Dedicated to Wildoneshelper.
Two FBI agents arrive at the scene of the crime.
"What are we doing here Mulder?" asked the woman with short red hair. "This just looks like a regular murder case, not an X-file. The local authorities seem to be handling it just fine."
"There's something missing here Scully," replied the tall brown haired man. "I say none of these people did it."
"What do you mean Mulder?" the woman, Scully, responded. "They all have clear motives and the means. The victim was obviously strangled to death and then thrown in the swamp, as you can see from these injuries. Nothing unexplainable here, and nothing paranormal."
"Have you tasted this swamp, Scully," asked the man, Mulder. "It's missing that flavour that always results from having carbon dioxide dissolved in a drink, and I've read reports from local scientists saying that the bubbles in fact have a very similar composition to that of normal air rather than the almost pure carbon dioxide expected."
"I don't see what this has to do with anything," said Scully.
"Just look at the body. That bruising doesn't seem to be in the shape of human fingers, suggesting that something else must be the murderer. This lake; the bubbles have the same composition as that of exhaled air. My theory is that there is some kind of creature living under the lake who snatched the creator's body as he walked past to view his level, probably with some sort of tentacles."
"Mulder, the only creature living in that lake is Mr. Snappy, a crocodile who couldn't possibly have exerted that much pressure on the skin without breaking it. As for your bubble theory, we have it on record that it was the little girl, Tiffi, who somehow blew the bubbles into the lake."
"You've seen that little girl," Mulder replied. "She may have started the bubbles, but there is no way her lung capacity is large enough to have kept this up. No, her breath must have awoken this creature, like how a quick short breath is sometimes used in CPR to clear a patient's lungs and start them breathing. Once the first breath was administered, the creature could keep breathing itself, explaining the continued presence of the bubbles."
"There is nothing else in that lake Mulder," said Scully exasperatedly. "Someone would have seen it by now, and for your breath theory to work, it must come up to the surface sometime to breath. If it does exist, how come nobody's ever seen it before?"
"Well, maybe whenever it comes up to breath it takes any watchers along with it as food to eat later, thus explaining why nobody has seen it. It eats all bystanders." Mulder's theorising received only sceptical looks from his partner. "Look, Scully. This lake is the perfect preservative. The acidity is just right to discourage the decay of the bodies, as can be seen by just how intact this corpse is. Who knows how many are stored in the bottom of the lake as snacks for later?"
"If so many people had been snatched away, we would see more missing person reports in this area. As it stands, there aren't any," Scully responded.
"But don't you see? This town is built next to a major highway. The 419 creator wasn't a resident here, despite being fundamental to its architecture. Thousands of people pass through this town every year, and if any go missing, it would be the people at either the 'from' or 'to' town in their travels which would have recorded the disappearances, laying no blame here."
"So you think a lake monster is in charge of all these people's deaths, just because of the chemical composition of its bubbles? What about all these more likely suspects?" Scully wasn't buying Mulder's theory.
"What, a little girl without the strength or height to strangle him? A rockstar passing through the town who is so obsessed with himself that he barely notices others' existence? A couple of people who's levels seem easy in comparison to 419, and thereby benefit from his existence? A couple of wiki editors who were frustrated by him a couple of times? I mean, a lot of my colleagues back at the bureau annoy me, but I'm not going to murder them. Also, how many other times have my theories been proved right?"
"Ok Ok," Scully conceded. "We'll get the local PD to dredge the swamp tomorrow. But in the mean time, I still think we should continue to focus on our main suspects. While I agree that the girl and the rockstar can be eliminated from suspicion, I would like to question the rest myself."
"Seems we have a plan. See you back at the motel for dinner. Pizza's on me."
"I've just got the lab results back from my autopsy on the victim's body," said Scully, walking up to her partner. "I also questioned the suspects. Seems we can narrow down the list."
"And I've just seen the results of the dredging of the lake," Mulder replied.
"What did you find?" asked Scully.
"You first," insisted Mulder smugly.
"The neck of the victim had been strangled with great force, enough to crush the vertebrae around his spine and break the spinal column itself. The crushing pattern suggests equal force on all sides of the neck, which matches with what the bruising shows us. However, the blood reports shows the victim died of lack of oxygen rather than carbon dioxide poisoning, which suggests drowning was the actual cause of death, as opposed to the strangulation. This is confirmed by the haemorrhaging in the lungs, which was caused by the rapid expansion of air bubbles after filling with the effervescent liquid, but before death occurred, due to the amount of blood suggesting that his heart was still beating. No other signs of a struggle were found on the body, and the toxicology report has come back clean." Scully looked up from her notes to see Mulder's reaction to her results. Mulder's smile suggested that he already suspected everything that Scully just told him.
"And what about your suspects?" Mulder asked, an amused glean in his eyes.
"Mulder, why don't you just tell me what you think instead of dragging on like this," Scully replied in a tired voice.
"No no. I want to hear your theory first," Mulder replied without losing the smile.
Scully had worked with Mulder for long enough now to realise that it was best to just go along with Mulder's ways. She looked back at her notes. "Lefty7788, known to most simply as Lefty, was on patrol last night. He's the police officer who found the body, his job explaining his possession of a gun. He claims he was holding it out when he was found in case whoever committed the crime returned to the scene. When asked about his meme, he said it was done as a joke, one he now realises was in poor taste, and that he took the job as a police officer to stop harm coming to others. No past criminal record or hints of mental instability. Also, the presence of the gun makes him a less likely suspect. Why would he go to the trouble of drowning the victim when he could have just shot him and had done with it?"
Scully turned to the next page of her notes. "Suspect two, Wildoneshelper, drove past the swamp on the way to Rainbow Runway after stopping in at a restaurant nearby. Was last seen in this town 3 hours before time of victim's death, and was brought in for questioning from the Runway 2 hours after the body was found. His potential motive was a known frustration with the creator because of the level he made, yet claims that he has long since moved on and would gain nothing from the death of the creator. The suspects doesn't have a strong motive, and apart from proximity doesn't have much linking him to this case. Criminal record almost clean except for a short period of blocking over a year ago, but the charges against him in that instance were dropped soon after."
Scully brought up her analysis of the next victim. "Mr. Rockstar was said to have been seen drinking from the swamp earlier that night, and seemed to have difficulty responding to the questioning. This difficulty can probably be attributed to the cannabis found in his possession, which would explain the compulsion to drink the swamp. While he did not seem to be in the right state of mind for the murder, cannabis not being a violent drug, unlike alcohol, and he himself acting very, well, 'out of it', the size of his hands and strength from guitar playing seems to make him physically the most likely suspect. Either way, he's under arrest for possession of illegal drugs, which seems to be a repeat offence judging by his criminal record. Which brings us to our next suspect."
She brought up the next report. "Tiffi. Little girl seen around the crime scene. Claims to be a friend of the victim, and has no clear motive or means to have performed the crime, given her age and strength. However, has been known to show abilities beyond her age. It's been said that she's been able to repair a whole palace by herself, fly a spaceship by remote control, and, apparently, drive a car as she was doing the night of the incident. I can't find any explanation of how she's done any of this, but I suspect there is somebody else helping her, or something else she's not telling us about. She's currently the prime suspect in this case due to these strange and numerous acts in the past."
Scully snapped her notebook shut. "That only leaves the victim's fellow creators. The creators of 425 and 421 didn't have a bad relationship with the victim, according to co-workers, and neither of them seem to benefit from his death. While both were with the victim earlier that night, it was confirmed that they were both checked in to a motel at the time the victim was murdered, as somebody else staying at the motel had complained about the loudness of the TV from the creators' room about half an hour before the victim's time of death, shortly after which the owner of the motel went to their room to tell them to turn it down and saw them both there. Their alibi is secure."
Mulder still wore the same smile as before. "Very good, Scully," he said.
"Ok, what's wrong this time Mulder." Scully was getting fed up.
"Just that none of those suspects actually lived in the area, which means it doesn't explain all the other bodies found in the swamp."
"Bodies? What bodies?" Scully looked confused.
"Oh, y'know, the ten or so full skeletons we just dredged up this morning, completely stripped of all soft tissue."
"Mulder, when were you going to tell me about this?"
"Ok," Scully said. "Your turn to talk."
Mulder took out a folder of photos. "See here Scully. About 10 full skeletons' worth of bones, the oldest seeming to be from about 5 years ago. The team are still trying to match the pieces to each person, but a rough count suggests all the bones are present. The acidity of the lake was too high for bacteria to grow, suggesting some sort of creature is the cause of these people's condition. Look here; you can see several broken vertebrae in this image here, each from different skeletons, matching your findings in the autopsy room. This suggests it was the same killer who got the creator as the one who got the rest of these people. There is very little sign of bone damage elsewhere, except for a few scrapings which was probably caused by teeth in an attempt to get off all the meat, suggesting not much of a struggle apart from the strangulation, which again fits the case with our current victim. All victims seem to be adult, but gender and race are so far unknowable. This definitely reflects the idea of the killer being a creature who kills for food, and location of the victims suggests that it must be located somewhere in or around the lake. It first disables its victims by crushing their necks, and then drags them under the soda where they are preserved until it needs to feed."
"But Mulder, if there is this monster, how come it wasn't found in the dredging? Why has nobody found it yet?"
"The swamp itself is very large. It's not implausible that the creature just moved to avoid the dredging."
Scully sighed. "Well, if this monster does exist, then it must be very hungry right now since we've just stolen it's last meal from it. That means we should be able to stake out the swamp overnight and see if it comes up to the surface to find a meal. If it does come up, we can catch it. If nothing shows after a week, we'll go back to the more likely suspects. In the mean time, I would like to have a closer look at the actions of that little girl."
"Sounds like a plan," said Mulder. "Speaking of hungry, how about some pizza?"
"What you go there Mulder?" asked Scully.
"Well, since we're on a stake out, I though I would get some steak take out."
"Was it really worth it for the pun?"
Mulder took a bite of the rubbery, overcooked meat. "Not at all. Still, you can only have so much pizza."
Scully settled down in her seat for the third time in as many nights, a bag of candies to keep her amused as the hours ticked by. As the nights drew on, Mulder's theory was looking less and less likely, but she had promised to entertain the idea for the week, in case there was something to it.
"So why do so many people hate the creator of 419 anyway?" asked Scully.
"419 was a hard level!" replied Mulder. "It's practically impossible!"
"Being hard doesn't necessarily equate to being a bad level," replied Scully. "Some people like the challenge. I quite enjoyed Level 419."
"Y'know Scully, sometimes I really don't understand you."
The night wore on as the two special agents sat in their rental car, staring over Soda Swamp as it filled with the warped reflections of a million stars. The wind whispered through the trees, but the metal fortress kept out the sting of the weather. The moon rose above them, casting its brilliant light across the landscape, illuminating the scene in front of them like a stage.
Suddenly, there was movement from up the road. A figure walked towards the swamp with an air of purpose, not noticing the car hidden in some bushes. The figure looked up, bathing her face in moonlight.
"Oh my god, it's the little girl!" Scully exclaimed. "We've got to get her out of there!"
"Hold on a minute Scully," said Mulder, grabbing Scully's arm before she could open the car door. "I want to see what she does."
"Mulder! If your theory is correct, she could be eaten by a sea monster! We can't just let that happen!"
"A swamp monster actually, although it's nice to hear you believe my theory. Anyway, she's not just wandering down there for a casual look. She's there for a reason, and I want to know what it is."
As Mulder said this, Tiffi knelt down on the shore of the swamp and blew into it through a straw, the bubbles from her breath making the stars on the water twinkle as ripples crossed the water's surface. Suddenly, the surface was distorted by much larger waves as a tentacle raised itself out of the water, reaching out for Tiffi.
Scully couldn't let this happen. Before Mulder could stop her, she was out of the car and through the bushes. Neither the swamp creature nor Tiffi noticed the FBI agent as the tentacle slowly reached out and stroked the little girl's face. Tiffi laughed, a warm laugh full of friendship and mutual respect. Scully stopped, still a distance away, hardly able to believe her eyes.
Mulder caught up to Scully and stood beside her. "I don't understand," he said. "Why isn't it attacking her like it did to the other people found in the lake?"
The monster lifted another tentacle and gave something to Tiffi. Neither agent could quite make out what it was, but it seemed to be some sort of special candy. Tiffi ate it. At first, nothing happened. Nothing happened at first, but then something about Tiffi seemed to change. She grew shorter, her neck grew wider so there was no separation between her head and body, and purple feathers started popping up all over her skin. In only a few minutes, Tiffi had transformed into an owl; Odus.
The agents looked on in disbelief. Had the little girl just transformed into the dreaded Odus? They slowly backed away.
The owl heard them, whipping its head around at an unnatural angle. "You cannot win while I am here," Odus hooted in a low voice. It rose off the ground and swooped menacingly towards Mulder and Scully. They needed no further encouragement to run.
They dashed towards the parked station wagon, but Odus was too close for them to stop and open the doors and retreat into the shelter. As they reached the street, they wordlessly agreed to split up, one going in each direction. The owl went after Mulder, deciding that he knew too much, therefore being a much more dangerous foe than the ever-sceptical Scully. Tiffi/Odus had always been smarter than her age would suggest.
Realising she was the one unchased, Scully got out her gun and aimed it at the foul fowl. She wouldn't shoot unless she had to, but that option was looking more and more necessary by the second. Suddenly, Odus swooped down and picked up Mulder between its talons, carrying him back towards the swamp. Scully shot at the bird, but missed by a long way. She didn't want to accidentally hit Mulder.
Back beside the swamp, Odus placed Mulder down beside the waving tentacle before flying off to find Scully. Mulder turned towards the swamp creature, realising his fate.
"Well, uh, hello there," said Mulder, stalling. "It seems I was right about you. So, why don't you tell me a little about yourself. What's your name? Where are you from? How are you doing tonight?"
The tentacle make a swipe at his neck in reply, but missed as Mulder dodged to the side.
"Ok, so I'm guessing you're hungry then. I have a steak back in the car if you want it. It's cooked to perfection. Why don't you let me pass and I can get it for you?"
The tentacle swiped at him again, missing him by less than an inch. It wasn't used to its prey knowing it was there, and was suffering without the element of surprise.
"Ok, so you don't like steak. Can't really blame you, the way it's cooked here. But I will say that I'm not much tastier. I'd be disgusting. Scully's always complaining that there's no meat on my bones. Not that she's planning on eating me either. At least, I hope not." Mulder looked around desperately for his partner.
She was being placed down beside Mulder by the monstrous owl. She had been planning on shooting it as it came to get her, but she kept remembering the face of the little girl, and couldn't bring herself to pull the trigger.
"Look what the owl dragged in," Mulder joked. Scully just gave him a death stare.
The tentacle suddenly shot out again. It seemed that it was third time lucky, because it managed to snake itself around Mulder's neck pulling him off his feet.
"Put him down!" shouted Scully, waving her firearm at the tentacle. It was moving too much, and Mulder was in its way. She couldn't shoot without hitting him. Again.
"Mulder, where's your own gun?" Scully shouted. "Shoot it!"
Mulder managed to squeeze out the word "car" as he tried to loosen the tentacle around his windpipe. Yes, it seemed that Mulder had left his gun in the car, where it was of little use.
Unable to use a weapon, Scully watched on helplessly as her partner was choked by the tentacle as it slowly lowered him into the swamp. Suddenly, she remembered something. It was a strange world in which she was in, where candies have strange powers. She pulled the packet of candies she was eating earlier out of her pocket, lining the individual pieces in a grid formation on the ground beside the swamp. She then switched two of them around so four red candies were in a row. Magically, they turned into one striped red candy. Aiming it at the swamp monster, she placed two more red candies beside it.
A blaze of light shot out from either end of the candy, hitting the tentacle. It stopped for a moment in pain, loosening its grip on Mulder slightly before continuing its decent into the swamp. One stripe wasn't going to cut it.
She set up her grid again. This time, she put four green candies in a row and five blue candies in a T formation. Before her eyes, they transformed into a striped and wrapped candy respectively. "Hang in there Mulder!" Scully said as she pushed the two together before stepping back in the diagonal direction.
The candies joined to become one giant candy. It suddenly burst apart, destroying a large path alongside the swamp before turning and shooting towards and away from the swamp monster. The tentacle received the full force of the burst, wailing in agony as it fell back under the water, dropping Mulder in the process. He fell into the soda and swam to the edge, wet and sticky and with a sore throat, but otherwise unharmed.
"NOOOOOO!" cried the owl who was slowly transforming back into a little girl. "You killed him! You killed my friend!"
"Little girl, I am putting you under arrest for assisted murder." Scully whipped out a pair of handcuffs, securing the hands of the weeping Tiffi.
"You're the murderer, not him, not me!" protested Tiffi through her tears. "You killed an innocent creature! He only hunted for food. How is that any different from human killing cows for steak, or cows killing grass for food?"
Scully ignored her cries as she moved the little girl towards the car. "Seem you were right after all," Scully said behind her to Mulder.
"I hate to say it," wheezed Mulder, "but I told you so."
"So let me get this straight. The creator of a level in a game was killed by a swamp monster in a swamp in the game he was making the level for, with the help of a little girl who somehow magically transformed into an owl after eating a piece of candy, and you managed to stop them both using some more of this magical candy," said assistant director Skinner as he peered at Mulder and Scully over his desk in the Washington FBI offices.
"Yes sir," said the pair sheepishly.
"Even by your standards, Mulder, this is a extremely unlikely, and certainly not something I would expect to hear from you, Scully. A talking crocodile? An owl big enough to carry a grown person? A swamp made of soda? Seriously?"
"Yes sir," they mumbled again, a little more embarrassed.
"And what is this Candy Crush Saga thing anyway?"
"Uh, well, it's a game which people can play on either Facebook or their phones..." started Scully.
"What's Facebook, and how do you suggest games are played on a phone," said Skinner in an annoyed voice, holding up his bureau standard mobile phone, a big black brick made simply of some keys and the voice transmitter/receiver. Still, quite high tech for the 90s.
"Um, well, Facebook is... uh, I don't know, sir," said Scully, confused.
"I can't remember how we played the game on our phones," said Mulder. "I was sure there was a screen involved somehow."
Skinner looked exasperatedly over his two best agents. "You know, I sometimes wonder how you two still have your jobs, or how I still have my job for accepting this sort of thing. Look, next case you get, can you at least try and make it sound more plausible?"
"Yes sir," the two said a third and final time before retreating back to the basement office, ready to investigate the next X-file.