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[personal profile] thisfatefulhour
October 30, 1982

I encourage you to get in touch with me before the end of the month, Dewey'd said.

It's cutting it a little close, Charles thinks, feeding another quarter into the payphone. But then, it hasn't been an easy decision,

(you want to learn)

not at all.

The line at the other end is picked up. "United States Government Research and Development, Karen speaking. How may I direct your call?"

"I'm calling for, ah, Mathias Dewey. Do I have the right number?"

"Is he expecting your call?"

"Sort of. I'm Charles Murry."

"Oh, I see!" The tone of the receptionist's voice abruptly goes from cool and stiff to courteous, pleasant. "Just one moment, Mr. Murry."

There's a click, and then the soft on-hold hum. Charles cradles the earpiece against his shoulder and stuffs his hands in his pockets, waiting. It's only a minute or so before there's another click and the cheerful, pleased voice of Dewey speaks in his ear.

"Charles! Wonderful to hear from you. Have you come to a decision?"

Charles hesitates for a beat, then, "I wanted to ask you just a few more questions, if that's all right."

"Of course. Please."

A deep breath. "For one thing, I never did ask you about the cost of the program."

"Don't worry about money," smoothly. "There are some student fees, of course, but the bulk of our funding comes the government."

"Is that where the program's located, then? Washington?"

"That's right."

Charles makes a noncommital noise. "The other thing -- can you tell me what the students actually do? What you want us to tell you?"

A brief pause from Dewey's end. "That's not something to discuss over the phone, Charles. Would you like to meet again? It sounds like you're interested."

There it is, then. Charles takes another deep breath

(he can run)

and says "No, thank you. I don't think I'd be a comfortable fit for the program."

". . . I see." Dewey sighs. "That's a shame. If you change your mind, go ahead and contact me. For the moment, the offer stands. Now, I'm afraid I'm busy," and his voice has gone from friendly to professional, "but you have my number."

"Yes," says Charles.

"Good afternoon, then, Charles."

Click.

Charles looks at the phone for a moment, and then hangs up. He'd entertained the thought, for a while, of accepting the offer, no matter what he'd heard from River. There's no guarantee that whatever happened to her would happen to him, after all, and he would be forewarned if it was the same situation. Maybe he could even stop it from happening here--

But there have been too many unsettling dreams of pulsing red light, or triumphant screams in the wind, reinforcing what he said to Kim -- he's rushed into enough things without looking. And, he thinks wryly, he can learn from his mistakes and adapt, in spite of some previous evidence.

He just hopes he got it right this time.

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Charles Wallace Murry

September 2009

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