1964-07-20 - Ethics and Fare Meters
Summary: Kwabena picks up a fare, but he doesn't expect to be recognized, nor does he expect to engage in a conversation about ethics.
Related: If there are no related logs, put 'None', — please don't leave blank!
Theme Song: None
vesper kwabena 

Chinatown by dint of its name has plenty of foreigners. Not all of them come from East Asia. Vesper stands out as a token Caucasian in her striped shirt and broad hat. Over her arm rests a bag that no doubt contains the spoils of her shopping trip in the Mott Street Market and various small shops. A prominent folding fan beats back the miserable humidity by generating its own breeze. Her lungs suffer from the combination of fumes, toxic gases, and the low ceiling on the clouds. The police headquarters makes a good place as any for a landmark but she has no real desire to sit on the questionable bench outside. Probably because someone is stretched out asleep on it.

A taxi cab rolls up quickly, pulling up to the curb and coming to a fast stop. Behind the wheel is Kwabena Odame, dressed in his usual black tank top and second hand brown pants. Sunglasses rest on his nose to cover his eyes, and music is blaring from the radio. He reaches over to crank down the volume, then leans toward the passenger window, which is lowered partially to allow a breeze. "Miss?" he calls out toward the waiting Vesper, with a touch of impatience in his voice. "Miss! Do you need taxi?"

Miss scientist does not alter her wardrobe very much. Capris and striped shirts, or buttoned ones. Great big sunglasses and a sun hat all speak of Gallic flavours. She lifts her head to the noise more than the hailing from a man more familiar than not. Her glasses are pushed up her nose. With that simple adjustment she is once more a chic stranger in a chic city. No one to identify her for hiding in a cafe when a dog turned horrific.

"Oui," she agrees. A nod from habit follows, then the lightest of steps down off the curb to the vehicle. No one has apparently taught her she doesn't have to necessarily open her own door.

The cab driver stares at the woman for another moment or two, waiting for her to open the door. After that second moment, he grumbles to himself, "Christ, is not fucking date," before leaving harder and popping the door from the inside. "Come on, come on. Is busy out dere!"

Turning back, Kwabena flips on his fare meter. "Is not custom to have fare ride in front seat," he explains, when while pulling out into the busy Chinatown traffic. "Dangahrous to drivah, yes? But you don't look like gun carrying idiot, so, is alright. Where to take you?"

She puts her bag on the seat next to her, sliding it over until securely in the dipped well left by many other people. Taxi cabs are that way. They collect the weight of an entire city to prematurely age benches. The seatbelt goes on, snapped smartly into place. Kwabena might see his reflection captured in the dramatic Greta Garbo oversized lenses hiding part of her face. "Ah." The noncommittal sound is the height of her nation's ability to diminish even catastrophes into pointed understated.

"Long Island." Well, he'll be at least enjoying the fare. "Fort Tilden." It's cheaper than going to the Lido Beach area, anyways.

"Long Island?" asks Kwabena, clearly surprised. "Is long trip. Would be cheapah to take subway!" Still, there's a grin on his face. This will be a good day, indeed.

Still, he's a good driver and knows these streets. The African quickly begins turning toward the best route, but after a few minutes, he glances in the rear view mirror to see his reflection in those massive sunglasses. "Cab has no A/C, like last one," he tells her. "I give discount to you, fah de troubah. Is okay?"

"The subway does not go to Fort Tilden. I could take say JFK." The scientist shrugs a shoulder in demure agreement. Money in the pot for one is just an expense to the other. New York University has its requests, after all.

Vesper is a quiet, gamine creature rather like a doe. Stay quiet and she might not spring away in fear or anxiety. As far as customers go, maybe not the most exciting one. "That's all right. Oui, open the window if you need to. You drive, you must be comfortable?" It's an easy connection of logic to her. The cab rocks over the road and she sways with it, her striped blue and white bauble earrings going back and forth. "Where are you from?"

"Yes, yes, but it would get you closah," the cabbie answers with a bit of a laugh. "Is good, I will get you dere, safe and sound."

Kwabena rolls the window down a bit further. He casts another glance into the rear view mirror at one point, a curious frown on his face; something about the passenger seems familiar, but he can't quite seem to place it. He commits to focusing on the drive for a while, until she asks him where he is from.

"Dey call it Ghana now, but it was de Ashanti Empire when I was born." He looks back into the rear view mirror again, eyebrows shooting up as if to ask the same.

Close is one thing; certainty is another. Vesper leans back into the seat though her nature is to sit straight up. Her head turns slightly as she watches the world slip by in radiant detail. Sunshine coming through the window bathes her, nourishes in a way she'd be hard pressed to explain.

"Ashanti?" The word lifts from her lips in a way imposing her Gallic accent. "Ghana. They became independent only a few years ago." Or there's a century for distance from the last Anglo-Ashanti War.

"Yes, if you can call a thing a thing," answers Kwabena in his not so perfect English. "It does not mean end to fighting, dough! Just… diffahrent men with, how to say it? Place of powah." He shakes his head. "Not so diffahrent from America, I think, only America prefahs to hide it undah de glow of Chrysler and Ovaltine."

"Everywhere fights. People have the same fears and concerns. Food, money, shelter. Happiness." Her face is markedly thoughtful for a bit. "You fight to protect yourself, though."

That remark prompts Kwabena to look back into the rear view mirror. It's hard to tell if there is a frown on his face, given the way the sun glares. The man looks back forward again, gauging the traffic ahead as he waits to enter the Queens Midtown tunnel; the Long Island Expressway waits beyond.

Finally, he turns around, draping an arm over the passenger seat in order to look back at Vesper. "What do you mean?" he asks. There isn't any volatility in his tone, not yet at least; but it seems clear that her question has rattled him somewhat.

"You tried to stop the dog who hurt people. The one that became very large." Precise language chosen thus. Vesper enunciates clearly. She isn't the sort gripping her purse by the handles. Rather she gives him a direct look in return as he stares over the back of the seat, inches and counting. Though no master of clinical detachment Vesper is not especially alarmed. "Were you uninjured when you left? I hope you came out safely."

Sunglasses block only so much. She doesn't have a hand ready to wrench the door open and run.

The surprise is visible in the way Kwabena's lips part a bit, a sort of quiet open mouthed gasp. "I… was not."

At first it sounds like a denial. No, he was not there. And yet Kwabena is no fool; he can see in her face the resolution. The details as they were recounted are inexplicably accurate.

"Injured." He takes a deep breath, steadying himself. "I don't… get injured. Not in dat way, no. It isn't-"


Kwabena darts his head toward the car behind them, and suddenly he spins back around to jerk half his upper body out the driver's window, one hand flying about as it makes rude gestures. "Hey! Hey asshole!"

"Move it buddy!"

"You, asshole! FUCK you, yeah?"

"Light's green pal, step on it!"

"FUCK you!"

Kwabena sits back down and puts the car into motion again, his face a bit sweaty. A few moments pass as the car enters the tunnel. "I apologize," he tells the passenger. "Dat man is, how you say it, Wall Street Schmuck."

No, he does not wear American slang well.

"Bon." Good, in French. That much is very simple to hear and understand despite the language barrier. She nods to Kwabena, taking his answer at face value. Maybe she can understand hesitation.

It wouldn't be unreasonable for him to want to kick her out right now. "You were very…"

A thought never to be answered when the horn cuts them off. The sound ripples through her bones and fades along.

Sometimes it's so easy to forget. It melts into the bones, and bones might be prone to melting.

The radio squeaks and simmers with a chaotic hum. It simmers right back down.

"Cretin." She'll supply a much better, sharper, shorter word.

Kwabena darts his head to the radio and tweaks the dial for a moment, but as they are entering the tunnel, he simply assumes the reception is going out, so he cranks the volume down to null.

"Bah," he says, and makes another rude gesture out the window when the driver speeds past them in the next lane. "What is dis, 'cretin'?" he asks, clearly unfamiliar with the term.

It takes a few moments for him to settle down. Interestingly, when he turns to look at Vesper in the mirror, he's still wearing the shades. "You were dere?" he asks. Clearly she wasn't the gal in yellow tights who saw him in all his Ghanaian glory.

Hope truly no more squeaks emanate from the radio. The reception in the tunnel won't explain another static squawk. Vesper pulls on the paper bag and it crinkles across the seat. "French for things a lady cannot say," she replies. "Puts a problem like that in its place. It sounds hard and sharp on the tongue. A jab at them."

The peek of a few books are among the various bits of a picnic and what probably counts as a bathing suit in there. She rolls her heel in the footwell of the back seat. "I was dining."

Have absolutely no doubt what she saw on high.

"Cretin." Kwabena tries it on like a pair of shoes, finding that, while a bit tight and difficult to wiggle into, it may be a word he could wear again.

"And you did not run?" he asks then, pressing her as they travel down the tunnel. "I did not see you." He glances into the rear view mirror again, inquisition drawn across his face. He does glance toward the paper bag, but it is only a brief gesture. "Dangahrous, you do know. It took m uch to bring it down."

Cretin. All edges, a hard hook. It ends on a stiletto point. Good words to have are those which make harsh noise and bits. "I hid like everyone else," says his passenger. Vesper brushes the edge of the paper bag containing her various acquisitions. "Is it bad? I did not know what to do in the situation. Staying under the table was a good idea."

Never mind that she very nearly jaunted along with the monstrous wolf every step of the way.

"Am not sure," Kwabena answers. "I did not know what to do in de situation eidah." The truth in his voice is broken by a short laugh. "Probably not good idea to ram taxi into monstah."

The cab switches lanes, and the driver finally removes the sunglasses to reveal his unnaturally colored eyes. "Thing could have smashed table. Probably best to run. Not everyone can turn into… what I turn into."

"Better to try than sit with your hands idle and full of dread." Vesper tucks her hands lightly against her lap then. The belt spans her hips easily enough. "I don't know how to fight. It is good that I stay out of the way so no one gets hurt." Her dark sunglasses mirror back Kwabena's face and the unearthly nature of his eyes. Hers are tinted so well that her doe-dark irises are nothing to worry about. When they start glowing is a whole other matter.

"Sure, sure," the driver agrees. "But. I don't want whole damn city to know." Kwabena hasn't been reading the papers this week, and for good reason; he doesn't want to read about whatever might have been written. Seems he's happy being a closeted, black mutant. Double whammy, right there.

"You should learn how to," he advises, and begins fixing the sunglasses back on. There is daylight creeping upon them as the edge of the tunnel is approached. "Everyone should know," he adds. "Is safah day way, yes?"

"Non. Everyone has the right to choose." Vesper isn't pushing much on his wish for clandestine existence. They have a wild game of survival. Him as someone who smashes cabs into monsters and hers as something other than a girl hiding under a cafe table. Double whammy indeed. Foreign girl able to hijack systems.

His warning is made clear enough, and she sighs quietly. "Easy when you are a man. Women are not expected to fight, and the ones who want to learn get the very worst looks and treatment."

Kwabena smirks slightly. "No, no no," he counters. "I do not mean, dat peopah be forced to learn. But police won't always be dere. Someone to help? Not always dere." He glances in the mirror again, lips now pressed into a thin line. "Easy, maybe. Man is expected to fight. Negro is expected to drive taxi, cook food in restaurant. Woman? To cook food at home." He smirks then again. "Apparently, dis negro will drive taxi. Will drive taxi into horrible creature, and not get fired."

He can't help but be proud of that.

"What would you have me do? They say do not pull a gun without expectation that you will use it," says the brunette gamely. "Or maybe someone turns it against you. I am not a soldier or someone trained to this."

She's a geneticist with credits strung around a nascent field not really understood at the moment. "You have the advantage of being big and very dense and hard to hurt. I am only me."

"One does not always dischahge gun into head or chest," the driver points out. "Gun can be fired at de leg, or de tire." He loosens a hand so that he might gesture it back and forth in a waggle. "Sometimes it is not about fighting, but to survive a fight. Sometimes dat is running, or hiding. Oddah times? It is knowing how to take de punch."

They are driving on the highway now, and well on their way toward Long Island. The lower rooftops of Brooklyn speed past. "I am not always dense," he points out, but sadly, he's not fully grasped the other element of his mutation. "And it is not always easy to do."

"I still have to shoot someone," says the brunette. Her tone of voice is remarkably quiet despite the humming traffic around them. "Survival sounds like I would shoot someone to get away. I like to think I would do what I had to. But maybe I do not. Soldiers sometimes forget to fire and shout warnings." Bitter promises on a battlefield or in a street fight wouldn't be the first time someone failed.

She wanly smiles at the cab driver. "You did something good out there."

"Did I?" asks the cab driver. He's not looking in the mirror now, but rather, there's a contemplative expression upon his face. "Dat was somebody's dog. Imagine if it was somebody's… someone. Someone's faddah, or sistah, or husband. If I hadn't seen de… de 'cretin' transform, how would I have known what it was befah it did?" Kwabena shrugs. "Probably would have tried to kill it anyway, because of it being so dangahrous."

Just then, he recognizes that, quite possibly, what he just did was rude. He then looks toward the mirror, actually seeking contact with the woman's eyes; a thing that won't be possible, given his sunglasses. "I mean." There is a longer pause. "Thank you."

He looks forward again, turn signal flipped on as he merges off on the exit toward Long Island proper.

|ROLL| Vesper +rolls 1d20 for: 5

Vesper prefers not to say some of those things, but she has to. "Imagine that someone bit another person. Tore out their throat. Ran into a child. Robbed a store. How would their family feel about this?" She might be afraid to say these things aloud and yet she must. "Could they live with the knowledge of their actions? Nothing is so clear. But then this is an unfair statement because I study ethics in my work."

A reality there is spoken softly and delivered in a sigh. "You do not have to thank me. I do not expect it or need that. Thank you for not being upset I was there and so ineffective."

Her sunglasses blot out her eyes. All the better. They're electric blue.

"Ethics?" Kwabena asks. "What is… oh, 'ethics'. Like 'ethical'. Yes?" The cabbie clearly does not fully grasp the English language, at least not as one who grew up here might grasp it. "So, if I might ask you, what do de peopah in your work think of ethics, and of women? Or black men? Or mutants, or homos?" Behind the sunglasses, a thin eyebrow is lifted. "And de history of, well, all of dem?"

"Ethics. What is the right thing to do?" Vesper could explain this all the way to Maine without losing the thread of the conversation if necessary. "All life is precious and important. Our activities must take into account the impact they have on living beings. Is it a harmful outcome or a positive one? If I do something then what kind of consequences could there be, what is their magnitude, and what factors might be expected to play out?"

Those are not exactly difficult questions. "I see absolutely no difference between an Indian or an Arab or a German, a homosexual or a woman or a black man. Are you sick? You deserve treatment and medicine. Are you poor? It is not an acceptable barrier to medical attention. Physicians should be available to all, no? Am I wealthy? It does not make my needs superior to another's and therefore I do not come ahead of anyone else for a project. Does a whale or a shark have no value when I consider what I could gain by opening a fishery or pouring out waste water from a factory? This is not right. Ethics are the hard questions to ask from an idea that I - we, humans - are not the only thing that matters in the whole world."

"You see no diffahrence." The cab driver nods his head twice. "Dis makes you a good pahson, or at least, a thoughtful one. Yes?" He smiles briefly at that, before his forehead creases. "But de rest of de world? Not so ethical. Is not simply a problem in America, or Ghana, or anywhere else. Is problem everywhere. So, what do your studies tell you of dis? Is dis a problem dat is, how to say it, ahhhh… let me see. Is 'paht of system' of mankind? I hope you undahstand what I mean." He laughs somewhat awkwardly, while switching lanes to pass a slow moving truck. "I am trying to say, is dis a problem with us as a peopah? Not as one, as individual, but as peopah?"

It's a shame he doesn't know how to say 'systemic' in English, but he does utter the equivalent twice in his native tongue.

"Are you asking if the problem is that people like to see one another in categories, us and them? That I am a Caucasian woman and think somehow only other whites are good as me? And even then, probably specific whites - French are better than English, English better than Americans, and all the way down?" Vesper is patient to try and understand what might be asked of her. "Does mankind have this way that we always put ourselves first and call it survival?"

"No, no." With a shake of his head, Kwabena seems mildly frustrated; not by Vesper, but by the disadvantage that comes with his limited understanding of the English language. "Is not dat, dough you do make some few good points dere. "Here is what I am asking." He begins to speak slower, trying to choose his words carefully in order to convey his question.

"Are dese things… paht of us as individuals? Or is dere… a much lahgah influence, one dat comes from society, ovah time, exposure to… let us say, exposure to de same way of thinking dat has come from our fathahs, and dere fahthas?"

It's a real shame someone doesn't publish a book that would more easily translate his native tongue into English. Sadly, there are simply too many sub-dialects and languages, even within the small country now known as Ghana.

French would be her native choice, but Ghana wasn't part of the old empire. O for someone from the Francophonie! Vesper does the best she can. "The ethics belong to the individual and all of us. They are part of society. They make us who we are. We decide the route we need to take as one and as all. How we shape what is right, I am fairly sure isn't defined by any absolute," says the brunette carefully. "No cosmic book. No religious text. No secret of gods or hidden in the stars. It is this simple, only that we have to find out what is proper and hold to it."

Kwabena is silent for a few moments after that; fortunately, she does not use any words he cannot translate. It's more the idea that takes a moment or two for the young man, lacking in any form of education beyond the shitty school provided to him by the County of New York.

"So, what you ah saying is… if we want to… influence de ethics of society, our only choice is to influence our own ethics first?"

"We can shift at the top and hope it will reach below. We can educate and lead by example. We can change our own behaviour. Why is one of them exclusive of any of the others?" Vesper has to figure out the simpler language since her French is infinitely more nuanced than anything she encountered outside of Paris. Even at Cambridge, it's not really the same.

"Ah, okay." It is certainly food for thought, and it is something the African will internalize and consider. However, he grew up in a world where higher education was, essentially, not for him. Strange, abnormal, those are definitions that would have required too much explanation. Simply put? It's too white. That's… why he never talks about the desire to have such conversations.

Shields, up.

"De boys back in de old neighbahood always called me, 'Shift'," he tells her, with a touch of humor in his voice. Silly nickname, but he always liked it; reminded him of driving the old cab, which was a standard. "I do not think America will shift at de top. Guess I'll just have to pay attention to my own behaviah." If he does believe that the change these civil rights goons are talking about… he isn't going to openly admit it.

Shields up with a woman who has little of value, and even less to hide. She's merely going to a beach with her books and her towel and a picnic lunch. Also the entire weight of the world resting upon her delicate shoulders.

"Things shift sometimes if they see a reason. No one believed in aliens, did they?" A gesture of her hand out the window. "They maybe thought no continent was between Europe and Asia. We learn new things sometimes in ways that shake up all we know. It is important to believe."

"I suppose you ah right." There is agreement in his tone, but there is also a sense of finality. It'll take more than a few ethical torpedos to take down those shields. Kwabena turns off the highway as they reach one of the many Long Island exits, and curiously, he assumes that she wishes to head coastward. "Got a pahticulah beach in mind?" he asks. Perhaps he did catch a glimpse of the swimwear in the woman's bag.

"The one by the fort." Any beach will do. "They are all the same. A beach on the shore that faces the Atlantic. I want a foot in the water to say it has been there." Vesper leans back in the seat, almost wearied by the slow motion roll through edges of existence.


Kwabena remains quiet for the duration of the drive. The radio, which he'd turned down during that little fuzzy moment in the tunnel, provides a quiet backdrop to the noise that comes from the city beyond. Eventually, the taxi pulls up to a parking lot at the very beach mentioned, and Kwabena flips the fare meter into its resting position. It is quite an expensive ride, but when Kwabena dictates the cost, he's knocked off a portion. "Dat is seven fifty." Should have been $11.75. "And, ah, what we talked about, if you could keep it to yahself…" He hates to even ask, but… well, he's just not there yet.

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