2007-04-19: Studying With The Enemy


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Summary: Studying late in the NYU library, Elena is joined by the agent responsible for her first visit by the Haitian….one who she doesn't remember at all! A verbal chessgame ensues.

Date It Happened: April 19, 2007

Studying With The Enemy

The Bobst Library, New York University Campus, Greenwich Village

It was pushing 11 o'clock in the evening, and Elena's working/studying late. Books are strewn all over the coffee table in front of her, perched in one of the comfier chairs of the high-ceilinged building she was in. It was, naturally, quiet - but even moreso considering it was so late at night. Most of the students who would be here have gone, save for a sparse smattering of individuals in the wide open spaces of the main hall. She exhales a breath softly, flipping another page and dragging out a highlighter.

The books on the table are all hard science. Chemistry. Physics. And plenty of Biology with an emphasis on Biochemistry. The tip of her tongue pokes lightly between her lips as she reads the effects of Serotonin on the body, adjusting her cats eye glasses on the bridge of her nose. She doesn't even have her mp3 player in her ears, so engrossed she was with what she was studying.

It should come as no surprise to Elena that one of the many coincidences in her life has been brewing this evening. Someone else has been hanging out in this room late into the evening, but this someone hasn't been quite so out in the open. Shining manicured nails trail along the spines of the many highly academic titles until a woman emerges from an aisle behind Elena. No one could look more bored than the young woman known, to NYU's student and professor body, as Aspen St. James as she emerges. In a soft turquoise sweater with a large, cozy turtleneck and a pair of sleek black slacks, she has a messenger bag, weighed down, slung over one shoulder. Typical student, right? As she circles about Ms. Gomez's table, she slows down. And then she drops her heavy bag on the table with a *THUD*. "… oh, I'm so sorry," the crisp British accent tells Elena with apologetic tones. "My hand must have slipped on the strap."

She looks up at the loud sound, when the pretty Aspen St. James 'accidentally' drops her bag on the floor. Elena sets the book she was reading aside as she leans over to take the strap of the book bag, picking it up for her fellow student and handing it to her. "Oh it's okay," she says - as always friendly and unassuming. "Here you go." She offers the bag and the strap. And while Aspen looks a little familiar, having seen her once or twice in Starbucks, it doesn't really click that she has definitely seen this woman before. She doesn't, however, associate her with the Haitian that fateful day at Starbucks. "You working pretty late too, huh?" she asks with a sympathetic smile.

"You could say that, yes." It's for the best, really, that Elena doesn't recognize Aspen. Good ol' Haitian. But why, then, does the woman stick around? That's exactly what she does: after giving the student a sweet smile for the retrieval of her bag, she sits down in the chair across from Elena's chosen coffee table. Her bag is deposited neatly beside the chair, and she bends over, unclasping the front flap. All the while, however, her head is tipped up - vivid aquamarine eyes pin Elena. "Exams, you know. They could drive a person mad."

"They do, I'm surprised I can keep up," Elena says, gesturing to her books. "I'm done with midterms, but I'm leaving for a Biochemistry conference tomorrow in New Hampshire with the rest of my class," she confesses to Aspen. "We were split into groups, basically make presentations after the conference. I thought I'd give myself a headstart with everything that we'll be covering since we got a syllabus for who's presenting in the conference. Lots of people from MIT….not surprising really, half their tenured professors are Nobel Prize winners." She grins at Aspen. "But I won't geek out any more than I could to a stranger. What's your poison this semester?"

Aspen stares at Elena, but she manages to keep a nice, politely interested face despite how much the girl just rambled on. "Ugh, biochemistry. I have to admit, I don't envy you. Biology in any form is not my thing." It's a drab, grey, well-used sociology textbook that Aspen draws from her bag; a sharp contrast from the prim and neat owner of the book, its edges worn down to soft white paper, its corners dog-eared. She sits back, laying the book on the arm of the chair, her arm draped atop it. "Oh, Psychology. And more Psychology, another Psychology class named something else as a thin veil, then Sociology, with some Experimental Psychology and Research for good measure. You know. The usual. Also an internship."

The girl was a chatty creature. Clearly -not- something she got from her father. Elena looks at the sociology book Aspen pulls out. Must be a secondhand book. She picks up her own, and she smiles over at Aspen. "At least you're quite sure as to what you want to do once you're out of here," she says with a laugh, opening up her book yet again. "Where are you interning?" she asks. "Is it part of the clinical program they have here?" Or it could be something else she found on her own. She takes up her highlighter again, squeaking it over the glossy page, and then picks up a pen to write some notes on the margin of her text.

Aspen flips casually through her textbook with a thumb. Lines of colour flash by - highlighted sections. "Oh, it's a special internship with a local psychologist. Connected to the university, but it's not the clinical program." She stops at a chapter in the text titled 'The Language of Social Interaction' and pins it with her fingers to hold it open. "What are you into then, the med track?" The young woman crosses her legs, idly tapping a black shoe against her messenger bag. The idle tap-tap-tap moves the contents into motion just so, a hidden book tumbles to the forefront. 'Activating Evolution' by Chandra Suresh. Didn't she just say she didn't like biology in any form? At any rate, Aspen seems to take no notice, eyeing her textbook dully.

"Yeah, I am," Elena laughs, there's a sheepish quality to it, but her smile remains engaging as she lifts her eyes to rest on Aspen's face. "I guess it's kind of obvious, huh?" she says, glancing down at her books ruefully. "No other major in this university can be so dry and boring." She winks at the British student, but when the books shift, her eyes fall on Activating Evolution, by Dr. Chandra Suresh. And then, Aspen can see it, her brow furrowing a touch when she sees it. Was she…? She looks back down on her text and scribbles a few more notes. "I had to read that book for this semester's class," she says, nodding to the blue book. "For Theoretical Genetics." She laughs. "It's an interesting read…..though Professor MacFarlane thinks it's pretty much a huge load of BS."

"Hmm?" Aspen voices blithely, appearing quite clueless as to what Elena is referring to until she peeks over the edge of her chair and moves her foot to see the other book's title. "Oh, that," she says ever-so-quietly. "Yes, well, Professor MacFarlane is a bit of a silly old man, isn't he." The faintest hint of a scowl touches her features as she looks down at the book where it lies in her bag; her bright eyes then land precisely on Elena. "Do /you/ think it's BS?"

"He's eccentric," Elena says with a laugh. "And really absorbed in his work, but he's not a bad guy. He's actually pretty charming for an old scottish man. He drinks a -lot- of coffee though." She pauses from her writing when Aspen asks her the question. Looking at the book, she ponders. How to answer this….of course she doesn't think it's bullshit, but she's already had ONE normal person think she's insane. She's not about to spread the word that she's crazy. "It's interesting, and I think it's possible," she says. "I mean….I'm going to be in the scientific field, I have to be skeptical about some things. But I wouldn't discount it as being totally BS. Some of what Dr. Suresh says makes sense on a….molecular level so to speak. But….there's a lot of things we don't know about the human body. I like to think we haven't reached our full potential though. Scientifically I don't think -this- is it for the human race."

Aspen reaches down into the open messenger bag, not to retrieve the hot topic of a book, but rather, a pair of reading glasses from an inner pocket. When she slides them on, it's instantly clear that they're a bit too big for her face. "Ah, that's better," she murmurs. As if on cue, a wisp of brown hair drifts from the neater waves and obscures one lens. Such a simple addition of glasses changes her appearance almost immediately, and just in time, as she takes on an academic air. "I agree with you. And possibly with Dr. Suresh. But it's not only the body we don't know everything about; no," she shakes her head, brushing that strand of hair aside. "It's hardly that. It's the /mind/. That's where the extraordinary lies. If evolutionary psychology has taught us anything, it's that that mind anticipates the changes to come and the body must follow its lead into new and trying times."

Well look at that, both of them need glasses to read - except Aspen's eyeglasses are too big for her. Still, Elena thinks it's quirky, so she can't help the grin tugging on her mouth. "I agree with you. If anything the brain is the most mysterious part of the body. Biologically, as well as psychologically," she says, taking a few more notes. "We're capable of using 100 percent of it, but somehow we don't. It's as if something is holding us back, perhaps where your evolutionary psychology comes in. Though I find it interesting that while doctors used to think we only use ten percent of our brains, I think that misconception is changing based on the latest study. If we're going by Dr. Suresh's work, maybe that's why. We're still evolving, perhaps the changes for this continuation -require- more use from our brains."

"People underestimate what the human brain is capable of," Aspen says by way of agreeing. It's followed by a grin which, for just a moment, is sly. She flips a page in her sociology text. "I think that's the case. These changes, they're our evolutionary imperative at this point in the game. Don't you find the book a little dry, though? Well, I guess you might not, given your choice of education."

"Oh not at all," Elena says with a laugh. "Indeed, quite the opposite. I mean….this isn't exactly your run-off-the-mill thesis. I mean anyone would think mindreading and being able to fly interesting. Comic books, psychics….seeing people fly through the night during the witchcraft hysteria. It was like mixing science with all of the weird stuff that happened through the course of history." She looks over at Aspen. "So you had to read this book for your classes too?" she asks curiously. "I mean just by the way you're talking about the evolution of the human psyche and all." Which class was it? Perhaps she'll take it too if it isn't graduate level.

A high-pitched little 'hm!', not-quite-laughter, paired with an amused smile appear on the psychology student's face after Elena's replies. Maybe it was the flying witches, maybe it was the question posed of her. "Oh, it wasn't for any class," Aspen clarifies. "Pure … private interest. It was recommended to me."

"….your friend has some interesting taste in books then," Elena says with a grin. "Whoever recommended it to you." Private interest? She wants to ask, but…she doesn't know the woman, and doesn't want to appear nosy. She rubs her eyes a bit, removing her glasses and leaning back against her chair. "Though I suppose if you want to find a maybe-next-step it's a good source to turn to. At least it's written by someone with a phD and several academic accolades under his belt, not just some…..journalist or amateur researcher."

"Mm, but didn't he get a whole bunch of backlash for it? Then, all the good books have controversy, don't they," Aspen looks over the rims of her glasses, a glimmer in her bright eyes to match the little smile on her lips, but that strand of silky brown falls ahead again. "Dr. Suresh wrote a Mockingbird of genetics. If you show an interest in it at all these days, you should be prepared for… backlash." The woman tips her head back, her hair falling back into place. She takes off her glasses. "Some people seek to rip apart what they don't understand."

"I think so," Elena says softly. "It's tragic, almost. He was so brilliant, you know? Unique." She props her chin on one hand, looking out the nearest window. "It's not like his stuff isn't backed up by other reputable, scientific work…but I guess the world just wasn't ready for something like this. It reminds me a bit of what happened to Galileo, you know? Put on trial for heresy, forced to denounce what he believed in or face death instead of just exile…." A softer expression overtakes her face at the plight of one of the most brilliant minds that ever lived. "It's too bad Dr. Suresh is dead. I would've loved to have met him….it could've given me extra credit on that class." She grins impishly over at Aspen.

Aspen is silent throughout Elena's thoughts as they're voiced, giving no comment on Gallileo or Dr. Suresh's death, and's silent afterward, too. It's only after a few moments of quiet, wherein she just… watches the young woman that she speaks up to add simply, her accent putting a matter-of-fact lilt on her words: "He does have a son, you know. Carrying on his father's work."

"Dr. Mohinder Suresh?" Elena says, looking up to face Aspen. She can't help but wonder inwardly - the woman must be a fan, or a follower, of Dr. Suresh's work, to go the extra step and find out that the man left a son and a fellow geneticist behind. She smiles faintly. "I'm actually kind of hoping that our professor in Theoretical Genetics class might get him to come over to NYU and give a lecture since we're all still covering his father's book." She furrows her brows, a sudden thought striking her. "It must be difficult though considering how much the book has been slammed by the Academic community in general."

"Mm. Isn't that the theoretical part of theoretical genetics, the theory's not proven? So what if he gets backlash in a Theoretical Genetics class, it just opens the whole debate thing." Aspen waves a hand, like she's not really interested in further explanation. Not exactly the behaviour of someone dedicated to a genetics book. "You must be quite the fan if you know his son's name," she points out, unknowingly mimicking Elena's thoughts on /her/. "Or is that covered in your class, too?"

"Well I didn't really mean the class," Elena says simply. "I mean the entire 'carrying on his father's work' thing. I wonder how far he's getting, really, in his own career if he's taking up the reins. It would suck to suffer the same fate his father did, you know?" She drums her fingers on the table. And then? She looks up, her dark eyes fixing on Aspen. After a few moments, she bursts out laughing, and links her fingers together. "In all honesty I was just thinking the same thing about you." She pauses…and shakes her head. "No, it wasn't. I dug into it….I first knew he had a son when I was researching who Dr. Suresh was and how he died. The professor said he died under 'mysterious' circumstances, so naturally I got nosy. Except the 'mysterious' circumstances was due to the fact that no one knew who killed him, probably some guy who tried to rob him while he was in a taxi. I found an orbituary….but I didn't know at the time that Dr. Mohinder was a geneticist like his father." Aspen might remember seeing an article on Dr. Suresh's death lying on Elena's coffee table when she talked to Xander that day she came by Starbucks.

"What about you?" she asks. "You a fan?"

Somewhere along the line, Aspen starts to smirk. It is not to be confused with a smile, although it certainly is /amused/. She laughs, and then her mirth goes flat. "Ha. Hahahaha." It's half-deadpanned, half peals of that dull, ironic laughter. "A fan." Answer: "No." But she puts away her sarcasm, clearing her throat and sobering up. Glancing down, she looks quite put out the more she thinks about it. "I'm sorry, the truth is, I met Dr. Suresh - junior," she admits in a quieted voice, still looking at her lap. "I had a few questions for him, and he for me. Unfortunately I don't think he liked me very much," she says sadly. Whimper. But why! How could anyone not like /her/!

"Really? How come?" Elena asks, furrowing her brows. What? Why? Dr. Mohinder Suresh looked like a mild-mannered guy. Hell, the man -fed her- food he cooked himself. And he had a little girl who he obviously cared deeply about as his ward, being so conscientious about her wellbeing. She couldn't imagine him being cross with anyone. She props her chin on one hand, inclining her head at Aspen as she watches her. "I didn't think he could be the snooty type if he was carrying on his father's work and probably being slammed by other reputable academics for doing so."

"Well he wasn't very nice to /me/," Aspen says mournfully - but she shrugs, a prim little up-and-down of her shoulders and that's that. "I suppose I did give him reason to be cross." She looks across the way at Elena, narrowing her eyes ever-so-slightly as if considering. Gauging. "I caused a bit of… a bit of an accident, you see. Shouldn't have been any trouble at all, really…"

"Oh…." Elena says with furrowed brows. "Well, okay that I can understand I suppose. I mean, anyone would be cross if you broke something." She shakes her head and laughs….before she covers her mouth. Not because it's a library. "I'm sorry, I didn't mean to laugh. It's just that I imagined you accidentally knocking down a bunsen burner and setting something on fire. I honestly hope that's not what happened."

"No fire," Aspen assures Elena sweetly. Folding the glasses she took off earlier, she tucks them neatly down inside her messenger bag. The sociology book follows. "I just wish he had more answers," she looks up at Elena from bending down over the bag with her wide, bright eyes that she manages to make look so wistful in that moment. "I think he's really trying to help people. Do you know what he's doing? Contacting people on some list? Well no good will come of it, if you ask me, I know that now. I mean, oh god— what he's actually— well. I should get going!"

"………" Elena watches Aspen as she packs up and starts heading off, staring blankly at her back. List? What list? She didn't know of any list. Then again she hasn't really seen Doctor Suresh lately. And why does she know so much about Suresh and his work? "…okay, seeya…" she says. She looks down at her notes, furrowing her brows a little bit. She lets the woman head off, but her mind is still mulling over what she heard. That was new. And that was -weird-. WHAT list? Finally she exhales, and rubs her eyes a bit. It -was- getting late, maybe people were just getting loopy. She then stands up and starts packing up slowly, slinging her backpack on her shoulder. Then, she gathers up all the books she pulled out of the shelves to return them to the book return bin. God…where did the time go? She can't help but look over her shoulder at where Aspen disappeared to, however.

That was….what just happened?

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