Jul 05, 2020 5:59 AM
River Tam lands on an orc planet

She doesn't react at first when the monster appears. There's no one else in the landing bay for her to check the senses of, after all, and River knows by now that she sees things differently. A giant snake bearing a mirror really isn't all that strange. She tilts her head, examining it, wondering if her hallucinations are trying to tell her something or if she needs more sleep. Probably she needs more sleep.

(Of course she's hallucinating it has a mind, too, but, well, snakes don't just appear, and it's not like she can't imagine simple animal minds - ).

It's moving towards her. River wonders if it'll vanish when it touches her. Touch is more iffy, in hallucinations.

And then she passes through the mirror -

And she's not in Kansas anymore. (No, it wasn't Kansas that was Through the Looking Glass, that was... The Queen with the pawn promotion metaphor? She can't remember where Alice was from... River didn't bother memorizing a lot of geography for Earth That Was.)

And then River notices she can feel quite a lot of intelligent minds, a city a lot, and she usually can't hallucinate in this detail the flow of everyone -

She freezes, eyes darting around, focusing on who's nearby, on being receptive to flickers of danger -

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The city is full of ugly people! They have pointy ears, skin in various shades of grey - bluish grey, greenish grey, brownish grey, purplish grey - patchy hair, asymmetrical features, wonky dentition, and irregular skin conditions. Here goes a family of nine! There goes a family of twelve! They are crossing a bridge in opposite directions over a broad blue river in a town full of angular silvery buildings mostly seven to ten stories high, interspersed with color playgrounds, parks, and some open-air markets. She gets looked at but no one seems to think that suddenly appearing human girls are outrageous events.


They don't look like humans. They don't look like Reavers either, though. Do they see each other (and the city) the way she's seeing them? (But this is too consistent for a hallucination - )


They do see each other and the city mostly as she does but they can also see heat and are more offput by bright light glinting off the river. The walkways including the bridge are shaded.


There's no danger but she doesn't know where she is - are these aliens? There aren't many languages spoken in the Alliance anymore, the surviving languages of Earth That Was all blended together, but aliens shouldn't speak the unified tongue -

She listens for their language, trying to focus on sound and not translation.


There are several dialects of one main language, and some minority speakers of others here and there! The languages she can hear have no relationship to English or Chinese or anything else she's heard before.


She usually isn't the one interfacing with people off the ship. Usually if River's talking to a stranger, someone's threatening someone and probably at least one of them has a gun -

She looks around.


Does not, actually, know how to ask anyone 'what the fuck.'

She sits down, wraps her arms around her legs, and starts corresponding thoughts to sentences people are saying in the main language so she can figure out translations.


"How much do those go for these days?"

"Twice as much as they did when I was starting out, new planet loves them!"


"Mama mama mama mama!"


"I love you."

"I love you too."


"He pulled my hair, Grandpa -"

"Pull his hair back! When I was your age -"

"Papa says -"

"- used to - fine, what's he say -"

"...says to tell a grownup."

"Now you've done that. Don't know what you want me doing about it!"



"No mine!"


"But it's crawling with Elves!"

"Oh yeah but they mind their manners all right. I still don't like leaving Elves where nobody's really keeping an eye on 'em, you know?"


She would've known if the Alliance had contact with these people. They wouldn't have told anyone, not if they could keep it as a weapon, but their secrets have never been very good secrets around her.

She tries thinking in the new language. She's getting better at remembering when she's thinking something versus saying it, so it actually takes her a few seconds to switch over to mumbling words, practicing the pronunciation. She repeats other people's sentences first. "I was new planet," she tries, the first new sentence, until it sounds at least shaped correctly. Sounds ungrammatical - she can steal entire dialects from people's heads, prompted in part by what they think she'll say next, but an entire language is harder... "I used to new planet." No, worse. And she hadn't been on a planet, she'd been on a space ship, but she doesn't know the words for solar system or star or ship yet, and it wasn't new to her, it was Serenity, home, but it'll be new to them, maybe, unless they've been watching the Alliance eat itself from afar and doing nothing -

There's shivery things in the edge of her vision. Flashes of blue hands. People in white. Blood. The people around her don't see them, though (River checks, keeping a constant thread of attention on the senses of everyone looking in her general direction) so she doesn't react to them.


"How long has that human been there?"

"...dunno, a while?"

"Is she... sightseeing?"

"Why not, it's a nice bridge -"

"It's fine but it's not famous and she's barely looking at it. Can she hear us, how well do humans hear?"


(They know what humans are. That's interesting. Maybe someone other than the Alliance escaped Earth That Was?)

She's not sure if she wants people noticing her yet but there's nothing she can do about it, she can't make people not see her no matter how much she'd like to -

Slowly, she takes a deep breath and glances over at the people talking about her. (She makes sure they're the ones actually talking and not just thinking even though talking's so much quieter than thinking, it's such a tiny part of the brain - )


They are a trio of locals and a baby. The one holding the baby waves the baby's hand at her.






The trio wanders a bit closer. "Welcome to Dha-izubu!" says the one with the baby.


"Welcome?" She's heard most of the conjugations of 'to be' by now, so - "I am new." She still has an accent, unfortunately, and the words aren't strung together smoothly, still with stolen bits of intonation from other sentences. "Dha-izubu is planet?"

She stands, slowly, her posture mostly closed off and wary.


"Yeah, it's a planet - are you from that place with the weird monsters that come out of the ground, I hear that's not a planet?"

"Who has a teleport and not Allspeak?"

"Maybe there's... some kind of condition you can't get Allspeak with?"

"Hey, what languages do you speak for real, human?"


English, Mandarin, Latin, Greek, Old English and Old Mandarin and Japanese and Arabic and Spanish and bits of other languages - 

She says the name of each in its own language, fluidly.

Allspeak - she's unclear from their thoughts if that's magic or a Universal Translator type thing. But they have teleports, and places that aren't planets where people live - not a spaceship, the person's not visualizing a spaceship but instead a world surface - 


"I taked English with school," says the shortest one, haltingly, "but I am not best at it."


Maybe other humans escaped Earth That Was, then.

"That's okay," she says in English. She can read their minds anyways. "I can understand your language if you speak it, and I can learn it quickly." Hopefully. Keeping the words straight in her head's already getting hard, though, the way learning anything these days is hard. She never knows what she got where, or what she imagined or what's real...

She considers telling them she can read their minds. (She's going to have to be careful about not talking instead of thinking if they have a common language. Her crew are used to her babbling, but most people aren't). Most people don't like it. Some of them get mad at her, or scared of her, but she can't not.


"How do you understand it?" asks the one with the baby.

"Osanwë?" guesses the short one, by which he means mindreading.

"She's a human though. My friend's a test subject for the Osanwë Repair Project -"


"If they get anywhere take it to the Representatives. Anyway I think he'd know if there were humans with osanwë before they even figured it out for orcs!"


"It's my power. I'm not from - here. I don't know anything about orcs or osanwe. I was in a ship, and then there was a snake, and then I was here. So I don't know how things work here."

Technically these are true statements.


Orc with baby: "Ohhhh, one of the snakes! Yeah, that happens sometimes."

Tall orc: "Like... twice."

With baby: "I think more than that."

Tall orc: "Okay but not frequently."

With baby: "Anyway, that means you're within a hop of this world and that's great, this is a nice neighborhood." She's planning on reporting the matter to some offplanet authorities.


"Nice how?"


"The Empress's magic works around here."


"Who's the Empress?"


"Empress Isabella Swan. There's also her wife Lúthien" (short orc makes a face) "but she's got different magic, works wherever."

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