Will Do Science For Food


bao-wei_icon.gif robert_icon.gif

Scene Title Will Do Science For Food
Synopsis Bao-Wei meets an old colleague on the street in a surprising situation. Deals are proposed.
Date January 17, 2010

Canal Street Market

Day or night, Canal Street is busy in Chinatown. Perfumes, purses, produce, pork, and poultry are all sold side by side in busy open storefronts. One entire portion of the street is dedicated to nothing but jewelry stores catering to various price ranges. Box vendors sell all manner of sizzling foodstuffs to passing pedestrians, some of it identifiable, some of it better left unexplained. The ambiance is one of business and pleasure.

The sights and smells of Chinatown could draw in anyone who isn't wary. Good food, tantalizingly open markets - it's like a dream, especially when a man hasn't had the opportunity to have a bellyful of sesame chicken in an amount of time that reaches past a solid year. On a whim Robert has made his way to Canal Street to pass the day away in the comfort of a closed shop front, perched neatly on the ledge just below the window that's covered by a chain gate to deter vandalism and theft. His goal? Ten dollars for chicken. A styrofoam cup is clutched in one hand with its base settled on the man's knee. Judging by the look of it Robert has just finished whatever watered-down coffee was being served to the homeless today and is waiting for the cup to dry out to allow for a more practical use. His clothing is starting to lean towards tattered and not merely soiled by the streets, but at least the leather gloves shielding the doctor's hands from the cold look new. Ish. Having not had a shave in a good amount of time the bum has a nice field of stubble growing on his face and throat, scratchy and peppered with grey and white.

Doctor Cong hasn't been one to venture terribly far from his stomping grounds as of late, evident by the manner in which he received his sleep last night- alone in the garden of his dreamscape, hidden away. But- he did get some more sleep last night, and so compared to the past few weeks his mood is decidedly much less abrasive this afternoon. To celebrate, in a way, he has made the last day of the weekend into a day to scour his territory somewhat like an old dog that everyone knows, everyone always sees- but nobody bothers to go near it.

When he reaches Canal, most people that have some kind of recognition for Bao-Wei are undecided on whether or not to catch his attention; on one hand, he is dressed in the dire shades he always tends to be- the long coat makes it somewhat moreso. On the other hand, he's walking with a strangely perky gait, umbrella tucked under one arm. It's a strange mixture, and almost unheard of. So nobody bothers today, either. They let him pass by the vending booths if he happens that way, though he does not seem entirely interested in purchasing anything from anyone. Perhaps he has come for the distinct vibrations that come with being there rather than the high some might get from finding cheap stuff for cheap.

But there's someone who recognizes Bao-Wei who isn't from Canal Street and has no real reason to be hesitant of showing it. At first Robert doesn't quite connect the image of the man walking around just down the street with the identity of the same, simply staring blankly at the odd display while his memory of the man tries to wriggle free of its musty confines. It only takes a couple of moments more before the man's eyebrows suddenly arch high, a mildly perturbed and definitely surprised expression crossing his features.

Robert isn't the type to jump up and wave his arms shouting greetings to people in the middle of a crowd. Far from it. Instead he patiently stays put and turns his cup slowly between his fingers, its synthetic material squeaking softly against the thinning leather of Rob's glove as the other man draws closer. Whether or not he's noticed in return, as soon as Doctor Cong is within earshot the man speaks up: "Bao?" Waste-not-want-not applies to words.

At best, Canal is a distraction. Though Bao-Wei would just love to be omnipotent, it just does not work that way; for one reason or another, he does not recognize(nor really see) the man sitting over on the windowsill along the physical street until he hears his name. Not only is it his first name, but it happens to be a familiar usage that he does not appreciate being used if someone is not worth having the permission. For a few seconds, the bigger man is look the other way, debating quickly over whether he should turn the rest of the way to look. If it was the undesirable that is calling him in such a way, it won't do much for that semi-decent mood—

—but the reaction that comes over him when he turns to bark back is an absurdly unordinary one. "If you call me that again-" The warning dribbles off quite sloppily, as Bao-Wei considers the scruffy, tattered man perched there with his white cup in hand. The look is not only scrutinizing, but vaguely distasteful until those mismatched eyes practically *ding* in realization. "…Robert."

The start of a likely unpleasant threat gets Robert's eyebrows to do a little bit of a dance, one hiking further upwards while the other angles down into a clear representation of the doctor's unimpressed response, though he doesn't comment on it. No, he'll just pretend that it never happened at all and save both his dignity and Bao-Wei's some tarnishing because they're both entirely too old to be bickering over a slight that may have been unintentional due to a lack of recognition. "Fancy meeting you here."

It's an apt cliché, if a tired one, and is followed by awkwardness. What does one say to someone he hasn't seen in years when things have changed so radically? Robert just sets his cup down on the sill next to his thigh and pushes up to his feet, both hands on his knees on the way up to make it a little easier on his achey joints, courtesy of sleeping on park benches. He then tucks his hands into the pockets of his coat and takes a half-step forward so he can get a better look at the Chinese man, eyes flitting briefly up to the white streak in the man's hair. Yep, it's Bao. "I see you haven't been melted by nuclear energy."

Inwardly, Bao-Wei doesn't find it fancy at all. He's Chinese, and this is Chinatown, Jake. He does not say this, but his dislike of even apt clichés is apparent. Too old to be bickering indeed- its been years since he'd last seen Robert, and back then he was likely still at St. Lukes, doing his thing. Ah, how the mighty have fallen. With the way that Robert immediately references Midtown, Bao-Wei can only assume that it may have had something to do with his current state of being.

"No." The Chinaman finally responds, adjusting his stance so that the two are relatively face to face. He's got that white streak, more age on his face, and decidedly a bit more around his belt- but it is certainly the man that the fallen doctor remembers, down to the birdlike and subtle shift of his head to observe. "Not yet, I should say." Robert is looked up, down, up, over- just maybe Bao-Wei is having an odd time of trying to canvas the change. "I suspect that it is only a matter of time."

Chinatown or not, meeting one man out of New York's population of millions is a clear sign that cosmic forces are hammering down the door - and accordingly a weird little twitch tugs up at the corners of Robert's mouth, though the potential smile quickly disappears as the man's face returns to its normal impassive form. The inspection Bao-Wei is giving him is rather unwelcome but hey, it's not like Robert isn't returning it. The extra poundage around the other doctor's center of gravity is noted with the smallest bit of personal satisfaction when put into contrast with his own frame, and for a second Robert rocks on his heels before resuming the conversation with a barely-existing chuckle. "Expecting to be blown up some time soon? I'd appreciate advance warning."

"At this point in time, I am not expecting to be blown up." Bao-Wei finally assumes some manner of a pleased look, preferring to settle on things that have been in the past for years rather than Robert's current state. If he's going to be looking past it- well- best do it the easy way. At least they seem to be making light of the happenstance so far. "And while I don't expect it- if it happened, I would not be totally surprised." The company he's kept isn't really the healthiest thing either.

"You've …changed." It is the only way that Cong can manage to not sound like a complete asshole.

The conversation has a huge likelihood of deteriorating into the old pattern of snippy barbs, but there's no rush. Robert snorts a bit when Bao-Wei states the utterly obvious, taking a brief glance down at his own attire before shrugging. "I've moved with the times and the circumstances. My building got blown up. Not much I can do about that, is there." It's not a question. Robert also has no desire to actually return to his former home, so he doesn't particularly care that he's helpless in that regard. "Still dabbling in pseudoscience?"

Bao-Wei actually smiles at that. Well- its a small smile- but enough of one. That is how he does it. "Much, much more than 'dabbling'." Which is both truthful and vague. He gives a slight roll of a shoulder in respect towards Robert having little else to do besides live on the street, but all the same he sees it only as lack of trying to get out of a mess. "Obviously I have had more to work with in the last few years. Thankfully, I had a very lengthy head start." Cong cannot help but dump in an allusion to his knowing of them long before the bomb.

Robert is seconds away from scoffing and dismissing Bao's implied gloat but he doesn't give in to his instincts; decently interesting conversations are hard to pry out of his fellow homeless souls. So instead he just returns the smile with a thin one of his own, his eyes fixed on the other man's in the same calculating and vaguely imperious gaze Bao-Wei was subjected to so often years ago. Different social station or not, Rob is evidently still very much the same person. "I still can't quite believe it, but I suppose the evidence to the contrary is rather on the overwhelming side of things."

This must look strange to passerby, but Bao-Wei, for once, does not seem to care. It is even beginning to feel like they are still in school; the process of conversation is virtually the same, though stilted in situation and circumstance. But even back then, at Columbia, they never were truly antagonistic. Rivals, but not enemies. "I told you so." The universal burn. "You should not have used that book as a foot for your table." Karma is implied. Activating Evolution had an enshrined place under the table leg, as he recalls. Robert was never open to the possibility that it was more than silliness from a geneticist out of India.

There's a bit of harassed nostril-flaring on Robert's part in addition to a sudden tightening of his lips as Bao goes with one of the oldest irritants in the book, his head tilting slightly upwards in a subconscious effort to save some face. "Yes, of course. Because I chose to believe like most normal people that Chandra Suresh was off his head, all of this," he gestures unspecifically about with one hand in the general direction of Midtown, "came about." And it is nonsense! But Bao-Wei has no idea how true and stinging the karmic reference is because he isn't privy to the simple fact that Robert's genes have succumbed to the forces of all this fancy-schmancy evolution rubbish.

Just as expected, Robert is exhibiting his inherent goatlike rage; Bao has a similar sensibility, though right now he just seems like a smug old catfish. "Disbelief breeds surprise. Surprise." He might chortle if he were less composed. "I have to say- your situation is so much different, yet …you really haven't changed a damn bit." Which is a compliment, of course. "We could use you somewhere more capable than Canal Street, that is for certain."

It's probably a safe assumption to say that a goat would win in a fight against a catfish. Robert seems somewhat mollified by the assurance that he's still the same old guy, though, and he draws his other hand from his pocket in order to fold his arms sternly across his chest. It's barely a conscious action, but it is fitting: Rob has always tended towards being rather condescending and superior and old habits die hard. "Is this the royal 'we' or are you referring to some collective body?" An afterthought comes in the form of a slight smirk and a shrug. "I also don't usually make appearances here."

Amusement tickles at the back of Doctor Cong's brain. "We as in myself and my research- science- the greater good- that sort of thing. I daresay you have little time to flex your learned abilities these days." Bao-Wei talking about the greater good is kind of tickling by itself. Ho-ho. "But at least you seem to have kept your sanity intact. So far as I am able to tell."

"My sanity is quite intact, thank you. Your concern is touching." Robert deadpans, then sidles forward another step or two to close some of the distance between himself and the other doctor. There's no need to block the whole sidewalk, after all, and it's rather nice to have someone familiar available and nearby. "I may be interested. It depends on what kind of research you're doing." Freely implied is some level of disdain for Bao-Wei's previous projects.

Disdain will have to continue, then. "I had some very interesting research fall into my lap this past year; I have been on the right track with it, but there is something elusive that I cannot pin down. As a result my experiments can be …unfortunate." The Chinese man muses, and clears his throat slightly. "Artificial Evolved." Bao-Wei lifts his eyebrows with a tick, waiting for an answer.

Oho, what's this? Experiments? "You aren't testing something that insane on people, are you?" Robert looks surprised. Quite surprised, actually, though not quite repulsed - not exactly. There might even be a hint of interest sparked when the project is named, the man's posture easing forward slightly. "I expected you to be working on something ludicrous."

Ludicrous? Nonsense. A hand lifts, Bao-Wei's thumb brushing the edge of his nose, eyes peering up at Robert while his chin dips. The look is quite ambiguous, and in some ways, quite maddened by years of this. Nonchalant at best. "Well now, Robert, I cannot hope to test it on animals- that would defeat the purpose of creating a human formula."

"I imagine the perceived value of your work somehow justifies the cost of lives, doesn't it." Because there's no way that gene tinkering ending 'unfortunately' isn't ultimately fatal from either the treatment or its aftereffects, which might include the hand of the researcher. But that's an argument made by many, and Robert leaves it be once it's been stated for the record. "I don't suppose you've had any measure of success, have you?" The hint of interest is now more than a hint. Certain subtle and suddenly-appearing tensions in the corners of his face display eagerness, at least to those who know how to look for it on a man as taciturn as he is - and Bao-Wei has had plenty of practice.

"I measure my success in how slow it takes for the formula to degenerate men into piles of muck. So to speak." Or not. It's hard to tell if Bao-Wei is being literal. "The last batch of subjects have taken the longest yet, and exhibited a series of more feral abilities than I'd hoped." But it is getting there. Like he said moments ago: there is something that is escaping his clutches in perfecting it. Doctor Cong looks receptive in response to Robert's own receptiveness, his eyes glinting hard behind the irises. If this is fate, then fate must want him working harder.

More disdain, though the interest is still there. "How vulgar a trial method. Really, Bao, I expect better from you." For shame. Robert lifts one hand suddenly to rub at his jaw with thumb and forefinger thoughtfully, remaining fingers on that hand curled inwards towards his palm. While this definitely accentuates the bristly hair growth, it also provides the doctor with the few seconds needed to quickly mull something over. "Do you work alone?" The quite abruptly posed question seems to be of importance to the homeless man, whose gaze has turned positively hawklike.

"Vulgar, perhaps, but the only effective way." Cong gives that much to his having no other choice if he wants to test it. He isn't going to test it on himself, that's for sure. "Depends upon the testing. Sometimes yes, sometimes no. Lately it has been a resounding yes, apart from an assistant here or there…"

Hrm. Robert's face offers the brief suggestion of a frown before he speaks again, his words coming rather slowly as he picks at them and turns them over in his head. "Assuming you don't plan to ask me to involve myself in testing anything, I could take a look at what you have. Perhaps I can offer some insight into what it is you're doing incorrectly, besides attempting the morally-questionable impossible." Is Robert planning to work five days a week on anything ever again? No. But the offer of being involved in research again is very tempting indeed.

Somewhere in that brain of his, Bao-Wei Cong knows it is a mistake to ask Robert Brankovic to look over his work. But, when push comes to shove, there are some times when there is need for …a necessary evil. "No, no self-testing." Yet. One day, perhaps. "At this particular juncture, Robert… I think that what I need most is insight." From a peer that he possesses reasonable faith in.

"And I'm not going to be testing anything on other people, either. My parents would roll over in their graves." It might actually happen, considering how much Mama and Papa Brankovic would Not Approve, and Robert feels the need to emphasize his unwillingness to engage in that sort of science. After a moment of silence and pursed lips the man tips his head down a little in acknowledgment - after all, Bao-Wei is paying him quite a compliment in a roundabout way. "I can come by a couple of hours a week to keep up with what you're doing. Assuming you have a proper lab somewhere."

"I am well aware of your personal scruples, Robert. I will not make you do anything." From this point onward, his interaction with Bao-Wei is totally voluntary. "I have a lab." Or several. Or a dozen. But one is enough. "I have my clinic here in Chinatown, should you need to find me during the day. Now, I'll go out on a limb here-" Not really. "-would you like some lunch, Robert?"

Unless otherwise stated, the content of this page is licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 License