AN ACCIDENTAL INTERCEPTION OF FATE: 11b (Ensemble, prefilm)
- Continued direction from 11a....
�Come in, come in!� Beyond the wide-open door, Bruce�s face was
almost luminescent, and he waved her into his lab with great
Grinning, Jean pushed past him to see his new toy, the product of
three grants totaling thirty-seven million dollars, including one
from the National Science Foundation, and a year�s worth of careful
construction. It was a gravimagnetic field generator, designed to
test a theory of Banner�s: that a sufficient combination of
gravitational force and magnetic field drag tuned to the bond
frequencies of DNA would accelerate the emergence of existing
quiescent mutations like excessive cortisol in the system. Among the
most formidable hurdles that Banner had faced in getting his grants,
though, had been the question, �But what would the long-term
practical application of such a research direction be?� -- meaning
that mutations were to be avoided if at all possible, not helped
along. Bias in science tended to show itself in masked forms, yet in
the end, the grants had come in and Bruce had built his machine. It
amounted to a kitchen-table-sized housing with a half-cylinder on top
that was broken up into three sections. The outermost section was
metal, and the center was a Plexiglas door over the incubation
chamber to permit readings and pictures. This was the actual testing
chamber. But the majority of the machine, in terms of size, was
given over to the two big engines powerful enough to bombard the
chamber with gravitons.
�So what do you think?� Bruce asked her.
�It�s . . . gray.�
�God, Jean! You�re no fun!�
She laughed. �Bruce, it looks like a box. A big, gray box with a
cylinder on top. When are you going to start running experiments so
we can see what it actually does?�
�Next week. We�re going to have a little party on Wednesday morning
and break a bottle of champagne on it.�
�Champagne?� She couldn�t help but giggle. �It�s not a ship!�
He shrugged. �So are you going to come?�
She sighed. �Oh, I *can�t*. I�ve got to be at the hospital, you �-
�I know, I know.� He held up a hand. �Rotations. So tell me --
it�s actually been a few years -- when do I have to show up to play
brightly-colored lemming? It�s reminiscent of Halloween in
kindergarten, you know, lining up in files to march around and show
off the fancy costume.�
She put a hand over her mouth to conceal her grin. Bruce had never
been one for ceremony and often couldn�t be bothered to wear anything
more dressy than jeans to the lab. But if he didn�t take ceremony
seriously, he took his students seriously, and, traditionally, each
doctoral candidate was accompanied by his or her primary advisor for
graduation, which meant that Bruce would be walking with her. She�d
received special permission for her father, also a college professor,
to walk on her other side in *his* robes, so they�d make quite a set,
John Grey in Emory�s royal blue and gold with the white of history,
Jean in Columbia�s ugly Dutch blue with the Kelly-green trim of
medicine, and Bruce in Harvard�s distinctive scarlet and that funny
velvet hat. Like many Harvard doctors, Bruce had adopted the
medieval-style tam instead of a mortarboard. Jean thought it looked
ridiculous. In any case, in just three weeks, she�d be finished at
last. She still found that difficult to process. She had a
residency to do yet, of course, and her second and third medical
boards, but she really and truly could see light at the end of the
tunnel. Sometimes she thought she�d been in school forever --
twenty-four years from her first day of kindergarten. �The
instructions say we�re supposed to be there at least an hour in
advance, so they can line us up to march in. That means by six
�Which translates to getting here at four in order to find parking.
Good thing I�ll be in that day anyway. Ah, the Graduation Zoo. The
main campus is already gearing up for the big show on Wednesday.
Thank God you didn�t want me to do that.�
Laughing outright, she said, �I figured getting you to one ceremony
was bad enough. I have to go, but you don�t.� Medical school
graduates were administered the Hippocratic oath, so she wasn�t
permitted to skip, however much she might have liked to.
The wry look had disappeared from his face, and he regarded her
solemnly. �It�s not every day that I get to hood a new doctor, Jean.
I�ll be there.� Then his kid�s smile stole back. �Come on, I want
to show you the schedule for preliminary tests.� And he led her over
to his cluttered desk.
�I think this is what you been haunting the mailbox for, Slimboy.�
An envelope was dropped in Scott�s lap where he sat on the couch,
trying to read a book. It fell face down so Scott couldn�t see the
return address, but EJ knew perfectly well what Scott was waiting to
find out. This was the letter that would determine the direction his
life would take, and he stared at it for the course of five breaths,
unable to summon the courage even to touch it. His stomach shook.
But EJ stood right there, waiting to see, and so Scott picked it up.
He wanted to take it back to his room, to open in private -- just in
case -- and EJ belatedly realized that he was hovering. �I�m going
into the kitchen to finish dinner. DeeDee�s coming over, then we�re
going out to see if we can catch MI-2 tonight. Lines are probably
hell.� And he walked away, leaving Scott alone with the couch and
the book and the letter and his anxieties.
Picking up the envelope, Scott turned it over. �University of
California at Berkeley, Department of Anthropology� read the return.
Wiggling a pinky into the edge of the flap, he ripped it open along
one side and tried to pretend that his hands weren�t shaking. Then
he turned the envelope on end and shook out the letter -- three
sheets, which he supposed was better than one. They only needed one
to turn an applicant down.
He read it twice, just to be sure, then erupted off the couch with a
bellowed, �*I�m in!*�
EJ came back out into the living room, wooden spoon in hand, to find
Scott standing atop the cheap coffee table, waving the letter above
his head. �I�m in! I�m in! They gave me a graduate assistantship!
I�m in, dammit!�
�Congratulations, man! I�m glad you�re sticking around.� In fact,
EJ had been almost as nervous as Scott for the last few months.
While he knew theoretically that all good things did end, he�d been
distressed by the prospect of losing his best friend. This past year
had renewed the deep tie that had bound them as freshmen, and both
had tacitly agreed that it was like a hummingbird -- brilliant and
lovely and rarely seen, and not to be spoken of too loudly, lest it
be frightened off by excessive attention. Now, EJ, no less than
Scott, felt as if a weight had been lifted from his back, and thus
lightened, he said, �I think a dinner party�s in order -- but not
tonight. Tomorrow. You name it, I�ll fix it. Well, within reason.�
Slyly, Scott grinned. �What? No fried newt?�
At that, EJ burst into laughter.
Subject: School News
Date: 4/24/2000 4:18pm
Hey, long time, no speak. Sorry I�ve been so busy. I just thought
you�d like to know that I got the graduate assistantship, so it looks
like I�m going to grad school after all. Now I just have to decide
if I�ll focus on the Med or the Maya. �S2
Jean found the note in her mail in the wee hours of the morning when
she had some downtime while on call. She debated phoning him to tell
him congratulations, but didn�t because even if he was in California,
she�d probably still wake him up. She also didn�t call because the
news depressed her. She was glad for him, but this was, she thought,
the beginning of the end of their little mansion family. Scott
wasn�t coming back. He�d go on to get his doctorate, then be out
looking for a tenure-track position and would wind up wherever he
could get a job. She was getting ready to graduate herself, and
while she planned to do a year of residency at Columbia, she had no
idea where she�d go after that. Warren was rarely at the mansion
now, his father using him heavily in business affairs, and he even
had his own office suite on West Street. And Hank was considering an
offer from Brand Corporation Laboratories. Only Frank and Ororo
still lived at the mansion in Westchester, and Bobby occasionally.
Leaning back in the chair at the little desk in the interns� room,
Jean bit the edge of her index finger lightly. Fluorescent light
glared down on the desk, but the fitting above faced backwards so it
didn�t shine out into the room itself so her fellow interns could get
some rest. Rising, she walked over to the window and pushed back the
heavy vinyl curtain, looking out over the city skyline. In the
distance, she spotted the World Trade Center and leaned her shoulder
against the cool glass, musing fancifully that she could tell which
windows were Warren�s. As for Scott, he slept on the other side of
the country, and she wondered, just as idly, if San Francisco seemed
as picturesque in person as it did in pictures. She�d been to Europe
seven times but never west of the Mississippi. California was
another world to an East Coast girl.
She�d always just assumed that Scott would return to Westchester, and
not because it was what he�d planned to do when he�d left. He�d
simply been a mansion fixture, even if he hadn�t lived there for the
last three years -- and wasn�t it funny how the mind got itself stuck
like that in a looping video of the past? People changed. He had a
different set of interests these days, and she wasn�t sure she knew
him anymore. Between one thing and another, they hadn�t spoken much
either before or after New Year�s, and a few hours on one evening
couldn�t make up for months and months of silence. She honestly
couldn�t pinpoint the last time she�d gotten email from him before
this present letter. Early March? It was now the dregs of April.
How different that was from his first semester at Berkeley when
they�d written once a day and talked once a week.
She walked back to her laptop and hit the �Reply� button, sending him
well wishes electronically instead of verbally. It was what she
would have done with a colleague, or a virtual stranger. And that�s
what he was now, wasn�t it? A virtual stranger. Melancholy tinged
�The nightmares are back, aren�t they?� Ororo asked, dropping down to
sit beside Frank on a bench in the back garden. He was looking off
at the maze, but she was not quite sure he saw it. Now, he simply
nodded. �Have you told the professor?� Ro asked.
Frank shook his head.
�Are you going to?
�I don�t know.�
�What are they this time? The visions?�
Frank didn�t answer immediately, or directly. He�d come up against
the quandary of his own ethics. Did the good of the many outweigh
the good of the few, or the one? *You�ve seen too much Star Trek,*
he scolded himself, amused. �Scott isn�t coming back.�
She studied him. �He was accepted to grad school, yes. What does
that have to do with it?�
�He�s not coming back. He�ll go on to his own life, take a
professorship, marry --� And not marry the right person. *Not
unless* . . . . But did he tell Ororo everything he knew and
involve her in his choices? He�d never held so much power in his
hands as he did this afternoon. He could save one man�s life, one
man�s self-image, one woman�s sanity, and one man�s dream. Or he
could save his people.
�We must all make choices, Francesco,� Ororo said, referring to
�I know,� he replied, meaning himself. He stared down at the cell
phone in his hand, then put it away and begged forgiveness of a shade
yet to be. The sky above was obscenely blue.
Jean hadn�t seen Ted Roberts since the evening of her dissertation
defense -- the evening they�d broken up. She�d kept herself apprized
of what he�d been up to, that he�d successfully defended his own
dissertation earlier that spring, and that he was dating another
girl. No doubt, he�d heard that she�d finished her clinicals and had
graduated the month before in May. But it had been over a year since
they�d met face to face, and neither had been prepared for it coming
by accident. She�d been walking into Bruce�s lab and he�d been
heading out on some errand. They literally bumped into one another,
exchanged awkward greetings, and then stood looking at their feet.
�How�ve you been?� he asked. �Fine,� she said. �I was headed down
to the computer lab,� he said. �Okay,� she replied, and moved aside.
Then he was gone and she breathed out, slipping into the lab
herself. She�d come because Bruce had told her that he had some
findings she might find interesting, and now she wondered if Bruce
had been trying to get rid of Ted first, or if he�d meant for them to
run into each other and quit practicing the avoidance they�d been
engaged in since the previous spring.
Whatever the case, Banner looked up now. �Jean! I�m glad you could
make it.� Hank was also there, she noticed.
�What�s gotten you so excited?� Jean asked.
�This.� And Banner handed her a set of printouts. �These� -- he
pointed to a set of figures -- �are cortisol readings of mutants
immediately after their mutation manifested. And *these*� -- he
pointed to another set -- �are readings of mutant cells tested in the
GFG.� The gravimagnetic field generator.
They weren�t identical, but they were close. Jean carried both
printouts over to a lab table so she could examine them more closely.
�I looks like you were right,� she said -- needlessly. Hank had
come over to pull out a stool on the table�s opposite side and she
turned the printouts sideways so he could see, too. She started to
feel a bubble of excitement rise up under her breastbone. �Bruce,
you know what this means?�
�Why do you think you�re here, m�dear?� And Banner crossed to lean
elbows on the edge of the tabletop and look at the printouts upside
down. Jean was quite certain he already knew them by heart. He
wouldn�t have called her -- or Hank -- in here unless he�d made
�How many trials did you run?� she asked anyway, needlessly.
That was a lot even for Bruce, but she was dying of curiosity. Jean
looked up. �Will you show me? Will you run one more?�
He grinned. �Why do you think I brought you and Hank here? Let�s
wait just a minute for Ted to get back. I�ve got the samples all
Laughing, Jean leapt up to grab Banner around the neck, kissing him
soundly on the cheek. �Thank you, thank you!�
�Hey!� he said. �You�ll make my wife jealous.�
So they sat for half an hour, shooting bull and waiting on Ted.
Banner wanted to know what Jean had been doing since graduation.
�Relaxing,� she told him. �I think, after all these years, I�ve
earned a summer off.� Though that was only partly the truth. She�d
been spending her summer at a different sort of training. For the
first time in far too long, she�s begun to exercise her TK again. It
was rustier than she�d have wished but, like riding a bike, it was
coming back at a faster rate than she�d expected. She could lift her
own weight now, and could perform fine tasks, including threading
In any case, Ted was back and Bruce rose up to join him by the GFG,
talking quietly over the printouts Ted had fetched.. Despite her
curiosity, Jean chose to remain at the table rather than rub elbows
too closely with Ted Roberts. He�d glanced at her as he�d entered,
but then had kept his attention on the machine, the printouts, and
Jean�s presence made Ted nervous. He�d known that Bruce had intended
to invite Hank, but he hadn�t realized that Jean would be here, too,
though common sense might have told him as much. Banner didn�t
interfere too much in his students� lives, but he wasn�t above a bit
of manipulation. Just now, he was frowning at the new printout with
the thoughtful expression he sometimes got. �Go ahead and start her
up,� Bruce told him absently, and walked back towards Jean.
Ted snapped the cylinder clamps into place as Banner reached the
table and set the new printouts down on it. Then he, Hank and Jean
bent over them in a huddle. Ted�s eyes kept drifting in that
direction as his fingers found the power switch for the engines.
Jean Grey was still beautiful. It was so damn unfair.
That was the last thought he ever had as he switched on the double
Henry McCoy happened to glance up just as the gravimagnetic field
generator incubation cylinder blew open and the brilliant white and
almost fluid gravimagnetic field burst outward, swallowing Ted
Roberts instantly. But it wasn�t the field that killed Roberts. It
was flying shrapnel from the overstressed and shattering cylinder.
Hank had less than a second to think, but the full advantage of
X-enhanced reflexes, mutant strength, and the presence of mind to
explode across the lab table, grab Jean and Bruce in one arm each,
and fall beneath the other lab table behind Jean. Stools struck them
haphazardly and he heard Jean cry out in pain, but his quick thinking
saved their lives, keeping them from being struck by flying parts as,
without its safeties in place, the GFG disintegrated under the stress
of its monstrous engines. Hank heard a metal scream and then a
blast. And then nothing.
Continued direction in Part 11c....
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