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Generated: Aug 21, 2021 11:43 AM
Post last updated: Aug 21, 2021 1:50 AM
low density housing
an amentan lands in the bobbiverse
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In the middle of several acres of carefully tended groves, gardens, and fields, there is a large, carefully tended mansion, currently housing thirty-seven people. It stands at about a hundred feet wide, a hundred feet long, and two stories high; the two stories are connected by internal and external ramps, running upwards along the left side and downwards along the right, and not by stairs.

On the second story there is a woman, learning how to play some sort of bizarre stringed instrument, sitting alone.

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There appears a person with a mop of marmalade-colored curls, who is very confused and alarmed.

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The stringed-instrument-playing woman is also very confused and alarmed! After a few moments she sets down her instrument onto a nearby table, picks up a glass of water, and pours it on top of her head.

... when this fails to make the spontaneously appearing person go away, she says something hesitant sounding and incomprehensible. 

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Marmalade visitor replied equally incomprehensibly, sounding a touch hysterical.

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She pulls her hair back so that it’ll drip water onto her clothing and not her eyes, and tries to poke their shoulder.

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Marmalade visitor yelps, but seems perfectly solid and warm and everything.

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She flinches back from the yelp and sits back down.

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Marmalade visitor revolves slowly on the spot, looking around at everything in the room, shaking a little.

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There are four brick walls; almost all of the bricks have been individually painted with small scenes or landscapes or portraits, in a wide variety of styles, and it’s a bit visually overwhelming. There’s a window overlooking a very pretty garden, a copper-colored door with a brass handle, a table stacked with miscellaneous foreign looking objects, a chair with an (alien, brunette) woman in it, and several houseplants.

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Marmalade visitor attempts to get ahold of herself. Takes some deep breaths. Looks at the brown-alien and points at herself and says, "Nuta."

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The brown-alien points at herself, says “Patayeni”, and then follows up with a word containing click consonants too odd to properly transcribe, a short, hummed tune, and a complex gesture.

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Nuta shakes her head, pauses mid-gesture to realize that this behavior might not translate, and then shrugs helplessly in case that does.

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Patayeni seems to find this basically comprehensible as a way of conveying incomprehension, and she starts pointing at objects in the room and labeling them. Clicks and other unusual consonants fail to reappear in her vocabulary.

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Nuta tries to transliterate this so she can take notes on her pocket everything.

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There are only eleven consonants and five vowels; it should be fairly easy to transliterate.

... Patayeni fails to really register their pocket everything at first but she eventually pauses in the impromptu language lesson to stare at it curiously.

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...Nuta turns it around so Patayeni can see the screen.

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... she stares at it for a slightly awkward amount of time and then continues producing words.

Does Nuta follow along if Patayeni starts using the painted scenes on the bricks to name other phenomenon, starting with ‘fire’?

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Nuta can mostly figure that out, yes.

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Then they can probably get through a decent amount of vocabulary!

When Patayeni runs out of obvious things to name she sits down on the floor and starts crying.

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Nuta has no idea what to do about that! She winces, says incomprehensible alien things, edges toward the door.

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Patayeni’s response to that is: more crying! 

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Nuta will attempt to let herself out of the room!

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This can be accomplished pretty trivially!

Now she’s in another room, with unpainted brick walls, a couch, and a person who looks away from their - hexagonal pocket everything? - and blinks at her curiously. 

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...Nuta waves, trying to look nonthreatening.

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They quirk a smile and wave back.

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Nuta continues until they find someone who can notice that she's not supposed to be here and isn't crying and has any protocols for this at all!

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As she goes from room to room it becomes apparent that she’s in an extremely large and foreign house filled with a frankly unreasonable number of well dressed alien women, all of whom seem to be assuming that she’s a guest and that she’ll say something if she needs anything. 

- until one of them eventually pulls her aside and says incomprehensible alien things in a concerned tone of voice?

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At least this person is suitably confused! Nuta is barely holding herself together at this point and babbles what would barely be comprehensible to a fellow speaker of Tapap, let alone this alien. Hopefully it communicates "I don't know this language".

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Concerned!alien thinks that she should be led over to a kitchen-y area, situated at a table, and given a glass of water and a cookie-ish thing. 

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...sure. Nuta will take water and... taste the cookie-ish thing since starvation will definitely kill her if she can't eat the food here anyway.

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It’s tastes like licorice.

Concerned!alien puts a hexagonal-pocket-everything-equivalent in front of her, opens it to a blank word document, and sits down on the other side of the table.

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Nuta looks at the hexagon. "I definitely also can't type your language," she says.

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The concerned alien doesn’t understand this! She’s so concerned!

- the alien she’d initially met, having since stopped crying, wanders into the kitchen, sees her there, and chatters back and forth with the concerned alien. After a few moments they snatch up the hexagonal device, set it to a dictionary application with pictorial representations of words and basic grammar structures, and place it back in front of her. 

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Oh. Okay, she can try to work with that. She will try to figure out what this app wants from her and provide it.

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It seems to want to display the written word ‘duck!’ next to a picture of a duck while simultaneously pronouncing it, and for her to say the word ‘duck!’ back at it, and also like it may have been designed for one year olds.

If she can figure out how to navigate she’ll find several words that she’s already been introduced to, and enough structural vocabulary that she could probably eventually form a sentence. 

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Fine. She will learn to say "duck" and sentences about ducks and try to retain what it's teaching her enough that she doesn't have to start all over on the game for one year olds five times before she can ask what the fuck.

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It reads less like a natural language and more like a conlang that was designed to be easy to learn and speak; she will probably be able to ask what the fuck in fairly short order.

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The game for one year olds seems to lack "fuck" but it does get her "where am I?"

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“A rural-house, in the pleasant-water-country?”

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"...what - ball - is the pleasant-water-country on -"

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“- the third one from the big fireball in the sky.”

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"What fireball is in this sky?"

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“The sun?”

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"Sun," she repeats. "I am from Amenta, a ball with a different fireball."

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Her interlocutor - the concerned woman from earlier - spends several seconds frowning and not saying anything.

”... this is fine. I’m fine,” she says, eventually. “Do you have any obvious different-fireball items I could see, other than your clothing?”

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Nuta pulls out her rectangular pocket everything.

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“... that does look very different-fireball. Okay. Did you appear in front of Patayeni on purpose?”

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"No!"

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“Was it a - movement-technology accident -“

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"No! I was not doing things."

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“We were also not doing things. Is this the kind of thing that you’ve heard about happening before?”

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"No!"

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(Patayeni quietly leaves the room, looking distressed.)

”Okay. That... doesn’t really make sense. That’s... fine? I’m fine. Tonight you can stay here, and tomorrow we can take you to see competent people?”

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"Okay. Thank you."

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“Do you need - explanations, food, water, a restroom, a path, to be left alone -“

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"Water, restroom."

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These can be supplied!

The restroom is, predictably, kind of bizarre. The toilet seat is contiguous with the toilet instead of being liftable, the sink seems to only be capable of producing cold water, and everything in the room is operated by foot pedals, including the bidet, the sink, the lightswitch (which activates a dozen random glowy trinkets, and not an overhead light), and a dozen different scented and unscented soap dispensers. 

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The foot pedals are a pretty good idea, honestly, once she figures them out. She doesn't like not having hot water and uses every single one of the soaps to compensate but walks out feeling adequately restroomed.

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She’s greeted by a new person (wearing an extremely sparkly outfit) who chirpily asks her whether she’d rather stay in a private room or in the big communal one.

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"...can I see them?"

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“Yup!”

The big communal room has about two dozen hexagonal beds scattered about, isolated or connected to each other in various complex arrangements, and an impressive amount of clashing decor and miscellanea; it’s around 55 by 55 feet, occupying a large chunk of the bottom floor. Lounging in one of the beds is the only man she’s seen around the house so far, reading a book.

The private room is a little 8x8 nook with a single hexagonal bed and a triangular desk in the corner.

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"Why these... six-shapes?"

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“Squares are super tacky and triangles are awkward?”

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Nuta points at the desk. "Three-shape?"

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“- oh, um, triangles aren’t awkward as corner pieces? They’re great as corner pieces! Just, you wouldn’t make a bed like that.”

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"Oh." She pulls out her everything. "Four-shape?"

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“I don’t think rectangular beds are, like, super a thing? They probably exist but you couldn’t really connect them together the right way, or anything, it’d be yikes.”

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"Beds together?"

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“Like in the communal bedroom?”

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"...huh.

Private room please."

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“Sure!”

And then she is left alone in the private room.

The hexagonal pocket everything wasn’t removed from her possession at any point, if she’d like to continue learning the language.

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Yeah, she'll work on that some more.

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... their language seems to mark people by gender, for some words, and the three categories seem to be women, men, and... taller women illustrated next to pictures of purple flowers? 

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Huh. Well, it was weird that they were so Amentan-like, so strictly speaking it should make her less surprised that they have three sexes. If Amentans could distinguish men and women reliably from a block away maybe they'd do language that way too, though she's not sure what the flowers are about.

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The language learning app fails to elaborate on the flowers.

Night falls, after a while. 

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Nuta goes to sleep, the better to attempt to align herself with local sleep schedule. The hexagon bed is weird but not actually uncomfy or anything.

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Dawn rises; nobody immediately comes knocking on her door or anything.

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Nuta does a little language-ing until she feels she is capable of asking necessary breakfast questions and then goes in search of food.

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There’s a large dining room with a wide array of food items in it! Everything has a little note in front of it with a description, written in... a writing system that her language app has entirely failed to cover... but a very short woman wearing butterfly wings and ten-inch platform shoes is happy to translate!

She can choose between chunks of lavender flavored granola, tea flavored cake things, weird looking sliced tomatoes that have been copiously salted, savory spinach pastries, plain buttered rice, extremely spicy rice, and tiny, thin little strips of nearly burnt beef in some sort of honey-yogurt sauce.

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Well this is all completely unfamiliar but she is least intimidated by the spinach pastries and the salty tomatoes and the tea cakes.

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The dining tables are also hexagonal and connected to each other in weird configurations, the salty tomatoes are very acidic, the tea-flavored cakes are very mildly sweet and sort of crunchy, and the spinach pastries are vaguely spicy and textured a bit like baklava.

A woman with firetruck red hair eventually wanders in and fetches food.

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Nuta startles, nearly retches, hugs herself and reminds herself that these are aliens.

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The alien-of-revolting-hair-color doesn’t seem to notice this, and leaves after acquiring a plateful of granola. Some people at nearby tables are staring at her.

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Nuta does not finish the rest of her breakfast but she does keep what she's eaten down. She collects herself and runs to the bathroom for a shower.

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They don’t seem to make a habit of combining showers and restrooms but she can find an individual shower stall! It exists in a room with several other shower stalls, some occupied, and has a dozen different kinds of soap and conditioner and - one dispenser of honey? - available. 

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Oh good a dozen soaps. She will tolerate the swimming-pool-like shower conditions and use a dozen soaps.

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The shower does not object to this behavior. 

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Good.

After a long time (but not actually five hours) in the shower she emerges and swipes a clean towel to wrap around herself and asks the next person she sees if there are clothes she can borrow.

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They have an entire room dedicated to clothing that people have ceased to want and she can grab an outfit from there!

It contains a wide variety of clothes and some of them are about her size, or else relevantly adjustable; she can go for a bright pink dress with excessive ribbons, a brown jumpsuit with snail shell buttons, a bedazzled white sari, several other saris doing increasingly ridiculous things, lime green overalls, or flowy blue pants that she could pair with a slightly-too-large floofy white shirt.

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She will go with the jumpsuit, she supposes.

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If she then proceeds to exit the room she’ll find that the concerned alien from yesterday has been looking all over the house for her and would like to head over to the competent people now, please, if that would work for her?

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Yes please!!!

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“Thank [unknown word that sounds profane]!” the concerned alien says, sounding exasperated with the world.

And then they can get into a golf-cart-ish thing and ride at a sensible fifteen miles per hour through all the nearby fields and gardens and miscellany, and then through a long track of deciduous forest, only occasionally interrupted by more fields and gardens and miscellany and, at one point, by an indecisive deer.

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The deer is weird looking! Also this is so much forest? Who needs that much forest? Is it just a really extra tree farm??

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The trees contain no answers to her questions.

They eventually arrive at a small train station! Concerned!alien parks her golf-cart-thing in a little nook off to the side, and then they can get on the train. To amentan sensibilities it’s probably a really mediocre train but it does take them to an actual city within half an hour or so! 

The buildings are reasonably tall, and most of them have direct walkways between their upper stories; it looks like you could navigate most of the city without touching the ground. The general style leans maximalist and floral; most buildings have hanging vines growing along the side, terraced gardens, or some other incorporation of plant life into their design, and the ones that lack plant life compensate with water features and bizarre architectural choices. The streets are narrow and full of little golf-cart-things and larger golf-cart-thing-buses; the sidewalks are large and painted in interesting designs. 

There are, also, precisely zero people below two years old present, and a dozen people in sight with plausibly amentan hair colors, including a pair with pink hair and one on the red-orange border.

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Maybe they have very long years and their children aren't even tiny any more by the time they can have new ones. Also they are ALIENS, ALIENS! she reminds herself when she flinches a little from the pink-haired person.

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The pink-haired person doesn’t pay any particular attention to her.

They can navigate to their destination with a brief walk and an elevator ride; the elevator contains a small fountain with pretty rocks in it, for some reason. And then concerned!alien politely jabbers back and forth with a receptionist, in the incomprehensible language with all the clicks and weird consonants that people seem to prefer when not talking to her, and then she’s escorted alone to the office of someone with a taste for faux-fur.

”Hello! I’m Nuwalati,” says Nuwalati, who looks like she’s about to drown in the mass of her own coat. “In addition to my other duties, I field concerns about potentially anomalous events. If you demonstrate sufficient evidence for your anomalous claims, I will either act on them myself, or send you to a superior office with the power to further test them and then act upon them. If I choose not to act on your claims, or send you to a superior office, I will not, necessarily, be making the claim that your experiences are false, but will instead be making the claim that they fail to meet our verification standards. Do you have any questions?”

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Nuta repeats several of those words in a puzzled tone. She has studied this language for a day and a half, okay.

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Nuwalati defines them for her and then repeats herself.

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"...what will happen to me if you don't believe me?"

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“You would be set up with a temporary ID, a bank account, housing, or other necessities, as determined necessary, those being other capacities of my office. If you asked me to arrange access to psychiatric services that would also be within my power.”

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"Psychiatric?"

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“Healthcare or medicine or other services for minds that aren’t working as they would prefer.”

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Nuta makes a face. She presents her pocket everything.

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Nuwalati peers at it with sharp interest and pokes around it a bit.

”... fascinating. The message we received said that you had teleported - suddenly appeared - into a random house, by accident, and that you then claimed to be from another planet called Amenta. Can you tell me more about Amenta, please?”

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"Amenta is around a different fireball," says Nuta. "Amentan hair is not black and not brown. Amenta maybe has narrow times of going around fireball."

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“I see. Is all Amentan hair bright orange?”

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"No. Some blue some purple some green some yellow some gray some -" She waves a hand, pretending to have forgotten the word for red.

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“Mmhm. - I think that your device is sufficient evidence to forward this case to someone more important, and I will make arrangements accordingly. In the meanwhile I would like to collect more information to forward them. Can you elaborate on any other differences you’ve noticed?”

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"Six-shapes, not four-shapes," she says, "cold water for washing hands, forests, big house many people not in this tall building place."

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“- your rural areas have smaller houses and fewer forests?”

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"Yes."

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“Do people typically live with their romantic partners? Are rural areas usually resident to the unattached?”

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"Usually with their partners and children. Rural areas are for farmers? Who need space to grow food."

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“- at what age do children live with the people who produced them?”

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"...till they grow up? Or even till they get married. Sometimes longer."

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“... thank you for clarifying. Rural areas, here, are not mostly occupied by farmers, and children live in creches until the age of eight, and afterwards mingle with the general population. Most people find children below that age interesting from a distance and unpleasant to interact with for prolonged periods, and some fail to tolerate even short periods. How would you describe the attitude of most people on Amenta towards children?”

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Nuta needs to have several of those words defined, including ones she's used herself correctly before, because she can't believe she's possibly hearing right.

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Nuwalati patiently defines assorted vocabulary.

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"You don't like children????"

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“They’re sometimes charming, over video? I would not want to live with one, or touch something one of them had touched.”

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Nuta can't even respond right away to that. Her jaw has kind of dropped. "How are you alive? Why do you have them if you don't like them?" she manages eventually.

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Nuwalati remains inscrutably professional.

“It increases your government stipend, knowing that you’ve had children is abstractly very fulfilling, meeting them later can be very interesting, pregnancy can be very interesting, and it’s a natural result of sex without certain inconveniences.”

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Nuta is still fairly boggled.

"Amentans -" She does not have strong enough vocabulary. "Amentans like children! Much much much!"

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“It makes sense that some species would, under conditions of lower childhood mortality and childborne disease, or because of more fundamental divergences.”

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"We thought other fireball people would like children!"

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“I imagine that your society has many false expectations of aliens, and that we do as well.”

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"Who takes care of your children?" exclaims Nuta.

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“Some people do like children, or tolerate them, and they’re paid very well to work in creches.”

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"Maybe your children are different," mutters Nuta.

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“It’s very possible! I apologize if I’ve offended you in any way.”

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"Your poor babies!"

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“I apologize if I’ve offended you in any way,” Nuwalati repeats.

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Nuta has apparently expressed sufficient horror and falls silent.

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“... thank you for coming in! It’s very important to bring matters of importance to the attention of people equipped to deal with them, even when it’s very hard, and we appreciate it. I’ll schedule you an appointment with a higher office for tomorrow. In the meanwhile, would you like assistance acquiring ID, a bank account, housing, or other necessities?” 

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"...yes, please."

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ID can be arranged, a bank account with a small balance on it can be arranged, she can access that bank account by typing in this sequence of numbers onto keypads, an apartment for the night can be arranged, and then she can be ushered back to the concerned!alien, who’s been waiting in the lobby, petting some sort of - office pet in the form of a weirdly fluffy crow? - and looking very concerned.

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"...hello."

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The fluffy crow flutters off.

“- hi.”

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"Do you know how I can find my apartment for the night?"

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“- I can find the address and get us there, sure. They believed you, and everything?”

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"I think so. Someone else will talk to me tomorrow."

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“Woo! Great, let’s go.”

She fiddles with her hexagonal pocket everything - which actually seems to be attached to a second hexagonal pocket everything, today? The two screens form a seamless whole - and it produces directions, which they may then proceed to follow.

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"Why do you have two now?"

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“I wanted to lend you one, and this way it’s harder to forget the second at home, see? And it makes it easier to type.”

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"Oh." It still looks awkward to her but okay. To the apartment.

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The world outside the building appears to have entered into some manner of petwalking hour; there are dozens upon dozens of dogs, cats, squirrels, crows, and assorted reptiles being carried and led around on leashes and so on.

The apartment contains no obvious animal life, and stands out as particularly sparse and minimalistic compared to everywhere else she’s been so far; there are still several happy little houseplants in the windowsill, attached to an automatic watering system. Concerned!alien - who still hasn’t given her name - detaches one hexagonal pocket everything from the other, hands it to her, and gives her a basic rundown on how to use its non-pedagogical functions.

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"Thank you," says Nuta. She appreciates the reduced business of this apartment.

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“You’re welcome! - I don’t think I told you my name, I’m Koyumena and you can send me a message by tapping that name on your contact page. Do you, um, want to be friends?”

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"...sure. Koyumena? That's a pretty name."

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“Thank you! I like Nuta, too, it’s very to-the-point.” 

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"To what point?"

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“- I meant that it’s very easy to say and straightforward, I’m sorry, it was an idiom.”

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"Oh. Thank you.

The person said people from this ball do not like children."

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“I like children! They’re really cute and they were one of my focuses when I was in school and I worked in a creche for a while, it was a lot but it was fun. I don’t know what that person meant?”

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"She said people don't have their children at home!"

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“Oh. I don’t know what that... would involve? I lived in the creche I worked for...”

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"Our houses have rooms for children and when we have children the children live there. Everyone likes children very much, they can go anywhere with their parents."

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“- huh! That sounds like it would be really fun, actually.”

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"I thought maybe your ball takes a wide time to go around the fireball. And that the smallest children were big now."

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Koyumena processes this.

 

”... that doesn’t really make any sense to me, sorry. Are you... do you only have sex at certain times?”

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"We only have children at certain times. The thing that makes children is called sex? If we do that other times no children happen."

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“We can have children at any time, they just can’t be in most places because so many people are sensitive. Maybe if they’re only born once in a while, it’s harder for diseases to target them - like how cicadas only appear once in a while to dodge predators - so there’s no reason for lots of people to develop the flinch reaction?”

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"I don't know if we have cicadas. But anyone can get sick, not just children!"

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“... do children not - do gross things, in Amenta? Children here have to learn not to lick rocks and throw diapers and things, and they’re tiny, so they’re at a lot of risk and before modern medicine like a third of them died that way. I had to wash my hands a lot at the creche...”

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"...children have to learn things, but they learn them!"

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“I - yes? They do, it’s really cute?”

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"And then they know them, and then they don't do gross things."

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“And by then they’re usually eight, and then they can live in cities and vote and everything?”

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"Eight is adults for us. Maybe different time of going around fireball... I'm six."

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“I’m thirty-one. I’ll - pull up a chart?”

She twiddles with her hexagon for a bit and pulls up an illustrated chart of childhood development; one amentan year seems to translate to about four alien years.

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Nuta reports this fact when she's calculated it out.

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“Huh. Neat.”

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"Amentans like babies very very very very much. There are -" She counts on her fingers. "Ten ten ten ten ten ten ten ten ten tens, Amentans. More. And not places for many more houses."

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“... do you... not...” 

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"...do we not...?"

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“... how do you make sure that there’s a correct number of people in the world, with the correct set of traits?”

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"Oh. We have things to make children not happen, even in the time of year when children happen. You keep those until you have a permission, from the - the people who tell people what to do."

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Koyumena looks like she’s processing complex emotions! She fidgets around with a glittery seashell bracelet on her wrist.

 

”... we... set up incentives so that we overproduce... and then correct after the fact, to historical rates...? - it’s not universally popular, I quit creche work because of it, I understand the arguments in favor but there are ways we could avoid it and it’s so pointlessly awful -“

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Nuta stares at her.

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“It’s awful! We’re not - I don’t endorse my society, we suck, I don’t eat meat and I don’t like the extreme ends of pet eugenics and we need longer wait times for voluntary euthanasia -“

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"- I don't care if you eat meat! But children! On purpose! My country will kill a handful of babies every year to - to make it so parents won't break the rule - and not have them without permission - but babies with permission, never never never -"

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“- eating meat is actually a serious social problem, it’s really unethical! Some countries let people sell it and that’s even worse -“

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Nuta looks absolutely horrified.

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“- sorry, I’m - I’m so bad at trying to be friends with people, I’m sorry, do you need a hug or for me to leave or something else or - I’m sorry.”

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"I want your people to stop killing children!" she says shrilly. "By overproducing on purpose!"

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“I - it’s not fair to make me personally responsible for my whole society, I bet your world has terrible things that you don’t like! I’m sorry that everything is terrible should I just leave.”

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Nuta shakes her head and sits on the nearest soft surface and hugs her knees, starting to cry.

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Koyumena sits down on the other end of the soft surface and looks pervasively miserable.

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"Is everybody going to be that upset about Amentans eating meat?" Nuta asks, after a while.

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“People are mostly fine with it, I’m not - standard - there. Selling it is pretty controversial for everyone?”

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"Why selling it?"

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“If you can earn money by raising animals then people don’t treat them very well, if a household has a few cows and they have - names and birthday parties - even though they still eat them - then it’s easier to argue that it’s all net positive.”

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Nuta is thinking "is that the argument for the babies too" but she's not going to construct a sentence in another language about it. "Amentans mostly buy meat."

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Koyumena nods, slowly.

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"I don't know if I can eat no meat and be okay."

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“... if you mention that to the competent people they can probably figure something out.”

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"Okay. I don't think it will be bad for me fast."

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“That’s... good?”

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"Yeah. If they take a few days to figure it out I should be all right."

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She nods, slowly, again.

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"If I can't get home can I take some of the children? Since no one wants them anyway?"

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“You could declare yourself as an independent creche and then only take in a few?”

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"...if I were a creche would some of my children get killed?"

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“... I don’t think the quotas would kick in if you only had two or three.”

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"How does that work?"

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“Where I worked it was mostly up to the people who worked there, which tests were used and how everything happened, and we were told that the government wouldn’t care unless we went under a quarter... selected... for several years in a row? And if you only had three kids that wouldn’t make sense.

Also you’re an alien so you can probably get an exemption and still raise a dozen kids if you want.”

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"A quarter," chokes Nuta.

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Koyumena winces. 

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"What are you even - eugenics-doing toward -"

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I am not eugenics-doing anything, my society is aiming for - healthier and brighter and more creative and prosocial, and less male.“

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"Sorry, in my language there's different talking-to-other-people words. Less 'male'? I noticed you have three -" She makes a gesture of inadequate vocabulary.

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“- about half of all babies are born with, um, their parts on the outside and not on the inside, most people born with them become [tall purple flower women] and some people born with them become men? And whether you become a [tall purple flower woman] or a man is heritable, and men have a lot more children, so there’s selection to keep the ratio.”

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"And you can tell when they're children?"

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“... kind of? We know that there are more men born from, um, experimental no-kill creches, but the individual tests aren’t reliable.”

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"Amentans have two sexes. Amentan men - I think are like your men? But don't have a lot more children, because it's half of each."

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“Less neotenous - um, they’re stronger and taller and hairier, I mean - higher crime rate, less verbal and more mathematical?”

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"...no, just, the parts on the outside."

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“Huh.”

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"And they can't feed babies with their -" Nuta gestures at her chest. "Unless they take medicine for it, and it can do other stuff you don't want, so they usually don't."

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“... cool. What - does your society even look like, I’m realizing that I have no idea -“

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"Look like?"

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“How is it structured, I guess?”

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"We have - 'castes', I don't know what you'd call them. People do the same sort of job as their parents. I'm an - 'orange', it's sort of a nickname for the caste because we have orange hair. Oranges take care of children and old people and sick people."

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“... maybe someone in anthropology would know a word for that. You said that everyone took care of children?”

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"Everyone takes care of their children. Oranges take care of children if the parents are working or the children need to learn things."

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“That makes sense. What do the other ‘castes’ do?”

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"Blues tell people what to do. And own land. Greens do art and - learning things. Yellows do... making things be where they should go? And computers. Greys keep people safe. Purples make stuff and move it around and sell it."

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“Those... probably make more sense in context? - do you have to do those exact things or are there just, you know, tax incentives and the like -“

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"You can do some of other things. I don't have all the words to be just right."

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Sympathetic alien nodding.

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"You don't have anything like it?"

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“Some places don’t even keep track of who gave birth to who, and people... choose what to do with their lives?”

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"That means you can only do eugenics to one thing."

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“... I guess?”

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"Oranges get more children by being good oranges."

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“Are there lots of oranges who aren’t very good at it, who aren’t allowed to have children?”

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"Not lots. Most people can have at least one."

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“... the child commoditization - um, the treating-children-like-money - seems weird but still a lot better than my society’s thing.”

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"Different parts of Amenta do different ways to control the population. I think our way is best though."

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“What do other regions do?”

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"Some places say two for everyone. Some places have blues pick people to have children."

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“Cool.

Unrelated note, do you need help figuring out how to use the kitchen and get food?”

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"...probably."

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She can demonstrate how to use the kitchen. It also relies a lot on foot pedals for operation of the sink and oven and so on, although more precise dials are also present.

There’s a delivery app that stops by once a day and drops off groceries for the entire apartment building, there are grocery stores with more and less familiar setups, there are restaurants, there are cafe-restaurant-farmer’s-market-thrift-store things where people set up stalls to sell and donate food and other items...

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The foot pedals are so clever. Nuta tries to figure out an approximate conversion to tap, and figures out some minimally intimidating groceries, and checks to see if any of the donations are meat.

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There are a few people giving away crickets and mealworms and mice?

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...ew no. They don't identically resemble animals Nuta knows but they're close enough to be concerning. She'll try to put together a high protein menu for herself without meat.

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The cafe-restaurant-farmer’s-market-thrift-store things do have plenty of (expensive, weird) eggs and dairy products for sale, and she can find plenty of nuts and oats and protein-supplemented pasta and so on everywhere she pokes; she probably won’t have much trouble.

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It's kind of stressful cobbling together a shopping list out of alien food but she'll do her best. She appreciates the help.

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Koyumena is delighted to be doing something unambiguously helpful instead of talking about infanticide! 

She eventually leaves.

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Nuta eats, when her food arrives. She works on the language till she can't stand it. She takes a shower and goes to bed.