodded. For all that he had experienced, his face was tranquil. The face of a man relaxing with a beer after working in the hot fields all day; exhausted and unable to take more abuse, but at peace with himself. "I can't complain."

"But are you all right?"

He shrugged. "I can't move my arm. I don't understand it. There aren't any wounds left, but I can't move it."

Chakotay sat next to Jan. "Nobody knows what the Dreamworld is. Some people have speculated that it's another reality. Another place that we can reach when we're not trying to, but just as real as our own. Some speculate that it's our own private dream that's just a little clearer than most dreams we have when we're asleep, because we're consciously dreaming. Some claim it's just a wild drug experience."

"What do you believe?"

"I think that it could be a combination of all of that. But I think there's evidence to suggest that your own experiences were something of your own creation." He looked at Jan. "I heard a story once about the immigrants from Cambodia during the Vietnam War. Beautiful country, but the war tore it up. A lot of old people came here with their children, who led the way. Something that soon became evident was that some of the older ones were becoming blind, even though there was no reason for it. Turns out that they went blind because they didn't want to see. Too much bloodshed, and they didn't want to see anymore.

"Same thing with the man who wrote the song 'Amazing Grace.' I've been told that he was a slave trader, until he became blind. It seemed that even though he intellectually accepted his work as just another job, his heart fought against it. He became blind until he searched his heart, and realized what the underlying cause was. Whether it was real or not, I think there's a lesson to be learned." Chakotay got up and went to see how Janeway was doing.

* * *

The pimp opened his eyes, breathing heavily. He looked around and only saw his crashed-out friends. "The hell with this!" He grabbed his bags and took off as fast as his feet could carry him.

He didn't leave with the limo. Possessions could chain you down and let the Feds chase you. He could walk well enough.

"Time to get the hell out of Dodge!"

He believed in his mission, but he also believed in doing the practical thing. Once this thing cooled down, he'd sell the white ecstasy again, but for the moment, he was just another honest crack dealer.

* * *

Powys looked at the sphere. Inside his coat, he had an orb of a similar shape and smoothness, but his was black obsidian, as was the knife. Deep down, he knew that while the orb was of a distinctly-different material... its purpose was the same. The Invisible Ones were not at work here, he was certain, but he also knew that whoever was using this orb had a lot of power. Running an XTC distribution network was a tool to achieve some other end than making money.

The Sun King, the agent had called the man. That would fit, all right. The question was, would Powys recognize the Sun King when he saw him? Or was the Sun King the almost childlike gentleman he had talked with not too long ago, protected by his special form of immunity (almost like diplomatic immunity in the USA; not immune from snipers, but able to talk with the enemy without fear of being detained).

"You seem enchanted by the orb," Sarah observed. "Do you recognize it?"

Powys nodded. "Yes. A lifetime ago." That was true.

"Where?"

"I'm not sure."

Scully laughed cynically, "Why do I have a hard time believing that? For all the time I've known you, you've had an answer in reserve!"

He shrugged, "I've been and done a lot of things, but the one thing you can't deny is that I've never lied to you."

She shook her head, "As much as you can call half-truths the truth."

"Hush!" the Doctor raised a finger to his lips, looking around, "Someone's here!"

A figure walked into the room. "I almost feel like an employer walking into the employee lounge!" The voice was a crisp, cultured one. Quite British.

The Doctor frowned. If the voice was British, he'd expect it to be someone else. But it wasn't the Master. "I see some things don't repeat themselves."

The Englishman shrugged with indifferent bafflement while everyone else just stared at him with open confusion. "Neither will this intrusion. I would have thought that my hospitality was sufficient, but it seems that you did not like your lodgings."

"Cells are exciting only for a short time," the Doctor said grandly. "I assumed that you would be more than pleased to allow us a tour of the grounds."

"If that is what you had wanted, I could have had you dragged to your cells the long way around."

"While we're here, would you care to tell us what this is?"

"Why not?" the gentleman shrugged again. "It's a flow regulator."

"What is it regulating?" asked Powys sharply, walking forwards slowly.

"Energy in motion. What else does a regulator control?"

Scully was gnawing in frustration. She didn't expect the man to come out and say it, but she was also sick of all the circular and philosophical talk. Nobody around here, apparently, was an engineer or a man living in the real world.

The Doctor nodded. "It couldn't be radiation. That much radiation would kill us. What is it?"

"Ancient secret," whispered the gentleman, smiling falsely. His eyes certainly weren't smiling. "This is getting boring. Goodbye." He pulled a gun out of his coat pocket, only it wasn't one of those puny revolvers gentleman always carry in bad BBC mystery shows. This was a magnum, and the gentleman clearly wasn't afraid to use it.

Everyone ducked out of the way, instinctively, and the bullets hit the chamber housing the orb. There were a lot of sparks and a few small pings, but no significant damgage.

Only four shots had been fired, and since everyone was trapped with nowhere to go, the gentleman smiled, "This will be mildly entertaining. Almost like shooting ducks at the carnival."

A new voice entered the room. "No. Somehow, I don't think so." It was jolly, and had almost an English accent. It was Pancho, and he grabbed the gun from the startled gentleman.

"You!" barked the gentleman. "You're supposed to be dead!"

"I know," smiled Pancho. "I remember."

"You..." he whispered, "remember?"

"Yes. You might say that I'm remembering everything that's happening right now." He shook his finger, "You're a naughty boy. I've taken one toy from you. What do you think is going to happen next?"

While the gentleman was occupied, Silk was frantically gesturing to everyone. The exit was clear for the moment. Sarah was smart and took it. The Doctor cautiously edged towards it, but Duncan, Methos, and Scully stayed put. Apparently, they felt heroic.

The gentleman started to turn red in the face, almost bawling like a child, "No! You can't do this to me! You're a drug- addicted zombie! The Anti-Man promised me so!"

"The Anti-Man..." whispered Pancho. "You have a lot to learn."

Anyone who has ever seen a gang kid arrogantly shoot someone knows it's a memorable sight. His face is in a carless sneer, his head tilted up and his eyes turned down. He's firing that gun with the gun held horizontally, so the top of his hand faces upwards. That's how Pancho looked when he shot the gentleman in the face. The only difference was that he didn't look arrogant - just scared and desperate.

"Why did you do that?" demanded Scully.

"He was in the way." He silently walked over to the container of the orb. "What's this?"

Powys shrugged, "The gentleman said it was an energy regulator. Maybe he was lying, but I doubt it. He was too childish to lie."

Pancho shrugged too. "Whatever. We'll find out soon enough. I wish Axer Carrick was here. He'd know what to do."

"You know him?"

"Sure. Who doesn't? We've all met him, even if we don't remember him. He knows how to drink. I admire that in a man."

Powys whispered, "You're supposed to be clean and sober!"

Pancho snorted, "Get real, coal-hauler. I just know how to hold my Kegbombs."

A few feet away, Duncan was looking at Silk. "How did you get here?"

Silk, for once, was relaxed. "I hid underneath the van you rode in." He made a face, "You have no idea how often I could have died."

Duncan shook his head, "Richie could learn a lot from you."

Silk was openly confused. "Richie...?"

He smiled, "Let's get some fresh air, and I'll tell you about one of my friends..."

Scully, at the moment, was talking with the Doctor, "None of this makes sense to me. An eccentric millionaire -- I guess that's what he is -- runs a secret energy lab in his basement and, if we find it, makes the XTC too. He has the personality of a child. None of it adds up. What it that we're missing?" Her face turned white. "The narc agent! We have to find him and the others!"

Duncan stopped cold as that little reminder reached his ears. They all looked at one another. It wasn't over yet.

"Agent Scully?" suggested Powys. "I believe now would be the time to call in some genuine FBI agents?"

She nodded, reaching for her cell phone, then remembered that it, along with her gun, had been taken away after they'd been caught at the gates.

Powys shook his head, "Didn't you see the phone over here?" he pointed to the corner of the room, where it was nearly blocked by some instrument panels. "Let's just hope it's an outside phone."

As luck would have it, it was an internal phone, because it didn't have a numberpad or dial on it. It was just a receiver, without any dial tone or sound going through the earpiece.

* * *

Scully had a gut feeling where the double agent was. There weren't many other places he could be, so she was convinced that she knew where to go and was about to call out for everyone to follow her.

<<No you don't!>> barked the now-familiar voice in her head. <<You've got something else to do.>>

//And what would that be?// She wasn't in the mood to talk with faceless voices.

<<That's Silk's and the Doctor's job. Your job is to figure out what the orb is supposed to do.>>

//Which means that I'll have to worm it out of Powys...// She liked that even less then she liked talking to the voice.

<<Not necessarily. Maybe he was being honest with you.>>

//Of course, you could just come out and tell me.//

<<Haven't we gone over this? That would be against the rules, and for you, the job isn't over. Get to work, girl! Your time is running out!>>

//What do you mean?//

The voice didn't answer her. The others looked at her oddly.

"Go on! I have to figure out what this is about, before it's too late!"

"What do you mean?" the Doctor tilted his head.

She didn't answer, waving her hand away in a shooing motion, "Never mind! Just get that narc!"

Scully paced back and forth, wondering why it was that she listened to the voice in her head. The answer that she reached was that maybe the voice might be right. There might be something very crucial about this orb, and she might be the only one close enough who was qualified to prevent whatever disaster this thing was supposed to cause.

Although she was a medical student, she also had significant experience as a physicist. However, saying that one knows physics is about as sweeping as saying that one knows medicine. There are many specialities of physics, most different enough to make the specialists unable to talk to one another.

Scully's specialty had been relativistic physics, and then from the theoretical point of view. It had made her trip through medical school very meaningful because she understood how many of the instruments worked, not just what to do with the numbers that came out.

"So he said that it was a regulator of energy..." What was a regulator other than something that controlled flow? A faucet knob was a regulator. But for something like this, the regulator would have to have something attached to say what it was regulating, and what the flows were.

The instrument panels. She looked them over again, and none of them seemed to make sense. Not a single one of the switches, scales, levers, or readouts were labeled. It figured. This was a private lab, and the gentleman running this knew everything he needed to know -- so why communicate it to others? It made her ask again what it was that he was doing. Nothing that would make him famous in the accepted sense . . .

"What could it be...?" She investigated the chamber housing the orb. Bullet proof, so it had to be strong for a reason. It wasn't radiation, because then they might all be dead by now, or at least sick.

Looking closer, she saw that there were several bolts holding this thing together. "Naaah!" For a moment, she had considered taking the thing apart, but knew it would be stupid.

When she could no longer look to the left and the right, nor ahead, she looked down. There were several wires going from the chamber into the floor, and there was a thin metal cap near the base. It was large enough to crawl into. A few of the wires were obviously coaxial cables -- the type used for cable tv. A few others were thick and well-insulated power cords of some sort. The rest were high-pressure gas lines. They were some kind of metal, and stamped into the side every few inches, it said, "5000 PSI. Do not exceed."

"What the hell..." She lifted the cover, and on seeing that it was totally dark, (and remembering that she didn't have a flashlight with her) climbed down the ladder that was bolted onto the wall.

* * *

The narc was grabbing white bags of powder, frantically looking out for threats, real or imagined.

"Where, if I might ask, would you be going in such a hurry?"

Silk smiled crookedly as Pancho leveled a gun at the narc. There was something in Pancho's face that made the narc flinch and drop the bags.

"Go for it," whispered Pancho.

"It's MINE!" screamed the narc, a touch of insanity in his face. "The Sun King told me the world was mine! He said I would live forever in the land of milk and honey!"

"The sun is a faint, momentary spark of light in the eternal sphere of darkness," said Pancho. "It's darkness that's all encompassing. Face it." He didn't say it in a glib or smart manner, and his face was dead and almost hopeless. It was reluctant, as if he didn't really want to say it, but he knew he had to.

Silk looked worried now. "Whoa there! Ease up on that gun, Pancho!"

Pancho realized that he was ready to kill the narc, whether he was going to do something or not. "You keep an eye on him then. I'm going for a walk."

* * *

The room lit up. A motion sensor had turned on the light. Scully saw that these cords were hooked up to a -- literally -- black box, which was in turn hooked up to a mainframe computer, about the size of a suitcase. A terminal screen and keyboard were attached to the mainframe.

The readout was in a DOS-ish spreadsheet. Apparently there were some macros running things automatically. There were a few columns of data being updated every few moments. Date, time, gas pressure, eV, magnetic field, deuteron count, tritium count, and gamma. All of a sudden, she looked around her in shock. Walking up to a wall, she could see something that looked very familiar.

"Oh my God... this is incredible..."

She couldn't know for sure, but from what she remembered from some photos she'd seen in an issue of Physics Today not too log ago, from her physics classes as an undergraduate, and from what she was seeing now, she was pretty convinced that she was looking at a section of what might be an underground particle accelerator.

This was not an ordinary accelerator. This might be something altogether different.

"Just for the sake of argument... if this is an accelerator... that orb has something to do with it... but what?"

* * *

Jan tried to grab for his cell phone, but remembered yet again that his arm wasn't moving. He fumbled for it with his other hand. "Agent Hendricksen."

"Jan? It's Scully." Her voice sounded faint, as if she was calling long distance on a normal phone.

"Scully? You're faint. What's wrong?"

"Everything is all right for now, but I don't know... I can tell you this much; nothing down here makes sense. When you come on down, can you bring in someone from the physics department at the University?"

That was totally unexpected. "Why?"

"Because I think I've found an underground supercollider, and I need to find out what an opium lord is doing with a supercollider... and something else."

"Sure."

He hung up, and found Zedar's eyes staring into his own. "Remember why you can't move your arm, when you contemplate exacting your revenge."

That made no sense to Jan. "I've had too many years listening to mad prophets. Speak plainly or leave me alone."

He shrugged. "I've spoken plainly."

Chuck walked over. "Maybe he's just trying to say not to lose your head."

Jan smirked, "No pun intended?"

"Yeah. Whatever. Watch yourself, wildman."

* * *

Pancho stood in the branches of a mesquite tree, nearly blending into the tree's boughs. Powys, however, knew that he was there. "You don't want to go back."

"No. Why should I go back? I can stay here, and give 'Clovis' some necessary beatings until he gets things straightened out."

"You seem to have done well yourself."

"Hmmmph." Pancho looked out over the city. "I forgot how dirty Tucson was."

Powys snorted, then laughed, "Dirty? This is _clean_! You ought to go to Mexico City if you want to see dirty!" He grew serious. "You're not the same man as Clovis was. You might think you are, but you're not. You're not a shameless addict, and you can hold your own drink."

"But I'm still the same guy inside. I just know how to behave myself a bit better. They say that time heals all wounds, and that those characters within us die with the passage of the years, but I don't see it. Inside, after all these centuries, it's all I can do to keep away from the XTC. I still remember being on the other side, and loving every minute of it.

"When I was an alcoholic going for a crash-landing, I had some really good times, and when I was on the XTC, I had even better times. Why is it that during all those moments when I was being an upright citizen, I felt like I was fighting myself?" An insight hit him. "I'm happy only when I'm not sober. I don't feel normal unless I'm on something."

Powys laughed, "At last, he figures it out!"

Pancho stared at him, "I don't know what you mean!"

Powys shook his head sadly, "Look. Within us are two forces; enthalpy and entropy, and those aren't the only ones. There's also neatness and sloppiness. Together, they form a cross."

"Okay... I can visualize that. What's your point?"

"That's a continuum, and we all fit somewhere on it. Take any native Netherlander, for instance. There is no Netherlander who _ever_ lived who does not embody enthalpy and neatness. You ever mix a Netherlander with a slob? What do you get?"

"It's like mixing oil and water, they don't mix."

"Worse. It's like matter and antimatter. They don't mix, but they do collide and create a lot of heat, especially when they're both equally as stubborn."

"Where are you going with this?" Pancho was growing tired of this.

"Just that you fit on that continuum as well. You embody entropy and sloppiness. That's who you are, and whenever you try to be somebody you're not, then you fight against your very nature. It's not until you're drunk that you can allow yourself to be who you are. Face it. You're addicted to chaos, not a drug."

* * *


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