May 13, 2021 6:00 AM
an otome heroine in a red district
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By the time it becomes obvious that something is wrong, it's too late to abort entirely. 

Star skippers do not, in theory, have to be spaceships in the conventional sense of the term. But hopping out to an untrafficked spot in the void is the best way to avoid thaumaturgical interference in a calculation as precise as jumping between star systems, so people tend to anchor the enchantments on airtight hulls with basic intrasystem propulsion. 

So when the ship jerks, it shouldn't be more than a distraction; it doesn't matter what untrafficked bit of space you take off from--

Except that it most definitely isn't the case that the ship was hit by a piece of space detritus, this is a glitch in the steering, and the navigation enchantments are chained together for power efficiency.

She can't cancel the jump, at this point. All she can do is shunt all the power from everything non-essential into the safeties and cross her fingers that it works. 

...

The jump is more unpleasant than a controlled jump ought to be. It feels as though the gravitational forces from every intervening star are operating on her at once. She's pretty sure that's not how it actually works, but that's how it feels. 

They land, and she throws up. 

When her breathing slows and she takes her head out from between her knees, she notices that they're under gravity, despite the fact that artificial gravity was definitely one of the nonessentials she cut. 

She checks the exterior readings. Breathable atmosphere. Approximately one gravity of force. Temperatures well within the tolerable band, even for a complete inaugment like her. No detectable poisons or hexes. No detectable thaumaturgical field, which is very weird for an inhabitable planet unless they are way outside known space. 

She tries to pull up a star chart and fails because it is whatever planet they landed on it is apparently currently the day side of it.

"What the fuck just happened?" Tanya demands. 

"I'm not sure yet," Linda replies. "Do you want to try to figure it out, or to try to figure out where we are?"

"Even once we know what went wrong, we're still going to need to figure out where we are in order to get back," Elaine points out reasonably. 

"But it's apparently daylight, at the moment," Linda says, frowning at her instruments. "If we sort out the glitch now, and wait until nightfall to try to astro-orient ourselves..."

"Assuming this planet isn't tidally locked," Elaine says, lips pressed together.

"No, it would be a lot hotter then," Linda points out absently. "It could have an inconveniently long day cycle, though, especially if it were currently early in it. But I think we ought to check to make sure there isn't anything in the environment that the readouts aren't picking up but that could prove dangerous on short notice." 

The other girls agree with a certain level of subdued alarm, and Linda keys open the hatch. The skipper isn't meant to operate in atmo, but she can climb out fine anyway. 

An alien with bright red hair climbs out of the small spaceship that appeared suddenly between two tall buildings and looks around in complete bewilderment. 

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The spaceship is wedged awkwardly in the alley between two wider streets; the alien is facing a concrete garage with a ramp descending underground, topped by an office building, and there are houses here and there, something more industrial over thataway.

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What...?

This planet sure doesn't look uninhabited. She frowns and brings up a basic sensory array. The only thaumo residue it can detect is the stuff leaking off the ship and the very little the array itself is putting off. But it is detecting those, it isn't that the sensors are being blocked somehow...

The architechture isn't anything she recognizes, but she's never actually been outside Villarosa so that doesn't mean much. 

Maybe the locals will be able to explain. 

"Solace-delta-prima, call up a translation array with all loaded languages, please." 

"Aye," the delta fork of the personal AI of the Crown Princess of Villarosa chimes. 

"And tell Tanya not to come out, we don't need an international incident if they get mad at me for crashing here."

She hops lightly down the seven feet from where the hatch is oriented at the moment to the ground, straightens her cuffs with a flick of the wrist, and goes looking for someone to talk to. 

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There's a big red truck coming up out of the garage! Somebody in the passenger seat gawks at her a little but they don't stop. They and the driver both have bright red hair, unfamiliar outfits, and, if she's looking closely, slightly too many teeth.

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It's no surprise she can't recognize the style of their clothes, since she couldn't recognize the architecture, and she isn't looking anywhere near close enough to count their teeth. 

She doesn't attempt to stop the large heavy motor vehicle, instead looking around for a building that looks relatively important compared to the others--not that she'll be able to pick up specific cues, but if one is larger or more ornate that's a good general guess. 

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The buildings are pretty mishmash. Most of them look like they're old and have been repaired or updated many times. They're all pretty low on decoration but a few of them have paper cutouts in the windows, or rocks arranged artistically out front, or red paint on some of the grey bricks in an interesting pattern.

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This place feels very lower-class which at least minimizes the risk that crashing here will cause an international incident. 

She selects a building at random and tries the door. 

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The door is not locked and leads to a hallway with some stairwells.

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She selects a stairwell at random. 

 

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On her way up she encounters another redheaded person, who sort of double-takes at her. She says something, and pauses on the steps like she's waiting for a response.

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"Solace-delta-prime--"

"Language not recognized."

She frowns and rummages in her personal array database for the all-purpose language-independent translation spell she had acquired before she made it into the Royal Acadamy and gained access to the language databases there. It will draw a lot harder on her personal power, but it's nothing she can't handle. 

Getting it running takes only a few seconds, and then she has the AI feed it the audio data. 

"'I don't recognize you.'"

"No," she says through the translation array (if the other redhead is paying attention, she may notice that the sounds she's hearing and the shapes Linda's mouth is making don't match). "I'm not from around here, I had an accident with my spaceship. Can you tell me what planet I'm on?"

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"That's not funny."

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"I'm not joking? I mean, I guess the name of the planet might not help much, since this language wasn't in Solace's databases, but if you happened to know where I could go to find a star chart, I would be in your debt."

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"It's not funny. Are you here to see Tektasa?"

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"I'm really not joking. I can show you the spaceship, if you want."

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"I don't have time for this. Tektasa's woken up, if it's her you're here for, maybe she'll be entertained." The local stomps down the stairs.

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Not the most promising start! Sigh. 

She keeps ascending the stairs. Maybe she'll run into this Tektasa person. 

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She does not encounter anyone else on the way up the stairs except a couple kids who look about three or four using the fourth landing to assemble a puzzle. There's enough room to go around them.

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Aw, cute kids. 

Once she reaches the top she traverses the hallway then selects another stairwell and starts going down again. 

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In this stairwell someone is replacing a lightbulb. He doesn't pay attention to her.

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"Excuse me? I'm not from around here. Could you direct me to a library or something." 

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"Ha, ha," he says in a bored tone.

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"Why does everyone think I'm joking. Is this dress the local equivalent of a jester's bells."

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Sigh. "We don't have a library. It sounds nice that your district has something pulled together. I hope you enjoy it when you're home."

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"I'm not just not from this district, I'm not from this polity, I have no idea where I am but my AI doesn't recognize the language and I am trying to find a starchart. Is there some non-library place to find one of those, and if not, is there a map of--districts, provinces, whatever--so you can show me where I'd have to go to find one?"

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"What kind of AI doesn't know Tapap?"

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