Sep 20, 2021 4:30 AM
I didn't think anthropics worked like that
Permalink

She wasn't ever supposed to die.  Her society goes rather far out of its way to avoid it.

But there are cost-benefit tradeoffs even against soul-destruction.  You could try to put enough parachutes on an airplane for every passenger, in case something goes wrong in midair in a way that makes safe landing impossible but allows enough time for people to put on parachutes and file out the doors.  But parachutes have weight, weight costs money to transport, and the exact scenario where all the plane's passengers could evacuate in midair and should evacuate in midair - somebody must have argued it was very very unlikely.

There's enough time before the predictable crash for the passengers to sit and talk and try to come up with some ridiculous way to survive.  They're passing over a rocky zone like a shattered mountain range; flat spots for a landing approximately don't exist.  The area isn't cold enough for their brains to stay cold and be retrieved, even if they had some way to protect just their own heads from the impact.  Five people are frantically working to tie together enough clothing to make an ad-hoc parachute for somebody's four-year-old.  It's not going to work, but it's a dignified way to die.

Thellim doesn't consider herself to be either among the few people who should fit into working on the ad-hoc parachute, or the engineers in the far back trying to come up with an impossibly good idea in an impossibly short time.  The best she can do is not distract them while they work.  Being still and quiet has never been an important part of her private-tradeoff-Virtue before this, but rapid adaptation to altered circumstances is a public-universal-Virtue.  She keeps herself still and quiet up until the plane loses enough speed to start diving.  She only starts screaming after enough other people are screaming that her screaming won't make any important marginal difference.

The pain is very brief, and then it ends.  That's as expected.  The part where she's able to note this successful prediction is not as expected.

Total: 802
Posts Per Page:
Permalink

The screech of tearing metal and the stink of things-burning-that-shouldn't-burn is replaced by...something indescribable -

- and then the snap-crackle of breaking branches. 

She finds herself sprawled on a cold, wet, slightly mushy surface. Above her, a few slivers of grey sky show through a canopy of denuded branches. She can smell rotting wood and dead leaves. It's suddenly very quiet.

Then a squirrel chitters, nearby. Cold drizzle oozes down through the branches and reaches her face as a fine mist. 

Permalink

That is not how plane crashes work there has been some kind of MISTAKE.

 

Permalink

Okay this is an emergency situation with a ton of unknown variables there is no time to think about 'impossibility' or 'am I insane' or 'updating on an event of probability zero' or how much the exact reaction she is having right now is exactly like the start of every cliche fantasy novel ever.  She needs to push herself to her feet and look around and look around some more and identify anything that could kill her in the next five seconds before she starts planning out the next whole minute.

Permalink

It does not seem that anything is imminently trying to kill her! 

She's in a forest. Based on the cold aid, leafless branches, and rain-soaked ground, it's either late autumn or winter in a place that never gets cold enough for snow. There's a brook nearby. There are no signs of civilization. 

Permalink

....A minute or so later, though, a sound that might be hoofbeats is just barely audible in the distance. 

Permalink

Thellim has totally been in a forest before!  Several times!  She's not much of a Nature person, but she has been to Nature ever.

That distant clop-clop sound isn't one that Thellim has heard before, even on Nature shows.  She'll shove aside all the stereotypical fantasy-novel-protagonist thoughts she's been having just to get them over with out of her head, and try to figure out whether this sound is like people or - should she be trying to get away from a... dangerous animal?  That happens to people when they somehow get lost in Nature without tools, right, they get killed and eaten by predators?  She should have instincts for this, it's only been a few thousand years.

Well, if she's wrong about needing to climb a tree, she can always climb back down again.  But figuring out how to climb trees might take time she won't have, if that's a human-eating predator.  So she should get started on that now.

Permalink

Climbing trees is harder than it looks.  Maybe the adaptation has been lost to mutational noise over the amount of evolutionary time that has passed since the last time one of her ancestors had to climb a tree.

Permalink

A white horse appears between the trees! It’s moving pretty fast, and stops rather suddenly, hooves skidding a little in the wet leaves and throwing mud-splatters at her and the nearby trees.

Permalink

A dark-haired, somewhat starved-looking man dressed all in white - or clothing that was once white, at least, before months’ worth of exposure to the elements - is riding on the white horse’s back.

His head jerks around; he seems to immediately know where she is, and his pale eyes fix onto her. He raises one hand, his expression flat and hard.

Permalink

Oh thank the random factors.

...maybe.

In fantasy novels the first person you meet isn't always a friend - but - but this isn't actually a fantasy novel - there are very few places in the real world where you shouldn't just tell somebody about the impossible thing that happened to you - except for the part where you'd obviously end up in psychiatric care, if you can't prove anything, but she's wearing clearly manufactured clothing with labels and tags from manufacturers that wouldn't exist in another world, not to mention there wouldn't be records of her - wait that person looks like he comes from a fantasy-novel-world with a lower tech level, that could change things -

Oh.  Right.  Thellim has to do the thing.  It's very sad, shameful in a way, but she's deontologically obligated to do it.

"Tsi-imbi," she says, very loudly and clearly.

(If she's hallucinating this entire experience, the code she just used tells anybody listening to her that she's experiencing things that conventional views say are very unlikely or impossible, and she needs to be taken to a psychiatric hospital, being subdued if necessary.  In dath ilani it would roughly translate as "This seems impossible, I may be insane."  One never says it as a joke or as an exaggeration; it's an emergency phrase only.)

Permalink

Whatever the man was expecting, running in here, it seems like she isn't it. He and the horse stop, and he adjusts the rain-soaked hood of his (filthy, tattered) white cloak, and just looks at her for a moment, his face still and unreadable but his eyes baffled. 

After a moment, still holding eye contact with her, he slips down from the horse's back - moving quickly and lightly, like someone very fit, but also wincing as he lands as though he's hurting.

He takes a step toward her, smiles very unconvincingly, and says something in a language that she can't understand at all. 

Permalink

Oh, poo.  Not one of the fantasy-novel premises where everybody just speaks Baseline, then.  Also and much more sadly, not a fantasy world where everything is going to be convenient for her.  This has many unpleasant update implications she will think about later.

Thellim widens her eyes, waves her arms, and says in very clear tones that attempt to convey confusion and haplessness, "LANGUAGE DIFFICULTY".

Permalink

The man blinks at her, shaking hair out of his eyes. (At closer range, it's noticeable that despite his apparently youthful age, his black hair is streaked with silver.) He takes another step closer, making some vague gesture that's probably meant to be reassuring. 

He narrows his eyes, glances over at the white horse - whose eyes are large and blue and oddly forward-facing - and then back to her. 

Something tickles at - not her ears, exactly, it's like a voice but it's inside her head. :Can you understand me?: 

Permalink

Wait what they're doing psionics now - she doesn't know why this is such a shock when interworld transportation is impossible anyways, but it implies further updates about exactly how weird her life is going to be like - how would telepathy work without a common language, what happens when she thinks a word for which silver-streaked-hair-man has no corresponding internal symbol, does it also convey something like contents of short-term loading of those symbols into working memory - she's been asked a question but how the heck is she meant to reply -

Thellim tries to think Yes... loudly?... in a way that she tries to make feel like how the question felt like to her?... and throw the thought at silver-streaked-hair-man?

(Incidentally, one would greatly overestimate Thellim's knowledge of zoology if one expected her to notice that the white animal is an 'unusual-looking horse'.)

Permalink

The man watches her intently. Again, he seems nonplussed. 

His eyes play over her clothing. 

:How did you get here? You don't look Karsite: 

The last word comes across mostly just phonetically, like it would if this were purely a voice-in-her-head, but there does seem to be some additional conceptual context; she can tell that he's referring to a specific citizenship or nationality. And...not one that he has especially warm feelings about. 

Permalink

Thellim's already-jolted thoughts start racing more frantically, spurred by that final note of potential hostility.  Silverstreak-guy thinks she might be part of a Bad Outgroup, with some flavor of what separates groups that she doesn't quite catch.  Literary premises of Portal Fantasies involve lone protagonists or small groups, so that they can be Unique and put their world out of its previous equilibrium; stories try to rationalize that by saying in the background that there are more destination-worlds for portaled people than there are portals, because portal-destinations have higher algorithmic complexity than portal-origins so there's more of them; but that doesn't have to be true in real life (if all of this is really happening at all).  Which means that Silverstreak's world could get a lot of people like her, which means that Silverstreak's world could be regularly invaded by non-cooperative interdimensional 'Karsites'.  How does she convey that her world is cooperative?  Any prideful interdimensional traveller could think that, no matter how relatively cooperative or uncooperative they were on an interdimensional scale, if they had no other world to compare themselves to - is her world even a relatively cooperative one, she doesn't actually know - well she'll just use the newspaper metric - does she need to think a thought loudly and throw it in Silverstreak's direction to reply?  Is he getting any of this?

:I apologize if I'm in a private area, I didn't decide to target this destination.  I experienced my airplane crashing and then I experienced being here.  Something to do with anthropics, if I had to guess?  You might know better than I would.  I'm not a 'Karsite', I come from a world that teaches reciprocation of game-theoretic cooperation and to quantify roughly how cooperative we are, we spend less than 3% of GDP on generalized cooperativity enforcement while maintaining over 6% annual real GDP growth.:

Permalink

The man seems to be getting this! He tilts his head slightly, in a listening-esque way, and half-nods in a soothing way at the first clause, and then looks blank at 'airplane', and thereafter keeps listening but seems more and more dazed and off-balance. 

He doesn't interrupt, though, and waits until she's done to answer. :I – what...?: 

Permalink

Wait, she's being silly, she needs to keep in mind the kind of tech level that might be implied by using an Animal as improvised personal transport.  :I'm sorry, was the part about 'airplane' not clear?  It's a flying machine - you can build those if you create a powerful enough engine.:

Permalink

Vanyel's gotten that much - the word she's thinking at him is unfamiliar but he had a sense of 'airborne' and 'transport' and 'some sort of artifact'. 

Nothing about this makes ANY SENSE, which should perhaps have been predictable from the moment he sensed the Web-alarm, since that, too, did not make any sense. Also he's exhausted and cold and his heart hurts and it'll be dark in an hour. 

:This isn't a private area but it is a war zone: he says, more brusquely than he meant to. :I'm not, er, mad at you for ending up here by accident, you don't seem hostile, but - we shouldn't stick around, this is too close to the Border. Can you ride?: 

The overtones make it clear that 'ride' refers to climbing up with him on the white animal that transported him here. 

Permalink

Thellim doesn't like the surrounding connotations of the untranslated term 'war zone'.  She does not like them at all.  Anger and death and danger to innocents.

"I think -"

No she's not supposed to speak, she's supposed to think loudly in this person's direction.  If any of that is actually necessary at all, but it seems to work so she'll just go on doing it until she has time for experimenting to see which parts are actually necessary.

:I think I could probably climb on top of the animal, especially if you give me a hand up.  Is it difficult to stay on it once you're on top?:

Permalink

He smiles slightly. :Not with 'Fandes. She's a Companion; she told me once she could keep a toddler balanced in her saddle:

The connotations here are densely-packed and confusing. A Companion is a creature that looks like the white animal he was riding, but also a mentor/ally/friend - intelligent - something about leadership, duty - being selected, personally, for an important destiny... 

:Here: And the man plants a foot in one of the dangling stirrups and heaves himself back up into the leather saddle strapped over the animal's back, with a grunt, and settles himself before leaning down and stretching out a hand. :Just put your foot in the stirrup, like I did, and swing your leg over - you can sit on the pillion-pad right there and hold onto me: 

Permalink

Aliens!  The Animal is a person!  She doesn't know why that would be at all astonishing at this point but maybe her brain is just very slow to update about certain basic facts.  Is a Companion psychologically unlike a human?  What is it better at than a human?  What do humans trade with them?  This is so exciting!

Thellim will very carefully attempt to climb on the Person, pleading to the random factors before she tries the 'swing your leg over' part as this operation seems to require momentum which means it cannot be slowed down.

Permalink

It seems likely the man has helped people with this before, and he's stronger than he looks given his scrawny condition; he pulls her up expertly, and supports her waist with his other arm when her momentum threatens to carry her right over the other side. 

:There you go. Just sit tight and hold onto my waist, and, er, I'll be a little busy for this bit, sorry: 

He waits until she's settled and holding on to his satisfaction, and then they're MOVING. 

Permalink

The Animal-Person is really fast! Trees rush past on either side, sometimes only a foot or two from her head! Some of those leaps over deadfall logs and soggy streams seem not very safe at all, but they seem to always land fine, and keep right on going!

Also the light is fading and it's starting to rain in earnest. 

Permalink

Well, if she dies again, she'll probably just end up someplace else, so she should just relax and enjoy this BIOLOGICAL ROLLER COASTER.

She tries for the first time to throw a thought out without having first been questioned.  :Feel free to ignore this if answering would cause us to crash.  But can you say anything about where we're going, why I'm not just dead, what happens to me now, and what in general is going on?  It's my first time doing this and my world doesn't have any... doesn't have any public knowledge about how this works.:

Total: 802
Posts Per Page: