One's Own Drive


bao-wei_icon.gif bella_icon.gif

Scene Title One's Own Drive
Synopsis Bella learns of the lengths Bao-Wei went to to further his research. Bao-Wei sees the lengths Bella claims to be willing to go to avert their consequences.
Date July 10, 2010

Staten Island Hospital

Project Icarus facilities - subbasement.

It has been a couple of days since vague words of an 'incident' with Doctor Gregor started floating around the grounds; no actual description of what happened. Just 'an incident'. Doctor Cong was said to be there- they had been preparing to do some tests on a subject. Overall, that is what has come of rumor. Of course, technicians and nurses have stories, though who knows what is true?

Ever since the apparent mystery, Doctor Cong has relocated himself to the lower levels of the hospital, and down as far as the basement levels. Nobody has really had the courage to ask, but nearly everyone knows what happened between Cong and Harper- that Harper essentially tore him away from his work and put him on another track. All of them knew the kind of effect it would have, and so his actions seem increasingly obvious. What is somewhat odd, however, is that the temperature on the lower levels have been cranked up- even on a warm day as they have been having, it has passed the point of one-hundred in some rooms. Someone keeps turning them up.

Somewhere, down here, one may imagine that Bao-Wei is trying to give himself heat stroke. At the very least, his work filters to the upstairs, courtesy of electronic communication. Who really wants to bug him when he's just doing his job(very oddly)?

Bella gathers gossip with the deftness and precision of one long trained to snag key words and phrases out of what people say. Her easy attitude, her personable conduct with her underlings, while it may not be seen as authoritative enough by some, does make it much less likely that orderlies and nurses will clam up as soon as she shows up. Being the workplace good cop isn't such a bad gig, if you don't mind not getting to be a tyrant.

Dr. Sheridan doesn't mind at all. She likes people to like her. Which only makes her interest in Dr. Cong greater, since his esteem has long been outside her grasp. Misfortune can be recast as opportunity, Bella has always believed it. One just has to be at the right place at the right time.

And apparently the right temperature. Bella is already sweating by the time she finds the door leaking light, wherein she will find Bao-Wei. She sheds her lab coat, leaving her in a blue and white floral patterned sundress that the temperature outside more or less demanded she don. With white coat over one arm, she announces her arrival with three firm knocks - she won't surprise Bao again, not after her first incident with the irascible Asian - the opens the door and steps inside.

"Dr. Cong," she says, closing the door behind them. She considers locking it. Last time she tried to get him alone, Harper swept in like a magpie, stole Bao's shiny new toy, and then left bird shit on his ego for good measure. She leaves it unlocked, though. She doesn't want Bao to feel cornered.

He doesn't seem to care that she lets herself in; there is a set up of a desk in the corner of the small lab, and he remains there even as the redhead appears. Doctor Cong looks terrible. Even for being a big man, there is a certain degree of it already- but now- now he looks like he is on the verge of dying. Or already dead. The latter is pushed aside when he looks up through his glasses at her, a pained look on his face as he shifts to sit up from a desktop microscope. Bao-Wei's skin is unnaturally pale, his features tinged with a bruise-like color. An oscillating fan sits behind his chair, blowing what is created by the heat away from him.

It is a very strange way of managing.

"Sheridan." The Chinese man sounds neither angry nor pleased with her being there. One hand pulls down on his sleeve. He is not only wearing a shirt with full sleeves, but a second, as well as his coat.

"You look like shit, Doctor," Bella says, confronting the issue with what she hopes is a masculine forthrightness, his language, "And I don't imagine it's because of what happened to Gregor." She doesn't actually know what happened, but allusion has its uses. "May I ask why you're down here? Has Harper decided he wants to add insult to injury?" There's a sharpness in her voice, an unadulterated sardonicism directed in every vector at Harper and all he stands for. She wants to give them both an enemy. It's not hard for her to align herself against the big-coated jackass. She's getting tired of the Institute freak show. Ambiguous freaks she's fine with. This caricatures, though, give her the willies.

"I know." Bao-Wei looks back down to the microscope, only to flick the light off and look back up. "Gregor is his own problem, not mine. I am down here because I want to be." There is a small tone there that insinuates that he might think he needs to be down here. For some reason. He reaches for a drawer, opening it and shuffling through it before pulling out a thumb drive. "If you are going to be here, I may as well give you this to take up." It really is bizarre- he seems so tired and resigned, that just maybe he has decided not to be an asshole to her. Perhaps he wants something.

"And this temperature? Also by volition?" Bella inquires, pointing up, which is where hot air goes, right? Points for whoever can make a crack about fatuous higher echelons of authority. Bella's got other things in mind, though. She receives the thumb drive with a slight frown. "I'd like to be an informed courier. I'd like to be informed in general, actually. I am growing increasingly concerned that there is a push to divine and conquer, here. I get commended, and you get wrist slapped, all within a brief space of time? These people are crazy, not stupid, they know I don't have your expertise."

"If they are making attempts to divide the doctors, it is only partially working. I suggest that if you must choose a side, choose rightly. At this juncture, I do not care what they want me to do. There is no reason for my continuing dead-end work while Harper mouthbreathes down my neck. I want you to give that to Doctor Tilton, he'll find it useful."

The drive is as plain as can be- except for the singular fact that it feels as if it has been inside of a fridge. Doctor Cong did not seem to notice that fact, already onto something else in his drawers. He peers up at Bella past his glasses. "I don't know what they want from you. It is up to you whether you feel the need to continue helping them."

A cold drive in a hot room? Bella is no twit. Her gaze moves from the drive, to the other doctor. Watching him not for expression or articulation, as she usually does, but rather for oddities in movement, peculiar motor habits, maybe even irregular, regional condensation. Condensation is what she really looks for. She palms the drive, slipping it into her lab coat pocket, as she watches. Her attention is divided, so she is unable to mount a comprehensive investigation, but maybe that's for the best.

"That they need us is obvious," Bella says, "That they mistreat us is only a sign that they believe we are weak, individually. I'm not going to pretend that they will let me walk out of here. I know I'm in for the duration. But I want to at least set some terms to my internment. I would hope you feel the same way."

"I have set my terms already." Bao-Wei rumbles, in his own way, a creeping smile flickering on his lips. Despite it being so hot, despite the fan- there is no condensation that she can see. But then again, all she can see of him is the waist-up.

Time to increase her visual access. Patients are notorious for hiding symptoms, and Bao is a hider if ever there was one. Weakness? Him? Never! She rounds his position, keeping view of him out of the corner of her eye. She's sure he'd like her gone, and she's not exactly excited about being slow cooked in here with him, but she is unsatisfied and she is sick of feeling half made and half cocked. No pun intended, Bao. "There's always room for negotiation, with the right leverage."

Odd. He doesn't move. Or- possibly- is unable. It's unsettling- he seems resigned all of a sudden. "Never negotiate for something you already have." Bao-Wei's eyes follow her for a moment, before going back down to examine hands that fold on his desk. "Or something that they do not deserve."

Lack of typical concealing motion. Bella increases her proximity slowly. Soon she'll be looking right over his shoulder. Soon she'll be in his personal space. "What's deserved, I think, isn't something that applies in this facility," she says, "I imagine Dr. Gregor deserved what happened to him," whatever it was, she'd love if Bao let slip a detail, "And I imagine the overseers are very pissed about it."

"He didn't deserve it, I am afraid. It was Amagi pushing her dosage." As he says this, and as Bella comes parallel to the desk-

She will see that the floor is covered in a fine layer of ice and frost- behind the desk, under it, rooting thick over the shoes on his feet, pantlegs, and the legs of his chair. Bao-Wei has both eyes on her now, one fist on the desk, and the other at the arm of his chair.

"As I mentioned before. I have set my terms. I hope that you choose the right side, Doctor Sheridan." His voice is just loud enough to be heard at a growl, the narrowed eyes behind glasses producing one of the most sudden and most threatening stares that he has given her in her time here.

Bella's steps stop dead, as if she, too, were frozen in place. She doesn't conceal her recognition. In fact, she makes a point of looking down at the icy restraints, then up at Dr. Cong.

She will not, under any circumstances, make any comments about 'coming in from the cold'.

She knows he doesn't appreciate her gilded wit.

"I think 'right' is about as fluid as 'deserving' in this place," is what Dr. Sheridan says instead, "Please. Make things clear to me. I would like to be your colleague, given the chance."

"I think that I may be freezing to death." Bao-Wei answers after a short pause, turning his torso so that he can look his cuffs over. Another moment passes before he grits his teeth and hoists his legs up from the floor. He may be a big man, but in this he is also, well, a big man. The ice cracks once, before he shifts and tries a second time. It breaks him free, ice skittering out over the floor. He stands to his full height, taking this opportunity to stamp the condensed ice from his legs. Though once he does, he virtually collapses back into the chair, grasping at his side in pain.

"The vicodin is beginning to have no effect on me. I'm going through a reverse thaw that I may well not survive. If you would like to make nice with me- now is your chance, I should think." As Doctor Cong speaks, he opens a desk drawer to withdraw an orange bottle of pills, taking a pair of the white oblong shapes and dry-swallowing them. "You have met my neice? Song? The research that I had done with her was- invaluable to me…"

"I said something very stupid and insensitive to you," Bella says, arms crossed over her chest, no longer interested in entering his personal space. She rather likes having extremities. She has lots of things she uses them for. More than she could count on them, in fact. "It was not meant as an insult, however insulting it was. It was an error in translation. I do not what to 'make nice', though. I want to make better. We are doctors, after all."

Her head tilts. "Tell me about her. Tell me what you've done. I'll listen. And I will endeavor not to say anything else quite as stupid."

"Or anything, to anyone else. You are a psychiatrist." Bao-Wei does his part in invoking patient-client, a changing, bitter expression on his face. He cannot decide if he should accept her now or continue to be angry. Then again, this is what she is best at. Perhaps she has been waiting for this.

"Song and Liu, her brother- she could manipulate ice. He was able to do the same with water." By speaking in the appropriate tense, it is clear that the girl's brother is dead too. Considering his state, they are, by word of mouth- the last 'family' he had. "After Harper came to me, I was so sure that I was almost there. I wasn't going to let him ruin my hard work by sticking his foot down on it. That night I used everything I had from Song, with the chemical formula that we had been getting closer with…"

He does not finish. He does not finish because to him, it is really quite obvious what happened next.

"I have a log. A physical log that I am keeping. I do not know what is going to happen."

"Yes, I am," Bella says, her tone actually quite wistful, "In fact, I am rather a good one. Or was, at least." She wants to sit, to make it clear she isn't going anywhere. So she moves over to the edge of the lab table and takes a perch there. She doesn't display any open or obvious sympathy. She appears receptive, attentive, but with a level of detachment. She figures Bao isn't interested in huggy-feeling therapy, or therapy at all.

"Your genetic similarity was the basis, then, of your testing?" Bella is theorizing, "Your body is already accustomed to chimerism," she frowns, "That was a fruitful line of study. I don't know why that nitwit Harper got in your way. Whatever caused your current condition, for all that it may be fatal, is certainly an astounding success in comparison to our other, much more spectacularly fatal compounds."

"They are not actually blood relatives. That is the plot hole." Bao-Wei kicks a foot at a chunk of ice, and it flies across the tile floor. "They were the children of my boss. I tutored them since they were little. I was privileged to be called 'Uncle'." And by calling them his niece and nephew, in turn, he graced them with the same honor.

"To be quite honest I was surprised when I did not turn into a mass of gelatin. Though this seems to be similarly painful. Harper got in my way because Luis and Broome wanted results faster. They thought going back would make it faster? What a steaming pile of shit."

Bella's features brighten, her smile appreciative. Such fire. Bella actually rather likes it when it's not being hurled her way. She doesn't say anything, though. Temperature word play is something she must keep steering clear of. "And I thought I was doing so well," Bella says, lifting a hand to brush back some of her hair. Getting too long, she notes. She needs a cut, she notes. But this is apropos of nothing. By the time she schedules an appointment, Dr. Cong may be dead.

"And if I had your notes, somehow gained access to the materials you've been denied… if I were to consult with you about my project, but happened, in the process, to slip in some notes regarding your own aborted work…" Bella is building a long garden path to a conclusion that would, she is sure, disgust Luis and Broome even more than her duplicity, "Is there some chance we could save your life?"

"If I am meant to survive this, I will. I am at a crossroads. It may seem backwards to say such things, being a doctor- but even karma has a place." Bao-Wei puts a hand to his face, for a second, before getting up to turn off the fan. Almost immediately, the wisps of cold from the ice on the floor begins to rise off of him as well. "I feel as if I cannot get warm. That is the reason for the heat. I am suspecting that it is a lost cause."

"We already have the research to create an anti-formula, technically. It would be a matter of putting it together, with time that nobody possesses."

"I'm sorry," Bella says, "But I'm not the least bit spiritual or religious. And I have no interest in letting some presumed cosmic balancing force have its way with us. We're very likely in for a rough time if we let it. Non-possibility is not an acceptable basis for scientific inquiry. And my sitting by and letting you die is anathema to my training. Indulge me, Doctor. I may yet surprise you."

"There must always be balance, and in science most of all. A reason for everything, and for everything another something." Doctor Cong looks up at her, sighing, before removing his coat and the second shirt. His original shirt is literally crusted in frost; when he rolls up his sleeves, it is to show her the raw, open, frostbitten wounds, and the frost rubbing off of his corpse-shade forearms. His face looks like the correct color now, its own pallor the same.

"I can help you, if you wish it. It seems like it may be a lost cause already."

"No, Doctor," Bella says, shaking her head, voice firm, "I am going to help you. This is not how this story ends. These… numbskulls will not treat you like a disposable test. Nor should you have, dammit. We need to remain outside of this. We need to stick together on this. We'll all have 'incidents' if we don't change things around."

"I would rather have incidents on my terms, if any at all." Cong's head tilts to consider Bella. "…And what if I do not die from this?"

"Then you will get to laugh in Harper's face," Bella says, "Because you'll have succeeded despite his naysaying. But I don't think staying as you are, hoping for it to all just pan out, is a terribly balanced way of going about things." She crosses her legs, smoothing her dress down after she does. "I'd rather hope for success without incident, than an incident in hope of success."

"I cannot use the grounds, if you have failed to note. I cannot go around looking like this." Surely, someone as astute would notice that Doctor Cong is leaving a trail of frosty dust. "Down here, I've already carved a space of my own. I will utilize that, but I can only do so much. You will have to do primary work."

"Of course," Bella says, "I'm more than happy to. I'll just need to have access to all of the relevant files. This will mean an end to secrets, Dr. Cong. I hope that you are comfortable with that," her mouth thins, her expression grave, "I promise I will be worthy of your trust. I will earn it, but I will need something of an advanced payment to do so."

"I do hope you don't mean literally as well." Doctor Cong jokes, very dryly, very weakly. "I'll make you your own drive. Come back later and get it." He does not care if she does what she says she is going to do, or even relays the work done; it is no longer his issue to find it. He has done what he has set out to do, supposedly.

Jokes? Wow. Bella's stunned. Enough that she simply accepts his order at face value. She rises to her feet, slipping off the edge of the desk. Sweat has darkened her hair, and glistens (unflattering) at her armpits, darkening the fabric of her dress. Luckily the lab coat will hide that when she gets to more sane temperatures. "Thank you," she says, and she means it. She'd never say it to him in these words, but she's proud of him.

She'd be prouder if she felt he had anything left to lose.

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