An unexpected meeting had turned into scientific discovery, and scientific discovery leads to...
For the first time, and one of the only times, in his life, Marc C. DuQuesne felt small, almost intimidated and in awe, as he, Seaton, and Bryson walked across the stage to thunderous applause. Glancing to one side, he could see that Seaton's expression mirrored his own feelings – stunned disbelief, rising elation, and not a little stage fright. He found it comforting that there was something of the sort on Bryson's face – but more, as he realized the glitter from the older man's eyes were tears on the verge of spilling over.
It still did not seem quite real, and he almost stumbled as he reached the center of the stage where the regal figure of Queen Frida waited. She smiled graciously at each of them, and then, one at a time, handed each a formal diploma case and, atop it, a red-hued case containing a medal. She turned then to the audience in the elaborate hall – a hall which had, miraculously, survived the devastation of World War III almost untouched – and said, simply, in English only slightly accented, "The winners of the Nobel Award in Physics, ladies, gentlemen."
The applause rose again, and DuQuesne managed a bow, knowing that he was wearing a ridiculous grin matched only by that of Rich Seaton on his right; Dr. Timothy Bryson's smile was tremulous and the tears had spilled over, but he did not look ashamed.
DuQuesne never did, quite, remember clearly the banquet – though it lasted some hours, and he apparently managed to comport himself quite well. He only remembered flashes and moments – the shining expanse of silver and china that made him contrast it with the simple wooden table of his youth, speeches constantly mentioning "youngest ever awarded the Nobel", and the never-ending flow of food and drink. The entire evening was covered in a rosy, disbelieving haze that didn't lift until late that evening, as the three detached themselves finally from the crowds and found their way to their suite in the Grand Stockholm Hotel.
DuQuesne just stopped dead in the middle of the common room of the suite and shook his head. "I could just collapse right here. Doctor Bryson, did that all really just happen? I know we were notified before but you could still knock me over with a feather."
"Young man… Marc… it happened, and no, I still cannot quite believe it myself. It's almost unfair that I –"
"Don't you start on that, sir. Full stop, Doc," Seaton said with a tired grin. "Maybe we did the heavy lifting on this one, and maybe we didn't, but you can bet we wouldn't be standing here today if you hadn't bashed the two of us together, and then made us think it through, every last little step, and then think it through again."
Bryson still looked uncomfortable. "Perhaps not today, but surely –"
"Not a chance, sir," DuQuesne said bluntly. "Oh, maybe twenty years from now. Maybe. But it took both of us to figure out what we brought to you – and that stuff was far from being ready for anyone to publish. Serendipity counts, it has to count. There's skill, there's effort, and sometimes there's luck, and in this case we all got lucky."
Bryson raised his hands in surrender. "All right, I shall say no more. Save that you boys have given a man who thought he was far past his best days one of the dreams he never dared to have."
Before things could get more sentimental, there was a knock at the door. Seaton glanced quizzically at DuQuesne, who shrugged, as did Bryson; with no one apparently any more aware of who might be calling than he was, Seaton strode over and opened the door.
The doorway was almost filled by the tall, broad man standing there. His eyes were a piercing blue, his hair rich brown, and his United Earth uniform was half covered by award ribbons and decorations. "Dr. Seaton?"
"I'm Richard Seaton, yes, but not exactly a –"
The man entered their room, shaking Seaton's hand as he did so. "It's an honor to meet you, Doctor. And you are obviously Dr. DuQuesne, equally honored, sir. Dr. Bryson, it's a pleasure."
"Excuse me, but… who are you and what are you doing here?" Bryson demanded, his tone slightly moderated by the obviously friendly demeanor of their late-night visitor.
"The name's Kinnison, Captain Roderick K. Kinnison. Sorry about that, I'm not a member of the diplomatic corps and I never really manage to get the niceties down. But I'm here to offer all three of you a job."
"A… job?" DuQuesne blinked, then chuckled. "I hate to disappoint you sir, but awards or not, we haven't even finished college yet. We're not 'Doctor' anything yet – except of course for Doctor Bryson."
Kinnison waved that away impatiently. "Details, paper-pushing details. I don't care what the schools say your degree is; the fact that you've just knocked the rest of the eggheads into a cockeyed hat is more than enough to tell me you've got what we're looking for." He gestured for them to sit down. "I know I'm interrupting what should be your night, and I'll try to be brief."
DuQuesne and the others exchanged glances, then nodded. "Go ahead, sir."
"Well, it's pretty simple. I don't pretend to understand the theory you people came up with, but we've got some scientists of our own already who do, and they tell me your 'sub-ether' theory implies all sorts of things that any military is going to be absolutely drooling over. Now, we may have finally united the world, but that doesn't mean the whole world's going along with it without a gripe. There's still groups that would like nothing better than a good old-fashioned war." The others nodded, so he went on, "I see you understand. Good. So the last thing we need is for some jingoistic trigger-happy lunatics to figure out some new wrinkles in your theory that let them do something that makes the atom bomb look like a popgun. So we want the best on our side before that happens."
Put that way, DuQuesne couldn't really argue. "And what would we do, working for you?"
"Pretty much whatever you wanted, as long as you could argue some military use for it. Unless you've got a problem with military uses?"
DuQuesne snorted, perhaps a bit impolitely. "Anything that can be a weapon, someone will use as a weapon. If you're not willing to accept that, you're the one living in a fantasy world. Better to know what those weapons are first."
"Run that right across the board for me too, sir," Seaton affirmed. "I wouldn't like to start the shooting, but I sure as heck want to be in a position to finish it."
Bryson shrugged. "I can't say I'd be absolutely overjoyed to have all my work put to military uses, but I can't really object."
Kinnison grinned. "Sensible men. And you two," he glanced at the younger men, "look like you're not just desk jockeys, either."
DuQuesne grinned back, an edge of challenge in the smile. "I'll bet you jockey desks more than we do, sir."
The blue eyes glanced down to where the uniform might – just possibly – fit a bit more tightly than originally intended, and Kinnison laughed. "I guess I just might, at that. So what do you say?"
"Well, sir," Seaton said slowly, "if I understand you right, it's a mighty tempting offer, but I don't want to give up on my degree."
"No reason you can't finish up your requirements in Washington, Dr… Mr. Seaton," Kinnison said, "not that I understand why they'd need to wait to award it, but that's not my business."
DuQuesne hadn't really thought about the issue of studying elsewhere, but it made perfect sense… and with the UE government backing them, transferring credits should be no problem. "I'm in, sir."
"Then I'm in, too," Seaton said immediately, "since Blackie'd never get anything done without me."
"You mean, you'll never get anything done once I'm gone."
"And I suppose, if you want me as well, that I could retire from the university," Bryson said. "As Richard says, it's quite an opportunity."
"You are certainly invited, Dr. Bryson," Kinnison confirmed. He stood up again. "Promised I wouldn't take up too much of your time, and I won't. Here's my card," he handed one to each of them. When you get back Stateside, give me a call and we'll get the wheels turning."
As he left, he called back over his shoulder, "Just think about what, exactly, you want to work on!"
That's an interesting change and mash-up.
Well, you'd already started the crossover, and – with minor modifications – much of the core concepts can be used as-is.
Not complaining at all. Yes, I think this will work nicely.