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Generated: Mar 22, 2019 1:21 AM
Post last updated: Mar 22, 2019 1:21 AM
cryptozoology 101
xenolev/mermaid sky. dead dove do not eat
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In retrospect, given the sort of world he lived in, it should have been obvious that high school was not going to end with him walking across a stage and collecting a diploma, but instead with him falling into a mad scientist's portal and being transported to an alternate dimension.

It's the sort of thing that happens to mutants. 

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There's a bright flash of light, and a roar of sound, and then Lev lands on a cold linoleum floor in front of a very tall, somewhat Japanese woman eating a sandwich.

 

"...what."

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"Mad scientist portal." Lev rubs his head. "Is this an Earth?"

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"Yes – mad scientist portal?"

She puts down her sandwich and reaches for the radio on her hip.

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"Uh. I forget what the politically correct term is-- the genius scientists who instead of using their powers to win Nobel Prizes use them to rob banks and turn people into dinosaurs? Earth-2853 has a lot of them."

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She presses the button on her radio.

"Spatial-temporal anomaly in mess, class unknown, ostensibly artificial. One apparent human. No immediate threat. Come immediately."

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Oh, good, he didn't land on a world totally free ot weird shit. That would be hard to explain.

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"...please explain your dimensional numbering system."

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"Universes are numbered by people who do a lot of interdimensional traveling. I don't think there's any particular system for which universe gets which number, it's just the order in which they were discovered." 

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"You've discovered 2853 separate dimensions? –how are you classifying these? Are you counting microdimensional planar shifting? Cryptogeographical features with properties that–"

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An even taller, slightly more Japanese man emerges from a hatch in the floor.

"What."

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"I don't know what those words mean. The highest number I've ever heard was 600,026, but I think that's more a fact about which universes the interdimensional travellers bother to talk to our Earth about rather than how many Earths there are per se. Nearly all universes have an Earth and the most common differences are things like-- uh, 92202 is a universe where the dictator of a particular country is instead a pediatrician, 522 is a universe where a particular alien brings life to planets instead of eating them, in 21050 the universe where everyone is zombies went to war with the universe where everyone is apes--"

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"...the institute is going to have questions for you."

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"In five months."

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"You know, in retrospect, the Avengers really should have trained me in making interdimensional first contact, I have no idea what I'm doing."

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Whatever she says isn't in any language Lev will be familiar with, but it is very audibly a curse.

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"Was this mad scientist portal under your control in any way?"

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"Nope! I was kidnapped for reasons too complicated to explain in a sentence and then I fell into it because I'm clumsy."

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"...then you're under our care for the next five months, until the next shift."

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"Who is 'us' and why does it matter whether it was my mad scientist portal?"

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"Formally, Oceanic Research Team Ares. Practically, the two of us, and our support team."

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"Currently no one."

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"It matters because unless you can transport yourself again, you're stuck here."

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"Cool. That's very cool. I don't actually know what Oceanic Research Team Ares is either."

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"I didn't expect you to."

She leans back in her seat.

"We're here for cryptoanthropological field work. 'Here' is a microdimension intermittently contiguous with the South Pacific ocean. It is currently not."

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"Well, it looks like some new cryptoanthropology fell on you."

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"It did, yes."

She pauses.

"If you're not human, now is the time to disclose."

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"Nope! Homo superior. --In my defense I did not name it."

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She looks similarly unimpressed with the nomenclature.

"And what distinguishes homo superior from homo sapiens, exactly?"

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"Homo superior has the X-gene, which gives us superpowers, and sometimes changes what we look like. This is the point where if I had a useful power I would levitate something or read your mind, but I do not have a useful power, so I can't demonstrate unless you have some Sudoku books lying around."

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"I do."

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"He was being facetious."

She looks Lev over critically.

"...well. You're with us for the immediate future either way. What can you do?"

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"...I can solve Sudoku very very fast."

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"...and this is the same gene that gives other members of your species the power to levitate or read minds."

This is very scientifically dubious.

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"I can also digest calories more efficiently than a baseline human."

(He is worryingly thin.) 

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"...that's a problem."

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"We'll have enough supplies to stretch if we start using the nets and the rest of the farm."

She turns back to Lev.

"Other skills?"

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"Nothing that's particularly likely to be relevant. I'm a high schooler."

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Why has god forsaken them.

"Then you'll be learning new things. We need three hands to sustain three people on the rig."

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–something occurs to her.

"...my name is Dorothy. This is Kyou. You are?"

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"Lev. I'm a quick learner, but I'm also clumsy enough to fall into mad-scientist portals, so that probably affects what jobs you want to assign me to." 

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"...yes, it does."

She contemplates him for a moment.

 

"We should take you through the rig. The sooner you're familiar with it, the better."

She stands up. Sandwich can wait.

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"I'd like that," Lev agrees. 

He turns his power on. Question: are these people going to hurt me? Dataset: everything that has happened since he got here and is going to happen on this tour.

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Dorothy leads them both (Kyou follows, silent) up a ladder out of the mess, through a side corridor, up another ladder.

She's brisk and efficient as she walks them through the upper levels. Solar panels, automated farms and fishing equipment, storage, lifeboats, observation deck. Some doors she passes without acknowledging, even if they're clearly important. The view from all the windows, and from the outdoor areas, is clear blue water stretching for miles.

Below, down some more ladders (there are a lot of ladders in this place), is the mess, more storage, living quarters – she assigns Lev a small and not particularly exciting but not uncomfortable room, and keys the lock to his thumbprint.

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Partway through the tour, Kyou glances at what appears to be his phone.

"...we have a visitor."

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"–we can finish the tour later."

She takes a sharp turn and leads them in a different direction.

 

On their way, they pass a large window, presumably reinforced in some way. Hundreds of brightly colored fish swim past in a cloud – further out, forests of underwater vegetation and spiraling rock features are distantly visible.

There's also what looks...approximately like a human silhouette.

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It's a bit of a waste of calories to ask for an answer twice, but if they're distracted by the visitor he can run. 

He asks his power for the answer.

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If they don't expect him to be an immediate threat, they won't hurt him any worse than confining him to quarters.

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Kyou palms them through a heavy door.

Beyond it is the largest room they've been in thus far, even counting the greenhouse – it's something like an artificial beach, filled with greenery and soft sand, with a deep pool dominating one half of the room. An entire wall has been replaced by a window, looking out into the sea.

There's something waiting in...what looks like an airlock, under the surface of the pool. It's humanoid from the waist up – what's below is hard to make out through the ripples.

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Gosh. 

"Is that what you study?"

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"Yes. We're trying to be diplomatic – please don't do anything rude or stupid."

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Kyou snorts as he taps something out on his 'phone'.

The airlock slides open, and the creature underneath the surface comes swirling up through the water.

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A head pokes up from the water, and then shoulders, and then he pulls himself partway up onto the beach.

He's roughly human, from the waist up, a slim and athletic dark-haired boy, except for the gill slits and the spines down his back and the delicate fins extending from his wrists and shoulders. From the waist down, he's something like a lionfish with the colors inverted, deep black and sky blue stripes, coloration that screams "poison". His fins fan out around him in a cloud under the water.

His gaze flicks over to Lev immediately.

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oh no he's hot

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He gestures at Lev.

"What's this?"

He has a pronounced and unusual accent.

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"A guest. From a different place."

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Lev waves. "Hi. I'm Lev. I'm a mutant."

aaaaaaaaa stupid stupid stupid

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"What is that."

He pulls himself a little further onto the beach, gazing up at him.

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Dorothy, who was looking suspiciously at Lev up until now, gestures for him to explain.

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Aaaaaaaa the cute merman is gazing up at him what does he do.

"I have powers. Not very useful ones. I can solve puzzles really fast."

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"What is 'puzzles'."

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"Word games can be puzzles. Mazes are puzzles. I think."

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"–yes. I know this."

His tail swishes in the water behind him.

"You are a small human."

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"Yes. My power takes a lot of food to run so not a lot of it goes to my body."

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He nods.

He looks between Lev and the other two, curiously.

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Then he gestures at Lev.

"I want this."

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Aaaaaaaaaaa the hot merman just said he wanted lev. what does he do. how does he respond to this. 

(I want this-- he's going to jerk off thinking about that tonight, he knows it--)

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"...you can't have him. He doesn't belong to us."

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The merman looks deeply skeptical.

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"What does 'having me' mean?"

See, that's totally a normal question a normal person would ask and his voice hardly shook at all.

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"Give you food and then I have you for anything. Maybe eat you."

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...well that's some concerning new information.

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"I'm not sure it's a good deal for me if I get given food once and then get eaten."

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"Give you food lots of times. Only eat you a little."

 

"...probably."

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"How do you eat me a little?"

(Some part of Lev's brain is going "BLOWJOBS." He's not listening to that part of his brain. Being eaten would be bad.)

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He opens his mouth –

(His teeth are very sharp, white and gleaming.)

and sets his teeth against his own skin, then bites down. Blood trickles down and drips onto the sand.

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Those are definitely some feelings that he is going to sort out alone, in private, in his bedroom, without any clothes on.

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When he takes his mouth away, there's a ring of puncture wounds on his arm.

He gestures at it.

"A little."

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On the one hand, this is maybe...bad.

On the other hand, this is fascinating.

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The words come out of his mouth before he really thinks about them.

"You can eat me a little."

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His eyes light up.

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Dorothy grabs Lev's arm and starts to usher him towards the door immediately.

"Discussion. Outside."

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Yeah that wasn't exactly a great decision was it.

He goes outside.

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The door slides shut behind them.

"You're going to repeat after me."

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He narrowly resists the urge to say "you're going to repeat after me."

"Okay."

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"I will not fuck the mermaid."

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"I will not fuck the mermaid."

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"If Dorothy catches me trying to fuck the mermaid, she will break my arms."

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"If Dorothy catches me trying to fuck the mermaid, she will break my arms."

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"Thank you. You can stop repeating."

She folds her arms.

"You thought it was a good idea to offer to let a cryptid eat you?"

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"I... haven't had a super great past couple of years."

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Oh, god, she's incredibly unqualified for this.

"...being eaten alive by a mermaid most likely isn't the answer."

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"No, but if I'm lost indefinitely in an alternate universe and I have no idea how to get home, and also I've spent the last year constantly getting kidnapped by psychopaths, and also my dad has been alternately terrifying and depressing for the past three years because he was mind-controlled and murdered my boyfriend, I-- it doesn't make me want to die but 'I might die' is a lot less of a negative than it would otherwise be."

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"Do you...need someone to talk to."

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"Honestly I'd rather fuck the mermaid."

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The door slides partway open.

"I can't answer any of these questions. I've known him for an hour."

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"What questions is the mermaid asking about me?"

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"Where you came from, and who feeds you, and if your...hair is...soft."

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"I came from another world where we don't have mermaids; the people who live underwater on my earth have blue or green skin and gills but otherwise look human. I hope these people will feed me if I do work. I have been reliably informed my hair is soft."

(Answering questions is not fucking the mermaid.)

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"Bring this here!" comes a voice from the room. "Give me this!"

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"...approved," she says, resigned.

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Lev goes back into the room. 

Looking at the mermaid is also not fucking the mermaid.

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The mermaid is so excited to see him!

He reaches out a hand.

“Here!”

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"I'm not supposed to let you eat me," Lev clarifies.

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“Not eat,” he clarifies. He pats his own head.

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"...I'm pretty sure I'm not allowed to do that either."

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He looks pointedly at Dorothy and Kyou where they’re hovering.

“If I can’t I don’t come back.”

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“...also approved.”

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Eeeeeee.

He moves close to the mermaid for hair-petting.

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!!

He pats Lev’s head sharply a couple of times, to watch the curls bounce, and then shoves both of his hands into his hair and starts to stroke and twirl and occasionally pull it. He seems to be making important discoveries, given his fascinated expression.

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Are the important discoveries the tiny happy whimpery noises Lev keeps making?

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Those are also important.

“You like my touching,” he observes.

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"I do." His voice is breathy.

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“I want more touching.”

He starts to pull at Lev’s shirt.

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why

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"Don't do that," Lev says, very reluctantly.

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He looks suspiciously between Lev and Dorothy and Kyou.

“...okay,” he says, reluctantly, and returns his hands to Lev’s hair.

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If he keeps pulling the little whimpery noises can turn into little breathy moans.

(He's kind of forgotten he has an audience.)

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He’s very pleased about this.

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Eventually he looks up at Dorothy and Kyou, right past Lev.

“I see this all days.”

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“That—“

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“I give you something.”

He shifts, lets go of Lev’s hair and turns around to disappear into the water.

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Oh, wait, he had an audience that whole time. 

Maybe if he just. Ignores this entire situation. It will go away.

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Everyone else seems to be in agreement that ignoring the situation is the thing to do.

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It takes several minutes for Sky to return.

When he does, he’s holding something in his hands, a large fragment of shell that appears to have ornate designs and marks etched into it.

“I trade this.”

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...Dorothy approaches, carefully, and takes the shell fragment from his hands, looking it over.

“Are there...more of this?”

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“Maybe.”

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The hot mermaid is buying him with shells.

This is fine. 

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“It says, ‘war a lyt pakk en ztoh ša’ and some other things.”

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Dorothy looks aside at Lev.

“Do we have your consent for this?”

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"Yes absolutely."

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“Bring us more of these. He can see you when you visit.”

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“What is ‘consent’.”

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"It means that you only do things to me if I say 'yes I want this.'"

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“I think I not.”

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That's really hot! Lev's judgment is very very questionable. 

"...I think Dorothy would say 'no' to that and then you wouldn't get to see me at all."

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“Dorothy would say no to that.”

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“...okay,” he says, making a sound somewhere between a hiss and a grumble.

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“Maybe I bring more things. Then not that.”

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"You could kidnap me and then not that," Lev doesn't say, because he is pretty sure it will get his arms broken by Dorothy, who's both a girl and not xeno. 

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He looks between them all again.

“I want the tablet,” he says, after a minute, “and this touch my head.”

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Kyou crosses the room immediately to retrieve something.

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Lev could tell the mermaid that his name is Lev, but it's kind of hot to be called "this."

He touches Sky's head. It's been a while, but he remembers the things Sasha used to like.

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He makes odd little chirruping noises and pushes up into Lev’s hand. His hair is very wet.

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Kyou returns with a large tablet in a waterproof case, which he sets in front of Sky.

It’s displaying what is, by all appearances, some kind of point-and-click game.

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Lev does more of the things that result in the odd chirruping sound!

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Yes. Good.

He starts to tap around on the tablet: it looks like an adventure game of some kind, but the tablet reads out words whenever he taps. "School of fish." "Rock." "I tie the rope to the sunken boat." "I swim up."

Every so often he stops playing and just appreciates the petting.

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Lev is such a fan of petting the hot mermaid. 

It occurs to him that it has been several years since he got to pet anyone and he really missed it.

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When his character emerges from the water, he taps a few times. Sky. Sky. Sky.

“...have a name?”

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"Lev." He ponders whether to call himself 'Lev Stark' or 'Lev Aarons' and decides that mermaids are probably unfamiliar with the concept of surnames. "Your name is Sky?"

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He nods.

“Is a ‘Lev’ something?”

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"It meant 'lion' a long time ago in a different language, but it's just a name in English."

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He nods.

Kki means Sky.”

 

“What is a ‘lion’.”

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"A lion is." He thinks about it. "A lion is a kind of animal. Lion eats other animals and they have soft hair like mine, but all over their bodies, and the males have it much longer on their heads. They live in groups on land that's covered in grass-- do you know what grass is? Humans think of lions as being very brave." 

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“...eats other animals like a shark or eats other animals like a mackerel,” he asks, cautiously.

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He thinks. Lions are apex predators, so... "Eats other animals like a shark."

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He laughs and nudges Lev’s chest with his fingertips.

“Not a shark.”

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"I'm not! I'm, I don't know, a cleaner fish."

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“...cleans with mouth?”

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Slight blushing!

"No, I mean-- I can't hunt my own food, but I am useful to other people and do things for them they can't do themselves, and so they feed me."

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He nods, seemingly satisfied.

“I thought that.”

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"Somehow I don't think you have much use for grantmaking at a large philanthropic foundation."

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“...you say that to make me confused.”

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"Yeah, sorry. --The last person to feed me fed me because he had lots of extra things and I helped him figure out how to give people his things in ways that made them as happy as they could."

(He has, once again, kind of forgotten about the observing people.)

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“...he gets mad about that?”

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"I'm confused. What would he be mad about?"

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"You give people his things."

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"No, he wants to do that, because he wants to make people happy."

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"...he has many many many things."

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"He is one of the people with the most things of anyone in the world."

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”Ohhhhhh.”

He looks fascinated.

”You are also his thing?”

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"Not... really, but I think explaining that involves concepts like 'consent' that you're bad at. Anyway, he's very very far away now and I don't know when I'll get back."

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He nods.

“Dorothy and Kyou keep you for him.”

Pause.

”And I too.”

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"Yes. You can keep me for him."

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Sky is distinctly pleased.

“You give his things and make me happy.”

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"That's not exactly how it works."

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“Give Lev to me!”

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(He probably shouldn’t laugh about this.)

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"I don't think they want to give humans to mermaids."

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He makes a face at them.

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“He’s not wrong. We don’t.”

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“...anyway if I take you far, you stop breathing and die.”

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"Probably I should live here and you can come visit and talk to me whenever you want."

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"I think that is okay."

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With that settled, Lev goes back to petting his hair.

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Sky enjoys this!

After a minute he flops aside to lay his head in Lev’s lap, minding the spines on his back.

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Lev glances up at Dorothy for approval.

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Dorothy nods.

(Is that almost a smile, or is he imagining things?)

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Then Lev will continue to pet Sky's hair, and begin hesitantly to touch his neck.

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He makes blissful noises. The fins on his upper shoulder flick against Lev’s body.

“Good at soft touching.”

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"Thank you."

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He just hums and enjoys himself for a while.

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After a while he sits up.

"I go now," he declares. "Come back at night."

He reaches out and ruffles Lev's hair.

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Lev hisses. "See you tonight."

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He turns around and then slips back into the pool, tail flicking behind him.

He's gorgeous, spiraling through the water, and then he's gone.

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"...we're bringing you on as a research assistant, then."

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Lev is staring at Sky with a goofy expression on his face.

When Dorothy says that, he blinks and says, "I would probably be better at being a research assistant than I would at fishing."

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This is going to be a disaster.

"Good."

She beckons for him to follow her out the door.

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Lev does!

He ponders how much to tell her about his power. His power said that they wouldn't vivisect him but that doesn't mean they wouldn't hand him over to someone who would vivisect him.

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She leads him to a back room full of monitors and cables and locked drawers, and removes a small roughly phone-sized tablet like the one Kyou carries, along with a small zippered case that turns out to contain a microphone one can attach.

"This is for notes and recordings. We're generally recording that room when someone is in it, but close-up audio is easier to work with."

She plugs it into a computer, messes with settings briefly, then disconnects it and hands it to him.

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"Thank you."

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"...there are some texts in the database, but right now what we really need is for someone to spend time on his language development and build a relationship. You seemed to be doing well with that."

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"Texts in the database?"

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She takes the tablet and shows him.

Through this application, he can access the rig's database, which includes basic encyclopedic information and more varied information on linguistics and programming and conventional anthropology and some very detailed information on cryptids, cryptobiology, cryptoanthropology, cryptogeography.

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He's unconsciously started bouncing a little bit as he scrolls through the list of information on cryptids.

Lev really, really wants to use his power on this stuff. But calories are limited on the rig-- he's just not going to be able to run it on everything they know about cryptids and see what turns up. And he can't tell them without risking vivisection.

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"...I was excited, too."

She's definitely smiling this time.

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Wait, he totally has a great dataset to use to figure out whether they vivisect cryptids.

"Can I go read this stuff for a bit?"

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She nods.

"We can alert you if we need you. Do you remember the way back to the contact room?"

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"Yes."

And he sits down at a table and starts reading and asks his power "what are these people's research ethics like?"

(He's going to be so hungry when he's done.)

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There is a lot to read. Migratory habits of selkies in the changing climate and polyandry in Grecian harpies and merfolk anatomy and diet and sasquatch cave drawings and a case study on an alraune that raised a seedling with an asteria...

He couldn't possibly get through one percent of this in a day.

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He looks for anatomical papers, medical papers, papers on the structure and function of cryptid body parts. Things that you would plausibly need to vivisect someone to find out about.

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Most of this is merfolk. An old paper on cecaelia internal organs. Sharkmaid gills and how they differ from those of normal sharks. General merfolk reproductive anatomy.

There's a lot of this, too.

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When he's read twenty or so papers he checks in with his power about their research ethics with particular attention to whether he can expect to be vivisected.

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Vivisection and other gross mistreatment of cryptids used to be common, but isn't anymore. Now it's mostly regular mistreatment on the scale of what you'd expect with marginalized human populations with low tech levels. This particular organization has a fairly high standard of ethical behavior that does not include any involuntary vivisections.

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That's good.

He gets up to find Dorothy. 

His head is swimming a little bit but it's okay, at this level of hunger he won't faint.

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Dorothy is still where he left her. She looks up when he enters.

“What have you been finding?”

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"...I lied to you about what my power is. Well. Not lied. Strategically omitted."

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Dorothy nods.

“What is your power, then?”

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"If I have a question, and a set of information, and it's possible to figure out the answer to the question from the set of information, I can figure it out. The reason I'm telling you this is that I read twenty anatomy papers and figured out that you don't vivisect cryptids. I'd have something more impressive but my power runs on calories and I haven't eaten anything since lunch, so if I tried to use my power again I'd faint." 

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“...I’m going to take you to the mess,” she says, in the tone of someone who is very much still processing.

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"That's a good idea."

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She does.

She leaves him at the table — when she comes back from the kitchen, she has a a handful of fun-sized candy bars.

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It is astonishing how quickly a person can eat a handful of candy bars!

A few minutes later, Lev's head isn't swimming anymore, although his stomach is still letting him know that more food would be desired. 

"I don't know how careful I should be about using my power. I guess the answer is 'very' if you think you'll have trouble feeding three baselines."

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“We’ll manage. But — yes, we’ll have to start relying entirely on what we can grow and catch —”

 

“Can you explain more about your ability?”

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"I'm not sure what you want to know?"

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“How reliable it is — the kinds of results you’ve had in the past —”

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“...you are not obliged to answer any questions I ask you,” she says, reluctantly. Research ethics.

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"I'm not reliable if someone is deliberately fucking with me, and sometimes the best answer I can get out of a dataset is 'not enough information to say.' I'm most useful in math and science-- I've proved a couple of dozen theorems-- but I like social science more so I usually work on stuff like that. On Earth I mostly work for my dad's philanthropic foundation-- man, explaining the relationship I've glossed as 'my dad' is going to be a long story-- and with his superhero team, the Avengers. Uh I've figured out two celebrities were dating from their public interviews, I figured out a crime lord was trying to clone Hitler and give him a hate-themed mind control ray-- long story--"

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Superhero team. Cloning Hitler.

"Hate-themed...mind control...ray."

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"My home universe is a very strange place."

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"You are very right."

She eyes the pile of candy wrappers.

"Do you need an actual meal?"

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"I'll be okay as long as you don't want me to use my power."

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"It's probably best to save it for emergencies until we're on land," she says, reluctantly.

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"I guess," he says, very reluctantly. 

(Maybe he can carefully ration out Sudokus.)

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"You don't like this any more than I do, do you."

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"Using my power is... one thing that's always good."

It is maybe more obvious than he hopes that he's omitting the "the".

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"When we're back on land, the institute will want to feed you as much as you can stand. You'll have as much work as you want."

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"That's good. I like work. --I like social science better than natural science, if I have the choice."

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"–of course you have the choice."

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"I didn't want to assume."

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"You have the same rights as any sapient being, and anyone who would claim otherwise will be dealing with me."

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"Thank you."

Oh, look, a real smile, not a pained anxiety smile!

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Nerds and cryptids both tend to get the best of her. She smiles slightly back.

"...is there anything else you need to ask, now that you know you're not going to be vivisected?"

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"...do research assistants get to fuck the mermaid."

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"Do research assistants want to record this for review?"

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"Well, if it'll advance science."

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She looks like she's struggling to decide whether to laugh or not.

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Lev was extremely serious!

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Okay. Serious face. This is serious.

"...normally, research assistants get to do that even less. And I don't trust that anything you did to him wouldn't be overlooked once someone knows what your power can do."

She stops, and looks at him, to hear his objections.

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"...I am not going to rape the mermaid. I might have fully consensual sex with the mermaid if you sign off on it."

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She nods.

"...I don't have a reason to think you would. But I've been wrong too many times not to be very careful."

 

"If you're not responsible about it, the threat still stands."

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"If I somehow manage to survive the process of raping a mermaid given that I am, like, an unusually malnourished toothpick, you will break my arms. Got it."

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"There are more ways to be irresponsible about sex with an unintegrated cryptid who sometimes relies on us for shelter than violent rape. Don't be obtuse."

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"...You should probably list them off in case there are assumptions about sex that don't hold across universes."