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Chapter 1
Chapter 2
Chapter 3
Chapter 4
Chapter 5
Chapter 6
Chapter 7
Chapter 8
Chapter 9
Chapter 10
Chapter 11
Chapter 12
Chapter 13
Chapter 14
Chapter 15
Chapter 16
Chapter 17
Chapter 18
Chapter 19
Chapter 20
Chapter 21
Chapter 22
Chapter 23
Chapter 24
Chapter 25
Chapter 26
Chapter 27
Chapter 28
Chapter 29
Chapter 30


Written by Valerie Jones
Last updated: 03/23/2007 01:26:56 AM

Chapter 16

Bishop peered through the tiny window at Remi, then turned to the two people beside him. "Is he all right?"

Hank shrugged. "Physically, yes. But I would rather you didn’t try to visit right now."

Bishop’s brow creased. "Why not?"

Mischa and Hank traded glances. "Because your thoughts are hard and practical," Mischa finally answered. Bishop blinked at her analysis and she continued, "Right now, Remi wants to hide from the realities of where he is and what he did out there." She gestured toward the site of yesterday’s battle. "He would only run from you."

Bishop glanced back at the window. The boy laid quietly, his strange eyes open and empty. Bishop felt another stab of guilt. He had sent these children here—he and Jean. They’d been trying to protect them. Obviously, they’d failed miserably.

He sighed and looked back at Hank. "Will you let me know when he wakes up?" He refused to say "if". One child was already dead. He did not want to believe that they might lose another.

Hank nodded, and Bishop turned away. Then he paused. "The Dresden surfaces in three days," he said softly. He didn’t turn around. "I don’t know what I’m going to tell Charles."

Hank McCoy entered Remi’s room with a sense of foreboding. It grew worse with every visit to check on the boy’s condition. Twenty-four hours after Remi had emerged from the deep sleep of exhaustion, he still had not responded to any physical or telepathic overture. Hank’s equipment as well as his instinct told him that Remi was awake. He just didn’t want to be.

Hank walked over to the bed, glancing at the somewhat antiquated displays that tracked Remi’s physical condition. Not that there was any use to it, but it was a long-time habit.

A small sound behind him startled Hank. He whirled to find Rogue standing in the corner of the room. The whisper of her boots as she’d stepped out from behind the opened door was the sound that he’d heard.


She nodded jerkily. "Hi Hank." She walked over to join him, glanced at Remi. "Is he going to be all right?" Her frank gaze demanded the truth.

Hank couldn’t help his sigh. "I wish I knew." He tossed the pile of notes he’d brought with him onto the side table with a little more force than necessary. "Actually, since there’s absolutely nothing I can do for him as a physician, I came to test out my own pet theory of how to entice him back into the land of the living."

Rogue’s eyebrow’s arched. "Ya’ve got an idea?" Hank was surprised by the sudden flare of hope in her eyes.

"A very small one, I’m afraid. But, if nothing else, I can sit here and talk to him for a while. That’s always good for a patient." He looked around briefly for the room’s single chair. "You’re welcome to stay, if you’d like."

She pursed her lips as she considered. "Ah suppose," she finally agreed.

Hank walked around the bed to fetch the one chair, then brought it back and offered it to Rogue with a gallant wave of his arms. He wasn’t sure why—Rogue’s temper was an uncertain thing. Often it was the small courtesies that would set her off. But to his delight, she smiled instead and took the offered seat. Then he went out into the hall to find another chair, and soon settled himself beside Rogue.

Hank picked up his notes from the table and shuffled through them. "Well, Remi," he began, "I’ve been thinking about some of the questions you asked me while you were in San Francisco. In particular, about the reason you and your friends are able to exist here at all." He glanced over at Rogue who was watching him with a surprised expression on her face. "And I think I may have some answers for you."

With such a captive audience, Hank settled quickly into his lecturer mode. "Now, I’m going to assume you don’t know much about ‘paradox physics’. Take note, I’ve just coined the phrase." Hank smiled briefly. "And under that assumption, I’ll go through everything in detail."

The form on the bed did not respond. Hank reigned in his disappointment. It was only a longshot, anyway, that he might tweak the boy’s curiosity enough to bring him out of his fugue.

"I think I’ll start with a short discourse on the nature of time." Hank fumbled with his notes a little longer. "As I’m sure you’re aware, there is only one real timeline. Each decision made, each action taken, results in a single course of events. The long-held idea that each action could spawn another reality—for example, two separate realities-- one in which I had chicken for lunch, and the other where I chose fish for lunch instead—is entirely false. Such concurrently existing realities are not possible. Now, there are other dimensions, but they are separated from our own by a rather... intriguing form of physical distance. Their relationship to our dimension has absolutely nothing to do with time."

Hank pushed his glasses up on his nose and settled more comfortably in his chair. "In general, we can represent time as a linear quantity—like an infinite string laid out on an equally infinite table. If you remember your geometry, the string would be a ray, with a finite end at our present point in time, and the ray extending infinitely into the past. As time passes, the string grows longer. The shape of the string is then caused by all of the events that occur at that particular point in time. Using my previous example—if I choose to have chicken for lunch, the string will bend ever-so-slightly in one direction, and if I choose to have fish, the string will bend in a different direction. The accumulation of all of the events that happen at one particular time will determine the ultimate shape of the string.

"Now, the question is ‘What happens when someone goes back in time and changes something?’. Keeping with the string analogy, this would simply mean that the point in time where that person arrived would get kinked in a new direction, and the rest of the string would adapt. We have seen this effect in the fact that people like Cable and Bishop have arrived in our time from the future and the timeline has gone on about its business with little or no distress. We can speculate—with fair certainty, I think—that their presences in this time have had significant impact on the events of our time-- but the string has adapted to them.

"Unfortunately, my simple string analogy begins to break down when we start talking about paradox. Obviously, the string is a vastly simplified model of what is really happening, and when events lead to paradox the nonlinear effects become noticeable. Oddly enough, paradox seems to be highly probabilistic—like valence electron clouds."

Hank paused, suddenly aware of the bemusement written on Rogue’s face. "Is something wrong?" he asked.

She shook her head, grin widening. "No, sugah. But ya lost me with that last bit."

"Hmmm. Then I suppose you’re not familiar with Schrodinger’s equation?"

She cocked her head. "Is that anythin’ like Schrodinger’s Cat? It’s a book ah remember seein’ somewhere."

Hank frowned, surprised. "Actually, yes," he answered. "Schrodinger was a famous mathematician. He developed some of the basic tenets of modern physics. He used his cat in a rather infamous illustration of one of his theories." Hank pulled of his glasses and began to clean them with the corner of his coat. "You see, Schrodinger was investigating the behavior of electrons, and beginning to come to some—for his time—rather radical conclusions. He held that electrons in an atom didn’t really orbit the nucleus the way the Earth orbits the sun. Instead, there are different "orbits", if you will, that are based, not on distance, but on the amount of energy in the electron. These are called valence shells—so think of various hollow circular shells at different distances away from the nucleus. That’s not quite accurate, but it gives you the idea."

Rogue nodded, "Ah think so."

"The heart of Schrodinger’s theory," Hank continued, "was that it is impossible to accurately know the position of an electron—meaning its energy level-- at a certain point in time. If you know a position for the electron, you can’t know when it will be in that position. And if you go looking for the electron at a certain point in time, you can’t know exactly where it is. The electron’s position is a function of probability. There’s a certain probability that the electron will be in such-and-such an energy shell, and a different probability that it will be in a different energy shell, etc. So when you do all the calculations and plot all of the possible locations for the electron at any one point in time, the plot looks like a cloud of dots around the nucleus. That’s called an electron cloud."

Rogue flashed him a sardonic smile. "Well, thanks foh the physics lesson, Hank, but couldn’t ah just get a microscope and go look ta see where the electron was?"

Hank nodded. "Yes, of course. But by looking at the electron, Schrodinger’s theory is that you actually determine its position. Right then and there. Until then, the electron actually exists in all of the possible positions in the cloud at the same time."

Rogue’s expression became puzzled. "That doesn’t make any sense."

"Well, this is where Schrodinger’s cat comes in. In presenting this theory to his peers, Schrodinger was faced with the same response, so he gave them the following illustration: Suppose you have a cat sealed up in a box. The box cannot be seen into by any kind of instrument or by the naked eye. However, there is some means for air to enter it, and the cat has plenty of food and water, and so should be able to live quite happily in the box for some time. Also enclosed in the box is a radioactive isotope with a half-life of one day. So there is a fifty percent probability that after one day, the isotope will decay into a deadly poisonous substance. There is also a fifty percent probability that at the end of the day, the isotope will not have decayed, and so remain harmless.

"So, we close up the cat and the isotope and wait for one day." He paused to dramatize the wait. "Now, it is twenty-four hours later. Is the cat alive or dead?"

Rogue considered him for a moment, her brows drawn together in thought. "It could be either one. Ya can’t know that until ya open up the box."

Hank cleared his throat. "Well, in real life, yes. But in this example, the truth is that the cat is both alive and dead. It exists in both states until someone opens up the box. Only then, when it has been observed, does the cat take on one state or the other."

"Hank, how in the world can just lookin’ at something change what it is?"

Hank couldn’t help his smile. "My dear, that is one of the mysteries of the modern world."

Rogue sighed and brushed a stray hair out of her eyes. "Do ah dare ask what all this has got ta do with time travel?"

"Well, in the case of paradox, time behaves much like Schrodinger’s poor cat. Except that, instead of having only two states in which it exists concurrently, there are an infinite number."

"Like an infinite number of possible futures?"

Hank nodded. "Exactly. I’ll use Remi’s case as an example." Hank felt suddenly abashed. For a short moment, he’d forgotten about the boy.

"Apparently, when Remi was five years old, the X-Men were betrayed by Peter Raspu—"

"Ah know all about it, sugah."

Curious at her tone, Hank stared at her. "Then you know the nature of Remi’s paradox?"

"Yes." Hank finally identified the emotion filling her voice. Sadness. But her green eyes met his without giving anything else away.

"I... see." He paused, debating whether to ask her anything further about it. But then he decided against it. Clearing his throat uncomfortably, he went back to the safer topic of science.

"Well then, the two extremes of that paradox are the possibilities that the X-Men are betrayed and murdered, and that they aren’t. In the first, Remi would have gone back in time and grown up to be someone named Gambit. In the second... well, we are the second possibility."

Rogue’s expression had grown troubled. "But what about his timeline, then?" She waved toward Remi. "What about...?" She pressed her fingers to her lips suddenly, as if she couldn’t continue without losing her composure. She paused, then continued in a strained voice, "How can they exist?"

Hank shrugged minisculely. "The two possibilities I just mentioned are only the extremes. Our timeline, here, is the extreme in which the X-Men are not betrayed by Peter, and the paradox surrounding Remi collapses completely. There are an infinite number of other possible timelines in which the paradox collapses only to some partial degree. These children are from one of those timelines."

"But ah thought ya said there was only one timeline, and there’s no such thing as alternate futures."

"Normally, that’s true. But during the actual physical collapse of the paradox, all of these possibilities do exist. They form a probability cloud just like the electron."

"Ah don’t understand."

Hank sighed. He barely understood himself, and a lot of what he was saying was more conjecture than provable scientific fact. But he was pretty sure he was right. "Here. I’ll try a different analogy. Do you remember Koosh balls?"

"Those fuzzy rubber things?"

Hank nodded, grinning at her description. "Good. Then let’s think about time as that string again. Now, we’re going along the string, happy as can be. But then we hit a paradox. It’s not an instantaneous thing, so for some finite amount of time, our string changes to become a Koosh ball. All the possible futures are like the little rubber pieces that stick out of the ball. The people that live in those futures are all real people, but just like Schrodinger’s cat, each one exists in lots of different states at the same time. Now, normally, the paradox would finish collapsing and all of those futures would just go away—like looking into the box to find the cat either alive or dead, but not both at the same time. However, Remi’s mutant power allowed him to do something amazing. These kids jumped out of one of the possible futures while the paradox was collapsing. By going backwards in time, they somehow escaped the paradox. They landed here, in the real timeline."

Rogue absorbed that for several moments. "Then their world... it isn’t real?"

Hank shook his head. "Not any more. It was, but only for a very short period of time about eleven days ago."

Hank glanced over at the bed. Remi lay still, his position unchanged. Hank suppressed a sigh. It had been a small hope, anyway. Feeling incredibly old, Hank stood up.

"I’ll be back to check on him again in a few hours."

Rogue nodded, but did not look up at him. She continued to stare at Remi with an expression that Hank could not interpret. She seemed to be deep in thought, though. Hank watched her for a while, but she did not acknowledge him again.


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