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Dec 01, 2021 2:00 PM
Rachel in Astrocracy
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"...Um, yeah, it was me. Sorry. In my defense, I think even my more tactful friends couldn't have delivered the news that they're from another world and can turn into animals in a completely non-upsetting manner."

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". . . I am going to fix this."  The other cat hops off the couch and goes to meow in front of the door Jackie disappeared behind.  The meows mean, "Jackie?  Jackie, let me in.  Open the door.  Let me iiiiiiiiiiiiin.  Jackiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiie."

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Well, Princess is the expert! Rachel sits back to see if this has any effect.

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It at least takes a while to.

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<Um, Jackie? You mentioned earlier that you might try to find 'someone trustworthy' to help us with all this. What are your criteria for that? And, um, who best fits those that you already know?>

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Rachel has to wait a while with no response, but eventually Jackie slips through the door and returns to the living room, sitting down on the rug.  She places the socks and sweats, now slightly rumpled, on the couch, and takes a deep breath with her eyes closed.  Princess tries to step into her lap but Jackie blocks her.

"Sorry.  The adult who lives here will be home in a while.  I can probably deal with you until then."

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Rachel can wait on the adult's arrival to share the news about cats! She tries to turn the conversation to a lighter topic until then.

<So, uh, you said something earlier about Geminis. You're into astrology?>

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"Not . . . really?  I got okay grades in most of the units on it in school.  - Which cat are you, because if you're trying to get on my lap please stop and if it's Princess I want to let her."

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<Oh, I'm Rachel! Princess is the one trying to get on your lap. I have better control of the cat instincts than that. I can go demorph now if you want. Anyway, you guys teach astrology in schools here? In my timeline, its status is, um, controversial.>

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Princess is allowed in Jackie's lap; Jackie draws up her knees and wraps her arms around them diagonally so Princess has room to poke her head out.  "I exercise no authority over your actions," she says like it's a spell to ward off evil.  "How is it controversial."

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<Like, only some people think it's real?>

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"Sounds nice."

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<Why's that?>

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" - I don't think I actually endorse it with the amount of context I have.  But if astrology had subtle enough effects that you hadn't confirmed it yet, that at first sounds better than what we're stuck with.  At least for me.  Lots of other people would say otherwise."

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<What, ah, effects do the stars have, here?>

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". . . All of them.  That's an exaggeration but only somewhat."

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<They affect everything! Even, say, political or military events? I think there were people who believed that, back in the time of our Roman Empire, but these days our astrologers constrain themselves to more personal predictions.>

Oops. Well., she couldn't keep dancing around it forever. If it turns out to be a seditious thing to say...better to have said it over thought-speak than out loud.

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"I don't think I'm very qualified to talk philosophy under these circumstances.  It's mostly less direct than military stuff.  When are you from?

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<The year 2000, from...from the traditionally attributed date of death of Jesus Christ. Ah, a figure in our most common religion. Our technology level seems similar to yours; the Internet was our last big advance. The aliens are further ahead; my morphing power is alien tech.>

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<Oh, that name wouldn't mean anything to you, would it? I think he was born early in the Empire. I don't know much about his story, I'm—>

Don't say "Jewish".

<—an atheist.>

Well, it wasn't a lie.

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"I've heard of him."

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<You have?>

A memory rushes back into Rachel's mind. Visser Four had changed the past, so the Nazis won, the ultimate butterfly-stomping if there ever was one...but the Animorphs still existed. Through some mysterious force, the same people could exist in different timelines. Evidently the same was true of different...universes, or whatever this was.

<What was his story like, in this universe?>

Or at least, what official version am I allowed to hear?

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"He publishes spiritual guidance.  Not - two thousand years ago; now.  The most recent one was last month."

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You could save him, said a part of her. If you ever return to your home universe, you could tell everyone that you saved Jesus.

Rachel is not listening to that part of her. That is the part of her that—quite literally—got her killed. The part Crayak is counting on, if he was the one who sent her here. She asks herself, instead, what Tobias and Jake and her mom and her sisters would want her to do. What would make them proud of her, if they meet again. When they meet again. They have to.

The answer is the same as it has been. The animals. Empires rise and fall, but this is first contact, as surely as if an Andalite or Yeerk ship had landed on this planet, and she alone can manage it. Why, Ellimist, if this is you, why couldn't you have sent Jake?

<I...think I might like to read those, some time. When are your guardians getting back? I'll need to take a break from being in morph, at some point; I can only stay in one for two hours at a time.>

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