Disclaimer: The universe and the X-Men belong to Marvel.
Naomi belongs to me on the grounds that she's a getting-more-twisted-all-the-time
version of me. I couldn't make money out of this if I put lipstick and a pretty
frock on it and set up a kissing booth.
A typical Tuesday in the lab, I'd set up the PCRs and sent off the tubes that were required to the sequencing lab. Another two hours, and then I'd have something to do. With all the subtlety I could muster, oozing casual nonchalance, I wandered back to the office that was supposedly Henry McCoy's. Since he seldom wandered in, I'd pretty much taken it over for my own use. I carefully almost shut the door, so people would know I was in there, but couldn't see what I was doing. Then I sat down at the computer. Business first. An email from Dr McTaggert. It still awed me to be getting emails from her. The list of her publications was so long, not to mention her other contributions to science, that I truly didn't want to meet her in person. It could only end pathetically, with me clinging to her legs and begging for her autograph and the chance to work with her. Not a pretty sight, even if only in the imagination.
There wasn't any mail from my boss, but Henry's easy going and doesn't seem to need to have constant contact with me. It made life fairly easy, and the responsibility was good for me. When I wasn't curled in a ball in bed at three in the morning stressed out of my mind at the thought of what would be done to me if I screwed up, that is.
Now, however, it wasn't three in the morning, and I had something to do, now that all that silly working stuff was finished. I was going to conquer the world.
Or rather several.
I started up StarCraft, and settled in.
No matter what anyone might think, I was keeping a careful eye on the time as I gleefully beat up space marines. There were exactly 13 minutes left before I had to exit when I noticed that there was someone standing behind me. To be precise, I discovered that when I squealed (and there really isn't any other way to put what I did, no matter how much I wish there was) and spun around on my chair.
I think the first thing I said to Robert Drake, friend of my boss, was: "Die evil human scum, and the tin cans you rode in on."
It was in my energetic spin that I noticed that there was someone else in the room with me.
I am not, by any stretch of the imagination a child any more. I live in a country half a world away from my home, I have a degree and a job, and I quite happily (okay, not happily, no one could be happy on that bike) bike around a city not known for its friendliness. Nor am I a shy young lady, aside from the shy young bit, but there are moments when your face overrides all you know is true, and you turn into a bright red tomato. This was one of the moments.
"Um. Hey, I'm Robert Drake? I'm looking for Naomi Chandler?" He sounded like he'd like to burst into laughter, and probably get me committed at the same time.
Reacting instantly, I pulled my face into the frantic smile that has frightened teachers, friends, police and complete strangers with the sudden determined cheer behind it. He didn't even raise an eyebrow.
"Hey, I'm Naomi. Um, was there anything in particular you wanted?" I asked, with the gaping smile still plastered to my furiously red face.
"Hank sent me in, there was a file here he wanted," he said. His eyes sparkled as he looked at the computer screen where my lovely winning stats were displayed. "I see you're working hard."
Jesus, now he was going to report to Henry that I spent my time shooting aliens instead of reading edifying articles from appropriate journals.
"We all have our off days," I shrugged, hoping against hope that I was becoming my normal colour. Not to mention the fact that it wouldn't be completely against the laws of probability for the computer to suddenly shut down so he couldn't see what I was playing. "Was there something I could help you with?"
"Oh yeah, Hank said there was a file he wanted. Something in a purple file?" He was looking at my stats, I just knew it. There as some things a girl just doesn't want a guy to know. Like how many festy-infected marines she's just killed.
Seeing as there wasn't much I could do to make the situation better, I went to find the purple file in question. There were only about four purple files, which meant, I realised in a slow simmer of embarrassment, that I was going to have to talk to Robert Drake again. I turned back to him. He was still standing there looking at me. I absolutely hate it when people look at me. Especially when I've just made an idiot of myself. Irrational maybe, paranoid, certainly, but we all have out little quirks.
"Um? Did he say anything about which purple file he wanted?" I asked.
He shrugged. "I dunno. Something about a viral report?"
Ah. That would be the virologists' report. Not, as you might imagine, a report done by a virologist, but rather one done on a number of them. Henry had, finally, realised that what he needed was someone who actually was a professional virus expert. Personally, I would have gotten them in earlier, but then, I'm lazy, have lots of younger siblings, and am a trained delegator.
Handing over the file, I smiled, a little less maniacally this time.
He smiled back, and he had quite a nice smile, I thought, if only he didn't think I was either an immature idiot or insane, and left.
I was just about to hit my head on the wall for letting my ability to seem like a moron strike again, when I discovered that my free time was up, and I had to get back to work. No more festy marines for me today. Which was good really, because I just wasn't in the mood any more.
"Hank, how did you decide to employ wassername, Naomi?" Bobby asked, handing over the file.
Hank barely looked up, spreading the papers around so he could compare qualifications. "She answered the advertisement and met the requirements. Why do you ask, Bobby?"
Bobby thought about this. He didn't want to get the girl in trouble. "Oh, she just seemed, you know, not very scientisty."
Hank managed to look up to give his friend an amused look. "You'd be surprised, but being 'scientisty' isn't one of the major requirements to work in science."
Bobby rolled his eyes. "I know that, Hank, but y'know, it still doesn't seem right."
"For me to employ someone who doesn't seem, as you say, 'scientisty'?" Hank lifted an enquiring brow. "I would never have thought you had such a firm adhesion to career stereotypes, Bobby."
"But I do, Hank. I want everyone to look like someone working their job should. After all, I do look like the epitome of accountantiness." He straightened his back, his hair flopped into his eyes, and he looked down his nose in cross-eyed haughtiness.
Hank snorted. "So that's what an accountant looks like. I'll have to remember that, and avoid them in future."
"In the future?" Bobby remarked, going back to his habitual slouch. "I've been avoiding them my whole life."
Hank laughed, then pulled himself up short. He had work to do. "Was there something you wanted to talk about, Bobby?" His voice attempted to be stern, but didn't quite manage it.
Bobby shrugged. "I was trying to distract you. I thought you were going to get more off-time after you hired an assistant? That was kinda part of the point, right?"
Another shrug. "Sometimes you don't always get what you want."
"You sound like my Dad, Hank. Come on, you're not getting any more sleep or anything, and as much as you try to convince people, your name isn't "Super-Sleepless Man." Bobby let himself look concerned. "Isn't there something you can do to cut down on your work load?"
Hank waved a hand at the papers and resumes in front of him. "This'll be a start. And," he looked at Bobby a bit. "I was actually thinking of shifting Naomi over here and putting someone else in the lab to do a different area of the study." Hank sighed wearily. "But that would mean convincing everyone that it'd be a good move for us to let her live here. There's no way commuting would work. Not to mention convincing her to do this."
Bobby sat down heavily on a stool. "Well, if that's what we've got to do. I'll bet it takes under two weeks for me to convince the others to get Naomi in here."
His blue eyes wide, Hank blinked. "You couldn't."
"I could. Betcha a pizza." Bobby's voice was nothing if not confident.
"If you wish to buy me a pizza so much, I'll happily accept your wager." Hank looked down at his paper-scattered desk and sighed wearily. "But for now, I must get this finished."
Bobby grinned. "And I'd better get started."
Bobby was cunning. Bobby was sly. And above all, Bobby knew his teammates.
First, he went into the kitchen. Yes, there were a few people here. He sat down heavily at the table. "Does anyone know when the last time Hank slept was?"
Ororo blinked at him. "Is he not sleeping again?" she asked.
Bobby shook his head. "When does he sleep? Obsessed with Legacy. Oh well, I guess it's a good thing to have a goal." He shook his head, grabbed a drink from the fridge and left. That was enough for the moment, he judged.
Over the next few days, Bobby carefully brought up Hank's dedication to most of the people in the house. He only had to do it three or four time before they started it themselves. There are certain things about the team that he knew, and one of those was that you only needed to nudge a little bit, to get people talking, and therefore thinking about whatever you wanted them to.
He let it simmer for a day, then at dinner (Hank was away in the lab again) started phase three.
"Hey, guess what?" he asked, as someone passed him the water.
"Do we have to play guessing games?" Betsy asked absently.
Bobby ignored her. "I'm going to be Hank's lab assistant!" he exclaimed cheerily. There was a pause in the other conversations. "I'll, you know, mix reagents, play with samples and-" in his wide descriptive gestures, he toppled his glass. "Woops. And stuff. Hank's showing me where all the dangerous chemicals go, and stuff."
There was another pause. Longer. And, Bobby thought, ~almost~ the right level of horror.
Warren managed to break the silence. "You You're what?"
Bobby grinned brightly. "Going to help medical science! In a hands on way."
Now there was the right level of horror. He smiled happily.
"I do think that it would be better to get someone qualified to help Hank," Ororo said, diplomatically. Her smile seemed rather fixed though, he noticed as a piece of potato leapt from his plate into Rogue's lap.
"But we can't let just ~anyone~ have access to the lab here," he said, sitting back and gesturing dangerously with a string-bean on his fork. "They've gotta be cleared and all. So, I guess I'll have to help out." He scooped up a pile of food and pushed it into his mouth for emphasis.
Remy rolled his eyes. "'Enry is going to let you at flammable t'ings, Bobby?"
Bobby nodded, and then spoke though a mouth full of food. "Meff. Argh hen ag eg hoo agg igg egatffi." He swallowed and tried again. "Yes. And then I get to play with Legacy." He caught a genuine squirm from Kitty.
"Perhaps with our connections we could find someone, er, qualified to help Hank?" Kurt suggested.
Bobby shook his head firmly. "Nah. It's too much bother. Besides, doesn't it sound like fun? I haven't done anything like this in ages Hey, I don't think I've ever done anything like this!"
Kitty blinked at him. "Never?"
"Well, maybe a bit in High School, but that was so supervised, and I barely paid any attention, because I was so busy thinking about how I could use it to pick up chicks, or to make jokes." His eyes widened. "Hey! Just think of what I can do with the stuff Hank's got in there now! I mean, the jokes alone!"
At that point, Logan looked up from his plate for the first time, and turned to Ororo. "You let 'im near the lab, and I'll gut ya," he said, then went back to his dinner.
Bobby blinked, and leaned back on his chair. "Hey, that's not fair. And ~someone~ has to help Hank." He tossed his chin up. "What's wrong with meeeeeeeeaaarrgh!" his voice slipped an octave as the chair slowly tipped over backwards.
Hank shook his head, mystified. "I don't know how you did it, Bobby."
Bobby sucked up another slice of pizza. It wasn't often someone was so grateful that you won a bet against them that they doubled the stakes. "Was noffin'," he dismissed modestly between slices. "'s all in the timing."
Hank sighed. "I doubt it was as simple as that, Bobby. The second I confirmed that you were helping me, ~they~ suggested that I get a qualified assistant."
Bobby shrugged. "I guess they realise how serious the situation was if you're getting me to catalogue and order the reagents for you."
"Do you think that asking for help with the paperwork is a sign of my desperation?" Hank asked, pensively munching on a pizza crust.
"No, not really. But I gave up wondering what they think a long time ago, when I realised that they all wear more spandex than us, Hank. I think it has some kinda warping effect on their brains," Bobby confided seriously. "So, how soon can you get that Naomi in here and start taking breaks to, you know, sleep and eat?"
"I have to assure them that she's not a security risk, move her experiment over here and persuade her that it would be a good idea for her to come over here." Hank ticked off the points on his fingers.
"Would it be so hard to get her here? I thought the problem was keeping people out? You know, there are several er, overly security-minded anal people who'd probably have heart attacks if they heard you suggesting that there were people who ~didn't~ want to come here," Bobby said absently eyeing another piece. Was seven too many? Nah.
Hank took another piece as well. But he'd been going slower, so it was only his fifth. "It may be hard to believe, but there are lots of people who wouldn't relish moving into a house which has a tendency to be razed to the ground, let alone if you include a flock of super-powered being who tend to die and come back again with depressing regularity."
"I guess. You'll have to be very persuasive, I suppose." Bobby contemplated the crust. He could probably fit it in. "By the way?"
"Is that what you call a collective of super-powered beings, a flock?"
"Only if there's one with wings. Otherwise they're a ker-thunk of super-powered beings."
"You learn something new everyday."
I was sitting cheerfully doing the boring pipetting, when I saw Dr McCoy. He always came in when he wasn't expected, so I suppose I shouldn't be surprised.
I started, and knocked over the bottle of distilled water. "Ah, hi."
He pulled up a stool, and sat over to one side. Oh god, he was looking at me. What was it this time? I glanced at him quickly as I finished the row. Yup. Still looking at me. Don't tell me, that Robert guy told him about the StarCraft. I was in trouble. He couldn't dismiss me for using a computer game while I was on a break, could he?
"Er, Naomi? Do you think you'll be finished in a minute? There's something I wanted to talk to you about, and I'd really like all of your attention."
Apparently you could be fired for killing festy-marines. "Sure. Give me half an hour, is that okay?"
"Certainly. I'll just, er, be in the office." He wandered off, and I noticed that no matter how wide his shoulders were, he didn't bump into things, even in the sometimes narrow confines of the lab. Weird.
Dragging my mind back to the point, I firmly fixed my attention on my work. If I was going to be fired, I wasn't going to get a reference that said that I couldn't do my work as well as one that said I accused the bosses friend of being alien scum. Nuhuh, no way.
Unfortunately, that meant that the next half hour flew by. That is, it didn't exactly fly by, but to someone with a rapidly growing morbid fear of being fired, and an equally speedily growing list about why I couldn't survive being fired, the time went way too fast.
Standing outside the office, I quickly wiped my hands on the butt of my jeans, and shook my hair out. I was going to be cool, calm and not grovel on my knees for my job. I didn't wait till I was ready, otherwise I would have been there until my shoes rotted into the floor. Time to face him.
I managed to keep my feet under me, and tapped on the doorframe before entering. Then I saw it. The hypocrite was playing solataire. I was about to be fired for playing a computer game and ~he~ was playing computer cards. Well, we'd see about that.
He turned and looked at me, and all of a sudden I remembered. I was about to be fired and I doubted that calling him a hypocrite to his face would make him take me back on. It wouldn't stop me from moaning about the injustices of it to everyone else who stood still, but perhaps it wouldn't be a good idea to insult the man who was in charge of my pay-cheques.
He turned around, and frowned. Or, he could have been thinking. It was sometimes hard to tell. "Sit down please, Naomi," he said, waving a hand at the other chair, which was full of papers I'd put there. Shifting them I sat down, rather uncomfortably as the chair was too low and kept sinking. By the time it had settled, my knees were about two inches away from my nose. And I knew I couldn't get up and look dignified at the same time, so I was stuck. Who wants to look composed and together when they get fired, after all?
"I am aware that this isn't the most efficient setup," he said. Oh gods, I was going to be given the whole talk about efficiency. Couldn't he just get it over with? My mind wandered a bit until he said something seriously out of place.
"I do think that as you will be moving to the Institute, and doing more complex work, you will deserve it." He looked at me questioning.
I tried to remember what he'd been talking about. Nope, not stored. Oh, well, nothing like asking for a complete recap of the conversation to give the boss the impression you're really worth the bother of a pay-rise.
Dr McCoy, that is Henry, explained again. What a cool guy. You'd swear he was used to thicko people who needed to be told things twice. Apparently I was being asked to shift my work over to this Institute place. But it would require that I live on the premises.
"So, are there many students?" I asked. I wasn't completely sure about this. Considering I had no family around, I didn't want to get suckered into a dodgy situation. Though to be honest, I didn't think Hank was the type. Even so, he looked slightly embarrassed.
"There are a number of students present yes." He paused, and looked at the computer, then back at me. "Many of them are mutants," he added.
I was slightly more interested in whether any of them were psychos, but I figured that it wouldn't be a good idea to ask that. "Um, so I'll move in there? And do my stuff in the lab there?"
"Yes. There will be a new contract required, with the extra details, and my colleagues have insisted on a further confidentiality clause." Again, he looked nervous. Coming from him that made me get a bit worried, even though I had no problems with a contract like that, I'd already signed one to get this job.
Sitting back a little, I thought about it. Here I had an opportunity to get more involved in what would no doubt be one of THE research projects of my life. If this worked out, I'd get my name on papers, with the Henry McCoy, and Moira McTaggert. If I turned this down, I'd still get the chance, but I wouldn't have the experience, the hands on, actually working with these people.
Basically, although it looked like Henry didn't know this, he'd offering me a chance of a life time.
"Can I think about it for a bit?" I asked. Didn't someone once say not to seem over eager?