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Dec 01, 2021 12:44 PM
Rachel in Astrocracy
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Rachel wakes up. Her head is pounding, and her memory is fuzzy—Tom's Yeerk, the polar bear, Tobias, the Ellimist, and then—

She is supposed to be dead, she knows. The Ellimist said he wouldn't save her—well, maybe there was a loophole. Or maybe it's Crayak.

Or this is the afterlife. She stifles a laugh. With her luck, it's more likely to be the past, or the future, or another planet. Rachel cracks open her eyes, flinching at the light, and examines her surroundings. It appears to be an ordinary Earth library. She staggers over to a computer and boots it up, in search of some answers.

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The computer thinks the date is Druoary 34, 785.

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Well. Rachel is a long way from home. She navigates to the web browser and searches for "world map".

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A map of Earth's continents arranged on a flat surface, with the North Pole at the center and Antarctica circling the edge.

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Yep, that sure is Earth! Maybe...some time traveler stepped on a butterfly and now people think there's such a month as "Druoary" and the Ellimist sent her here to fix it? Or maybe this is a better world and Crayak sent her hoping she'd screw things up.

With a jolt of fear, Rachel realizes there's something way more important to look up than the layout of the continents. She searches for "Yeerks".

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There's a vanishingly small number of results.  Four obvious misspellings of other words, a handful of instances of the same acronym-based indie band name.  The band in question seems neither Sharing-style family friendly nor particularly sinister.

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Relief washes over Rachel. Even early in the invasion, you could find rumors online. Here, there's nothing. No invasion! So it's probably safe to try the direct approach. There's...a test she needs to do first. She looks around the library for a bathroom.

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There's one!  Single room, handicap accessible, not gender segregated.

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She enters, locks the door, and starts morphing into a bear, ignoring imaginary Marco's crack in her head about hairy palms. As soon as it's clear that she retains the power, she aborts the morph, reverting to human form.

So I have my old morphs, at least...

She can't justify to herself putting it off any longer. She looks around the library for someone who can explain to her what the hell is going on.

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She has her pick of the librarians, a few older people, a mother with one smol and one mediom child, and a girl who looks close to her own age.

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While Rachel expects an uphill battle getting anyone to believe her, the one her own age seems like the best bet. She approaches her.

"Hi! I'm Rachel."

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"Hey.  Jackie."

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"Nice to meet you!

...So, there's no way to say this that doesn't make me sound crazy, but I promise I can prove it. I think I come from some sort of bizarro alternate timeline. Our calendar is different, and we use different map projections, and, um, we're fighting off an alien invasion."

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"Cool."

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Well, that wasn't an "I believe you", but it also wasn't an "I'm gonna call the cops on you", so Rachel is gonna keep trying.

"So, um, do you want to see my demonstration, or could you walk me through what country we're in and so on, or...?"

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" - Sorry, I need to think.

 

This is the town of Chelford, on the island cluster of Britannia, in the Roman Empire, on Earth."

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The Roman Empire? Fuck. Well, they have Internet and modern English, maybe they've also invented "not crucifiying people" and "being nicer to the Jews"?

"Um, take all the time to think you need."

There! That sounded sincere, right? And totally not at all like Rachel is bursting with impatience?

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Jackie closes her eyes and takes a deep breath.

"What sort of help do you need.  Food, a place to stay, access to a phone . . ."

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"A place to stay would be great! Just for a few nights, while I figure out my strategy. Food...I will need that at some point, won't I? I don't have any need for a phone right now; if it's possible at all to contact the people I know I suspect it will take a lot more than that."

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"Right, sure.  I can get you those."  She sighs.  "I think you can probably crash on my couch and if not - something else will be figured out."

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"Thank you! So, should I—go back to looking things up on the computer until you're ready to go, or what?"

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"I was about ready to head home.  You can look stuff up if you want to though."

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"No, I'll come with you. I could tell you about the world as I know it.

Oh! And demonstrate my ability. It's, um, turning into animals. Elite military tech, in my world."

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"Ahuh.  Do you have boots and a coat."

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"Nope. I woke up here; all I have are the clothes I'm wearing right now."

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"Cool.  You can borrow my coat."  Jackie starts extracting things from the pockets of the coat currently draped across the back of her chair and transferring them to her jeans and sweatshirt pockets.  "And the snow's not that bad as long as you're careful not to slip, and we can put you in fuzzy socks or whatever at my house."

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