White Rabbit

by Domenika Marzione

22/February 2011

"Hey, guys! Take it easy! Remember that Tania's younger than you are," Lily called down from the terrace. In the yard below, Dane and Diego looked up with matching innocent expressions.

The visit had been planned since Christmas, when Callisto had approached Lily and told her that Piotr was being invited to open an exhibit of his works at the New Lands National Museum of Art. The week after the premiere coincided with the spring break for New York City public schools and Piotr had suggested turning the visit into a family vacation. Lily was delighted to host them, even if it meant digging Dane's old crib out of storage.

Piotr looked down as well. "Eh," he scoffed with what Lily knew was his fatherly bemusement. Tania, the latest addition to the family, was some sort of a shape-shifter, although the limits of her abilities thus far seemed to be to turn herself into an shapeless blob of yellowish goo when she was scared. "She is a tough little one. Diego gets as good as he gives."

Diego was in kindergarten now and Dane had been openly jealous of the homework he had brought with him. Privately, Piotr and Callisto were torn over Diego's continued presence in their family - even as they loved the boy dearly, it pained them that there were no other foster families who would take care of him. His mutation had proven resistant to any sort of permanent treatment or even long-term control and Callisto had spoken angrily of the shallowness of those who could not see through the unbeautiful exterior to the warm-hearted, generous child underneath. Lily in turn wondered when Piotr and Callisto would start investigating adoption proceedings.

Callisto was not present this evening; she was at the other end of the country meeting with a community of former Morlocks. Piotr had stayed behind on account of another visitor to the New Lands who had stopped by.

"I have to admit that this bit of summer is quite nice," Kurt Wagner mused as he gestured vaguely with his wine glass towards the trees. The New Lands followed the seasonal changes of the Southern Hemisphere. "It has been a brutal winter thus far in New York. And I say this as a proud - and furred - Bavarian."

The government of the New Lands had close ties with the XSE, which maintained an office in Aliyah. Kurt, one of the three ranking field commanders along with Sam Guthrie and Scott, had come down for the semi-annual inspection. He was still in his XSE uniform, but the collar was open and he looked comfortably off-duty. Dinner had been a festive affair and now the children worked off their energies with a soccer ball as the adults sat enjoying a sampling of the New Lands' burgeoning fruit and cheese industries.

Lily was thoroughly enjoying herself. Out of all of the people she had met through Alex, Piotr and Kurt were the ones who felt most like her friends and not hers-by-proxy. Part of it was obviously circumstance - they had both only been living in the States for a short time when Alex had disappeared, so she had had the least dealings with them framed by their relationship to him. But part of it was something amorphous, a combination of their generosity and their easy respect for her. After Dane had been born, almost all of the X-types had been pressuring her to at least tie herself closer to the team if not move to Westchester and let herself be subsumed into it. Except for Piotr and Kurt, both of who had quietly given their unwavering support to her attempt to be independent. Scott had been her most vocal champion, at least that's what she'd gathered from hearsay, but without Kurt and Piotr, Lily wasn't sure she would have been able to pull it off.

"Lily?" Kurt touched her arm lightly.

"I'm sorry, Kurt," she apologized. "I had my head in the clouds for a second, I guess. What did you say?"

"I asked if it snowed here in the wintertime," Kurt replied. "But perhaps I should ask if you are all right. You seem to have... lost some of your effervescence."

"Oh, I'm fine, really," she assured him, smiling at Piotr as well as he had turned back from where he had been keeping an eye on the children to give her a skeptical glance. "I'm just being a little... nostalgic, I think. I don't get a chance to do that much here."

"Forgive me for saying so," Kurt began, pursing his lips in mock censor. "But was that not one of the reasons you came down here?"

"Oh, don't the two of you gang up on me," Lily chided lightly, reaching for a slice of apple. And yet that's what she missed most about being in the New Lands - being so far away from everyone who knew her best. She had made friends here, mostly through work and also through Dane, but still. Even as she knew it was unfair to hold Amy and her other new friends up to Orly's standard, or even Piotr and Kurt's.

"One little truth and we are ganging up on her," Piotr sniffed, cutting a small piece of cheese.

"We are so underappreciated," Kurt sighed. He looked heartbroken as he reached for a strawberry.

"It is the way of things," Piotr agreed mournfully.

"Keep going, you, two," Lily laughed. "I've got my CPR certification. I can save you if you drown in your self-pity."

"And we would be grateful for such heroism," Kurt promised. "But your nobility won't actually distract us, you know."

Lily frowned as Piotr and Kurt adopted similarly expectant expressions that did not waver despite a victorious squeal from Tania shattering the quiet.

"My contract with the lab is up at the end of June," she finally confessed with a sigh, leaning back and sipping her wine in defeat.

"Nathan isn't thinking of replacing you, is he?" Kurt asked with surprise, one eyebrow cocked. "Not after all of the work you have done, all of the progress that has been made under your guidance. He wouldn't..."

"He's talking about shifting some of the lab's resources to North America."

"Someplace closer to the XSE base?" Piotr asked curiously. "To Westchester? Manhattan?"

"Someplace close to there," Lily replied, nodding. "Someplace that doesn't require two days of normal travel or a teleporter. Someplace that would be higher profile to gain quicker acceptance of chronography. We hardly represent at conferences and barely register in mainstream academia."

Nathan had floated the idea at Christmas. Well, not floated per se because Nathan didn't do that sort of thing, but he had broached the topic. It was too much of an effort as it stood for either Lily or any of the group subleaders to travel to academic congresses and other places that could help 'spread the gospel.' Privately Lily also suspected that a recent severe illness had Nathan feeling his own mortality a bit and he wanted to assure that the work Lily's team had been doing wouldn't be lost with him.

"From the XSE standpoint, it would make sense," Kurt mused, leaning forward so that his forearms rested on his knees. "Genosha proved that we can make use of chronography on at least a limited basis. Moving things closer to home would open up the resources.... Closer to home. That is it, is it not?"

"Yes and no," Lily agreed, looking up at the night sky. It was so hard to tell that they were inside of a giant bubble. "I've been thinking about returning to the States and I feel guilty that I'm not dismissing the thought out of hand."

"For Dane's sake?" Piotr asked.

"By which he means what certain Westchester residents might have to say about it," Kurt added, arching an eyebrow when Lily turned to him. "As well as giving up the freedoms he enjoys here."

"Westchester's not anything I'm worried about," Lily admitted with a wry shrug. "He's been getting tutored in his powers for almost a year, plus there have been so many technological advances since we got here that there's absolutely no argument for keeping him in Westchester that doesn't fall apart when looked at seriously."

The visit at Christmas had been reassuring on that point. Every year after the Merge meant another year of mutants becoming more a part of regular society, even if they didn't enjoy the openness and accommodations of the New Lands.

"But..." Kurt prompted when she didn't continue.

"But as far as he's concerned, he's lived here his entire life," she went on. "Almost of his friends, all of his experiences -- that he remembers -- are here. And, yes, even with all of the tutoring and technological advances that will make 'mainstreaming' him possible, it's still going to be a hard adjustment and he is going to have his freedom of movement circumscribed. He took a long time to get over the bathroom accident and this is a place where they're better prepared to both prevent reoccurrences and deal with the aftermath without turning it -- or him -- into a freakshow.

"And I can tell myself that unless I plan on staying until he's an adult, we're going to have to make this transition at some point," she continued. "I can say that it will be good for him to be close to his family -- both sides -- and he has friends in America already and will make more... but I wonder if that's just an excuse because I want to go back. And that's a whole other kettle of fish."

Piotr and Kurt exchanged a look Lily didn't know how to interpret.

"Would you like the short version or the long version of the 'it's okay to be happy' speech?" Piotr asked with a gentle grin. "I have been on the receiving end of both several times."

"I have, too, Pete," Lily pointed out.

"Yes, but he listened," Kurt retorted mildly, ignoring Lily's stuck-out tongue. "If you are looking for outside validation that, no, moving your family back to the States is not the selfish act of a self-absorbed person, then consider it found. Living here, far from your family and your friends and the life you had built for yourself in New York, has been a sacrifice."

"But--"

"Whatever your reasons for doing so," Kurt went on, not letting her interrupt. "Which, if we were to consider in hindsight could be grossly oversimplified to making Dane comfortable, making yourself comfortable, and satisfying the intellectual curiosity that Nathan whetted. But time has passed and now both Dane and you have the possibility of being comfortable elsewhere and, if Nathan is going to be moving the lab closer to the XSE, then you can continue your work for him there. The New Lands were a haven and an opportunity, but it should not become a prison."

"It's not a prison. Not yet," Lily amended. "Staying here would not be some kind of noble sacrifice. I have work here I love -- and people I enjoy working with. I feel a little traitorous at the idea of abandoning them even though I know that they'll all get along fine without me."

"Work was not the reason you moved down here," Piotr pointed out gently. "Should it be the reason you stay? Especially if you can still pursue your interests closer to your roots?"

"It's not really that simple," Lily said. "I didn't exactly... I left in a huff."

Kurt and Piotr both chuckled.

"Did you notice any hard feelings when you came back for Christmas?" Kurt asked. "You did not. And you know us all well enough to appreciate that there is no such thing as 'best behavior' for visitors."

Lily couldn't help but laugh. The mansion might be XSE headquarters now, the X-Men turned into the XSE and wearing official uniforms and carrying official rank, but it had been very much the same old gang.

"Excuse me for a moment," Piotr said, standing up and putting his wine glass down.

"Tania," he called down. "It is time for you to practice your swimming techniques in the bath, my dear." When she did not come up the stairs, he went down to fetch her. He returned with the little girl in his arms, both with matching smiles. "That's my girl," he told her, kissing her forehead. "And when you are a little older and a little taller, you shall beat them by two goals."

"She didn't beat us," Diego challenged as he followed Piotr up the stairs with a stomp. "We had four and she had two. And Dane let her have the second one because he thought she was going to turn into goo if we didn't let her."

"There are two of you and one of her," Piotr reasoned as Lily stood up to hold open the back door. "So her goals should count twice as much. And Dane was being chivalrous. He was being a gentleman."

"Just 'cuz she's not his sister," Diego replied with a frown as he headed back down the stairs to Dane.

Lily and Kurt were left to hold their amusement until Diego was safely out of earshot.


April 2011

"I've traveled to the other end of the planet to do just the thing I fled my own country rather than do," David Robitaille complained cheerfully as he led Lily through the sporting goods store. He was visiting the New Lands in pursuit of a contract for a boarding school for mutants in a suburb of Sydney. They were here presently because she had wanted to make a pit stop before they went off for the afternoon to Biosphere Four. "You want to know why I love Australia so much? They've never heard of Alex Ovechkin or Sidney Crosby."

The plan was simple - a new hockey stick for Dane, who was three weeks into his first year of organized hockey. Lily happened to think that 'organized hockey' was overstating it a bit - all the kids did right now was learn how to stand still while they were loaded down with equipment and learn how to skate by going back and forth across the width of the rink. Radek, unsurprisingly, had suggested it - he was instructing in a kids' recreational league and they were starting a new division for four-to-seven year olds. Dane would be four in a couple of weeks and Lily had been at a loss for what to do with him for the winter. The league ran through mid-June, which allowed her the comfort of not having to yank Dane out of his activity when they moved back to New York.

She smiled wryly. "And yet you not only know who they are, you can discuss their various merits."

As befitting a country nestled into the polar ice cap, winter sports were hugely popular in the New Lands and the nation had earned its first Olympic medals the previous year at the Winter Games. 'Extreme' winter sports - activities done outside the protective bubbles - were quite popular with the younger crowd. Lily had gone cross-country skiing outside the bubbles twice, both times during the White Nights season, and thought it fun if a little overrated.

David waved his free hand dismissively at her. "Nephews."

With so many former citizens of interested nations, hockey was a popular sport both to watch and to play in the New Lands and there was talk about starting to put together a national team. It also happened to be a very mutant-friendly sport -- all of the required protective equipment ended up compensating for a wide variety of mutations, from Dane's electric touch to his young teammate Darryl's heat vision (Darryl's visor was amply hidden from stray elbows by his full face shield). Dane, for his part, was wild about the game. Hence the search for a birthday present. Dane's age group was still learning how to skate on their own; skating with a stick in pursuit of a puck was still down the line.

David gave a pained smile to the clerk who had come over to help them. "We're here for someone's first hockey stick," he told the chubby man.

"He's four, he's about this high," Lily added, holding a hand up to the spot on her body where Dane came up to, "and he shoots right. And he's electrokinetic."

"Electrokinetic?" The man mused, gesturing for David and Lily to follow him towards the rear of the store where the stick display stood. "Does he have the right gloves? They make 'em so that he won't shock anyone."

"He's got a pair," Lily assured him. They had been very expensive and had had his name written on them in large print with indelible ink. "And he knows better than to let them out of his sight."

"Alright," the clerk said with a thoughtful sigh. "Well then, considering he's a little one and all, I'd suggest the plastic-finished beta composites. Those'll be fine even if he's not wearing his gloves. Except if he's an alpha..."

"He's an alpha."

"Oookay," the clerk murmured, changing the direction of where he had been reaching. "Wood composite it is."

Twenty minutes later, Lily stowed the ribbon-topped hockey stick in the back seat of David's car and they were off to Biosphere Four, where the weather was supposed to be a comfortable twenty-six centigrade, as opposed to the eight it was currently in Biosphere Three.

They were close to the border, so the trip only took about half an hour. It was about enough time for Lily to regale David with the story of the plans for a 'moving highway.' When the New Lands had been plotted out, mass transit had been given the edge over automobile traffic, perhaps too much so in hindsight. During the time Lily had been living in the New Lands, a new inter-bubble highway had gone from being a nice idea to a necessity and bids from all over the world had been solicited. Some civil engineering firm from Sweden had proposed an auto version of a moving sidewalk - a highway that by itself went a specified distance per hour. There had been discussion as to whether cars would simply park on the moving highway, thus saving energy by being turned off until reaching their destination, or whether cars would simply be allowed to drive at the current speed limit, allowing relative motion to get them home faster. The idea was preposterous in terms of common sense - even if it could be built, the laws of physics would make all but the most minor of accidents much more dangerous - but it had captured the imagination of the populace.

They were still contemplating increasingly gruesome problems in projectile motion when they pulled into Torreda National Park, named after an especially brave soldier from the Battle at Akkaba. While they had had grand plans of a picnic basket and blanket, they made do with a giant beach towel (that was larger than the sheets for Lily's bed and had 'Greetings from Hilton Head' on it) and a grocery bag containing deli sandwiches, iced tea, and a bag of grapes. Cheerfully and pointedly leaving their coats in the car, they found a quiet spot on the large lawn that was not quite in earshot of the older woman with the radio playing Count Basie.

It being a Saturday afternoon, there were many kids running around the park and Lily was grateful that they were in the distance. Her tolerance of screeching and squealing wasn't that high even when her son was the one making the gleeful noises. Dane probably was at the moment, as he was off at his hockey practice. After hockey, he had a play date with one of his teammates and she would be home in time to pick him up from that.

Frankly, she was relieved to have an afternoon to do nothing but laze in the grass. Not having to take care of Dane, not having to go crazy at work -- both the everyday matters as well as the upcoming splitting of the Chronography group into two units, not having to stress about the long list of things that needed to be done before the move back to New York. At least she didn't have to go house hunting this time and she already had the paperwork to enroll Dane in the TriBeCa preschool Diego had attended.

"You are starting to think too hard again," David warned her, pointing accusingly with a pickle slice. "I can hear the gears turning from here."

"And I thought it would be the smell of smoke that gave me away," Lily laughed in response.

She tried to clear her mind of all that was seemingly constantly running through it. With David, it should be easy; he was never serious about anything. The only time she had ever seen him drop the devil-may-care attitude had been during the Genosha mess the previous year. She was sure he took his work seriously; Nathan wouldn't have trusted him in the first place, let alone brought him back for a second tour otherwise. But David worked hard to cloak his professionalism and it was easy to forget that he had spent many years doing very deadly work.

"So tell me," he began, rolling onto his stomach so that he could lean over his plastic plate and drip pickle juice onto it instead of himself. "Is this nicer than Central Park?"

Lily put down her bottle of iced tea and looked around. "Yes and no," she finally said. "The trees and grass and flowers are nicer, no doubt, but... Central Park is an oasis in the middle of a world of concrete and steel. These parks? They're beautiful spots, but there's less of a contrast. If you sit on the Great Lawn, you can look over the trees in any direction and see high-rises. Here, you just see sky."

"I shall have to try it out next time I'm in North America," David mused, wiping his mouth delicately. "I've never been to New York City. Which is ridiculous considering you can drive there from Montreal. And I've been so many other, less interesting, places in the States. Including Washington, which is just a muddle of geopolitical confusion. It's neither a state nor a proper city. Why didn't you people just put it in a state? Why can't you be like every other nation on earth and just have a capital city? It's not like you need it to be like the Vatican, separate from all earthly politics."

"We thrive on being different," Lily offered, shrugging her shoulders. It had been twenty years since she'd had to think seriously about any sort of American civics beyond registering to vote. Which she was going to have to do again and she made a mental note to add that to her formal list of bureaucratic chores. "Man, it's going to be weird thinking like an American again. I honestly suspect I'm a little bit out of the habit."

The New Lands were very active in establishing its own identity and Lily had found it quite easy to start thinking like a local and not like a temporary resident or even a transplant. She remembered her first visit here, with Alex, and how they had both been amused to see how quickly Ji-Won had adapted her worldview. But now, in hindsight, it was completely unsurprising. Lily hadn't bothered to get New Lands citizenship, settling for Landed Immigrant status (Dane, as a mutant, received automatic dual citizenship, as had Alex), but that really didn't make much of a difference in day-to-day life. She could crack jokes about how the residents of Biosphere Eleven had not recovered their reputation after nearly cracking their biosphere dome during a Two Days celebration a few years back ('President Lehnsherr says that the New Lands are like a giant village and every village needs its idiots'), she complained about how no matter how nice the light rail system was it was still impossible to run a country without sufficient highways, and she had a share of the national paranoia every time another nation's sports teams refused to come to visit for a tournament. Just another local, at least for another few months.

"I think I'm going to miss being here for the Two Days festivities," Lily went on. She and Dane were leaving for the States at the end of June and the anniversary of the Battle at Akkaba was in early August. But it wouldn't have worked out if she had tried to stay; Nathan needed her at the new lab at the start of the fiscal year and Dane would need time to get adjusted to his new life before being dropped into preschool. Also, the New Lands had adopted the European habit of making August a vacation month and finding the necessary labor and services to pack up and leave the country would not have been easily available.

"You just like getting invited to the Presidential Ball," David accused, crumpling up the paper his sandwich had come in. "You're going to have to get used to being a small fish in a big pond back in the States. No chatting casually with Councilors, no dinner dates with the executive officers..."

"At least until the next family dinner, when I have to ask the head of the XSE to pass the salt," Lily retorted with a snort. "I honestly think that dropping out of the public view will be one of the best things about the move."

After Genosha, the Chronography Group had endured a sharp spike in public awareness. What had once been just another of the New Lands' bevy of cutting-edge labs had become a symbol. Of what, Lily wasn't quite sure, but it was supposed to be good. She accepted that there had to be a degree of public exposure for professional reasons; they *were** trying to get Chronography established as a legitimate field.

But there was the occasional appearance on a news program and cover article on the lab and then there was the cult of celebrity. Especially with anything involving the X-Men. The New Lands had their own celebutantes and others who existed only to be on the gossip websites and Lily felt nauseated every time she saw her name in bold print outside of the context of a professional journal. It happened, more than she'd like. Her X-Men/XSE connections were well-known and it bothered her that she had to shield Dane from paparazzi who wanted to take pictures of Havok's son.

"You've only got a couple of months until you're not even the hundredth most interesting person on your island," David promised.

The afternoon passed peacefully and enjoyably. David had been promising for months to digitize his photo album of some of the absurd things that he had seen during his international travels and now he'd finally loaded them on to a memory stick that could be plugged in to his tablet. Lily knew that being in Nathan's network wasn't all superspy heroics; two years with Roger and Radek had familiarized her with the very real fact that a good deal of it was sitting around and waiting. As such, David had been able to cultivate his taste in the weirdness of daily life around the globe. There was one photo of goats milling around in front of a university building in Greece that Lily begged for a copy of - the white stone of the building was similar enough to Steinman back at City College that, combined with the goats, it looked like a perfect way to encapsulate her time there.

Eventually, they had to pack up and head back so that Lily could retrieve Dane. Karen Coulty, Matthew's mom, was an extremely enthusiastic homemaker - Lily had said that she'd pick Dane up around 5:30, but she knew that if she wasn't there by 5:40, Dane would be parked at the dinner table and fed. It had happened twice before and Lily always felt guilty because there was so little she thought she could do to make it up to Karen, who in turn insisted that it was no trouble and Lily had nothing to repay. Lily liked Karen - it was hard not to - but always felt a little inadequate in her presence. Matt Coulty went to pre-school only in the mornings, not all day like Dane, and purely so he could have playmates.

Anticipating the traffic on the way back to Biosphere Three - they hadn't been the only ones using the weekend afternoon to take a break from the cold weather - they had given themselves extra time for the return trip. Lily also wanted to get the hockey stick back home and hidden in her closet before Dane saw it. There was less traffic than expected and they managed to pull into her driveway with more than enough time before she had to go pick up Dane.

Hockey stick stowed - the front closet would have been better, but Dane had already been yelled at twice recently for sneaking in there to try to disassemble the vacuum cleaner - Lily stopped off in the kitchen to retrieve the plastic container that Dane had come home with last week because Karen had packed an extra lunch for Dane for hockey practice because Lily had left Dane's at home by accident the week prior. "Of course, I'd have eaten the roast beef sandwich instead of the egg salad, too," she sighed.

"You'll let me know if you can get away for lunch on Monday," David said as he waited for her to lock the front door. He was leaving Monday evening for Sydney and his last meeting was a morning one.

"I'll do my best," she promised, following him down the steps. "Amy and I are assembling the transition team this week, but I don't think we'll be in that much of a groove that we can't break for lunch outside the office."

It was supposed to be a quick farewell hug and a peck on the cheek, so Lily was surprised when it turned into a much more adult kiss. Surprised even further when she returned it.

"What?" he asked quietly, concern on his face after she pushed away.

"I can't do this. I can't."

"Why not? We're friends, we find each other attractive..."

"That's not the point. I'm still married."

"To a man who hasn't been on this Earth in four and a half years," he pointed out without rancor.

"Don't you dare give me the 'time to move on' talk, David," Lily hissed. "I've heard it too many times."

"I'm not asking you to forget about him. I'm not asking you to stop loving him, even," he replied, shrugging in that carefree way that Lily normally found endearing but right now found terribly wrong. "This isn't about commitments made or broken. This is about you remembering that when you're not Dane's mother and Alex's widow and Nathan's scientist, you are still a woman. Being all of those things doesn't mean that you're not allowed to have your own needs."

Lily just stared at him, still too shocked at the whole situation to speak.

"I'm not proposing to you," David went on, smiling his most charming and innocent smile. "I'm propositioning you. No strings, no commitments, no promises to be faithful forevermore. Just an offer to spend a little time having a bit more fun than you have on your own. Hells, you're moving back to the States soon, it'll probably be a one-time offer."

She shook her head. "I'm not a casual sex kind of person, David. I wasn't even before I met Alex. I can't separate the deed from everything else that goes with it."

David sighed, then shrugged again. "I'm not sure whether to envy you or pity you."

"I don't want either," she replied, pushing herself off of the car where she had been leaning.

David nodded once, then turned to go to his car.

"I'm sorry," she said after him, loud enough that she knew he'd hear her. Thankfully, none of her neighbors were around and there was no audience.

"So am I," he replied with a sad smile. "It would have been fun."

Lily watched him get into his car and drive off. As the rented Ford turned the corner and disappeared out of sight, she let out a breath she hadn't realized she'd been holding. Taking the plastic container off of the roof of the Subaru, she got into the car and put the key into the ignition. She didn't bother turning it; she was crying too hard to be able to drive.

Dane was halfway through with his lasagna by the time Lily made it to the Coultys. Karen took one look at her bloodshot eyes, put a gentle hand on her shoulder, and offered to wrap some up for her as well.


22/October 2011

"And with that, I'd like to thank Doctor Summers for granting us this personally guided tour through her very new and very interesting field," Joe Perotelli said into the microphone and then clapped, cueing the audience to being their applause.

Lily smiled and nodded her head, pleased that the reaction had been so positive. It wasn't surprising, not the way it would have been at the first conference at which she'd spoken about chronography, but it was still a nice ego boost.

The invite to give a talk at MIT had come two days after an article in the Science section of the New York Times made mention of the fact that Midnight Sun was opening up a research facility in the city. Joe - and Lily was surprised at the ease with which she was accepting being able to use first names with her former professors - had been insistent and enthusiastic about Lily bringing chronography to the school. "It'll garner a lot of interest," he had assured her. "You might even get a few recruits out of it."

Even if it weren't her alma mater, Lily would probably have accepted the offer. One of the main reasons for opening a facility in North America, after all, had been to make chronography more accessible. And there was no one more accessible than undergraduates. Although Lily had been a little surprised at the variety in the audience - there had been plenty of grad students and some faculty there as well.

Lily accepted congratulations from several members of the audience, including the chair of the mechanical engineering department, and answered questions that hadn't had a chance to be asked during the designated period until Joe apologized profusely to the still-waiting group and dragged Lily off, promising that she'd reappear momentarily at the reception.

He clapped his hands with glee as they headed back to his office so that Lily could drop off her notes. "That was great! Absolutely great! We're gonna get a bumper crop in fluid flow, I know it," he crowed.

Her talk had mostly been about the lead-up and after-effects of Genosha and the Chronography group's role therein. A year removed from the events, Lily had been able to joke about the panic even as she hadn't downplayed the fear. In fact, she went into the fear in great detail; it was the most effective way, she felt, to emphasize just how non-theoretical this field was. Chronography wasn't simulations and equations and philosophy; the wrong decision in a time of crisis would get people killed as surely as a wrong decision in the field would.

"I'm glad to do my part in your recruitment drive," Lily said, laughing at his enthusiasm.

"Hey, five years down the line, those kids are gonna be yours," Joe replied, nodding sagely. "You're gonna have your own private army of chronographers."

"And I will be the last member of my family to acquire said private army," Lily retorted dryly as she dug through her bag for her cell phone. "Man, I hate this thing. Now that I'm back in New York and it's not international long distance, people keep calling me." There were three voicemails and a dozen texts and the phone had only been off for a few hours. She didn't even want to imagine what her email inbox looked like; the smartphone was her nomination for Worst Invention Ever.

"It's the way of the world," Joe said with a shrug as he held the door open for her. "Remember the good old days when we had to write letters and carry change for the pay phones?"

The first voicemail was from Dane, courtesy of Piotr's phone, calling to tell his mother that he'd scored a goal in practice. Lily had found him a hockey league and Piotr had signed Diego up as well. The second message was from Amy, who must have been calling first thing in the morning New Lands time, telling her to expect 'a shitload' of raw data later that day because the quarterly reports had been finished. The third was from Tom, her second in command in New York, confirming Lily's suspicion that there had been an error in the latest report by Ubi Wadkins' mathematical brigade and promising her that it wasn't bad enough to set anything back.

"Everything all right on the home front?" Joe asked as Lily took the phone away from her ear. She knew he hadn't forgotten the events of Lily's last visit to Cambridge.

"Yeah, although I should call back my little Wayne Gretzky and congratulate him before he goes to bed."

Twenty minutes later, Lily had a glass of wine in her hand and was explaining to the circle of people around her what sorts of diverse fields were required to support any sort of chronography work. It was still the general perception that chronography was purely a math-heavy science and Lily was happy to point out that there were historians, political scientists, anthropologists, sociologists, and geographers within the group. Chronography was as much about qualitative as quantitative analysis and there were still large swaths that utterly lacked any sort of scientific precision, although they were certainly working on that.

There seemed to be a lot of interest in the day-to-day operations of both research groups, Lily noticed by the time the chafing dishes had been brought out. She took it as a positive sign - people weren't asking what chronography was anymore; they were asking how it worked and what it could do. The simple answer was that the Midnight Sun Laboratory in the New Lands was the harvester of data and the Midday Sun Group (lame name, Lily thought, but not her choice) in New York was the processor of that data. Amy's people were the ones trying to built up and solidify the foundations of chronography, Lily's group of specialists were the ones looking for applications.

Otherwise, the biggest difference between the groups was that they were on opposite ends of the globe. Lily still got updates from Roger or Radek and still questioned the species of Sagerstein's parents on a regular basis. But, except in times of crisis, they were all Amy's problem now and while she still spoke to her friend daily about items both work-related and not, she had a new group of lunatics to meet minds with. Twelve members of the original group - the not-so-Dirty Dozen - had come with Lily to New York and the cramped offices on the fortieth floor of the WR Grace Building across the street from Bryant Park on 42nd Street. Twelve new members had been found, mostly from the junior ranks of academia, as Lily had been, and two grad students. HisDAs had been left behind entirely with the exception of Alice Epstein, a perky New Zealander who had an uncanny way of skimming data and coming away with the right conclusion. Sagerstein had nearly threatened suicide if Alice were to be taken from him; Lily had offered to pay for the funeral.

It was to this new group that Lily returned to the following afternoon, walking up from Penn Station to check in on the quarterly reports that should have already arrived and be halfway looked-over.

"How did the spreading of the gospel go?" Tom Ivalesci asked as he followed Lily to her desk. As with the office in the New Lands, the space here was common area and everyone from Lily down sat in low-walled cubicles. There were three conference rooms against the wall furthest from the windows, one large enough to hold staff meetings and briefings, the other two smaller and used by subgroup teams needing quiet.

"It's a shame I stopped going to church when I was a teenager," Lily replied, not looking up from the pile of mail. "I dare say I'm getting good at this."

Unlike the office in the New Lands, however, the fortieth floor was protected by XSE officers. Nathan had insisted and when Lily had balked, Scott and Logan had backed him up and Lily had known that she hadn't had a chance. Later on she had found out that there had been bomb threats by an anti-mutant terror group, but by that point she had gotten used to the presence. The current officer on duty, Greta Soderstrom, was a young woman barely out of the XSE's training program (and nonetheless a qualified sniper and hand-to-hand expert) who always had a package of salty licorice around should Dane be brought by for a visit.

"The Catholics don't let women preach," Tom replied easily, leaning over to take a binder off of his desk and flip to the page he wanted.

"Details, details," Lily muttered as she frowned at the mess on her desk. She wondered why they could build countries under glass but they couldn't have a paperless office.

"Amy attached a note to the quarterlies saying that I should keep the hard copies on my desk or else you'd lose them," Tom explained as he handed over the binder he had opened.

"Organization is overrated," Lily replied sourly as she sat down and accepted the binder.

"She said you'd say that, too."

Lily snorted. "I'm gonna hire someone to put square wheels on her chair."

"In my neverending attempt to outdo your memories of Ms. Dominguez's stellar work," Tom said, "I've already taken the liberty of hiring out a contractor for just that service."

Lily looked up at Tom, who was watching her with a straight face. Tom's humor tended towards the desert-dry and he had such a steady deadpan that he could easily scare those unfamiliar with him.

"Good boy," she finally replied. "Now go grab Ahearn and Wu and let's see what you folks have come up with so far. We're supposed to be the geeky half of this operation. It won't do our rep any good if we can't pull things out of this data that Midnight Sun already has."

With the threat of relegation to 'the Second Division' in the New Lands if brilliance wasn't forthcoming by the end of the week, Lily watched her new team set to work. It was a very different dynamic than that of the group she had left behind - more brash, perhaps, and a little less formal - but Lily was sure that they'd settle into a rhythm just as smooth.




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