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4647AN ACCIDENTAL INTERCEPTION OF FATE 12b, "Like Agamemnon," ensemble

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  • Minisinoo
    Dec 13, 2002
      Concluding direction from part 12a....

      Fort Tryon itself, built on Manhattan�s highest point, dated back to
      the Revolutionary war, but only the ruined foundations remained on
      the banks of the Hudson across the river from the New Jersey
      Palisades. Even that might have been swallowed by the burgeoning New
      York metropolis but for the sixty-two acres surrounding the fort that
      had been purchased by John D. Rockefeller in 1909, and given to the
      city in 1930 for a park; the landscaping had been done by Frederick
      Law Olmsted, the same man who�d designed Central Park. Yet the
      public draw of Ft. Tryon wasn�t the historic ruins, but The
      Cloisters, a mammoth sub-branch of the Metropolitan Museum of Art
      built in the chunky, forbidding style of medieval French monasteries,
      and housing (appropriately) art and artifacts of the Middle Ages.
      The Cloisters was located centrally at the park top, while numerous
      paths led up and down hills, some of them so steep that walkways had
      to be bordered by stone walls. There was a rock garden at the south
      entrance near the old fort, a stone gazebo, a caf�, a terrace, and a
      pair of sizable playgrounds, all in addition to the lawns, groves,
      chasms, and gardens one would expect to find. Here at the height of
      summer, the trees and bushes were leafy and verdant, providing
      extensive cover so that, after dark and even with a half moon, it was
      pitch black in areas.

      It was also closed, so getting inside had been an adventure, but this
      was where Cerebro had pinpointed Bruce Banner, so this was where
      they�d come, hoping to find and fetch him back to the mansion at a
      time of night when he wouldn�t attract too much unwanted attention.
      Jean was armed with an oversized coat and a hat. It wasn�t perfect,
      but after dark, it might be sufficient to conceal someone big, and
      green. Only Hank and Bobby hadn�t come, Hank because he was too
      wounded -- never mind blue -- and Bobby because he was too young.
      Scott led Ororo, Frank, Jean and Warren into the park while the
      professor drove the handicap-modified Bentley about the neighborhood,
      waiting. Dawn was only an hour and a half away, so they had to find
      Bruce quickly. They split up into two groups, but even so, the park
      would have been too large for them to canvas in that time, so the
      professor helped them better narrow the area of their search. They
      knew that Banner was on the western, or elevated side of the park,
      near the museum. At Scott�s suggestion, they were wearing the
      protective gear that had been designed for them -- dark clothes to
      cover most of their exposed skin, and the kevlar vests. Jean had
      protested, �Scott, it�s Bruce, not some strange and dangerous

      But Scott had shaken his head. �It�s not Bruce I�m worried about;
      it�s the other crazies.� Scott was still amazed that Banner had
      managed to make it from the medical center to Ft. Tryon Park at rush
      hour without attracting attention.

      In fact, the big, green man *had* attracted attention, but New
      Yorkers being New Yorkers, they�d assumed him involved in filming a
      movie or some sort of publicity campaign, so he�d traveled two blocks
      west to Ft. Washington Park without anyone calling the police, then
      moved north through the park grounds until he�d been able to cross
      into the much larger, more densely landscaped Ft. Tryon Park where
      his own panicked suspicion had made him avoid joggers and tourists
      until sunset had emptied the paths. Now, hunger had driven him out
      to prowl and he made a midnight snack of unfinished popcorn,
      half-eaten granola bars, and abandoned chili dogs, leaving a trail of
      plundered trash cans that Scott and Jean picked up near Linden
      Terrace and followed like a reversal of Hansel and Gretel. �I can�t
      believe he�s eating trash,� Jean said, after the third overturned

      Scott was more concerned by the fact that Bruce was casually upending
      concrete containers than by the fact he was eating someone�s
      half-finished dinner. Fists on hips, he studied one of the displaced
      canisters lying on its side not far from a sign that read
      (ironically), **Let no one say, and say it to your shame, that all
      was beauty here, until you came.** �He�s probably really hungry.
      When was the last time he ate? Noon?�

      �No doubt, but Scott, it�s *garbage*. He�s a doctor. He knows how
      unsanitary that is.� And she fastidiously wrinkled her pretty nose.
      �I�d think he�d have to be a good deal hungrier than a missed supper
      before he�d eat out of the trash!�

      It was yet another clue in the case Jean was reluctantly building
      that more was wrong with her old advisor than a change in skin tone.
      The Bruce she knew would never have threatened a secretary, no matter
      how frightened he was. And the Bruce she knew wouldn�t be eating out
      of the trash unless he were a good deal more hungry and desperate.
      Moreover, the Bruce she knew would�ve made some effort to contact
      someone, not hole up in a park for hours on end. Perhaps he didn�t
      have his cell, but she�d seen a few scattered pay phones since
      entering the grounds. Why hadn�t he at least tried to call his wife
      collect? Jean had phoned Betty Ross-Banner from the mansion only to
      find her frantic, with no idea about what had happened to her

      Standing on one of the many paths, Jean squinted off through the
      trees. They made a black wall all around them and the beam of her
      flashlight barely pierced the foliage. Crickets sang their night
      songs and she could smell the heavy perfume of summer jasmine.
      Dressed in a long-sleeved shirt, pants and the heavy kevlar, she was
      hot, and pushed up her shirt sleeves as she followed Scott. The
      white X on the back of his vest glowed faintly in the moonlight. It
      really did look like a big target mark.

      Scott had raised his little wrist communicator and now spoke into it.

      �Nothing,� came back Warren�s voice in a static-distorted warble.

      �We�ve found some emptied trash bins between the terrace and the rock
      garden but no further sign of Dr. Banner.�

      �Why do you assume emptied trash bins have anything to do with
      Banner? Might be dogs.�

      �They�re a couple hundred pounds of concrete turned upside down, War.
      Find me the dog who can do that.�


      �Yeah, �oh.� Let�s converge on the trail headed up towards The
      Cloisters.� He hesitated, then added, �Be careful,� before closing
      the connection. He and Jean turned back and followed the Promenade
      north towards the looming complex of buildings above them, the
      yellow-white beams of their flashlights dancing across the landscape
      around them.

      �Shall we call to him?� Jean asked after a while. �He might not know
      who we are otherwise.�

      It was a good suggestion, and Scott might have agreed, but before he
      could reply something large and hulking crashed through the bushes to
      their right and leapt onto the path in front of them, pounding his
      chest Tarzan-style and snarling. Already on edge, Jean squeaked and
      stumbled backwards, falling onto her ass on the sidewalk, her
      flashlight rolling away and the overcoat falling from her grasp.
      Scott jumped in front of her, hand on his visor trigger, �Dr.
      Banner! We�re not here to hurt you.� He could only hope that the
      seven-foot, snarling, man-shaped creature was, in fact, the mutated
      Bruce Banner, but when he swung up his flashlight into the other�s
      eyes to blind him temporarily, the beam did reveal skin a brilliant
      grass green.

      �Bruce, it�s Jean!� She�d recovered her equilibrium and her feet
      rapidly enough. �We want to help!�

      Between the light in his eyes and the use of his name, Banner
      hesitated. �Who you?� he asked.

      The childlike puzzlement in his face, the poor grammar, and the fact
      -- just registering with them both -- that he wore not a stitch of
      clothing on his body, sealed Jean�s suspicion that more than his
      physical form had altered. �Bruce, it�s Jean,� she repeated, hands
      spread in a placating way as she moved a few steps past Scott. Scott
      grabbed for her but she shook him off. �It�s Jean Grey. Your former
      student, Jean Grey? Do you remember me? We want to help you. We
      want to take you someplace safe.�

      Bruce Banner was wary, but he did recognize his own name, and the
      young woman seemed familiar, though he understood less than half of
      what she�d said. He understood �safe,� at least, and as she held
      nothing dangerous in her outstretched hands, he took a step towards
      her. Smiling, she continued, �Betty asked us to find you. Betty and
      Brian are really worried, Bruce. They want you to come home.�

      Betty. He remembered Betty. Soft hair, soft breasts, pretty smile.
      Betty. And for the first time in hours, both fear and hostility
      drained out of Banner. Pretty Betty. But she wouldn�t like to see
      him like this. She wouldn�t love him anymore like this. He sat down
      heavily on the grass verge, knees up and forearms on them, giving
      Jean a clearer view of his privates than she�d ever wanted. �Betty,�
      he whispered, great sorrow in his voice. �Betty no see me like

      Whatever he�d lost intellectually, he clearly still understood shame
      of one kind, if not another. Jean moved closer yet, squatting down
      to put herself on his level, close enough to touch. �Bruce, Betty
      loves you. She just wants to know that you�re safe.�

      �No see me like this!� Banner�s sorrow was transforming back into
      fear, and anger

      �Jean -- � Scott warned.

      She waved him silent and tried again, thinking that they had to get
      Banner out of this park, back to the mansion -- and the lab -- where
      she and Hank could find some way to restore his memories, and his
      intellect. �Betty won�t be angry. We want to help you. We want to
      take you someplace safe where we can feed you� -- Banner�s expression
      perked up at that -- �and then we can call Betty and Brian and -- �

      She got no further. In an instant, Banner�s mood shifting from
      interest into rage and he leapt at Jean, knocking her onto her back
      even as Ororo, Frank and Warren came hurrying up the path from the
      opposite direction, having been called by the commotion. �Jean!�
      Scott shouted, stepping back to get off a shot even while the other
      three stared in confusion.

      But though Banner was holding Jean by the throat, he didn�t seem to
      be hurting her beyond that and Scott hesitated. Banner, however --
      hearing the others approaching and realizing that he was hemmed in --
      shouted, �Trick me! You trick me!�

      �No, Bruce,� Jean managed to choke out, �They won�t hurt you,� even
      as Scott said, �Let her go, Dr. Banner.�

      Warren had spread his hands in an unconscious imitation of Jean
      earlier, �We�re not your enemies.�

      �Sneaky!� Banner retorted, and lifting Jean a few inches by the neck,
      he slammed her down against the sidewalk. Scott heard her skull
      connect with the asphalt and fear squeezed his heart.

      �No, Scott!� Frank called. �If you shoot -- �

      But Scott had already triggered his visor. A low-impact beam struck
      Banner to knock him off Jean, but Scott hadn�t counted on Banner�s
      grip, and both Banner and Jean were blown across the path onto the
      grass and almost down into a ditch. Furious now, Banner stood up
      yowling and charged Scott, who shot again, a little harder, knocking
      Banner back against a tree. Ororo began to whip up a wind; it pulled
      at branches and rustled leaves. Frank stood beside her while Warren
      hurried over to kneel by Jean, helping her to sit up. She was
      rubbing at her throat.

      Ororo�s winds were getting stronger, pushing Banner back as he tried
      to push forward, yelling furiously, �You trick! Me smash!� But the
      winds were safer than Scott�s blasts. Scott wasn�t sure what to do

      �Dr. Banner,� he called. �You�ve got to stop. We won�t call Betty
      if you don�t want, but you�ve got to let us help you!�

      �You no help! You sneaky! You sneaky up on Bruce and hurt him! Me

      �No, Bruce! You were strangling Jean! I had to get you off her. I
      didn�t hit you as hard as I could and I wasn�t trying to hurt you.
      Stop fighting us and we�ll take you somewhere you can eat, somewhere
      you�ll be safe -- �

      A shot interrupted. Nothing mutant -- quite a normal gun blast,
      followed by a second, then a third. The body of Bruce Banner jerked
      three times as dark blood bloomed on the bare skin of his left arm,
      upper chest, and shoulder. It would have felled a normal man.
      Banner merely screamed louder and leapt at the one who�d fired -- a
      security guard who�d been on duty up at The Cloisters and, hearing
      their shouts, had feared gangs and called the police, then come to
      investigate. In the darkness of the trees, and focused as they were
      on Banner, none of them had seen him approach.

      Now, Banner grabbed him by the neck before he could get off a fourth
      shot and raised him high, closing the fist. Bones crunched as the
      man�s neck was pulverized; it was the most sickening sound Scott had
      ever heard. Then Banner threw the body sideways into the bushes
      before turning to face the five of them, growling like a furious
      grizzly. �Tricky! Tricky!� Blood was dripping down his skin and
      caught by their flashlight beams, it made an obscene Christmas-toned
      contrast. �Hurt me!�

      �He wasn�t with us!� Scott called, knowing it was futile, even while
      he became aware of sirens in the distance.

      Banner could hear the sirens, too, and they panicked him. Despite
      his wounds and belying his new size, he sprinted up the path towards
      The Cloisters. �Get out of the way!� Scott bellowed at Ororo and
      Frank. Ororo leapt. Frank didn�t. Face undecided, he stood rooted
      to the ground for three precious seconds. A great, green arm swept
      out and Banner knocked him flying; his body crashed into the bushes
      to the side of the path and rolled down the incline. �Frank!� Ororo
      cried, racing after him as Banner disappeared around a corner.

      �Should I see where Banner went?� Warren asked.

      Scott made a sharp negating gesture and trotted over to where Warren
      still sat with Jean. �What a fucking mess,� he snarled, though he
      was angry with himself, not them. �War, go help Ororo with Frank.
      Get him back up to the path, then we�ll decide what to do next.�

      Warren hurried off as Scott directed his flashlight beam so he could
      see without blinding Jean, and peered into her face. �How are you?�

      �Can�t talk,� she whispered, fingering her bruised neck. �Sorry. He
      might have listened to me.�

      Scott just shook his head. �Not after that idiot shot him.�

      �He killed that man.� Jean�s dark eyes were tearing. �He was a
      doctor, Scott. He saved lives.� It struck them both at the same
      moment that she�d just spoken of Banner in the past tense. �Oh, God.
      That�s not Bruce. That . . . *thing* isn�t Bruce.�

      Scott shook his head and helped her to stand even as Warren and Ororo
      returned, Frank in Warren�s arms. �He broke his leg, I think,�
      Warren said. �And he�s out cold.�

      �Shit!� Scott wanted to hit something. They�d lost Banner, the
      sirens sounded right outside the park now, and one of their own was
      wounded. �Warren -- in the air. Get out of the park and back to the
      professor with Frank. Tell him what�s happened so far if he doesn�t
      know already.� He�d been monitoring them mentally. �Ororo, Jean,
      you�re with me. I don�t know what we can do about Banner, but we�ve
      got to do something. That guy shot him three times and it didn�t
      even slow him down.�

      The others all nodded, unconsciously submitting to Scott�s command
      even though no one had put him in charge. Warren rose up into the
      night sky with Frank still in his grip while Jean and Ororo watched
      him expectantly. �I�m not sure what to do aside from going after
      him,� Scott said. �Well, that and trying to stay away from the
      police. This time, we�re sticking together.� And he led them up the
      path. Jean left behind the hat and overcoat; they seemed a futile
      gesture now.

      The police arrived within minutes, converging on The Cloisters and
      hoping for a report from the hapless security guard. Finding him
      missing, they began a search of the area while Scott, Jean and Ororo
      stayed well away, hoping that Banner had turned in some other
      direction and that they�d find him before the police did. But
      surprised shouts and a sharp interruption of gunshot told them luck
      wasn�t on their side. Crouching in the shadow of Linden Terrace,
      Scott studied the remnants of his team -- Jean who could barely
      speak, and Ororo whose concentration was now divided between their
      mission and worry for Frank. Dawn was approaching. �Ro, can you
      raise a fog from the river? Give some cover for as long as
      possible?� She nodded and did as instructed, an unseasonal and eerie
      white creeping over the Henry Hudson Parkway below and then up the
      steep bank to curl across the ground into the park trees. Scott
      could hear more sirens on the way, and there were shouts in the
      distance as police called to one another. Banner must have run

      �Which way will he go?� Scott muttered. Banner wouldn�t flee like
      Scott or any other adult would. He apparently had the mind of a
      child and would run like a child -- which meant a straight line
      directly away from the threat, probably through the park towards the
      exit. Perhaps their luck was turning and they could get him outside
      to the professor . . . or so he thought until he heard the whup-whup
      of approaching helicopter blades. �Fuck!� Grabbing both girls by
      the wrist, he dragged them after him, saying, �Stay under cover of
      the trees! They�re bringing in a chopper with a searchlight!� The
      three of them might not do Banner much good by hiding, he knew, but
      getting caught themselves would make them even more useless.

      Within minutes, a bright white light sliced across the open grass and
      the tops of trees, and the three of them could hear the sounds of a
      chase approaching as bodies crashed through brush and feet pounded
      down paths, one set quite close to their hiding place. They could
      hear the men call to one another, �He was headed southwest to the
      river, through the pine grove!�

      Scott exchanged a glance with Jean and Ororo, then pointed wordlessly
      in the same direction the cops were headed. The three of them set
      out after the cops. The men were making so much noise trying to keep
      up with Banner, they�d never realize they were being trailed.

      �And what shall we do when we find them all?� Ororo whispered to

      �I haven�t got a clue, but I�m open to suggestions.�

      �We have to keep Bruce from killing anyone else,� Jean said, voice

      �Shhh,� Scott scolded. �Quit straining your voice.�

      Jean shook her head and stopped, forcing the other two to stop as
      well; they came back to see what she wanted, peering at her through
      the darkness. �We can�t let him kill again,� she said, voice barely
      ghosting out. �Bruce wouldn�t want that. I know he wouldn�t. We
      have to stop this . . . creature.�

      �And assuming we can stop him, what if the police *catch* him then?�
      Scott asked. �No telling what they�ll do to him!�

      She nodded and waved, swallowing painfully. �Then they catch him.
      It�s what he�d want, Scott. No more killing.�

      *So be it,* Scott thought, but remembering the upended concrete trash
      bins, he doubted the police had anything here that could hold Banner.
      A pair of steel handcuffs? The idea was laughable.

      They went on.

      The cops had Banner cornered on Billings Lawn not far from a high
      bank above the Hudson and just west of the old fort. The chopper
      circled overhead, two searchlights focused down, reflecting off the
      fog as a good dozen police officers ringed the furious and protesting
      green creature. One of the police used a bullhorn to urge Banner to

      �Yeah, like he�s going to give up and go meekly,� Scott muttered from
      where he, Ororo and Jean peered out from the shadow cover of the pine

      But if the megaphone demands weren�t eliciting any positive response,
      Banner also hadn�t attacked anyone yet, and he wasn�t, Scott thought,
      inherently dangerous. He was just confused and frustrated and angry.
      He�d killed the security guard because the man had hurt him, not
      because he was mean. �If they�d just quit harassing him,� Scott
      said, �they might get somewhere. He�s like a four-year-old having a

      �A very big four-year-old,� Ororo added. �They are scared of him,
      and he is scared of them. It is not a good situation.�

      �And we�re stuck here where we can�t do a damn thing.� There was no
      Warren to drop down and effect another angelic rescue, even if Warren
      had been able to lift a seven-foot green giant who was quite a long
      way from jolly. �I have no tricks up my sleeve.�

      Ororo clasped his arm gently. �You are not a magician, Scott

      �We came in unprepared! We didn�t know what we�d be facing!� he

      �Exactly,� she said. �We did not know what we would be facing.� She
      shook her head. �Even Frank could not see. Or he saw too many
      things. He will blame himself as badly as you.�

      She was right; Frank would, and Scott subsided, though his fingers
      continued to pick at the ground beneath his feet, digging nervous
      furrows in the dirt. �Too bad his wife isn�t here -- Dr. Banner�s
      wife, I mean. She�s probably the only one who could calm him down
      right now.�

      Beside Scott, Jean whispered, �That�s it!� and rose up from where
      they were crouched. �I�ll go tell them to call Betty.�

      �Jean, no!�

      �Scott, you just said it yourself, we need Betty to calm him down.�

      �Yeah, but there�s theoretical and then there�s doable!�

      �We have to try! Getting Betty is a good idea!�

      And Scott might have let her go if the question hadn�t been made moot
      by the arrival of new reinforcements. These had dogs who barked and
      snarled and leapt at the ends of their leashes, enraging Banner
      further. Grabbing an ornamental bench from the edge of a path,
      Banner laid about him with it so that dogs and handlers scattered.
      Then he flung the bench at one edge of the encircling noose of cops
      and they scattered as well. He escaped through the gap, racing
      almost due west towards the river.

      �No!� Jean cried out -- fortunately at nothing louder than a croak as
      Scott and Ororo both grabbed her to keep her from rushing out where
      she�d be seen, even as police opened fire on the fleeing figure of
      Banner and the dogs were released to give chase.

      But only a handful of police were shooting; the rest were in mild
      disarray. The police chopper was another matter. It circled out and
      down to hover off the edge of the park embankment above the parkway
      below, keeping its spots on Banner as he ran. Behind Banner, the
      police regrouped and followed. Scott would have followed as well,
      but there was little cover between the pine grove and the park edge.

      The chopper�s placement proved strategic, but not for the police.
      Dogs at his very heels, Banner leapt straight out from at the grassy
      embankment of the park edge that overlook the Henry Hudson Parkway
      below, and the river beyond that. His burly arms sought and found
      the landing gear of the helicopter, clinging like a leech and making
      it swing wildly in the air as the pilot struggled to compensate. It
      might have been a spectacular getaway, except the police were right
      behind and what a few shots from a security guard�s .45 couldn�t
      manage, a barrage of fire from high-powered rifles could. Bullet
      spray struck Banner�s naked torso, causing him to jerk convulsively
      where he clung to the landing gear. For a moment, he hung on, but
      then his grip slipped as his consciousness failed and his body
      plummeted downward, missing the parkway to splash into the gray
      waters of the Hudson itself.

      Watching from even a hundred feet back, horror struck Scott mute as
      Jean broke into croaking sobs beside him. Meanwhile, the police had
      rushed to the edge of the cliff to look down, and streetwise Ororo
      recognized their chance. Tapping Scott�s shoulder and getting hold
      of Jean�s arm, she led them back inside the grove�s concealment, out
      the other side, and then down paths until they spied a dark overhang
      of rock screened well by vines and boxwood. There, they hunkered
      down to wait for full dawn, and Jean cried helplessly in Scott�s lap.

      There were a few close calls as searchers passed near their hiding
      place while looking for the body of the missing security guard.
      Scott wasn�t sure why they didn�t stop to check the hollow. Did they
      not realize it was there, or had the professor somehow gently
      �redirected� their attention? Xavier was still out there, keeping
      tabs on them, waiting the same as they were. Finally, the guard�s
      body was found, the police reopened the park to visitors, and Scott,
      Jean and Ororo crept from their hiding place, doffing the kevlar
      vests and folding them over to hide the X-target, then making their
      way to the nearest exit. They said little to one another -- had said
      little all morning, their faces pulled somber by defeat. Scott held
      Jean�s hand the whole way but Ororo remained aloof, resisting his
      touch. �It is not the first time I have seen a man shot,� she told
      him once, harshly, then apologized a few minutes later when they
      reached the sidewalk outside.

      �It�s okay,� Scott told her.

      The professor had arrived with the Bentley in any case, pulling up to
      the curb so they could pile into the back and sprawl in overheated
      exhaustion. �Where is Frank?� Ororo asked.

      �Warren took him back to the mansion.�

      Ororo nodded and stared out one tinted window as Jean laid her head
      on Scott�s shoulder, short hair hiding her tear-stained face. Xavier
      studied them all in the rearview mirror. �You did your best,� he
      told them as he put the car in gear. �That is all that we can ever
      expect of ourselves, children. And even so, sometimes, we fail.�

      �A man�s dead, Professor,� Scott said, not in the mood for

      �Yes,� Xavier replied. �But you neither killed him nor caused him to
      die. And you did try to save his life. Learn to recognize the
      limits of your responsibility, son, or like Agamemnon, you�ll be
      guilty of *hubris*.�


      (Running for the hills before I'm sacked....)

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