Mulder and Scully are called in to investigate a man with several injuries that were reportedly to be cause by suicide attempts at a military hospital. Later, they discover a quadruple amputee who has gained the power of Astral Projection and is taking revenge on his commanding officers.
At a VA hospital in Fort Evanston, Maryland, Lieutenant Colonel Victor Stans makes his third suicide attempt; he claims that a mysterious figure will not let him die. Stans attempts to drown in a tub of scalding water, but an unseen hand unlocks the door and trips the alarm, and he is rescued by the hospital staff, though nearly skinned from head to toe by burns.
When Fox Mulder and Dana Scully question Stans, they learn that his wife and children died in a house fire he claims was started by the mysterious soldier he says will not allow him to die himself. Captain Janet Draper stops the questioning, as Mulder and Scully were not granted permission to see Stans by his superior officer, General Thomas Callahan. After meeting with the agents, Callahan glimpses the phantom soldier Stans described. He also finds his answering machine replaying an unintelligible message. Later, while using the base's swimming pool, Draper is killed by an invisible force.
Callahan tells the agents about the soldier and the voicemail, which was received twice before at his home. When they visit his house, his young son, Trevor Callahan, believes he saw someone go inside; Scully herself glimpses someone in the backyard. Fingerprints are found on the property which belong to the hospital mailman, Quinton Freely. As Mulder and Scully take Roach into custody, Trevor is attacked and killed by the invisible force in his sandbox. Under the agent's questioning, Roach admits to his role in the deaths and states he is "Rappo's mailman".
"Rappo" turns out to be Leonard Trimble, a quadraple amputee Gulf War veteran. Scully doesn't believe Roach, even though he insists that Rappo will kill him next. Scully later finds Roach dead in his cell with a bedsheet shoved down his throat. Scully assumes that he committed suicide, but Mulder shows her X-ray dental plates he had carried in the rehab room, the pool, Callahan's office, and Callahan's house; all show signs of radiation. Mulder thinks that Rappo is leaving his body through astral projection, doing so with a psychic connection forged through Roach's letters. He also plays the voicemail backwards; it is actually a warning from the phantom soldier.
Under questioning, an embittered Rappo states his belief that the Gulf War took his life away. Meanwhile, Callahan finds his wife's dead body. He goes to the hospital to talk to Stans, who reveals that Rappo — whom he doesn't know — is responsible for the deaths. When Callahan confronts Rappo, he openly admits his crimes. Rappo tries to goad Callahan into killing him, but Callahan instead empties his gun into the wall over Rappo's head. He says Rappo will live, and continue to suffer as his victims do. Callahan exits the room, Rappo shouting after him that he will not let things stand like that.
The agents arrive and find Rappo in a trance; Mulder realizes what is happening and tries to find Callahan. Rappo's apparition attacks Callahan with steam from the pipes in the hospital's basement. Stans enters Rappo's room, locks the door, and smothers Rappo with a pillow. With Rappo dead, his apparition disappears before it attacks Mulder. Callahan remains unharmed.
Mulder's narration states that, since there is no physical evidence linking Rappo with the deaths of Callahan's wife and son, the case remains open. However, the Army refuses Rappo's family's request that he be buried at Arlington National Cemetery, and he is instead buried in a civilian cemetery in Pennsylvania.
Callahan sits at his desk, doing his best to carry on despite the loss of his family. Stans - wearing a plastic shell over his head to protect his raw skin from exposure to the air - trundles in with the mail cart, having taken over the late Freely's duties. He drops a letter on Callahan's desk, and the two men exchange a melancholy look, before Stans wheels his cart down the hallway.
Cast and Characters
- Don Thompson (Lt. Colonel Victor Stans) previously played Holtzman in The X-Files episode "Conduit" and Henry Willig in "Sleepless".
- Deryl Hayes (Army Doctor) previously played Webster in The X-Files episode "Shadows" and Agent Morris in "Little Green Men".
- Thomas Kopache as General Thomas Callahan
- Willie Garson as Quinton Freely
- Don Thompson as Lt. Colonel Victor Stans
- Nancy Sorel as Captain Janet Draper
- Ian Tracey as Sergeant Leonard Trimble
- Paula Shaw as a Ward Nurse
- Deryl Hayes as an Army Doctor
- Rob Lee as Amputee
- Andrea Barclay as Francis Callahan
- Beatrice Zeilinger as Burly Nurse
- Brennan Kotowich as Trevor Callahan