xp_synch: (What's a gym?)
[personal profile] xp_synch posting in [community profile] xp_logs
Ev meets a struggling Reed on a treadmill, and after a bumpy start, offers him a job.


Reed hated running with an all-consuming passion.

Lifting weights, sit-ups, floor exercises...none of those compared to the absolute anger he felt at running. It was something about the exercise that caused him to double his mental input to ensure that his leg didn't turn into a noodle at the wrong time or his arm didn't swing its way around the treadmill. Because of this, he refused to listen to music, to watch TV, or really do anything else while he was on a treadmill.

In fact, usually, he found a way to lock the gym so no one could bother him, but today, that slipped his mind. Frowning at Everett, Reed tried to see if he'd suddenly developed telepathy while he sent angry thoughts in Everett's direction.

Alas, no secondary mutation showed.

Though given the dismayed look on Reed's face, telepathy was not strictly necessary to convey such thoughts. Ev, already on his third mile compared to Reed's second even though Ev had started later, offered the younger man a gentle, encouraging smile before turning back to his tablet, propped up on the display board so he could watch the Beefsquatch episode of Bob's Burgers for the seventh time instead of paying attention to his recorded progress.

When Ev felt the glare still on him minutes later, he paused the cartoon with a tap and lowered his headphones. "Everything okay?" he asked genially. "Is my show too loud? Enhanced hearing?" Even though a quick scan showed that was not part of Reed's power-set.

Reed frowned deeper. The mental strain was getting to be too much, but the other man's effortless exercise was driving Reed crazy. "I just..." He swallowed hard, and shook his head. No. "Can't" needed to be eradicated from his vocabulary. He was one of the smartest men alive. What was a little extra brain power? Doubling his speed, he barely managed to choke out a sentence.

"I'm running."

Ev's smile widened and he winked at Reed. The pallor of his skin and redness of his eyes suggested to Ev that Reed was not someone who got out much, and maybe was a member of the Underground Laboratory Brigade of which Clint was so fond. Good for this guy for coming out for a breath of fresh air, even if it was inside a gymnasium. "Keep it up! You're doing great."

The motivation was not appreciated. Reed continued to find it distracting, so he tried to run harder to compensate. Soon, he found himself unable to keep going while still maintaining his body shape. One small misstep, he fell off the treadmill, his legs elongated and his arms quivering.

"I. Hate. Running."

While the elastic man did not seem to be in any harm, Ev still paused his run and hopped off the treadmill to assist him. Comical though the sight was, Ev kept a straight face. The kid did not need any more embarrassment. "You okay, there?" he asked, holding out a hand to help Reed up.

Stretching his arm out without lifting his body, Reed nodded. The help was gratefully accepted, but it was with a measure of shame that he turned to look at Ev. "I'm afraid that this type of fitness is beyond my abilities. I'm not entirely sure why I continue down this path when it is very clear I am not meant to be fit."

"Don't push yourself so hard," Ev cautioned. "Fitness is an unusual science. There are so many variables going into it that there's no one-size-fits-all approach, you need to personalize it, and it's fine — in fact, it's strongly advised — to start slowly and only step up when you know you're ready. And even so, no one actually likes treadmills, so they're a poor judge of your capabilities."

"I know very little about health science," Reed admitted. It wasn't until this moment that he truly recognized that. All along, he was cobbling information together, but in order to excel, he needed to research this. "I have simply been following the exercise regiment that Julian has provided me, and since his musculature is outstanding, it seemed only right that it work for me."

Not a name with which Ev was familiar, except in passing. "I'm reasonably certain that whatever routine he does now, it's not the same as when he started. And considering your mutation, you might need something a bit more specialized. That won't aggravate your body composition."

"I tried the Danger Room with Garrison. I ended up contorted in a position that I was unable to get out of." He sighed. "I might be nothing more than a brain."

"Oh? What do you do, then? One of the resident Nobel laureates-to-be?"

"I suppose you could say that." Reed gave a tired grin. "I'm Dr. Reed Richards. I currently work at Stormtech as a weapons engineer, but I have multiple PhDs, and am in the process of applying for a fourth. I'm a genius."

Well. That response made several things fall into place. "What could a fourth degree get you that you don't already have?" Ev asked, grinning. "Besides the bragging rights."

"Why would I brag?" Reed seemed genuinely confused. "Everything I said is true and was stated to provide more information and clarity. Education is important, and provides humanity with the skills and knowledge necessary to propel oneself, and by extension society, to the far reaches of comprehension. Each of my degrees served a purpose, and I feel that I am lacking in a certain area, therefore I want to rectify that."

Ev hrmmed and tapped his chin thoughtfully. "But why pursue the degrees?" he asked. "All these things you could learn on your own, without the additional expense and academic stipulations. I know a couple of multi-doctorates, but they're not 'geniuses.' And they all stopped at two, they couldn't mentally afford four."

"How would I be accredited if not through academia?" This conversation did not make Reed feel comfortable. "Knowledge on its own is of course acceptable, but without the certification, how does any one truly know you're an expert on a subject?"

"So it is for bragging rights. What are your degrees in, anyway?" Ev held back the urge to list three repetitive engineering disciplines; Reed was clearly not someone who enjoyed that kind of teasing, at least from a stranger who physically outshined him.

"Mathematics, Chemical Physics, and Biomedical Engineering. I'm looking at adding an astrophysics degree but am still on the fence."

Sure why not, Ev mentally conceded. Cover the whole STEM gamut. "That's an impressive array," he said instead. "Why are you considering astrophysics rather than, say aerospace engineering?"

"Maybe. I haven't really decided yet." Meaning he hadn't looked into it fully. Reed just did what others suggested to him, always had. He simply went to an advisor, they suggested what he should study, and he went with it. A by-product of his early years, when he was too young to really make those decisions for himself. "And what do you do?"

Ev made a vague, dismissive gesture with his hand. "A little bit of a lot of things. I'm in between careers now. Midlife crisis, possibly. I'm a power mimic of sorts, so for right now, at least, I'm teaching here a bit."

"A power mimic?" Reed perked up. "So essentially your DNA is a blank slate, able to take on any power? How does that work? Can you stretch like I can if you're simply in the vicinity, or is it more temporal? Tactile?"

The space around Ev shimmered, outlining him in a halo of rainbow-colored lights. To demonstrate, he held out his hand to the treadmill he had been using, and the aura around his arm extended to grab his tablet and bring it to him. "I have this aura," he explained, holding up his other hands and letting the light around his fingers grow longer. "I copy mutations through that. For physical ones like yours, I can properly alter my body, but that tends to be uncomfortable. I've never liked shapeshifting."

Reed watched, intrigued and excited. "I want to research you," he blurted out.

"You're not the first person to say that to me. But that might require a different degree than astrophysics." Ev refrained from jokes about his body being out of this world, because even if Reed got it, Ev doubted he would appreciate it. "Actually, have you maybe considered a different career path? Away from weapons to more . . . esoteric and exotic matters."

"Such as?" Reed's curiosity was piqued. "Esoteric is an interesting word to attach to scientific endeavors."

"Have you met Clint Barton? He has a laboratory here, too. We were colleagues at SHIELD for a while. He and a few others are starting an initiative here. A consulting research organization, I suppose. Investigating exotic, alien technology and devising appropriate safekeeping. And not alien like extraterrestrial." Necessarily. "Foreign. Different. Unusual. We could certainly use someone with your breadth of knowledge."

"Alien?" Now Reed was hooked. "Technology from beyond the stars...." He gave Ev a rare full smile. "That seems very intriguing, and most certainly in my scope of interest. I did have to devise ‎a Faraday cage for someone recently. It was quite rewarding to work on the various aspects required at safekeeping."

Ev mirrored the expression. "Wonderful. I'll put you in touch with Clint, and he'll give you the full pitch. And not to worry, there are no fitness requirements."
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