[Sonic Death Bot] Chapter 7: Danger: Yum Cha


The next morning, the Scientist asked Noble if she’d been stagnant in Hong Kong all this time or whether she’d used her robot brain and come up with any practical left-wing theories.

‘My slow robot brain?’

‘Or non-practical left-wing ideas. Anarchist ideas. Anything new would be welcome.’

‘Should we have breakfast first?’

‘Or are you also in the grip of the fake left?’

Noble got up and put on her Death to Servalan t-shirt. ‘There’s a yum cha place across the street. It’s full of right-wing elderly people, but you won’t mind as you won’t understand what they’re saying.’

‘You have been following the world, haven’t you?’

‘Is that a no to yum cha?’

‘You haven’t checked out…’


‘Fine, eat first. But you can’t dodge forever.’


At the yum cha restaurant, Noble tried to order, but didn’t understand what the waitress said back to her. When she couldn’t catch it a second time, she just nodded and said, no need.

The waitress looked at her like she was a physics textbook and walked off.

‘Do they not understand English?’

‘Not here.’

‘Must be tough.’

‘It’s my fault, not theirs.’ Noble started washing the bowls and chopsticks. ‘What’s this fake left you keep trying to group me with?’

The Scientist took the lid off the teapot, peered inside then put it back on.

‘It’s a kind of tea.’


‘Not poison.’

The Cuban smiled then leaned back in her chair and talked for thirteen minutes straight about the fake left, referencing terms and phrases Noble had never heard of, explaining the myth of Janus, mentioning wealth and class struggle before leaning forward and trying to sum it all up in one line: ‘Basically, it’s a bunch of rich people heading off change by asking for change.’

‘I’m not sure that makes sense.’

‘It’s a glib line, I know, but it’s true.’


Before the Scientist could open her mouth, five more people appeared from the wings and sat down on the other side of the table. One of them was the Cuban Philosophy Student, dressed in a Black Panthers hoodie, and the others…were very diverse. Almost inexplicably diverse, as if the Philosophy Student had handpicked them herself. One was a black guy in a Babel-17 t-shirt, another was a Chinese woman in a Sailor Moon top, the tallest of the five had a thick, Iranian-style beard, and the last one was in a beret and a wheelchair.

‘Don’t listen to her, Noble,’ the Philosophy Student said, pouring some of the tea into a cup that was meant for the Scientist.

‘She’s a traitor to the cause,’ said her Chinese friend, stretching out Sailor Pluto on her t-shirt.


‘Confused is more accurate,’ said the Philosophy Student quickly, before the others in the group could get their vocals out. ‘Her ideas are, sadly, stuck in the 70’s.’

‘The nucleus of the left-wing manifesto is eternal and non-changing,’ bit the Scientist, standing up, almost knocking over her bowl, ‘from Marx to Lenin to Althusser to Lukács to now, it has never changed, it doesn’t need to, not the core of it, not as long as capitalism exists. Base over superstructure, always. You’re the one who’s lost her way with all this false equivalence bullshit you’ve latched onto…these lunatics here.’

‘Bullying tactics again, Miriam? Sad.’

‘Oh, it’s Miriam now?’

‘You don’t like what we say so you try to shout us down, silence us. The exact same thing the misogynists do. Is that what you want? To be allied with misogynists?’

‘I’m a woman, you idiot,’ said the Scientist a little louder than intended.

‘In form only,’ muttered the Chinese friend, for some reason glaring at the teapot.

The Scientist turned to Noble, gripping the tablecloth. ‘Don’t listen to her, Nobes, she’s trying to twist your mind.’

Noble poured out some tea then pushed it towards the Scientist. ‘Perhaps we should not talk about politics?’

‘No, no, that’s what she wants. She’ll trick you, push you into topics that seem harmless, plant the seed then flip to politics and, bam, you’re in the cult.’

The Philosophy Student turned to the other four in her group, and all of them shook their heads. ‘This is what I mean by 70’s ideas. If you look like her, si, she’s on your side, she’ll fight, but…god help you if you look different. God help you if you’re a minority.’

‘Ah, that’s funny, and I thought we used to make plans for global south liberation.’

‘Theatrics,’ said the black guy, in a thick American accent, possibly Mid-West.


‘When it comes to action, you don’t do shit. Unless it’s whitey oriented tankie shit. Fucking Russia or the pale skins in Venezuela, all men pimping the patriarchy. You love that shit. But if it’s real people of colour, like me, my community…’

‘…you can fuck right off,’ finished the Chinese woman.


‘I mean…she thinks you can fuck right off.’

‘Yeah. Right. Exactly.’

The Scientist stared at the Philosophy Student, twisting the chunk of tablecloth in her hand. ‘How do you last five minutes with these clowns?’

‘My name’s Angela, not clown,’ said the Chinese woman, for some reason pointing at Sailor Neptune. ‘Named after literature goddess Angela Carter.’

‘And I’m Detroit, named after take a fucking guess, you patronising motherfucker.’

‘I don’t care,’ said the Scientist, keeping her eyes fixed on the Philosophy Student.

‘Not good enough for her, are we?’

‘Too low down in the gutter?’ added Detroit, grabbing Angela’s arm in solidarity.

‘What the fuck are you talking about? You’re not oppressed, none of you are. You’re middle fucking class. Probably even higher than that.’

‘Ah, I see, it’s the masses she’s interested in,’ barked Detroit.

‘The white masses.’

‘White Hispanic masses, to be fair,’ said the Philosophy Student, holding up both hands in apology. ‘It’s still racist, obviously, a pernicious strain of it, the nebulous idea that…’

‘Fucking ignorant one note sophistry,’ spat the Scientist, picking up a lai won bau and chucking it at the Philosophy Student. Somehow, it missed, veering to the left and hitting the guy with the Iranian beard on the cheek.

‘Ha, aiming for the Muslim,’ said Detroit, audibly tutting.

‘Trying to intimidate him,’ added Angela, fucking up a whistle.

‘Punching down’s a helluva drug.’

‘Okay, maybe we should go out and get a little air,’ offered Noble, standing up and trying to guide the Scientist out of the volcano.

‘I wasn’t aiming for him, obviously.’

‘Oh, I see, he’s not even worth your anger,’ said Detroit, jabbing a chopstick at his comrade’s wound. ‘We get it.’

‘It’s okay, it was an accident,’ offered the man with the Iranian beard, wiping the yellow goo off his cheek.

‘Don’t fucking shield her, Farrokh, she was aiming for you, everyone saw.’

‘Err…I wasn’t shielding, I was just trying to-…’

‘She aimed it right at your face.’

‘Wrong, puta. I was aiming at her,’ said the Scientist, pointing at the Philosophy Student, whose face was now close to Fulci red.

‘Sure, that’s how it was,’ cut in Angela, caustic. ‘You were aiming for her yet somehow missed by a fucking mile and ended up hitting the only Muslim in the restaurant.’

‘I’m sorry, who the fuck are you again?’

‘She’s the black hole ghost of Angela Carter, puta,’ said Detroit, lashing out at the tray a waitress had just pushed into his foot.

‘The what?’

‘Don’t play fucking dumb, pale face.’

‘Okay, dial it down a bit,’ intervened the Philosophy Student before the Scientist could launch herself at the person who was in no way connected to Angela Carter. ‘As I tried explaining to you many times, Miriam, it’s invisible. Maybe you genuinely didn’t intend to hit him with the bun, I mean, I don’t believe that you did, but maybe, subconsciously…’

‘It was an accident.’

‘…deep, deep inside, part of you was afraid of him. No? Okay, forget the bun, but your anger in general, whenever you hear someone calling you out on something that you could do better, a blind spot…’

‘Don’t bother.’

‘..and I’m not saying it’s your fault, it’s the system you’ve been embedded in, the white man’s system mostly, but other men too, they’re the ones responsible for all this. Even those ostensibly on our side, the supposed communists and radicals, them as well. And…by not acknowledging this basic truth, you make yourself a pawn in it. And all we want, all we are asking you to do, is just take a breath…and examine it for yourself. Try to recognise who the real puppet masters are. And if you still think it’s not a problem after that, fine, we’ll believe you, but at least try to reflect on it. Have the maturity to do that much, for old times’ sake.’

‘This is impossible. Fucking insanity.’

‘Maybe we should let it rest for a while, Shan,’ said the wheelchair lady, leaning over.

‘Talk about other things perhaps,’ added Farrokh, wiping off a drop of custard from the bun.

‘Not a bad idea.’

‘Fuck that, it’s a terrible one,’ barked Detroit.

‘Traitors never accept self-reflection,’ added Angela, patting her comrade on the elbow.

‘Traitors?’ muttered Noble, confused.

‘Water carriers for white supremacy…’

‘…and the patriarchy.’

The Scientist drank some more tea, slammed down the cup, let it tip over then stormed out of the restaurant.

‘Wah, tankie didn’t even leave any cash,’ muttered Detroit.

‘Okay,’ said Noble, throwing down a hundred [Hong Kong] dollar note. ‘You lot can stay here, I’m going after her.’

‘Noble, wait,’ shouted the Philosophy Student, half standing but not agitated enough to do any more than that.

‘Let them go,’ said Angela, picking up a latticed taro thing.

‘They just need a bit of time,’ added Farrokh, making another run at the lai won bau.

The wheelchair lady coughed on some tea, then coughed again generically. ‘Maybe some of the positive aspects of our mission, if we laid it out and-…’

‘No coddling, Katya, they’re cemented in that shit. Not our fault they can’t dig out of it.’

The Philosophy Student sat back down and poured out more tea for herself, looking 27% more glum than when she’d arrived.

‘Serious, don’t mope, they’re not worth it,’ added Detroit. ‘All that fucking end capitalism, solve racism bullshit, it’s exhausting. We’re better off solo.’

Angela nodded then glared at Farrokh and Katya until they nodded too.


Outside, Noble quickly used her rocket boost to catch up with the Scientist, then led her towards the bicycle path next to the Shing Mun river. They weren’t being followed or confronted, but the Scientist suspected they were or would be soon enough, so Noble scooped her up and flew to the other side.

‘Nice move.’

‘Were they really following us?’ asked Noble, checking the old people playing GO nearby, relieved that no one had noticed her spontaneous flying act.

‘I think so.’

‘In that case, I’m not sure this is far enough. There is a bridge, I am certain they will cross it.’

‘It’s okay, you can fly us somewhere else if that happens.’

‘I suppose. If it’s an emergency.’

‘Good girl. Hey, what’s that place?’


The Scientist pointed to the building that looked like a red brick college with a Chinese temple roof.

‘That’s the Heritage Museum. It’s not very good.’

‘Any politics?’


‘Show me anyway.’

They went inside and bought tickets to the Klee Exotica exhibition. The Scientist asked why the Chinese were showing foreign art instead of local, so Noble took her to the chain of rooms displaying work by Hong Kong artists.

There was some electric shit and some red shit, but no left-wing shit and sitting down in a half empty theatre two hours later, the Scientist whispered into Noble’s ear, ‘I’m tired of heritage, shall we go back home?’

‘Where is home?’

‘Your place.’

‘That is not home for either of us.’


The Scientist watched seven local musicians play Gershwin then kicked the empty seat in front.

‘Do you want to explain things to me now?’ asked Noble, leaning into her comrade’s neck.


‘What happened in the yum cha place?’

‘The what?’

‘The Chinese restaurant.’


‘Tell me.’

‘Are we going back to your place or not?’

‘Why? We are here.’

The Scientist kicked the seat again, so hard that an old man two blocks to the left turned around and shouted something at her in Cantonese.

‘How did you end up in this dump, Nobes?’

‘The museum?’

‘Here, Hong Kong. Capitalist Disneyland. Fake Communist Town. What the hell have you been doing the last two years? Drinking coffee? Language exchange?’

Noble stared straight forward.

Jesus de Navas, you were our finest achievement. One of them into one of us. Winner of a four way battle to the death with right-wing fucks. Mid-air too.’

‘That was luck more than…’

‘And now this shit.’

‘…anything else. Sorry?’

‘What the fuck have you been doing all this time, huh? You fucking waster.’


‘Fucking coward.’


‘Fucking deserter, fucking absentee camper. Fucking waster of my talents.’

Noble tried to think of defences but the Scientist was already out of her seat and on her way to the exit. She could follow her, but something gave Noble the feeling that it would be a waste of time and, in a few hours, she’d turn up back at her place anyway, looking for something metal to play with.

Best to just sit there a while.

Absorb some more Gershwin.

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