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Nov 27, 2020 11:45 PM
Lenora and Thorn do a tour of duty
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"Yes, Captain!" She knows the timing now, having seen it once, and she still has eyes on the scrive-spinster. She readies herself and watches for the throwing motion. 

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Throw!

This time the telltale light is green, not red.

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She hasn't time to consider. "Dodge!"

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The locomotive whooshes to the side in a sudden lurch that would have crashed her into the glass if she wasn't braced, but no strike comes.

Wait, there it is. This time there are two spears, moving considerably slower, but they're curving and tracking towards the locomotive's new position.

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She sighs. "Tracking spears, speed and bearing -"

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The locomotive successfully dodges these once they close, but the scrive-spinster chooses that exact moment to toss another fast-moving red one.

Even if Thorn calls it out in time, the counter-dodge is anemic, and the red spear crashes into the side of the outer plating with an extremely loud noise before tumbling away.

They are pulling ahead of the scrive-spinster slightly, though. The green spears come around for another pass.

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She reports on the status of the green spears and watches for another red launch. She'll get a proper dodge in at least once. Hopefully.

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Eventually the green spears explode with a booming thunk-thunk.

Red!

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"Dodge!" She braces. 

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HISS!

A successful dodge!

This pattern continues for minutes that feel like hours as the scrive-spinster slowly falls behind. They take just one more hit, from one of the sneaky tracking green spears.

 

And then the scrive-spinster shouts in - words that are not words, three shapes, three extremely complex characters of light-but-not-light and simple power steeped in the air, sizzling with anger -

Idiot-insects infesting a place not meant for them! Beings who produce nothing of intellectual value! Unforgivable wasters of paper and ink!

-And then it peels away and turns around, giving up the pursuit. The locomotive keeps going.

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... well that suggests rather a lot. She keeps quiet about what she's heard; she'll keep it under her hat until she can find some privacy with Lenora. But the implications - that Scrive-Spinsters hate humans for their lack of academic achievement and importunateness upon the grand stage... That's worth saving for later. Maybe she could even talk one around given access to sufficient time and supplies...

She clears her head and gets back to her watch.

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The captain says into the speaking tube, "It looks like we're clear. Good job, Miss Thorn. We're going to keep going a ways and take a side-route. Do you need a relief? That was tense."

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"I'm sharp," she calls down the speaking-tube. "Maybe a little jumpy, but I'll finish my shift." 

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"Alright, as long as you're still sharp. I presume you'd be happy to help with repairs later, for experience?"

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"Very much so, Captain!"

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When her watch ends, the crew hanging out in the galley are a bit tense and subdued.

That evening they set down on a wide, flat rock and go out to inspect the damage. The first hit is just a long gouge in the outer plating, without any penetration. They leave it for later, any makeshift repair would be too shoddy to be worth it. The second hit penetrated and then exploded slightly, and they have to replace several lengths of heating pipe, clean the crawl space of wooden shards everywhere and make sure nothing is leaking subtly, then test everything. They drill a couple of holes and bolt an additional piece of metal over the hole.

Lenora finds Thorn as they get back into the air. "You know, probably a good thing I didn't get to shoot back, all things considered."

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"Still a team effort either way. I'm glad to see there doesn't seem to be any serious damage, though next time someone should tell me about the seeking spears versus the lancing spears, I wasted a dodge because I didn't know enough... And..." 

She looks over her shoulder. "Can most people understand Scrive-Spinsters?"

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"Oh... Yeah. I probably should have mentioned that when we were going into scrive-spinster territory. Uh, cantankeri and chorister bee swarms mostly just repeatedly charge and ram engines. Curators have a sonic wave that's only faintly visible and exploding acid projectiles, and... Yeah, Scrive-spinsters are people. They all are, actually, every other threat I've mentioned, which is kind of horrible, but so it goes. The story goes, Eleutheria's celestial library was sundered long ago, leaving the librarians to thrash and rage and fruitlessly try to recover what they can. They mostly know English, but if you heard something that nobody else did... The Correspondence, maybe?"

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"It was oddly phrased in english, so likely. What's the Correspondence, I've heard references but...?"

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"The correspondence is 'the language of the heavens'. What Judgements and most of the more... Powerful things out there speak. It's incredibly many symbols, maybe infinitely many, with tiny variations. It doesn't seem to change over time like languages do, it's magic. If you try to write Correspondence, most likely you screw it up you get lots of fire and possibly some more exotic bad effect. If you're fluent you can do magic with it instead. There's a Correspondence-covered obelisk near a circus that's basically indestructible and sort of draws people in to live nearby, makes you feel like you belong there."

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"How strange. I wonder if we could get someone fluent in it with enough sim time... But no matter. I shouldn't be standing around talking about this sort of thing."

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"I miss talking about this sort of thing. -I'm not in a huge hurry anymore, though, slow and careful is fine. You know, Ka. You'll like Titania, I think."

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"I've been looking forwards to Titania basically ever since I learned it existed. I hope I'm not let down by it."

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"I don't know how it'll stack up compared to other things you've seen, but it's pretty good."

 

 

Two days later, early in the morning, they reach Titania. It is alone, free from floating islands or other obstructions, an orchid of titanic scale - battleships could fit on a single petal. Instead, they're decorated with buildings and parks, delicate-looking spiderwebs of steel and wood and glass inching across in a variety of architectural style. It looks like a city of dollhouses or fairies, juxtaposed against the flower's vastness. Thorn can see an outdoor play of some kind being performed in an ampitheater even as they approach. There is swordfighting and someone in a werewolf costume and a (literally) colorful audience, but of course it's hard to make out much detail even through binoculars.

The building adjacent to the rail-yard stands half-complete, looking as if two different architectural styles started on either end and had a fight in the middle, then left to get a pint to drink before finishing the building. Colorful, glassy, flowing, airy - and regal, imposing, strong, Victorian. Those gathering near the rail yard certainly look like artistic types, in Bohemian fashion and many of them carrying tools of their trade like an instrument or easel.

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She loves this colony already and would probably fistfight someone in a bar for it. She drinks in the best look she can get without being remiss in her duties, and hopes fervently that the captain will allow shore leave.

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