I do not own the rights to Fringe but I wish I did. Here is my modest tribute to one of my favorite current television shows, featuring the "early" scientists—William Bell, Nina Sharp, and Walter Bishop. Enjoy.
It was a cold autumn day when Nina Sharp crossed the lawn outside the college and entered its hallowed halls. Dry leaves blew over the paving stones and crunched underfoot, birds twittering in the background as she removed a key from an inside pocket and fitted it into the nearest door at the bottom of a short flight of stairs not far from the main entrance. The sound of Bunsen burners and the scent of baking brownies greeted her as she left her bag of books on the back of the nearest chair and entered the lab.
"Oh, there you are," said Walter Bishop, his hands drenched in what appeared to be green slime. "Bellie, come and meet Nina."
Her eyes lifted to the stranger in the far corner of the room, hands in his pockets as he emerged from the shadows, and her heart skipped a beat. She knew him, by reputation if not in person, for he was one of the most promising young professors. He was extremely tall and thin, his features angular and his intense eyes dark. One lean hand stretched toward her and she hesitated before taking it, finding him as intimidating in person as he was at the front of a physics classroom.
"Dr. William Bell," he said. "You are in one of my classes."
"Yes, I argued with you last week about the probabilities of time travel." The faintest hint of color crept into her cheeks and she did not remark on the fact that he kept hold of her hand, firmly encased in his gentle fingers.
Recognition dawned and he said, "I remember! You said time travel was theoretically possible if we believe time is not a flat line, but an ever-altering circle. I found your assumption intriguing."
He released her and she resisted the urge to step away from him, finding his presence overwhelming. Walter was tinkering with something in the background. The doctor returned his hand to his pocket and continued to study her. "Your mind is more open than the others," he said. "That was why Walter thought we should meet. I suppose the next question would be: what is your opinion of testing such theories, ethical or questionable?"
"No advancement was ever made in science by adhering to ethics," she answered.
Steam arose from Walter's experiment and he smiled. "It seems we share a similar opinion."
Nina felt an unusual kind of sensation at the base of her spine, a shiver almost of fear but equal expectation. He indicated one of the back rooms of the laboratory and said, "Please, come and see what we are working on."
The cold shifted around her as they crossed the floor and he opened the door, revealing a complicated framework of tubes and transmitters, a machine that astounded her for its capabilities. "You are trying, aren't you?" she demanded, marveling as she placed her hand on the nearest piece of framework. "You are trying to manipulate and bend time."
"Yes, but we have reached an impasse in our estimations. We cannot get it to work; there is a miscalculation somewhere. We wondered if you might consider looking at our research."
He indicated a box full of documentation. Nina felt a rush of excitement but only nodded, not wanting to appear too eager. Bell smiled and said, "Well, then, I will leave you to it. I have a class to teach." He hesitated but turned on his heel and left, drawing his jacket off a chair and bidding farewell to Walter on the way. Nina stepped nearer the doorway and watched him go out, an emotion tugging at her that she did not want to acknowledge. Everyone on campus knew Dr. Bell. The professors spoke warmly of him, the faculty was in awe of him, the students found him intellectually inspiring, and most of her girl friends thought he was attractive. But he was also very distant from everyone, collectively lost in his thoughts and difficult to pin down; he was as much a mystery as his calculations, complex and futuristic equations that only a few could decipher.
As she pawed through the box, she discovered he was also a laborious note-taker, his comments precise and his method of thought beyond her comprehension. He was not simply intelligent, but massively so and even her intense conversations and quarrels with Walter could not compare with his impeccable conclusions. She had an hour before her next class and sat down to read, becoming absorbed in his notes and sketches, discovering his belief that the machine needed a catalyst, a power source that none of them possessed, a human element. He had found through his research someone he thought might be able to help them, a girl who had mysterious, almost supernatural abilities; there were times when she momentarily "flickered" into another dimension. Skeptics and scientists alike had dismissed her, but not Bell. Yet even when hooked up to the machine, she could not transport.
Nina was so absorbed she had not noticed that over an hour had passed and when she did glance at her watch, she growled and snatched up her things, running out and locking the door behind her. Walter was one of the cleverest under-graduates and had been given lab space in which to perfect his genius, but it was imperative no one know what he was working on. He had left before her and she checked his burners to make sure they were all off, for even in his brilliance there were some things that eluded him. She barely made it to class, skidding to her seat mere seconds before her professor entered, but as she took notes and avoided the curious eye contact of her friends, her mind was elsewhere. She remained distracted throughout the morning and at lunch, sat with the other girls on the front steps of the building. It was a cool day and she was grateful for the warmth of her sweater as she rested in the sun with half a sandwich in her hand and tried to listen to the others' conversation.
The doors opened behind them and Walter and Dr. Bell descended. Their voices were similar yet different, for Bell's was slightly higher but had a deep resonance that complimented his arguments. It was often the two bickered in public and most ignored them, but on this occasion Nina could not help watching as they passed without acknowledging her. She was not surprised or slighted; few knew of her friendship with Walter, devised the first day she had climbed up on the school roof and found him there smoking pot. That had been her intention as well, for she needed a lapse in concentration, and ever since they had shared a similar state of mind that eluded their companions. She had grown to like Walter for himself as much as his brilliance, finding him the perfect soul for the exchange of ideas. Through knowing him and learning to think outside the terms of cohesive reality, her grades had improved.
"It's a shame, you know," commented her roommate, drawing her back to reality.
Shading her eyes from the sun and brushing a strand of red hair out of her face, Nina asked, "What is?"
"That the most interesting men are always the least interested. Take Bishop for example; he's funny, smart, maybe a little condescending at times, but not one to turn down if he asked. Yet he goes around all the time with his head buried in a book or shut up in one of the laboratories downstairs. And then there is Dr. Bell; personable, charming, sincere in his compliments and criticisms alike, and completely oblivious to the fact that most of the women on campus are mad about him. And don't argue with me, you know you like him just as much as the rest of us. I saw you staring at him this morning as we left chemistry class."
Blushing, Nina returned her attention to her sandwich. Lauren smiled knowingly and leaned back on the stairs. The bell rang and everyone packed up to go inside, Nina casting a final glance across at the two men crossing the lawn. Walter stormed off in one direction and the ever-calm, rational Bell observed without comment, his arms crossed. Her friends had left and after a brief pause, Nina descended the stairs and walked toward him.
"Walter can sometimes be a little difficult, as you no doubt know," she remarked.
Bell turned toward her and let out a half-amused snort. "That is an understatement. We rarely agree."
"And why is that?" Nina tugged the strap of her book bag higher on her shoulder, the sun glinting through strands of her hair, pulled back in a ponytail.
The wind moved branches overhead and Bell stepped nearer, indicating he would walk her back. "I suppose because we see the world so differently. Walter is full of ambition but tends to be more reckless. It would make him a superior scientist in the end, but he is willing to go further than I am, too far. He has no doubt told you his theory of alternative universes?" At her nod, he said, "He believes it may be possible to travel between them."
"But you do not find that plausible?"
"Oh, it is certainly plausible, but is it wise? Our universes are like two wind storms on a similar course, running parallel to one another. If one strays into the path of the other, the two become one great hurricane rather than individual storms. One would inevitably consume the other and we cannot be certain it would be our world that would survive. We must be careful that our friend does not damage the fragile structure of this universe in his quest to seek admittance to the next."
They reached the steps and there parted. Nina continued on and turned back to him. "Walter is a remarkable man but somewhat naïve," she said. "I trust you will not use him to your own ends."
"Walter is a friend and a respected colleague," Bell answered. "I trust you will remember that."
Tension lingered between them, equal resentment at the role the other played in Walter's life. Nina nodded and continued on her way, but her good humor returned as her hand fell on the door handle and he called after her, "Would you care to have drinks with us tonight? We have a usual table at the bar down the street."
"Maybe," she answered, and went inside.