Oct 31, 2020 2:59 AM
Bruce meets Zoombinis
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"They're really big like you and have arms like you but none of them wear glasses," says Kwispafa. "And I think their hair is a different colour. It's sort of pinkish red. I haven't seen one up close though."

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"Huh." Well, if he is in a clichéd YA novel he will have time to deal with it later. "I'm curious about the Bloats, but we can talk about something else if you'd rather."

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"It's okay, I'm not scared!" says Kwispafa. "We're gonna go to the fabled lands of logic and do all the puzzles and find somewhere to live and then my ammi will go back home and tell everyone it's okay and they'll all sneak away to come live with us and there'll be nothing left but a big empty island and if the Bloats want to stomp around and be mean they can yell at the trees!"

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"I hope we find somewhere really nice. What are the fabled lands of logic fabled to be like?"

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"They're supposed to be full of logic puzzles that you have to solve if you want to go places. It sounds like fun!"

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"I guess the people who live there must really like logic puzzles, then."

He's vaguely imagining a continent of colorful aliens who put logic puzzles at the entrances to all of their buildings and nerd-snipe you every time you try to buy groceries, as if Mystery Hunt never stopped and just integrated itself into normal life. It sounds like a very inefficient paradise.

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"Maybe! Or maybe they're really tired of them by now! I guess we'll find out!"

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"Do you know how long it will take to get there?"

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"I know we have to sleep on the boat but I forget how many times. Not a lot though. Maybe just once?"

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"That's a good length of time for a boat trip." Whatever the food situation is, it's going to be better on land.  He looks around at the boat and the hatches and tries to ascertain whether he's likely to be sleeping on deck for lack of space below.

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He is likely to be sleeping on deck for lack of ability to fit through the hatch.

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Well, it would be even weirder if they had somehow been expecting him, and given that they weren't that's hardly a surprise. He'll just have to hope for good weather.

He casts around for another conversation topic. "Want to tell me more about what your life is like? Is Speeba one of your parents?" That's potentially an invalid question, since they could have one parent apiece or reproduce by budding or sprout like plants for all he knows, but he doesn't know how to make small talk at the best of times and right now his hypothesis space is enormous and a mess.

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"Yeah! Speeba is my ammi, and that's my yaya Cafly," they point their snoot at the fluffy bespectacled adult who is currently helping Speeba do something or other with the sails, "and my baba Nawu," the sleepy-eyed spring-borne green-snooted adult who's bouncing gently near the front of the boat, "and my uppi Awoowoo is inside with all the big kids."

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Oh gosh new words! "English doesn't have the words ammi and uppi and baba and yaya so I don't know what the differences are, but that's cool that you've got your family with you."

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"You get your feet from your ammi and your eyes from your baba and your hair from your yaya and your snoot from your uppi!" they explain. "Well, not really, you can be a different way if you want. But you're sposed to look like your parents."

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He's learning alien genetics from actual aliens! Or possibly alien body-modding customs which is also mega neat. "Cool! Humans look like their parents too. Do you start out looking like your parents the way you're supposed to, or do you start out looking a different way and change it to match your parents on purpose?"

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"You start out with the same eyes as your baba and the same feet as your ammi - well, if your ammi has legs you have legs and if your ammi doesn't have legs you don't. But I have to dye my snoot to look like my uppi's. My hair goes floof all by itself though!"

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His hair (her hair? fuck it, their hair) does go floof and it's adorable. "It's neat how many ways to get around without legs you have. Nearly all humans have legs and a small number have wheels, but we're too tall to balance on springs and too heavy to use propellers. As a one-person thing, I mean, we have airplanes that use propellers to fly but they're too big to use instead of wheels or feet."

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"Propellers are neat! My friend Impu tried their sib's propeller on once, but they kept crashing into walls and had to give it back. It's hard to use feet that aren't the right ones for you."

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"Does what kind of feet are easiest run in families, or is it just practice?" It's kind of amazing, he thinks, how many layers of model uncertainty he's currently operating on. Uncertainty about how well Zoombini science reflects reality, uncertainty about how much science this kid knows, uncertainty about how well he's understanding Kwispafa's explanations versus projecting unjustified assumptions he doesn't know he's making, and of course the base layer of uncertainty about whether he's currently having a very weird semi-lucid dream on the floor of the Stata Center.

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"I think it runs in families but I guess maybe it could be practice too!"

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"Do you get them as soon as you're born?"

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Kwispafa considers this question for a few seconds, then says, "I'm not sure! I don't remember hatching."

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"Yeah, I guess if you don't have any little sibs you wouldn't know. Hmm, is there anything you'd like to know about Earth? Or I can keep asking you questions."

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"I like your questions, they're interesting!" But they think for a couple more seconds and then add, "What's it like on Earth? Do you have cake there?"

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