written by Howard Gordon
NEWS REPORTER: (on video) I'm standing here on an historic eve, with a group of scientists who can barely contain their excitement about this device, which looks like a large titanium bug. Its name is Firewalker, and next week will make its first descent into an active volcano. Now this amazing robot is the brainchild of vulcanologist Daniel Trepkos, whose objective is to gather samples from the crater floor which may hold valuable scientific data about the earth's core.
TREPKOS: (on video) Scientific data? We're talking about revisiting the very origin of the earth, peering into the fire where it all began - a human endeavor more important even than man's exploration of space.
MULDER: Scully? I don't think it's a good idea for you to go.
SCULLY: Mulder, I appreciate your concern - but I'm ready. I want to work.
MULDER: Well, maybe you should take some time off.
SCULLY: I've already lost too much time.
MULDER: He just about took my head off!
LUDWIG: I told you I made a mistake, OK? I'm sorry, all right?
MULDER: Well, who the hell are you?
LUDWIG: I'm Ludwig. I'm Jason Ludwig. I'm the robotics engineer for the descent team.
MULDER: You always greet people this way?
MULDER: ... I found several references to a subterranean organism.
SCULLY: What are you talking about?
MULDER: An unknown organism, existing within the volcano. I haven't found anything yet that describes it in specific terms but ...
SCULLY: Mulder, nothing can live in a volcanic interior, not only because of the intense heat but the gases would be toxic to any organism.
MULDER: What does this say?
SCULLY: It describes the metabolism from hydrogen sulfide into silicon dioxide.
MULDER: Doesn't that suggest a silicon-based life form?
SCULLY: But the fundamental building block for every organism known to man is carbon, from the smallest bacterium to the largest redwood tree.
MULDER: Yes, but silicon is the closest element to carbon. It reacts almost identically with other elements, the way it combines to form complex molecules. A silicon-based lifeform in the deep biosphere has been one of the Holy Grails of modern science
O'NEIL: I'm scared. I don't want to die here.
SCULLY: What are you so afraid of, Jesse?
O'NEIL: Daniel. The only reason I even came here was because of him. He promised me that this would be an adventure ... and that it would change my life. But eight months is a long time, and I just want to go home now.
SCULLY: Where is home?
O'NEIL: Anywhere but here.
MULDER: So what is it, Scully? What are we dealing with?
SCULLY: Without better imaging equipment, I can't say for sure.
MULDER: I'll take any theory you've got.
SCULLY: It appears to be some kind of a fungus.
MULDER: Anything you recognize?
SCULLY: Well, I'm not a botanist, but I think it's fair to guess that it's an unknown genus.
MULDER: What am I looking at here?
SCULLY: Spores. I scraped them off the tip of the fungus. It appears as if one of the spores grew inside of Tanaka until it reached reproductive maturity ... essentially outgrowing its host. But by then, it had already caused massive tissue damage, particularly to the respiratory tract.
MULDER: That would account for the sand in his lungs.
LUDWIG: You found sand in his lungs?
MULDER: Silicon dioxide, the waste product of a silicon-based organism.
MULDER: Why are you doing this, Trepkos? He's already dead. How many times do you have to kill him?
TREPKOS: It's not him I'm trying to kill.
MULDER: What went wrong, Trepkos? Firewalker carried something back to the surface.
TREPKOS: Firewalker brought up an elephant. The truth is an elephant described by three blind men. The first man touches the tail and says it's a rope. The second man feels the rough leg and says it's a tree. The third man feels the trunk and says it's a snake.
MULDER: What about you? What do you say it is?
TREPKOS: You still believe you can petition heaven and get some penetrating answer. If you found that answer, what would you do with it?
MULDER: (voice-over) Scully and I are in the third day of a month-long quarantine, undergoing level 4 decon procedures. We are so far without symptoms of fungal contamination. All our specimens and field notes were confiscated by the military biohazard corps prior to our evacuation. Their presence has delayed for an indefinite period the arrival of the USGS data retrieval team. I suspect, though, that there will be little left for them to retrieve. There are no plans at present to explore further any of the hundreds of volcanically active mountains in the Cascade Range, including Mount Avalon. All access points to that volcano have been sealed off by army engineers.
Of the members of the Firewalker descent team, only Trepkos and O'Neil remain unaccounted for. They are presumed dead, and the search for them has been abandoned. Firewalker, however, was recovered, though its sensory and locomotive systems were found to be irreparably damaged. The data it collected from the earth's interior will never be known. And of the events that occurred at Mount Avalon between the 11th and 13th of November, 1994, mine stands as the only record.