The King Has Spoken

March 04, 2017:

After a lecture given at the University in New York by T'Challa, Sofia catches up with him outside and the two talk about Wakanda's ways in the rain.

Upper Manhattan - New York City

Not known for its tourist trade, Upper Manhattan is generally considered to start at the base of Central Park, along 59th Street, though you're just as likely to hear New Yorkers tell you to look north of 96th Street. It's one of the most affluent areas in the U.S., a center of business and commerce and upscale residences ranging from the mansions of the Upper East Side to the high-end condos and luxury high rises of the Upper West Side. While its most northerly neighborhoods may not quite rival the two sweeping swathes of ritz and power that flank the great park, even traditionally poor Harlem has seen considerable gentrification over the past two or three decades.

A neighborhood of about one hundred fifty thousand people at the northern end of Manhattan, Washington Heights is chiefly famous for having suffered a devastating crime wave in the 1980's related to the crack cocaine epidemic, though during the 90's the crime rate was driven down by aggressive policing and urban renewal. Presently it has one of the lowest crime rates in the nation.

Harlem used to be a mostly African-American through the decades, though this is no longer true (African-Americans are presently about 40% of the population.) The neighborhood has been the site of a number of amazing artistic booms, usually followed by equally devastating busts. Presently the area is slowly gentrifying, as is much of Manhattan. Other places of note include the Harlem Dance Theater whose troupe has toured internationally, the Harlem School of Arts, two well regarded hospitals and the City College of New York.

Morningside Heights hosts Colombia University and several other educational institutions and seminaries. Because of the proliferation of schools it's often known as the 'Academic Acropolis.' It's also the location of Grant's Tomb and several famous restaurants. What housing exists is mostly split between students and teachers/residents.

As the name implies Upper East side is the north eastern part of Manhattan Island. Once known as the Silk Stocking District, this is one of the most affluent areas in New York City. Collectively the neighborhood has about two hundred thousand inhabitants, and is home to some of the finest residences in New York, including the last of the River Villas.

Guggenheim Museum is a famous art museum located at 5th Avenue and 89th street. It's cylindrical profile is quite distinct. Originally established as a place to display non objective art, the collection later transformed into the one renowned today under a series of distinguished curators.

Carnegie is the iconic music hall of New York. Other venues are newer, sleeker or lager (though Carnegie can hold a bit over 3600 in three auditoriums.) The Hall puts on about 200 shows a year, and is further often rented out so that there tends to be always something going on any given day.

Located, as might be expected, in the northwest end of Manhattan Island, Upper West Side mostly serves to house the people who work in the Midtown commercial districts. It has a reputation for being the intellectual and cultural center of New York. Of other particular note is the Bloomingdale District along Bloomingdale Road which houses several landmarks.

The American Museum of Natural History (abbreviated as AMNH), located on the Upper West Side of Manhattan, New York City, is one of the largest and most celebrated museums in the world. Located in park-like grounds across the street from Central Park, the museum complex comprises 27 interconnected buildings housing 45 permanent exhibition halls, in addition to a planetarium and a library.

Characters

NPCs: None.

Mentions:

Plot:

Mood Music: None.


Fade In…

Given Sofia's major, she very rarely attended lectures on technology but Wakanda fascinated her. From what she could tell, it steeped in its culture despite all its technological advances and she was curious.

It was for that reason that after lecture, she had made her way out in hopes of catching up with the King. Where most held umbrellas, there seemed to be a bubble around Sofia that kept the rain off of her. "Excuse me," her voice is raised just enough to be heard over the rain once she's within earshot.

The girl is far from a threat but he's a King so her hands are already being lifted to show she means no harm. "I just had a few questions if you have a moment…"

*

It was no monsoon over the Savannah. Cold winter rain in New York City was a completely different beast than the rains over Africa. Though T'Challa has had much time over his life to become accustomed to the differences in weather over the westernmost countries in comparison to the less privileged, he does not refuse his jacket when offered by his attendants, whose sleeves of his jacket pull tight with a pair of crisp motions as he slips it on. 'Thank you,' he says in another tongue. The words are not needed to convey his respect, but it is easy for misunderstandings to arise.

The crush of rainfall gathers his attentions for just the handful of moments needed to slow his pace. Were it anything else, he may have been gone already. As it does everywhere else in the world, rain brings opportunities. He does not turn to face Sofia straightaway, nor does he start when she approaches. Unlike the entourage of celebrities, there is no sudden and violent response to her unscripted approach from his guard. There is a sense that his people are better at reading the intentions of a person than the cheap hired guns employed by most.

That, or those he employs may place more faith in him than most other guards may.

"A pleasure to make your acquaintance, miss…" the king begins, his tone calm and ready. He turns, straightening the lapels of his jacket as he faces Sofia. His long breath outward takes more than a moment to pass, and there is the distinct sense that there is nothing about the young man that is unplanned, or unrestrained. He does not miss the fact that she is not carrying an umbrella in this weather, either.

Even so, he says nothing more, a moment stretching out.
He is waiting for her name.

*

"Strange. Sofia Strange, Your Highness," the young woman offers with a warm smile and a bow of her head as she lowers her hands and adjusts the bag over her shoulder. "A pleasure, sir."

Straightening, the silvery-white streak is tucked behind her ear. "My apologies if I'm interrupting. It's just that I had a few questions that I didn't get to speak with you about during your lecture. I was hoping, if you had a moment, you'd be willing to talk. I imagine you're a very busy man so I understand completely if you need to get going."

It's clear the woman in her early twenties is putting in a great deal of effort in restraining herself.

*

"Strange," the young man repeats, the incidence of his glare becoming sharper with the word. There is no other audible change in his tone of voice nor the carriage of his manners. Just that single edge, strung through his eyes and along the surface of the word that represents more than just the making of an acquaintance.

"I am glad to suspect that my words were not wasted," he continues. The meter he uses is peculiar. It would be hard to imagine the man as completely welcoming even at his least condemning, but there is an earnest tilt to his voice that suggests that he means exactly what he says, and nothing more or less.

With a brief glance to his attendant, whom nods briskly, he turns back towards Sofia, and gestures with an open hand. "Please. Would it be more appropriate for you to stand out of the rain? Or would you like an umbrella?" he asks. There is the sense he asks plainly, but that the answer she chooses will matter to him. This is especially apparent given noticed restraint.

*

The sharpness that registers in that man causes Sofia's eyebrow to twitches him. Clearly, it wasn't lost on her.

"Not at all. I don't normally attend lectures on technology since my major is languages but Wakanda is, from all I can tell, very unique. It's made me very curious."

She glances at the umbrella and then back at him and her brow twitches again along with a corner of her mouth.

"Thank you," is murmured softly as she steps under the umbrella, letting the TK shield drop when she does.

*

To that, at the very least, T'Challa seems a little less cut from stone. The man is not like any other politician—all smiles, handshakes and simple connections. To the contrary, as she steps into the umbrella offered by one of the other attendants, he looks her over once or twice as the kinetic field dissipates. There is the sense that he sizes her as much as he might any other person.

"Come now. I am certain that languages is not all you study, miss Strange."
A little harsh treatment for a student, but for his country, hardly so. Waving off the thanks, he steps closer to Sofia, so as to better hear her speak over the distant snap of lightning. The motion is instinctive—before even the thunder sounds. "At any rate, I trust you will forgive any momentary candor in my words. In my country, technology is something to be mated inextricably with culture. It distresses me that other countries seem at times to treat it with outright hostility, or condescension. But I suspect it is a topic more suited for a sociologist or an economist, not a linguist. So tell me… what can we offer that interests you the most today, miss Strange?"

*

And she can't help but laugh. "It is what I study at the University. You're rigjt though. No, it's not all I study." Her eyes dance.

The apology is waved off. "Nothing to be sorry about, Highness. I imagine that candor is an absolute must until you get a feel for someone." She shrugs, clearly not bothered or offended. "And normally, you'd be right and it would hold no interest but…"

The bag is shifted again. "Wakanda is one of, if not the, wealthiest countries that has made amazing technological advances… But you don't study languages without studying culture some too.. And despite how advanced it is, you and your people still seem to honor ways and traditions have been around for..ages. Most people go one way or the other. Traditional or advanced… How have you managed to balance both?"

*

The king blinks as Sofia laughs. For his part, T'Challa doesn't seem overtly unhappy or even impatient, but it may come to mind that even when his country is the subject of discussion, he hasn't smiled once since when they started speaking. Did he do so, even once, when giving his lecture? It may be a hard thing to recall, but it seems unlikely.

His stare lasts for a good, long time.

Still he seems as if he expects her question moments before she asks it, a faint nod breaking his affected disposition and in time, his contemplative silence. "People often make conflations where none exist, especially when the subject is one that is difficult for their culture to understand. Here in the west, they close a book only to open up a phone. They set down a sword, only to pick up a gun. These artificial transitions have always been curious to me. Please do not misunderstand, miss Strange. When others came to us with the spear, we responded with the panther. When others came to us with the gun, we responded with the panther. When others came to us with tanks, we responded with the panther."

The sleek black car idles absently behind T'Challa. It does so silently, and there is no scent of emissions coming from it. It waits for him. "For us, there is no balance to be had. Our tradition and our technology has always been one and the same, with each answering ideology and need as is appropriate."

*

Bright blue eyes sparkle as she talks, yes, giving away her passion cor the subject but there's more behind that. An alertness and sharpness that one might not expect from the sorceress. And it takes in everything about the King as he responds.

For heartbeats, she's silent. Finally, "I think we could learn a lot from you and your people, Highness." For one trained to look for such things, there's no hidden agenda or malicious intent from her. Just genuine curiosity accompanied by a deep sense of respect.

"I would love the chance to learn more about it if you'd be willing. Perhaps some time when it isn't pouring and I'm not keeping you from getting somewhere warm and dry. For which you have my deepest apologies."

*

"It only rains briefly in some places where I come from, but when it does, no place is dry."

T'Challa is mostly indifferent to the rain, however cold it may be. Of course, it is easy to say that when one has an umbrella. There are many without that luxury. T'Challa, for his own, has only to watch the student quietly. She takes a moment, chooses her words carefully. It's important she does so, because the man misses not a single one.

"I find it is important that we do all we can to educate others about our cultures," T'Challa replies finally. "I will be in contact with your university, Miss Strange," he says, the words carrying slightly more weight than they did previous. He makes no other promise, no other grandiose or sweeping statement as anyone with great power might.

"I hope you find yourself as well and as brave in the days to follow," the man quietly bids, before stepping into the back of the limousine. His attendants work quickly, responding to even his slightest whim, and the door is open long before he ever takes the three steps necessary to enter it. For his part, the one man attending to the matter of Sofia's umbrella offers her the parasol briefly, before taking his own leave. Getting rained on seems not to bother him overmuch either.

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