AN ACCIDENTAL INTERCEPTION OF FATE 12b, "Like Agamemnon," ensemble
- 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
�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
�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
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
Beside Scott, Jean whispered, �That�s it!� and rose up from where
they were crouched. �I�ll go tell them to call Betty.�
�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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