A/N This chapter is one of the shorter ones, but the last two were longer, so it all evens out.
I'm planning one more chapter for this story. I've managed to distract myself for 8 whole months with this project (which is about halfway to S3, right?) and I've enjoyed hearing from so many people. It's sparked a lot of really interesting conversations. I'm getting ready to go off the grid for the holiday weekend (yay remote camping during forest fire season!) but I look forward to seeing people's thoughts when I return to civilization.
See further notes at the end. I have thoughts on this, but its better to see how this chapter unfolds before you read them.
When Hopper finally returned home, he had to knock loudly several times before Eleven woke up enough to unlock the door. She had fallen asleep on the sofa waiting for Hopper to return and confirm what she knew but he didn't know she knew about Mrs Byers. She'd envisioned a conversation, but what he actually did was carry her to her bed, tuck her in and close her door behind him with barely a word.
She came to the breakfast table assuming he would tell her then, but he acted like there was nothing whatsoever out of the ordinary.
"Boys coming today?" He asked her casually.
"Around lunch," she responded between bites of scrambled egg.
He nodded but didn't add anything else. It wasn't as though they intended to keep the evolving nature of their relationship a secret, it just didn't make sense to bring the kids into the middle of something they themselves weren't yet ready to define. As far as Eleven was concerned, however, it was downright infuriating to know Hopper was keeping a secret from her but to not be able to confront him on it. She considered outing herself and just dealing with Hopper being angry but there was a part of her that worried Hopper would actually distance himself from Mrs. Byers if El pushed him. So she went against every impulsive instinct she had and kept her discovery to herself...or at least to herself and her friends.
The next few weeks were a series of slow leaks. After the initial ripple of the philandering police chief having unknowingly fathered a child had passed without raising any national security red flags, additional details were similarly disclosed to hungry gossips. As expected, there were those who frowned upon the incontrovertible evidence of Hopper's already well known indiscretions and those who smugly took joy in what they incorrectly presumed to be his misfortune, but for the most part, people simple accepted it. It was 1985, after all. Jane Hopper's carefully constructed back story was now common knowledge even though no one had actually met her seeing as how she was supposedly spending the summer with her aunt while she got to know her father.
Late summer was brutal in Indiana. The heat and humidity conspired together to suffocate the residents of Hawkins and even though the Police Station benefited from window mounted air conditioning units, it was still oppressively hot. Hopper sat in his darkened office, the drone of the oscillating fan practically hypnotizing him to the point where he was genuinely startled when his phone rang.
"Murray Bauman is here," Flo announced in a bored and tired tone.
Hopper groaned and rolled his eyes weighing the relative distastefulness of actually dealing with Bauman against leaving him unsupervised around the other officers. "Send him back," he told her, lighting a cigarette.
Flo walked Murray to the office and held up five fingers behind his back to which Hopper nodded discretely. It was their established code that she would interrupt him with a "very important" call in five minutes and give him a way to get rid of the unwanted visitor.
"What is it now, Murray?"
"I've been digging further into the lab," Murray knew from prior experience that these conversations never lasted long and he wasn't wasting time.
"The lab is shut down," Hopper responded as though that made everything moot. He sure as hell wasn't going to disclose the fact that Brenner was alive and working on something in another facility a mere 800 miles away.
"The building is shut down, do you honestly think the CIA would stop Brenner's work after he successfully managed to demonstrate that things like telekinesis are real? That there are other dimensions we can access? The operation might have moved, but it's still going on somewhere."
As much as he didn't really care to hear him out, Hopper figured that it was better to at least know what ghosts Murray was chasing in case he might do something that would draw attention back to El. It was too late to pull back their plans to take her public, Murray had to know that, so his timing felt particularly suspect.
"Alright," he told Murray, careful not to appear too interested, "let's hear it. What do you think they're doing now?"
"Honestly, Jim, I question how in the hell you managed to figure out as much as you did. Just think about it for a minute. Hawkins National Lab was supposedly conducting experiments on drug induced extra sensory perception on college kids who just wanted to get high on government LSD. What Brenner was actually doing was identifying test subjects with innate psonic abilities including Terry Ives."
"We already know all this, Murray," Hopper told him impatiently.
"You've seen this picture here, right?" he asked sliding a grainy newspaper photograph of a group of adults in hospital gowns including Terry Ives posing with Brenner.
"Yeah, what of it?"
"It was taken in 1970 either shortly before or right after Terry Ives got pregnant. Every patient in this picture is now either missing or catatonic. You've got Brenner here on the right, but did you ever stop and wonder who this other guy in the lab coat is at the back? That's Robert Sinsheimer. He's a geneticist. So you have to ask yourself, why would Brenner be working with a geneticist?"
Typically Murray didn't require or even anticipate a two sided conversation, preferring the sound of his own voice with an uninterrupted monologue, but he paused here and looked expectantly at Hopper.
"Ok, I'll bite, why would Brenner be working with a geneticist?"
"Don't you see? He couldn't keep looking for and abducting children with abilities. At the very least it's inefficient and even for the CIA it's potentially high profile. Meanwhile, a child born into captivity doesn't have a family to go looking for them or any sort of paper trail for anyone to follow. He was trying to create a breeding program."
"That seems like a bit of a reach." It actually didn't seem like a reach at all. It seemed entirely plausible. Horribly, horribly plausible.
"In 1975, Brenner had multiple meetings with a British doctor, Patrick Steptoe," Murray continued.
"I assume that's supposed to mean something?"
"I'll simplify it for you. You ever heard of a test tube baby?"
"Steptoe is one of the two doctors who perfected the procedure. The first test tube baby was successfully conceived two years later after a series of meetings between him and Brenner, of course, a mysterious infusion of research funding from an undisclosed source. I'm telling you, it's all there plain as day for anyone willing to open their eyes. The lab may be shut down but there could be literally hundreds if not thousands of frozen embryos stored God only knows where."
Anywhere, really. Such as in a subterranean military base on Long Island. Just as an example.
"Ok, assuming you're right - " Hopper was at least going to try to diffuse the situation.
"Oh, I'm definitely right."
"Assuming for the sake of argument only that you're right, how do you propose proving anything? You're not talking about real live people hidden away in labs, you're talking about freezers. Maybe one freezer, maybe hundreds. They could be anywhere and you'd never know. And even if you found some, you have no way of knowing how many are out there. There's nothing you could do anyway."
"We could expose them." There was no way Hopper was getting into anything involving the word "we" with Murray Bauman.
"Yeah? And who would believe you?"
"Anyone who meets Eleven, for starters. You take her public with her abilities and not just as some random illegitimate child and you blow this whole thing wide open."
The change in Hopper's demeanor was nearly instantaneous. "You leave her out of this," he told him darkly, "or I swear to God, they'll come for you and I'll tell them where to find you."
Murray was accustomed to pissing people off and it was a rare conversation between him and Hopper that Hopper didn't make some sort of threat, but this was different. Murray Bauman knew Hopper was in bed with at least certain government entities given that he was part of the Barbara Holland cover up, but he'd misjudged the man's willingness to expose even those elements of the government to which Hopper shouldn't have any personal loyalties such as the people who were responsible for this stray child he'd taken it upon himself to raise. The idea that Hopper had and was willing to use the sort of connections that made inconvenient people simply disappear had not previously occurred to Bauman, but it was glaringly obvious to him now.
Because he knew there was no way Murray was going to just drop anything, Hopper did the only thing he could think of under the circumstances: he gave him another trail to follow.
"You leave Eleven out of this and you leave Hawkins out of this," he repeated the warning emphasizing the threat by standing up and looming dangerously over Bauman, "but..." Hopper paused considering briefly the wisdom of this particular strategy before deciding to move forward anyway. "...there is another way. Remember when you said there was someone out there hunting down people from the lab? She's the only other survivor we know about. She's older and she's more interested in vengeance than she is in trying to live some kind of normal life. You find her and I'm sure she'll be happy to run with this. But I'm not bullshitting you on this. One word gets out about Eleven, I'm holding you personally responsible and you know you can't hide from her."
They were interrupted by Hopper's office phone. "Yeah?" he answered gruffly.
"Five minutes are up," Flo told him and added, "you're welcome" before hanging up the phone.
"I have to deal with that," Hopper lied. "Don't think I'm not dead serious. You've got your lead, now go track down this other girl stay out of my town.'
A/N Because I don't think Murray Bauman's could really agree just sit on the truth about Eleven and what was going on at HNL, he would have continued to look for a way to get out the non-watered down version of the story. In Beyond Stranger Things, Gelman talks about how Bauman actually has a daughter from whom he becomes estranged because of his obsessiveness. Someone like that couldn't just walk away knowing what Bauman knows.
Along side of that, I was looking at the major scientific developments of the era. We know Terry got involved with Brenner for some period of time before she got pregnant. Eleven was born in 1971, so Terry would have gotten pregnant around 1970 leaving her as an MK Ultra participant in probably 1968 and 1969, right about the time when the real MK Ultra's use of LSD was being phased out. It would be historically accurate for Brenner to start to give up on generating LSD induced psychic abilities and start relying on innate psychic abilities.
In 1985, the Human Genome Project (which didn't actually get rolling until 1990) was pitched for the first time. Nothing like that just crops up out of nowhere, so presumably the people involved (notably Dr. Robert Sinsheimer) would have been leaders in the genetics field for years prior. I would also assume that, given the success of Eleven as the only (as far as we know) "second generation" person with psychic abilities, Brenner would be actively pursuing some sort of genetic explanation for why Eleven's powers are so significantly greater than Terry's (and not just based on some BF Skinner type theory on nurture over nature).
Finding a genetic link for psychic abilities would have been a huge advancement for Brenner, making it unnecessary to wait to find someone exhibiting psychic abilities, kidnap them, cover it up, etc. What would also make that very neat and tidy would be to not have any more Terrys filing law suits or storming the building trying to get their children back. Eleven would have been approximately seven when the first successful "test tube baby" was born using IVF. Again, that science was years in the making and Brenner would have been particularly well served by seeing it perfected.
So anyway, fun with history.