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Generated: Sep 27, 2020 4:20 AM
Post last updated: Sep 27, 2020 4:19 AM
One after one by the star-dogged Moon
a d/s au Alessa and cousin in Daémon
Permalink Mark Unread

It's a fairly normal evening. He does most of the making dinner - two of middling-young subs are supposed to help him with this one, but Merre is trying to get ahead on homework and Antel is - hiding in his room, he thinks, he'll need to check on him later. He succeeds in causing their Uncle not to notice this; their Uncle likes the dinner or at least makes no complaints about it. 

They do homework, or have some freetime for the ones who are done. He distracts their Uncle with a chores question while someone has knocked over a stack of books trying to get to something behind them long enough for them all to be picked up. One of the middling doms starts bothering another of the middling subs, but one of the older doms gets there before he does, puts a stop to it. (He's glad she's in the house. Someone's going to be needed, when he's gone.) (He checks on Antel. Seems alright, just needing the alone time. Leaves him alone.)

(He looks at Kente, a few times. He hasn't tried anything else, not that Alessa's noticed. Which doesn't mean Alessa thinks he's done planning anything.)

 

"Doms can't deny all family contact," he tells Kente later, once they're in the room for the night. "It isn't like you won't ever see me again." (It's maybe not the best line of argument. But he thinks it's one he hasn't done yet.)

Permalink Mark Unread

His cousin glares at him. "You're right Ale. Obviously that's the only thing I was worried about, as as long as I can send you a letter now and then I don't care about anything else at all."

Permalink Mark Unread

It - wasn't a very good line of argument. But there's only two real arguments, really. We can't do anything about itI don't want you to be hurt. And he already knows how those ones go.

He falls asleep before he can think of anything new.

Permalink Mark Unread

They wake up somewhere else.

It's an oddly-shaped room with sterile-white walls and no windows.  Three beds sit in three narrow cells along one wall, each with a very thick metal cage at the foot of the bed and some kind of medical monitoring equipment above the headboard.  Kente and Alessa each lie in one of the beds.  In the cages at their feet are two strange creatures, also waking up.  The third bed is empty, its monitor off and its cage empty.  

On the other side of the barred doors of the cells is a man in a lab coat sitting at a desk.  The desk is arranged such that he can see all three monitors, though that is somewhat difficult as the room is crammed tight with machinery of unknown purpose.  A catlike creature lounges on top of one of the machines, watching the beds even when the man is looking down at his computer.

Permalink Mark Unread

That is... definitely not normal.

His first thought on waking up and beginning to take in his surroundings is that his future master wanted some sort of medical operation done to him, and their Uncle sent him off for it. Then he notices the strange creatures in cages. As far as he knows, that is not usually involved in dom-desired medical procedures. 

(He notices Kente. That - wouldn't be either. (How worried he is about the situation spikes up very hard. Does he - seem alright?))

He doesn't pretend to be asleep - there are monitors, it might be noticed - but he doesn't move very much. Tries to look around more for something that might tell him more. (And does the man look like a dom or a sub?)

(Did their Uncle suddenly decide to sell them both to some experimental lab? Did the government decide - something?)

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And what in the name of all the gods is happening now

His first thought on waking up and noticing the signs of a medical facility is that he was injured in practice or performance. On noticing the cell this changes to having had something go wrong at a party (that - wouldn't end well...). He doesn't seem to actually feel terrible enough for either of those. Did their Uncle decide he was getting in the way too much and send him to - something?

Then he notices Alessa and the creatures (and also that he doesn't remember either an injury or a party, not that that's necessarily completely eliminating for the second one). 

What in the name of all the gods did their Uncle decide to send them to? (Is Alessa alright? Are either of them tied to the bed or otherwise restrained?). (He will give them about two minutes to start doing something, and then he is going to try something himself.)

Permalink Mark Unread

Why is she in a cage. She does not like this. Can she do anything about it?

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The man has limp hair falling to just past his ears, whatever that might signal to the cousins.  His lab coat is free of identifying marks or personal touches, and he's not wearing any sort of visible jewelry.  His expression starts as one of boredom, but turns to impersonal curiosity as he notices they're awake and takes note of the changes in readings from their monitors.  

Other than being in cells that are shut and presumably locked, they aren't restrained.  Some bars have been placed on the walls beside the monitors with handcuffs dangling from them, however they hadn't been attached.  The secure bars separating the room were evidently deemed security enough.  

The cages containing the creatures are quite strong.  There isn't anything that can be done from inside of one.  (The cages are rated for anything short of a Legendary.  Even powerful moves like fire blast or blizzard would render the small room uninhabitable before cracking the bars.)

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(It's very strange to look at someone and not know. He - thinks dom?)

He can tell that Kente is about to do something. He - wouldn't have himself, not now. But if someone is to be punished as the example then it's going to be him.

"Excuse me, sir?" (A better direction to guess wrong in, if he did, and he should know soon enough, then.) "Could we know where we are and what is being done with us?"

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It occurs to him a moment too late what Alessa is obviously going to do. He doesn't try to overtake him immediately - them both getting punished first thing won't help anything at all.

Permalink Mark Unread

>:(

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Everything that is happening seems very worrying. He skitters into a corner of his cage and crouches there.

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The scientist takes a moment before answering, speaking in a tone that seems to convey both that he's far too busy to answer such questions and that he doesn't expect explaining to be worth his time.  "We are a science laboratory studying the effects of Binding.  That's attaching a daemon to someone who doesn't already have one.  Everyone from our world is born with one, hence why we needed to take some specimens from yours.  We expect the tests will take a few days, after which you will be returned to your home planet.

"Now, tell me: Are you experiencing any unusual surges of emotion that you would not have expected to feel in this situation prior to Binding?  Or any other things that stand out as unusual?"

Permalink Mark Unread

What.

For a moment he seriously reconsiders the party drug hypothesis. But this is not what his hallucinations are like, and if there was something doing ones like this he's pretty sure he'd remember hearing of it. Which means that guy really did just tell them that they've been kidnapped by aliens. For science experiments.

He lets Alessa take this one; he isn't actually going to try asking them why they think this is the kind of thing anyone would be going around having expectations about.

(Attaching what the hell to them?)

(Why do aliens look this much like them? Maybe the alien is actually the catlike thing, and the person is a projection to talk to them.)

(Does 'prior to Binding' mean they already did that? He tries to check around himself for anything that seems attachment-like.)

Permalink Mark Unread

"Thank you, sir." He will read that tone to mean that they're being given some leeway, mostly for practical reasons, but shouldn't test anyone's patience.

He doesn't know what a daemon is, what other world (- other world -) this is, what the tests might be, how they were taken and how they're going to be returned. If this is happening to other people from their world, or from any other world.

If they're going to be here for a few days, maybe he can try to figure some of that out. (He - isn't sure what he might do, even with more information. But maybe there's something. Or at least they'll have more to tell the government, when they're returned (if that part was true; if they'll be left in a state to do that). Not that he - thinks very much, of how the government approaches things. But if someone needs to do something about this, there isn't really anyone else to go to.

(...unless the government already knows, is cooperating with this. That - might be hard to keep secret for long, but it wouldn't have to be long...

...he'll try to pay attention for that too.)

And he needs to protect Kente, of course.)

 

He should be cooperative, which means he should answer their questions. Answer them honestly, if he can.

...Well, is he?

Permalink Mark Unread

What if she tries making a lot of noise.

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Whatever level of emotions they are experiencing, they are in fact about the same level they would be without daemons.  Whatever hypothesis prompted that question doesn't seem to be true.  They also don't have any kind of drug haze or injuries.  It feels like they woke up naturally after a restful night of sleep.  

The noise echoes in the tight confines, but doesn't seem to be melting the bars or doing anything else helpful.  The scientist and liepard look a bit annoyed, but make no move to quiet the vulpix.  

Permalink Mark Unread

"I don't think I am, sir."

He isn't going to react to the noise, it case that makes it more likely the scientist decides to do something about it. (He tries to look closer at the creatures. Wonders if they are from some other world, are from this world and forced to serve in this task in some way.)

"Could we know what a daemon is, sir?"

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The scientist gestures at the cages at their feet.  "Your souls, Bound into the bodies of pokemon.  Ditto, originally, though as with anyone old enough to have gone through puberty they have Settled into shapes that are suitable for your personality."

Permalink Mark Unread

What.

(And why did they have to be kidnapped by religious aliens?)

Permalink Mark Unread

If he is putting this together right, then the creatures are what - has been? - attached to them(?) (Is that - something he can feel in any way, if he tries?) (And the scientist believes this to be of some religious meaning, but he is used to taking apart statements that mix in with the religious for what their speakers mean in the present world.

Isn't sure he can guess what it means, in this case, but the scientist expects transmission of information about their personalities, and the scientist thought it might effect their emotions. An attachment as some conduit on that level?)

"I'm sorry sir, I'm not sure I understand?" He's expecting this more likely than not to be the point at which he's told to stop making a nuisance of himself and speak when spoken to. But he can't think of a much better way to say it. And - it's good probably to know the boundaries, and how they will be treated, if they're going to be here. 

Permalink Mark Unread

Both daemon and human are experiencing the same emotions for the same reason right now, so there's nothing obvious - nothing that couldn't just be imagined.

The scientist debates whether it would be worthwhile to explain more.  There's a decent chance that they'll use the opportunity to test whether intercision still causes personality changes when the soul has only been external for a short time.  Vulpix and spinarak aren't especially valuable to reclaim, now that they're no longer ditto, but they could come up with something.  Still, perhaps they'll provide more useful information if they know more.  (He records the entire conversation, as well as commentary on it, into his computer.)

"Our souls appear alongside us at birth, in the form of ditto.  In your world, they are within you, though not physical.  Our experiment involves pulling them out and making them more like our own.  They're still a part of you - you won't be able to travel more than a few meters away from each other, and if one dies the other does as well.  There should be some emotional connection..." he considers something, and trails off to begin typing.  Perhaps if they're moved to adjacent rooms, and one experiences a stimulus that the other does not, that would make the connection or lack more obvious...

Permalink Mark Unread

He isn't sure how to put together the references before to attaching a daemon and now to making them by pulling out and changing - something. (Probably he either misunderstood or is misremembering, or both of those. He needs to pay more attention.) (He also isn't very sure what the something might be. Not soul in the way that someone at home would say it - whatever Alessa himself might believe or not believe, the scientist clearly means a different thing than that. Attaches the word to something that can be pulled out like he says, changed like he says. And can die.)

But detailed questioning he isn't going to imagine would be welcome or well received, even if the scientist had had more tolerance for a sub's questions than he might have expected. 

"Thank you, sir." He falls silent, for now. Tries to see if he can see anything else about the scientist or what he's doing, or anything else here.

After a moment, looks a little hesitantly closer at the creature in the cage. (Can he reach through the bars with his gift, feel it at all?)

Permalink Mark Unread

(The creature looks back at him.)

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Meanwhile, he is pretty sure that in real life when you're kidnapped by alien scientists they do not really plan to put you back afterwards so you can foil their evil plans. Whatever they might tell you to keep you more cooperative. Which means they need to figure out a way to get out of here.

(He doesn't have any reason to believe that most everyone else in the world doesn't also think that pulling in random aliens for experiments is a just fine thing to do. But if they can take the creatures with them (which if he can believe the scientist on that they'll also have to) it sounds like they might have a change to blend right in.

(And his projection guess seems like it was wrong, but maybe the real explanation is that the aliens wanted similar aliens to try their experiment on. Or something.

On the bright side, it sounds like that catlike thing is probably the scientist's daemon, which, if he can believe the guy, might be an extra point of vulnerability.)

He also looks more around the room, in his case looking for anything that might be a tool or an opportunity, or that can be combined together into one. And also for if there are ways to get at the cat.

Permalink Mark Unread

Alessa can't feel it through the cage.

Careful examination of the cells shows that the room hadn't originally been designed as a prison.  The walls are some kind of drywall or plaster beneath the paint.  It would be too optimistic to assume there's not a layer of cinder block or something eventually, but that means the monitor and handcuff-bar can probably be removed without tools.  The cell bars look harder to move, but it might be possible if they can weaken the attachment points. 

Outside of the cells, there are a lot of large machines and a few thick cords of cables.  They are arranged about as neatly as possible, given the lack of space.  They all appear to be off, which in the cramped quarters is probably a good thing; it's already a little stuffy without the added waste-heat from the machines doing whatever they do.

Without further questions, the scientist has gone back to typing in silence.  The liepard daemon continues to watch them, looking disinterested.  

Permalink Mark Unread

Well, whether or not it might be a good idea eventually they can't exactly try prying things off the walls while they are being watched. He does try some more careful examination, with some attempts to disguise it as aimless looking around and tapping out some rhythms here and there. (What's the bed like? The sheets? Do they still have their own clothing? Are there shoes around, since they weren't wearing theirs to bed?)

He's also going to try getting out of bed, and seeing if anyone objects to that. 

Permalink Mark Unread

They are allowed to stand up and stretch without comment from their watchers.  Tapping sounds like drywall with a layer of some kind of insulation behind it.  Past that, it's hard to say.  The bars are hollow rather than solid metal, but too strong to bend and too closely spaced for even the smallest of them to squeeze through.  The side of the room with the cells doesn't have electrical outlets or vents, though there is a small vent visible on the ceiling in the far corner. 

The beds are twin-sized mattresses, firm but not uncomfortably so.  The frame is low and minimal, and appears to be made out of some kind of particle board or other pressed material, painted white.  All of the fabric is silk, including the mattress under the sheet and the scientist's lab coat.  The sheets and thin blankets have faint patterns on them, different ones per bed:  leaves, squiggly lines, squares.  Their clothing is the same as they were wearing to bed, lacking shoes, and if they had anything in their pockets it's been taken.  If they are to be given other clothing or shoes later, they aren't visible in the room.  

Permalink Mark Unread

It's a somewhat strange feeling, the absence. He can still feel himself as he usually does, so it isn't that his gift doesn't work at all in here (that happens sometimes, in stories imagining world-travel, and of course their kidnappers could want to suppress it even if their world doesn't). He doesn't have a way to tell, though, if it's about the creatures or about any matter of this world. ...No, he might. How close is the scientist to the bars?

Permalink Mark Unread

Slightly over two meters away.

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Too far for this.

It could be important to know, though. Depending on what is to be done with them, and on if there will be others, could be important very quickly. 

He feels as though they slept the night through; that might not be true, if their kidnappers can affect it, but it would be plausible that he'd think it was true.

"Excuse me, sir?" he says again. "Will we be given breakfast, or some other food?"

Permalink Mark Unread

He checks his phone for the time.  "In about two hours.  I can also call a guard to escort you to a restroom at any time," he notes, "It's the next room over, so your daemon won't need to be moved to keep you within the safe range, though it may be uncomfortable."

Permalink Mark Unread

"Yes, please, thank you sir."

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With a bit of typing, the scientist summons a second guard.  This one is a woman, followed by a yellow tapir-like daemon.  One at a time for security reasons, a cell is opened and the occupant can be led away.  With the daemon still restrained, the guard doesn't feel they are any threat, or at risk of escaping, and they are led with only gestures and words rather than by the arm so long as they don't start causing trouble.

Outside is another room, also oddly-shaped and small though larger than the first.  There are more machines and some plastic crates, but no cells.  The far wall has another reinforced door like the one they came out of, and the bathroom door is adjacent to the room with the cells.  No other doors are visible, nor are there more people other than the guard and scientist in sight.  However, the door to the room with the cells looks like it was designed to lie flush with the wall on this side, patterned such that it would be very hard to spot if shut.  If other doors exist, they might be equally hidden.

The bathroom is the sort where the entire tiny room doubles as a shower, with a sunken tile floor and a sealed cabinet under the sink for holding a towel and clothes.  The woman does not walk into the bathroom with them, instead waiting outside with her daemon for them to come back out.  

 

Permalink Mark Unread

(Dom? Sub?) 

He does not start causing trouble. (He doesn't feel very comfortable, in front of these strangers in his nightclothes. But that isn't important.) If the guard doesn't get close enough to him herself, he'll try to get closer, in some way that'll look natural, not like he's trying anything. Reach out. Can he feel her (not all of her, of course, but the matter of the part of her body closest to him he reaches for)? (He doesn't do anything, not anything she might feel. Just the reaching.) (Just in case, can he feel the probably-daemon?)

Since he's here, he pays attention to where they're going, to features of the way and of where they are. Does the other room look like it might be where the guard was before, or was she probably somewhere else? How did the door open, when she came in? Is the guard armed? Does she have more restraints with her, or a gag, or a strap or something like it like prison guards do?

Is the bathroom door locked? Can he lock it behind him? Are there any objects in it that might be usable for something?

The first kidnapper said 'it may be uncomfortable' - can he feel anything like that? 

Permalink Mark Unread

This one has slightly more dom-like mannerisms, but the aliens don't seem to adhere to the same conventions for identifying dom and sub.  Neither of them are leering or seem to find him interesting as anything other than a test subject, regardless of his clothing.  Her only weapon is a police baton, kept in the hand she isn't using to gesture.  The daemon has a belt with something phone-like in a holster, but no weapons.  She isn't wearing what he'd expect of a prison guard, though it does look more guard-like than a lab coat.  The clothing is loose enough to move but not grab onto, and is padded.  It is mostly yellow, the same shade as her daemon, with black and white stripes along each hem. 

The guard isn't deliberately trying to avoid getting within range, and it's easy enough to get within sensing distance.  She can be felt as normal, and feels indistinguishable from a human as far as he can tell.  The daemon does stay well out of reach, and any attempts to get closer to it result in a harsher warning and the brandishing of her baton.  

The reinforced door had a hand scanner (or something like it, that went all the way to the floor) on the inside, but no obvious mechanism for opening from the outside.  She doesn't bother shutting it behind her in between restroom trips, so the way of opening the hidden doors is still a mystery.  There aren't any chairs visible in the outer room.  The bathroom does have a simple lock on the doorknob, typical of a bathroom, but isn't locked by default and couldn't be used to lock someone inside.  The little cabinet for keeping things dry has a roll of toilet paper, but no clothes or towels currently inside.  A single bar of soap, eroded into a smooth oval, sits near the sink on a wire shelf.  It smells faintly floral, though not quite like any soap or flower he's familiar with.

At the farthest point between the restroom trip and the cells, right outside of the bathroom door, he does feel an unpleasant tug.  It's as if a part of him is being pulled unpleasantly away, and continuing beyond that point would be painful (a bad kind of painful).  Going into the restroom, which is closer in direct distance if not pathing, makes it go away again.  

Permalink Mark Unread

Of course signifiers would be different here - even in their own world, would he know who was who all the time in foreign or historic images, if it weren't for the captions? It feels weird not to be able to tell from how they move, carry themselves. But it isn't, really, not with what this is. But it'll help him learn, probably, to watch who he does see.

A baton isn't a surprising thing for her to have. (He wouldn't know how guards might dress in other places, but if these people are so similar to them, the work might come to about the same.) He doesn't do anything with his power - more likely they'd notice that. Ducks his head and says 'sorry, ma'am' at the warning and doesn't try to get closer to the daemon again.

Did someone use the scanner to open the door, or did the first kidnapper get it from his workstation?

...that is, indeed, not comfortable. (From his gift he can tell it isn't physical.) Can he tell anything more about it? Does it go from nothing to suddenly present and back, or does it build up and die down more slowly? Does anything linger after? Did he get any sign when it would happen, before it did?

Permalink Mark Unread

(The creature in the cage at the foot of his bed moves to the farthest extent the cell allows, and then curls up a little.)

Permalink Mark Unread

That doesn't seem great, especially given what the kidnapper was saying about 'souls' and 'bonds' and everything, but he doesn't think going 'what the hell are you doing' at the guy will achieve anything he wants.

He's glad to see Alessa looking at least seemingly alright when the guard brings him back.

On his own turn he'll make some pretty similar observations to Alessa (also think that two people isn't enough to know how people dress in general here. And if and how much they'd stand out in their nightclothes or alternatively if they stole these people's clothes, if they get that far. And that he's pretty sure it wouldn't end well if he tried locking himself in the bathroom now, but it might ever be something they might want to do.)

Given that it presumably happened to Alessa first, he's is relieved that the discomfort at least doesn't seem worse than what this is. Though he's not especially happy at having sudden mysterious pain sources. (Wonders as a side thought if whatever this is gets used for discipline here.)

On his way, he makes little illusions in both the other room and the bathroom. Blending in, at them moment. He'll have to keep in mind maintaining them, but he's done that for performances before. And it might end up somehow useful.

Permalink Mark Unread

Now it's the other creature's turn to look distressed (in a new way).

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He observes this with worry.

"Sir, is she alright?"

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They can't recall the scientist doing anything from the inside of the room before the guard entered, though they also can't see the screen of his monitor.  

The scientist glances at the open door.  There aren't any noises indicating an issue.  "Yes.  Daemons get upset when their human leaves their range.  Both sides do, technically, but humans are usually better able to handle it.  Didn't you experience it when you left?  Your spinarak reacted."  He jots down the information.  He doesn't have a hypothesis in mind, but any details on their bond or how they might differ...

The discomfort comes and goes with range, not lingering afterwards.  Anything within the bubble of acceptable distance doesn't hurt at all, while breaching that boundary becomes unpleasant suddenly, then worse with range from then on.  A meter or so for only the brief few seconds before and after entering the restroom door, is something that people instinctively avoid but not awful.  There is a strong desire to linger closer to their daemon's cage when they get back.

Permalink Mark Unread

"I experienced discomfort, like you said, sir.

Spinarak, sir?"

He should probably not let himself act on desires that come like that, right now. 

He keeps worriedly watching the other creature until Kente is back.

Permalink Mark Unread

The spider-like creature now tries to get as close to him as the cage allows.

 

Permalink Mark Unread

Oh, great, sudden pain sources and sudden craving sources.

He has the same idea as Alessa about what he shouldn't act on; lies back down on the bed.

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His creature does the same as the other; attempts to stick out limbs through the bars. 

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"The form your daemon settled as is referred to as a spinarak.  The orange one is a vulpix, mine is a liepard, Maize's is a drowzee.  There are a few hundred in all," he says, voice still in a monotone. 

He records their reactions.  Personalities are so annoying to work around, particularly in a small sample size.  There's also culture to have to keep in mind, and he is not an anthropologist.  Perhaps they aren't speaking with their daemons because they have no interest in doing so, or perhaps they are refusing to because they're being watched?  

The liepard decides to jump down and make her way onto the reinforced back of the scientist's chair.  They have a whispered conversation, too low to hear.  

Permalink Mark Unread

Yeah, if you want people to interact with something maybe you shouldn't kidnap them, nonconsensually attach it to them (apparently), and give them lots of reason to think you're going to kill them.

Permalink Mark Unread

He takes that in as information. (He wonders if doms and subs have different ones - and other things like that, the kidnapper had said 'suitable for their personality'.)

 

...they - can talk? 

That's a fairly enormous piece of new information. He doesn't do anything about it - he doesn't know enough, and as the kidnapper noted, they are being watched. He looks at the creatures with a different kind of worry.

Instead asks, "Would be be not safe to go farther away than we did, sir?"

Permalink Mark Unread

The scientist considers what to tell them.  It would hardly do for them to think they could escape.  "At least in naturally-occuring bonds, there is a chance of death when people are taken too far away from their daemon.  It would take several times farther than you went before there is any risk of that."  

It isn't entirely false, if overstated and overgeneralized.  

Permalink Mark Unread

"Thank you, sir." He knows better than to believe what he's told for certain, but it's still good to have an answer given.

"Are there other things we should know, sir? So we don't do something dangerous, or wrong?"

Permalink Mark Unread

He pauses before answering.  Much of daemon behavior, such as how some daemons choose to only speak to other daemons and their person, might be cultural.  Informing them of it when they don't have the relevant cultural expectations already might interfere with their future behaviors.  

"Don't reach through the bars and touch each other's daemons.  They don't need to eat, and we won't be providing you with extra food for them.  Other than that, nothing you can get up to in here.  A more thorough book will be sent home with you, once we've finished our observations."  

Permalink Mark Unread

"Thank you, sir.

What would happen if we touched, sir?" He isn't sure if the part about eating means that daemons don't get anything important out of food at all, or just that they won't starve and the kidnappers don't mind lesser effects than that. But he isn't going to ask that.

Permalink Mark Unread

Huh. The bit about the book isn't the sort of thing he'd expect a lot of people to think of, if they were trying to pretend they'd leave someone alive when they wouldn't. But maybe these ones did think of it. He'll - consider the possibility that they're maybe actually going to be returned, but continue to put most of his bet on not that.

...Or, the kidnappers don't want to give them daemon details to make it harder for them to run off, and the part with the book is an excuse so they don't keep asking.

Permalink Mark Unread

"It causes pain.  Humans can touch each other, and daemons can touch each other, but not a human and daemon who aren't attached."

Again, an implied half-truth.  The daemon and attached human experience pain.  The human touching the daemon... well, they do typically get punched or otherwise attacked afterwards. 

Permalink Mark Unread

"Thank you, sir."

 

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He doesn't even need to really look at Alessa to know they're thinking the same thing - that they can do that then, probably, if they have to. 

(He doesn't trust the kidnappers to be telling them the truth any more than Alessa does, but he figures the kidnapper would have said if it would actually kill or seriously injure them. Presumably they didn't bring them all this way to have them killed or seriously inured by accident before the kidnappers want.)

Not great to be causing pain to the - daemons. Who are apparently also people. Or something. But. If they have to.

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He'll stop disturbing the scientist again for a little. 

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Breakfast is brought as promised, by the same guard woman as before.  Baked root vegetables, a small bowl of unfamiliar spicy sauce, and a glass of fruit juice with a few frozen grapes inside.  The plates and cups are squares, with the bottom of the glass perfectly fitted into a separated square on the upper right of each plate.  They also each get a set of chopsticks.  Her daemon, the drowzee, stands back and levitates the food in as she briefly opens the door to each cell and watches to make sure they don't try anything.  The plates land on the flat, solid top of each cage.

The scientist gets an identical-looking plate of his own, which he eats off of the cart the guard brought rather than having to move his keyboard.  While turned, he seems to be paying less attention to the research subjects, though the liepard still watches them.  

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They don't have very much to do while they wait, but he isn't going to disturb the kidnapper over that.

They don't try anything.

...the daemons can have gifts too? That's - also very important information. Though maybe he should have expected it, if they're people. 

He still isn't sure what to do with this, given that they're under such supervision. Hopes he can think of something.

 

It's good that the kidnapper also got food, because they can look at him to know how to eat it, so they don't drink sauce by mistake or anything like that.

He's never used chopsticks before. He tries from example, but isn't very good at it.

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There's obviously a chance the food is drugged, but they're probably supposed to eat it, and if the kidnappers want to drug them they can sure achieve that anyway if they want. (Also he's hungry). He watches out for effects, though.

He doesn't bother with the chopsticks, eats the vegetables with his hands. If these doms care about etiquette in the subs they kidnap, they can tell him so.

Is the guard going to come get the dishes back? (Also, how is she opening the cell?)

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There are no effects from the food other than not being hungry afterwards, and Kente's hands getting messy from eating something not designed as finger-food.  The dishes are picked up about 30 minutes later, when the guard opens the door again.  The cells are locked with a mechanical key-based lock, the guard having the only set of keys they've seen.  They don't look quite like keys from their home world, but are close enough that they clearly work under the same principles.  

At some point after the meal, the scientist leaves, his liepard opening the door from the inside by pressing a paw to the scanner.  She stays in, watching them and frequently glancing at the wall in the direction he's gone.  Considering that he can't have gone far, he's probably in the restroom.  She hovers as close to the wall as possible, looking annoyed, but the two meters of space between the door and cell walls is enough that they're not beyond the comfortable range at any point.

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That makes him worry more again, about the - daemons in cages. ('Their daemons(?)' hangs mentally unsaid behind the thought). But he - hasn't thought of anything yet. 

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Meanwhile - he had the same idea as Alessa about not bothering the kidnapper for something to do. But there's one thing that is important enough to try.

He'll wait till the kidnapper is back, so it doesn't look like they're trying to take advantage of while he's out. Then exchange looks with Alessa to confirm they're on the same page. And move to the bars between his cell and Alessa's.

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They're on the same page. He'll do the same, from the other side.

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He does notice, glancing up as he does occasionally between bouts of reading or typing, but doesn't consider it worrying.  His assumption is that they're going to whisper to each other.  It would be preferable if they'd speak loud enough for him to hear, in case they were saying something relevant to the experiment, but he's aware that trying to insist they do would probably mean they wouldn't say anything at all.  

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They try holding hands through the bars.

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The liepard continues to watch, but doesn't find that worth remarking on.  It doesn't seem related to the daemon bonding experiment.

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That'll make this easier.

They don't know if there are cameras, or microphones. Are on full visiting-government-buildings caution. (Which might not be enough, depending on what gifts who has. But they can't do better, and they aren't going to not do anything.)

Kente's illusions appear in words, directly in his line of sight - shaped so that in any other line of sight they can't be seen; at any other angle they'll look like nothing is there. And if something watches from behind him hopefully he'll block its view.

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Don't think they're really going to let us go.

With another illusion he shields his own arm - Alessa can't do that part. Has some tricks if they're needed, but they make it harder. And this is already harder for Alessa. 

Words appear back, directly on his skin, Alessa's gift changing it before returning it back to how it was.

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Kente is... likely enough right. (It isn't that he'd believed the kidnappers himself, exactly. But he hadn't - thought of it quite as strongly, quite as his central orienting. Which - makes sense, he supposes. He's been put, plenty of times, into a place where something - unwelcome - was to be done with him. Had been about to be sent to another such, was readying himself for it. But no one had really tended to lie to him about it.)

He writes their communication version of a nod. Then,

I - don't know what to do with the daemons. About the daemons.

(It might surprise some people, that he doesn't try to write as shortly as possible, when he does this. But it's easier, actually, if he keeps it to what would be natural to him to say.)

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I left illusions in the other rooms.

Which isn't an answer to what Alessa had said, but he doesn't have one of those around either.

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I can't Touch the daemons. Could Touch the guards.

 

They talk a little more, exchange information and thoughts. Don't - really have a plan right now, either of them. Not even the sort of idea that'll shape to a plan if they run it around more. Some pieces, maybe. (Kente's illusions. His Touch. The guard has the keys. The bars on the walls. The kidnappers' daemons. The restroom locks from inside.)

But - better than nothing. And if they can talk, that matters a lot.

 

They separate out again, after a bit - don't want to push too long, not now or yet. Return to their own beds.

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Conditions don't change much over the day.  The scientist packs up and goes after another hour, leaving a camera in his place.  Lunch is brought by a pair of men who also bring in a small fist-sized device and hand it to Alessa, picking him of the two at random.  It can't access the internet or send any sort of signal, of course, but it can play a wide selection of alien music out of its internal storage.  The men occasionally return to offer restroom breaks and eventually dinner, but don't bother watching them in person now that their condition seems to be stable and healthy.

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Meanwhile, and surprisingly close-by considering the massive size of each ship, Azure, Alizara, and Verity are in one of the finer apartments available on the fleet.  Wooden panelling, a high ceiling rising into a dome lined in gilded patterns, and a floor whose tiles include a few thin slices of stone varieties that no rock-type Move can generate.  Their daemons are there as well, gallade, metang, and suicune.  The matching set of furniture includes large reinforced couches designed for even large and heavy daemons, back-to-back with the normal couch the humans are sitting on, separated with a narrow planter of tall grass.

Azure is skimming through the history of his family from over a century ago.  Real paper, printed up in the generation following the loss of much of the data from the dead world due to a flaw in the old computer databases. Of the three people in the room, he's the only one actually looking at the printed words, sprawled out with a sheaf randomly taken from one of the boxes no one has gotten to yet.  

His twin sister Alizara is instead taking each piece of paper, carefully setting them under where her camera is arranged on a tripod, and snapping a picture of each one.  Verity, not related but talked into the work anyway, is re-stacking the papers and putting them back in the same order they started in.  So far, they've gotten through two of the boxes and are halfway through a third.  

"Hey," Azure says.  "Did you know this ship used to have panic rooms?  Back when the Kanto noble families still meant anything, and the nobility wanted somewhere to hide if there was a mutiny."

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"That's nice, Azure."  

Alizara is busy fantasizing about ways to automate this process, if there wasn't such a risk of tearing the paper and if there were enough documents that doing so would be faster.  As it was, they could probably manage this by the time they went to bed.  The standard font had changed, but it was thankfully printed.  It wouldn't be hard to get a text-detection program to transfer the information into proper text files, once the photos were taken.

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"Want to go see if it's still there?  It won't take long to get to the entrance."

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"I could use a break.  We're about halfway through."

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Alizara sighs.  She would like the chance to stretch her legs, but Azure could turn a thirty minute break into a four hour trip.  From the time on her phone, most of the shops will already be closing for the night.  At least that meant they wouldn't be pulled away to shop.

"Let's finish up this box, so we can close it and not leave stacks of paper lying around."

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"Great!"

He compares the map to the official map on his phone.  As far as the official map is concerned, the small gap between the storage rooms doesn't exist at all, the subtle angling and warping of certain hallways away from where the should be unnoticable without obsessive measurements.

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Not long after, the six of them - three humans, three daemons - are walking a short distance through the main path of Topaz Hall. 

The Hall itself is a kilometer-long straight road, lined on either side by balcony levels that lead to three stories of houses and shops.  Bridges cross between the sides occasionally, draped with golden silk banners and lined with flowering plants.  The main lights that line the ceiling of this tall "outdoor" area are turned off for the evening.  Dimmer lights keep the paths navigable.  Shops selling clothing or electronics are closed, while the restaurants and small theaters are filling up.

It is merely a few doors over, down a ramp leading to the lowest floor of the Hall, then into a narrower side-hall with a janitor's closet and set of public restrooms that serves the handful of stores nearby.  Then into a storage room which was originally supposed to be for hammers and other tools according to the document, and seemed at the moment to have been abandoned.  An ammonia smell wafts through the room, part of the 'basement' between the Hall and the thick shielding of the outer hull.  A few crates of tacky mildewed rolls of wallpaper sit neglected to one side.  Other things look just as useless, and extremely heavy.

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"Ugh.  This place is awful.  You'd think someone would have taken this space and turned it into a... I don't know.  A bar?  A tea room?  We're right near some of the nicest shops on the ship.  It can't be that hard to clean up whatever's making that smell."

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"Assuming they got permission.  There's so much paperwork involved in doing things.  Whoever owns this place..." she starts to say, then trails off.  Considering where it is, it's entirely possible that his family owns it.

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"The smell might also be coming from the safe room.  Those are usually packed full of supplies, to wait out problems.  After a century of no one replacing it, it might be full of rotten food.  Then, if no one knows it's there, they can clean the main room as much as they want and still have the smell."

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"Then I suppose we'll have to open it and see.  Maybe stand partway up the ramp?  I'll have Florentho teleport me if the smell suddenly gets worse when I open it, and we can go tell someone who can come in with a hazmat suit or something."

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"Salanaya is steel-type," she reminds him.

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He's already searching for the nearly-invisible catch.  It takes a little while, but eventually...

A door pops out of what looked like normal wall, sliding quietly out of the doorway.  "Huh.  No.  Looks like machines?  It's safe to come back down."

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Alizara and Salanaya make it down first.  Verity and Araeneve had decided that the warning should be taken even more seriously, and had gone all the way to the top of the ramp.  

"Ooh," she steps in, her twin beside her.  Azure's Florentho leads the way in, lightly hopping between the crates and machines.  The doors are narrower here than in most other places on the fleet.  Her metang switches from stepping to hovering in order to enter without scraping the doorframe.  Verity follows with Araeneve all the way in the back.  

"I have no idea what these machines do," Alizara admits, running a finger along the top of one.  It's a little dusty, but then again not everyone dusts every surface weekly.  Also, a sealed room... would those be especially dusty, if there was nothing to turn to dust in them?  She isn't sure.  

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A door opens as they continue to look around.  Another of the hidden doors.  The woman and her drowzee take one look at the main room of the lab filled with powerful and unfamiliar pokemon including a legendary, emits a shriek, then tries to shut the door into the break room before they can reach her.  It slams shut and, having access to the control panel, she deactivates the external button and fumbles for her phone to call her boss.  

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"Oh!  Well, that answers the question of how long this stuff has been disused."

She goes to the door, but has no idea how to open it even if the button wasn't disabled.  Does knocking on it work?  

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The doors are soundproof.  Azure tries to open it anyway, even knowing that it won't work, then goes to try one of the two other hidden doors.  That one hasn't been locked from the inside.  

Florentho leads, in a combat ready stance, and Azure follows into the doorway of a room with three makeshift jail cells with beds and cages, two occupied, and an empty desk.  

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They're still being watched, in person or not. They keep acting accordingly. He tries to observe the men's daemons, when they come in, for more information.

(The kidnapper had mentioned tests. He isn't sure when those are supposed to start. Maybe there are already some running that don't need them to do anything.)

If no one seems to object, they trade off the device. Try to see if they can learn any more about the world from it. Talk silently a few more times. They have more pieces - the device. the guards have some sort of shifts. if they can figure out where the cameras are Kente might be able to block them. Not a plan yet. 

It's - weird, to have nothing to do for so long, but he's stood in a corner for hours before. This is easier in that way, if anything. He has something clear to think about that can last him that long. And he can sit.

He worries about the daemons. He worries about Kente. He tries to think of ideas. 

They look up when new people come in again.

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He does some dance exercises, tries to figure something out with the alien music. (One could say that's not the most important way to spend his time here, but there's only so long he can turn the same things over in his head again. And he always thinks better when he isn't doing nothing anyway.)

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She is so bored. Why is nothing happening. Why is this cage so small. 

She likes the music. She likes the way the human is moving to the music. She tries to move some to the music too.

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He takes a look at the bars and the cages.  That is almost certainly not good.  Florentho goes through the desk, hoping to find keys.  

"Do you know what is happening in this place?" Azure asks the prisoners.

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Meanwhile, Alizara is taking a closer look at the machines.  She's flipped the switch on her phone to activate the camera, and is snapping pictures and sending them to her mail account, just in case.  

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Verity peers into the room with the cages and is hovering in the doorway, her large daemon close beside her, standing guard in case anyone shows up and tries to start a fight.  

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He wants to wrap one of the sheets or blankets around himself. He doesn't do that. If they wouldn't like him doing that, or were offended by it, the consequences would be worse, and if they know he cares more he'll have given them something to use - and if they happen to object to someone keeping subs in barred cages in their nightshirts he wants them to know about it.

"We were told it was a science laboratory studying the effects of Binding, sir, and we were taken from our world as specimens." He doesn't try to lie. He doesn't know who these people are, or why they are here and asking, but they're as likely to have a lie detector, or a way of checking, as anyone. 

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More daemons are here! Maybe some of them will do something more interesting than look at her or ignore her while levitating things.

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Their clothing looks immediately strange for not being the color of their daemons or typing.  Azure is knowledgeable enough about fleet clothing that he can tell it didn't come from any of the fleet's tailors, but he doesn't know enough about their world's clothing to know that what they're wearing is classified as a nightshirt.   

His own outfit is a white shirt and green pants, both elaborately patterned with white-on-white and green-on-green embroidery containing tiny matching beads.  The seams of the sleeves and the legs below the knees are open, allowing the fabric to flow a bit and show hints of a tight red layer underneath.  It's the height of local fleet fashion, though possibly looks strange to alien eyes.  He holds himself very much like a dom.

"What kind of binding?" he asks, but immediately shakes his head.  "No, you can answer later.  Hey, Araeneve, do something about these bars?  I can't find the keys."

He and Florentho duck out of the room to give them space.  This place is extremely cramped and tight.  While out, he takes out his phone.  "Hey Gramps.  I was reading through the old reports we were digitizing, and read about an old panic room from the early years.  We got bored and decided to go look for it.  Someone had found it first, and filled it with machines and cages full of prisoners.  We're getting them out now.  Don't worry about us - Verity's here so we can take on just about anything."

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The largest daemon, taller than a human, walks into the vacated gap between the desk and the bars.  They take one in their teeth and begin to pull, large paws pressing against the others.  Between the bars not being especially well-installed and the daemon being unusually strong, the barrier doesn't last very long.  The cages are similarly broken - they are designed to withstand attacks from inside of the cage, but are fragile enough from the outside that even a weaker-than-daemons human could probably break one open with a concentrated effort.  

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Alizara and Azure's grandfather finds this very alarming!  He is quite busy at the moment, but manages to respond.  "Don't put yourself in danger.  Get the prisoners out if you can, but leave as quickly as possible.  I'll call the police."

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They will stand out of the way.

(It looks like these newer people - are probably not part of the kidnapping group, and - object to at least part of what was going on here. But they don't know anything else about them yet.)

(He's still trying to notice patterns in people's appearances, and observe daemons.)

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Finally. She is out of that cage. She likes these people much better than the other people.

The safe-to-touch person is standing nearby; she tries to jump on him.

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He wasn't expecting this, but doesn't try to put a stop to it. Supports her so she doesn't fall off him.

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Things are different but still seem very worrying. He gets closer to the person near him and curls up a little again in a protective posture.

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It is very easy to tell who matches which daemon.  The tall woman with the most sub-like body language seen so far is dressed in a blue and purple outfit patterned in diamonds with a wave-like edge to each hem.  The hard-to-place woman taking photos is dressed in the same blue-gray as the metallic creature hovering around above her.  If there's any correlation between clothing style and role, it still isn't obvious.  

The tall woman looks nervous in the confined quarters, and the daemon needs to walk backwards to exit the room, unable to turn around properly.

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"Follow me, we're leaving," he gestures at the no-longer-prisoners.  "Alizara, let's go."  

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Azure and Verity head towards the exit, the door on the opposite wall with the same tall scanner that the interior of the cell room has.  Alizara stands back, waiting for them to go in front so she can protect them from behind if needed.  And also get as many pictures taken as possible.  A few of the machines have doors that are openable, and she snaps pictures of each.  One is filled with trays of strange red spheres, and she pockets one.

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"Yes, sir."

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He notices the way Alessa is holding himself (just a little, he's obviously trying to hide it, but Kente knows him.) Rolls his eyes internally; grabs the sheet from his bed and dumps it on Alessa.

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He's - still worried, but now it will look stranger not to use it. He wraps the sheet around himself. (Feels the unthought relief of it.)

He doesn't know what to do about the - other daemon. Spinarak. (His daemon?). The new people didn't seem upset at Kente, but it was the creature who'd jumped on him. And he still knows barely anything; doesn't know if that might - do something. And would it want that, and can he ask right now - they're watched, still, if by someone else...

But the spider-creature is fairly small, if they're going to be moving -

"Should I - pick up the spinarak, sir?" He tries asking (which might also be unwelcome, but is - straightforward, at least.)

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Azure is very confused at the question.  Also at the bedsheet.  Their outfit didn't match, but neither does the sheet.  He supposes that the sheet obviously being not clothing could hide the outfit underneath, and perhaps whatever world they are from considers the violation of social norms a far greater offense? 

"They're your daemon, aren't they?"  There aren't any other people nearby, and no reason for the spinarak to be in a cage in their cell unless they were his daemon.

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The probably-dom is looking at him strangely, but doesn't seem angry. Maybe something he's done (the way he draped the bedsheet? The pattern on it? - the look doesn't have to be because of him. Some way he moved?) is odd, here.

"We were told so, sir. We were told that was the study, sir, attaching a daemon to someone who doesn't already have one."

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Attaching?  That has quite a few implications.  That they didn't have one before.  That whoever did this had gotten a spare daemon from somewhere to do it with.  

He checks the mood of the others.  Araeneve has their hackles raised, looking around with suspicion - Verity wants to be somewhere else.  Salanaya is reluctantly lagging behind - Alizara really wants to stay. 

Azure, in his emergency responder training, was taught that evacuating people away from a dangerous place was an important step in keeping them from getting hurt.  This wasn't exactly a fire or potential hull breach, but it did mean he should be getting the... aliens?... to somewhere that isn't a hostile lab.  

"If you aren't sure, Florentho will carry them."  The daemon gracefully slips between obstacles and sets the small daemon on his shoulder where it can cling on or jump down without trouble if necessary.  

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"Thank you, sir."

He hopes the - daemon - isn't upset? But if touching them might do something in some way, it - probably makes sense for him and Kente not to both do it at once. And of course at this point he won't argue with the solution the probably-dom directed.

They can follow where they're supposed to, then.

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And hope there's not anything on the ground, since they're both barefoot.

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Evacuation of the lab is performed without issue.  They pass through the 'abandoned' storage room and up the ramp, stopping when the grungy concrete of the floor and ramp becomes a nicer and cleaner patterned tile.  Their feet are dirtier after the trip, but there weren't rocks or broken glass lying around.  Now knowing what they're looking at, it's easy for the locals to spot that everything about the place has been exactly set up to look, feel, and smell unappealing to anyone who might wander in but not actively impede use by the lab.  Daemons don't wear shoes, and as resilient as they are would rather not step on anything painful.  

They are now in a short wide hall coming off of the main Hall.  In addition to the recessed door that they came out of, in its own little jut of hallway decorated with flaking graffiti, there are three doors.  Two have stylistically drawn pictures of a male and female human, respectively.  The third, on the same wall as the door they exited, is labelled as a janitor's closet.  Beyond them is a dimly lit hall so wide it almost looks like an outdoor street.  The end of the hall closer to them is a display of plants, slightly overgrown but well taken care of, with a ledge at the correct height to sit on.  Behind them is an abstract painting, where a window would be if this had been a normal earth building.  The shift between 'abandoned warehouse' and 'respectable and unusually large-scale hotel' is sudden.

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"We shouldn't go too far before the police arrive.  Are you still doing okay?  Have you had any food since being caught up in whatever they were doing down there?"

Florentho carefully sets down the spinarak, now that they've come to a stop.  The daemons spread out, Araeneve watching the entrance to the Hall, Salanaya looking longingly down the ramp towards the storage room.  Florentho stays roughly middle of the group where he can teleport them if needed.

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Hooray for not stepping on anything painful.

Unfortunately, there is probably not an appropriately polite way to say 'no we aren't doing okay, we were kidnapped and apparently experimented on".

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(Depending on what is stylized, he and Kente might not realize what the pictures are supposed to be indicating.)

"They gave us food, sir. We weren't injured but we still don't understand very much about what was done with us, sir." 

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He is not sure what to be doing here (he is not sure of a lot of things right now). He decides to try and stay close to the human he was near before.

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Obviously they aren't emotionally okay; he doesn't need to be an empath to notice that.  Most immediately, they aren't suffocating from lack of alien air that the lab was pumping in for them, or melting in the wavelength of light they use for nighttime illumination.  They look human, but if they really are aliens he doesn't know how shallow that appearance might be.

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Another group approaches from the large Hall.  An old man on an electric scooter, typing on a phone one-handed as he rolls forward, and jogging beside him are three officers in official-looking uniforms with accent colors matching three of the daemons.  One looks more like a sword or mechanical drone of some kind than an animal.  The other two are spiny and purple, and a floating tentacled jellyfish, respectively.  The old man's daemon is a brown rodent-like creature sitting on the reinforced headrest of the scooter.

The old man types one final message upon spotting the group, then puts his phone away.  

"Azure, Alizara," he greets.  "Officer, these are the grandchildren I was telling you about."

"Right."  The one who looks like she's in charge gestures to the other two, who send their daemons out in front and make their way down the ramp.  She looks them over, noting the strange outfits, but not seeing any injuries.  She then bows to Verity, addressing her first.  Under whatever organization this culture has, it is obvious from the deference of the officer that she considers Verity to be close to the top of it.  "I'm Officer Lily-and-Lunamorei.  Would you mind giving a statement for what happened tonight?"

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The three give their statements.  That Alizara and Azure had been digitizing a number of old paper documents that had been in a storage room belonging to their family, from around a century ago, and Verity had been there helping.  Azure had found a sheet of paper that spoke of a secret panic room, and they had gotten bored and decided to see if it was still there.  Someone had found the abandoned space before them and converted it into some kind of lab.  They'd seen a brief glimpse of another person in one of the three rooms, but they shut and locked the door they were behind.  No, they didn't see what their daemon was.  Araeneve had torn down some bars of makeshift jail cells, and broken open two daemon cages.

Alizara arranges for the photos to transfer over to the police email.

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There are some crashing sounds from below.  They are the sort of sounds of a group who is knocking through a sealed blast door. 

Next, the officer turns to the cousins for their statements.  

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Well, that does sound like the kidnappers were not operating with general social approval. Which is definitely better than the alternative, though they don't yet know what kinds of things do get general social approval here.

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She's probably not a sub after all, then, though he can't be completely sure - doesn't know what their etiquette might look like for the subs of important families and people.

 

He will describe what happened to them, from going to bed as usual back in their own world and then waking up in the lab, through the arrival of these people who broke them out. He can repeat a lot of what the kidnappers said to them with very high accuracy, including what the first kidnapper had said about his own and the guard's daemons, as well as the guard's name. He can also describe all the daemons, including the later men's but also the others, in case the kidnapper was not telling the truth about them. (All of this is not something he ever expected to use his memory lessons for, but he did and does have them to use.)

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Alessa has a better verbal memory than him and is better at the consistently properly deferential thing; he lets him take the lead, adding a few occasional comments, including even better descriptions of all the daemons. And not daemons.

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The descriptions are very helpful, and the officer takes out her phone and shows pictures of the likely daemon varieties to make sure the identification is correct.  There are enough daemon forms that any given form is a small fraction of the population - adding descriptions of the humans will be enough to put the list of suspects down to something reasonable.  Everything he says gets recorded.

One of the officers returns, though his floating tentacled daemon stays back in the lab.  The distance doesn't seem to be causing him any level of distress, though it's beyond the distance where it ought to be causing some reaction.  None of the others consider that strange.  "Report," the woman commands.

"The area is secure.  They have at least one teleporter among them and were gone when we got through.  The place is filled with machines, though there are sections that look like things might have been taken away recently.  One room with three beds and broken cages, all empty.  One empty room.  One with what look like food supplies.  It doesn't look like they had any other captives there.  There's very little room."

"I see.  Go back down and stand guard for now." 

As he does so, she pauses and looks at the various non-officers.  There isn't a protocol for aliens - in the two hundred years since they had left their dying home world, this is the first time anyone has boarded the fleet.  The standard protocol for handling people whose apartments burned will have to do. 

"You three," she says, pointing to the twins and Verity, "If you can think of any other details be sure to let us know.  And you two - until we can find a way to return you, there are temporary hotel areas intended for people displaced from fires or other issues.  We can get you a stipend for food and other supplies."

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They can look at pictures and confirm identification.

They have no information about how daemon-distance might vary by any sorts of factors, and aren't going to draw much conclusions from this beyond that apparently it does vary at all.

Teleportation, fun times. Hopefully if the kidnappers decide to come back after them these police can deal with it. They don't look super alarmed, so probably they can.

 

Well, time to get the subs handled. Great.

He is kind of very tempted to tell them that he's a dom and Alessa is under his guardianship. He's been sub-deferential so far, which might be an obstacle, but 'our world has some different etiquette' and 'we were kidnapped' should probably cover it - they might not think super highly of him as a dom, but that doesn't matter that much, does it.

(He isn't sure what Alessa might think of this idea, but he is sure Alessa won't contradict him if he tries it, just because of the ridiculous amount of trouble that would immediately cause if he did.)

But it is, in fact, probably not a good idea. They might have high-level lie detectors, or daemons might turn out to role-match or role-indicate somehow, or basically any number of other things. And it'll definitely end badly if he's caught out on a lie like that. (Also, he hasn't actually ever tried pretending to be a dom long term and it might not turn out to work very well. Also they just mentioned 'returning you' and if that came with any amount of communication that would sure go very badly.) Better to just try to manage the other way, however much he doesn't want to deal with rolling the die on state custody. Or deal with state custody period.

Not like they're new to it, at least.

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"Yes, ma'am. Thank you, ma'am." 

It wasn't probably very likely that they'd just drop Kente and him on a street somewhere, but it's still good that they aren't. And good the way she said 'find a way to return you', like of course that was going to be done. Could be lying, like Kente thought the kidnappers had been, but that's less likely here. And less likely if she said that that the plan is to keep them for more government approved experiments, or sell them in some alien market, or something like that.

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Though they've been dismissed, the three who found the lab hang around just a little while longer.  Azure keeps a small pad of paper with him, and writes down their phone numbers and gives them to Kente.

"Call any of us if you want help while you stay here.  The police can do basics and safety, but if you have any cultural questions or want someone to show you around we can do that," he tells them.  "I'd be happy to bring you to a tailor in the morning for local clothes - I'm not sure how you decide fashion at home, but people are expected to wear things matching their daemon here and you'll stand out wearing white."

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They don't have a phone, obviously, but probably the hotel has one or something. He says thank you.

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"Yes, sir, thank you. We'd be very grateful for that." Is he expected to take some level of responsibility for them, having found them? Or does he just feel some level of it? 

It's not a very good sign that he doesn't seem to think orienting them will be done otherwise. But a good sign that he doesn't seem to think they're likely to have their phone calls very restricted, or their permission to go out. 

He unconsciously pulls the sheet more around himself. "These are our nightclothes, sir. We were taken from our beds. We'd be very grateful for clothes as well, sir."

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Having had no immigration or foreign visitors in over 200 years, the fleet doesn't have much concept of how orientation should go.  

It's obvious from the local's expressions that they hadn't recognized the clothing as not being alien street clothes.  "I see.  In that case, Azure, would you mind teleporting us to the pad by the Sienna Police Station?"

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"Sure."  After a moment to size up the placement of each person and focus, as well as to give a moment to the people about to be moved so it isn't so sudden, his gallade daemon begins to glow faintly.  There's a last-minute check ensuring that the correct people and daemons were targeted.  Then he, the officer woman, the two alien cousins, and their four respective daemons are all brought to a large circular platform.  Alizara, Verity, and the twins' grandfather are left behind.  The teleport itself didn't feel like anything - one moment they were in the small hallway, the next on the platform.  The lighting is similar, though instead of yellow with blue accents the walls are now tan with dark red accents, and a fading diamond pattern is repeated in the tiles instead of bold squares.  It is slightly warmer.

"Step off the platform quickly, for safety," he says.  It gets drilled into every person as soon as they're old enough to walk, enough that people sometimes mock the words for being annoying.  In this case, it really is the first time someone's hearing them.  

They step off too, though Azure and Florentho are only going to be in this area for a few moments to debate which teleport platform is closest to where he started from.  

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The officer sighs, slightly annoyed that he'd rushed the teleport instead of explaining or asking the aliens.  "Thank you," she says instead, stepping off of the platform herself.  

The platform is in the center of a lobby-like nook jutting out of the Sienna Hall's third floor.  The back of the nook contains the police station and the aforementioned hotel.  To either side of the path out are a cafeteria and a room with a row of computers along the back wall, both with walls made almost entirely out of floor to ceiling windows.  All of the doors and walkways are wide, enough to accommodate daemons even larger than the ones they've seen already.  There is a bit of wear to the tiles.  Like the place they were in before, plants feature heavily in the decoration.  These ones are evergreen shrubs of some kind.  A few people are walking by on the street outside of the nook, sitting in the cafeteria, or typing on the computers.  Their daemons walk alongside them, or sit on their shoulders, or lounge on low cushions set up against the windows and watch the people passing by.  

"If you'd follow me, please," she says, gesturing to the hotel.

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He's not really clear on what changed about the plan here - were they otherwise just going to walk to the police station? But that doesn't actually matter.

And, police station, great. Not that he was expecting something else. (Well, maybe some other government place, but it comes to the same). Time to extra keep his mouth shut when he doesn't need to talk.

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He doesn't know yet that this world isn't made up of different countries like the world he's used to. But still, official attempt at orientation would be a better sign. But if the dom with the phone numbers is supposed to take responsibility for them, then that might be the official attempt.

...The change in expression makes him even more self conscious. Apparently they hadn't known before. (He wonders what they wear to bed here, and also if some people regularly walk around barefoot, that no one has remarked on that). He pulls the sheet more around himself again, but this time catches himself doing it and tries to stop.  

 

They would not have expected to be asked. They are very good at prompt obedience to orders. They step off the platform. (Once he's done that, he wonders what it is that makes it needed for safety.)

(The building design here is interesting. He wants to look more at it, though he's trying to keep his focus on the situation right now. Wonders if he might get a chance to try to draw some of it later, if they're here for enough time.)

He looks around, for more information about the world they're in. (...And because it's interesting).

They obey again and follow (it seems normal for people's daemons of a lot of sorts to move around themselves, and the - spinarak - seems to be doing alright; he doesn't ask again what to do about it. Does keep looking at it. (Partially to make sure it is still alright. Partially - probably not just that.))

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More new places! She is definitely a fan of this. She also looks around.

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The hotel lobby contains a matronly woman with thin blonde hair and a bipedal orange lizard.  She's sitting behind a sturdy desk, the wall behind her covered in labeled cubbies.  On two of the other walls are long couches, and the back wall and the wall opposite the one shared by the police station have hallways leading off to rooms.  The large rug in the center of the room has an intricate maze printed onto it.  

"Hello, Mareline," the officer says.  "These two will be needing a pair of anti-teleportation rooms, phones and new accounts, and a week of emergency income transferred to the new accounts."

Needing a new account is sadly quite common, particularly for the people getting the anti-teleportation rooms.  Mareline types for a bit, then holds out a tablet and stylus and gestures for the nearest of the two to take it.  "Fill this in, please."  Her daemon scurries around behind the desk, and there's the sound of drawers opening.  The human half of that pair then goes back to typing again, presumably preparing the other tasks while waiting for the documents to get filled in.

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"Yes, ma'am." He still can't tell about anyone - in their own country subs do this kind of job sometimes, but not in the first hall of anywhere important, and not in a police station (he thinks this might not actually be the police station though). She hadn't said yes-ma'am to the officer, but he doesn't know the protocol here, and sometimes doms don't want full protocol, and the officer had called her by name so they're not strangers.

He might not have seen any subs yet - he didn't have long to look around out where there were more people. He'll keep the appellative for everyone, at least unless and until he notices something really obvious. And probably at some point someone will react surprised and tell him they're not a dom, and then he can ask them how to tell. Much better than a mistake the other way around.

They look at the documents for what they need to fill out.

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His hands are still kind of occupied with the daemon (he hasn't noticed anything weird happening because of this, at least yet), but he can look on.

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The document is relatively simple.

Human Name: 

Daemon Name:

Daemon Form:

Gender:

Birthdate:

Ship of Residence:

The officer looks over at the form and whispers, "I don't know if we're using the same calendar system.  Subtract your age from 213 for the year.  We're on the ship Tower of Autumn."

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That'll only work if they have the same year lengths. He doesn't say that; he's been taught the error of his ways with respect to correcting doms quite a while back, and this is not a good time to pick that up again. 

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"Yes, ma'am, thank you."

He'll fill in their names (instead of the more typical sort of familial name he and Kente both have a piece meaning 'belonging to the state'). Daemon forms as the kidnapper had said, since he's gotten no information otherwise. Genders. He'll do as the officer said for the last two, and also put down their more regular birthdates.

He's not sure what to do for 'Daemon Name'.

"How would we know the daemon names, ma'am?" (He's - not sure if that's rude, talking about the daemons when they're right there. But he's not sure if it's rude to talk to them in public - he doesn't think he's seen anyone else doing that. And he doesn't know how to do it.)

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The boxes for birth date only accept numbers and only within certain values.  By looking at the number ranges available, they can learn that the fleet has a year divided into 18 months with 21 days each.  The ships are also listed in a dropdown menu, with Tower of Autumn being one of a few dozen options.  Most are alphabetical, but Tower of Autumn and three others are put right near the top out of order with the others.  The other ships that get special treatment in the selector are Citadel of Spring, Spire of Winter, and Column of Summer.  

The officer glances at it over his shoulder.  "Normally parents pick names for their children... If they don't have one when you ask, perhaps choose a name you always wanted?  Or one of the parts of your multi-word human name, if that would make sense with however names work in your society.  This is mostly so you can use a phone and purchase things for the next few days - given the circumstances no one will fault you for having to just fill in something random and it can be fixed later if you think of something better."

In the background the orange lizard has grabbed two keys and tossed them onto the desktop, then gone back to retrieve something else from another part of the desk.

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Called it.

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Someone who is paying very, very close attention might notice that he flinches a little at the mention of their parents.

"Yes, ma'am, thank you."

He wonders if they don't have familial names here. And - that sounds like they are expected to ask. (He - still doesn't know how, but-)

He's been keeping at least part of an eye on the spinarak. Now looks over more fully.

"Do you - have a name?" 

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He is being talked to. That's interesting. He thinks about the question.

"I do not think so. I can't remember having such a thing."

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"I don't either!" the vulpix says, turning around in Kente's arms. "I don't know what kinds of names there are!"

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It's - not startling, exactly, to hear them talk. He'd known they could, or might be able to. It's - something.

 

He thinks about writing something like 'to be determined'. (They can't pick names now, he doesn't know anything about what any names might mean here, and he wouldn't want to do it without asking the daemons more if he can.) But the officer hadn't actually said they could do that. After a moment he writes down 'Green' and 'Orange', and hopes this won't upset anyone. The officer had said they could fill in something random.

He isn't actually sure what 'ship' is talking about here, but he was told what to put for that one, so he puts that. The names are poetic. 

If the birthdate box works like that, he isn't going to be able to fill it out well; they don't even know how day lengths might compare here. 

"I'm sorry, ma'am, I don't think the calendars are the same. I'm not sure how to use this right."

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"1/1 is fine."

The lizard has a pair of phones now.  Rather than throwing them up to the table he climbs some steps on the far side of the desk and walks them over to his human.  Once they're set down he hops onto Mareline's lap where she boosts him to the back of her chair and he watches whatever she's typing.

The officer's floating sword daemon drifts over to the spinarak currently being called Green.  Quietly, in a voice not intended for the humans, "We apologize for rushing you all along like this.  We're trying to get you resources and a room so that you'll have a place to be safe and have stability for as long as it takes to get you back home, though it looks like it might be scaring you.  You're being brave and handling this all as well as anyone could."

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That feels like a reasonable and natural thing to have happen.

"We don't think you have anything to apologize for. We aren't feeling rushed. That's very kind of you, and very kind of you to say." He does feel - very pleased at hearing that, like something is correct in a snug and comfortable way. (He uses the 'we' in a mirroring of how the other daemon speaks; his thoughts, if tracked, may not pattern around it quite how the other daemon may expect, though he does have some awareness of both the humans and the other daemon from the lab, and does not mean just himself.)

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"Yes, ma'am, thank you."

He hopes this won't put them on the wrong side of any important age line. Though that could happen either way, really; it is not as though laws never set lines he might wish were different.

 

He can see that the two daemons are talking, even if he can't make out the words. Is that - part of how interactions are appropriately done here? (Between doms and subs? In general?) He - doesn't know so much here, about how things are done and how to behave, and it's frightening.

 

"I'm finished, ma'am," he says, when he is.

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Mareline had been waiting and smiles at them as she takes the pad with a thanks.  Another minute later and she hands them back phones and keys and charger cords.  "These should be intuitive to use, and the most important features are pinned right on the home menu.  Though, first I should show you to your rooms."

Mareline gets out of the chair and ushers them down the back hallway, her daemon clinging onto her back.  They are only two rooms down from the entrance, the ones labeled 03 and 04, matching the keys.  In addition to the lock, the doors have a bar lock on the inside.  Each room only has two pieces of furniture: a storage cabinet with drawers and shelves, and a large bed with four posts rising from the corners with dull hooks attached at places.  The posts of the bed have netting draped between them, with yarn-thick strands and holes just large enough to stick a hand through.  The tautest top drape of net is only a foot away from the ceiling, and the two lower ones fill the space between it and the mattress.  More netting, not stretched between anything, is draped along all of the walls at just over head height, shoulder height, and knee-height.  

"This room is a bit inconvenient, but it's designed to keep away even reckless teleporters," Mareline says, stepping in so she can point out how to use it.  "The bed has caster wheels - you can move it anywhere in the room you'd like.  Then, as extra security, you can stretch out the nets along extra space."  She demonstrates, pulling a patch of the net at shoulder height to the bedpost and hooking it on for a moment, before returning it to the wall.  "There is also security against anyone who can phase through walls, here."

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They take the items. (Alessa holds some of Kente's for the moment, since they don't currently have pockets.) "Thank you, ma'am."

They are somewhat surprised not to be put in the same room, but won't comment on it. (Is there a connecting door by any chance?)

"I'm sorry, ma'am, I'm not sure I understand. I don't think we have teleportation in the same way."

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The rooms are separate.  They are also lacking windows to anywhere resembling a proper outdoors, but so has everywhere else here.

Mareline has no context for that statement so answers, "Spinarak and Vulpix don't learn teleport, no."

The officer, still following for the moment, says, "Teleportation is instant travel to a location the teleporter has been before.  It can be very dangerous, requires licenses, and is only supposed to be done on specific pads that are kept clear of obstacles.  A teleporter who teleports themselves into somewhere that isn't clear gets it... stuck in them.  The presence of nets and moving furniture will stop people from trying to teleport in to hurt you, since even if they know which room you're in and have seen the room before they won't know what places were left safe to stand in.  Don't worry though - it's for deterrence, no one has actually tried teleporting into a room like this in a very long time."

While she says that, her daemon goes over to Mareline and whispers something at her.

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Would probably be a bad idea to try to sneak out a window at this point even if the room had them. 

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Well, those buildings they'd been near coming in here had had windows (they haven't yet noticed the general lack of proper outdoors). But they're not at all surprised their rooms don't. They're subs now in government custody, and their kidnappers might be after them; plenty of reason from both sides, there.

He isn't sure what she's meaning to tell them (and - learn teleport?). Maybe - the daemons' Gifts depend on their type in some way, and he might be expected to have some instinctual understanding of teleportation if - his daemon - had it? The officer's reply promptly distracts him from this.

(He hasn't realized the context lack. She'd not acted surprised at them needing to be told how to enter their age, or asking about daemon names. And a sub at a desk might not be told context, expected to go along, but to his mind now she's a government dom (she hasn't corrected him or been surprised at the appellative, and he'd already thought it was likely). And it's not a secret, or they'd have been told to keep it.) (Most of this isn't conscious thought, runs behind it as so many things do.)

 

Nodnod. "Thank you, ma'am.

Does what happened to us happen often, ma'am?"

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Oh good, Alessa's figured out a polite way to kind of ask 'well how often do scientist-and-guard cabals kidnap random people and then get away by teleport'. 

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"People who get hurt teleporting?  Proper teleporting has a very rare injury rate.  It's mostly people trying to do so without a license, and even then only every few years.  It's the sort of thing that gets on the news for weeks when it does. 

"Or did you mean needing to use rooms like this?  Your... particular circumstances haven't happened before.  These rooms were designed for people fleeing abusive families, exes, or stalkers.  Once in a while there will be a key witness to a crime, or some other use."

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Well then he's not going to be extremely reassured by the 'no one has actually tried in a very long time'. Protection against people trying is great though.

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Oh, it's so good that they have something like that. 

Nod. "Thank you. We're very grateful, ma'am."

Are we allowed to visit each other's rooms, ma'am? Or to stay, if it's unsafe for us in the hallway?" He hopes the answer is yes - it'll be hard if they have a wall between them. But.

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"The hallway is watched.  Teleport takes a few seconds to use, and can't get a moving target or one more than a few meters from the teleporter.  The rooms have the security they do to stop someone from getting picked up in their sleep, to stop people from going through your things, and because we aren't going to put cameras in them.  The cafeteria and computer room just outside are kept watched and guarded too - they're part of this same area for people at risk.  

"Beyond that, you aren't forbidden from going anywhere on the fleet, though I'd recommend sticking together and possibly with a few other people.  I can vouch for Azure's ability to fight, and Verity is a Legendary and could take on any dozen non-legendaries in combat.  We can also send an officer to escort you.  I'd recommend going to the library and using the technical machines to teach your daemons moves if you want to go out more - being able to hold your own in a fight can't hurt."

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Noting, if they see someone suddenly show up, run in the opposite direction. Conveniently intuitive.

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He hadn't even been thinking about a teleporter being able to take someone. He shivers a little at the thought. But it sounds like a lot is being done against it.

"Thank you. We're very, very grateful, ma'am."

That's very permissive (though he doesn't think the officer is personally in charge of them, and if someone else is to be, they might place more restrictions later). He's not sure what area exactly 'the fleet' might describe (or why it's called that - he thinks again of 'ships' from the documents before), but it still sounds permissive. (They should ask about the area, at some point, but they can do that when they mean to try to go out, not bother the officer with extra questions now. There's already many.)

His guess that the dom(s?) who found them are expected to take at least some responsibility for them gains some strength. (He wonders if the one named Alizara might be a sub? The one named Azure had ordered her at some point hadn't he? (He shouldn't get into a habit of calling doms by first names in his head, but if they don't have family names here he's not sure what he would call them, and even if they do he doesn't know it). But doms talk all sorts of ways, even at home, and he still doesn't know, really.)

He's not sure what 'recommend' should be taken as - not fully an order, he has to think, or it would have been put as one, but. Best to follow it regardless, anyway, and they can try to learn more as they learn in general.

And - this he probably does need to ask now. "Moves, ma'am?"

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"You're quite welcome," she says.  The unusual politeness starting to bother her a little, but she's ignoring it and keeping her expression pleasant.  It's either alien culture or a reaction to whatever trauma they just suffered.  Privately she wonders if the fleet is going to be seen as unusually impolite or gruff by comparison when they come into proper contact.  

When he asks, "Ah, right.  Daemons have supernatural powers.  Some, called Abilities, are inherent and unchangeable, tied to the form.  If I recall, vulpix become more powerful when exposed to fire and spinarak are immune to many things that cause unnatural sleep.  They can also have up to four Moves, which can be changed out at any time by going to a technical machine and having them stare at it for an hour or so.  There are a few hundred Moves in total, and different daemons can learn different Moves.  That's mostly tied to form, though there are some individual variations - the rare pikachu who manages to learn Surf, and so on.  The library will have lists of likely ones you can learn, and what they do.  You can also learn about them online, on your phones."

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Then her interlocutors will have a pleasanter time of it, and she will continue to see them at their carefully deferential and polite, and not at their facing-having-angered-and/or-irritated-the-police-dom. 

 

Oh. He hadn't even thought to think that Gifts and things might work differently in this world, like in some world of a novel of a film, beyond the one difference of daemons. (He - needs to think more about what else he might not have thought of, he notes somewhere. But - not now, he can't do that now.)

"Oh! Thank you, ma'am." (The unnatural sleep one sounds like it might be - useful, given everything, he thinks. Then wonders if he shouldn't think like that - he can plan about Kente's Gift as something they have to use, but he knows Kente, knows what he's alright with. He hasn't really even met the - his - the daemon yet.)

 

He tries to think if there's anything else he needs to ask, important enough to do it now. Well. There's the one thing. He looks down, bites his lip.

"Could it be possible, ma'am, for someone to - help us know and understand more, about daemons? They didn't tell us very much, at the lab, and we wouldn't want to do anything wrong, or that would upset them." It would - help, if it could be a sub. But of course he won't say that.

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The officer has to think for a moment, and Mareline winds up answering.  "Perhaps I could help?  It is part of my job to provide information on how to do things."

"Of course," the officer says.  "And I really ought to get back to the station, if I'm no longer needed."  The sword daemon hovers near the door, though she waits for Mareline to nod before nodding back in a local farewell gesture and turning to go.  

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"Oh, thank you, ma'am," he says to the other government dom.

Then ducks his head hard at the officer's remark. "I'm sorry, ma'am." He'll keep looking at the floor and not say anything until she's left, not wanting to give any appearance he's trying to ask more or demand something from her. 

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Mareline's daemon speaks up, loudly in order to speak to both daemons at once and also the humans, "No one is upset with any of you.  We're all here to help you, and it's just that the kind of help that she's good at isn't something you need now so she's going to go see if anyone else needs her.  We apologize if this is not coming across properly - we don't know much about your world or culture, and... you seem to use more polite phrasings than is common here.  We aren't intending to be rude when we omit them."

His human nods along.  "Yes, we don't mean to cause any offense to you.  We are happy to help and will do our best to make your stay here as comfortable as circumstances allow, and will try to speak more politely."  Does it help if she adjusts her posture to be a bit more like the two examples she's seen of how people in their world hold themselves?

"I'm not sure where to begin with explaining daemons.  I'm sorry, but could you let us know if anything stands out as confusing?"

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Well this place sure has more pleasant police than their own does.

Or maybe it's just being notable for something other than being traitors' kids.

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Someone who is paying very close attention might notice him relax, slightly, unconsciously, at the 'no one is upset with any of you'.

 

Consciously he is - confused, for a few moments.

The first part of what the daemon says - it's not very often that a dom has tried to give comfort to him, but of course doms give comfort, give guiding reassurance. On tv, in his classmates' households, households he sees out around the city, some of Kente's trainers. (Even to him, some housemates when he was younger, teachers.) A firm hand and a caring one - that is what dominants are said to give to submissives, isn't it.

The second part - that, doms definitely don't say, not like that. He wonders for a moment if a person and a daemon can have different roles, actually (a shock of worry as he looks at - his and Kente's, again).

But then Mareline adds her part, and he notices how she's holding herself, and no, he was just wrong before, mistaken in thinking she was a dom after all. And - he doesn't know much, of etiquette at subs, but he knows there's places where there's more of it, where correct and incorrect addressing of a sub is respect or disrespect of their dom by proxy...

 

(He wants to talk to a local sub so much, but no, that's not quite it, is it, not all of it. He wants to talk to a local sub he doesn't have to be careful with. And she's trying to help, but that doesn't mean-)

Even with that to be aware of, the change in his nonverbals this time is more obvious considerably. 

"Oh, no, please, don't worry! You don't have to be careful with us, we're not expecting anything. We just - we don't know almost anything of how things are done here, we're trying to - err on the other side. 

And we're really grateful for everything." (There's a - very real chance she'll find this too informal, and she does work for the government still, but if she's being kind and trying to help it's more likely than with anyone they've seen so far that she might be forbearing in telling them where they're making errors before delivering anything more severe.)

And,

"I - think everything is rather confusing, now. The first of the people we saw at the lab talked about souls, but I don't think we really understand what all of it means. And - how to talk to them, what would upset them..." (He's looking over at the two daemons again.)

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"Souls... That's the most common way of looking at them."

"They are definitely a part of us.  Under typical circumstances, one appears along with a baby's first breath, and they vanish when a person dies.  The human and daemon of a pair will have different memories and thoughts, but the same emotions, overall goals, and ...subconscious, I suppose might be the term.  When one of you becomes aware of something, the other doesn't quite learn it but isn't surprised when they find out.  I've never known a human and daemon to have very different personalities from one another."

"Upsetting your daemon is like upsetting yourself - it isn't impossible to injure oneself deliberately or go online and look for something that you know will upset you, and it's more like that than anything social between two humans.  They know you, like you know yourself.  They know why you say something, closer than your closest human friend or sibling could.  Also, by definition, any harm that one of you does to the other is to yourself.  You'll feel any pain that the other experiences, though daemons don't feel pain through themselves until they've already been hurt a bit."

 

"As for the most important things for dealing with others: definitely don't touch another person's daemon.  Avoid positions where daemons and humans risk touching - perhaps go into the cafeteria and people watch for a while to see how others do it.  Touching with clothing between is technically safe but still culturally very bad.

"Often humans will speak to humans and daemons will speak to daemons.  Many daemons will refuse to speak to humans other than their own, while others are more relaxed about it.  It's slightly a faux pas for a human to speak to a daemon when their human is right there.  You can of course always speak with your own.

She pauses.  There are probably hundreds of tiny social cues that people learn as children, but she also doesn't want to make a huge and annoying list.  She trails off, unable to think of anything else at that level of import.  

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She doesn't sound warning or displeased, nor like she's feeling she has to be careful with them. He relaxes, not completely but palpably.

"Oh. Thank you, that - helps a lot. Thank you.

...Do you think that will all be the same, for us? Since they weren't here when we were children." And, he's not sure he understands about the like-upsetting-yourself. He - knows what will upset him, or can try to think about it if he doesn't know. And can notice if something is. He - doesn't seem to feel like he knows what would upset the daemon, or if something like that is happening? Or is it just the same as what would upset him?

He nods understanding at the instructions, makes sure to note so he'll remember. "Thank you. We'll be careful." 

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"You are welcome.  

"I wouldn't know.  Nothing like this has ever happened.  I'd suspect it to be the same, though it seems like the sort of thing you'll have to work out between you and your daemon and see what happens over time.  At least in normal cases, the things that upset your daemon are the same as that upset you."

She isn't able to better articulate an answer.  She can, however, finish explaining the features of the hotel area before she forgets.  There are restrooms, showers, and clothing-washing facilities at the end of the hall.  There are some basic rules such as not making excessive noise or fighting anywhere that isn't a proper arena.  A housekeeper checks in once daily, usually in the mid-afternoon but can be rescheduled at the front desk or forestalled by hanging a clip from the outer doorknob.  

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Nod nod. That only makes sense, really. And that is all very good to know too. He thanks her again. He notes rules.

(He has a lot more questions (still wants to know how they signal roles, and what etiquette they have, and what might be expected of him and Kente. And how etiquette works with daemons. And how discipline works with daemons (and how it is here at all), are they punished together or one for both or whoever trespassed or? 

But even if she's a sub, and helping, she's still a government sub, and he doesn't want to keep her overmuch. And the dom named Azure had said to go to the dom(s) who had found them for cultural questions. (Maybe if one of the others was a sub they can talk to them? Or one of the doms might bring their sub or a sub sibling, if they'll be taking two submissives around? It's good to know about the housekeeper; if none of that helps enough he might try asking them. Not - really an ideal thing to do. But.) 

Except - "Fighting? Is there - a lot of that here?" (The officer had mentioned fighting before, but he'd thought that was about the kidnappers possibly coming after them again.)

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It might be nice to get something better than an I-wouldn't-know, but on the other hand he's pretty sure that version involves a bunch of government scientists showing up to poke at them, and that doesn't actually sound like a good time at all. ...And might happen eventually anyway, but what can one do.

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Testing does stand out as the most obvious way of learning things, but she's not going to suggest it to two people who had just been rescued from a lab.

"Daemons like to challenge each other to battles for fun.  It's a good way for people to get to know each other better or settle minor disagreements.  Most parks have an arena or two set aside for it, and there's a competitive circuit for more skilled fighters.  It's optional, of course - there's nothing wrong with turning down an offer to fight casually - though... given your circumstances, learning how to use Moves in combat seems like an especially good idea."  She pauses, then thinks of something.  "Fighting in self defense if someone attacks you is permitted anywhere.  It's friendly battles that should be taken to a park."  That goes without saying locally, but might not be obvious to aliens.  

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That's more consideration than they're used to expecting, from governments.

Indeed it might not be obvious, or at least taken for granted, by aliens (though it helps that the officer had implied as much before). (Though personally if the kidnappers showed up again while he was actually awake, he would absolutely fight them if that was what it took, and if this was the sort of place that beat submissives for that then so be it.

Much better if it's not, of course.)

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That is also helpful to know. 

He is reassured by the reassurances.

He doesn't think he has more questions he's going to ask immediately. Will see if there's more that she will have to tell them.

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She can't think of anything else, but mentions again that they can look up information on their phones or ask at the front desk if they need anything.

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He thanks her again. They go together to one of the rooms. 

They set up the nets. Kente flops back on the bed; Alessa sits down next to him. Kente squeezes his hand.

"I - don't think they're going to kill us."

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"Would be a lot of trouble to have gone to at this point."

They're both quiet for a few moments.

"No guardian yet. Didn't even say to expect one soon."

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"I think the doms? - dom? - who found us might be supposed to take responsibility for us. At least some of it."

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"They're not here though."

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"No. But he said to call him, and that he'd take us to a tailor."

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"Yeah.

I'd say maybe we're lucky and they think we're widows and the memory of our late doms will keep us behaving and Enforcement can fill in the rest. But there's no way they think we're widows."

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"Even at home some places it's not just widows - Rinel was doing a report on that news story, remember, the sub who got stuck across the border when they closed that city with the terrorist cell, and they didn't assign her anyone because it was just a few weeks.

They said 'until we can find a way to return you', they might think we have our dom at home -"

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"Well. We do."

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"And the police are right here."

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"Yeah."

 

A bit more silence.

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And - he really needs to stop putting this off. 

He looks to the - spinarak, who's followed them into the room and settled by the bed.

"Hey." What does he say? 'My name is Alessa?' That doesn't make sense. And he'd said his name earlier.

"I'm - sorry I've been ignoring you." 

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The spinarak attempts to crawl up him and into his lap. 

"It's alright. I'm not upset at all. I know why you did it. We were in the lab, and then it was always an awkward time to say hello for the first time."

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"I'm not upset either!" (The vulpix is currently curled partially on top of Kente. 

"Except at those people who kidnapped you. I'm pretty upset at them.

I guess if they didn't do that I wouldn't exist. Or I'd be - something else? I'm not sure about that part. 

But I'm still upset because they hurt you."

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He helps the - his(?) - daemon onto his lap. (And - the beginnings of relief, again. Not all of it, at all. But some.)

"Do you remember anything before that?"

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"I woke up when you did. I don't remember anything before then."

(The vulpix agrees with this.)

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"Can you - tell. That you're - connected with us?"

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"I know you're safe to touch, and other humans aren't. I can feel things when you feel things. If you're hurt I'll be hurt. You make sense; I know why you do things."

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"Do you - know how you know?"

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"It just makes sense. I think it's the shared subconsciousness, like Mareline said? It's like, if I didn't look and when I looked the door was open, I'd know someone had opened it, or it drifted open, because it was closed before and then it was open."

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"No golden string in the air though?" The question can be at the vulpix, if that matters here.

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"I don't see a string."

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"No. If there's something like that, I don't feel it either."

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Nod.

"Do you - are there things you want?"

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"I want you to be ok. It's very important.

I want you to have other things you want."

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"Fighting sounds cool!" opines the vulpix. "I want to try.

But you should be ok and have what you want, I also think so."

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"Fighting does sound interesting.

But it isn't urgent."

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"And I don't want to be in a cage more. I didn't like that."

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Well she'll get no arguments there.

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"You - don't already know about us before we were here, right? Since you - weren't there yet. Or about our world."

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"I don't know that.

I don't think it'll feel surprising. But I don't already know."

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At some point they - should probably talk about that then.

But it probably doesn't have to be now. 

There's silence for a little again. The respective daemons stay as they were (it's - nice, he notices, having the - his - daemon in his lap.)

He and Kente don't let go of each other.

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"We should probably look at those phones they gave us."

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They probably should do that. 

(They won't have seen something quite like them before. Have much simpler phones, at home, and tablets used for schoolwork and the like. It's a bit weird, to be given their own to have in the room with them. But it makes sense, with the circumstances.)

They'll try looking at the phones.

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The phone has a lot of features!  Audio calls, video calls, text messages, and a way to store and sort contacts.  A camera for taking photos or video.  Pre-installed apps include a calculator, alarm clock, calendar, map, and memo pad.  There's a media player, but nothing is pre-downloaded to play.  There are little physical switches that turn on the microphone, camera, speakers, and internet and need to be turned on for certain apps to work, with little glowing LEDs to show when they're active.  There is an internet browser, but it currently only shows a search bar.  

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They figure out the general interface and how to get between features. They can figure out some of the features, largely depending on how similar the interface conventions happen to be to what they're used to and how intuitive they are if they're different. Depending on how clearly labeled the switches are, they might not figure those out. They definitely don't figure out the internet browser, having no concept of what that is to help inform them.

What does the map look like, is it obviously a map?

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The switches are labelled with tiny pictures.  Opening an app that requires them when they aren't on gives a little prompt with the pictures and their names.  An internet connection is needed for the map.  

The first view of the map is a fully zoomed out picture of four hollow tube-like ships, labeled the four names that had been given priority above the alphabetical list in the paperwork. 

Tapping on one of the large ships gives a closer look, which shows that each of the tubes is made of numerous long stick-like Halls which run front to back along a segment.  It's possible to spin the ship like a wheel or nudge it left and right.  Whichever Hall is in center view of the camera has its name put under the name of the ship itself.  Between segments made of Halls are thinner segments where the smaller ships are attached like burrs along the outside of the large ships, selected in a similar manner.  They can also be picked off of a list, which automatically rotates the ship to put them in the center.  

Tapping on a selected Hall provides a street view.  As they haven't yet gotten a good look at a main Hall street, the way that the map renders the three layers is possibly a bit confusing, but the Halls being streets lined with shops and restaurants and apartments is clear enough.  Each can be tapped on to show a popup with a little bit of information.

The upper left corner has a left-facing arrow which goes back to a previous zoom level.  The upper right always has a 'Q' shaped icon which opens up a prompt asking for an address or location name as well as a keyboard which covers the bottom half of the screen.  

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They can probably figure out from that that they need to use the switches and do that.

They are confused by the first picture. Recognize the labels and try clicking on the one they were told to enter in the paperwork. Aren't sure what the next screen is, and none of this looks like either a map of the building they're in or a city map? They're still confused, but it probably isn't urgent, and they can ask about it tomorrow. (They should probably also ask before trying to call the dom called Azure, too, in case they're missing something important.)

And - they're not familiar with the local time system yet, and can't see any windows, but they'd been given dinner at the lab, and it's been some time since then, and a rather trying day altogether. And they don't know how early in the morning the dom might want to see them.

There turn out to be individual restrooms, so they don't have to try to figure out how subs' and doms' restrooms are labeled here. If there are individual showers and they're easy to figure out they'll try to wash their feet off a bit. Otherwise they'll make do with the sinks - they don't have anything to change into anyway. (If they can't easily find towels (they take a look through the storage cabinet, for those and anything else that might be there), they can use Alessa's borrowed sheet for drying and lay it out to dry on a net. If they can't find anything for brushing their teeth they'll make do with water and their hands for the moment.)

Depending on bed size and number of pillows in each room and such, they'll bring the bedding from one room over to the other. 

"Do you sleep? Do you need a bed?" he asks the daemons.

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He does some evening stretches. He does a circuit of the nearby areas, checking out for himself what's around. (He can tell Alessa is torn between wanting to do that himself and still being in the nightshirt. "I'll take a walk," he says, and that can settle it.) 

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There is a seperate hall branch for toilets-and-sinks and showers, each in individual small rooms.  The cabinet in each of the bedrooms has a pair of towels, pale cream colored and marked with the room number in the corner.  Along with them is a small bar of soap but no other toiletries.  Most of the shelves are entirely empty at the moment. 

The beds are fairly large.  Each has two pillows.  The blankets are thin, though it's also fairly warm here.  Both rooms have the same pattern on the sheets and pillowcases - a complex maze-like pattern in cream and burgundy, not quite the same as the rug in the main area but a similar theme.  

Inside of the hotel area isn't especially large.  A single tired-looking woman walks to her own room, her butterfly-like daemon clinging onto her back so that it almost looks like she has wings.  She doesn't pay any attention to them.  Kente can see the laundry facilities for himself.  The other hallway branching out from the lobby connects near the end, forming a loop.  

The daemons do seem to be as tired as the humans.  Sleep seems like a good idea to try.  

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The daemons aren't completely sure if they sleep, though it seems likely. A soft place to sleep sounds nice.

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He steps out of the woman's way just in case, if that comes up. 

He reports back of his explorations.

Between the bed and being able to put bedding on the floor if they need to, they should be able to get everyone a place to sleep in the one room.

He hugs Alessa, listens to him breathe.

They go to bed.

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Zzzzzz

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If nothing disturbs them in the night, then in the morning they wake up. Is anything new making itself known?

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Their phones have a message that 20,000 of the local currency has been deposited into their accounts, and another message mentioning that it should be enough for some clothing and necessities, and that cafeteria food is free if they show the clip from their room keys.

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The daemons report that they do sleep! And are also awake now.

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They successfully find the messages. 

They don't know how much money that is, but will assume it isn't very much because someone gave it to them. Enough for some clothing and necessities will make sense to them.

They get up, and wash up in the bathroom again, and brush and rebraid their hair (for lack of a comb they'll make do with their hands), and shake out their nightclothes as well as they can. 

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He goes to try and find the cafeteria and see if they'll let him take some food back for Alessa, since probably there are other people there. (He does his best to not leave room for Alessa to argue with him about that.)

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He peeks out of the room to see how many people are around outside it, and how many might there be on the way to the front desk.

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There are more people out in the morning than there were late at night.  The lights are also all a bit brighter.  In the hallway outside, a pair of children are running around with pink blob-like daemons on their shoulders as their father tries to herd them towards school.  All of the shower rooms are taken when they get there, with a man standing at the front of the hall to start a queue, but there are toilet rooms free right away.  

The trays and fresh food can't be taken out of the cafeteria, though the cafeteria worker points him to a section with some pre-packaged meal bars or meal replacement drinks that they can choose from.  There are a few varieties, some in normal flavor combinations and some in very strange ones.  None mention any animal products.  There are also some bottles of non-meal drinks that he can choose from:  Water, sweet tea, chilled vegetable broths, various fruit juices.  The cafeteria credit that came with their rooms is good for three meals plus drinks per day per person.  He can also buy extras for 200 currency units each, apparently done using the phone.  

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They don't need the showers, they still don't have anything to change into and it doesn't make sense to wash off their feet now when they're going to be walking around. 

He still can't figure out how they mark role. 

...He should stop being ridiculous, go to the front desk, and ask about sending messages and calling. It isn't as though he's naked, and he has the other sheet, and no one here even knows this is his nightshirt, and he'll be walking around in it later anyway. If their Uncle were here he would have already lost patience with him. (Wouldn't have allowed him avoiding the cafeteria either. And he's already doing that.)

By the time Kente gets back he has, however, not yet left the room. 

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He'll get some bars for both of them so as not to make Alessa wait for him, and some of the chilled vegetable broths. He knows Alessa's tastes well enough to pick something he should like (which is more care than Alessa often takes with himself, but that's what he's here for, isn't he.) (If they don't like him taking food for two people on just himself, he can spend two of his meals on this, and then Alessa can return the same at lunch. By which time they will hopefully have clothing.)

He goes back to the room. Is pretty easily able to figure out what's going on. 

"I can do it." And, when Alessa seems about to protest. "You do the extra talking so I don't get myself whipped, I do the extra walking around in nightclothes. Seems fair to me." And hugs him.

It doesn't take long to eat the bars. He heads out to where the front desk was with his phone after. He's guessing it won't be Mareline there again, but is there someone?

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There is.  A cheery looking young woman only slightly older than they are, and a purple snake large enough to watch him from behind the counter.  She's busy reading something, but looks up when he approaches.  "Hi!  How can I help you?"

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He's not used this type of phone before and they need to call someone; how would he do that correctly?

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She is briefly confused, but glances at his daemon.  The night shift had left a note about them.  She can explain it.  Does he have the number already?

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Helpful of them.

He does but if it's alright they'd prefer to do the actual call in their room?

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That's fine.  She is confused why they seem to think they need her permission to use their phones.  "Come back if you need anything else explained," she says.  

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Well, he thought she might try to direct him through the call right there, and he'd prefer not that, but she's from the government so he shouldn't just announce things to her. 

He can't tell what she's confused about; probably something related to there being a kidnapped alien around. (Two of them, even.)

He thanks her. He goes back to the room.

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Messaging seems less intrusive than calling, but they'd been told to call. He calls the number they were given.

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There's a few seconds of waiting, then a voice picks up.  "Hello.  Azure-and-Florentho speaking.  Who is this?"  He sounds slightly groggy, but not upset.  

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Oh gods did he wake him up? ...Well, nothing for it now, he isn't going to try to hang up and pretend he didn't.

"I'm so sorry, sir. It's Alessa, from the lab, sir. I'm very sorry."

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"Oh, hi!  Is everything okay over there?  You sound upset."  

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"No, sorry sir, everything is fine. I'm sorry if I woke you up, sir."

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He grimaces. (And Azure had said to call him and also said morning and didn't say any more than that if he remembers correctly. 

And of course the fact that he gets tempted to point out things like that is why Alessa is doing the talking.)

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(The vulpix jumps into his lap again.)

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"It's fine," he says.  He's pretty used to being woken up by phone calls, and it is right around the time he'd normally wake up.  "We were going to go clothes shopping, and that's the sort of thing that shouldn't wait.  You're still in the hotel area by the teleport?  I should be responsible and not teleport outside of emergencies during busy times of day, so it'll take about half an hour to get there."

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"Thank you, sir." He's not completely sure he won't be reprimanded when the dom gets here, but - it's still forgiving. Which is good, if the dom is meant to have authority over them.

He's isn't sure he understands the question. "We're still in the hotel we walked to, sir. Should we - wait outside, sir?"

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He considers that.  He remembers that they had been upset at their clothing last night, which was apparently their alien world's equivalent of indecent.  "I'll call back when I get close, and you can come out to the lobby then."

There is some sound in the background as he gets up and starts walking around.  Florentho searches his own phone for tailors that are especially close to the Sienna Police Station.  Under normal circumstances, he'd insist on going over to Column of Summer where his favorite tailor works and commision them a complete wardrobe, but they can pick up something cheap and ready-made for the moment.  

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"Thank you, sir." He waits to see if there's more or if the dom will hang up. 

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Nothing more.  He ends the call and prepares for the day.  Practice and a habit of keeping his wardrobe organized in pre-planned outfits means he's up and out of the apartment in a very short time, grabbing a meal bar to eat as he walks.  Today is a loose sleeveless shirt and shorts, since Sienna is one of the warmer Halls.   

Altogether, it's a bit under a kilometer and he's a fast walker.  It takes 0.4 of an hour before they'll hear the phone ringing to signal his arrival.

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He relays the plan to Kente. And, "I don't think he's angry."

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Since they have a little time, he wants get some exercises done. The room's not exactly suited for it, what with all the nets, but even if doesn't mind the nightshirt so much he should probably not go do exercises the hallways. He picks some that he can do with the room's constraints.

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He's already made the bed, and there aren't really any more chores to do. He finds out by asking the daemons that they don't consciously know life information about him and Kente. And that they'd like to. So he'll tell them about some of that - their Gifts, and that Kente dances, and where they live when they're home.

(There's - other stuff they should probably know. But if they have half an hour it's - probably not the time to start on it.)

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And he adds that Alessa likes architecture and art history, and draws, and cooks well, and pretty much manages the household, and should probably get some sort of award for organization/logistics if that was something people gave submissives. In case Alessa wasn't going to bring it up.

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He ducks his head and bites his lip a little.

He picks up the phone when it rings.

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"I'm at the lobby," he says cheerfully.  When they get there, he continues.  "I checked, and there's a tailor that sells cheap type-color clothing a little over a hectometer bow-ward on this level.  Not great, but it'll do for walking around since you probably don't want to wait for something custom-made."

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They go to the lobby. (Partially by Kente's efforts, he has wrapped himself in the sheet again.)

He doesn't really understand those direction indications, but he's about to see, so that isn't very important.

"Thank you, sir. We'd be very grateful to have something soon, sir."

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Exiting the small offshoot that they had been in until now, they get their first proper look at a main Hall.  Wider than an average street, the lowest floor beneath them has a canal running through the center and patches of grass and small trees between it and the stone-tiled paths close to the walls.  Above it are two levels of balcony paths lined in planter boxes, with their current vantage point being on the middle of the three total layers.  All of the walls of this artificial canyon are lined in houses and storefronts.  The ceiling has a bright row of sunlight-mimicking lamps and a mirrored surface that makes the structure look twice as tall.  Rust red silk banners hang from the occasional bridges that cross between the balcony sides, and the entire Hall has a loose theme of desaturated warm tones.  

There are quite a few people out, looking twice as crowded due to daemons but still with plenty of space in the wide walkways.  In the open space at the center, someone will occasionally dart past riding or being carried by a bird-shaped daemon.  Considering the small size of several of the birds, this clearly is taking magic rather than wing strength.  

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...

That - is not exactly what he was expecting.

He looks up at the lights and the - ceiling(?).

"...Are we - underground, sir?"

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"We're on a ship.  Tower of Autumn, specifically.  It has a bunch of long halls like this, side by side, each with a few thousand people."

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what.

He successfully doesn't actually blurt that out at any doms.

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"...A ship, sir?"

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"A ship," he repeats, then pauses.  "Huh, that's... going to be a lot to explain."  He'd be surprised that it hadn't come up, though considering how timid they've been perhaps they just hadn't wanted to ask.  

"Short version is: Our ancestors used to live on a planet, but it was becoming unstable.  They built a fleet of ships and packed them full of as many people as they could, then sent them off into space.  We've been crossing the space to another livable planet, but it's been over 200 years and we're still decades off.  Until then, the ships are built like cities, with farms and so on, so we can live normally in them."

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It does seem like the sort of thing that might have come up if they'd asked more questions, even if literally asking 'so are we on a planet or not that' would not have really occurred to them.

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Oh. Oh, wow.

That - that explains the documents and the 'fleet' and the directions... ...And the map, those must be ships...

"Oh. Wow. Thank you, sir," he remembers to say.

And, "Our people live on a planet, sir. I - don't think we know how to build ships like this."

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He's privately confused about what he's being thanked for, though replies with a "you're welcome" out of reflex.  Thinking about it for a moment, it's probably for the explanation and not thanks for living in a spaceship.  

"We had been assuming you were from a planet, though it's good to get confirmation."  

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Meanwhile, they can be on their way to buy clothes.  

They pass a shop selling and repairing used electronics, and a side-street lined in what looks like residential doors.  There's a small barber shop, then the tailor right after it.  

Six mannequins display clothing on one side of the shop between displays of fabric swaths.  They are relatively simple designs, lacking the beading and embroidery that Azure and his friends had worn.  The other half is eighteen long racks of pre-made clothing sorted by colors matching the logo at the front of each rack.  Utilitarian underthings line shelves on the back wall.  The checkout counter is lined in small boxes full of patches and colorful bandannas.  

Behind the counter doubles as a sewing area, and an old man is hunched over a sewing machine and putting together the pieces of a shirt while his daemon watches the store.  

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Nodnod. (He hopes that's ok to do at doms here.)

It's a relief to get to the clothing shop tailor(?). The information about the being-on-ships had distracted him some, but not entirely, and he's still very aware of himself, and the street (...or, whatever they call this instead), and everyone on it. (He's been trying not to, but he still keeps ending up clutching the sheet).

Looking around doesn't help him figure out which clothing is for who here at all, but presumably the dom knows, and for all he knows this might be a sub-specific tailor and then there'd be nothing to notice. (He might think the beading and embroidery had been for doms, but the dom had said 'cheap' and that seems likely enough to be the cause of the difference, there.) He waits to see what they're supposed to do next. (He looks around to see if there might also be shoes.)

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Shoes have their own specialty stores here.

"Kente, your vulpix is a fire type, so pick whatever fits you from that rack.  And Alessa - your spinarak is bug-type.  Well, technically bug and poison, but the first one is the one that counts.  That's this one," he gestures at the respective racks.  

Each rack has a variety of sizes organized along it, meaning that any given size only has a few pieces to choose from.  Kente has predominantly orange options, while Alessa has lime green.  Most of the fabric has simple abstract or geometric prints, and everything continues to be silk.  The premade pieces are about half the price of the custom options advertised on the opposite side of the store.  

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Orange, sure.

They probably would want at least two sets of clothing. How expensive does that look?

Is there a fitting room or do they need to guess at sizes?

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"Thank you, sir."

(Socks? Hair ties? Little sewing kits?)

Oh, if they also use clothing to mean another thing here, that might be part of why he's having trouble around role reading them. Unless submissives and dominants are also different 'types'?

He looks at the rack he was pointed to. Do they have anything like the kind of submissive robes he usually wears (a bit longer than the knee, not too much extra fabric), or other kinds of submissive robes if not that? (He knows that's not what submissives wear here, at least very probably, but it's what he's used to, and if it's allowed...)

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Two sets each is well within their budget.  Adding in underthings (a category which includes socks, according to the organization of the shop) puts it at about a quarter of their funds.  There is a small stack of pocket-sized sewing kits along with the patches by the counter, but nothing for hair.  This is not a large shop, and appears to have a pretty niche specialty - everything is casual wear for adults.  A single changing room is available at the very back.  

Robes don't seem to be fashionable around here.  There are some knee-length skirts and shorts and long pants which either flare out or hug the legs, about two of each per 'type' per size.  There are an equal number of shirts with variable sleeve lengths and torso lengths.  

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He is being ridiculous, he's seen images of historical and foreign submissives in different clothing, clothing isn't sorted the same here... 

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He catches the way Alessa's looking at the clothes. Crosses over. 

"Get one set now, looks like custom's not that expensive, if it doesn't turn out robes are the other way around here you can get some later?"

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"Silly way to spend money."

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"Is not. You'd not say that if it was me, would you? And we were told it's for clothing. I'll happily forgo extra dessert or whatever. And if we get short on money you can get another set instead."

(They're talking at a volume that Azure could overhear if he tried, but won't by default.)

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That's... true.

He's being ridiculous

He picks out some of the flared pants - not something anyone in their country usually wears, so they make him feel less like he's getting dom clothes for some reason than the other pants and skirts do. And the longest torso length of shirts they have. Do they have sashes?

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He's wondered what it would be like wandering around in a skirt - he's worn them a few times for dancing, foreign costumes and such. And leg-hugging pants should be good for exercise. He estimates size by looking and holding up to himself as well as he can, then if Azure doesn't seem to mind heads off to the changing room to narrow it down. 

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He'll be next for the changing room. And then they can maybe use the sizes they figure out for the underthings, since they should probably not try those on.

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Azure does not like this place, but feels it would be irresponsible to wait outside in case they have questions.  He is looking at the fabric swatches with disinterest as Florentho hides behind one of the mannequins.  

The clothing fits as well as off-the-rack clothing can be expected to, and the size system does seem to be the same for underthings.  There are some sash-like items available, their tags advertising easy grip for shoulder daemons and protecting from accidental talon-poking.  

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The dom doesn't look like he wants to be spending his time here waiting for them; they should hurry up.

They figure out sizes (this is in fact as well as they generally expect clothes to fit.) He gets his one set of clothing (-he is being ridiculous and if their Uncle was here he would whip him-), and the waist kind of sash, slender, if they have those. He takes one of the sewing kits. 

Kente gets his two sets.

...the advertisement makes him wonder if they should get something for daemon carrying? Him especially maybe, this was a short walk but he's been worried/unsure if there's something he should do for longer ones. ...That's probably important enough to try bothering the dom with. He asks. (Also, would it be alright if they just went back to the fitting room and changed?)

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"Daemons don't get tired as fast as humans," Azure says.  "And spinarak in particular shouldn't have trouble hanging onto normal shirts."

There aren't any sashes explicitly for waists, though the sashes are simple enough to put on in different configurations.

The tailor assures them that lots of newly-settled folks wear their new clothing out.  As long as they pay first or hand him the tags to put into the system, it's fine.  

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"Thank you, sir. Sorry sir."

If there is any indication that the sashes may be used for waists, he'll get one. Otherwise he won't, neither that nor his other idea of tying some bandanas together - he shouldn't try anything creative until he knows what means what. 

He thanks the tailor. They can pay first, and then change. He's - still not entirely comfortable, he's not used to this kind of clothes and it feels weird in more than one way. But it's much better than the nightshirt. He'll neatly bundle both nightshirts and Kente's extra clothing into the sheet (different sections, since the clothing is new) so he can carry it.

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He doesn't argue with Alessa about the carrying. He still finds the new clothes pretty neat; does a few dance steps he remembers from one of the skirt-involving ones while Alessa is folding things.

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One of the longer sash varieties is shown on the label to be worn with one loop over a shoulder, a wrapping around the waist, and the ends hanging down to the knees.  Another has six pictures of possible styles to show off it's adjustable clips, each a different person carrying different daemons, with the sixth standing next to a very large daemon with a waist sash tied into an elaborate, puffy bow.  It's not common, and no one they passed getting here had worn it like that, but it's also not unheard of.

When they're dressed and ready to go, "Anything else stand out as something to get right away?  I'd recommend shoes, a bag, then maybe heading to the library to use the TMs and go over anything that stands out as confusing."  Florentho types on his own phone, presumably looking up directions or taking notes.  

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He gets the first one; keeps the label and ties it as shown. (He's not sure he can reproduce the bow of the second one exactly enough from a picture, and it could be that only people with large daemons, or that sort of daemon, or something else like that, are supposed to wear it like that). It helps some too.

"We'd be grateful for shoes, sir, and what we would brush our teeth with, and maybe hair combs and ties, if that would be alright?" He hopes none of that is taboo to say. "And a bag would be useful, thank you sir."

...Oh. He notes to himself to ask the daemons later if they should share the phones.

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"Also some paper and pencils, if that would be alright, sir," he adds, in his capacity of standing in for Alessa's lack of most things resembling concern for himself.

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He nods, and Florentho takes notes.  "Those all sound like good ideas."

There's a pause as Florentho and Azure quietly debate on which stores are closest and would have a decent variety, and how to loop the trip so they can drop off things at the hotel without walking a long distance with heavy bags. 

"There's a shoe store on the third level that looks promising," he says to them, and starts guiding them in the direction of the nearest ramp upwards. 

"While you're walking, take a look at what the other people are wearing and see if there's any designs you'd like to wear for yourself.  I'd like to bring you to my own tailor once we've finished getting the necessities, and I'll pay for some proper custom outfits.  The colors should match your daemons, and there are a few components that are rare in men's clothing, but other than that clothes are meant to be individual aesthetic expressions."

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(They follow.)

"Oh - thank you, sir. That's -" 'very generous' he was about to say, but no, maybe this is - something expected here, and the dom would be offended to have it implied that he might have done otherwise. "You're very kind, sir."

And - it hadn't quite occurred to him, that whatever kind of responsible the dom is supposed to be or deciding to be for them might mean something different here than what he'd expect, know of. It - should have occurred to him, he should have thought about it. But he hadn't, and now he's - very aware of not knowing, suddenly. What else might be done here. What might be expected of them.

(And given what the dom said this would be an obvious time to ask which clothes go with who, and which they should be looking at. But the dom wasn't mentioning, maybe thinks it would be obvious. And maybe that's - bias (not that that necessarily means he'd appreciate the question), but maybe it is obvious, and he just hasn't noticed because he hasn't really seen very many people yet. He'll - try paying attention some more.

(He's confused about the reference to 'men's clothing' but the dom said 'rare' and not 'not done' so it's probably not important enough to ask immediately. He'll try looking for that too.)

(And he now knows that clothing goes with something about daemons also, and can look for that too.

He watches people and their daemons and their clothes.)

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He can see why Alessa's worried (most people would probably not be able to tell that Alessa's worried (as opposed to maybe-nervous, for which there could be many reasons), but he can tell). But you know what - obviously a hot dom buying you fancy clothes might not go great in the end, depending on which genre of dime-a-dozen novels you're reading. But it's not as though there's anything they can do about it. So there's not that much point in worrying forward. And in the meanwhile - a hot dom on a spaceship said he wants to buy them fancy clothes. No good reason not to enjoy it while he can.

(He's a fan of this individual aesthetic expression idea, also. He does a few more (walking-compatible) dance steps in the skirt.)

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No longer in as much of a hurry, they can focus more on the street and the people.  Shops continue to be relatively small and specific to the type of good they sell.  They reach a wide ramp which spirals them up to the next floor, the hollow center holding an art display of a waterfall cascading down tier after tier of frosted glass bowls which light up in different colors.  The ramp goes all the way from the bottom floor to a small balcony all the way up near the mirrored ceiling.  

Shirts and shorts are the most common combination, with skirts, dresses, and longer pants being rarer but still prevalent. They don't see anyone in robes, though a few dresses look similar from the back and a few men are wearing tunics that look a bit like sleeveless robes that were cut at the waist.  Gloves or bracers are common with sleeveless shirts, and decorative layers like vests are common in general.  

All children have pink blob-like daemons which shift size and shape into the other daemons around them.  Unlike the adults, where nearly every piece of fabric is either patterned or gone over with beads or embroidery, children have clothing of single-color fabrics.  They combine these flat colors in multiple pieces, or even different sections of the same clothing.  One boy has a yellow shirt, red vest, green shorts, and blue bracers and socks.  Another is running around in a coat made from thin strips of dozens of different colors in no particular order, which continue unsewn after the waist to billow out like streamers to his knees.

A cluster of teens are wearing entirely white with paint splatters of their daemon colors, which also match their dyed hair.  One of them has hanging beads which look like dripping paint.  Wide collars seem more popular among the older crowd.  Only one person they pass has a cape, a man with an injured arm riding on the back of a large dragon.  Uniforms are rare except for a few groups like police officers which need to be seen from a distance - those have stripes of a daemon or type color and are otherwise neutral colors specific to the job.

About three quarters of the skirt-wearers are women, and women are more likely to wear clothing that pinches tightly at the waist or cuts off to leave the stomach exposed.  Men are much more likely to have no sleeves.  The most noticable differences all seem to be for enhancing the secondary sexual characteristics.  When not directly mimicking the patterns of sharp or rounded daemons, men tend to have more angular patterns and plain edges to their clothing while women have rounded designs and wavy or scalloped edges.  

Daemons are nearly all undressed, though a few are wearing bandanas or scarves or other minor details.  They spot another person with a spinarak, sitting on the shoulder of someone with a yellow and black knitted shawl over a green suit that covers everything but the head and hands.  He's somewhere in his fifties, sitting at one of the occasional tables and typing on a laptop computer.  A few people have fish-like daemons which hover slightly above the floor.

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Azure points out trivia about the clothing.  Things that have come into fashion recently, things that are probably going out soon.  Which people are probably overdoing it.  He can even recognize a few tailor's work, pointing out things that certain up-and-coming tailors or ones with a defined 'style' keep adding to their work.  It is obvious that clothing is something of a passion of his, and he's happy to have someone new to ramble at.  

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He's very interested in the street and the people both. Tries not to get too distracted from what he's supposed to be looking for. (He reminds himself not to stop and stare more at the ramp waterfall and try to think how he'd draw it.)

He knows how to look properly attentive even when he isn't really interested (though he doesn't tend to need to use it often). Doesn't need it here either - he is interested, in the details of this other world, in thinking about all these people and how they might relate to all these things the dom is talking about.

 

He's also - confused. If clothing delineation is supposed to be obvious, then he is still completely missing it. And still can't figure out how to read the people, even when he's seeing them in groups. ...Maybe he was right before, and daemons differ by role, so sorting clothes by daemons sorts it by role already, and other delineations are less important here because the daemons are right there?

(It's - weird to think that subs might wear shorter shorts, but he can't be sure they're not - and maybe discipline is done differently here, or it's just the expected thing and the subs are - used to it. It's not like people don't notice signs of punishment all the time, in their own world. Like that isn't part of the point, often.) (...He hopes it will be alright if he would like not to wear the shorts himself. Though of course he - will if he needs to.)

Maybe if it turns out he's allowed them but not allowed submissives' robes he can try a tunic like that, over a shirt (if that's allowed).

(And color is supposed to match something about daemons, but it can't be one color per daemon, from what the dom had said and the number of racks in the store. Can he figure out anything about how the daemons group?)

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He continues to occasionally work a few dance steps into walking (Azure hasn't told him off yet. More great traits in the hot dom.)

He's also interested, though differently - in how it all looks, in thinking about people doing aforementioned aesthetic expressions (probably at least not all of them are, but still). He wonders what their dance costumes look like; imagines suitable matching scenery. Wonders if that streamer-jacket comes in adult sub designs. ...And if submissives are allowed capes.

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Florentho, from the opposite side of Azure, begins trying to copy the dance moves.  

Nearly everyone has the same colors as their daemons' fur, scales, skin, or feathers directly, making figuring out the pattern of exceptions a bit tricky.  A few people with fish-shaped daemons have base clothing of dark blue with only sashes, capes, or vests of their daemon's scale color.  Similarly, others with giant bugs will have the same lime green base that Alessa had been offered.  Birds get pale lavender, same as the rack that had been labeled with a feathery wing logo.  The other 15 of the 18 basic racks of pre-made clothing are harder to see patterns in.  It seems to be a feature found only in very low-end outfits like their own - all of the fabric in a not-obviously-matching color is printed, not beaded or embroidered.  

Eventually, the shoe store is reached.  Assuming they'd been paying attention to shoes as well, they'd have noticed that many people were wearing relatively light shoes and sandals.  This shop's inventory is no exception.  There is a small selection of factory-safe boots and shoes for rougher activities.  Most of the shelves, however, are many designs for shoes meant to be worn on smooth indoor floors.  Sandals that are little more than a thickened sole with ribbons to tie it on and decorate the leg.  Shoes that are less-fuzzy versions of slippers, simplistic ballet shoes, other dance shoes, and loafers.  Most have flat soles, though a handful have higher heels or wooden platforms.

Most of the shoes on display are white.  A section near the entrance is devoted to coloring and sealing - turning a pair of shoes into any other single color takes about an hour and is included in the base cost.  More detailed airbrush designs take longer and have increasing prices.  Some examples are on display, including a rainbow fade that has also had rhinestones put onto it, and a pair of cloth boots with a painting of a flowering field. There are also alternative ribbons available which can be easily switched out for the sandals.  

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Does that mean the hot dom might like dancing? He has no idea, but he can definitely think about it. 

He looks for shoes that would be good for dance and also for walking around in, since probably one pair is the amount to buy.

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They've been looking at shoes too.

He looks for sandals that would still be good for running it. He's not sure what shoe upkeep standards they might have here, and sandals are easier for that. But he can hardly forget about their kidnappers.

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If they can get a bit away from Azure while they're browsing shoes, he catches Alessa's hand. 

If this is the kind of thing where he gets us in the bedroom sense, and he'll settle for one, I call dibs.

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That's not funny.

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Mean it the serious way too. I might have a good time, you won't have a good time, these aren't great first time circumstances. And that dom Uncle's trying to sell you to seems the sort to be a shit about it.

(He highly doubts said dom is great first time circumstances either, actually (or any other time), but he doesn't really think something like this would help.)

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He - doesn't really have arguments for any of that.

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Which he knows doesn't mean Alessa's convinced. He squeezes Alessa's hand. 

And, back to shoe selection.

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He returns it. 

 

Shoes.

He's - not sure what the dom wants them to do about the coloring, given the time demand. Is he giving any indications?

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The shoes are organized by style, and within a style can vary dramatically in price.  The simplest ones in each category aren't much more than a shirt, then go up in price as the designs and materials get more elaborate.  Alessa can get some sandals with a secure web of straps to keep them attached while running.  Kente has a decent variety of simple shoes to choose from with both a good fit for dancing and a durable sole. 

Color is admittedly an issue.  Azure winds up buying two very cheap pairs of sandals for them, little more than a thin sole and a bit of ribbon to keep them attached to the foot.  They can loop back later for their better shoes once they're painted and fully dry.

(He is observant enough to know when they want help and when they want space.  He is also getting rather concerned about just what sort of world they come from, considering their reactions to certain things.)

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They pick out shoes. They don't need anything elaborate but sturdy and comfortable and not likely to fall apart are good, they don't know much yet about their future here. They can pay more for that if they need to.

"Should we get the same color as our clothes, sir?"

That's very kind of him; and this way they'll have something to wear to the shower and such too. Or if they somehow get their main shoes - presumably something other than rained on, but things happen. They thank him.

They're pretty (politely) overt when they'd like help (well, except when they'd like it but aren't going to ask). They're careful not to telegraph the second thing, but it does tend to involve them finding reasons to end up farther away from him. 

If he keeps his concern internal, they will not notice it.

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They can get a good balance of cheap and durable easily enough.  They won't be good for walking on rough terrain, but that doesn't matter here.  "Dark shoes are in this year," the painter suggests when they drop off the shoes.  They are recommended a dark red-orange and dark forest green, respectively.  Azure nods, though gives them the final say.  Glancing into the painting section behind him, there are in fact a number of dark-toned pieces awaiting pickup, mostly single colors or two-tone fades.  

Further shops get visited.  Reusable cloth bags for carrying things.  Basic toiletries and hair ties.  Paper and pencils suitable for drawing are slightly niche outside of fine art stores, but they can buy them cheaper from a shop that mostly handles prints of digital art.  With that, the trip has expended most of their funds and they've gotten in return the basic supplies the money was intended to cover plus something for a hobby.  

Azure again consults his phone for directions.  The two remaining important things are the library and his tailor.  The nearest library with a full TM selection is eight halls away - not terrible, given that they're much narrower than they are long, but still a bit of a walk.  He wants to save going to the tailor as the very last thing, to give them the most time to see local fashions.  

"Let's grab a snack and watch a battle or two at the park while waiting for the shoes, get them, then head to the library," he decides, checking the cousins' reactions to make sure they're not getting annoyed at being dragged around yet.  "First, though, I could use a restroom break.  Back in a minute."  He ducks into one of two doors, leaving them in a small area with benches just outside.  

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They'll accept the recommendation. (He kind of wants a fancy design, but now's probably not the time to spend time or money on that, and if they get more spending money later he can do it once they know more about what means what here. And he's had more time to brainstorm designs.)

Basic supplies are great to have. And he's glad Alessa'll have the art supplies. 

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They keep looking around, at clothes as well as not clothes. The ship's(!) designs are really interesting. He still hasn't figured out clothing designations. Maybe they'll have time in the library to try to look it up, if they're going there before going for the clothing.

"Yes sir, thank you."  Looking at battles sounds good - the daemons are interested in them, and it's done here, and it'd be good to know more. (They've checked in with their daemons a few times, and always been told that all is well (and interesting!), but it'd be good to do something specifically for them, soon.) And good to get their first look with someone with them, so they don't stumble into something dangerous. And the officer had recommended the library, and he's looking forward to it for a chance to maybe learn more. 

They are not getting annoyed at all; they very much appreciate the help and are glad that he doesn't seem annoyed about it, at least yet. 

Nodnod.

And, probably a good time for them to do the same, then, so they don't keep him waiting later. He took his daemon along so they'll do the same. The labels on the doors are unfamiliar (predictably), but if he's going to that one presumably the subs' room is the other one. They head in.

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The woman fussing with her hair in the mirror does not think they belong!  She glares at them and tells them that this is the bathroom for women.  

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Did he... mishear that? He looks at Kente, who looks just as confused.

"I'm sorry, the -?"

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Another woman, with a yellow four-legged bug looking daemon on her head, comes out of one of the stalls, sees them, and is immediately considerably more upset.

What are they doing here. And two of them together on top of everything. Are they stalking someone, like that awful ex her niece had, or were they just hoping to get a peek at whoever was in? It's bad enough when just-settled try something like that! Or did they think this was a funny prank, because it isn't!

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What did they - he doesn't know and trying to think quickly enough isn't giving him anything and - they'll - find out soon, right now -

He will look sorry and contrite and compliant (and unthreatening, he doesn't usually have to think about looking unthreatening but she'd mentioned stalking) - he doesn't know how they signal all that here but he can do his best and hope some things are universal enough -

They're very sorry, they're - new here, they still don't know a lot, they didn't mean to - do whatever they did (should he have said that? But what else could he have said?), they're sorry and they'll - try to fix it right away -

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(He isn't quite as good at this as Alessa, but he can do about the same.)

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The daemons huddle in a bit.

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This doesn't actually seem to make her much less angry.

Oh, now they're sorry, now that they've run into someone who might actually have something to say about it? Do they think that'll convince her not to report them? Because it won't, she is going to report them immediately. Someone needs to act to put a stop to this sort of thing. And what kind of ridiculous excuse is he even trying to come up with there.

(She stalks over to one of the sinks and begins washing her hands, glaring over at them angrily any time she doesn't need to watch what she's doing.)

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Contrite, compliant - usually-well-disciplined -

No, of course not, they're sorry, of course it isn't an excuse. The - the dom they're with is in the other restroom, he'll probably be out soon, if she wants to talk right to him -

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They have another friend in on this, do they? And he backed out but they're still trying to blame it on him? Well, sure, she wants to see him, if he was involved she's going to report him too.

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Oh gods, is this something where the dom will be in trouble for not having kept them from it -

(...Well, it isn't as though it would be better if he hadn't mentioned him and it had to come through the report the long way...) (He's confused about some parts of what she'd said, but he's confused about a lot right now, it's hardly most important...)

(He feels so stupid and thoughtless and the worst kind of irresponsible - he should have asked the sub at the front desk for a book, he should have asked her, he should have stopped being ridiculous about the nightshirt and gone to the cafeteria and found some friendly looking sub, he should at worst have asked the dom who was taking them around - how did he think they were going to go around knowing nothing and have it all turn out just fine - and he deserves to be punished, for it, but now he's gotten Kente into it too, and maybe the dom, who's been so generous to them...)

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She finishes washing her hands, glares at them more, and walks to the door.

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They follow.

He takes Alessa's hand again, squeezes. (Well. It was probably going to happen sooner or later. Unideal comfort, but there it is.)

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The daemons are also following. (It's unfair, he thinks, that they're going to be hurt for it too, when it isn't hardly their fault.

Maybe whoever will be dealing with them here will - put him and Kente at a wall for a few hours, or something, and the daemons can just wander around in range. 

That's probably not how they do it though. Not if the daemons are supposed to be their souls.)

 

Is the dom out yet?

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Florentho is.  He'd stepped into the restroom to discuss some things with his Azure, but had wound up rushing back out when he'd felt the burst of negative emotions nearby.  Their immediate thought was that the people from the illegal lab had been watching for a chance to attack.  He really shouldn't have left the aliens alone, even for a few seconds.  They didn't even have propper Moves yet - only whatever vulpix and spinarak normally know by default, which is - what? Tackle?  They also don't seem as willing to defend themselves as the locals.  Unfortunately, that hadn't felt as important as having a moment to catch up with his human forty seconds ago.  

After looking around for them on the nearby benches, he paces back and forth a bit trying to triangulate where the feelings are coming from.  Probably the women's restroom?  He hesitates at the door, considering whether or not to crack the door open and ask if there's anything going on inside.  

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Before he can, the door opens. An angry woman, whose joltik has moved to her shoulder, steps out and glares around.

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Followed by the cousins, looking subdued and nervous and bracing. They also look around.

"That's his daemon. He - must not be out yet, miss." He's - not sure what to do (or why the daemon is out here alone now -  maybe it's part of how things are done here (which he should have asked about...))

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Nothing illegal lab related seems to be happening though.

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Azure is washing his hands.  Ultimately, Florentho can handle just about anything he can in this situation, so he wouldn't be justified rushing out.  

"Is anyone hurt?"  Florentho asks the cousins, ignoring the woman for the moment.

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He is looking down at the ground. "No, sir." That's - something. They could have have done worse, with how careless he was. At least if got caught quickly. Before anything more severe could happen.

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"No thanks to you!" opines the woman's daemon from her shoulder. "Did you think this was some harmless prank? I don't know how you were involved, but just because you didn't do it yourself doesn't mean you're blameless! We're going to be reporting all of you. Before you barge in on someone who you'll set crying!"

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"Reporting someone for wandering into the wrong bathroom by mistake, really?"  He adopts a disapproving stance at her.  "This hardly seems worth bothering with."

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By mistake? She thinks not. She heard someone telling those two where they were, before she'd even gone out to the sinks, and did they apologize and get right out? They did not. And then they had the audacity to pretend they had no idea what she was talking about.

And if they were hanging around together and his human is in the right place, she doesn't see how they could have made a 'mistake' at that point.

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The wrong - ?

He is not going to interrupt right now.

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He considers his reply.  'Aliens' explains everything, but isn't exactly believable.  They would also prefer if it were kept under wraps for now.  

"By all means, call over an officer," he winds up saying.  "We aren't in a hurry, if you want to waste your time."  His tone carries complete confidence in the situation.  Which, of course, he is.  Even if the police weren't well aware of the situation with the aliens, and even if Azure-and-Florentho weren't a member of one of the more influential families in the Fleet, and even if they didn't have a spotless history and in high regard in their own right, he's pretty sure that using the wrong bathroom isn't even illegal on its own.  It's just that people who usually enter do so to do things that are illegal.

Azure steps out, though stands back.  Florentho knows more about what's going on and can keep talking until they've had the chance to catch up.

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The vulpix wraps a tail around Kente's leg, staying close, looking also nervous.

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...He remembers how the officers had talked to - the one other of their rescuers. If their rescuers are all important... (He doesn't want the dom to have to be penalized for their - his - mistakes, it's - good, if he wouldn't be. But he doesn't want the woman in trouble either...

(...it occurs to him, very belatedly, that if there's some issue with the bathroom they were in, the woman might also be a dom (it's so disorienting, being this unsure...). In which case - he's lucky she didn't seem to notice him misaddress her. He - doesn't think they'd done anything else...)

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The woman narrows her eyes at Florentho, then turns her head at the door opening. She seems to actually recognize Azure; her demeanor changes, seeing him.

 

"Now I wouldn't have expected you be involved in something like this. Unless you weren't after all and they're just trying to sling blame around?" She's sounding much less angry, at least while addressing him.

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(He winces, still looking at the ground. He didn't mean -)

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Florentho can catch Azure up quietly. 

Perhaps it would be best just to get her to go away.  "They are with me, though I wasn't expecting them to enter that restroom.  I'll talk to them about it."

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"Well.

I'm sure you can handle some pair of miscreants." She spares another glare for the cousins. "I just don't want to see it happen again, when it's someone who'd really be hurt - but I'm sure you understand. Of course you would hardly have been involved, seeing what you see.

I do apologize for yelling before I recognized you - the way they said it, I thought they had some other friend like them, maybe the sort who'd dare them to it. But I remember how you helped those poor people in that horrible fire - I'm as grateful as the whole ship is, of course. 

I hope you serve as a proper example to them." And she's just as glad to avoid all the hassle of reporting, really, and another thank you to him.

She walks away, seemingly satisfied that someone trustworthy and not likely to be part of some gang of delinquents has the situation in hand after all.

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(He shivers a little when Azure speaks. Not that he was - expecting something else. 

They look at the ground and - wait for what happens next.)

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He sighs in exasperation, but only after she gets far enough away that she won't hear it.  Well, that could have gone worse.  

"Use the restroom I came out of, then we'll find somewhere quiet to deal with this."  He pauses, considering.  He'd only assumed they were picking the wrong door by mistake - perhaps they are women?  And just because they look human... well, they can cover that later.  Either way, best to not risk having to deal with another person like her for the moment.

Florentho and Azure can take the time to speak privately while waiting.  

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They're close enough to hear. He flinches.

"Yes, sir." Somewhere quiet is - better than in public (he hasn't seen anyone doing public discipline, but they haven't been much of anywhere except shops and walkways yet.)

They go. (He kind of wants to talk to Kente, while they're alone together. But they shouldn't delay.)

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He has about the same thought process about talking.

If someone had asked him beforehand, he'd have said he'd expect this much bathroom confusion from aliens who didn't look almost exactly like they did. And hadn't had basically recognizable bathrooms otherwise.

Maybe they divide up bathroom by daemons for some reason (fights?) and subs are just supposed to go where their doms do and be covered by that. Or something.

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He tries to look unassuming and not look at anyone more than he has to, in case there are more doms here. 

("I'm sorry," he says to his daemon (in time he can't not take anyway). "It isn't fair that they can't just only punish me.")

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"I don't think it's one of ours' fault more than the other."

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(He doesn't have time to argue.)

They will be out pretty quickly.

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Azure-and-Florentho can catch up while waiting.  They are pretty upset at the woman.  Considering how quickly she changed her tune as soon as someone well-dressed came out, she was probably one of those types who likes to pick on those who can't fight back.

They can find one of many relatively private sitting areas tucked into odd corners of the Hall.  This one is at the bottom level of a ramp upwards, partially obscured with a large column and far enough from the main path that they'll be hard to overhear.  

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(The woman in question would disagree with and object to this, but is of course not present to do so.)

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They follow.

He's been trying to think if he should start preemptively apologizing, once they're wherever the dom means to deal with this. He - might not like it, if it's an interruption in whatever he was going to say, or if that's not done here.

But they apologized to the woman and not to him at all yet, and he's still not sure about body language here and he wants to show that they know they've - done something, even if they don't still understand what. That they're not trying to be obstinate or disobedient or make trouble. That they aren't going to try and get out of it, try to take what the daemon has said for themselves and claim it shouldn't be worth bothering with.

And it's the best way he can think of to try to draw attention to himself and less to Kente.

 

He waits until they're clearly enough where they're going, the dom has sat down and is looking at them again. He doesn't kneel - he doesn't know if that would be inappropriate, here.

"I'm really sorry sir. We're very sorry. I - you've been very kind to us, sir, everyone has been very generous, and it was - the least of my duty to do what I needed so that we could behave properly here. And Miss Mareline had said she was happy to help, and I had all of last night and this morning, and I should have - asked her, or one of the other subs at the front desk, or someone else at least, or asked someone for a book. And it was - very irresponsible, and very neglectful of me, and there isn't anyone to blame but me. I'm very sorry, sir. And I'm very sorry we - did whatever we did - I'm sorry, I should understand better - and very sorry we caused trouble for you, sir."

(Better to - begin with what it is, and not wait for the - 'conversation' - to get there through 'it was an accident' and 'they should have known'. And try to get any blame away from Mareline or anyone else for not instructing them better, if he can.)

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"First of all, you're not in trouble.  Of everyone involved, you two are the least responsible for the problem.  And... the what at the front desk?"  

(Florentho has pulled aside the daemons into their own group, as is normal.  Do they want hugs?  His human can handle the logical reasons that they ought to feel better.)

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That's - not what they were expecting at all, and incredibly forgiving, and - then there's the second part and now he's worried someone else is in trouble, and he's not even sure who, or how to ask about it, or how to - try to say that they shouldn't be in any way that isn't, well, arguing. 

And then he is distracted from both parts of this by the third part.

Did he - get her role wrong after all - but she hadn't done anything when he'd stopped addressing her properly -. But wait, the dom had left before they'd met Mareline, he'd never seen her, maybe the person staffing the front desk when he'd been there had been a dom (why would that happen...)

"I'm sorry sir, I should have - asked about this too, when I - knew I couldn't tell - the way we show role must not be at all the same as here, and I haven't known how to role read people here right. I've - guessed a few, but I - was guessing. I've been very disrespectful, and I'm sorry, sir."

...And, better tell it all then, if not everything with that woman might be over yet.

"...I thought we were in the subs' room because it was the other one from where you went, sir, but - we have subs' rooms and doms' room, for the restrooms; if you do it differently here I - might have misaddressed the woman who was angry with us. I'm sorry, sir."

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The daemons are worried about their humans! They can't tell/remember what bad thing their humans are expecting to happen, but they definitely know their humans are expecting a bad thing to happen.

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So he had heard that correctly.  "Explain what 'dom' and 'sub' mean in your culture," he suggests.  "And 'role'.  Here... well, I've only ever heard them as terminology in an obscure category of sexual fetish, which doesn't sound like what you're talking about."

"As for restrooms here, the space-efficient stall varieties are usually divided between men and women.  The stated reasons are... related to biological differences, but fairly trivial.  The real reason that it's persisted is because people who do go into the wrong room generally cause trouble when they do, making people think that there would be more trouble if they were combined."

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He is - more confused (and he'd already felt disoriented, unbalanced, as well as worried, more so than he's been feeling for a while in this other world). 'Mean in your culture' made sense - he'd been ready to start talking about how some of the things he doesn't know here were done in their home, a better basis for understanding here.

He's... not really sure what else role could mean. (He - thinks he's heard of places or times in history that had some other roles, third or fourth or more even, but a role was still the same thing...). The next part - had these words turned to meaning something inappropriate at some point here, and the more everyday words were ones he doesn't have...? (He blushes slightly, winces).

(He flinches a little at 'people who do go into the wrong room generally cause trouble').

 

"Roles are - the kinds of people that there are. Dominants and submissives. Submissives, we - orient to obedience, and devotion, and being kept and useful and pleasing. Dominants orient to command and ownership and guardianship." (He's half-expecting the dom to slap him for being condescending. But he wants to make sure it's as obvious as he can quickly make it, what he's talking about, that it's clear. And if they do have more roles here, or something like that...) (He - should probably mention, have mentioned discipline. He - didn't.)

And - there's so much about how things are done, he isn't sure how to try to order, or start...

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...Well, he supposes that if you made a rule that only people wearing blue that day could go into a certain bathroom, you could probably predict that the people who didn't go with that might also go do something else that mattered more. And that you couldn't use that as a screen or whatever if you didn't keep the rule.

He jumps in to the culture question, drawing on reading he's done and the like.

"Where we're from, one dominant usually marries one submissive but not always, both dominants and submissives can be employed, submissive and dominant siblings are raised in the same house, dominants aren't allowed to kill their submissives or any of their children, there are some restrictions on a dominant selling a submissive who they married, submissives are permitted in public alone, public punishment isn't very common, discipline by an authority other than a submissive's guardian or dominant is permitted with restrictions, submissives are allowed to speak in public..."

He's not sure if this is what Azure meant, but if not that should give him a chance to tell them. He leaves out anything about sex; doesn't know the rules for talking about that here. ...It was possibly asking for trouble to mention discipline, but too late to not do that now. And maybe it'd be a really obvious omission. 

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He mulls it over for a moment.  "Interesting.  We do have people who are more or less obedient or commanding, as personality traits.  We don't have any large-scale identification system ordering people along that axis into a binary pair of classifications, and no legal differences for people based on those traits."  That does sound a little like what the local obscure fetish group calls dom and sub, but he makes a note to himself to try and avoid making assumptions based on that.  They - Alessa in particular - also seem to be uncomfortable with the comparison.

"How do people get categorized?  Is there a test, or physical marker, or do people self-sort themselves?" 

(Florentho will reassure their daemons that everything is fine and they will do their best to stop any bad things from happening.)

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That -

 

He's not sure if that means they - have submissives and dominants (and... maybe something else?) but don't have the - explicit acknowledgement (...that sounds horrible) or - something else. (He's not at all sure how the earlier 'terminology in an obscure category of sexual fetish' connects into it).

He's not sure what 'no legal differences mean' - it probably doesn't mean 'doms can do whatever they want'; he doesn't think a place where that was true would look like this...

(It's less that he's uncomfortable with the comparison - nor does he understand it well enough for that - and more worrying he said something inappropriate. Not that he knows Azure is thinking this.)

 

He answers the question almost automatically.

"If you watch children you can see things, but children start saying it themselves once they're old enough to talk that much. Some take longer, but usually by seven or so most everyone'll say." He'd been early. Kente had been a little later - and some had thought he might be a dom, before that - but he was very insistent that he wasn't, once he started. "Some don't, and then their guardians report based on what they've seen."

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He isn't really less confused. And this definitely beats bathrooms in things it's very surprising to have suddenly be weird in aliens who are otherwise so much like them. Though, that might definitely explain why they don't have subs' and doms' rooms. And why Alessa's been having so much trouble with the clothes and all.

(Part of his brain attempts to figure out how this might affect the chances that Azure will want to sleep with him (and/or do something about it if he does want to). This is probably not really among the top ten things to be thinking about right now.)

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His human had said 'It isn't fair that they can't just only punish me'. And he's pretty sure he was thinking about it as something everyone would agree would be right.

Are their humans going to be punished?

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He supposes if he'd grown up in a culture that treated it like an important legal category, he'd have tried to sort himself young, too, to fit in.  

After having more time to think on it, "Kente, that list of differences... submissives being allowed out in public alone and allowed to speak in public, and so on.  Those were differences between cultures on your world, where in some they aren't allowed to but doms are?  Or is it that in your culture it is subs that can do those things, and doms that are forbidden from being without a chaperone or speaking in public?"  It would be very strange if the more submissive half of the population was legally allowed to kill their spouses and their children, but it seems worth clarifying.  

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No one will hurt them for having stepped into a restroom then done nothing.  Azure and Florentho aren't going to hurt them, and will do their best to make sure they don't step into any serious trouble.  (They are apologetic about not having caught the restroom thing.  It hadn't occurred to them that there would have been a cultural difference in that).  

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"I don't think there's anywhere where doms need chaperones or are forbidden from speaking in public?" That would be weird. Maybe there's some other aliens somewhere else that do that. "I think there's somewhere where it looks bad if doms argue in public and they're supposed to send their submissives to talk to each other? But it wouldn't be forbidden.

Speaking of, should he stick with the sir? And, in specific, do the 'adding appellations beyond base etiquette because he's worse at sounding polite other ways' thing? Yeah probably better to stick with it while they still don't know what's going on.

"Some of those were historical, sir? I don't think killing kids is legal anywhere anymore. Don't think unrestricted selling is legal anywhere, but I think some places don't enforce their rules very well." He hopes that's not a problem to say here. It's not like he's saying it about the local government. 

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Oh, that's good. He doesn't think their humans wanted to be punished for this. 

It looks like no one caught it; he doesn't think it's really anyone's fault. Maybe they should try to think of other things that might be like that, though.

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"As I mentioned, we don't have legal differences. Not for that, anyway - there are some special accomodations made or required of certain daemons, and many jobs require daemons who can learn Moves that make the jobs possible.  Also, our church gives certain responsibilities to each of the 18 different Types.  I suspect that types might be the closest thing we have to your kind of sorting, but from what it sounds like we don't take it nearly as far as your culture takes yours.

"For specifics... Marriage is normally two people, sometimes three or rarely more.  The most church-approved marriages are for different Types, but it's not illegal for two people of the same type to marry.  There's no assumption that one person owns the other, or is allowed to control the other other than mutually agreed upon and symmetrical agreements to limit extramarital sex.  Sometimes that's complete monogamy, or more often various other limits.  

"Everyone can be employed.  Murder of anyone by anyone is illegal.  Everyone can speak in public, though there is some speech that's illegal.  Slander, false advertising, making too much noise when people are trying to sleep, any sound that is immediately dangerous our causes people to fall asleep in dangerous situations..."

He thinks there were some others he could have used as a prompt, but some of the statements were so, well, alien.  There is one that stands out as being especially concerning, though.  "What does 'selling' mean in that context?"  

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...What other things could that possibly mean? They've been buying things all day, it's not that people here don't use money or something.

"...Come to think I think it isn't always selling, I think in some places there isn't exchange involved. Sir.

Sometimes a dominant marries a submissive and later doesn't want them anymore, and not in the way where they need to tell the government they can't control them. Abandonment is usually not allowed - it used to happen a lot more anyway, but now it's easier for the government to find the dom by records and hold them responsible. So they transfer them to someone else, sir."

He might wonder how marriage like that would work, but there are places in their own world where dominants can marry each other, and it must happen at least sometimes that they have some amount of time without submissives.  

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Could it be that people here just - (a middling sub who'd spent a few weeks in the house had shown him a story she'd written, one time after he'd - helped her. The main character had realized she wasn't a dom or a sub, was finding people who would understand that (also fighting bloodthirsty fairies, but that doesn't seem so applicable to what's happening here). Not something you'd see in books or tv more usually, but she'd written it well. He could understand, if he thought about it. And if you could have a person like that, you could have more...).

That - he isn't sure what it would be like, how it would work. But - sounds much less horrible than the other way, than imagining so many people caught without their own underpinning, not being able to say it, talk about it, maybe think about it themselves... (That couldn't last long, could it? Not decades, not longer than that? Someone would figure it out, would tell others, they could find it...

But - all sorts of things have lasted more than decades...).

But he doesn't know yet, what it really is here. (Isn't sure how this type division might relate...)

But, however things are here, they're here (and he needs to do better at being here...), so -

 

"Do we need to know anything, about the - types we are, and anything we should do? Aside from the clothing, sir.

..what kinds of sounds are dangerous or cause people to fall asleep?" Of things he wouldn't want to do by accident...

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He doesn't look happy about that.  "I was hoping that you'd meant some kind of second, alien definition.  For the record, our people haven't had slavery since before the ships left.  Both people in a marriage choose whether they want to move in together, and can be left by either at any time."

From everything he's heard, and some that he's been unconsciously combining from the local bdsm subculture, he's not concerned with the thought of uncontrollable submissives running rampant and destroying the ship if no one can rein them in.  This seems like an open-and-shut case for the 'doms' in charge of their world just being slavers and therefore awful.

Azure takes on a distant look, remembering and reciting something that he learned a very long time ago.  It's... well, it's not calming or reassuring, exactly, but it is something else to focus on.  "Fire is associated with the virtue of Productivity and the traditional goal of crafting.  Most are stereotyped as being angry and quick-witted.  Bug is associated with the virtues of Justice and Mercy, and the traditional goal of law enforcement.  They're stereotyped as being honest, and eager to rush to the defense of others.  These aren't necessarily accurate, and you don't have to follow them, it's just that people will look at you and assume you have those traits.  If you join a church, they expect members of the congregation to take on certain duties by Type.  Leading ceremonies during the matched month being the biggest one.

"Dangerous sounds are mostly Moves, or sometimes other daemon abilities."

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Yeah there's usually not much to be happy about in the unwanted submissives topic. Sometimes it works out at least ok in the end, but. 

He's not sure why slavery is suddenly up as a topic - maybe because of the selling relevance? And not really weird for Azure to think they could use the reassurance, since they're basically without their own resources and also were kidnapped. But he returns, since they seem to be exchanging,

"Our country hasn't for more than a century. I don't think there's anywhere slavery's still legal? Definitely not how it used to be. Think some places might have pockets anyway."

He's not entirely into the news that he'll be associated with productivity and crafting (Alessa might have liked those in specific better). Anger stereotype sounds like it could cause a problem, or else possibly be maybe ever useful, depending on how people feel about it.

Eager to rush to the defense of others is definitely Alessa to the core though.

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"and can be left by either at any time" Oh, that - . It could be really hard, of course, if someone left someone who was dependent, if that ever happens here. But they probably have some other way to deal with that, if this is the usual rule, and - that would be so much, much better, some other way; being dependent on someone who wishes they didn't have you is nightmare and rarely anything else. (And it's not as though those subs are allowed to leave even if it would be better even with no help at all-)

And oh how incredibly better this would be, for runaways, for everyone who doesn't dare or can't or can't bear to be a runaway (...for everyone who - dares, and fails). For everyone who looks at what it means to be a runaway and looks at what they're living with and however bad it is it isn't bad enough when they compare... (And - maybe some people would be better, at least some, if they knew the one they married had any recourse, if they had to think ever of more constraints than the law and maybe what their friends might think...)

He doesn't know the details, he doesn't know enough, but oh it feels almost unbelievable in worth.

(His facial expression is probably revealing at least something of his feeling here.)

(He isn't thinking as much about 'choose whether they want to move in together' - there's some places where subs are expected to say they choose to marry, that they give themselves, but whether or not they have doms and subs here he's seen children, doesn't imagine they don't have guardians and parents, and - what else can you do.)

 

He's not sure what he thinks of his apparent associations. But ?the dom? - the? - but their guide is saying they don't have to follow them, so he'll - better to spend time and everything else on what they do have to follow, first.

"...Would they know, what not to do because it would be dangerous? Or do we need to be careful?"

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Perhaps the word for slavery means a specific type where they're from?  Definitions can be tricky things.  There are some people on the fleet who believe it's 'slavery' to have to follow the laws, get drafted to do rare moves to keep the ships running, or having to go to school...  It's really hard to imagine a context in which 'people are literally bought, owned, and sold by others' doesn't count.  

"I would expect they would, as long as you know not to attack people who haven't attacked you first.  You can go over it with them - you probably should, since there's any ambiguity.  Best to avoid any chances for another issue."  The daemons don't seem unusual, despite their having come into existence in such an unusual way.  They can talk and walk and so on, without needing to learn.  "I've been to the library to use the TMs quite a bit - they have warning labels and lists of appropriate points to use Moves as part of the selection process, and a place to practice in nearby."

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It is indeed the case that the word for slavery does not get applied to what would be considered regular dom-sub relationships in their world, any more than it gets (or got in the past) applied to relationships between parents and children, and much like a dom who hands out severe discipline for mild transgressions is called 'strict' and not abusive (even once the latter word existed). 

Flinch at the beginning, and then ducking his head again at 'best to avoid chances for another issue'. "Of course, sir.

Yes sir. How would we go over it with them?

Thank you, that's very good to know, sir."

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He flinches internally himself when Alessa does.  He's used to speaking formally only in certain circumstances, and being casual whenever he can get away with it.  There seem to be a number of subtle social assumptions that are different enough that it's throwing him off.  Well, it's not going to do any good avoiding talking just because he puts his foot in his mouth sometimes.  

"It's alright.  Our cultures are just different enough that I'm not sure what to expect.  You mentioned public punishment, and if random onlookers would normally be expected to hit someone not following a rule that you have but we don't, that would cause a problem.  

"As for moves, I'll have Florentho tell them.  Even us local humans have a hard time understanding daemons when they talk about moves."  This is done on his phone as he speaks.  "Though, 'ask before touching anyone or anything other than your humans and their stuff' would probably suffice.  And they can read the information in the library too.  Uh, sirs.  Or whatever the opposite of that is, for people who are younger?"

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(Ceteris paribus formal speech might actually be worse, given the circumstances in which they'd usually expect to hear formal speech and therefore their associations.)

Alessa's reaction at them being called 'sirs' is very visible (it might be too strong for him to hide it well; the circumstances are too unexpected for him to really try). It somewhat like a cross of missing a step, suddenly hearing an extremely unpleasant sound, being punched in the stomach, and a much stronger flinch. It also completely derails him from any response to anything else just said.

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His reaction is not at all as strong, though still existent. He jumps in to responding again.

It takes a bit of effort to sort through the logic of the bit about public punishment, and the resulting hypothetical social practice is a bit weird to imagine, though maybe anyone's ever done that. ...Probably a good thing to clarify here. "Public punishment is by a submissive's dominant or guardian, or by someone in authority in a given place. Or the government." Which he supposes falls under the authority one but seems good to be specific. "We don't have random people - er, onlookers - doing it. 

Where we're from submissives don't do - er, administer - discipline, and where they do it's when their dominant or employment authority" says so  "directs it." And he's pretty sure that even if they came from somewhere where random people including submissives did public discipline they wouldn't just jump into doing it here, definitely not unless they saw locals doing it first and had more than 0 idea of how anything worked. Because - not who does that, he can think of some people who would probably do that. But still. But he's not going to say that. (And he supposes Azure doesn't in fact know that they're not the sort of people who would do that.)

"...Will not touching things help with dangerous sounds?" That's probably way too close to questioning/arguing, but it seems important enough that he's going to say it anyway. He doesn't append a 'sir'; he's never any good at pulling off that making it sound like he is being polite, actually, rather than dissembling. That's Alessa's territory.

Oh do they do things by age here (maybe?) that would be a way to do things. "...'Sir' and 'ma'am' are from submissives to dominants, for us. Um. Sir." He's not sure how to continue without sounding like he's trying to lecture Azure on ethics, so he doesn't.

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"Not with sounds, no.  More with trouble in general.  Though I suppose they could touch a fire alarm specifically.

"We do have the concept of citizen's arrest here.  If someone's obviously breaking the law, people can step in and try to stop them, or hold them until the police get there.  It's not encouraged, exactly, but it is common.  Lots of people like having an excuse to fight.  Neither of you seem the type, though bug-types are known for it because of the stereotype of rushing to peoples' defense and also the move string shot being very good at stopping people without causing damage.  It's also the sort of thing that has a lot of fiddly rules about it - which laws, how much force is allowed - which would be hard to learn in a few days from scratch.

"There's no sir-equivalent for dominants to call submissives?  'Sir' and 'Ma'am' here are more general.  We do tend to use it more for the more..." he waves his hand, trying to come up with exactly what he means.  "Dominant but not necessarily your kind of dominant?  It's more circumstantial, and similarly hard to learn from scratch.  Usually to older people, or whoever is in charge in a given moment.  Some businesses have their employees call all customers sir or ma'am.  No one will get offended by it, or by the lack of it.  Calling a tour guide only a year or two older than you sir is strangely formal, but not bad."

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He's not entirely - recovered, not that he'd think of it that way, but he's less in immediate aftermath enough to try to swallow things down and get back to doing what he's supposed to be doing.

"...Is there a way we could know if someone is trying to citizen's arrest us and we - shouldn't fight them, or if they're trying to - take us back like the lab again?

...will people be - looking to me to stop a crime if they see it, do I need to-" he's not even sure what the next part of that might be. Learn the thing about string? Learn - a lot of things it sounds like, and he wouldn't want to get it wrong. Not in either direction, if people are going to expect-

 

"There are forms of address for submissives; where we're from people would use them if they were talking to the submissive of someone important, or a submissive who worked for the government or other authority, or in higher formality, sir." How they do authority and everything involved here, if they don't - have dominants and submissives? talk about dominants and submissives? - is one of the questions that feels most like a hole under his feet, in his not knowing. That the answer would be 'complicatedly' - makes sense, is almost expected (and it'd be more likely he'd have noticed it, if it were simple). That's - going to be hard. If the culture's at a lower stratum of etiquette here, or less strict about it, that'll help them not make really overt mistakes just talking to people, at least.

Nodnod. "Thank you, sir." (He doesn't interpret the last sentence quite how Azure probably meant it. It makes sense that other people, seeing them with Azure, might think he's their tour guide, and it's good to know how they might sound to them. And it makes sense as an example. But Azure isn't just their tour guide, and Alessa is still thinking of him accordingly, even if there's blank uncertain confusion in the pieces of how exactly that - and everything - might work here.) 

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"That's another benefit to having someone local guiding you around.  Though, generally non-police will only ever start a fight if it is really obvious that someone is doing something illegal.  Like, 'breaking out of a window and running down the street with a sack of stolen stuff while the shopkeeper shouts for help' obvious.  Stepping aside and letting a robber pass isn't great, but you're legally within your rights to do it.  No one is required to put themselves in harms way for someone else, and you don't have the level of experience with fighting that most people here do, no offense."

Exactly what he is being at the moment is a bit complicated by local standards too.  That's to be expected, when they are the first non-natives in two centuries and no one's had to do this before.  His guess of what they would think of him as is more tour guide than bodyguard mostly due to guide being a more sir'd position while bodyguards are subservient, though he's functionally both.

Though, considering that, "Having to be walked around by another person is not the greatest thing, even if it is important in this circumstance.  If you'd rather have someone on the submissive side guide you, I'm sure Verity would be happy to help.  She was the one with the Suicune - the large blue quadruped.  I'm better at picking out clothes, but nothing else requires me specifically." 

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"Thank you, sir."

They haven't been generally thinking of him as bodyguard - they're not the sort of people who generally get bodyguards, and he's not really been acting how they would associate with one. Though a bodyguard escorting a submissive would likely enough have some authority over them, usually in the sense of representing that of the dom who hired them. But of course the category they're thinking of him in isn't one he has as available.

...he wants that very much. (Isn't going to show how much. That would be rude, and probably suspicious). (And it's a piece of maybe a little stability in the ocean of not-knowing, hearing 'submissive-side'. He doesn't know how they organize things but that sounds like it does have more familiar in it, something they can make sense of, however differently mixed and arranged.)

But if she's the sub of someone important (or - something like that?) after all, he doesn't want to get her in trouble if and when they mess something up again. ('Subs of important people are held to high standards by doms who don't want to be embarrassed' is the more common model in his country, over 'subs of important people can get away with whatever', and his unthought expectations run accordingly). Wants to be careful of making demands of her she might not be allowed to refuse.

"If she would be we'd be very glad to meet her, sir. We - wouldn't want to ask too much of their time of anyone." That's - hopefully an alright way to say it.

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(On a personal level he'd kind of like to spend more time with the hot - not dom apparently, but he'll call it close enough. Which he wouldn't put before Alessa getting to be less anxious, except that he can figure what Alessa's thinking and knows perfectly well he'll be some sort of anxious either way.

So he might be in luck, in a manner of speaking.)

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He finds their manner of careful politeness charming, despite himself.  Hopefully it won't cause friction with Verity, who can be as blunt as he is.  Azure thinks they have the potential to really help each other - Verity helping them see how things function around here without being intimidating to them, and them being two of the only people who can see Verity for herself first and not just as a Legendary.  That, and possibly showing her that the limitations that the fleet puts on people for type and daemon variety aren't nearly as bad as they could be.  He's a bit disappointed that he isn't the right person to look after them, but he can see them around later.  

Azure checks his phone for the time.  "She usually sleeps in the afternoons, but there's plenty of time to go to the library before that.  I'll call her and tell her to meet us in the park, then I'll go do some things of my own and check up on the investigation into the illegal lab.  I do want to be the one to bring you to the tailor, which will be right around the time Verity'll want to go home anyway. 

"Does that sound okay to you?"  He belatedly realizes that he should probably be more careful about phrasing things in a way that comes off as a command.  If they weren't okay with something, they are less likely than fleet-born people to actually say so.  Perhaps another thing he can do with the rest of the morning is read up on anything similar to this he can find.  He can do it from his phone - libraries mostly exist for TMs and people who don't have quiet places to study at home, and any information they have is also available online.  

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(A fairly minimally observant person would probably be able to notice that Kente is definitely looking forward to the tailor, and totally happy that Azure will still be the one taking them there.)

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...if she's part of taking them around, might she get blamed for their lack of knowing things if they make mistakes even later when she's not present anymore? ...Which now that he's thinking about it might be true of Mareline too (...she'd specifically talked about helping them) and he hadn't been thinking - gods he's selfish as well as thoughtless-

...But if Verity was one of the people who found them she might be considered somehow involved already. And - it's really very possible that the - something-like-dom - didn't in fact want to walk around with them all day especially now that they've turned out to be more work and more trouble than he might have thought. (And - if there's going to be someone it's probably better if it's the sub of someone important than not that, not that he knows enough to really know that...)

Also none of this really matters, it's not like he's going to argue with the something-like-dom about what he is saying will happen. 

"Yes, sir. Thank you, sir." He - wishes he knew more, could assess things better and at all. Tries to think of questions he might ask. 'How strict are her something-like-doms' isn't really one. 

"Is she married, sir? Do you know her - spouse?"

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He quietly notes their responses. 

People have a hard time communicating honestly with people in charge of them (or at least who they perceive as in charge) - there's too much incentive to lie or hide things to avoid getting in trouble or try to curry favor.  Verity can tell them about how they're not slaves here and certainly not his slaves, and then they'll be able to discuss things more clearly.  That, and be a source of advice that isn't so dom-shaped.

"She's not married," he confirms, then pauses.  "Also, to avoid it coming up awkwardly with her later, she also doesn't have living family.  She's... huh, how to describe it neutrally... she has a rare species of daemon, one which the local religion considers the mark of a leader.  However, she strongly doesn't get along with the concept of leading people - she's one of the most submissive person I can think of, from what you describe as the differences.  Verity-and-Araeneve take to the role about as well as you would, emotion-wise, and would much rather be treated normally."  He continues, explaining aloud his opinion on how they could help one another.  He might as well put all of his thoughts and reasonings on the table, when communication is difficult.

Meanwhile, he has the rare talent of speaking and typing at the same time and makes use of it.  

Azure --- Are you busy?  I could use some help with the aliens

Verity --- What kind of help?

Azure --- So, the alien culture doesn't have types - instead they divide people into 'dominant' or 'submissive' based on personality.  The doms are in charge, and I don't have all of the details but it sounds a lot like slavery for the subs.

Azure --- These two are subs.  I'm very 'dom-like' from their descriptions, and that's causing them to react really polite and not speak their minds.  You seem more sub-like, which might make it easier for them to talk to you.  

Verity --- That's different

Azure --- We were planning on going to the library to get them TMs in case they needed to fight.  I think you should be the one to take them, and talk sub to sub while they're waiting, or the closest thing we have to that system

Azure --- Without me, so I don't keep intimidating them by accident

Verity --- Sure.  Which library?

Azure --- Opals closest, but let's meet in the aft park of Sienna

Verity --- I don't want to go to the park

Verity --- There's too many people there

Azure --- :sigh: At the library, then, but we'll be stopping at the park anyway

 

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Oh! So Alessa had misunderstood, and their guide hadn't meant that Verity was - positioned-something-like-a-sub. She's misdetermined. Which - is horrible, that that happened to her, is happening to her. But she could be really good for them to meet, then - if she's someone important, that could be the best they could get for someone who trouble would fall less on if he gets more things wrong. And if they can help her too -

It's his turn to look pretty obviously brightened.

(And - so they do do authority and everything involved by something about daemons (something other than type here, it sounds like?), as well as by the other things their guide had mentioned. That - really should have been a guess he'd stayed with, given everything - he'd just gotten himself directed away from it by their guide talking about them not having role classifications here, and by the types seeming to not be this after all.

And their guide had said the type associations weren't something they had to follow, but it sounds like this other daemon-connected thing is more enforced. Which makes sense, if it's supposed to be authority relevant.)

"Our condolences to her." (His emotional expression darkens briefly at the mention of no living family.) "Thank you, sir. We'd be really glad if we could also help, sir."

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This is like, super not a time and place to start pointing out how submissives can and do absolutely lead people (sure, some subs don't want to do that at all, but lots of doms don't want to be managers or CEOs or officers or government representatives either, do they). It will be good for absolutely 0 of anything if he gets himself punished or slapped for insolence.

And it's obviously not the point anyway; it sure sounds like the thing the local religion is apparently trying to push on Verity is the 'you're a dom' kind.

He isn't even slightly good at trying to make his arguing sound like polite not-arguing, and that doesn't even work most of the time for people like Alessa who are good at it.

So he is not going to do that, even if he wants to.

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Azure has noticed Kente's dislike of the idea, but isn't sure exactly why.  Well, this is the sort of thing that daemons are better at expressing and dealing with than their humans.  Florentho, still sitting off to the side with the other daemons, quietly asks Orange.  "Your Kente seems unhappy about meeting with Verity.  Is it just that you don't want to leave Azure, or is there something that makes you think Verity won't be helpful?"

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He's almost tempted to suggest they split up into two groups at the library.  However, it is a good idea for them both to talk to Verity.  Also, they seem to be really close with each other.  

"Are you two related, by the way?  You seem close enough that you must have known each other before you were brought here, but I probably shouldn't be making assumptions."  They do look similar too, but that might just be his unfamiliarity with their species, or having less difference between individuals or something.  

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The daemon does not actually have a decade and a half of conditioning on not saying things. She can tell Kente is deciding not to say something, but that would make sense if she's supposed to say it, right?

"I don't think he's unhappy about meeting Verity! Meeting Verity sounds good. Being with Azure is also good, but differently. I don't think he wants to leave Azure forever, but he said he'll be back, right?

I think he doesn't like something else your Azure said. Probably by accident."

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...Had he forgotten to mention that? ...He supposes most government officials he's talked to would have already known. And it's not the worst thing to forget, if he was going to forget something. If somewhat silly-feeling.

"We're cousins, sir. We were assigned to the same household, so we grew up together too."

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Expressing feelings when their human halves have too much politeness or social obligation not to is what daemons are for, whether in speech or body language.  Some philosophers claim that it's even more their purpose than the flashy Moves which keep their society running.  

"We're enjoying getting to show you around, and want to keep doing it," Florentho confirms. 

"People being uncomfortable with certain people and wanting to ask someone who's specifically more like them in a relevant way is a common feeling," he continues.  "And, it's not our biggest concern but it is one of them, but we don't want to be your only source of information because then if you decide you don't like us you might feel trapped."

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He nods.  Cousins living together is common enough here, too, especially in the nicer neighborhoods.  

"Feeling up to heading towards the park now?"

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"We're enjoying it too! We agree!

I don't think we're uncomfortable. Knowing someone more like us too sounds good though! But we like you!" There's something about feeling trapped but she doesn't think it's about Azure and she doesn't know-it-in-words enough for saying.

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"Yes, sir. Thank you."

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He definitely wants to see what a park looks like in a spaceship.

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They can go.  Florentho will stay back with the other daemons and continue chatting, unless they'd prefer to be picked up by their humans again.  

Not too much farther and the hall opens into a round park, the two layers of balcony above wrapping around the walls of the cylinder to create an open space.  The canal in the middle of the hall continues through, widening into a round pool in the center with a high lifeguard's chair at one side.  One half of the circle houses two large oval-shaped arenas with sand flooring.  Each is lined in rows of benches for watchers protected by panels of transparent shielding material.  There are door-like areas in the shield for daemons to enter and leave, and raised semicircles at the ends for their humans to stand.  The other half of the park has a large brightly colored thing for children to climb on set into its own oval of deep sand, as well as a simple and uninterrupted patch of grass for running around on.  Between these attractions are some much larger trees than the small ones lining each side of the canal in the normal hall.  

The far edges to the left and right aren't thick enough to have more than another ramp to move between levels, but other than that the walls are lined with storefronts.  High above, the third floor balcony is a bit wider than the second, the extra space lined in rows of booths shared by the restaurants up there.  Down on the lower floor, the food stands are more designed for light snacks and drinks. 

It's neither crowded nor empty.  About a third of the seat space for the arenas is taken up, though both have some teenagers on the raised platforms and their daemons flinging low-powered Moves at each other in the arena.  The grass has a group of kids chasing around three balls - it's not clear whether this is a game that requires three or if they're separate groups sharing the space.  More kids climb on the equipment.  While benches are numerous and plenty throughout the entire path getting here, more of them are actually being sat on in the park.  

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"Tell me if anything in the food stalls looks good," Azure says, leading them to the outer path where the food stalls are lined up.  

"We want to buy you something but don't want to be the ones to suggest what to get and interfere with an honest choice," Florentho translates aloud for the sake of clarity.  

There are a good number of options, some normal and some strange.  Popcorn, raisins, frozen fruit on a stick, pretzels, roasted pecans, soda, hard candies, cold broth, deep fried yam...  Still nothing not vegetarian, and anything with milk is rare - the shop selling frozen things does sell ice cream, but only two flavors at the bottom of a large menu of other things.  

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That is a very cool park in a spaceship.

A useful translation!

He will absolutely get ice-cream once he notices its existence, partially because he likes ice-cream and partially so that he can attempt to eat it in a plausibly deniably seductive manner. (He has no idea if Azure is paying attention to this or cares about it at all, but is perfectly able to enjoy himself without that as a requirement.)

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(His daemon looks with interest at the arena.)

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...It's nice here. This may be a wealthier part of the - ship, and he doesn't know what other parts might be like (right along with everything else he doesn't know.) But it's nice.

He will not ask their guide for a recommendation, since he does not want to be asked. The frozen fruit looks good. Maybe some fruit he hasn't seen before.

He looks around, smiles at the happy people about their day, at the children.

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The ice cream flavors are mixed berry or chocolate, served in a cone.  There are a number of unusual fruits to choose from, and skewers or cups with slices of multiple kinds for variety are also available.  Seeing as they're at the frozen food stand anyway, he gets a mixed-fruit slush.

The gravity is noticeably strange as they walk near the far edge near the ramps.  What had looked like a gentle incline at first glance is now revealed as a curving of the gravity.  Down is just a few degrees angled now compared to the other side of the large room.  It doesn't feel different, but it does look unusual.

Azure makes note of the choices and how well they seem to like them.  He files away his opinion on how Kente chooses to eat his food for later.  Even between locals without all of the cultural confusion risks, flirting with someone you've known for less than a week is something looked down on - they haven't even had a proper battle yet!  It does get Florentho excitedly mentioning that they should come back to an arena once they've learned some Moves for a match or two - he's a stronger kind of daemon but has a terrible set of Moves for fighting, which should work out to about even.  

Snacks in hand, they can file towards one of the wider empty spaces around the arena.  

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He'll get mixed berry. 

That is weird and cool and he wants to go try standing and walking (and jumping and possibly dancing) there but that doesn't seem to be where Azure is leading them so looks like that's not happening right now.

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He'll get one of the variety cups, which is also easier to eat. He pokes the fruits slightly with his factor, just to get a feel for more things here.

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She wants to try battling!

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He agrees that it seems appealing and interesting.

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The curvature of the floor is gentle enough that it wouldn't feel like much unless someone managed to jump nearly across the entire park.  Locals walk around the outer edge, indifferent to it.  For them, this is just something that happens in any space wide enough that the fact that they're standing on the inner wall of a cylinder becomes visible.  

The fruit is safe to eat, and it would be clear to a distinguishing eye that it came from plants which were well cared for.  All of the fruit varieties are sweet and picked to taste good next to each other without being too jarring.  The ice cream has more flavoring than one would expect, enough to be slightly overpowering, though the texture is especially good.  

Do Green and Orange want to fight each other before going to the library?  Without Moves, it would be just hitting each other with unenhanced strength, but people do that sometimes, and it would be an even enough fight between them.  Florentho notes to them the way that people signal their willingness to fight random people and the way they signal that they have a pre-planned battle with a specific friend they want the arena for next.  There's someone who might be interested in a higher-power opponent, but other than that there's a lull in people waiting.  

The current battle is between a stone-plated rhino and what looks like a cluster of 6 unconnected eggs.  The rhino is mostly attempting to physically tackle the eggs, though there's a faint rippling in the air around itself as it charges.  The eggs are doing more obvious supernatural attacks, creating leaves and vines from nothing.  Though the rhino looks far more physically imposing, the eggs are clearly getting the upper hand.  They leap and rush around each other both gracefully and quickly, clearly stronger than humans.  Also, while they are primarily attempting to hit each other, there's an air of deliberate showmanship to the contest - it's not just about winning, but looking cool while doing it.  

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Well he isn't used to it, so.

Conveniently he is a fan of strong flavors and nice textures both. 

Even with getting kind of used to the general concept, it is kind of weird that someone's daemon is eggs. In like, several ways.

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She wants to she wants to! ...But will it be really obvious and embarrassing how she hasn't done this before and doesn't know how?

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There are definitely some very unusual looking daemons, and multiple eggs is near the top of that list.  

"You have to do something for a first time before you can do it for a second time," he notes.  "It's a good idea, and there's no better time and place unless you'd rather come back with Verity in the middle of the night."

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That's enough reassurance for her! 

"OK!" 

Signal!

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He thinks that one could, for instance, read more about the topic, or watch someone narrate an explanation of some fights, to know more before doing it. But he isn't really distressed by the idea of being seen to be currently inexperienced. It's true, after all, and he can learn.

They can wait for their turn. 

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The rhyhorn attempts to dodge what she can of the leaves in between charges of her own.  Many leaves miss, instead bouncing off of the glass wall, but a few manage to find their way into the stony hide.  She stops and turns, almost at opposite ends of the arena, and makes a final charge building up as much speed as she can.  Unfortunately, that leaves her open to a direct volley. 

There's a small burst of golden sparks as something cracks, and the rhyhorn collapses, suddenly limp, sending out a wave of sand as she falls.  The sand bounces harmlessly off of the exeggcute as the six eggs hop out of the way.  At the same time, the gray-dressed man on one of the platforms leans on the wall in front of him, bringing up a hand to his head.  

After a moment, both recover, though the rhyhorn's movement is sluggish as she leaves the arena.  They find a place to sit and watch whatever fight comes next, seemingly in a calm and slightly cuddly mood as the human leans against his daemon unbothered by the stone hide.  More energetically, their opponent human steps into the ring, grabs one of the rakes left nearby for the purpose, and swiftly return the field to a neutral state before making a salute-like gesture to Kente as next-in-line and going to sit next to his friend.  

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"That burst of sparks was called 'fainting' by the way," Florentho notes, remembering that they might not know.  "It's something that happens when we get hit enough to start really getting hurt.  It's harmless, but makes us something-like-tired for a while afterwards.  You can stop the fight once one of you faints, or whenever one of you decides you want to stop."    

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How long would a while be? Perhaps they should not fight until fainting if they have tasks yet to do for the day and might be their humans' protection at some point.

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(Should they go into the field? What do they do next after that?)

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He decides to not try to return the gesture, since he doesn't know local etiquette and also doesn't know local gestures enough to be sure he won't misform it and get a rude one or something. He smiles back and hopes that's fine.

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Florentho nods.  "A fight to fainting without Moves would take a while.  Azure can set a five minute timer."  That's about as long as the previous fight took, and evidently a pretty normal thing to do.

He is polite enough to not bring up that without Moves their main defense is him teleporting them away.  He can usher them towards the doors reassuringly.  "You'll do fine.  Remember that you aren't causing any real pain, and the only rules here are about using Moves you don't have anyway."

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(Oh good, she is underlyingly reassured that she'll know what to do when now and doesn't have to worry about it!)

Ok! She is still kind of worried and not completely sure she knows what they're supposed to do and what everyone will think, but she wants to try it try it so that's going to mostly overcome the other thing.

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This seems interesting and useful and he's sure they can figure it out enough. He follows her into the ring.

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This is - strange (having daemons at all is still strange). But he reminds himself that this is normal here, they've been told, they can see, and it's not actually at all like if he were to - get into a fight with someone himself. Or with Kente. They do this for fun and with friends and the daemons want to.

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Handsqueeze.

(Being on a spaceship that has magic fighting rings you can go watch is, honestly, pretty cool, and he's interested to go see more and to see this. But he can't deny that the concept of his own daemon (and he's not done getting used to that yet) going and fighting in said fighting ring, and fighting Alessa's own (not used to that either) is kind of weird.)

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"Should we go stand on the platforms, sir?"

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"You should." 

And he will scoot roughly into the center of the bench circle and take out his phone for the timer.  Some of the parks have built in timers or even little judge perches, though this park has a simpler design.  He quietly debates with Florentho, determining that Florentho will focus on the fight while Azure keeps watch for anyone who might use it as a distraction.  

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They'll do that.

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They will - stand on opposite sides of the middle and not touch yet? That seems like it might be right?

How do they know when to start?!!

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Noticing that they don't take the initiative like he had been expecting, he counts down like an official referee, loud enough for both of them to hear.

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She wants to fight, but she feels very sure that if you do things when you're not supposed to yet, bad things happen.

But now she's supposed to!

She is going to try to... jump on the spinarak! And hold him down! And hit him with her legs! And lunge! And bite!

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He's approaching this somewhat more analytically and experimentally. How fast can he move? How high can he jump? He has more maneuverability to different sides than her; he uses this to try to avoid her attacks. Tries to see if he can come from another side. Or from behind, if he can jump over her.

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Can she - hit him with her tails?!

(Wheee!)

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They fight without pain or injury, even as the battle continues.  There is a sense of something diminishing with each hit - whatever ability is protecting them from damage when they're hit or fall is slowly losing charge as it does so.  Presumably it'd shatter into sparks eventually, but the small scrapes and bites deplete it slowly.

The audience watches with varying levels of interest and attention.  Azure watches happily, though does scan around for trouble as well.  Florentho is practically bouncing with excitement/pride/approval.  

It is very fun to fight.  To test one's abilities, and get to see the opponent's strategies and know them better.  It would be even more fun to win.  

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Yes! It is fun and she wants to win. LungeRunJumpBite!!

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He is gaining a better understanding of both her abilities and his own, and can feel himself already improving at strategy. It is very satisfying! 

He is also enjoying himself! The open air, the arena around them, each quick movement and close call and moment of success.

 

They're pretty evenly matched, and of course neither is experienced. It's a fun battle for both of them, all sorts of things to learn and experience, but after five minutes neither is going to achieve decisive advantage.

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His alarm buzzes, and he calls a halt to the battle and for them to re-rake the arena flattish again then come back over to him.  

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(He can't stop being nervous completely, watching, but - they're having a good time, very clearly, and Kente grins at him from the other platform, and he can smile, some.)

He goes back over when called.

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It's still kind of weird, but the daemon is having an amazing time, and it reminds him of the stage, movement and audience and the drive to be the best; reminds him of - other things. It's a bit weirder that it's Alessa on the other side (it's not so weird thinking of the spider daemon as Alessa's - Alessa was taking care of someone at any given time more often than not. Definitely still weird to think instead of it as part of Alessa - how they think of it here, if he understands correctly, but he definitely doesn't have it yet.) He can be the competitive sort but his cousin isn't, really, and they've never really done it against each other. 

But the fight is with as much as against, really, and the - his - daemon is delighted, and by the end the weirdness isn't all the way gone but other things are totally more forefronting.

Raking the area seemed to be a human's job. He'll go do that.

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(She will stop fighting when told to stop even though fighting is great.)

Also now she wants to go sit on her human, can she do that?

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Fighting is great!  Putting the sand back is less fun, but it is at least pretty easy and quick.  They don't have any leaves or such to gather up, only smoothing down some of the rougher spots.  

When the arena is back to how it started, Azure can be the one to call over the next pair signalling their interest in fighting here (a set of middle-aged men with a pair of bird-shaped daemons).  He then steps away from his makeshift referee area to indicate he's not part of the next battle.  

Once they're close enough that the people nearby won't overhear and wonder about it, he says, "A good first fight!  You did well."  

Florentho excitedly goes into more detail along the same vein to the vulpix and spinarak, bringing up especially energetic exchanges and remarking that it'll be even more fun once they have some Moves to play with.  

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:DDDD !!

She wants Moves, she wants Moves!

She also tries to jump up onto Kente.

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He ducks his head, smiles. It's not about him, but some of the warmth of the praise still carries over. Their guide has been very good to them, and he's clearly enough happy, right now, pleased, and Alessa's glad they're doing better at something, now. Even if it's a game. (He needs to learn how to do better everywhere else...)

(He'll hold the spinarak, who also seems to want to crawl up onto him.)

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He catches his daemon, grins at her, her excitement still infectious.

Also the hot close-enough-to-dom is happy and it's about something that at least sort of has to do with him and that's pretty great all around.

(He's not sure if he and Alessa are supposed to say thank you?)

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"Thank you." If Florentho does not get to it himself, he will ask for strategy advice.

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Oh right, she should say that too! "Thank you!"

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"Your welcome," he says automatically.

Florentho can totally start going over strategy suggestions.  With two of the three daemons in their humans' arms, the conversation overlaps the human one in a way that would probably be seen as rude outside of the Fleet. 

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Of course the praise is about them.  If someone is a good runner, people don't exclusively praise their legs about it.  At least, that's how it makes sense to a Fleet native.  

Azure is very tempted to stay and watch some more fights.  But, they shouldn't keep Verity-and-Araeneve up longer than they need to.  "Let's start heading to the library.  We'll visit another park once you've visited the TMs."

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Ooh strategy. (She is also very happy about the plan to get Moves and then go to another park!)

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Well, if it was rude presumably it's not the kind of rude Azure would punish them for since he's the one making it happen, so that's fine.

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"Yes, sir." They'll follow.

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They head to the library!  This involves going up to the third floor, walking to the center of the Hall, then taking the side-halls that go all the way to the edge of the ship segments to connect them.  Like with the park, the circumference of the cylinder is slightly visible as they steadily go 'up' the hallway.  At the place where the ship segments connect, there are a pair of massive metal doors set into the walls.  The hoop-like road is the most crowded section they've gone to, enough that there's a stricter walk-on-your-right policy and a pair of center lanes for bikes.  

In each Hall, they go over one of the many bridges spanning the gap between balconies.  Most of the Halls passed are laid out almost identically to Sienna Hall, only with different color schemes for the hanging banners and walls.  Two have very different layouts.  One is a massive open area 150 meters across by about 400 long, almost entirely flooded with water up to about the height that the second floor balcony usually is.  The outer rim has a sandy beach around it, people walking around or playing in it.  At the level of the bridge there are some buildings in each corner selling food and renting beach supplies.  The other unusual segment is an extra-long tunnel with glass walls showing an efficient hydroponics bay bathed in pink light.  

Azure turns them off of the path when they get to Opal Hall after passing seven others, heading downwards again.

The library is fairly mundane by comparison.  There's an area with rows of computers, several occupied.  A smaller room in the back has paper books.  Behind a glass wall is a daycare-like area for kids, stacks of thin but highly-durable children's books scattered on the low tables and bright posters on the walls. A longish hallway advertises the use of Move testing rooms at the end with a rating code that the aliens will not understand.  

By far the most important section for them are the TMs.  TMs are cubes about a meter per side, their casings wheeled.  Instead of a normal screen like most things have used so far, they have a holographic display on top.  Three of the four sides on top have sides which rise another half-meter from the base, like the sides and back of an uncomfortable-looking chair.

The front third of the room has rows of couches.  Further back are a number of cubicles with foam walls on either side of the extra-wide aisle.  Outside of the cubicles and in front of the humans on couches are a number of daemons staring into the TMs, which seem to be showing an ever-changing mess of shape and color.  

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They will follow walking policies.

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Wow. He is very impressed by this spaceship.

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She wants to go to the beach! Not now though because right now she wants to learn Moves.

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They look around; wait for permission or instructions. 

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It is much quieter than a place with this many people would normally be.  The TMs each give off a faint electronic hum, and the occasional shuffling of feet or someone clearing their throat.  The floor is carpeted and the ceiling has panels of foam, which also helps.  

Azure is on his phone.

Azure - We're at the library

Verity - So am I

Verity - I'm in the move testing area

Verity - Some kids were here, and I thought it'd be fun to let them race as suicune for a while on the treadmills

Azure - we'll be waiting in the TM room

"Verity will be here in a minute," he reports in a whisper.  "Bring two of the taller stools for your daemons and follow me."

He then goes further down, looking for an unoccupied spot.  It is fairly busy, but as always there's plenty of space to walk just in case very large daemons need to pass.  There's an empty cubicle about two thirds the way down, and Florentho goes to grab one of the extra TMs from further away to drag over.  He inspects inside - three chairs in a U-shape, two small tables at the corners.  One of the tables has a small box labeled 'white noise' with a series of four buttons on it, plugged into the wall's outlet.  The other has a small stack of pamphlets that don't look important. 

"These walls have some soundproofing," he gestures towards the cubicles when they get near, still whispering.  "For people who want to talk while they wait, or can't keep quiet for an hour.  Talking normally is fine, though shouting will still get through." 

"As for Moves...  Those can be tricky to decide on even for people who know what they all do.  I could give you my recommendations, or leave it to Araeneve, or, hmm.  Maybe I can recommend the most obvious one that you'll definitely want at least for the next week or so, then the first thing that you can go over with Verity is picking out the other three while the first is being learned?  What are your preferences?"

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They can be quiet, and whisper, and bring stools and follow as told.

"I'm - not sure that we know enough to know what might be best, sir."

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With a pair of aliens who might need to fight back at any time against the people who brought them here, the logical and obvious thing to do would be to insist on the most highly recommended combat builds that don't require a license. It's just that he's been told off so many times for insisting on things that should be other people's choices, that he can't help but expect the resentment he'd get from a local even though he can tell they aren't feeling any.   

Having someone who actually wants to be told what to do is... nice.  

"I'll pull up the best fighting sets, then, with some alterations for moves that would be more useful for getting away from real danger outside of an arena," he whispers.  At a touch, the control panels for the TMs flicker to life, and with a bit of checking on his phone he sets each one. 

For Vulpix: Flamethrower, Confuse Ray, Body Slam, Substitute

For Spinarak: Sticky Web, Poison Jab, Leech Life, Spider Web

"The TMs are ready.  To use them, Orange and Green can press these buttons here," he gestures.  "Each one takes about an hour, staring at the lights and... the instructions say 'putting them into the place where Moves go.'  It doesn't make sense for humans, but daemons can do it instinctively.  Other than that, it should be pretty obvious."

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Verity-and-Araeneve can be seen walking in.  Head raised, Araeneve scans the room.  They begin walking towards the gallade. 

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"Thank you, sir." He was a little worried the guide wouldn't like that they hadn't expressed a preference after being asked for one; is glad that doesn't seem to happen. "Will they know what they'll do, sir, or should we read about it?"

He catches sight of Verity-and-Araeneve. Isn't sure if it's polite to wave from a distance so he doesn't. (He's also not sure if what their guide said means they're going to be here for one hour or four hours (or four hours total but not all right now?). But he doesn't have plans to adjust for one way or the other, and presumably they'd find out soon enough, so he doesn't ask right now.)

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They can sit on the stools and press the buttons and look at the lights.

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The program starts with a brief warm-up where the flickering lights and shapes repeat a very simple pattern, giving the daemon a chance to get into the right state of mind.  While the humans in fact merely interpret the lights as nonsense shapes - somewhat pretty, but meaningless - to a daemon they just... click. 

There are places in their mind.  Not physical places, but also different from their memories or any other parts of their minds.  Patterns like this... they go in those places, and stick there like real things instead of fading like memories.  There's four of them, leading off in some strange not-direction to places brimming with the same sort of power that their anti-damage barriers feel like.  As obvious as they are, it is also obvious to them that their human halves have never experienced this sensation and do not have those places.  

After a moment, the lights shift to the Real TM light pattern, and they find themselves falling into an almost hypnotic trance, moving the information into themselves as the rest of the room falls away.

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They carefully step through the middle of the aisle, passing the various staring daemons who are thankfully too absorbed into their own TMs to pay much attention.  

She was brought in to be 'less intimidating,' and still doesn't quite know what that means or how someone with a Suicune can be less intimidating than anyone.  The extra care she's taking to not seem scary only makes her body language come across as even more sub-like.  Araeneve follows behind her as she approaches, similarly trying to look a bit smaller.

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"They'll know how to use the TMs, and the moves.  I can send the relevant strategy pages to your phones for more information."

Once Verity gets closer, "Good, you're here.  Verity, Kente, Alessa," he says, gesturing to each of them.  "You all met last night, but I don't remember if Verity introduced herself.  Take your seats inside."

Florentho steps over to Araeneve and starts rapidly explaining things in a whisper far too quiet for any of the humans to pick up on.  

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Cool!

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"Thank you, sir." They can sit down as told.

All they know about her daemon is what their guide told them; they have no built-up associations. And the body language helps, on a level not entirely conscious - not exactly like what would identify a sub at home, but with enough overlap with how a sub might walk, might hold themselves, to carry through emotional associations.

He - isn't sure how he should greet her. If she has a high position he should greet her accordingly, but if she has bad associations with it then that would be unpleasant for her -. Well, she is who they are going to speak to, and there's no one else here except their guide, and he is her friend or something like it and has not seemed strict about etiquette. He'll - try not.

He ducks his head a little, smiles a little. "Hello."

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"Hello," she says back, sitting, still a bit self-conscious though sitting does help - while she's not exactly giant, she is a few centimeters taller than Azure.  This is normally something she enjoys about herself, but makes her further question her suitability here.  She glances towards Azure curiously.  His message hadn't been much to go on in terms of what she was supposed to do.  

She can feel the indignation, sympathy, and protectiveness running through her from whatever Araeneve is hearing, though doesn't yet have the context.  

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They're also looking to their guide. 

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"Okay, just so we're all clear on the plan here:

"Alessa and Kente, you two can explain their society to Verity without needing to be... diplomatic.  From what I've been able to pick up, you seem to instinctively expect me to harm you for speaking out of line, because I resemble someone of the Dominant typing and that is something they do in your world.  Verity - to the extent anyone in our society counts - is the Submissive typing.  Not only will she not hurt you, but you'll be able to feel like she won't hurt you.  I wouldn't either, but I do know how emotions work."  While he's never spent much time thinking about it, the fleet isn't without traumatized people of its own.  The reactions don't just go away because someone says they aren't useful anymore.  

"And Verity, you are very good at pointing out flaws about the fleet, so I know you'll be able to give honest answers about how we function here without sugar-coating anything yourself."  Azure thinks she could be a very good influence about that.  She also has seen the fleet from more perspectives than him - while Legendaries are important and well regarded, unlike him she didn't grow up with it.

"Anyway, I'll let you get to it.  Call me in a while if you finish everything you want to say early... we could maybe fit another chair in.  Otherwise, I'll be back in about four hours."

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He - they - 

To him this will read as their guide thinking they expect him to be cruel, or abusive even ('expect me to harm you'), and - some doms get angry, at that, don't like being treated as though they would be like that when they certainly aren't, have dealt out no mistreatment. Their guide doesn't seem angry, but - he's been good to them, and generous, and more than fair and forgiving (is being so right now), and Alessa doesn't want him to think they don't appreciate it, aren't grateful. Doesn't want to - miscall him, by their actions (and - he's been kind; it might be upsetting, to think people are afraid of you in excess, if you're kind.)

And it's - hard to get it right, when being not careful enough can end so badly and being too careful also can. But he doesn't want their guide to think that - that they're nervous, really, in a new place with maybe new rules, and new people, is some opinion they have about him.

He's thrown, by this, with what their guide says, and he doesn't know what to say himself, how to - say any of it, and without also sounding like they're ungrateful about Verity, and doesn't know how to say they're grateful about Verity without implying -

And then their guide is leaving, and he - hasn't even said anything at all, is just looking after him.

 

(...Four hours after all, another part of him notes, meanwhile. It's probably good they had some food then, if they won't be having lunch so long.)

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Verity watches him leave, out of sight though the door to the cubicle hasn't been shut yet.  She is... not accustomed to Azure handing her any sort of delicate social stuff, given that he has several times more social skills than she does.  He'd been casual and cheerful as usual when he left.  Only the connection to Araeneve listening to Florentho let her know he was feeling unsettled.  Un-Settled being an especially apt term - like a fundamental aspect of their very soul is not being visible when it normally would be.  Verity was of the opinion that most stereotypes regarding daemons were garbage, but that didn't mean they all were.  To Azure, someone who didn't recognize what it meant for his soul to be a gallade was... pretty much the opposite of how Verity feels about not getting bowed at for being a suicune.  

With their daemons occupied, she has less insight to the aliens.  Alessa does seem unhappy.  Maybe?  

Before they shut the door, Araeneve puts their head into the room to whisper the information to Verity.  It seems like the sort of thing where both sides of themself should be on the same page.  While quiet, they do make their voice carry louder than a normal self-conversation, figuring that they might as well know what is being said about them.  That they seem to have an underlying current of expecting things to go wrong.  That submissives like to be useful and devoted and follow-rather-than-lead, and dominants like to own and oversee and command.  That they self-identify at a young age, and submissives lack many freedoms they take for granted here - it sounded like slavery to Azure-and-Florentho, but they don't identify it as such.  

Their explanation finished, Araeneve takes a guarding stance outside.  With one of their long tails, they nudge the door shut and leave the humans in slightly-more-silence. 

Verity looks towards them, still in thought.  Hesitantly, "Did that seem about accurate?"  She's not sure whether they want to start with asking questions or speaking more about their own world.

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They definitely don't even know at all what it means for someone's soul to be a gallade.

 

Submissives can like to lead. In the country they're from it's not allowed much, but other places submissives have led armies, led all sorts of things. (His voice has changed, and his body language. Not as much as it might have at home, definitely not as much as for a sub he knew or was in the same position with. Still nervous, to some part, and careful. But - something like less of it, and engrained politeness is different, and the careful attentive deference gone out of it.)

It's - pretty bad, when people treat leadership (and other things) like it must be dominant, can only be dominants. He's really sorry something like that is happening here too. (He's not going to not jump, yet, right into all the sympathy for what's happening to her - people can have different feelings, on that. But he can be close by).

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Oh that's why slavery had come up. Well. That might be a good sign? (He's going to continue letting Alessa do the talking for now; he's not under the impression that being a sub (or something?) means someone is harmless or that you can definitely say whatever around them.)

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(He also notices the slavery piece. Which - it's not unheard of, he knows, for even dominants sometimes to find some rules for submissives that their own culture is different with to be horrible - that public punishment in the streets is barbaric and shameful for everyone, or that not allowing submissives to speak in public is ridiculous and harmful to societal functioning and shows mistrust in their dominants' discipline. But he doesn't know enough yet to know what that might fully mean - people from cultures where submissives aren't to go out alone can find that opposite horrible, he knows, frightening and unsafe and uncaring.

But he'll be asking about rules soon enough, and then he should know more.)

That sounds in the general accurate otherwise, he thinks. 

Also, they're sorry, the worrying about things going wrong is just - they're in this new place and they don't know the rules, and they'll try their best but they don't know a lot and don't think they'll get everything right. Their guide (he compensates for not knowing the proper form to talk about him by saying 'he' and gesturing to the door; another thing he can maybe ask about) has been really good to them and they didn't at all mean any affront to him.

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"I'd be doing the same thing," Verity assures them, regarding the expectation that something's going to go wrong.  

"What is the difference between leading and commanding and overseeing?"  Those are not perfect synonyms, but they're so close together here.  The only example she can think of is a business leading in innovation or being the 'leading expert' on something, but that doesn't fit with the example of leading armies.  

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(That - helps to hear as well, on some level underlying.)

Oh, no, sorry he wasn't trying to draw a distinction between these words in particular, that wasn't it, it's just that in their country like he said submissives aren't often allowed to lead, and - there are people who will say submissives can't, so he wanted to be sure he said that they can, and can want to. (...Maybe he shouldn't have said that, or said it so directly. But, he doesn't know that, and he doesn't want to leave it out if he doesn't have to, if this is how they'll first know this.

And she's something-like-submissive, maybe.

And, this wouldn't be the worst of ways to run into a forbidding rule after all, if he does. And it'd be him running into it.)

There - is nuance in the words, if he thinks about it? But if he needs to better explain that probably isn't where to start. 

...It's really hard to try to figure out how to describe it shortly. It's - not at a level they'd usually be trying to describe like this, for them. And when he'd said what he'd said before to their guide (he does the 'he' and gesturing again) he'd thought he was just trying to really clearly point to something they both knew. (It's still very strange to think that it's not. But.)

...He's not really sure how to explain well. Maybe Kente could do better? (And he's still not sure how exactly everything works here, just where it might be similar and different and otherwise. But they should try their best to explain well, and if they run into something already known, that'll help everything be clearer, really.)

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Well, he can try.

...So a lot of countries and cultures have all sorts of rules and expectations for what submissives and dominants do and don't do. But as far as he, and in his opinion reality, is concerned, submissives and dominants can do most of the same things. Just, for some of the things they'll tend to approach them differently?

Like - to shrink down a bit - in some households, if there was a trip upcoming, the dom would plan it, and in some the sub would plan it. And if the dom planned it they'd be thinking - they're in charge of the household so they'll be making the decisions about how the trip will go, and they're the head of the household and that includes responsibilities to it and making this go well is one of the ways they take good care of the household which is theirs

And if the sub planned it they'd be thinking - this is work they will do for their household, a job they can do well and are going to do, a way they serve their dominant, they'll please their dominant by planning the trip very well.

Er, obviously not all people will be thinking the exact same thing, and some things will overlap, like if whoever's doing it thinks trip planning is really fun. But.

So, having never led an army himself, he'd generally figure that a sub leading an army will be thinking of it as the role they can do well like someone else can make weapons well or whatever, and how they can best serve, and is super not likely to be thinking that the army should obey them because it's theirs and they say so.

So with respect to words there's a lot of stuff where word nuance kind of gets at this sort of thing? A dom might say they like executing a plan with defined steps but is not likely to say they like obedience, might say they want the esteem of those they admire and is not likely to say they want to be pleasing, might say they want to be secure in their position and is not likely to say they want to be kept.

And then Alessa when he'd tried the quick description before had said 'orient to' - there's some things that divide out pretty hard, and there's some things the difference is more like how core they are or something like that? Like, um, how a romance where the characters witness a crime one time and have to deal with that isn't the same thing as a book about tangling with the criminal underworld.

 

(He's also somewhat worried about crossing lines here, but he is very determined that if people here end up wrong about this it'll be because they're determined to be wrong (like, well, lots and lots of people he knows at home) and not because he himself wouldn't say it right.)

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That does make a lot more sense.  She can see the distinction, with that example.

Sometimes people will phrase things to try and make them more palatable, and she normally interprets that as them being unctuous and politicking - as if people are supposed to find a regulation on plant height less unpleasant because the person making it is 'serving the community' instead of 'just likes forcing their aesthetics on everyone' even though the result is the same either way.  It hadn't occurred to her that they might have been trying to explain something genuine.

In her case, she can't feel any sense of ownership or need to control and guide the people, and she doesn't think she'd do a good job at it in a serving-the-whole capacity.  The latter phrasing does seem less... completely wrong, and more like a normal preference and talent thing?

As for whether she'd want to be useful or pleasing or devoted... 

She does like being useful.  She likes how they can use their abilities and moves to help serve the ship, keeping the water levels up and cool and clean.  She likes when someone she likes has something that she can help with, and takes pride in how her talents and strength can be called on by them.

For devotion or being pleasing, that would depend on the person.  Most people haven't earned her devotion.  Most people are unpleasant to deal with, and she has no interest in trying to be pleasant first.

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They're being given to understand it's not exactly the same here? And even where they're from being subs or doms isn't at all the only factor in how people come at things or why they say them. Also subs and doms being likely to think about the same thing differently doesn't mean either of them are guaranteed to do a great job - both a sub or a dom could be bad at trip planning, actually. (Is that ok to say? Hopefully will be alright, she'd just basically complained about a regulation and people making it first...).

...He thinks sub army-leaders in particular can have a higher proportion of very good at their jobs, but he thinks that's generally because it's still harder for a sub to get to that position so the ones who do are more likely to be really good. And also possibly because of what a sub army-leader up against someone that doesn't let subs do that can expect to happen if they lose, he's not sure if motivation in that sense does something there.

And likewise doesn't at all tell you or guarantee they'll be good in the other sense - General Jiasi was a sub, right, and aside from her military victories is mostly known for building monuments out of human bones and burning people alive in front of them. 

Most people don't think subs have to or are supposed to be pleasing and devoted to everyone - unless they're temple prostitutes or something. They're supposed to be polite and respectful and follow etiquette. Likewise they're not expected to just be obedient to all dominants - obedience is to the dom in charge of them, and to authorities like the government.

(...And, he definitely didn't control his voice and face enough when he said part of that. ...Well, he can't go back in time and do it, so - going to find out how Verity does respond to something like that. At least it's not too bad a thing to find out with. ...Probably, he doesn't actually know if what people do and don't get very severe about is the same here, but it does at least feel like 'poor attitude' isn't the sort of thing you can be too strict on without getting a place that looks pretty different from the place they've been walking around. Maybe.)

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...He is distracted from other things he might have said by watching Verity carefully for reactions.

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By Fleet standards, that didn't parse as potentially-rude.

"Good point about the sub army leaders.  I think it's similar to people who aren't expected Types locally.  For example, bartenders are usually poison type because that's whose encouraged to try and who tend to get hired over other applicants with the same credentials.  There are some laws to try and prevent things like that, but they're more to do with making sure employee areas are accessible to different-sized daemons and stopping people from discriminating against passively electro-receptive, empathic, or magneto-receptive daemons, not things based on types.  

"There are some legal limits to who can work what jobs.  For legendaries mostly, who need to be part of the church."  She obviously finds this one personally unpleasant.  "There's also safety rules - charmander have open flames on their bodies so can't work in places close to explosives, for example.  It's unfair, but not... arbitrary.  And Moves, of course.  Can't power the ship if you can't generate electricity.  People who can learn certain moves will sometimes be drafted to do them in emergencies, too."  She's still not happy about those, though in the tone of someone who acknowledges that something is in fact entirely reasonable and has no arguments.

"Is being expected to follow etiquette an instinctive thing, or something that your cultures demand?  That's the one I really can't see myself doing - not automatically."  More slowly, thinking it through aloud, "I'd do as much as I had to, if I were going to be punished for it otherwise or if I needed something that I could only get that way.  It wouldn't be natural, though.  If anything, people who want to own or control things are usually the polite ones, that I've noticed, since it helps them get elected or promoted."

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(Rude wasn't exactly the thing he was worried about in this case, the thing he was worried about was his attitude toward obedience and also the government.)

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To them, her response will be very reassuring, in the lack of immediate disapproval or similar reaction, and in her tones about aspects of her society. She isn't happy, or not entirely happy, with some things the government does, some things the church does, and she'll share that with them, will let it be known.

He takes in the more information about society here.

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"Doms have etiquette too. More like how you said though - goes with people thinking well of them. Not enforced by punishment, at least not where we're from. I think some places have done that too? Still wouldn't be the same as for subs though.

And cultures differ on etiquette - just what it looks but also how much of it they do and how strict it is and all.

...I think subs feel different ways about etiquette." He himself has definitely spent disproportionate amounts of time on the 'formal dinner' parts of certain romances and dramas, but could also definitely do with less of the thrashings for not being great at doing conversations with doms all right. (He doesn't say that, not yet.)

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(He's pretty sure it's not the case that they don't have etiquette at all here - lower stratum, less strict, he's been thinking it already and it seems more likely, but - you can have different expectations about whether you greet coworkers with kisses or whether you apologize directly to someone or get it passed on or who does what at dinner, but he doesn't think it would really work to have no expectations at all. But he knows sometimes people think of just higher stratums of etiquette as etiquette, of everything else as something else. That's probably what she means.)

"I like it. For - myself." Not for - but he's not going to say that either, yet.

And, trying - "I'm sorry you get put into something that isn't right for you."

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"Thank you for saying that," she says, not sure if it would be a good idea to add anything else.  A lot of people wind up places they don't like because that's what the fleet needs.  She's also not sure if she should apologize for their world in turn.  On the axis of dominant and submissive they were sorted the way they wanted.  Presumably they're happy with it?  She's skeptical, but can't really tell, particularly not without a parallel daemon conversation to help.  

"Even compared to the others on the fleet, I have a hard time liking procedures that exist purely to waste as much time as possible with no benefit."  

"...Though I suppose I shouldn't be too dismissive.  If you want to be in certain professions it can be important.  Anything to do with that is something you should ask Azure about directly.  That's how I met him - The upper class has more elaborate rules than what I was used to, growing up, and care more about reputation.  He spends time with people from lots of places, and approached me as to be a possible teacher since he could tell I was out of place there when I first settled.  Admittedly, I wound up not following them, but not because of him.  Azure is respectable - in the literal sense that he's earned my respect."

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(Well, someone might say, if she voiced that - her daemon settled to a Suicine, did they not? Does that mean that she is happy with all that comes with it?)

He ducks his head and laughs, a little (allows it in himself - he'll stop if she doesn't seem to like it, but the conversation seems to be going well -). "I do know people who feel that way. That... can be harder on submissives, I think. If you don't like it for itself, and it doesn't help to think about reflecting well on your dominant, or doesn't help enough. Dominants can - decide more, if places vary and some suit them more than others." (That's... probably an acceptable next level of risk. Following her lead, and in some ways just an elaboration of 'I think subs feel different ways about etiquette'. And - in some ways not - more steps, more watching for reactions.)

And - this seems like a good way to bring the topic -

Nodnod. "He's been very good to us too. Generous, and forgiving.

We - would want very much to understand better, the rules and how to act here. To - act correctly, and be good guests of your society, and not to be - further trouble on him, or to reflect very poorly. We've - made some mistakes, and he was very clement with us, and kind, as we were unknowing." He can tell the story of the bathroom incident, eyes repeatedly down and flushing a little, to have done something unacceptable in such an area, and have so angered someone by it. "But we wouldn't want to keep repeating anything like that, of course."