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Generated: Jan 01, 2021 6:10 PM
Post last updated: Jan 01, 2021 6:06 PM
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kyeo in cascadia
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Kyeo's head hurts very badly. He doesn't remember how he got that way but he can guess that he's taken a blow to the head. That doesn't explain why he's not on a spaceship any more but he should probably not expect to figure that out right now. He looks confusedly at the non-spaceship around him for a minute before closing his eyes.

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He's in the middle of... a forest... apparently?

He hears a voice speaking to him in something almost, but not entirely, quite unlike Kularan. 

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How could he have gotten to Kular? They weren't even trying to leave the system.

"My head," he mumbles, in Kularan, at least he thinks those are Kularan words, thinking is hard. He's not opening his eyes.

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The person says something that sounds like "doctor" or "hospital" and then lifts Kyeo up.

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Kyeo is in no position to object to this. It probably makes sense. Is that 'hospital' or 'hotel', in Kularan, he can't quite recall...

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The person-- a boy, a teenage boy, maybe fifteen and dirty in a way that people just weren't on Ibyabek-- says what is recognizably a curse by its intonation, pulls out his phone, messes with it for a moment, says something that might be "walk", puts an arm under Kyeo's shoulders, and walks him to the street.

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Kyeo can sort of do that. He can mostly support his weight, anyway, his legs don't seem injured, but he'd be weaving and toppling over if it weren't for the help.

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A few minutes later, a car without a driver-- just two rows of seats-- appears. The boy helps him inside, then presses something on his phone, and the car departs.

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Kyeo is not registering the lack of a driver beyond "this, like so many things while one is concussed, provokes some confusion". He slumps against the window and shuts his eyes.

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The guy pokes him occasionally to make sure he's not asleep.

The car stops. Kyeo is transferred from the car to a stretcher, then from the stretcher to a bed. A woman in nurse's scrubs says words to him in a comforting tone and Not Kularan. They put an IV into his arm and a pulse oximeter on his finger.

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"Where," he manages, in what he is at least 90% sure is Kularan.

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She says Portland Something Hospital, or possibly Hotel.

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Does he have to be awake. Suppose he falls asleep now.

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The nurse is going to require he get an MRI and a CT scan first and swallow a white pill and then he can sleep.

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He is very dubious of this entire enterprise but fine he will swallow the stupid pill.

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The nurses will let him sleep as much as he wants and occasionally wake him for food and pills.

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He really does not want to eat right now but he will choke down a little.

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When he seems to be reasonably stably conscious a nurse comes to speak to him in Not Kular. It possibly involves the word 'name.'

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Kularan, Kularan - "Naam Kyeo Sebe Luk hai."

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She types this into a computer. Then she says some words that he can probably extrapolate are "what is your" and a noun he doesn't know at all.

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"...my what?"

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She pauses, then presents him a sheet written in twelve different alphabets. Words he recognizes include "speak" and "language."

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At least some of them are in the Kularan alphabet. Mostly. "...I speak Kularan y Ibyabekan. ...Sohaibekan," he amends, in case they only know it by that name.

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The nurse leaves and is replaced with an increasingly confused series of interpreters.

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His head hurts too much for this. What do the interpreters want??

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The interpreters do not seem to speak Ibyabekan at all and are asking him questions in a variety of non-Ibyabekan languages.

Then a final interpreter points to items and asks him their names in Ibyabekan.

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He can give their Ibyabekan names, sure...

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Then the interpreters stop!

And he has food three times a day-- oatmeal or scrambled eggs and bacon or pancakes or muffins for breakfast, chicken noodle soup or meatloaf with mashed potatoes and carrots or chicken quesadilla with refried beans and avocado for lunch, turkey breast with yams and apples and green beans or eggplant parmesan spaghetti with carrots and peas or teriyaki tofu with brown rice and a quinoa salad. With lunch and dinner he gets a regular rotation of chocolate chip cookies, vanilla ice cream, chocolate pudding, and vanilla milkshakes. 

Other than that, they leave him alone. There's a television in his room. Next to his bed, there's a basket with some brightly colored magazines, a deck of cards, a book of some kind of puzzle apparently called "sudoku," a sketchbook with colored pencils, and knitting needles and yarn.

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He has no idea what kind of point they're trying to make with the food but he'll eat it. He attempts, when he feels able to get out of bed, to turn on the TV.

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The first channel is a cartoon. There are several bunny rabbits who are in a fire station. There is a fire in a forest somewhere, and the bunny rabbits rush to put it out. 

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Their dialect of Kularan is weird enough and his head still hurts enough that he will go ahead and watch the firefighting bunnies for a bit, trying to figure out what the differences are from what he learned.

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Judging from the voice acting, exactly fifty percent of the firefighting bunnies are female, and two of the male bunnies kiss after the fire is put out. The farmers are VERY happy that the firefighter bunnies have saved their farms!

The next show is about nine sea creatures-- four female, four male, and one Kyeo can't classify-- who find a starfish washed up on the beach! They must search through the ocean from top to bottom to figure out where the starfish is supposed to live and put it there. If Kyeo could speak Weird Kularan well enough he'd probably be learning all kinds of interesting facts about starfish habitats. 

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The presence of a sea creature he can't classify explains it: he's just not very good at identifying the genders of weird-dialect Kularan by voice acting and cartoon alone. (It's plausible they have female firefighters, though, since wherever this is it isn't Ibyabek.) It seems like they only use one of the Kularan words for "and", and sometimes they draw it way out and add extra sounds. None of the sea creatures look non-Terrestrial, so it's set on Earth or a place without wildlife. Actually, maybe this is Earth. Food probably grows well on Earth since all the crops were originally developed there and so did the languages Kularan is stitched together from.

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The next show is a live-action educational show. Small children (of conspicuously diverse ethnicities, dressed uniformly in shorts and T-shirts, and with hair of varying lengths but no other obvious gender signifiers) play outside. The setting is conspicuously rural: it's set in a forest interspersed with picturesque houses, and pigs and chickens wander through the scenes without anyone seeming to care. The small children are stuck on one side of a stream, and decide to build a bridge to cross it. An adult man comes by to speak to them, and Kyeo can put together that this is probably about how they were doing engineering. We are shown pictures of bridges and houses and roller coasters and a primitive starship. The children play with blocks and Legos and (supervised by an adult woman) circuitry. The letter of the day is E for Engineering. The number of the day is Twelve for Twelve buildings. There is an interview with an adult female engineer. Someone gets frustrated that their Lego castle keeps falling down, but the man supervising the children encourages them to take deep breaths, and then they can build it so it stands up! Children instruct an adult in building a block tower; he gets the instructions humorously wrong. The children dance and sing a song about bridges falling down. Engineers have to measure things! Children practice measuring their block towers and Lego castles and bridges.

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He's getting the hang of the numbers now, which are about half the same as he learned at least from one to twelve. It seems good that there is children's content about bridge-building, he supposes.

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There is a lot of content about bridges, actually.

The next three shows are:

-a VERY EXCITED PERSON who wants to tell you ALL about EXCAVATORS and MONSTER TRUCKS and TRACTOR-TRAILERS and DITCH DIGGERS and CRANES.

-a documentary about babies from around the world. One of the babies lives in what Kyeo recognizes as a city; one of the babies lives in a house with backyard chickens and a garden, located near similar houses; two of the babies live on farms with extremely primitive technology. The primitive babies seem to have a father and a mother and an extended family; the city baby has one mother and no father; the backyard-chicken baby has two dads and a large rotating cast of other caretakers who, judging by their skin tone, are not all related to the dads. The dads kiss and hold hands with each other. 

-the story of a small girl who wants someone to play with, so she asks her mama, but her mama is busy! so she asks her mommy, but her mommy is busy! so she asks her mom, but her mom is busy! so she asks her dad, but her dad is busy! so she asks her grandma, but her grandma is busy! so she asks her grandpa, but her grandpa is busy! so she asks granny, but granny is busy! so she asks granddad, but granddad is busy! so she asks her uncle, but her uncle is busy! so she asks her Alex, but her Alex is busy! so she asks her Leaf, but her Leaf is busy! so she asks her Francis, but her Francis is busy! and then it turns out everyone was busy making a surprise party for her, yay, so she gets to play with her mama and her mom and her mommy and her dad and her grandma and her grandpa and her granny and her granddad and her uncle and Alex and Francis and Leaf. (the uncle is about fifteen; Mama, Mom, Mommy, and Dad are all in their early twenties at the oldest; the grandparents are maybe in their forties.)

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Yes, yes, he's heard that on United Kular sometimes - ugh. He assumes some words for family relationships are lost on him due to this not actually being standard Kularan.

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As far as Portland Whatever Hospital, or possibly Hotel, is concerned, he can spend the next three weeks recovering and watching children's cartoons.

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He does eventually try other channels. And makes attempts at the magazines.

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Other channels have Probably A News Show, and a self-consciously artistic movie he doesn't know enough Weird Kularan to understand, and a hospital drama that turns into pornography halfway through, and a black-and-white film with tapdancing, and some people who are VERY enthusiastic about cucumbers. Magazines seem to be selected for having very pretty pictures of mountains and undersea life and outer space and exotic animals.

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Why is there pornography! What! How fortunate he knows how to change the channel now.

The pictures of outer space are weird. Maybe it's false-color.

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And once his head has recovered they take him to a room and put him in front of a computer. The computer has a program with a cartoon owl. The cartoon owl shows him pictures of cats and dogs and trees and cars and houses and men and women and something called an "enby," and says their names and has him repeat after them. Then he has to hear the word and choose which picture goes with it, or see the picture and pronounce the word. It moves on to adjectives (TALL girl, BROWN dog, WET car) and verbs ("the boy runs," "the cat climbs," "the man builds," each illustrated with a little video).

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He recognizes almost half the words between having studied Kularan and watched a lot of TV, but he's not fluent. He will do the exercises. He is not sure what an enby is but the word isn't hard to pronounce particularly.

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At lunchtime someone collects him and walks him to the hospital cafeteria, where he can choose between chicken noodle soup and meatloaf and chicken quesadilla, and salmon and congee and cheeseburgers and caprese sandwiches and a mixed vegetable plate and fried rice and black beans besides. At the dessert table, he can choose between four different kinds of cake or five different kinds of pie or ten different flavors of ice cream or fifteen different cookies. 

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He supposes they probably have food like this on Earth. Wow. He'll take, uh, meatloaf and fried rice and cake???

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The person who walked him to the cafeteria hands him three new magazines, then disappears to go talk to their friends.

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He can read magazines while he eats.

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When lunch is done, the person collects him and takes him back to the room.

The next few weeks continue like so. Wake up, breakfast delivery, cartoon owl teaching him Weird Kularan, lunch, more cartoon owl teaching him Weird Kularan, dinner, back to his room. The cartoon owl moves on to sentence structure and verb tenses and more complex vocabulary, which it begins to define through words rather than pictures. It has some weird choices of vocabulary: "time travel" and "xenoanthropology" and "far future"; the entire periodic table and the parts of the atom and math concepts through calculus; "parliament" and "monarchy" and "dictatorship" and "vote"; "famine" and "infertility" and "pandemic" and "torture" and "human rights violation."

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Wow, Weird Kularan's grammar is brutal. He's beginning to suspect it's one of the languages that got creoled in its separately developed form and hasn't had a nice collision with half a dozen other languages to smooth it out. He will learn the vocabulary, though some of it is kind of weird.

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And then one day instead of being taken to the cartoon owl room he's taken to a nice meeting room.

"Hi! I'm Lev Aarons. I work with the government of Cascadia. --You're in Cascadia, by the way."

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"Pleased to meet you," Kyeo says, "I'm Kyeo Sebe Luk. Is this Earth?"

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"Yes! I'm not sure how much you've figured out about what's going on?"

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"I figured out it was probably Earth. Other than that I'm very confused. Is there some problem at the embassy? Or is my head still in worse shape than I feel like it is?"

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"So what we know is that your language does not exist in any of our records but, linguistically, has patterns associated with an organically developed language as opposed to a constructed language or a language created through a delusion. One of the languages you speak seems to be a mashup of primarily English, Spanish, and Hindi, with sound changes consistent with centuries of linguistic drift. --The linguists love you, by the way, you are going to be the subject of as many dissertations as you consent to be interviewed for."

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"Ah," says Kyeo. "- may I see the moon, please."

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"Uh, not right now, it's the day time? --You can see a picture of it?"

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"It's not urgent but I would like to see the real moon in the sky."

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"We can... definitely arrange for you to drive out to the forest tonight."

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"Thank you."

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"So, uh, do you have any idea how you got here from the future?"

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"No. Are my shipmates somewhere?"

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"Nope, you're the only one here. A guy found you in the middle of Redwood Park."

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"I appreciate his help very much."

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"Okay. So, uh, my job is to help you get oriented to Cascadia and see if we can send you back-- which apparently we can't because you don't know how you got here either-- and talk to you about giving us any knowledge of the future you happen to have."

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"What sorts of things do I need to be oriented to?"

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"We're not sure, we've never made first contact before. --I was picked for this job because I taught a semester-long class on xenoanthropology which was supposed to just be an introduction to social science for freshmen with a fun premise but apparently that makes me the closest thing to an expert with a security clearance they have."

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"I'm not an alien."

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"Well, we don't have anyone who's made first contact with an uncontacted tribe either. --Are there aliens?"

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"We haven't found any. What year is it?"

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"2049, dating from the alleged birth of Christ."

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"Oh, is that what Earth Standard counts from? It's 2152 in Earth Standard when I'm from."

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"Oh, good, so not that far in the future. --You ended up fixing the fertility crisis with space colonization, I take it?"

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"Pardon?"

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"The... fertility crisis? The thing where we pumped lots of bitoxiphosphene into the air and it made women unable to conceive, or they miscarried, or their babies were born too sick to live?"

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"I'm afraid I'm not familiar with it. I'm not a historian, of course..."

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"It seems like it would have come up if people on your Earth still had trouble having babies!"

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"I haven't been to Earth. I do know it to... exist... so they must have handled it somehow..."

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"I... guess...?" he sounds doubtful. "Well, here most women struggle with some form of infertility. In Cascadia we've hit a TFR of 2 and we're working on reaching full replacement soon."

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"The owl did not teach me 'TFR'."

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"Oh, sorry, total fertility rate. Average number of six-month-old babies per woman."

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"...six month olds in particular?"

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"Yeah. Sometimes people want to keep their babies when they turn out to have disabilities incompatible with life instead of euthanizing them, so we have to count from a point where all the babies with those disabilities are definitely dead."

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"The owl did not teach me all of those words either."

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"Oh, sorry. The bitoxiphosphene means that some babies are born too sick to live more than six months after they're born. Normally we kill them right away but sometimes the parents don't want us to. So we have to count from a point where all the babies too sick to live are definitely dead."

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"Oh, I see. That makes sense. What a tragedy for your people."

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"Yeah, it's-- not great. --What were you, before, I don't suppose you know anything about keeping babies alive--"

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"Star Cadet. Junior space-side military rank."

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"You can help us build spaceships!"

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"I've helped assemble one but I am not in fact an engineer or a physicist."

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"Well, that's an improvement on the zero knowledge of interstellar travel we currently have."

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"I suppose."

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"So, uh, things that are unusual about Cascadia compared to other countries both historically and in the present day"-- he ticks off on his fingers-- "we're a democracy, teenagers can vote and have jobs and have kids, women can do anything men can and saying that they're fundamentally different will piss people off, you can have sex before you get married, no one cares if you're gay or trans, polygamy is legal but some people do care, sex work is legal and unionized, most newborns either have multiple legal parents or will acquire them when they get older, we keep pigs and chickens as pets and people usually eat them, a bunch of drugs are de facto legal and the rest are legally equivalent to a parking ticket, disabled people usually commit suicide when their lives aren't worth living anymore, health care is usually paid for by the government, you can get public housing for free by walking into any public housing building and asking for it, no one is allowed to arrest you for anything you say or think, no one is allowed to arrest you for your religion or for not having a religion at all, there's no official government religion-- uh, feel free to ask questions about any of these--"

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"I am missing some of those words from the owl. - how is 'gay' spelled, I might recognize it from the Kularan."

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"G-a-y."

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"Okay. I still don't have some of the other ones - 'suicide' and 'religion' and 'trans' and 'polygamy' and 'facto' and I don't know if that was all of them."

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"'Suicide' is killing yourself. 'Religion' is-- uh, that's philosophically complicated-- do you know 'philosophy'-- it's basically what God you believe in? 'Trans' is a person who is changing gender. 'Polygamy' is being married to more than one person. 'De facto' is Latin, it means that factually it is true that they're legal even if the law says something else."

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"I know 'philosophy' but not 'god' or what it would mean to change gender or how something can be legal while the law says otherwise."

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"Uh, God is-- an all-powerful all-knowing being that loves everyone? Except it is more complicated than that. Changing gender is when you ask people to treat you as a different gender, and sometimes take medicine that makes you biologically more like your preferred sex-- it's weird that you don't have that, it seems like your technology for that would be better. And in the case of drugs it is illegal to buy, for example, drugs that make you see things, unless you go to a nurse and have the effects and procedures for safe use explained to you and sign a form saying that you understand and consent to the risks. So everyone can get them legally anyway."

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"...okay. I think I understand."

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"Anyway, regardless of whether you think there is an all-knowing all-powerful being that loves everyone, or what their other qualities might be, or whether there is not a single one but instead several less powerful beings that can still do things that break the laws of physics, or you think that all of this is nonsense, no one is going to arrest you."

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"There's no official position on it?"

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"No. Absolutely not."

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"Have you not invented enough science yet to be sure?"

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"--in our society people feel very strongly about their religions and to get people to stop practicing it you often have to torture them or kill them, and even then a lot of people will continue to practice in secret. So the government does not have any opinion about religion and lets everyone practice their own religions and then no one has to be tortured."

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"I see."

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"...how is this not a thing in the future? Did religion die out in the next hundred years? Are you, I don't know, from an atheist planet--?"

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"I am from an atheist planet. I believe some religions persist elsewhere."

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"I guess you could do a lot of things with controlling immigration-- it's interesting that the second generation doesn't convert, though-- I guess that's proof of the hypothesis that if they weren't raised in a religious society no one would be religious-- do you have belief in fairies or anything like that?"

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"No."

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"Huh. That's really interesting. The atheist activists are going to have a great time when this comes out."

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"I don't see what's so surprising about a planet where no one believes in religions or fairies."

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"Well, so far at least some people believing in religions or fairies or something that breaks the laws of physics is a human universal. So people who think nothing can break the laws of physics are going to be excited that you can, in fact, convince everyone of that fact. --Do you have superstitions, do people have lucky charms or refuse to walk under ladders because it's bad luck or think their computers have personalities or kick the car when it won't start up...?"

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"I have seen people kick things that weren't working," allows Kyeo. "Though many things have parts that can in fact get stuck."

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"Wow, that's fascinating."

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"So, one difference from what you're used to is that in Cascadia people often have religions. It is not polite to argue with them about it, unless you are on a forum for debating religion or are close friends or something like that. If someone says they have to do something for religious purposes you should generally let them even if it seems stupid to you, although if it is particularly irritating to you personally you can say that you'd prefer not to have the relevant kind of interaction. Like, if someone has religious reasons not to eat pork you shouldn't feed it to them but you can refrain from inviting them to a dinner party."

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"...all right."

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"Are there other things that are different-- or questions you have in general from what you've noticed--"

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"I think you have mentioned explanations relating to everything I had noticed and didn't already expect based on this being Earth. It... does seem odd to respond to a fertility crisis with encouraging women to do a lot of things that aren't having children, and it does look like they are actually doing those things, but perhaps the ones I have seen are infertile."

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"We're not Gilead."

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"The owl did not teach me 'gilead'."

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"Gilead is... the country next door to us. It... remember what I said about religion? It believes strongly in one particular God, and has forbidden anyone from doing anything their God doesn't approve of. And one of the things it forbade is women working any jobs that interfere with them having children, although they can still run daycares and program and write novels and things like that."

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"Oh. - even the infertile ones?"

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"God... apparently does not care whether a woman is infertile before He decides that it is wrong to let her do whatever job she wants. --They can also be teachers, nurses, secretaries, feminine jobs like that."

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"I'm not sure what is meant to be feminine about those jobs."

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"Uh, they're jobs women did historically so they must be suited to women's innate feminine nature? Or something like that."

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"Sometimes you talk as though you believe things by saying 'must' or 'apparently' when it does not seem that you really believe them."

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"Yes. Sorry, sarcasm is one of my bad habits."

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"Sarcasm?"

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"Saying the opposite of what you mean in order to be funny or show irritation? --This is probably not a very helpful habit when I'm talking to someone from a century in the future."

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"It is a little confusing. I think I am following you all right."

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"Anyway, our population policy is to make it easier for people-- especially teenage girls, who are more likely to be fertile-- to have babies. We've legalized paying women to give their children up for adoption. We've legalized paying women to carry children that aren't biologically related to them. We have day cares on every high school and college campus, so girls who want to keep their babies don't have to sacrifice their education. We have a child allowance, so no one has to avoid childbearing because they're poor. There are some nudges: for example, a girl gets free college if she has given birth to three babies."

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"I see. On Ibyabek money is understood to be obsolete."

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"How... does that work out for you?"

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"Very well! You mentioned that you have public housing here, though, so that's good - I'm not sure what you do about people who can't pay for food -"

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"We calculate a reasonable amount of money to spend on food for a household of their household's size and give them that much money, which can only be spent on food or gardening supplies or animals."

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"Huh. I don't know of a reason to expect that not to work, I suppose."

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"We also have the child allowance, which I mentioned, and we give money to old people and people looking for jobs who haven't found one yet and people who are too disabled to work full-time. Disabled people who can work also get money, but a smaller amount, because being disabled is expensive and they might need to pay for takeout food or special computers or other things we wouldn't necessarily think of. Necessary health care is free but if you want something that isn't necessary you'll have to pay for it yourself. There are some other programs that are cheaper-- paying for heating for people who live in cold places, that kind of thing."

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This all sounds very complicated but if they have the logistical capacity to make it work more power to them, he supposes. Maybe this is easier to do by hand, and you need good computers to run Ibyabek. "All right."

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"How does yours work?"

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"People just get what they need without having to deal with money for it. I've never worked in logistics myself, though, I was a soldier."

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"Are things... scarce?"

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"- well, not everyone needs their own... helicopter, or what have you..."

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"Huh. That's... a lovely future. Where things are too cheap to meter. Do you know what technological developments happened--?"

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"Well, faster than light travel, and everything necessary for terraforming. I'm not a historian, I'm not sure what you already have in this year and what's yet to come."

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"We have... self-driving cars, delivery drones, VR tech that works with touch, artificial wombs that work nearly as well as a biological womb after twenty-four weeks..."

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"The owl didn't teach me 'drone' or 'VR'."

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"Sorry. A drone is a remote-controlled flying robot, VR is virtual reality."

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Kyeo can't help but notice that he has not yet been shown the moon. "Thank you."

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"So, uh, you are in fact totally free to go right now, you can walk out the door and go to the public housing and ask for a social worker to help you sign up for food stamps, and I think it's-- important that you know that, that you can do that and no one will stop you. --I guess this is the part of the speech we wrote because we're used to refugees from Gilead and Mexico and Deseret and not from, you know, the utopian future. But that thing works the way you'd probably expect things to work."

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"That's good to know. I'm not sure I need to be taking up hospital resources any more, though perhaps the doctors disagree? And also I don't know how to... shop for things..."

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"Oh, if you go to the public housing and say you're a refugee and ask for a social worker they can walk you through all that kind of thing, they're trained for helping people who don't know anything. --But we would very much appreciate it if, instead, you would let the Cascadian government help you get a house and food and stuff, and pay you lots of money, and in exchange you let a bunch of linguists and engineers and anthropologists ask you questions about your home society. And eventually journalists although obviously we'll let you take the lead on that."

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"That also sounds fine. I would like a look at the moon before we get into anything very substantive."

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"The moon usually comes out at night but if you really insist we can probably figure something out? I know I've sometimes seen the moon during the daytime but I do not know where or when you would look if you definitely wanted to see it."

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"Will your linguists and engineers be very upset if they have to wait until tomorrow?"

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"Not at all, we are reasonably willing to accommodate the stranger from the future."

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"I'm glad to hear that. Should I wait here, then, since the - assistance with the house and so on is only for if I'm talking to engineers -"

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"If you want to. Or you could go out to a coffeeshop, or a library, or a movie theater, or a park. Or keep talking to me. Whatever you want, really."

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"I suppose it has been a while since I've gone for a walk. I don't mind if you join me."

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"That sounds like being outside in nature which I hate, and I'm sure you'll get enough of my pleasant company over the next few days." He pulls out a phone. "Do you know how this works-- I assume it seems unimaginably primitive to you--"

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"I've seen things like it before." Poke poke.

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Lev shows him how to get the phone to search for coffeeshops or movie theaters or libraries or Portland General Hospital, and to call a car, and to give him walking directions to a location, and to pay for things ("don't worry about it, the government put a couple thousand dollars in your account and you'd really have to try to spend all of it in an afternoon"), and if all else fails to send out a distress ping that will get Lev to come collect him. 

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"Thank you!"

And Kyeo pockets the phone and departs Portland General Hospital and has a look around the immediate environs.

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The immediate environs of the hospital appear to be some sort of shopping district. Their language uses the Kularan alphabet, but the words bear only the slightest resemblence to their pronunciation. Still, he can put enough together to see that there's a hotel, and a marijuana dispensary, and a public swimming pool, and a gas station, and something called a "DMV", and a tool store, and an "orthodontist", and a "counseling center", and a "pain management center", and a sleep clinic, and someone who makes loans, and a "hair salon." Someone seems to be serving some kind of food out of the back of a truck.

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The owl did not teach him all of these words, so he peers at the pictures in the windows a bit, some of which (orthodontist! hair salon!) are informative and some of which (counseling center! loans!) are not.

He's been mostly in bed for a while so he shouldn't push it too hard; he spirals out from the hospital, checking out what's on the surrounding streets without making it too hard to stagger back if he has some kind of head injury relapse before he finds public housing.

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Winery! Garden center! Employment agency! Corporate consultant! Real estate agent! Tax preparer! Architect! Deck builder! Car detailing service! Day care center! Korean Mission Church! Lots and lots and lots of individual houses, none taller than about a story, most of which have chickens pecking or pigs rooting or a garden full of vegetables and herbs. 

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The gardens are nice. He figures out what the real estate agent is and wonders at the annoyance it must be to trot around to a lot of different houses and figure out how much to spend on one when you could just be told an address and move in. He decides to ask at the real estate agency if they will tell him the way to public housing, please.

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The nearest public housing is thus-and-such far away and he will have to call a car to get him there.

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Oh. Well, he was shown how to do that. He does that.

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A driverless car arrives and then places him at his destination. 

The public housing building is ten stories tall, making it a very unusual contrast to the single-story buildings surrounding it. 

 

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Puzzling! He goes in. He needs to make really sure he has actually time traveled and there is no Ibyabek to betray before he goes spilling secrets, so he needs a place for at least the night and really shouldn't stay in the hospital if he's discharged. "Excuse me?"

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"Yes?" says the receptionist, a woman with short green hair, several interesting facial piercings, and thumb-sized holes in her ears.

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Wow that's weird to look at! "Ah, I need a place to stay for at least a few days, possibly longer."

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"Sure. Here's your room key, you're in room 202. Laundry room is over there"-- she gestures-- "No smoking, no destroying the furniture, no loud noises that bother your neighbors, try to remove your laundry from the machines in a timely manner. Do you need help connecting to other services?"

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"Not right at this moment, thank you." He doesn't have another set of clothes - he supposes perhaps he should get one, but that can wait. He goes to 202.

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202 has three rooms: a living room with a couch and a television and a computer and a dining room table and a little kitchenette; a bathroom; and a bedroom with a desk and a dresser.

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What a nice olden-time society. He sits and watches something on TV to rest his legs a bit before going out to figure out dinner. He keeps an eye out for the moon.

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This TV, instead of channels, opens to a screen where he can create an account and then choose from "UNLIMITED movies, TV shows, and more!", divided into categories like "Popular on Streaming," "Trending Now," "Documentaries," "New Releases," "Award-winning TV Shows," "Action & Adventure," "Mind-Bending Sci-Fi," "Anime," and "Strong Black Lead."

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He will watch something that won an award, since he doesn't know what documentaries and sci-fi are or why there is an entire section on lead that is black.

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This is a show about starships, actually.

The starship crew is half women, conspicuously multiracial, and has several teenagers in prominent positions. (No one seems to remark on any of this.) The owl has not taught him many of the words used in this show, but he can more-or-less gather the plot. The captain is rescuing people from a colony that had severe weather issues resulting in a famine. Some of the refugees want to stay. One of the officers thinks the colony was a bad idea in the first place and if the refugees want to stay then they should not help. Another of the officers thinks that people have a right to decide where they want to live, and this right is meaningless if society does not make it possible for them to live where they want to. The captain originally agrees with the first officer, but is eventually argued to agree with the second officer.

In the second plot, all the replicators (?) which seem to create objects (??) are broken and that means this person in funny robes keeps getting various kinds of bread that they do not want (???) and being very frustrated about it. Eventually something confusing happens and they get the correct bread. It looks much less tasty than the previous breads. 

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Huh. He's never considered what things people would expect the future to have. The first subplot makes more sense. Though he's not sure why they're taking on star cadets who can't even reasonably be out of school yet.

Out to see what there is nearby in the way of a grocery repository or, since he doesn't know how long he'll be here, maybe a restaurant.

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Nearby there are a couple of those trucks selling food, and if he walks a little farther or calls a car there's pizza and "California comfort food" and a diner and a bar.

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Truck food is fine. He will attempt to purchase a "burrito".

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If he swipes his phone on this machine he can have a "burrito," which is apparently beef and beans and cheese and assorted vegetables and some kind of green paste and some odd sour white substance wrapped in a kind of flatbread.

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He likes his burrito! When he has eaten it he explores more of his public housing's environs, waiting for moonrise.

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The public housing environs have a similar combination of very short houses and shops with occasionally confusing purposes.

And then the moon rises.

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Yep. That is Earth's famous moon. Without any stuff on it. Just plain, unmistakeable Luna.

He looks at it for a while.

He walks back to where he's been staying and sleeps there. And in the morning he tries to figure out how to phone Lev without making it seem like he is in distress and requires urgent rescue.

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There's a button here that draws up a bunch of pictures of faces and one of them is Lev's.

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That seems promising. Poke?

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"Hi! Did you end up getting a hotel or something--"

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"I am at a public housing suite but I did tell the person I might not stay long. I got a look at the moon and it... definitely looks like this is the past."

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"Oh, was that why you wanted to see it, I just thought you liked stargazing."

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"Earth's moon is very recognizable, and in my time it has some things on it that would be visible from here. I don't have to worry about classified information if there is no Ibyabek to betray."

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"I'm-- sorry about the loss of all your people."

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"Well, they - didn't die, they just haven't been born yet."

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"I suppose. I'd still miss-- my parents, my husband--"

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"I wasn't married. Hadn't seen my family in a while."

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"Ah."

He... doesn't have anything to say about that.

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"At any rate, if in the opinion of my host country I would be of more use answering questions, I'm prepared to do that now."

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He sounds slightly confused when he says, "Sure. --So we don't actually have government buildings, do you want to meet in the office of my house until your house is sorted out?"

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"That will be fine. What address do I put in to the car thing on the phone?"

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Lev gives him the address.

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"All right. I'll be there soon."

He goes out and gets a "breakfast burrito" and calls a car.

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And the car deposits him at a large house. The door is opened by a small child. 

"Daddy says you're an alien from the future."

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"I'm from another planet and the future but I'm a human, not a real alien."

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The child looks unimpressed. "I think you should be green like the aliens on TV."

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"Sorry to disappoint. Where is your daddy?"

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"Daddy! The alien is here!"

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Lev appears. "Sorry about Abram."

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"It's all right."

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"He's, uh. Precocious. My office is this way--"

In lieu of conventional decoration the house is decorated with stuffed animals, half-finished Lego projects, and the occasional crayon drawing on the walls.

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That's a lot of toys. Maybe there's more kids around. Kyeo follows him.