AN ACCIDENTAL INTERCEPTION
Of Fate: Like Agamemnon
Notes: Not a pleasant chapter; apologies if any details of Fort Tryon
Park are askew. Yes, the eye is from the upcoming Hulk film, though
my Banner is obviously quite different from that one (beyond being a
geneticist there, too). Unfortunately, images of the cgi-Hulk are
being strictly guarded, so it was the eye or Lou Ferrigno. No, at
this point in time, the X-Jet does not yet have jumpjet capabilities.
Henry McCoy knew that something was seriously wrong as soon as he
awoke in his own bed and saw Frank half-dozing in the chair at his
desk. It wasn�t the presence of Frank that alarmed him, but the
decidedly different feel of his own body that extended beyond any
cotton-fuzzy effect of pain meds. He felt larger, stuffed like a
teddy bear, and a spinning-dizzy chill flashed through his limbs as
he stared at the ceiling a moment, watching the ripple of evening
shadows from the dancing limbs of the black hickory beyond his
bedroom window. Finally, he said, �Fff-- Fffanses . . . sssses . .
. co?� He could make neither an �r� nor a �ch� sound.
Jerking awake, Frank uncrossed his legs and arms, then smiled. But
it was sad. Frank�s smiles were often sad. �Welcome back.� Rising,
he came over to perch on the edge of Hank�s bed. �Are you in pain?�
�No. But, I fffeeel odd. Cannntalk.� In point of fact, his tongue
felt too large for his mouth, or his teeth were . . . different.
That was it -- his teeth were different. Was he missing some? But
no, running his tongue over them, he met a full wall of slick enamel,
but very sharp. My God, he thought, I have incisors.
Well, everyone had incisors. But not like these.
What on earth had happened? He started to struggle up, but Frank�s
hand on his shoulder pushed him back. �Lie still. You are wounded.
The doctors sewed you back together from the pieces.� Abruptly he
grinned. �Well, not so quite. I am Italian; I am allowed to
exaggerate. But you must not begin new bleeding, no?�
�An accident. You remember the explosions, yes?� Hank nodded and
Frank sighed. Here came the difficult part. Your own fault, he
thought. He�d had the power to stop it, and hadn�t. But everyone
had to make choices.
Before he could go on, however, Henry asked, �Shhheen? Buce?�
�Jean is fine. Bruce . . . we do not know.� Well, he knew, but he
would keep that to himself yet.
�What ten? Tell me. And how long out?�
Already Henry was adjusting to the changes in his mouth. It would
take time, but he�d relearn how to talk.
�We do not know what happened, not past the obvious. You haven�t
been unconscious so long, not two hours since we came back.� There
was no putting it off, so he reached down to raise one of Hank�s
hands into his friend�s field of vision. �There are changes, Henri.�
And the expressions that chased across Hank�s face pierced Francesco.
Confusion, horror, pain, fear -- disgust. He started to rise again
but Frank pushed him down once more, and weak still, he didn�t fight.
But his eyes were terrified. �Mihah, mihoh, mi . . .�
�Mirror,� Frank said for him. �Lie still. I will find one.�
In fact, he�d brought one along from the room that he shared with
Ororo, an antique tooled, brass-backed hand mirror, small enough to
avoid a whole-body effect. It was sometimes better, he reflected, if
shocks came in digestible bites. He handed the mirror to Hank, who
stared into it a long while, then dropped it reflective side down on
the bed�s blanket and turned his face away.
�You are still Henri McCoy,� Frank told him. �This� -- he indicated
Henry�s new form -- �changes nothing of the you that matters.�
�Why?� Hank asked. �Why did it happen?�
�It was the machine, I am thinking.�
And Hank pondered that because knowledge was Henry McCoy�s god, the
solace he�d always sought for the differences that had set him apart
from the very beginning. He could recall seeing the gravimagnetic
field escape the GFG containment cylinder and spread outward,
enveloping Ted Roberts and moving beyond even as the machine itself
had cracked apart under pressure. He�d leapt over the table to knock
Jean and Bruce to the floor, but that had been to save them from the
shrapnel of a disintegrating machine, not from the field.
�Sheen -- ?� Then in frustration, he shook his head and mimed
writing. Frank nodded and fetched a yellow pad and pen from the desk
while Hank studied his hands, now covered with very short, dense,
pale-lapis-blue fur everywhere except the palms, the skin of which
had thickened and turned a darker royal shade. But otherwise, their
shape hadn�t changed; they were as outsized as they�d always been.
You were born a freak, Henry McCoy, he thought bitterly as he took
the paper from Frank to scribble, �Has Jean changed?�
Frank shook his head, and Hank breathed out in relief, then wrote,
�My mutation must never have completed itself. That�s what the GFG
was supposed to do: trigger recessive or incomplete mutations. I
was born with a physical mutation, but it must never have reached its
intended conclusion.� He stopped, twisted the pen a moment, then
added, �This is what I�m supposed to be.�
He remembered the face in the mirror. �What beast haff I become?� he
�Yourself,� Frank told him softly. Reaching out, he took the writing
tools from Henry and laid them down on the bedside, then took Hank�s
hand and held it up, placing his own against it, palm-to-palm. Not
only was Henry�s hand larger, but the fingers were longer, more
apelike. �You are our friend,� Frank said. �We will find the way
through this, and we shall not forsake you.�
Frank held up the pad with his free hand. �Words. You still have
your words, mi amico. You have still published more articles this
year than anyone else in your specialization. You are still Henri
McCoy.� He released Hank�s hand and eyed him. �You are not a beast.
Unless it is the Cookie Monster.�
And despite himself, Hank laughed. Then he cried. Frank sat with
him for a long time, saying nothing else as shadows lengthened and
the sun went down in watercolor streaks of blood red, obscene orange,
and the deep purple of a bruise.
�Something terrible has happened to Bruce!�
Jean was shouting it almost before she got in the main foyer door,
Warren right on her heels. Caught in rush-hour traffic, it had taken
them almost two hours to get back to Westchester from midtown, and
the grandfather clock in the hallway was about to chime seven.
�Professor!� Jean called. �Professor! Something has happened to
Everyone on the first floor came running, Xavier in his chair the
last to arrive, and right there on the grey-veined foyer marble, Jean
laid down a selection of papers that she�d printed out earlier and
had been studying in the car on the drive back. �Here, here and
here!� she said, pointing to three lines of numbers that, of course,
meant absolutely nothing to anyone else present.
�Begin at the beginning, Jean,� the professor suggested.
Looking up from where she knelt, she met his eyes. �What happened to
Hank. It happened to Bruce, too. I�m almost sure of it. That wave
mutated them. I wouldn�t have thought of it, if I hadn�t seen Hank
in the hospital but -- � Abruptly, she interrupted herself to ask,
�How is Hank?�
�Hank is fine,� said a new voice on the main spiral staircase.
Having heard the shouting below, Francesco and Henry had come to
investigate and now Frank was helping him down the stairs.
�Hank!� Jean yelled, darting up the stairs to throw her arms around
him with great enthusiasm, if no little care. It wasn�t the
reception he�d expected, but it was the one he�d needed, and he put
an arm around her, too, hugging her back.
�What papeas?� he asked, still adjusting to the new teeth.
�Copies of the printouts that Bruce was showing us earlier.�
�Let me see.�
So Jean and Frank helped him to descend the rest of the way, then sat
him down on the final step so that Jean could move the papers closer,
pointing out the crucial results. �What haffened to Buce?� he asked,
almost idly, as he picked up and shuffled through the printouts.
Focus, focus, he thought. The papers gave him something on which to
focus the one thing that hadn�t changed -- his mind.
�I�m not sure exactly,� Jean explained, glancing back at Warren. �I
didn�t see him. I�m not entirely sure it was him but --� she
gestured silently at Hank, who just stared at her a moment. �He�s
�Green?� the rest echoed.
�Big and green,� Warren added, �or that�s how one of the Hammer
Center secretaries described him. Apparently, he was hiding in a
supply closet and when she opened it, he ran out. We -- Jean and I
and some other students -- heard a growl and then her scream all the
way up on the floor above. By the time we got there, he was gone.
But whatever happened, he scared the daylights out of her. She
called him a �big green thing.��
�And what makes you think this was Bruce Banner?� the professor
�Bruce�s body wasn�t found,� Jean said. �A cop came to take my
statement before I left ER. He admitted that Ted Roberts had been
found -- � she choked, then went on, �had been found dead at the
scene. But apparently Hank and I were the only other people in the
room. No Bruce. And� -- she indicated Hank again -- �the wave
changed Hank. I think it changed Bruce, too.�
�But it didn�t change you, Jean. And Bruce Banner is not a mutant,�
the professor pointed out.
�Maybe he was,� Hank said, and they all turned to stare at him.
Pulling out the pad he�d grabbed, he wrote, One impact of the wave is
to complete mutations in partially mutated individuals. That is the
only explanation I can think of for my own state. My mutation at
birth was partial, and for whatever reason, never finished. But the
other impact of the wave is to bring about mutations in latent
mutants. Bruce hadn�t yet told Jean this, but his son is a mutant.
It�s part of what spurred his original interest in mutations. While
running some DNA scans, he discovered that Brian carries the X-gene;
he�s simply not old enough yet to manifest. Yet that means either
Bruce or Betty carry a recessive, and I think we know now which of
them it is.
�It�s got to be Bruce,� Jean agreed. �He must have woken before the
paramedics arrived, or he was never knocked out at all. He saw
what�d happened and panicked -- went to hide in that closet.�
Hank nodded. �Could be.�
Neither voiced their private thoughts: it was very unlike Bruce to
run. He�d never before ducked his responsibilities, or a fight -- at
least not an academic fight -- but waking up green might have been
more than he�d been prepared to face.
Jean glanced back at Hank. �Why didn�t he ever tell me about Brian?�
This time, Hank shook his head. �Phivat.� He wrote, I think he
would have eventually, but not while you were a student of his.
Jean pondered that. Bruce had always been old-fashioned about some
things. �We have to find him,� Jean said, �before he gets hurt.� She
turned to the professor. �If he�s a mutant now, can you find him
The professor nodded. �I can certainly try.�
�Hey, Slim -- phone!�
Scott wandered out of his bedroom where he�d been studying for an
exam. This was the first summer that EJ hadn�t returned to LA,
supposedly because he wanted to get some gen ed classes out of the
way, but Scott thought the real reason had more to do with the fact
that Diane had elected to spend the summer in Berkeley.
Scott took the receiver to the kitchen phone. Its long cord had been
twisted into impossible pretzels. �Hello?�
�Scott? It is Ro. There was an accident in the Hammer Building -- �
�What? Is Jean okay?� Scott interrupted.
On the other end of the line, Ororo smiled to herself. In small
gestures were the hearts of men revealed. �Jean is fine. Hank is .
. . going to be fine.� She hoped. �Sadly, Ted Roberts was killed,
and we are uncertain what became of Bruce -- though Jean and Hank
have a theory.�
�Something happened in the lab?� he demanded.
�Yes. The new machine exploded. The cause is not known.�
�Shit.� He turned around to look at EJ, who was chopping broccoli on
a cutting board as he listened with a concerned frown. Scott
mouthed, Jean�s all right and EJ nodded. �So what�s their theory?�
�That Bruce underwent a mutation himself.�
Ororo explained in brief what Jean and Warren had seen at the Hammer
Building, Hank�s theory, and also Hank�s own transformation. Scott
just listened until she got to the part about Hank. �He�s blue?�
�Who�s blue?� EJ asked.
�Hank�s blue! Ro says that Hank�s turned blue!�
�Whoa -- �
�It seems,� Ororo interrupted over the phone line to drag back
Scott�s attention, �that Henry�s mutation was unfinished. Scott, we
must try to find Bruce Banner, if that was, indeed, the doctor.�
�I�m flying back there,� Scott said. He had no idea how fast he
could get a ticket, but renting a plane for himself was out of the
question at such short notice.
�Do not bother. Warren is already on the way out to get you. That
is why I am calling. You will need to drive to the San Pablo
Reservoir picnic grounds.�
�Why?� He was baffled. �It�s closed at night, Ro.�
�We know. That is why we are using it. I do not think they will let
this plane enter the local airport.�
�Huh?� But the reason for t hat hit him before she could reply.
�Wait a minute! He�s not bringing the Blackbird? I didn�t know it
was ready! Or that you�d tested it!�
�It is ready, but this is the first flight it has taken.�
�No fucking way! Crippled Christ on a crutch! Don�t let him off the
ground � �
�He has left already.�
�He�s crazy!� Scott Summers, son of an air force test pilot, was
nearly livid. �You don�t take up a newly refitted plane at night and
fly it all the way across the goddamn country!� Especially not that
plane. �He�s not trying to fly it at mach speed, is he?�
�It is an emergency,� was Ororo�s simple answer.
Scott sighed; there was no use crying over spilled milk. He just
hoped to God that Warren and the Habu made it out to California in
one piece. �When did he leave?�
�Two hours ago. So you have slightly less than two hours to travel
to meet him.�
�Fine. I�ll be waiting.�
Scott hung up and turned to face EJ. �I need a favor, man. I need
you to drive me up to San Pablo Reservoir State Park.�
EJ looked out the window at the setting sun. �Slim, it�s almost
dark. It�ll be closed soon.�
�Yeah, I know. That�s the idea.�
Scott and EJ arrived with time and to spare, which was a good thing;
with the park closed, they had to hide the car and climb the fence to
get in. �What are we waiting on, man?�
Scott didn�t want to spoil the surprise. �You wouldn�t believe me if
I told you.� EJ�s answering expression was disgusted, and Scott felt
guilty. �Sorry. It�s an SR-71. Rebuilt and remodeled.�
Scott had to laugh. Of course EJ wouldn�t know. Planes were Scott�s
obsession. �It�s a Blackbird.�
�Never heard of it.�
�You won�t see it, either, until it�s on top of you. Fastest plane
the air force ever built and the second highest-flying plane in the
world. A Russian MIG goes higher, but the Blackbird�s a beauty.�
That won a smile from EJ. �You�re plane-drunk, Slim.�
�Runs in the family.�
Twenty minutes later, the �bird was there, coming in low and slow
from the north, a darker shadow on a dark sky until the landing spots
came on. Warren set it down in an open field and Scott held his
breath as the landing gear descended for the first time since its
refit. His father had told him more than once that every Habu had a
temper of her own and that her pilot had better learn to finesse her.
Landing a plane this powerful was like courting a fickle girl --
make the wrong move and one was dead.
Though her descent was rough, the plane remained in one piece as she
touched down and tore up dirt. �How long he been flying, man?� EJ
asked as the �bird came to a final tail-wagging stop.
�It�s a field, not a runway, Eeeej. And that plane�s not like any
other.� Scott shook his head. �I can�t believe he brought her down
for the first time here. I just hope we can get up again.�
EJ eyed him, expression genuinely concerned. �You sure about this?�
Scott shrugged, repeating the same thing Ororo had said on the phone.
�It�s an emergency.� But when he boarded the bay-gutted, revamped
cockpit to take the newly installed co-pilot�s seat, his hands were
shaking. �How�d she fly?� he asked his friend, deliberately casual.
It was better than, �Are we gonna die in a bright, fiery ball?�
�She�s cantankerous,� Warren replied, strapping back in, �But the
daf-ek Hank reinstalled has worked great. No unstarts and the APW
didn�t shake the stick once.�
�Terrific,� Scott muttered sotto voce. �How many times have you
practiced in a sim, War?�
�Enough. And with all the scenarios.�
Nonetheless, lift-off wasn�t much better than the landing had been,
and Scott gripped his armrests as they barely cleared the tops of the
tall cedars. �Jesus, Mary and Joseph,� he muttered.
�Can it. Unless you want to fly her.� Warren was tight-lipped and
as white in the face as Scott.
�Yeah, actually, I would.�
�What?� Surprised, Warren glanced around.
�I�d like to fly her.� And Scott did want it. Desperately. His
fingers stroked the slick inner skin of her hull.
�When was the last time you did a simulation, hotshot?�
Scott thought about it. �On the computer? Day before yesterday.�
He had not, in fact, been in the sim machine itself since Christmas,
but he was rather embarrassed to admit how often he ran the adapted
simulator that Hank had sent him.
Silence reigned for a minute, then Warren said, �Okay, you can fly
her a little. But let me get us to cruising altitude, and I�m going
to land her.�
They flew at 45,000 feet, but below the subsonic range when Warren
carefully let Scott slip into the pilot�s seat and turned over the
plane to him. As Scott�s hands closed on the control stick, he felt
a shiver go through him. He was in the pilot seat of a Habu. A
modified Habu, but a Habu all the same. �Hey, baby,� he whispered.
She trembled under his hands, her AB engines roaring so hot they
turned their own interiors translucent and shook his teeth. But she
trembled because this was too slow for her. She wasn�t made for
tortoise speeds. Free me, she sang to him through the metal. He
raised her nose, advanced the throttle and opened her up.
�Whoa!� Warren said, plopping down into the other chair as she leapt
forward. �What the fuck are you doing?�
�Taking her to a speed she wants to go.�
�Scott -- !�
�I was born for this, War.� And he was -- a combination of his
father�s genetics, his lesser-sung mutant abilities, and an instinct
for the stratosphere. He watched the plane�s speed pass the sonic
barrier and then approach the critical 1.6 as inlet spikes unlocked
and moved aft of their forward position. This was it, he thought.
They�d either unstart the engines and be knocked all over the sky, or
she�d straighten out like a greyhound.
She straightened out, vibrating with a cat�s purr of pure power.
Take me home, baby, he thought to her.
They flew through the night, very high, her engines making
quartz-blue flames in the darkness.
On the long flight, Warren filled in Scott more thoroughly on
everything that had transpired since the accident. By the time they
touched down on the little private landing strip by the lake, it was
the wee hours of morning, but the lights were still on in the
mansion. They entered through the rear kitchen door and Scott was
met with a bear hug first from Ororo, then from Jean. Scott held
onto Jean a bit longer than he might have normally, then asked, �You
okay? I�m sorry about -- �
�I�m all right,� she interrupted, pushing him away. She didn�t want
to discuss Ted Roberts and knew that was what he�d ask about. How
she knew it, she didn�t pause to consider. �Come see Hank.� She
took him by the hand and led him out of the kitchen. �And whatever
you do, don�t wince.�
The dark-wood hall between kitchen and den was dim and haunted with
uncertainties as the four of them made their way down to where a
still-weak Henry McCoy was propped on the den couch with pillows and
blankets and warm tea. The professor was with him, and Frank and
Bobby, and all the room�s lights were on. He was both more and less
shocking than Scott had expected, though in truth, Scott�s
expectations had been indistinct, like a child�s fear of monsters in
Hank was no monster at all. He�d gained significant body mass but
his facial features were still familiar -- all but the mouth. That
looked slightly stretched. The greatest change was the color of the
new fur; it appeared purple to Scott, though Ororo and Warren had
both said it was blue. The skin beneath also seemed to have changed
as his lips were purple, too, though the hair on his head was the
same dark shade it�d always been. Then again, Scott thought, if his
own beard could be auburn while his hair was brown, maybe the
contrast of Hank�s body fur to his scalp hair was the same.
Face blank by force of will, Scott walked over to seat himself on the
edge of the coffee table that fronted the sofa. �How are you?� he
asked -- a foolish question, but the only one he could think of to
express his concern.
Hank didn�t quite look at him, glancing somewhere indefinite over his
left shoulder instead. �I suppose I sssall be seeking a new address
on Sesame Street.�
Unsure how to reply to that, and embarrassed and half-guilty, Scott
looked away. The rest of the room was silent. Abruptly, Hank
sighed. It was loud. �I know, I know. Self-pity is so unbecoming.�
It was Frank who dared to reply. �But understandable.�
And no one immediately replied to that, either. After a space of ten
breaths, Scott asked, �So if this big, green . . . person . . . is
Dr. Banner, how do we find him? He may be big, but New York is
�I believe I can help, on that score,� the professor said.
Concluded in to part 12b
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