All disclaimers in part one.

The N-Files
by Mandi Ohlin

Northridge Hospital Medical
4:30 p.m.

"Oh boy," Rick muttered. "Get a load of the processional there."

Kevin looked up in surprise. His mind had been elsewhere, drifting back to the recording Agent Mulder had made of their session, and trying to put it all together. He could see what Rick meant. His parents, Mike's mom, Rick's dad, Kelly, and those two FBI agents from the previous afternoon were all flooding into the waiting room together. He got a look at the expression on his mother's face and groaned. "This is not gonna be good."

Fortunately, Mrs. Vincent reached them first. "Is Mike all right? What happened? How badly was he hurt? Is anything broken? Did you see who attacked him? How--"

"Mrs. V, Mike's gonna be okay," Rick said quickly, casting a relieved glance at Dr. Richards, who had spotted the crowd and was heading towards them with clipboard in hand. "Uh, Doctor Richards can tell you how he's doing."

He steered Mrs. Vincent over to the doctor, and Cheryl all but pounced on her son. "Kevin--"

Kevin stood up to meet the rush. "Mom, before you say anything, I'm okay, Rick's okay, I didn't wander off, I went where I told you I'd go, and everyone's all right."

Instead of snapping at him as he'd expected, Cheryl hugged him, something that was even more embarrassing. "Kevin, I was so worried!"

"Aw, Mom," Kevin groaned. It was like being in grade school again.

Fortunately, Dr. Richards interrupted. "Actually, Kevin, Mike wanted to see you. Come on."

Confused but relieved to be out of Cheryl's grip, Kevin followed the doctor.

The nondescript man in the police officer's uniform walked up to the counter slowly, almost stiffly, as if he was afraid he was going to break apart at any moment. "Excuse me," he said pleasantly, flashing a badge. "Can you tell me where Mike Vincent's room is?"

"Well, I, ah--" The nurse on duty trailed off. There was something not right about his face; it was almost too nondescript, too plain. She shook it off. "Room 306. The elevators are down the hall and to your right."

"Thank you." He turned and walked away, but the nurse couldn't shake the disturbing feeling. Dismissing it as her imagination, she went back to work.

Mike was staring out the window, his head turned away from the door, as Kevin came in. He tapped on the doorframe, and Mike whirled, relaxing when he saw who it was. "Oh, yeah. Just you. C'mon in."

Kevin grabbed a chair and pulled it up to the bed. "You actually want to see me? Or was Doc Richards just saving me from being choked to death by Mom?"

"Funny." Mike sat up straighter, trying not to use his bandaged hand. "I just wanted to know. Did you see that thing in the alley too? Or was I just going nuts?"

Kevin paused uneasily. "It depends on what kind of thing you're talking about."

"Keene, I'm talkin' about the guy with knife blades instead of hands, like a melting T-1000." He remembered suddenly that Kevin hadn't seen the movie. "Never mind. You know what I'm saying?"

After a moment, Kevin nodded. "Yeah, I saw that too. Half his face was melted. I thought I was losing it."

"Damn. That means it did happen." Mike leaned back and scowled at the ceiling. "I also sort of wanted to say thanks." Surprised, Kevin stared at him, and Mike grinned. "You tell anyone I said that, and I'll kill you."

"No problem."

Mike shook his head. "Okay. We got two FBI agents out there. What're we going to tell them? I'm sure as hell not telling them what I saw or I'd end up in a padded room."

"Yeah, I--What's that?" Kevin broke off at the sound of a commotion down the hall. He got up and moved to the door, and could just make out the shadows of a scuffle around the corner. "Uh-oh. This looks like trouble."

Turning back to Mike, he was surprised to see that his friend was no longer in bed. "Mike, what the hell are you doing?"

Mike limped out of the adjoining bathroom, wearing his jeans and pulling on his jacket. He snatched up what looked like part of an IV bag holder. "If that freak is back, I'm not going to sit around and wait. What's the plan?"

"What was that?" Cheryl exclaimed as shouting and a crash could be heard, followed by a cry of pain. "Oh my God! That sounded like Dr. Richards!"

"Mike! My baby's down there!" Mrs. Vincent cried. Walker caught her arm before she could do anything rash.

Mulder had already withdrawn the gun from his coat, motioning Scully to follow. "We'll check this out," he told Walker. "Call backup, security, whatever!"

He tore down the hallway, Scully following.

Rounding the corner, the scene that he encountered wasn't quite what he'd been expecting. Richards was facing--Richards?

"What the hell?" Scully muttered, hesitating. She wasn't sure who to shoot. But the hesitation was brief as one of the Richards shoved the other into a wall, knocking the other man unconscious As he turned towards them, his face seemed to shift slightly out of focus. "FBI! Freeze!" She trained her gun on the doppleganger, and so did Mulder.

Instead of running, the double lunged towards them. The two FBI agents promptly started firing, the force of the bullets hitting its chest knocking "Richards" back. As it reared back, both Mulder and Scully could see the dents of liquid metal that were already smoothing over in its chest.

"We have a problem," Mulder murmured under his breath.

Before Scully could react, there was a clattering sound, and a cart full of medical supplies came flying down the corridor, slamming into the double and knocking it off balance. "Come on, Keene!" a voice shouted from the direction the cart had come from.

Scully half-expected Richards' attacker to reform and attack them, but it wavered somewhat, as if having trouble reforming. Then the medical cart was launched at them, sending them to the floor as the double regained vaguely human form and headed off in pursuit.

Keene residence

After rolling over the remote several times, having surfed from Nickelodeon to CNN, Duke woke up with a yelp in the darkened house.

The dog sniffed the air, and with a growl, charged out the pet door which Kelly had forgotten to lock. Following the scent of danger, Duke dashed off down the street.

Northridge Hospital Medical
5:00 p.m.

"Do you even know where you're going?" Kevin asked as the two teenagers tore down the corridor blindly.

"Not a clue," Mike muttered. Louder, he shouted at the orderlies and patients in the hallway, "Run!! There's a psycho on the loose!"

Kevin resisted the urge to ask, "Other than you?" as the people in the hallway actually obeyed and dived for cover into rooms, the elevator, adjoining hallways. The killer ignored them, focusing entirely on its two primary targets. Normally, it could have overtaken them in a matter of seconds if not for the malfunctions it was trying to compensate for, so they were at least out of reach. But not for long; the adrenaline was wearing off, and Mike was limping from his injured hip.

Unfortunately, Kevin also suddenly realized where they were heading. Straight for the lobby, and straight for his parents. "Come on! This way!" He turned sharply to the right, dragging Mike with him.

A security guard spotted them, then their pursuer. He went for his holster, but got no time to reach it as the killer passed a heavy stack of equipment, lengthening its arm like a whip and pulling the mass down on the guard as it ran past.

But as it did that, the guard's gun went off, the bullet hitting its head. Naturally, there was no harm done, but its attention was diverted trying to recalibrate the sensor there.

A minute later, it stood up, but there was no sign of Kevin or Mike.

"You think it saw us?" Mike whispered anxiously as they crawled through the vents, trying to be as quiet as possible.

Kevin shook his head. "If it did, we'd be toast now. How's your leg?"

Mike grimaced, but kept on going. "Still here. Man, I can't believe there's a T-1000 chasing us! What did you do, piss off James Cameron?"

"T-1000? Huh?"

"Oh yeah. The bad guy from the Terminator sequel a year ago. Forgot you weren't around to see that." Mike shuddered. "They had Schwarzenegger as the good guy this time, and he almost got ripped apart fighting this liquid-metal thing. It kicked some serious ass."

Kevin stopped in mid-crawl. "A year ago?" A peculiar thought came to him. "Mike, they ever make a Nintendo game out of that?"

"Came out a month ago. Why the hell did you stop?"

For a minute, Kevin was sure he knew why, but it blanked again and he moved on. "How'd Schwarzenegger beat the sucker anyway?"

Mike thought for a second. "Dropped it in this vat of super-hot metal. Not even something like that could stand the heat."

"That's it!" Kevin almost shouted out loud. "I've got an idea. You see what floor Radiology's on?"

"So this rules out the cult theory," Scully muttered as the two agents followed the trail of destruction the killer had left in its wake. "Who's the newest suspect, James Cameron?"

Mulder smirked. "I heard some rumors that some of Cameron's ideas were taken from data files on extraterrestrials."

"Oh, shut up." She glanced around the corner, ensuring that it was safe, when some of the debris moved. "Mulder, look." As one of the overturned piles of equipment shifted again, she snatched out her pistol and trained it on what turned out to be a terrified security guard.

She hastily lowered it as Mulder caught up to her. "Sir? Can you hear me? Are you all right?"

"I don't know..." he gasped after a moment. "Son of a bitch--I shot him, in the head, but it just--it just--"

"We know," Mulder said, glancing down the hall.

"Can you feel your legs?" Scully was again playing the doctor.

He grimaced. "Yeah, a little. It hurts--to talk--"

She looked up at her partner. "We can't leave him here. He needs medical attention."

"They've almost evacuated the whole hospital, Scully."

"I'll stay here, then."

Mulder looked around him, at the mess, and suddenly noticed something he hadn't before. There were puddles and globs of metal hardening on the carpet, as if the Terminator rip-off was leaking. Scully had noticed it too. Somehow he got the feeling that she needed this, an escape from something she really couldn't deal with, that she couldn't rationalize. "I'll be back in twenty minutes."

The parking lot was a mess of people and police cars and general chaos; it was amazing that anything could be heard over the tumult.

"Rick!" At the mention of his name, Rick turned to see Stacey, followed by Romeo, climb under the police tape and jog toward him. "Like, what is going on?"

Rick shook his head. "The psycho showed up," he said bluntly. "And he's after Kevin and Mike. Man, those guys are still in there!"

"We gotta do something," Romeo said. "Where's Kelly?"

"I don't know," Rick said. "They haven't got everyone out yet. But I don't think there's anyone in there to help them, except for those two FBI agents. Something's going on."

"You bet there is." Miles Walker suddenly came up behind them. "And that's why we want everyone out of the line of fire." He glared fiercely at his son and his friends. "You got it? Now stay put!" With that, he was gone.

There was a long, uncertain pause while they all looked at each other. Finally, Rick threw up his hands. "Come on. He's my Dad. He's supposed to say that."

The three friends disappeared into the crowd.

As he rounded the corner, Mulder was surprised to come face to face with the killer. Sure enough, it was right out of that movie. But unlike the robot in the movie, the T-1000 looked as if it was melting in some places; he could see the visible patches of metal on its "skin" and clothes. Obviously it wasn't functioning perfectly.

But it still didn't look friendly. And the two three-foot-long razor-sharp blades it was sporting instead of hands were likely to be a problem.

"Freeze! FBI!" He felt like an idiot, but an idiot with a firearm. And how many shots is this going to take? his common sense added. How much do you have left?

Not enough. The T-1000 advanced, and Mulder let off a round, right into the robot's head. As he'd expected, that slowed it down, but the metal was still reforming rapidly.

"Hey! Asshole!"

It was the shout that stopped the T-1000 in its tracks. As it turned, Mulder followed its gaze to the figure standing at the other end of the hallway. Kevin Keene was literally staring down the robot, prepared to run at any moment. And it seemed that the killer recognized him. "It's me you want, isn't it? Come and get me!"

With that parting shot, the teen broke into a run, and the T-1000, forgetting Mulder, followed in hot pursuit. Mulder, seeing no better option, ran after them.

He could tell it was malfunctioning. Although it was running at top speed for a human, the robot in the movie could tail a car. Mulder had the feeling that whoever made it was definitely copying off the movie, unless it was the other way around.

Kevin led them up a flight of stairs, down a hallway, and through several twists and turns that made Mulder wonder if they were being led in circles. It was as if he was stalling for time. Finally, he spotted Kevin dash into Radiology, with the T-1000 right behind him. Shoving the doors open, he saw the killer at the end of the hall, at the threshold of an open office. There was no sign of Kevin, and Mulder had the feeling that the kid had gotten himself trapped.

Without thinking, he started firing again, emptying the entire cartridge into the killer's torso, knocking it back into the office. Just as he ran out of bullets, the T-1000 stumbled backwards, and the door slammed shut, locking it inside. Kevin was pressing his shoulder against the door, and shouted, "Now, Mike!"

Suddenly, there was a humming noise from inside the room; someone had activated the x-ray machines and whatever equipment was in there as well.

But the T-1000 wasn't about to give up so easily, slamming against the door heavily. "Hey!" Kevin yelled. "Agent Mulder, you going to help or what?"

Mulder snapped back to reality and ran over to the door, adding his weight to Kevin's as they tried to hold back the killer. But even their combined weight wasn't quite enough. There was a crunching noise, and a metal spike burst through the reinforced glass window a foot above Kevin's head, the accompanying shove against the door knocking the teen back and causing him to hit his head on the wall.

"What the hell?" a voice shouted. Mulder turned to see three teenagers, two boys and a girl, at the end of the hall, staring at the scene before them. "Keene? You down there?"

"Hey, it's us!" the tall blond kid added.

Mike Vincent poked his head around the corner. "Rick? Romeo? Get your asses down here and keep that door shut!"

The three teens exchanged glances, shrugged, and the next thing Mulder knew, there were two football players helping him, while the blonde girl was trying to rouse Kevin. Again the T-1000 shoved, but it was weaker, and they managed to keep the door closed.

Before another one could follow, there came a strangled sound, a wail, and the spike simply melted completely. Kevin sat up, dazed but none the worse for wear. "Shut it off, Mike!" he yelled, and the power stopped abruptly.

There was a long silence as Mulder and the four teenagers struggled to their feet, and Mike limped down the hallway with an assortment of switches and junk. "See, Kev, I told you it wasn't any different than auto shop!"

"Is it dead?" Kevin muttered. As he spoke, a silver puddle streamed out from under the door. Mulder, Rick, and Romeo jumped back, Mulder instinctively grabbing his pistol before he realized it wasn't loaded anymore. The blonde let out a shriek of surprise. But instead of forming into something solid, the liquid metal just trickled out, hardening on the carpeting.

Mulder let out a sigh of relief, but Kevin looked uneasy. Rubbing the back of his head, he was eyeing the mess as though he was trying to figure it out, as if he had a new insight into what was going on.

As if he remembered.

"Man, I'm glad that's over," Mike muttered, and the others nodded agreement.

"Sorry to spoil your fun," a voice interrupted, "but you're very, very wrong."

When he saw who was standing there, Kevin's spirits dropped six feet under. In real life he looked much different--for some reason, instead of a midget he'd become tall and skinny--but it was definitely Dr. Wily. The wheeze was unmistakable. To make matters worse, the laser pistol in his hand was placed on Agent Scully's temple. The red-haired agent actually looked more irritated than afraid, but just too smart to start thrashing with a gun to her head.

Wily turned to Agent Mulder. "Drop your weapon if you want your partner's brains intact."

Mulder did as he was asked, and Scully looked absolutely furious with both of them. "Who are you? What do you want?"

"It doesn't concern you," Wily began.

"Uh, yeah it does," Romeo put in. "You're sort of pointing a gun at his partner's head, I'd say it's his--ow!" Since Kelly wasn't around to do it, Stacey kicked him before he could continue.

Wily cleared his throat, his gaze landing on Kevin. "You know exactly what I want, Captain N. You're coming with me."

Rick, Mike, Romeo, Stacey, and Mulder exchanged confused glances, but Kevin sighed. "All right, all right. Let her go and I'll come with you."

"Come with me and I won't kill her," Wily countered.

Kevin looked around him; there were no options. "Okay. I'm coming."

5:15 p.m.

"You didn't have to lock them in a supply closet," Kevin said after a long silence.

In response, Wily jabbed him in the back with the laser pistol, hastily returning it to Scully's temple. "Considering I'm the one with the weapon, you're in no position to criticize, Captain N! Keep walking!"

"Bite me, Wily," Kevin muttered under his breath, trying to figure out a way out of his situation.

"So you do remember," Wily chuckled. "I'd been informed it would be otherwise."

"I hit my head at the right time. Look, why don't you just kill me right now?" Bluffing was the only solution he could come up with. "Save my Mom and Dad the trouble."

Scully spoke up for the first time in minutes. "Kevin, what are you--"

"You would say that!" Wily interrupted. "But, no, you are my ticket out of here. Mother Brain wants you alive, and I can't use this in here." He briefly brandished a small remote before dropping it back into his pocket. "There's far too much electronic interference here to open a warp without serious side effects. I need to get clear."

"Warp? Mother Brain? What is he talking about, Kevin?" Scully blurted out.

"You wouldn't believe me," Kevin muttered. Even if he had his Zapper, there wasn't much he could do with an FBI agent around, of all people. A thought occurred to him. "Wily, one hostage is gonna be enough to get you out of here. Just let Agent Scully go; it's me you really want."

Wily paused, thinking. "I was going to do that anyway." He took the gun off Scully's temple and let loose his grip. Before either Kevin or Scully could react, however, he pulled another device from a pocket and aimed it at her. A blue light shot out of it and enveloped the agent, who collapsed unconscious to the floor.

Kevin gaped as Wily stuffed it back in his coat and pointed the gun at the teen. "What did you do?"

"Just gave her a chance to sleep. Now keep moving, Captain N!"

"This isn't exactly the Hilton," Mulder cracked as the five people tried to move around in the supply closet. As Romeo slammed his weight into the door for the seventh time, he cringed. "It's welded shut. That's not going to work."

Stacey was climbing up on shelves, inspecting the ceiling. "What are you doing?" Mike asked after watching for a few minutes.

"Like, you said you guys went through a vent. There should be a grate or something here."

Rick and Mulder exchanged glances. Mulder was starting to like the kid; he seemed to be the only one in the group with any common sense. "How would you know that?" Mulder asked.

She shrugged. "It always works in the movies."

Mike laughed, and stopped when Romeo slammed into the door again. "Romeo, will you knock it off? You heard the man with the badge."

"What else am I supposed to do?" Romeo grumbled. "I hate closets. The walls are closing in on me! Dude, I almost wish Kelly was here. Then I could yell at someone and not get killed."

Rick snorted. "Do you two ever do anything but fight? It's like you're her brother, not Kevin."

Romeo shuddered. "Please. God forbid."

"Like, where is Kelly anyway?" Stacey muttered.

"Either I just found someone I know," a voice said from behind a stack of towels, "or the cleaning supplies are so old they've developed speech."

"They don't believe in cleaning here," Mike said as Stacey pushed the towels away to reveal a grate with a familiar face poking through. "Hey, Kelly, how you doing?"

She snorted. "Just lovely. It's so much fun hanging upside down. Are you guys okay?"

"We're fine, although Romeo's starting to worry me," Rick said as they moved to stand beneath the grate. "Can you open that thing?"

Kelly shook her head as Stacey climbed up and yanked. "No way," the blonde said, shaking her head. "It's bolted tight, and I don't have a screwdriver." At that, the three guys immediately set to the task of tearing through the shelves.

"You might in a minute," Kelly said with a grin. "Agent Mulder, where's my brother?" He paused, and she glared at him. "Where's Kevin????"

Mulder frowned. "Someone claiming to be responsible for the killer took your brother and Agent Scully hostage. I--"

"What? Which way did they go?"

"I think they were headed for the east wing," Stacey said. "Why?"

"Thanks!" With that, Kelly was gone.

"Hey, thanks for staying and helping!" Romeo shouted sarcastically.

Northridge Hospital Medical
5:30 p.m.

Kevin was still trying to figure out what to do. The minutes were dragging by like hours, as Wily prodded him in circles, trying to avoid the police left in the building. Obviously, Rick's father had figured out that moving in was a good idea. Wily was expecting to see a cop at every turn.

What neither of them expected, though, was to turn and come face to face with Kelly at the end of the hall. "Kevin!" she shouted, not seeing who was behind him.

"No!" Kevin yelled as she started forward, and Wily removed the pistol from his back, aiming it at Kelly. "He's got a--"

Suddenly, the laser gun went off, the beam shooting through the light fixture instead of through Kelly's midsection. Wily let out a cry of pain, and Kevin whirled to see that Duke has appeared and had latched his teeth into Wily's left leg. And the dog was not about to let go anytime soon.

Forgetting completely about the two teenagers, Wily hopped about in circles, trying vainly to dislodge the canine. "Yeeow! Get off me, you mangy mutt!" As Duke stubbornly refused to let go, the scientist became more agitated, flailing his arms in the air as well.

Without thinking, Kevin spun on his heel and kicked the hand that held the laser gun. As his foot actually made contact, Wily let go in surprise. The gun sailed into the air. "No!" Wily cried. "The safety's off!"

Kevin realized what that meant. The safety on a regular gun kept it from going off when the trigger was pulled. But the safety on a laser gun, according to Dr. Right, was what kept it from going off when it struck something hard.

Everything suddenly seemed to switch to slow motion as the gun sailed into the air. Kevin and Wily, heedless of the angry canine attached to his leg, lunged forward, but both missed. As the weapon fell towards the floor, Kevin shut his eyes for the blast that both he and Wily were expecting.

But it never came.

After a moment, Kevin opened his eyes and stumbled to his feet to see his sister standing there, the gun in her hand. "I should have stuck with softball, huh?"

Before she could point it at him, Wily finally managed to detach Duke from his leg. Grabbing the dog by the scruff of the collar, he all but tossed Duke onto Kevin, who stumbled forward and knocked Kelly off-balance. "You're too late, Captain N!" the scientist shouted as he shoved open a nearby door and charged down the stairwell.

"Why does he always find an escape route?" Kevin muttered, regaining his balance. Kelly wasn't so lucky; she fell backwards, landing on her behind and dropping the gun. It hit the floor with a dull thud. Nothing else happened. "What? Why didn't it go off?"

Kelly picked it up, examining it. "Maybe because there's no juice." She showed him the power meter on its side, which was dark. "I'm guessing."

"Wily must have used all the power welding that closet. I've got to stop him!" He charged out the door down the stairs after the scientist.

Kelly was right behind him. "You're not going without me!"

5:45 p.m.

"Miss? Miss, are you all right?"

Scully's vision swam, and after a moment the colors solidified into the face of a concerned police officer. "Wha--Yes, yes, I'm fine. What time is it? How long have I been out?"

"It's 5:45. Listen, I'll get a doctor--"

"No. No! I'm fine." She batted him away irritably, fishing out her badge. "FBI. Just let me up."

Bemused, he helped her to her feet, and she spotted a familiar figure at the other end of the hall. "Detective Walker!" At the mention of his name, the detective hurried over, and the officer got out of the way. "Have you found my partner yet? Or those kids that were running around?"

"What? No, I have no idea what you're talking about."

She sighed. "Last I checked, they were all right. But you're going to need some help to break them out."

5:55 p.m.

With all the chaos and crowding outside the building, no one really noticed the man in the white coat slip out a side door, or the two teenagers that followed in hot pursuit.

"Where is he?" Kevin scanned the crowds. "I don't see him anywhere!"

Kelly squinted, catching a flash of white coat. "There! Behind that red Jeep!"

"He's going to hotwire it!" Breaking into a run, Kevin dashed into the thick of the crowd, trying to reach the scientist. "We won't be able to catch him if he does!"

Catching up to him, Kelly grabbed his arm and dragged him in a different direction. "Yeah we will." She pointed to the clearly obvious lime green Del Sol parked a few rows away. "It may be a weird color, but you can find it anywhere. Come on!" They bolted for the car, and Kelly immediately claimed the driver's seat.

She had just gotten the engine started when Wily violently pulled the Jeep out of its space and sped towards the nearest exit with a squeal of tires. "Come on, Duke!" Kevin yelled, and the dog jumped through the window into his lap as Kelly pulled out of the space and followed the Jeep, but without the tires squealing; in Wily's wake, they were relatively unnoticed. There was a barricade of yellow tape in his way, but Wily drove straight through, ignoring the police officers that dived out of the vehicle's path.

The green Del Sol was right behind him, making a hard left as it did so. "Kevin! Seatbelt!" Kelly cried as she turned into the main road. "This isn't much of a stunt vehicle!"

"Yeah, well, the driver needs a lot of work too!" Kevin said, but obeyed, nudging Duke into the back seat. The chase had thinned out; Wily was cruising down the road, since he wasn't going anywhere in particular. "Does he know he's being followed?"

Kelly peered at the Jeep ahead of her. "If he does, he must be low on gas. We're only going the speed limit."

"I think he just doesn't want to get picked up." Kevin bit his lip, remembering what Wily had said. "I don't think he even knows where he's going."

"Oh. That helps."

6:00 p.m.

"That's got to be a record," Mulder gasped as he stumbled into the hall, wiping his brow. "You wouldn't believe how hot it was in there."

"Well, it just got hotter," Walker said, coming up to them. "Some nutcase in a white lab coat just hotwired a Jeep and made a break for it outside."

"Sound familiar?" Scully commented.

Walker snorted. Behind him, the other four teenagers were stumbling into the hall, tired and relieved. It had been a close call; another minute and Stacey would have strangled Mike and Romeo. "Oh, it gets better. Right on its tail was a lime-green Del Sol, and they got the plate. Registered to Kelly Keene."

At that point, Stacey and Mike chose that moment to start yelling at each other. Romeo tried to break them up, but only succeeded in getting yelled at himself. Rick tried to quiet them down, but in a moment all four were shouting randomly. Valley kids, Mulder observed, didn't cope well with closed spaces.

He turned to Walker and Scully. "Don't even say it. I'm driving."

Reseda Boulevard

There was silence in the small car as Kelly focused on keeping up with Wily. Not even Duke was making a sound, and Kevin decided to end it. "Okay, Squirrel, out with it. Who are you, and what did you do with my sister?"

"Say what?"

"Kel, why are you helping me? The kid I know would have already gotten Mom and Dad before I could even get down the stairs. The kid I know would have sided with Mom on the memory thing. The kid I know wouldn't be chasing a stolen car with a guy that tried to fry me with a laser gun."

Kelly sighed and brushed her hair out of her face. "Because I want to know what happened, Kev. Ever since the gym disappeared last year, I've been going nuts."

He sat up straighter, and Duke's ears perked up. "What? You saw that?"

She nodded, remembering. "I stayed late after soccer practice. It was just me, Stacey, Romeo, Rick, and Julius. Anyway, it was after 4:30, and I had to get home. I only got halfway across the parking lot when the entire gym disappeared!" She scowled at the memory. "It reappeared an hour later, and Stace, Rick, Romeo, and Julius didn't remember a thing. Nobody else reported it! I was the only one to see it; they thought I made it up."

She lapsed into silence. Kevin paused. "And?"

"Okay, okay. I got so frustrated I started crying. I was so mad. I think they felt sorry for me. Anyway, one thing led to another, and we started hanging out: me, Romeo, Rick, Stace, and Julius. I didn't know any of them then, but it didn't matter." Kelly sighed. "It took Romeo a week to figure out my name wasn't Karen."

"I never heard about this. How come the cops didn't investigate?"

She shrugged. "I was the only witness who was paying enough attention, if you can believe that. And I really didn't want to go blabbing it around and get a free straitjacket and complimentary padded room, thank you very much."

Wily sped up, probably detecting an interference-free zone. "Uh-oh," Kevin said, and Kelly began to match Wily's speed. "What happened to Julius, anyway?"

"Moved to L.A. a few months ago." She switched gears again, not overly concerned with the slow-witted football player. "So then you show up again. Right outside the gym, with no memory. Then the killer strikes in the same place. Now I've seen the killer. I've seen the guy who sent the killer. But you know what's wrong with this picture, Kev? I still have no idea what the hell is going on!"

Kevin was silent for a moment. "I do." As he spoke, Wily suddenly slammed down on the accelerator and veered to the left, zipping into a side street before Kelly could react. "Watch out!"

"Oh no you don't!" Kelly yanked the wheel roughly, sending the Del Sol into an almost complete 180-degree turn, tires squealing, and swerved to avoid an oncoming truck. The truck swerved as well and crashed into a pile of trash cans on the sidewalk as Kelly made it into the side street. "Sorry!" she yelled out the window. "Great. Where'd he go? We lost him!"

A thought suddenly struck Kevin. "Wait a minute. The gym! Of course! I think I know where he's headed!" He turned and actually looked at her. "I'll make you a deal. You help me catch Wily, and I'll tell you everything on the way."

Kelly grinned and hit the accelerator.

Northridge Hospital Medical

The black car sat in the shadows, its occupants quietly surveying the parking lot. Through the binoculars, Agents Scully and Mulder could be seen scrambling into the car they'd rented, after squabbling briefly about who was driving, and pull out of the lot and past the police at the exit, who let them through with a nod.

Putting the binoculars down, the driver glanced into the rearview. "They're moving out, sir."

"Well, you know the drill. Walker's been ordered to stay with the strike teams. Let's go."

Silently, the sedan headed the way the FBI agents had gone.

Nordhoff Street
6:15 p.m.

"Shit!" Kelly slammed on the brakes as the light turned red, just in time to avoid being hit by the stream of cars that just got a green light. Wily, on the other side of the intersection, was speeding away. "Just when we spotted him, too!"

Duke growled, and Kevin groaned. "Man, I wish I had my Power Pad."

Kelly glanced behind her; there were no cars stopped directly. She shifted into reverse, backing the car up a length. Kevin, sensing what she was going to do, reached back and grabbed Duke's collar. "Hang on, Captain N, I'm taking a shortcut!"

With that, she pulled a hard left. The small car jumped over the divider and swerved, tires screeching as Kelly barely managed to pull a U-turn. "Right! Turn right!" Kevin yelled. "Through the alley!"

"I know where I'm going!" Again the Del Sol swerved as she turned sharply down an alleyway. "I just hope no one comes in the other way!" As they reached the other end, she swerved to avoid a car that was about to turn into the alley.

The Del Sol sped through the intersection, bouncing as it crossed through. "Are you sure this car can take this?" Kevin yelled.

"Probably not, but do you have a better idea?"

Something red caught his eye. "Kel! There he is! Heading past the park!" Kevin suddenly realized where they were. "Through the park! We can cut him off on Tampa!"

She stared at him. "Are you kidding?"

"Do you want to see it for yourself or what?"

The Del Sol jumped the curb, speeding across the grass.

Northridge High School

"See anything yet?" Mulder asked.

Scully refocused the binoculars, scanning the field and street. "No. It's only been ten minutes, though. Are you positive they'll come here?"

"Everything else has happened here. Trust me, Scully."

She sighed and lifted the binoculars again. "I'll tell you if anything happens."

He shrugged and leaned back, peering at the road map he'd taken from the glove compartment. Suddenly, something did happen farther up the road, at the other end of the field. A lime green car crashed through the bushes on the far side of the road just as the stolen Jeep came around the corner. Swerving to avoid hitting the green car, the Jeep instead drove off the road, coming to an abrupt stop as it ran into a tree. The other driver was somewhat luckier, managing to stop at the curb without a collision.

Scully unbuckled her seatbelt. Her partner was looking at the road map in his lap and hadn't seen the crash yet. "Mulder?"

"What?" He looked up, and saw the activity up ahead.

He was out of the car in moments, and Scully couldn't resist a smirk. "I think that qualifies as 'something.'"

Duke leapt out the window, charging towards the wreckage of the Jeep. Kevin and Kelly followed. As she reached the driver's side door, Kelly stopped. "Wait a minute--where did he go?"

Kevin came up beside her and saw the empty Jeep. He cast around, wondering where the scientist could have gone.

"Looking for me, Captain Nitwit?" a voice called from behind them. Before either could turn, Kevin suddenly found himself lifted into the air as a metal coil snaked out of nowhere, wrapping itself around his neck and lifting him into the air. As it constricted, Kevin grabbed at the mechanical noose, trying in vain to loosen its grip.

Wily was standing a few paces behind them, holding a black metal box from which the snakelike coil protruded. "Leave him alone, you son of a--" Kelly cried as she started towards him. But she didn't even get a chance to finish the sentence as another coil shot out of the box, wrapped around her ankle and lifted her in the air, hanging upside down and spewing profanities left and right.

A third coil wrapped around Duke's midsection, and soon all three of them were in Wily's grasp. As the coil that held Kevin came near, Kelly snatched at it, managing to grab on for a second. "I don't think so!" Wily shouted, and the coil that held her jerked back, whipping her back violently with it. "Ever hear of death by whiplash?"

" won't...get away..." Kevin choked, but he was barely able to breathe as the coil tightened. His vision swam, and the long shadows of the evening were growing darker. Lana, he thought, I'm sorry..

Suddenly, the sharp sound of gunfire split the air, ceasing Kelly's stream of panicked profanity and causing the coil to loosen just enough for him to breathe again. "Freeze!" a man's voice shouted. "FBI!"

Wily snickered. "Oh, please."

"It took you long enough!" Kelly shouted as Mulder and Scully started firing at the scientist.

But Wily had thought to bring some sort of portable forcefield; the shots bounced off harmlessly. The coil began tightening again, but suddenly Mulder wised up and started firing at the coil that had Kevin in its grip. The forcefield didn't extend that far, and after the fourth shot, the metal tube sparked and sizzled, the wiring severed, and Kevin was dropped unceremoniously to the ground, almost landing on a hubcap that had come loose from the wrecked Jeep.

Before Wily could act, Kevin grabbed the hubcap and jumped to his feet, bringing the sharp metal edge down on the coil that held Kelly, chopping repeatedly at the metal. In a moment, there was a shower of sparks as the hubcap severed a wire. The coil slackened and Kelly was dropped to the ground, landing less comfortably than her brother.

Mulder and Scully turned towards Wily, but the scientist dropped the box and charged off towards the trees. As the coil holding Duke went limp, the two agents dashed off in pursuit.

But they were too late. As he reached the trees, Wily pulled out the warp zone opener in his pocket, pushed a button, and dived through the warp, which closed a second later.

"No!" Kevin yelled. "Damn you!"

"Will you shut up?" Kelly mumbled, sitting up. "Oh. Sorry. Why the hell did I have to land on my head?" Kevin sighed and helped her to her feet. Mulder and Scully were still at the edge of the trees, trying to figure out what, exactly, had happened. "He got away, didn't he?"

"Yeah. And I don't know how to stop him." Kevin sighed. Duke came trotting up, looking up at Kevin with a worried whimper. "Yeah, boy, I'm worried too."

Kelly was silent, thinking, still rubbing the bump that was forming on the back of her head. "Why can't you go back the way you came the first time? Dig up Punch-Out again or something." She sighed. "Never mind. Dumb idea."

"Punch-Out?" Kevin was thinking. "No, wait! Squirrel, you're a genius!" He snatched the keys from her hands and dashed towards the car. "I know where to go! Come on, Duke!"

"Hey, you don't have a license!" Kelly retorted, but she climbed in to the passenger side anyway. "And don't call me Squirrel!"

Surfside Mall
7:00 p.m.

"Did you have to leash him?" Kevin muttered.

"I didn't want to deal with the rent-a-cops here, all right? Now will you tell me--" Kelly broke off, glancing behind her. "Uh-oh. We have FBI on radar."

Kevin groaned. This was the last thing they needed. Agent Mulder seemed okay, but Videoland probably wouldn't benefit from the FBI knowing about it. "Come on!" He grabbed Kelly's hand and broke into a run, dragging his sister with him. Kelly dropped the leash, and Duke followed, hot on their heels as they shoved, dodged, and looped their way through the masses of people.

He turned left, dragging her behind a vendor stall, as Mulder and Scully passed them by. The two agents stopped, casting around for them, and Kevin turned and headed towards the arcade, stooping over to hide in the crowd. Kelly did the same, and Duke led the way for once, having a clue where his master was headed. If he couldn't play video games at home, Kevin usually headed to the arcade.

It hadn't changed much. Kevin glanced around, and grinned as he spotted the machine he was looking for sitting in the far corner of the arcade. He turned to Kelly. "I need ten minutes. If they figure out where we are, distract them."

"Distract them? How am I supposed to do that?"

"Be yourself, Squirrel."

"Any sign of them?" Mulder asked as he came up alongside his partner, who was looking left and right in vain.

She shook her head. "No. They must have doubled back somehow. I can't believe there are so many people here on a Tuesday night." Turning, she scanned the crowd. "Mulder, we have to find them. I don't care what your theory is, but Kevin Keene knows what's going on."

"You're positive?"

"I caught some of the conversation before that Wily character knocked me out, and it made no sense to me. But it made perfect sense to Kevin." Briefly, she related the details of what had happened. "Mulder, you at least spent some time with their friends. Where would either of them have gone?"

Mulder was shaking his head. "Wily? Why does that sound familiar?" His eye suddenly fell on the neon arcade sign. "I think I have an idea where."

7:05 p.m.

Kevin was surprised that there was still a machine with Punch-Out on it, but didn't stop to question when he found it. Within a few minutes, he had beaten Glass Joe and was on to the next match.

Glancing over her shoulder, Kelly checked the crowd nervously. She was supposed to be the lookout, but she also didn't want to miss her shot at finding out if Kevin wasn't just suffering from a bump on the head. As she glanced back and forth, she became so nervous that the touch of a hand on her shoulder almost caused her to jump a foot in the air. "Kelly? Whoa, sorry, it's just me!"

She turned, surprised. "Rick? What are you doing here? How did you get here? Why hasn't your dad locked you in the basement yet?"

"Um, I'm here to get Stace and Romeo to calm down, I drove, and Dad got so fed up at us yelling at each other that he ordered us to go get something to eat." He looked around. "You okay? Does that guy still have Kevin?"

Von Kaiser was down for the count. She'd never seen anyone play so fast. "Yeah. Kevin's around, and that freak just took off. We're okay."

"I'll call my dad and--"

This time she did jump. "No!! Uh, no, look, we're all right. I don't think your dad really wants to come down here and pick us up. I've got my car."

Rick stopped and looked at her for a moment. "Kelly, what's going on?"

"Nothing!" He folded his arms and continued to stare at her. "All right, something. But it's so totally bizarre you wouldn't believe it. Like the gymnasium last spring." She bit her lip. "Rick, we can't let your dad, the cops, or the Feds know about it. If they don't believe it, they'll lock Kevin and me in the nuthouse. If they do believe it, we're in even more trouble."

"I can't help unless you tell me." Kevin had gotten past Piston Honda and was beating the daylights out of Don Flamenco.

"There isn't time!" Over his shoulder, she could see two familiar FBI agents moving towards them. "Oh, shit!"

Rick followed her gaze. "Uh-oh."

"You want to help? Distract them! Please!" She turned and began pushing her way towards the machine in the corner.

As she did so, Rick turned to face Agent Scully. "Hey! Agent Scully! You're okay!"

"I'm fine, Rick," she said, trying to pass him as Mulder came up as well.

But Rick wasn't captain of the football team for nothing. Still playing innocent, he moved to block her path. "What are you guys doing here? Did you catch the guy who grabbed Kevin?"

"Not exactly," Scully said. "Rick, what did Kelly tell you?"

"Kelly? She's here?" Don Flamenco went down.

Mulder groaned and managed to elbow his way through. At the far corner of the arcade, Kevin was plugging away frantically at an old Punch-Out machine, with Duke at his side, and Kelly was shoving her way towards them in a frenzy. After a few moments of dodging, Scully glared at Rick. "Mr. Walker, I'm currently packing a firearm. Are you sure you want to get in my way?"

He let her through. "Kevin!" Mulder shouted over the din of people and machines. "We need to talk to you!"

At that moment, the game Kevin was playing dissolved into static, and the screen went black. "Yes!" Kevin yelled, and then the screen exploded into tendrils of bright energy, which shot out to grab him. Kevin didn't resist, and Kelly grabbed onto his arm as the two teens were pulled forward.

"No!" Mulder leapt forward, grabbing Kevin's ankle. "Scully!" he shouted as he was dragged towards the screen. She dashed forward, grabbing his arm with one hand and a pole with another. The tendrils stretched to include all five of them, and the pull was so strong that Scully felt her grip weaken. Her fingers slipped from the pole, and the agents, teenagers, and dog were falling into the screen.

She could have sworn everything looked animated before she blacked out.

Unidentified Place
7:15 p.m.

"Your Highness, are you sure you have to do this?" Simon Belmont whined as the Princess of Videoland followed Dr. Right and Mega Man around the chamber, checking wires and lights. An array of equipment was scattered around the room, most of it hooked up to a small pedestal in the center. Seated on the pedestal was a metal glove that glowed with an eerie blue light. "Besides, I really didn't like him that much anyway."

Lana turned and glared at him, frustrated and angry. "You should talk! It's your fault he was warped back home in the first place. And if it wasn't for Link and Zelda backing us up," here she gestured at the two Hylians standing over by the security monitors, "Mother Brain would have captured us all."

"Yeah, and weren't you also the one who tripped all the alarms?" Link piped up. Zelda kicked him. "Ow! Watch it, Princess!"

Simon stood up, whip at the ready. "Are you blaming me for what happened?" Link drew his short sword.

Quickly, Zelda grabbed his wrist. "Calm down, both of you. We really don't need to be doing Mother Brain's work for her. This lull won't last forever, and we need to get Captain N back before Mother Brain regains full power."

"You may not like him, Simon-icus, but we do need Kevin," Kid Icarus added.

Simon scowled. "So why is he taking so long to get back? First we barely get out of Metroid alive, only because of my heroics, then you spend days mucking with the Ultimate Warp Zone, then Wily goes after Captain Numbskull, then you waste more time actually trying to stop him! And my hair is a mess!"

Lana sighed. "Just when something halfway intelligent started to come out of his mouth--"

She didn't manage to finish, for at that point the Power Glove suddenly flared brightly, almost blinding everyone in the room. Then a blue-white beam of light shot out from it and into the wall, spreading into a swirling blue warp.

Out fell a dark-haired girl Lana didn't recognize, followed by Kevin and two other strange adults, a man and a woman. The last one through was Duke, the only one to land on his feet. Then, as abruptly as it had flared into existence, the warp zone faded out, leaving an excited dog and a pile of people.

"Transmission completed," Gameboy bleeped, as if they couldn't tell.

For about a second, no one moved or spoke. Suddenly, the silence was broken with a shout from the bottom of the pile. "I hate to break this magical moment, but GET OFF ME!"

Shaking themselves back to reality, Kevin and the other man hastily scrambled to their feet, Kevin helping the dark-haired girl stand. "You okay, Kel?"

"Just fine, considering your knee was jammed into my spine." She blinked and looked around. "Oh my God. I'm a cartoon." Looking at her hands, then back at Kevin, she grinned, nearly bouncing up and down. "This is awesome!"

Duke barked happily and started running around in circles. Unfortunately, the leash snagged Simon's leg, wrapping around his ankles and sending the vampire hunter to the floor with a crash. "Dumb mutt," Simon muttered as Duke trotted up and started licking his face. "Aagh! Get him off me!" Kid Icarus sighed and reluctantly flew over to help.

Kevin turned to see Lana, and his eyes lit up. "Lana! You're all right!"

Before she could say anything, he rushed over and hugged her, lifting her into the air. She couldn't help but laugh. "Kevin!"

The other man had abandoned his shock momentarily to check on the woman, who had hit her head and was out cold. "Scully? Scully, can you hear me?"

Kevin was completely tuning out everything except Lana. "I thought they'd captured you by now."

"We just made it out, barely." Lana forced herself to return to reality. "Kevin, who are all these people?"

Kevin looked around. "Oh, um--" He reached over and grabbed the girl's wrist, dragging her over. "Kelly, this is Princess Lana. Lana, this is my obnoxious kid sister, Kelly."

"Obnoxious? Who saved your ass two hours ago? Who helped you figure out how to get back here?" Kelly reached over and shook Lana's hand. "I'm sorry, your Highness, but he is my brother."

Lana smiled. "Just Lana." Looking at the two of them, she could see the resemblance; the same dark brown hair and wide blue eyes. "Kevin, I--" She trailed off, looking past him. "But who are they?"

Kelly glanced over Kevin's shoulder at the other two arrivals. Dr. Right was kneeling beside the man to look at the woman's head. "Uh-oh. We have a problem."

As they headed over, the man stood up and turned to face them and whipped a badge out. "Agent Fox Mulder, FBI." He stopped and took stock of his surroundings again, realizing how ludicrous he sounded. "All right, look. Forget the badge. Would someone mind telling me where we are, how we fell through a wall, and why everything is animated?"

Several pairs of eyes turned to stare at Kevin, who groaned. "This has got to be a Tuesday. I never could get the hang of Tuesdays."

Surfside Mall
Northridge, California

For a few moments, Rick Walker simply stood there, gaping at the old machine that had just sucked two of his best friends into his depths. "No one," he muttered, "is going to believe this."

"Like, duh! I saw it, and I still totally think I'm dreaming!"

He whirled to see Romeo and Stacey standing almost directly behind him, staring at the Punch-Out machine. "What are you guys doing here?"

Romeo shrugged. "We got bored and went looking for you. Then Stace saw those FBI agents running over here, so, you know, we wanted to see what was going on."

"Well," Rick said, "you saw it. I just wish I knew what 'it' was."

"So do I," a voice said, and the three friends turned to face five middle-aged men in dark suits. The one in the center flashed a badge so quickly that Rick couldn't tell if it was real. "Agent Johnson. I'm with the FBI."

Stacey looked suspicious, which wasn't easy to do while loudly chewing gum. "Um, excuse me, but didn't the FBI people, like, zap into Oz five minutes ago? Where were you guys?"

Johnson smiled thinly. "Miss Anderson, you're not in the best position to be asking questions. I suggest you three come with me."

Rick looked around at the group of men with guns. It didn't look like they really had a choice.

Palace Infirmary
7:30 p.m.

"Let me get this straight," Scully said. "We're in a parallel universe--a parallel multiverse, actually--where there are hundreds of linked video worlds based on video games, there's an alliance of bad guys trying to take over, and Kevin is some prophecied hero that can save you all?"

Kelly winced. "It sounded better when Lana told it." Kevin wasn't paying much attention; he and Link were going through the arsenal inventory, and he was recharging his Power Pad.

Mulder snorted. After her initial panic attack in the infirmary of waking up to a cartoon world, Scully had reverted back to her skeptical, clinical self. "Oh, come on, Scully. Got a better explanation? I don't think that a mass hallucination covers this one."

"I don't know." She pressed the ice pack to her sore bump. "Mass insanity, perhaps?" She sighed. "But--and if anyone asks, you never heard me say this--it makes a whole lot more sense than the other theories."

Kevin looked up. "What other theories?"

Scully smirked at her partner. "They don't call him 'Spooky' Mulder for nothing."

"Knock it off. At least I had a theory."

Ignoring them, Kelly leaned back thoughtfully. "So what's the deal here? There isn't an impending mass attack or anything, is there?"

Gameboy's screen flashed briefly. "Probability of attack is 14.652 percent."

Everyone stared at Dr. Right. "Not immediately," the scientist translated.

Lana smiled and shook her head, trying not to laugh. "Considering the damage Gameboy and Mega Man did to Wily's files, and the systems the N Team was able to disable during the Metroid attack, we've had time to try to figure out how to get Kevin back. Although it took everyone long enough to regroup after the ambush."

Scully blinked. "Someone explain what happened in sequence. As simply as possible, please."

The power meter reached its maximum level, and Kevin strapped on the Power Pad. "Whole thing started when Dr. Right sent a spy probe to Metroid and found out that Wily was creating an army for Mother Brain to attack the Palace. So we decided to go to Metroid and stop them before they had a chance to strike, and Mega Man and Gameboy went to Megaland to get into Wily's files and find out what was going on."

"Gameboy downloaded everything we could find, which wasn't much," Mega Man interrupted. "And when we were spotted, we mega-fried Wily's computer."

"Kevin, Duke, Simon, and Kid Icarus went to Metroid," Lana continued, "and broke into Wily's lab there to cut off his energy source. Of course, there was already an army waiting for them. Wily was done."

"What they didn't know was that Wily used magic, not science, to clone his robots," Zelda added. "Which meant it could be done much faster. Link found out that several robots had been seen warping into Hyrule, and they were continually stealing cloning spells."

Lana picked up the tale. "And then they sent a transmission to the Palace to warn us, but they had already left. So Link, Zelda, Mega Man, and I took off for Metroid to try to ambush the ambush. Gameboy went to Megaland to retrieve Dr. Right in case Wily had any other tricks up his sleeve. But Wily also had a Warp Zone Shifter--a device he used a while back to bring some of Kevin's friends to Videoland."

Kelly jumped up. "I knew it! I wasn't hallucinating!"

"And then while we were fighting, Simon-icus accidentally hit a bunch of buttons on the wall, and Kevin and Duke were right next to the Warp Zone Shifter," Kid Icarus spoke up finally. "They got sucked right in-icus!"

"Hey!" Simon said defensively. "I don't see anyone yelling at you for that Blade Arrow that almost chopped off my ear!"

Link pulled a face. "You needed a haircut anyway."

"Metroid was having a serious meltdown, and everything was falling on top of us," Zelda said, ignoring them. "We had to retreat."

Scully groaned. "I'm still confused."

"So if that was a week and a half ago," Mulder asked, "why are you still having problems now?"

"For one thing," Dr. Right said, "we couldn't figure out how to open the Ultimate Warp Zone--that is, how to pinpoint it to find Kevin. And Mother Brain was still intact, if low on power."

"Not only that," Zelda answered. "but it took us all a while to regroup. When the systems in Wily's lab started shorting out, the Warp Zone Shifter's circuits went haywire as well. It started opening up random warps all over the lab. It was either take a chance on a random warp or get fried or smashed by malfunctioning equipment. Needless to say, we found ourselves pretty well scattered, on the video worlds that had the least knowledge of warp zones or Videoland."

"So then Wily finally fixed the warp device or whatever, sent a bad T-1000 to get Kevin, and today got fed up with it and went through himself to finish the job?" Kelly asked, and Lana nodded.

"But his trip registered on the Palace sensors and allowed us to pinpoint Captain N," Dr. Right finished. "The only catch was that Kevin had to open the warp on the other end--the same way he came through the first time."

Lana sighed. "And we could not figure out how to get rid of the memory-erasing capability of the Ultimate Warp Zone. So if any one of us went through, we wouldn't even remember who we were, much less who we were looking for."

Scully pursed her lips, trying to make sense of it all. "This is fascinating, but what about us? Can you send us home?"

"Right now, we could," Lana said, "but you'll be dropped back in the exact same place you left from with your memory erased."

"Great," Kelly said. "It must be a mob scene at Surfside right now. Wish we could see what was going on."

Dr. Right stroked his beard thoughtfully. "I just might know a way."

7:45 p.m.

"I've just finished testing this new viewscreen system," Dr. Right explained as they entered the throne room of the Palace. "It's supposed to be able to call up images of any area of any video world where there is or recently has been a warp zone. But as I discovered, it can pick up much more than that--even outside Videoland!"

"Let me guess," Kelly said. "Earth."

Simon glanced up from his hand mirror. "I guess stating the obvious runs in your family, Captain Nitwit."

"If you don't put that mirror away," Kelly muttered, "I'll smash it over your thick head."

"Oh, and feisty, too!" Simon smiled at Kelly, who rolled her eyes. Duke growled.

Kevin had strapped on his Power Pad, and twirled his Zapper on his finger. "Lay off my sister, Simon. This is serious."

The rest of the group ignored them as Dr. Right tapped in the proper coordinates and an image came into view. "Oh, yeah," Mulder said, eyeing the crowd. "I'd call that a mob scene."

"That's normal for L.A., Mulder," Scully observed.

"Trust me," Kelly said as she shoved her way to the fore to get a better look. "Northridge is not L.A. I don't care how close we are." She paused and squinted at the screen. "Hey, Kevin! What are Rick, Stace, and Romeo doing there? And who are those guys?"

Kevin turned away from Simon to see three of their friends surrounded by dark-suited men. "Friends of yours?" he asked the FBI agents beside him.

"No..." Mulder trailed off. "Hey. Wait a minute. Can you zoom in on that man right there?" Dr. Right obediently tapped at the keyboard, and the viewscreen zoomed in, the face coming into sharper focus. As it did so, Mulder's eyes grew wide. "That black-lunged son of a bitch!"

Link let out a low whistle. "Doesn't sound like a friend to me." He ducked as Zelda reached over to smack him in the back of the head.

Lana studied the image. "You know that man?"

"Unfortunately," Mulder answered. "I've been trying to prove a theory that there is a government conspiracy dedicated to covering up the existence of extraterrestrial life. I'm positive he's part of it." He turned to the confused faces looking at him. "Basically, he's not one of the good guys."

"Well, he's got Stace, Rick, and Romeo," Kelly said as the men began to lead their friends away. "We've got to go after them."

"Excuse me-icus," Kid Icarus interrupted, "but how are we gonna do that? We don't have a Warp Zone Shifter."

"Yeah," Kevin said, "but Wily does."

Lana had learned to read Kevin over the years, and she knew exactly what the smile on his face meant. "Kevin, you actually want to go after Wily? Now? Your friends really don't know what's going on."

"And why should we care, anwyay?" Simon added, admiring his hair.

Scully continued to stare at the screen, remembering how easily she'd been incapacitated by Wily. "I don't know about this. Why not just wait until the mob clears out and try to go back the way we came?"

"They'll probably be monitoring the arcade," Mulder pointed out.

Pressing a button, Kevin shut the viewscreen off. "Wily didn't manage to capture me, but he's not going to stop there. He's probably got plans for the Warp Zone Shifter." He pounded his fists together. "And these are my friends we're talking about. Without them, I might be lunchmeat. I say we attack now."

Lana sighed. "All right, but we need a plan. We've got to figure out where, exactly, he has the device stored."

"In his lab in Megaland," Dr. Right answered promptly. "I had to pinpoint Wily's location to lock on to Kevin's."

"Okay," Kevin said. "Then we'll go to Megaland. Mega Man, Link, you're with me." Duke trotted over and sat down by his master's feet, looking up at Kevin expectantly. "All right, boy, you can come too. Kel, Agent Mulder, Agent Scully, you're going to have to come along. We might have to open the warp there."

"We?" Lana interrupted. "Kevin, are you planning to go through with them?"

"Lana, they're my friends--" Kevin began.

Lana turned to Zelda. "Zelda, would you do me a favor? Would you and Link take over Palace affairs until I come back?" She turned back to Kevin, who looked utterly confused. "Because I'm coming with you."

Kevin tried again. "You don't have to--"

She stepped up to him, a smile on her face. "Don't give me that, Kevin Keene. I am not letting you out of my sight again." Kelly stifled a snicker.

"I don't have a choice, do I?" Lana shook her head. Duke trotted over to sit by his master's feet, looking up at Kevin expectantly. "All right, boy, you can come too," he added, scratching the dog's head affectionately.

Simon scowled. "Wonderful. The mutt goes, and I'm stuck here."

"Probably because the mutt has more brains than you have," Link muttered.

Kevin ignored them for once. "I guess we're going to have to equip you guys with something, then," he said, looking over at the agents and his sister.

"All right!" Kelly said. "Does this mean I get a gun?"

"God help us all," Scully moaned as she and Mulder followed the N-Team down the hallway.

Northridge Police Department

"Ow! Watch the hair!" Romeo complained as the three teenagers were shoved into the interrogation room.

Shaking his head, Rick allowed himself to be herded into the small room, ignoring his friend. What caught his attention was the occupants of the interrogation room. Sitting at the table were Mike Vincent, in a clean t-shirt and jeans, and someone else who Rick wasn't expecting in the least. "Chief Wilson? What's going on?"

"Like the man said," one of the agents answered, pushing him into a chair, "you're in no position to ask questions."

Rick glanced over at Mike questioningly. Mike shrugged, his expression clearly saying, "How should I know?" as Romeo and Stacey were seated with similar treatment.

There was a long silence as the agents and teenagers stared at each other. "Johnson" reached into his coat and pulled out a cigar, lighting it casually. "You wouldn't have anything to tell us, now would you?"

"Yeah," Mike said, and the men looked at him with curiosity. "Did you know someone switched your face with your ass while you were sleeping?" Rick covered his mouth with his hand to stifle a chuckle.

One of the agents jumped to his feet, but Johnson lifted a hand. "Sit down. There's no point in injuring an already wounded man."

Rick noticed then that Mike wasn't feeling too well. He was wincing from his injured hip, and although he was hiding it pretty well, Rick could tell the former bully needed to crash for about two days. He's not in shape to be discharged yet, Rick realized suddenly. Who the hell are these guys really? Clearing his throat, he glared at Johnson angrily. "What do you want? He ought to be back in the hospital, not sitting here taking this crap. You actually expect us to believe you're the good guys here?"

"What you believe is none of our concern, Mr. Walker." A thick waft of smoke drifted from the cigar, causing Stacey to start coughing as it was blown right in her face. "Rather, we want to know what you know about Kevin Keene."

"Well, for starters, his sister's an obnoxious bi--" Romeo was cut off as Rick elbowed him sharply. "Okay, okay. Look, if you're talking about what happened to him, we're as clueless as you are, all right?"

Johnson glanced over at Mike, who shrugged. "After tonight, I don't know. Think his name's really John Connor?" This time neither Rick or Romeo could hide their amusement, but their captors just looked bored.

Wiping at her watering eyes, Stacey choked back a cough. "Look, we don't know what happened to Kevy. He just totally disappeared into thin air."

"Oh, really?" Wilson asked, reaching into his pocket and pulling out a newspaper clipping. "Like you three, along with Julius Jones, disappeared with the entire high school building a year ago?"

Rick groaned. "Like I told you and my Dad and a hundred other people, I don't remember that at all. The only one who had any clue about that was Kelly, and she was in hysterics when it happened. And I don't see her here. Why don't you go grab Julius while you're at it? Then you'll just have your own little collection of us."

"Your friend was little help to us," Johnson said, "so we did what we had to."

Stacey gasped, looking horrified at the implication. But Wilson rolled his eyes in exasperation. "Oh, for crying out loud. The dolt couldn't even get his ABC's right. We dropped him off at home before anyone knew he was gone."

"So you might as well just do the same to us," Rick said. "Even if we wanted to tell you anything, we couldn't."

Letting another cloud of smoke rise, the older man smiled thinly. "I might know someone who could jog your memories."