DISCLAIMER: Characters not mine. ARCHIVE: Yes, text version here. RATING: PG. SPOILERS: TINH.


The Traitors.  Alex Krycek - the turncoat who foiled so much of Agent Mulder's work.  Marita Covarrubias - the mysterious informant who saw the pathogen first-hand.  A look into the secret life, and the private world of this modern-day Boris and Natasha, who never came in from the cold.
By Deslea R. Judd from Fort Lenin.

It is testimony to turncoat agent Alex Krycek's confidence that he makes no attempt to disguise his location, or to dissuade me from revealing it. We are on a man-made island in the Barents Sea in the Arctic Circle, a fort abandoned after the fall of the Soviet regime. Deep in international waters on land he has legally claimed as his own, Krycek is king - at least on the official succession documents recognised by the United Nations. Better yet, here, he and his consort are safe. Surrounded by ice, the island is accessible only by fortified barge; and for more than half the year, it is in darkness. A physical attack is unlikely, and they are prepared. They are beyond the reach of the law.

King Alex, as he calls himself in only the most self-mocking of moments, cuts an impressive figure. A tall, lean man in his mid-thirties, he leans back easily in a well-stuffed armchair by the fire, a snifter of brandy in his only hand. We might be college friends chatting about old times; not a journalist with promised immunity and a mastermind political assassin. The warmth, the slightly feminine room, and the soft whisper of the power-generating windmill outside the window belie the Arctic winter and the fortieth continuous day of darkness.

His accomplice, Marita Covarrubias, stands by the window. It is a position she will take often during my five days in their fortress home. Though of Mediterranean descent, with her silver-blonde hair and impossibly pale skin, she seems suitably Nordic to our surroundings. Covarrubias is just one of the hidden faces of this human drama - prisoner, accomplice, conspirator. Both perpetrator and victim. And now, hidden safely away with her counterpart, no-one can touch her - and, I clearly perceive, to her that is both a blessing and a curse.

Those who have followed the late Agent Mulder's career will remember Alex Krycek as an FBI operative in the Violent Crimes Unit. He became Mulder's de facto partner in May 1994, after the death of Mulder's prominent source known as Deep Throat. That death and the bungled investigation surrounding it resulted in the shutdown of the X Files project. While fellow agent Dana Scully taught forensics at the FBI Academy in Quantico, a disgraced Mulder found himself working with young Krycek - a man with lots of smarts, but none of the presence he is remembered for now.

Manipulation by Deslea
"I was very green," Krycek admits. "I came from an ordinary home and I was very idealistic. I knew nothing of the Syndicate or the conspiracy until I was approached at the Academy."

The Syndicate he speaks of is a shadowy government group, alluded to by Dana Scully in her 1997 testimony to Congress concerning the black oily pathogen known as Sacks Syndrome or the Black Cancer, among other names. NASA tests proved that the pathogen originated on Mars. The Syndicate, which allegedly conducts tests on the pathogen, is conducted partly under the auspices of the Department of Defence. Krycek explains, "One of my lecturers was a Syndicate headhunter. They offered me money, and I was intrigued enough to accept the offer."

So the money held no appeal?

He smirks a little at that. "I'm human. I like security. But the money wasn't the defining factor. I've never felt a great need for luxury." Looking around the fort, I must concede this point. It is comfortable - even cosy - but the money he has spent has gone to security, not luxury. The only hint of the enormous wealth at his disposal is the massive rock adorning the wedding finger of his consort. Covarrubias herself is absent for much of this discussion. She is monitoring the satellite feed for transmissions - from the Pentagon, from ASIO, from MI5 and MI6. There is enough stolen intelligence in this fort to make even the most honest of rulers tremble.

Krycek betrayed Mulder in short order, reportedly blocking Mulder's attempts to rescue Dana Scully from government custody when she was abducted in 1994. "I saw it as the battle you lose to win the war," he says easily. "I knew there was a lot more going on than the government trying to shut down a rather annoying project. I felt that letting it [the abduction] happen would get me further inside. And that was what eventuated." But that left him vulnerable to the law, so he was forced to submit to the dubious protection of the Syndicate. With heightened stakes, Krycek's ability to walk away was compromised. For a time, he says, he did as he was told.

Including murder, as the many outstanding warrants for his arrest contend?

Krycek shifts in his seat. "It's not something I'm proud of, but yeah," he admits. "Most of the people I killed were in it up to their necks, so I wouldn't say they were any great loss to society. But every death is a loss. It's not to be taken lightly. That's what's wrong with the whole thing - too many people took human life much too lightly."

One of his victims, reportedly, was William Mulder, Agent Mulder's father, and a founding member of the Syndicate - a charge Krycek denies. "I didn't kill Bill Mulder," he insists. "Luis Cardinale was the shooter." Conveniently, Cardinale died in his jail cell in 1995 while awaiting trial for the murder of Melissa Scully in a hit-gone-wrong.

Whatever happened at the Mulders' that night, it was at about this time that Krycek came into possession of a digital tape containing national secrets, and was targeted by the Syndicate. He went on the lam, decoding the data with the help of an unknown hacker. Speculation on this point is rife in the hacker community, and several prominent figures, including the celebrated Angeldaemon, have suggested that the original hacker of the tape, Kenneth Suna, was coerced into breaking the code before his gangland-style execution in 1995 - a speculation denied by Krycek.

Was that hacker Marita Covarrubias, then, as others contend? Krycek is evasive on this point, but admits she is the only one he has ever trusted with his secrets. "In this business, partnership is dangerous," he concedes, "but no man is an island." He speaks from experience: he and Covarrubias have been on opposing sides more than once.

With secrets in hand, he sold them on the open market. It was the first time he had committed treason, but it would not be the last. He argues, "I love America. But no citizen is bound to serve a corrupt government."

That sentiment was not shared by Fox Mulder, who tracked him to Hong Kong. Krycek laughs at the mention of this. "Mulder was in way over his head," he says reflectively. "There was no way he could have really brought me up on charges. The jurisdictional issues alone were enormous. Due process was not part of his vocabulary. And he didn't really want my arrest. He wanted the tape...and he wanted to settle the score." As it happened, though, he would get neither; because in Hong Kong, Krycek became infected with Sacks Syndrome.

Just how that came about is a point Krycek doesn't clarify; but it is possible to make an educated guess. Mulder's report on the episode states that Krycek had sold the location of a downed submarine carrying the pathogen to the French government (an allegation which the French deny). A salvage crew was sent to retrieve the submarine, but the crew became infected with the pathogen; and most died.

The lone survivor, an experienced seaman named Gauthier, was released from hospital unharmed; but apparently carried the pathogen. Gauthier's wife was found in Hong Kong a few days later suffering from the after-effects of the pathogen also, and according to video surveillance at Hong Kong airport, she and Krycek crossed paths. It is hardly credible that such a chain of events could be coincidental. It may be that Krycek was intentionally infected as an act of retribution.

If so, Krycek says, it was undeserved. "I didn't know what was on that submarine. I thought it was escorting a downed nuclear sub, which was pretty valuable stuff. If I'd known the Black Cancer was involved, I wouldn't have touched it. I don't traffic in death."

Since when? I can't resist a raised eyebrow, and he unbends a little. "You have to understand, a missile can be directed. With today's navigation systems, you can target a single building. You can target intelligence or a strategic installation. No-one has to die - certainly not ordinary citizens. But you can't control a pathogen."

Manipulation by Deslea

A fact Krycek learned first-hand. Whatever one makes of his rationalisations, there is no denying the validity of his motivation. Riddled with the Black Cancer, as he calls Sacks Syndrome, he was left to die in what he calls, after a moment's pause, "a secure facility." In America, as Mulder, Cardinale, and others have charged? He looks at me unblinkingly before conceding a single nod.

Mulder's report reveals more: that Krycek was taken to an abandoned missile base in North Dakota and thrown into cell contaminated with radioactive matter. Was that matter a UFO, as Mulder contends? Krycek looks cornered. "A man told me once that if people knew what he knew, the very fabric of society would fall apart. I guess I believe that, because I still think the government has a right to some secrets." It's as close to an admission as he will come.

Covarrubias is not so circumspect. "When I found him, his injuries were horrific," she says quietly; and as a former UN peacekeeper, she is no stranger to atrocity. "He had burns, and he lost his hair. The pathogen has an oily composition that degrades the sinuses and other membranes, and for months his eyes and nose streamed. It was awful." Krycek is visibly uncomfortable during her account, but he does not attempt to silence her.

So even then, the two were in partnership? "She and I were always in partnership, one way or another," Krycek shrugs, his casualness belying the strength of a shared journey lasting twenty-seven years. "But she didn't know exactly what I'd gotten us into. That came later, after my injury."

The injury he refers to is an incident in Tunguska in the former Soviet Union in 1997 in which he lost his left arm. According to a subsequent report by Agent Mulder, both he and Krycek, who had formed an uneasy alliance, were taken prisoner in a work camp that doubled as a testing facility for a vaccine against Sacks Syndrome. That time, his disappearance sparked a Congressional inquiry, in which the first official confirmation of the Syndrome was made.

Mulder's subsequent report to that inquiry states that he witnessed Krycek acting in a manner consistent with possession of rank in the gulag. Krycek does not contest the claim. "Yes, I led him there," he admits. "I'd had the cancer in me, and I knew of the Syndicate's plans to use it as a weapon. I wanted to stop it, but I also had to be realistic and realise that maybe I couldn't. I thought that the next best thing might be to make Mulder immune...to groom him as a leader in a resistance fight." Covarrubias co-operated with this plan, directing Mulder to Tunguska, little dreaming of what was to come.

The Russian faction - into which Krycek had bought himself upon learning of their work on their own vaccine - forcibly inoculated Mulder according to plan. Not according to plan was Mulder's escape. Krycek was caught in the melee and, he says, sustained his injury while escaping from a wrathful Mulder.

Manipulation by Deslea
"Fox Mulder was not my nemesis," Krycek says from his Arctic retreat. "He saw me as his, but I didn't see him as mine. If he'd landed on our shores with nowhere to go, we'd have taken him in. We have always been on the same side."

What he omits to mention is that Mulder, too, faced the possibility of amputation because of the misguided resistance efforts of local peasants. Was that how Krycek lost his arm? He laughs and admits that's so. "It's pretty funny, really," he says with the air of a man who has dealt with this very personal loss as well as anyone can. But Covarrubias, watching sorrowfully from the doorway, does not look amused.

It's a tragic story - maybe even a heroic one - but it's not the whole tale. What Krycek fails to mention is that he hired former KGB assassin Vassily Peskow at about this time to sabotage work on a vaccine being conducted in the USA under the administration of British diplomat Charles Smythe, Lord Woodward, who was killed in a car bombing the following year. Among the casualties of Peskov's purge was internationally acclaimed variola expert Dr Bonita Charne-Sayrre. Peskow, who defected to the USA in 1999, says now, "Comrade Krycek, or Arntzen as he was known, wanted to keep the vaccine in Russia where he could use it to his advantage."

So what is the truth of it? As with most stories, the truth probably lies somewhere in between. Krycek had no reason to make Agent Mulder immune other than the one he states; but clearly, his benevolence towards humanity is only half the story. And that may be what makes this man one of the most effective freedom fighters in the whole sorry saga. Krycek is motivated by humanity, that's true; but also by a broad streak of self-interest. That may be why he's still alive.

It was at this time that Covarrubias, nursing him in St Petersburg, demanded to know the whole story. It precipitated a crisis between the two. "There was a fundamental philosophical problem," she reflects, speaking at length for the first time. "Alex believed the end justified the means. I did not. America had sheltered both of us, in different ways, and I didn't believe it was necessary to go against our government to put a stop to this threat. And I didn't believe it was necessary to kill. I still don't." For the peacekeeper who had devoted her life to humanitarian causes, it was a cataclysmic moment.

But that all changed three months later, when Covarrubias received a tip-off about an outbreak of smallpox in a children's playground in Payson, South Carolina. She and prominent FBI figure Walter Skinner discovered - but could not prove - the complicity of the government in this test, believed to relate to the planned distribution of Sacks Syndrome. For Covarrubias, who it's rumoured was expecting a child with Krycek at this time, witnessing the horrific deaths of scores of children was a turning point. She and Krycek reconciled, and she worked with him thereafter.

She speaks fondly of Krycek, and it is easy to make parallels. She is Eva to his Hitler; Josephine to his Napoleon. But that belies her own power and quiet heroism. Covarrubias was a decorated United Nations operative, serving as a peacekeeper in Chechnya, Romania and the Persian Gulf before returning home to New York as a Special Representative to the Secretary General of the United Nations - the position in which she came into contact with Agent Mulder. As a prisoner of war in Kuwait, it is said that she offered herself as a concubine to a Saudi general in exchange for the life of a child. Covarrubias dismisses this story as mythmaking, but even the existence of the myth is telling. People see her as one around whom myths are made. A heroine - maybe a goddess. Even Krycek, after all - that most controlled of men - even Krycek reveres her.

It is hard to understand what would lead such a woman to serve Krycek's sometimes deadly cause; and clearly, love impels her. But it is not blind love. She speaks animatedly of the cause, but there is none of the mindless defence of it that might be expected from, as some charge, a case of Stockholm Syndrome. She and Krycek have been at loggerheads more than once, and she's not afraid to say so. Appalled at his treatment of a political prisoner in 1998, she absconded with the prisoner and attempted to turn him over to Agent Mulder, kickstarting the chain of events that led to her own infection with Sacks Syndrome and her imprisonment in the American testing regime. She and Krycek reached a truce, then a reconciliation in May of last year when Covarrubias freed him from a Tunisian compound where he had been detained on what she evasively terms "a political matter".

Manipulation by Deslea
"Alex is not a violent man," Covarrubias says from their island fortress. "He has resorted to violent means, and that's something we disagree on. But each act is a decision. He is controlled and self-disciplined. These are not characteristics of a fundamentally aggressive man."

Krycek's expression darkens when I speak of Covarrubias' incarceration. "She was a prisoner of war," he says grimly. "I had one chance to get her out, but something had been stolen - something that changed the whole landscape. I had to leave her there to try to get it back. When I returned for her, she'd been moved; and the man I'd hoped would protect her had been killed." He takes a long drink, and his hand shakes - just a little. It is the one glimmer of humanity in a well-oiled conspiracy machine.

What was the mysterious something that had been stolen, I wonder? He hesitates for just a moment, before saying cryptically, "Intelligence. Scientific intelligence."

That intelligence may have been the vaccine. According to outstanding warrants issued in the Kazakhstani province of Almaty in 1998, Krycek had smuggled a sample of the Russian-made vaccine out of a gulag in Kazakhstan when the Russian operation was compromised by a series of attacks. He will neither confirm nor deny reports that those attacks took the form of mass burnings like those of alleged abductees in the United States. Nor will he admit to any complicity by Covarrubias, though United Nations transport records show that she was in Kazakhstan at the time of the theft.

Whatever the case, Krycek handed the vaccine over to Lord Woodward, who still directed the American tests, in exchange for his own life and that of Covarrubias - the latter with some bitterness. Before his death three months later, Woodward placed Krycek within the operation, but did not reveal the location of Covarrubias. Krycek turned to treason once again, this time dealing with the Tunisian government. This time, he says, his agenda was straightforward: to obtain Tunisian intelligence he could then barter for Covarrubias' freedom. Several people dispute this relatively altruistic claim, but one supporting it is a Senator whom Krycek targeted in a Tunisian intelligence sting. The Senator, known only as M., says, "Krycek did some terrible things while he worked with the Tunisian government, and he should pay for them; but treason isn't one of them. He certainly wasn't on their side." Walter Skinner agrees, "Alex Krycek actively sabotaged the work of the embassy that employed him. If he says he did it for Marita, I believe him. He wouldn't be the first man who slept with the enemy over a woman."

For their part, the Tunisian government disavows all knowledge of Krycek. However, records at a penal colony in Forj Sidi Toui, a hard labour camp for violent and political prisoners, show that Krycek was imprisoned there in 1999 - before he could secure Covarrubias' freedom.

In March of last year, Covarrubias - her body devastated after more than two years in captivity - was freed by her captor, Syndicate figurehead CGB Spender. Spender, in failing health, wanted her to secure what she calls "strategic hardware" in Oregon. In a stroke of irony, it was she who bartered for Krycek's release; and after a gruelling recovery program in a private rehabilitation hospital in Maryland, she freed him and brought him back to the USA. They agreed to work for Spender, but instead passed crucial intelligence to Agent Mulder - intelligence that ultimately led to Mulder's disappearance.

What exactly was the "strategic hardware"? Spender can shed no light on the question; he was killed in a freak accident on the day of Mulder's disappearance. His then-nurse, Washington ICU nurse Greta Baker, insists that Krycek and Covarrubias were not present; but their images appear on surveillance footage in the Watergate apartment building only minutes before the alarm was raised. "She didn't kill him," Krycek says, nodding to Covarrubias, smoking pensively by the window overlooking the darkness of the Barents. "It would have been justified if she had, but she didn't." A denial for himself is conspicuous by its absence.

Manipulation by Deslea
Photographs of Krycek and Covarrubias together are rare, but this one came from surveillance footage outside the home of Syndicate figure CGB Spender in May last year. Spender was dead minutes later.

Neither will he confirm the many reports and speculations that the hardware in question was a UFO. "We told Mulder that there was something Spender wanted recovered - something important - and where it was," he says. "We had no inside information on exactly what it was or what the repercussions would be of finding it." But when they learned of Mulder's disappearance, they faded from sight, establishing their fortress and staking claim to it, keeping well clear of the fallout that ensued.

"What happened to Mulder was unfortunate, but it was ultimately his own doing," says Krycek with more than a trace of regret. "For years, he and others like him have been pursuing the wrong cause. If he hadn't been so distracted, so unfocused, it would never have happened."

Unfocused? Mulder?

"Yes," Covarrubias says quietly, turning to face us once more. "He had a hand in everything. The truth. The conspiracy. The politics. The personalities. Everything but what really matters - the cure."

For this couple, intimately acquainted with the bio-threat, the cure is everything. Krycek's mother, Olga, now 71, explains from her modest home in New Hampshire, "Alexis was always this way, even as a child. If it was a game, it was for winning. If it was a book, it was for finding out what happened. My Alexis has spent his life looking for the most efficient solution - and if it is there, he will find it." She is troubled by reports of treason, of murder; but she says quietly, "He is my son. He does not have to defend himself to me. For the rest of the world, I cannot say." Of Covarrubias, she says, "I knew Marta - that was what we called her - when she was just a girl. She keeps him human. I am glad she is with him on that horrid island." Her next-door neighbour, Covarrubias' father Alessandro, is less pleased. "Marita is a good girl. She shouldn't be part of that man's schemes."

Carlton Hughes, a fellow United Nations Special Representative and Covarrubias' mentor, disagrees. He says, "When Marita came back from South Carolina after the smallpox incident, she was fundamentally changed. She had seen children die before, in Kuwait; but this was the first time she had seen them as victims of our own government. I believe it was then that she fell in with Krycek. She viewed it as a decision to be a human being first, and an American second."

Not everyone views her choice in such glowing terms. "She sold out, pure and simple," Dana Scully said scathingly in a rare interview recently. "Loving a man is no excuse for selling your soul."

Covarrubias, when told of this, is more amused than angry. "Dana Scully gave up everything she knew for a man. She's in no position to talk." Her voice is not unkind, but she goes on grimly, "Mulder and Scully held onto their positions and their pensions, even when it meant compromising the work on a vaccine. To this day, she serves the government that subjected her to unspeakable tests. They chose respectability over responsibility." She looks fondly at her partner-in-crime, seated pensively by the fireplace. "Alex and I serve no law but ourselves and what we believe in. You tell me who sold out."

Deslea R. Judd is a fanfic writer, artist, and webmistress. A three-times Spooky finalist, she has written extensively on the subject of Krycek and Covarrubias, and has recently contributed to Working Stiffs. She maintains a suite of homepages, including Blondie's Ratcave, at http://xfiles.deslea.com. Write to her at deslea@deslea.com. This story recommended by the Enigmatic Doctor.

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