thisfatefulhour: (Hmm.)
[personal profile] thisfatefulhour
October 13, 1982

"Charles Murry?"

Multiple heads in the lecture hall turn towards Charles as he raises a hand. "Sir?"

"There's someone waiting for you in the Student Life office," says Professor Finch, waving the note he's just been handed. He sounds grumpy about it, but that's hardly a surprise. "Head over there."

"Now?"

"Yes, now."

Charles blinks, gathers his papers and backpack, and sidles out of the lecture hall with a lot of quiet "excuse me"s. It's a short walk across the marble courtyard to the Student Life office. The receptionist nods him towards a suited man sitting in one of the armchairs.

"Charles Wallace Murry?"

"That's me."

The man stands up and shakes Charles' hand, with a pleasant smile that Charles returns automatically. His grip is firm. "It's a pleasure to meet you, Charles. I'm Mathias Dewey. I'm sorry to pull you out of class, but I wasn't sure of another way to guarantee finding you."

Charles blinks at him, smile fading into bemusement. "I see. It's no trouble."

"Good." Another pleasant smile. "I was hoping to talk to you for a while. Maybe over coffee? I know a nice little café nearby."

"Oh?"

Dewey nods.

Charles blinks at him, studying him for several long seconds. Dewey watches him back, eyebrows slightly raised. Finally, Charles nods in return and hitches his backpack further onto his shoulder. Dewey smiles. "I'm sure they can hold that for you here." Charles shoots a questioning look at the receptionist, who looks uncertain but agrees.

As Charles follows Dewey down the street, navigating around the morning pedestrians of New York, the older man asks him courteous questions about what classes he's taking, how he likes the city after growing up in the country, if he's staying in contact with his parents -- all the sorts of questions one would expect from an adult to a college student.

It doesn't escape Charles' notice that Dewey several times seems to know already what his answers will be.

They pause a few times on street corners as Charles digs in his pockets and drops change into the cups of panhandlers, and he's acutely aware of Dewey considering him, hands in his pockets.

"Why do you give money to some of them, but not others?" he asks Charles as they cross the street.

Charles glances over at him, then over his shoulder at the old black man with the cardboard sign -- GOD BLESS YOU. "I give to the ones who really need it."

"How can you tell?"

"You get a sense for it."

They reach the café shortly thereafter. Dewey leads him to a booth in the corner. They both order coffee (Dewey drinks his black; Charles dilutes it with milk).

Dewey takes a long sip of the brew, leaning back to enjoy it, then looks at Charles over his cup. "So. You're wondering who I am, and why I took the trouble to find you and take you out of school for the day."

"Well, yes. Of course."

Dewey sets the coffee down and leans his elbows on the table. "All right. I'll be straightfoward. I'm the representative of a new program being created -- a school. The Academy for the Gifted. I'm here to see if you'd be interested in attending, get your reaction."

Charles blinks. "How'd you get my name?"

"We're related to the US Government."

"I see. Which branch?"

Dewey gives him an amused look. "You're aware of your father's work for the government, aren't you?"

Blue eyes sharpen. "Yes. Are you 'related' to the group he was working for?"

"Closely, yes."

Charles looks down in his coffee, frowning slightly. "Can you describe this Academy a little more?"

"It's an educational facility -- a school, and a research program -- for young men and women like you."

The uncertain frown deepens. "Like me? Are you going to talk to any of my classmates?" When Dewey shakes his head, Charles adds, "Why not? A couple of them are really bright."

Dewey sets his coffee aside, leans his elbows on the table, and asks quietly, "Can you hear what I'm thinking, Charles?"

(Try to find out who I am, then)

Charles starts backwards, the most violent reaction he's shown since meeting Dewey.

(I have been trying)

"Calm down," Dewey tells him, hurriedly. "It's a simple question."

"Asking someone if they can hear what you're thinking," Charles replies, "is hardly what I'd call a simple question."

"Will you answer it?"

He looks across the table at the man, who looks back seriously out of brown eyes. Brown, human eyes -- nothing more, even if there's a certain shrewdness to them. Finally, he takes a deep breath and asks, low, "Why did you ask?"

Dewey smiles slightly. "Did you think you're the only person on Earth with your talents? Your gifts?"

Charles shakes his head slowly, and Dewey continues, "I told you that the Academy is an institution for young men and women like you. I don't just mean that you're exceptionally intelligent. We're gathering young men and women who are using -- more of their potential. We want to learn from you."

Blue eyes snap back up to brown again. "Learn from us. You'll excuse me, Mr. Dewey, but that sounds a little ominous."

"If you're thinking that you're going to be a guinea pig for some kind of governmental experiment, you're mistaken -- we want to know what you can tell us. And more than that, we want to work with you to see what else we can find out about the universe." He fixes Charles with his gaze. "I'm inviting you to be part of a team, Charles. Everything is cooperative."

Charles watches him for a moment, and when he shows no sign of replying, Dewey adds with a gentle, joking smile, "Besides, you don't want to spend the next three years working on physics labs that you could have done at age twelve, do you?"

The younger man pushes a hank of hair out of his eyes. "Do my parents know you're making me this offer?"

"Not as of now." Dewey sits back again, taking up his coffee. "You're an adult, Charles -- it's up to you to make this decision, and to tell them. I encourage you to talk it over with them, of course."

"Of course."

Dewey checks his watch and mutters something about it being about time to get Charles back to campus, and leaves briefly to pay. He returns and stands with his hands in his pockets, watching Charles; Charles looks up at him and considers him in return.

Finally -- "Mr. Dewey. This is . . . overwhelming. I hope you understand."

Dewey nods. "Of course I do. I would be worried if you didn't take this seriously." He smiles. "Come on, I've taken enough time out of your day."

They walk back to the school in silence. At the campus gates, Dewey stops, pulls a business card out, and hands it to Charles.

"Take a few days to think it over. Discuss it with your parents, if you'd like. It's not a decision to be made lightly. But I encourage you to get in touch with me before the end of the month and tell me your decision, one way or another." He offers his hand and another of those eye-crinkling, friendly smiles. "It was a real pleasure to meet you, Charles."

Charles takes the card and slips it into his pocket, and then shakes Dewey's hand -- courteous, if a touch stiff. "I'll get in touch with you."

Dewey nods and heads off into New York City.

And Charles stands at the gates of his college, the business card stiff and awkward in his pocket, and feels the autumn breeze tug at his hair.
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Charles Wallace Murry

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