Conspiring Minds

May 07, 2015:

Scott Summers brings Dr. Hank McCoy with him to STAR Labs, when he delivers some illicit materials to Harrison Wells for research. The conspiracy to develop treatments for smooth addicts develops further.

STAR Labs, NYC

Characters

NPCs: Caitlin Snow

Mentions:

Mood Music: None.


Fade In…

Its been another nice day in New York City. Thankfully, the weather gods have seen fit to giving the five boroughs a streak of sunny, warm days. For this particular visit, Scott Summers has actually called ahead, and booked an appointment with Dr. Harrison Wells, which happens to fall near the end of the business day. Rush hour always makes things difficult in the Big Apple, whether traveling by train, bus of car, so he's arrived a bit early and is waiting for Dr. McCoy to meet him here.

Seated in the lobby and having already checked in, the school teacher has a satchel at his feet, a glass of water in his left hand, and a cane leaning up against his hip. Seated in a straight backed fashion, his ruby glasses are aimed in the general direction of the front doors while he lifts the glass to take a sip.

*

Hank McCoy had to see to some arrangements before he left to join Scott, but he tried to make up time as best he could. He's a few minutes late, darting in and trying not to look like the stereotypical 'Scientist' that he is. It's just rather ingrained even if he's not wearing the white lab coat. Maybe it's the glasses.

The door to the lobby opens and he looks about a moment before blue eyes fall on the schoolteacher and his chosen seat. Moving quickly to join him, he takes a nearby seat and leans forward, resting his elbows on his knees, "Sorry I'm late." He then looks about, "Think if we ask nicely, we'll get a tour?"

*

Caitlin Snow, dressed in a dark pencil skirt and a loose-fitting magenta blouse pads into the lobby and issues the pair a tight-lipped, but gracious, smile. The edges of her lips curve slightly higher as she looks between the pair. "Mister Summers?" Her eyes flit towards Beast and she arches an eyebrow. "Doctor Wells asked me to walk you to his office." And with the faintest uptake of the right side of her mouth, she sees fit to add, in a still-clipped tone, "STAR can be a bit of a labyrinth sometimes."

Scott may have noticed the woman's tendency to titter the last time he came, but her general guardedness seems somewhat stronger today. With the faintest twitch of her head, a silent motion that the pair should follow her, Caitlin leads the pair through the still halls of STAR's offices.

"Doctor Wells was going to receive you himself, but I'm still here so I thought it easier for me to walk you there." Again, her lips form a very tight smile. Her hands clasp lightly behind her back as she moves; her black heels clap lightly against the floor, echoing through the empty halls.

Eventually she leads them both to a glass office, complete with a glass door to see inside. Harrison Wells sits in his wheelchair behind his desk. Caitlin knocks lightly on the door, prompting Harrison to look up from his work, and issue his visitors a warm toothy smile. He waves his hand, beckoning the pair in.

Two chairs rest on the opposite side of the desk. "Gentlemen, please have a seat," he motions towards the chairs.

Caitlin receives a warmer, more encouraging smile, and Wells offers, "Ciatlin, feel free to head home and call it a day — " The woman's lips part to object, but Wells lifts a hand, " — all's well here."

With a more skeptical arch of her eyebrow, Caitlin inhales a sharp breath, nods, and then notes in an easier tone, "I'll see you tomorrow." With that the redhead takes her leave.

*

"That's alright," Scott answers Hank. "I'm… early, as always." He scoffs lightly at his own nature, beyond punctual. He has a reputation around the school, after all. That scoff becomes something a bit more whimsical. "Well. This science stuff is far more up your alley, Hank. Not that I don't find it interesting, but -"

Caitlin's arrival has him cutting himself off, and turning at the voice. He sets the glass down on a table nearby, curls his hand around the cane, and reaches for the satchel before standing. "Hello, Miss Snow. This is a friend of mine, Doctor Hank McCoy." He turns his head toward the young man next to him indicatively. "Caitlin Snow," he tells Hank. "She works here."

The man in ruby glasses hooks the satchel over his shoulder and adjusts his grip on the cane so that it hovers relatively in front of him, before following Caitlin. Notably, he isn't swinging the cane back and forth in front of him, nor has he reached for either Hank or Caitlin's arms to help guide him, suggesting that whatever ails him may not be total blindness, or even blindness to be precise.

Once inside Wells' office, Scott smiles toward the wheelchair-bound man, and takes a step aside. The cane comes to rest close to his body. "Doctor Wells, good of you to see me again." He gestures toward Hank. "This is Dr. Hank McCoy, a friend of mine." He glances toward Hank with a grin that suggests something of a time-earned familiarity, and waits until the two have been properly introduced before he reaches out with a hand to feel for, touch, and then claim a seat for himself.

*

Hank McCoy stands when Caitlin arrives and he glances at Scott when he only warrants a strange look. He then leans in and murmurs something about 'being in hiding too long' and 'not even the scientists recognize him anymore'. It's what happens when one isn't attending conferences and symposia with his peers. He tries to offer Caitlin an easy smile and a hand at the introduction but it seems that may not help.

Glancing around as they are led up to the office, he lets out a low whistle, "Working here…" he offers to both, "Must be incredible." And he hasn't even seen the inner workings yet! A 'Thank you" is given before the woman leaves the three in the office and he then steps forward to offer a hand, "Dr. Wells. It's an honor to meet you in person. I'm familiar with some of your work."

As Scott sits, he does as well.

*

Hank's comment about working at STAR Labs prompts a tinge of a smile from Caitlin as she treads to the door, and she issues the trio a small wave before disappearing from sight.

The vaguest expression of concern crosses Wells' eyes as the woman exits, but it turns to warmth when he redirects his attention to his visitors. "It's a pleasure to have return visitors," Wells replies easily towards Scott, and then reaches out his hand towards Hank as he manages, "Doctor McCoy. Always wonderful to meet a colleague." One of his hands rubs the back of his neck, "And thank you. Before," his eyes squint some as he refers vaguely to life before the particle accelerator blew, "we had some incredible resources. It's a shame that they're not used the way they once were." The smile turns vaguely reminiscent before easing again.

"And thank you, we try to do good work around here. Always have, and always will." The smile tenses just a little — the massive failure continues to hang over Harrison's head.

*

While approaching the office, Scott had given Hank a raised-eyebrow look at mention of being in hiding for too long. He didn't remark on it, but there was a smug turn to his lips. Scott's been saying that for a while now.

The teacher remains silent while the two scientists meet each other. There is a touch of fidgeting, fingers curling and uncurling around the handle of his cane, adjusting the placement of it against his knee once. The fidgeting, however, stops when he offers a brief interjection. "Hank, I… know that I was a little vague when I called you. I just didn't want to discuss things over the phone." He pauses, seemingly feeling a little awkward about all this. His face turns from Hank to Harrison, considering just how he should spill the beans. Was there really a diplomatic way?

"I…" He turns back toward Hank. "… approached Doctor Wells when things started to get ugly with the drug epidemic. With all of the news stories, all of the problems and violence, especially in District X, it bothers me that nobody is talking about treatment. So, I approached Doctor Wells and… well. I made him a promise."

Biting his lower lip, Scott leans down and pulls the satchel to his lap. He unclasps the bag, then unzips an inner compartment. First, he produces a ziploc baggie that is filled with an off-white powder, flecked in a luminescent, scaly blue. This bag is set gingerly upon Harrison's desk, followed by a pair of hypodermic needles, orange caps in place for safety. These are filled with a pale, purple liquid, and are also set upon the desk.

"The, uh… samples I promised you, Doctor."

*

"I'm sure that you'll be able to get back…" that won't work right, "I'm sure that you'll be able to recover your resources. If I can help in any way…" is offered before he turns to Scott as the apology begins. "Scott…?" Brows crease as he watches the revelation of the drug samples. "How…what are you doing with those?"

He seems to be surprised and concerned. "What did you promise?" That's asked to the both of them. "What is going on and why did you call me down here?"

*

Scott's mention of their last meeting has Harrison straightening in his seat, and the smile fades. Serious business prompts the scientist to clasp his hanse together and rest them on the desk in front of him. The produced power, however, prompts a drop of his chin. Wells' hands slowly release each other, and the scientist slowly draws the powder closer to him. "Quite the sample," he notes lowly.

Hank's question earns a soft sigh from Wells' lips. He lifts a hand gently and states, "Mister Summers and I have mutual concern for the wellbeing of those being effected by this substance." His jaw tightens, and his hands clasp tighter. He swallows hard. "You see, Doctor McCoy, I am concerned that this administration is far too afraid to let legal clinical trials commence without en masse regulation of anything to treat withdrawal symptoms." For the first time since the pair entered the premises, the scientist actually frowns. "And red tape that slows any progress is only going to see more people suffering."

His gaze then drifts towards the hypodermic needles, both of which merit a small wrinkle of his nose. "It certainly looks innocuous." His cheeks puff out with an exhalation of breath, "Our lab will prioritize this, I promise you, Mister Summers." Blue eyes glance towards the glass door of his office, Caitlin's last known location, and he states, "We may be small in number, but those of us left behind are talented." He pauses. "Of course," his eyes tick towards Hank, "we would be happy with any further assistance with our efforts. Even if it's merely sharing what we learn so we can come to a solution quicker."

*

Hank's reaction draws a grimace from Scott. He's got a reputation around District X, a good guy, Boy Scout type, teacher from upstate New York. How many hours has he logged volunteering at the Avenue C clinic, after all? And here he is, smuggling enough of a Schedule I narcotic into STAR Labs to land them all in prison for more than a fewyears. There is an expression of apology sent Hank's way, but Wells' words cut through any verbal response he may have given, drawing his attention back toward the man who runs this place.

Upon the coattails of Wells' words, Scott turns back toward Hank, pleading his case. "Think about it, Hank. All those bombings across the city, Gotham and Boston? All of the people who breathes in this junk when it became aerosolized? People around District X tell me that these were like… supply depots. So, it's…" He gestures a bit, trying to find the right words to use. "It's… going to become harder to buy the drug, and the people who use it don't have a treatment that works." His eyebrows rise, and a grieved expression forms. "It could get bad, Hank. Really bad." He knows that everything happening here, right now, is extremely illegal. "Doctor Wells promised me a level of discretion, so… I asked around the neighborhood and…" He nods his head indicatively toward the bag and the needles, before running a hand through his wavy hair and searching again for his cane, as if it were a source of comfort to steady his nerves.

*

Hank McCoy looks from Scott to Wells, "So you're looking to find another drug…that will ease the withdrawal symptoms of this drug?" Apparently he wasn't privy to any of this conversation! "The people who are buying these drugs aren't looking for a way to stop using…that's sort of the point of the drugs." He gets to his feet and begins to pace behind the two guest chairs, "The mutants who are using it, most likely, are having difficulties with their powers…and get hooked. Those who aren't mutants are using it for their opiate properties and might not want treatment forced upon them."

There's a pause before he offers, "I understand the need to want some sort of quick treatment…but there's the root of this problem, Scott. This is just a band-aid. Shouldn't we be looking to deal with the roots instead of the twigs here?"

*

Again Wells' raises a hand as if to forfeit to any objections, "Think of it like methadone. It's a temporary solution to ease withdrawal symptoms. We all know that withdrawing from heroine can literally destroy lives." His voice softens, "People die. They have fevers. People seize. Brain haemorrhaging happens Their symptoms are…" his eyes turn downwards, "sincerely life-threatening. Even if someone wants off this level of toxin, they need something to aid them in living through it." His lips press together. "What I understand of this substance," his eyes cut downwards, "suggests it's more concerning. This isn't a bandaid, Doctor McCoy, this is a program to ease people off. Methadone clinics aren't meant to be long-term solutions for heroine addicts, but they are designed to reduce addiction slowly over time as cold turkey isn't actually physically viable." Wells' fingers steeple and his expression turns grave, "Not if we legitimately wish to save the lives of users."

His throat clears, but his voice remains low, cracking once around his words, "I suspect," his eyebrows draw together, "that while efforts to stop the roots as you call them, Doctor McCoy, are important, if a treatment isn't discovered and properly disseminated, many current users will die."

*

When Hank stands, Scott turns back, his chair scooting out just a bit so that he can properly watch his friend's pacing. Eyebrows remain arched, his lips curled into a frown. The advice from Doctor Wells, though… well, it comes with subdued conviction and is backed by intellect.

"Maybe they don't want to get off it now, but what happens when they do?" he asks Hank. "I know it's not everything, but it's a start. And if the Feds aren't going to make a move on this, someone needs to."

He reaches up to pinch the bridge of his nose, being cautious not to bump the glasses from where they sit perfectly upon his nose. Shoulders rise and fall in a long sigh; even having the illicit materials out of his satchel seems to have lifted the weight that was making him so twitchy and nervous. "Doctor Wells?"

He turns back toward Harrison, eyeing the substances with afrown. "I spoke with some people at the X-Men: Red building over on the Upper East Side. They told me that they have lawyers working on just how an addict might be able to legally and openly volunteer for clinical trials. It will take time, but, the working angle was… let me think." He pauses, eyebrows falling downward in thought. "If the user started his or her habit before the FDA classified the drug as a Schedule I, then they feel confident in presenting the situation to a judge. Something about… not being able to hold a person accountable for actions that were not illegal up to a certain point in time, given a reasonable willingness to…" Frustrated, he shakes his head. "I don't know. I'm not an attorney, but, they're willing to speak with you, so long as you have your opiate licenses in order." A brief pause. "I didn't mention you or STAR Labs by name."

That said, he looks back toward Hank, eyebrows rising once more. It's not comfortable, putting his friend in this situation, but he knows just how smart and talented Hank is.

"Its a start, Hank."

*

"I understand that, Dr. Wells…I do. And it's an honorable thing. But by having this, dare I say, readily available, is it saying that we condone its usage?" Hank moves to lean his hands on the back of the vacant chair, "I don't want people to die. That's not at all what I'm saying." He takes a breath and lets it out slowly, "Of course the Government won't work on this. It means that there will be less mutants in the world."

Well, Dr. McCoy -has- been called one of the leading geneticists around.

"What is the timeframe? Don't say 'as soon as possible' because tests need to be run…before we try it on people…so that we aren't killing them with this potential cure." There's another pause before he asks, "What exactly is my role in this, gentlemen?"

*

The legal information warrants a twitch of a smile from Wells, and just a glimmer of amusement in his eyes. "Let the legal jargon stay with the legal eagles," he agrees quietly, "but that's good." His expression softens into cautious optimism, "Caitlin checked our licensing and we do actually still have it. Which bodes well for trying to push things on the legal front." His head turns towards Hank and he notes, "Mister Summers and I discussed utilizing two channels. One that will be much slower than the other. STAR Labs is fortunate to be able to work with opiates — we have licensing for that in our pharma department. Evidently we didn't lose it when," his voice quiets, "we had our troubles with the pipeline."

"The second avenue will be much faster than the first. While we can test and develop something legally, pushing it to human trials will take time." His eyes flit towards Scott, "If possible, with the right legal assistance, we may be able to push that quicker. But as it stands, legal human trials could be years away." His lips press together lightly, "That said, if we're in a position where we're confident we have a solution, have tried it on beings of similar physiology, and are seeing positive results," he shrugs.

The notion of the timeline prompts Harrison's eyebrows to quirk upwards, "Realistically, since the substance is derived from heroine, something derived from methadone should work. That said, while my people are brilliant, depending on the efficacy of the drug and our ability to chemically derive something that can match and ease symptoms, it could be months before we even feel we have something that could work. From there we'd be pushing to do trials on mice, and likely work our way up to," his eyebrows draw together, "primates."

*

There might be a glimmer of amusement from Scott as well, if it weren't for the way his glasses completely block out what's happening behind them. Which, all told, is a very good thing for everyone involved. All that Harrison will get, in this case, is a half-hearted tug from one end of his mouth into the slightest of smirks.

"If it's a derivative of heroin, and it specifically affects the mutant x-gene?" Scott's gaze remains pointed in Hank's direction. "Your knowledge of genetics could be critical. They're going to need your help, Hank. Even if it's 'off the books', as it were."

*

Hank McCoy doesn't seem to look too mollified as more explanations are given. "Trials on mice and primates that you've cultivated with the X-gene?" He seems skeptical. "So, if what I'm hearing is correct, you're going to skipping most of the trials and go right to human…or mutant, rather, testing? Even if you get people to volunteer…that's assaying quite a bit of risk." He straightens and looks at both of them in turn, his expression serious, "Are you willing to potentially have deaths on your hands?"

*

The question prompts Harrison's lips to part. The phrase deaths on your hands raises memories that won't yield. The echoes. The sounds. The way things had so brilliantly failed. Wells' hands drop to his lap, and he turns outright silent, caught in his own mental world for several beats, recognizing the impact of what had happened at the Lab and what it had done to so many. He swallows hard and his eyebrows draw together. "Fourteen," he says quietly. "And I can name them all." It might not be remotely what Hank has asked, but it is the answer he receives.

He silences again and his gaze turns towards Hank. Once more he falls silent, considering the question and its weight. "Doctor McCoy, anyone who volunteers will be informed of the risks. We will monitor everything. We will do everything in our power to move things along safely." He swallows hard. "But even if we manage to push the permissions through and have testing approved, I suspect the permissions won't be for those with the X-gene. The approvals aren't likely to move that far. Not when the government has a means to disable the abilities of those with the gene. People fear what they don't understand." He pauses. "You study genetics, Doctor McCoy. You understand how abilities are perceived by many." He holds up his hands in surrender, "But those that want off the substance, those that want to recover from addiction, without this, many of them will die. Unquestionably. We already know this." His lips press together tightly, and he falls silent again. "But we will collect all of the data. Caitlin will monitor everyone closely. Perhaps we can even keep monitors on them 24/7, complete with alerts that tell us when something is amiss. We have some fantastic, currently unused, technology at our fingertips. And what we don't have, I have a fellow on staff capable of building some incredible machinery. We can reduce risk. Greatly. And, unlike big pharma, we will not ignore data that falsifies our efforts. That's why the birth control pill saw one woman die in its first human trials. We won't presume odd data to be the outlier. We'll aim to understand."

*

Oddly enough, the phrase deaths on your hands draws a reaction from Scott, as well. Though they haven't discussed it, Hank would certainly know about the sheer destruction seen at the Xavier Institute grounds, when CADMUS came for one of their own with weapons of war. Scott was… primarily responsible for that destruction, and people were killed. It was warranted - the government black ops organization had fired a missile toward the grounds, had deployed helicopters and soldiers armed to the teeth - but those deaths are on his hands and his alone. He could have taken the time to be more surgical in his defenses, but no. Fear for the students and grief over the presumed loss of his love had driven him to kill, willingly.

Outwardly, the school teacher merely looks down, away from Hank and Harrison, until his ruby-lensed gaze lingers upon the floor while lips tighten.

For the moment, he has little more to contribute. The decision lies with Hank, and Scott isn't about to further goad the geneticist into an agreement unless he's truly comfortable in doing so.

*

"Dr. Wells…Scott…have the two of you thought that one of the reasons why this is spreading so quickly is that there are those with powers out there who want them surpressed? This drug is currently the only way to do so…and so they take it because it means an end to their suffering? That being addicted…or dead…cannot be worse than the anguish their x-gene has wrought upon them?" Hank's hands grip the back of the chair rather tightly, "What good will the trials be if we manage to create this drug but those who need to be off it refuse to take it? Because if they are no longer supressed, their lives are a living Hell?"

He lets that hang there for a moment before he offers, "I'll help, but only if we seek to address the reason -why- this drug is being taken. Just creating a treatment won't do anything if no one agrees to take it."

*

Harrison clears his throat at the last question, "We had thought of that, actually. But the return of the ability, and its lack of control after," Wells frowns, "ultimately I suspect that will lead to regret, and people will want a solution if there is a viable one. And the truth is, this is for people that want it. No one is being coerced."

At Hank's agreement, Wells' issues a sharp nod, "Agreed. But I'm afraid that is Mister Summers' wheelhouse as I'm not aware if I know anyone with the X-gene." He manages a small grin as he adds, "Although, I suppose, it's entirely possible."

*

Scott looks back up when talk of finding some method to help mutants control their powers is breached. This was a subject he and Hank have discussed for years, always bouncing around between agreement and disagreementon the matter. However, the epidemic the country is facing now seems dire. Not every mutant benefits from their powers; in fact, for many, it does make life a living hell.

"Yet." Scott tails Harrison's promise that no one is being coerced. It may very well be that creating a drug to help withdrawal effects is just as important as creating a safe, non-addictive treatment for mutant abilities. But it doesn't take a genius to see how such a thing could be abused.

Looking back to Hank, he smiles again. "That will be more than a band-aid, for people who need it." He gestures between the two. "I'll… leave the science stuff to you two. I'll keep in touch with DaCosta International's lawyers, and keep trying to find actual addicts who are willing and able to help."

That last bit from Wells earns a very slight grin. "You might be surprised," he offers, before reaching for his cane and collecting satchel, leaving the illicit substances for Harrison to deal with.

They are his now, after all.

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