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Field Trip

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[Download Charles's voice mail here. (00:01:04, 1 MB)]

Audioguide: Exhibit 2403A -- Lehnsherr, Erik Magnus

[Transcription of audioguide Exhibit 2403A here. Download Exhibit 2403A here. (00:00:36, 563 KB)]

As a general rule, Erik Lehnsherr kept his voice mailbox empty. Most of the calls he received were hardly worth the trouble of taking down the caller's name and phone number. He was no one's errand boy, and he was certainly not going to 'call in a favor' and arrange with Dr. Frost to get some wealthy socialite and his brainless model-of-the-week a private showing of the Hall of Gems. If someone wanted Erik's expertise on meteorites and elemental metals, that was different, but for the most part, his voice mail tended to fill with requests for departments tangentially related to his own.

It was as if people these days didn't give a damn about space, about exploration, about the base components of matter itself. The Space Science Institute had had to cheapen their brilliant traveling exhibition on comets, asteroids, and meteors by naming it "Great Balls Of Fire!" -- complete with exclamation mark -- and littering it with touchscreen monitors.

He was a bit surprised to see his voice mail light blinking when he walked into his office on a warm Thursday afternoon, and as he began sorting through his email, he put the voice mail on speakerphone.

"Er.... oh! Is this recording? This is Charles Xavier."

Charles Xavier. Erik paused a moment, trying to recall the name. It seemed familiar for some reason, and the English accent was... memorable. Perhaps he'd met Mr. Xavier... no, Dr. Xavier, that seemed more accurate... at a conference somewhere. Oxford?

"I'm interested in arranging a visit to the American Museum of Natural History for a large group, only I'm not sure I've reached the right extension.... your menu is very confusing, I must say."

Damn. Wrong extension. Erik sighed and sent four emails directly to the trash. With the advanced voice mail system they had here, Erik supposed he could forward the email along to the information desk, although Dr. Xavier wasn't wrong about the confusing nature of the voice mail menus. The last time Erik had tried to do something nice for someone, he'd ended up ruining a surprise party.

"Well, in the hopes that I've reached the right voicemail after all, I should probably leave my contact information. Again, my name is Charles Xavier, and I'm looking to book a visit to the museum for our summer program at the Xavier Institute for Gifted Students."

Gifted Students-- Erik sat bolt upright and stared at the phone. He had heard the name Charles Xavier before; he'd heard of that school.

He wasn't holding his breath waiting for the message to continue, but his email remained unviolated, forgotten, while Erik listened carefully for Dr. Xavier's voice on the other end of that voice mail.

"There would be approximately 15 or 20 students in the group, they are... the usual handful, and then a bit more, I might say..."

Erik smiled, and took no notice of the intern who paused at the threshold of Erik's office door... and then, having seen Erik's teeth showing, kept walking, a shiver traveling down his spine. Yes, Erik could easily see how Dr. Xavier's gifted students could be a handful, "and a bit more". Fifteen or twenty! Erik's smile grew wider.

"...and we'd be traveling into the city from Westchester. I'm assuming the children would need to bring their own lunches, but if there was any way we could arrange to have a docent accompany our group, that would be wonderful. Um, what else? Oh! You can reach me..."

Erik jotted down Dr. Xavier's number-- his home number? Work number? His personal cell phone? No matter, he'd have no difficulty getting in touch with the man. The Xavier Institute For Gifted Students was bookmarked on Erik's browser, on his phone as well as on his personal laptop; he'd done a great deal of research on the school, although he'd never managed to secure a tour there. Not that it mattered; Erik didn't have children himself, though he'd always thought of that as a not yet and not a not ever. The Xavier Institute accepted children as young as six years old, and Erik had little doubt that any children of his would be precocious; perhaps they'd be able to attend at the age of five or even four.

Certainly the Xavier Institute's website was a bit on the ingratiating side, and far more closeted than Erik would have preferred-- an out-and-proud website would have suited him, and should he ever have children there, he'd make a point of demanding exactly that-- but of all the schools catering to the particular special needs Erik expected his own children to have, there were none with a stronger reputation, and Erik had always intended to meet Dr. Xavier himself. He'd heard good things.

Of course, none of those good things included Dr. Xavier's pleasantly seductive voice, cultured with a hint of good humor...

Well. Erik was no docent, but there was no one at AMNH more qualified to greet and guide Dr. Xavier's students than he was. He was sure that Dr. Xavier would agree.