Part 2: Chapter 8
Emma had a client to see and Jean had some tests to run, so the two women parted ways with the promise to meet ‘same time, same place’ tomorrow. Neither was really looking forward to it, but at least the topic itself held both of their interests. Jean rolled her chair over to the Ken-A-Vision T-19241C Comparison Microscope that was fitted with a 5 Megapixel Microscope Camera with Advanced Panasis Software DK5.1P to allow images to be photographed and saved onto the connected computer.
As well as the mostly qualitative and psychological study of MGH, Jean was involved in at least three other long-term studies that, time permitting, she jumped between each of them. This particular one was one of secondary mutations, something her boss, Hank McCoy, was nearly an expert of – considering he had undergone one himself not too long ago.
His hypothesis was that a lot of mutants, maybe close to half of them, underwent some kind of secondary mutation, but no one was close enough to determining this or not. He believed that not all secondary mutations were on a large scale, as his was, some not even close to a full body physical transformation. In fact, he went on to hypothesize that some mutations might be just the slightest change, like a reduction in metabolism, or a thickening of the skin.
Jean wasn’t sure if she believed this; not sure she believed that there was any real point in studying something so seemingly inconsequential as thickening skin. After all, all bodies underwent change, because of puberty, growth and age. Maybe such a change in a mutant was just as non-eventful. But it wasn’t her job to question her boss, nor to insert a feeling without first gathering facts. It was something she was still learning. But Hank trusted her knowledge and he believed in her, and that was something she did not take lightly.
On one of the trays, there was an unremarkable thin brown hair. On the other tray was a slightly thicker, coarser and three-toned hair. It appeared to be a feline hair in a visual comparison, but it was technically still human, molecularly speaking. She switched those slides with two new ones, labeled 15HA03 and 15HO03, both slides referring to hairs extracted from the head of Student #15, A standing for ‘August’ when the student enrolled at the Institute and O, standing for ‘October’, when the second strands were extracted. An interested student had to sign a waiver saying they were volunteering to be a part of this ongoing study before their body could be picked at with a fine tooth comb. Hank knew who they were, but Jean did not. All she saw of these willing students were enlarged pieces of some part of their bodies – hair, skin, nails, blood, etc.
She wrote down her observations into the standard laboratory notebook used in their labs, including the reference numbers for where the pictures were saved, and then switched slides to examine different strands of hair. Same observations; she could do this without thinking much, and so she continued the rote task of switching slides, examining them and writing what she saw as her mind traveled to other areas.
Foreigner was crooning Cold As Ice in the background, and it made her think of Scott, because he liked to tap along to this song on the steering wheel. A smile played at the corners of her mouth as she thought of a time they had rolled the windows down and sang off-key without a care in the world. She had just passed her Analytical Chemistry exam and he had taken her out to de-stress. Then she laughed, because when she had explained her day to Ororo and Remy, her friends looked at her as if she had grown a second head. They hadn’t yet met the Scott she already knew; always saw the fearless-leader, tight-ass persona he wore as comfortably and often as his visor.
Yeah, her man was a bit tightly wound, she knew that, but driving loosened him up. It was a shame that because of his mutant abilities, the ruby quartz visor and glasses he had to wear at all times sometimes hindered his ability to drive at night or in bad weather. That simple thought laid heavy on her mind as she continued her work, until it worked itself into something tangible, something useful.
What if it wasn’t always this way? What if it didn’t have to be?
Setting Student #15 and Student #27 aside, both had what appeared to be some sort of follicle mutation, and took a moment to take out her contact lenses and slip on a pair of her glasses – this pair was blue and brought out the green in her green-gold eyes nicely. Some women liked diamonds and some liked shoes – Jean liked glasses.
She had also removed her sensible shoes hours ago – in most labs it was forbidden, but Dr. McCoy hardly ever wore shoes and he wasn’t a hypocrite. Slipping her feet back into them, she left the microscope room and the laboratory, and went down the hall into a big spare conference room that they were currently renovating to be a filing room. Stacks of boxes were piled on one side and filing cabinets, mostly empty were on another. She took a deep breath, as if she were diving headfirst into a deep sea, and began looking in the closest box. How she wished Hank had let her take charge of the renovation, but he had insisted he do it himself, meaning this room would be a mess for weeks. If not longer.