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Generated: Aug 26, 2022 7:38 PM
Post last updated: Aug 26, 2022 7:38 PM
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gazette in survivorverse
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Ky is sitting for a new portrait; Iskander's gotten better at, not so much drawing, but at transferring drawings to woodcut, plus she's aged a little, and so her picture in the editorial is getting updated. He's only sketching her face, so she's fidgeting with some paper, practicing not looking down at what she's doing while she curls and uncurls it, folds and unfolds it.

And then they're somewhere else.

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Specifically, they both appear across a table from a young man with neat black hair and wearing plain dark clothes of an unnaturally simple sort, buttoned white shirt tucked into plain black pants, with an extremely small cavalry pistol in a cunningly-designed leather sheath at his belt, papers spread out on the table with writing in an unknown language and a map of nowhere she has ever seen. There's a curtain across the only window in the room, and the only light is coming from a glowing glass bulb above their heads, and a noise somewhere between a bell ringing and a bird chirping is presently coming from an unclear location. The young man was bent over the table, studying the writing, but is now looking at them both with an expression of shock on his face.

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"- pardon me, this was an accident, can you tell us where we are," says Ky, grabbing discreetly for Iskander's hand.

Ky is dressed in a linen dress thing, belted with a cord and pinned with fibulae; her brother's outfit isn't very different. She is also wearing a conical sun hat, woven sort of like straw but made out of strips of paper instead, in shades of blue and pale yellow.

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"[gibberish in a foreign language]," he says in an affable tone of voice!

There is not particularly a period in which he can be seen drawing the pistol, as opposed to it being in his holster and then in his hand, though some complicated motions were involved. It is not directly pointed at them. 

"[Completely different gibberish in a foreign language!]" he says, over his shoulder.

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...Ky takes her hat off and holds it in front of herself in a gesture that might just be polite. Iskander slightly shifts behind her.

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Well, the young man with the gun is not going to respond as long as Ky isn't holding it like a weapon.

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A young woman, about the man's age, wearing a neat knee-length black dress with short sleeves, enters, keeping her eyes locked on Ky's. 

There's also a pistol holstered at her belt, though she hasn't drawn it; instead she's carrying a small box of an unknown material with several glowing lights on it, like the glass thing above their heads but much smaller and less bright, which she places on the table without keeping her eyes off Ky's.

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Ky will continue to hold her paper hat to her chest and watch the proceedings.

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The man says something the woman, then  presses part of the surface of the device into the rest of it, then says something that - 

She can read his lips and he is clearly not speaking her language but when it reaches her, he's saying, "Can you understand me now?"

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"- yes, I can."

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"Excellent. My name is Sandor Balog, known in the popular press as the Titanium Tyrant. Do you know why you appeared in my apartment?"

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"No, I do not. Do you?"

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"Titanium?" whispers Iskander.

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"Given that you don't recognize my name, no. And the two of you?"

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"Kybele, known as the Curator or Gazette, and my brother Iskander."

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He nods, as if that confirmed a theory he had. "The language I speak is English, and we are in the United States of America." An offer, will she return it?

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"We're from Scythia and speak Scoloti."

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"Excuse me, Thei, would you be willing to ask Blitz for the world map?"

She turns to go.

"Thank you."

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The map arrives in extremely little time, and he spreads it out on the table. It's astonishingly detailed.

"Does this look right?" he says, pointing to a spot on it.

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"...this is by far the most elaborate map I have ever seen. It doesn't look right, but I don't know if that's because it's wrong or because the maps I have seen before are."

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"Fair enough."

In that case he'll roll it up. "In that case, I am sorry to tell you that either your society is completely out of contact with my society, you are now in another world, you are now at least two thousand years in the future, or one of us is seriously hallucinating. If you have heard of a 'Union of Soviet Socialist Republics' or 'Tsar' or 'Premier', the first is most likely; if you are from a highly urban, developed society, the second is most likely, and if my clothes and the amount of paper available to me as well as the map are surprising, the third should be considered probable, and of course we should all be taking the fourth much more seriously than we, in fact, are."

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"I am not familiar with those things. I would have told you I was from a highly urban developed society if you had somehow managed to ask about that without implying heights of developed urbanism the likes of which I have yet to imagine. Your clothes do look strange but I'm not sure how to distinguish foreign fom surprising - and I have that much paper, but I suppose most people don't."

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"If your people are not extremely nomadic, then I think this is mistranslating the word for your nation as the word for a nation from my world's history which no longer exists."

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"We live in a city. What is - 'this'. That is translating."

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"An - electronic, if this word translates - device I obtained from my former teacher." He quirks an eyebrow. "It translates. I have not the faintest idea how."

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"A lightning device?"

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"Synthetic lightning, yes, at very low levels; it is important for a number of different purposes, primarily for making machines that can do tasks only living things can normally do - mathematics, automatic motion, and, apparently, translation."

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"...huh. Cool."

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"Does it also do sending people home."

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"You'll want to talk to Minerva or the Smith for that," he says. "Fair warning, both of them want me dead." 

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"...why's that?"

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"I'm trying to conquer this world," he says. "They disapprove."

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"Ah. It's not that I don't see the appeal but it's not overwhelmingly popular with the neighbors, yeah."

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"Indeed."

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"So, uh, do they also have translators?"

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"The Smith does, since I took this one from him. Minerva may. But they are not widely spread at all."

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"Could I... borrow this one."

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"In exchange for an equivalent favor once you have come into your own? Certainly."

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"Yeah, sure, that sounds fair. How do we... go find these people you have referred us to? Also is using the translator less than straightforward in some way?"

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"Press this button to turn it on or off." He demonstrates. "Don't press this button unless you want to open up extremely complicated instructions in a language you don't speak." He taps it but doesn't depress it. "Don't press this button unless you urgently need a small explosive more than you need a translator." He does not even tap it. "The batteries that give it the power to run will probably cease functioning out in a week, and you will need to provide it with new batteries, which I can give you instructions for but still may be inconvenient. For finding them - do your powers include long-distance travel or communication?"

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"They do not."

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"Then... hmm. The simplest solution is a telephone, an electric device for sending long-distance messages. I would not expect the universal translator would interact well with it, but you could give someone money to use it to tell the Smith that someone who doesn't speak any earthly language found the translator he - misplaced - earlier, and I do expect he would come and fetch it. I could show you where to find them on a map, but crossing that distance would require extensive use of technology that I doubt your world possesses - does internal combustion engine or gasoline engine translate? - or else be very slow; the country we are in is extremely large, and I am very deliberately not in the same part of it as the Smith."

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"Neither of those translate. - if it's his translator am I going to be unable to return this to you?"

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"Most likely, but I suspect it may find its way back to me. If it doesn't, you can add it to the favor owed - I speak most of the regional languages, not that there are many; English will do for almost anything."

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"Okay. I can owe you a favor for the translator. We just - go to an arbitrary person and ask them to use a phone on the Smith about his translator and incidentally us?"

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"Ideally you offer money." He will hand her some coins. "I don't think very much money is required, and you can tell people that the Smith can pay them more; he probably will." He considers. "I expect the most sensible option is to go to a library - I can give directions; I am quite near one for my own reasons - and you tell someone that you have found the Smith's translator and that you don't speak any earthly language, and he will be by in a few hours." He shrugs. "I may benefit from your actions sufficiently that I would have done them purely for my own sake; If I do not, you will owe me a favor. I expect you'll know within a few days if you're still in contact with the Smith which is which."

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"Okay. Anything else we should know before we go to the library?"

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How cars work. How to cross streets. What a policeman looks like. How to work doorknobs. 

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These things are all useful to know. If they'll spot her some paper she'll take notes.

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He is perfectly willing to do that.

(He is inclined to watch and see if she is treating this paper, too, as a weapon, but not overtly.)

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She is not overtly wielding this paper as a weapon. She just takes notes on it - she presses pretty hard with her pen - and puts it in her pocket.

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Fair enough! Then he can show her the door and give directions to the nearest library, without incidentally at any point letting her get a look at any of the members of his organization other than himself or the young lady who was with him earlier.

She's in a small town - by Renaissance standards, a small city - in the Midwest, and the sun is hot and high in the extremely blue sky above. If you look far enough, there's fields - mostly corn and soybeans - off in the distance, and occasional pasture.

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She puts her hat back on against the sun. Inconvenient Iskander doesn't have one.

They walk to the library.

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Nobody interferes with this project! A few people give them slightly funny looks. The library building that the Tyrant pointed them at is large and fancy by the standards of any building not a temple or palace, not very large or fancy by the standards of temples or palaces. Very clean by any standards, though.

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Wow, there are so many books here.

That's not what they're there for though. Ky, feeling a certain kinship with librarians, approaches the one behind the desk.

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"Hello... ma'am?" The librarian behind the desk has been a small-town librarian for a while, and people wearing Greek tunics do not usually just walk in. Maybe she was at a costume party and hasn't had time to change? (Or maybe she's a SUPERHERO. Probably not, though.)

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"Hello. We have come by a translator that once belonged to the Smith and would like to get in touch with him about it," she says, gesturing at the translator.

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SUPERHERO!

The librarian is polite and she is not going to be very excited about that, but when someone speaks an unknown language into a fancy electronic box and English comes out of it, a Famous Superhero being involved is PRETTY LIKELY. "All right, his public number's in the Yellow Pages, do you need help finding it, or with the telephone?" Or does she just need to borrow a phone?

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"Iiiii'd appreciate your help with the whole thing."

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Right! So what you do is you look up his number in the Book That Lists All Numbers, and then you type the correct number, and then...

"... Yes, it's for the Smith... there's someone who says she has his translator... she's using it to talk to me..."

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"We don't speak any of the languages here, and need it," she adds.

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Then that will be repeated!

"He says he can hear it in the background, but he wants to know who you are and - he says he wants to talk to you?"

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"I'm Gazette and this is my brother Iskander. I don't know if the translator works over the phone."

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"Uh, you can try it?"

The translator is a little box you speak into; she attempts to hand the phone to Gazette, which phone is unfortunately designed so speak into its mouth directly, not with a little magic box in between.

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She'll try being... louder? "Hello!"

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"[Something untranslatable!]" Whoever he is sounds very interested. "[Totally untranslatable? Totally untranslatable.]"

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"I can't understand you, sorry." She hands the phone back to the librarian.

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Who listens, and - "He wants to know where you're from and where you found it and - excuse me, Smith - one moment - how you got here -"

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"Weeee don't know how we got here. We're from Scythia and were lent the translator by the first person we met."

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"Uh - he's curious where that is and how the translator got to be here, if you have any idea?"

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"The first person we met introduced himself as the Titanium Tyrant. It was walking distance from here."

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The librarian blanches.

"Thank you," she says, after a long pause. "He, uh, wants to know if the Titanium Tyrant asked you not to tell him his name."

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"No... I guess that might mean he's planning on not being around here anymore soon?"

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"... He says he'll be right over."

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"Cool. Can we wait here in the library?"

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"Of course."

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"Thanks."

They go find places to sit down, and, since the translator is for speech, look at especially picturey books and talk to each other in Scythian.

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They can find especially picturey books! There's a lot that are for children but that can still be followed by adults, and there's also maps and atlases and books full of photographs.

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Ky tries puzzling through a kids' vocab book.

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Iskander looks at pictures of birds.

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The vocab book is tricky, since the universal translator converts into your language. But she can tell that they use an alphabet and it only has 26 letters, and map the letters C-A-T to a picture of a cat?

There are a lot of kinds of birds out here, because this world is apparently quite large!

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And the pictures are AMAZING.

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They ARE. It's like they caught the bird mid-motion, and froze it, and pressed it into a page. And then there's ANOTHER bird on the NEXT page.

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In this way will they pass their wait.

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After a while there's a sort of distant rumbling WHOOSH sound, and then it gets somewhat closer!

This is not particularly unusual, or interesting compared to BOOKS, but after a few moments there's the sound of some dreadful horn, and an extremely loud, booming voice from outside the town that the universal translator attempts to translate as, "First degree of threat illustratus, non-emergency-responders please go to your place-to-shelter-from-explosives" - and then starts repeating.

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...she has no idea what "first degree of threat" means but she is not famous enough to do much good against a confident attacking illustrati; they'll follow the librarian to wherever the shelter-from-explosives place is!

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In the basement of the library! Various other people are also joining them, including an unseen second librarian, three kids, and an old man in amazingly good health for his age. It's a room with metal walls stocked with shelves with lots and lots of cans with pictures of food on them, and a sink for water. At one end of the room there's a couple of bathroom cubicles and at another other side there's bunk beds. All of this is made to a very impressive degree of standardization, by the standards of her home.

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Ky didn't want to cannibalize a book. But she did grab some blank paper out of a printer cart behind the librarian's desk on the way down, just in case. She'll put it back if she doesn't need it. She and Iskander sit on a bottom bunk. If they're here that long he'll take the top one.

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They're here about fifteen minutes before a different-sounding alarm goes off, actually, this one sounding slightly sheepish.

"That's the all clear," says the librarian to her otherworldly guests, before attempting to get the metal door back open again, which takes some effort (it's a pretty heavy door) but is accomplishable.

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Oh. Good.

Printer gets its paper back.

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And as the bomb shelter empties, three people walk into the library!

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One of them is a lean teenager - 

No, he's not a teenager, he's lived through more than that, no matter how young his body looks; if she's seen veterans of too many battles that's what he looks like -

- who has what looks like a ton of metal strapped to his body, a ton the unit of weight, all distributed over him, but that's probably an overstatement because while the floor creaks it doesn't break. He does not move like someone who is having trouble hauling that weight; all his moves are precisely controlled and blindingly fast.

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And one of them is a woman, probably young but you can't really tell because her skin is completely covered by a pale blue bodysuit with cords running along it, with a breastplate of some unknown metal covering her torso, greaves/high boots her feet, gauntlets her hands and a completely face-concealing helmet her head. She's holding a metal staff about her height that is sort of ambiguously a polearm; there's something complicated at the tip, and she's looking at things that nobody else can see.

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And the last is a friendly-looking middle-aged man; how he's friendly looking isn't quite clear, because there's a welding mask covering his face like a sheet of steel, the visor in it for his eyes almost invisible; he's wearing heavy leather clothes with an apron over whatever's beneath it; the apron is crossed by two bandoliers and held by a belt, all of which are loaded down with complicated gadgets of unclear purpose.

"Hello!" he says, and the universal translator repeats, when he sees the illustrati. "Sorry it took so long to get here!"

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So that's a - steel or something, she can't tell by looking what kind of metal, and a... also some kind of metal, and a leather? "Hello!" she replies. "We've had plenty of books to look at while we wait, though the translator doesn't seem to do text. It's incredibly useful though!"

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"Pleased to hear it!" He smiles. "If you want I bet I can make you one that can do text, that's not actually nearly as hard - I'm the Smith; this -" grumpy guy "- is Jim, if you've heard of him it's as the Survivor, this -" the girl "- is Minerva."

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Grumpy guy continues to grump.

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Minerva is quietly paying attention to something outside the visible light spectrum. What do her various high-tech scanners report about the illustrati?

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Iskander is not much of an illustrati. He is basically a normal dude.

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Ky is upgraded significantly more. It's still not a lot, but she moves lightly and easily.

Also sometimes her hat adjusts itself a little without her touching it. (Except with her head. Since it's a hat.)

"I'm Gazette. Or Kybele, or the Curator, depending. And this is my brother Iskander."

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"I am pleased to meet you both," she says. Her helmet has some sort of voice-changer that Kybele may or may not be able to notice through the universal translator, that makes her voice sound mechanical and slightly inhuman. She's doing more scanning of the building; she hasn't found any bombs, but that doesn't mean they don't exist.

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"I can see about giving you a better briefing in a minute, but first things first - did the Titanium Tyrant threaten to set off any kind of superweapon, or appear to have any weapons of mass destruction that you saw?"

(The translator renders superweapon as extremely-deadly-device and weapons of mass destruction as weapons-for-wiping-out-cities.)

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"- no, he did not. He seemed reasonably friendly, especially for someone we'd just popped into existence in front of unexpectedly."

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"Popped into existence in front of?"

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(The Smith is switching to reassuring everyone else that it looks like the Tyrant is gone and there is probably no immediate threat.)

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"Yeah, we were just sitting - he was doing my portrait for me and then suddenly -" She snaps her fingers.

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"Interesting. And then you were next to the Tyrant?" The obvious assumption is that he pulled them there... they shouldn't relax, even if Veritas is watching -

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"Kind of across from him, but yeah. He seemed really surprised and then called someone else in to bring the translator."

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"Fascinating."

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"You don't need to worry, by the way," the Smith says. "There's lots of superheroes around and I bet we can find you a way to get home."

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The Survivor is NOT TREMENDOUSLY INTERESTED in people from other worlds because this sort of nonsense happens every Tuesday, and is here because the last time the Smith went to check out his nemesis trying something alone he got kidnapped, and so now the rest of the Atlantic Six goes with him.

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"What kind of illustrati can do that?"

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"Huh? It's not a superpower, it's just perfectly ordinary engineering. You got here, didn't you?"

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"Yes, but we don't know how it happened. I think your engineering is better than ours and your illustrati might be better too but I'm curious what domain that would be."

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"Domain?"

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"...of the illustrati? I guess maybe those are more different than I'm expecting too."

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"I don't have any powers, I'm just good at engineering. Minerva and the Tyrant are the same."

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"So you're not illustrati at all?"

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"Device isn't sure that translates. I am a superhero, I have no superpowers; the Survivor is a superhero, he has superpowers; the Tyrant is a supervillain, he has no superpowers; the Gorgon Queen is a supervillain, she has superpowers. Did that come out right?"

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"I mean, maybe it did but it does imply that you have something different going on here than illustrati I'm used to."

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"Probably." Hard to tell, but he's smiling behind the mask. "You should tell me all about your world, just as soon as we know the Tyrant's -"

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The phone rings, and the Survivor picks it up.

His expression, never joyful, gets even less happy.

"It's for you, Smith," he says. "Him."

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"Speak of the devil! One moment, Curator." (and, in an aside to Minerva, "Probably safe, but if I go down, cover me.")

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She does not know what that device does but she will watch attentively to see if she can figure it out!

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Iskander finds this whole interaction stressful and would rather look at bird photos!

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It's a fairly long conversation, and the machine only translates the Smith's side of it, but she can hear an electronic crackle from the machine anyway.

("Sir. I'm slightly disappointed you didn't evacuate as soon as you called.")

"I didn't think you'd be there, Sandor, unless I came alone."

("I might have had more help than you were expecting.")

"Son, if you want to fight the Atlantic Six, you know where to find us."

(A laugh. "Is Veritas with you?")

"Near enough, if you want to talk to her."

("I simply wanted to be sure she was listening. Well, Lowell, if you are - I give you my word the Curator and her brother were no plan of mine.")

"Thank you, Sandor. Very generous of you. Do you know where they are from?"

("Only speculation.")

"Well, -"

("Sir?")

"Yes, Sandor?"

("Check.")

And that's when there's a very, very large explosion a significant distance off, loud enough to break all the glass in all the windows in the library.

Kybele's response?

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It is to seize her brother with slightly superhuman reaction time and pull him with her under the table. Her hat stays on during this process.

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"My ship -"

The glass in the library goes inwards for a moment and then freezes like it hit a lot of walls. She can see a shimmering distortion by the windows -

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The Survivor is out the door. He moves fast; the door is slammed off its hinges and he's almost flying as he runs, his feet cracking the asphalt in the street where they land.

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And the Smith has one of his gadgets in his hand, glances at it - "He's not here." He returns it, raises his voice "- All right, check and see if anyone was hurt by the glass -"

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"Is it safe to come out from under the table now?"

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The glass is now back in all the windows; it's still a web of cracks, but it's a web of cracks that's been put back together, and it can be replaced later. "Yes."

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Out they come.

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Iskander goes back to the printer and gets her the stack of paper she borrowed earlier and shoves it into her hands. "Do you remember how the armor design went or do I need to draw it for you over again?"

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"I remember how it was put together. If you have strong opinions on the color scheme you will have to remind me." She starts - magically origami-ing - the paper into armor.

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"Oh that's fascinating," says the Smith - "Can you help us with search and rescue? We need to make sure nobody was hurt."

His tone goes grimmer. "Anyone else. Sandor..." he shakes his head.

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"I have never done search and rescue. I run a newspaper and a library." Fold fold fold.

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"Understood," he says. Then a quick smile "- Be right back."

And the Atlantic Six pay attention to the urgent work of making sure nobody is about to die.

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Ky finishes up her armor.

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And the dust from the explosion settles, and after she's been sitting tight a bit, the Smith comes back.

"One dead," he says. "No injuries that need transport out."

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"Why did he do that?"

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"His teammate the Gorgon Queen can control minds. She told someone to get as close he could to our plane, then set off a bomb the Tyrant gave him. I don't know who."

There wasn't enough of a body for that.

"It slows us down. That's all."

It buys Sandor time for whatever his plan is. How did he go this wrong?

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"Is there a way to be sure she didn't do that to me? - I guess I don't even know if the woman I met was her but."

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"What is a plane?"

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"She can only control one person at a time, and she needs to meet their eyes to do it. You're safe."

And, to Iskander, "Flying machine."

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"Whoa."

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"Well, if he actually wanted me to make an attempt to give the translator back to him he's made that rather fraught."

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"- I think that Sandor was not expecting you to give the translator back."

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"He wanted me to owe him a favor, and more of one if the translator didn't find its way back to him."

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"I think that you can owe him a favor, and still try to stop him when he tries to murder people."

He pauses.

"Walk with me?"

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She nods and gets up. The paper is soft, as though very worn, in all the places where it touches other parts of the paper; it mutes the rustling. She looks kind of silly but Iskander follows her and reminds her what colors bits of it were supposed to be and she changes them.

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"That's a fascinating power," he says. (Once they're outside, they can see smoke rising from the wreck; it's well outside of town, the Atlantic Six having wanted to come in where the Tyrant couldn't snipe them all at once with a lucky hit to the plane.

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"Are there none like it here?"

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"There are people who can control objects with their mind. I don't know anyone who can also strengthen it, no."

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"Not objects in general, just paper. Or something else for someone else."

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He nods. "Some people have powers that work similarly, but I don't think anyone both strengthens and controls objects."

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"Huh. Everyone works about like this - with different domains - if they have powers at all, back home."

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"It sounds like your home is a very different place."

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"I guess so.

He said 'an equivalent favor' so I guess I have some room to decide that anything remotely helpful with murder plans is not equivalent to letting me have the translator."

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"- I think that Sandor has a great deal of difficulty with the fact that everyone else in the world is real, and has decided to deal with it by ignoring it."

Pause.

"He will probably call in the favor by asking for you to help deal with another supervillain. Or else by asking you to lend him a machine that helps him without hurting anyone else. Or else by testifying at his trial that he should have a lighter sentence, if we catch him."

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"Those all sound perfectly reasonable. Insofar as I can deal with supervillains, which is currently not much."

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The Smith cocks an ear.

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"- I did explain I ran a newspaper and a library? I'm not a professional illustrati, I angled for it to the extent I did because without powers I fell over a lot."

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That was a perfectly coherent sentence except for the logical implications. "Angled for it?"

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"For the powers? - how do people get powers here?"

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"We don't know. Luck, God, heritage, radiation, finding the right tool, eating the right fruit... sometimes it happens under stress, sometimes it just happens. There are people who have figured out how to give other people powers - I'm not one of them, but they exist..."

He smiles slightly under his mask. "It's a very big world, out there." And he got to be born in it.

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"...huh. That's not how it is where we're from. There people just get powers by being famous."

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What.

"Huh!"

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"It has drawbacks but it might be better than just randomness, I'm not sure!"

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"I'm sure there's some deeper meaning to ours," he admits. "I just don't know how it fits together."

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"Who can give other people powers? Do they - sell them or what?"

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"Sometimes. There's a Doctor Montgomery with several patents in the field in England, who claims a number of successes, and the Meta-Visionary on the west coast. Doctor Fenris specializes in animals, and there's a young miss Brooke - Packmistress, I think she calls herself - who claims to carry on his style." He pauses. "Other people did it for their countries; there was a Doctor Hahn in the war, a German, who was responsible for more supermen than anyone else, though I expect he dead, now, and nearly all his 'living wonder-weapons' with him."

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"You realize I don't know what a German is."

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"Hmm? Then I might want to fix the translator. A person from the country of Germany. Their dictator was leading the other side."

(In the event that, like Classical Greek, her language tends to divide rulers into "hereditary monarch," "democratically elected leader," "member of a high ruling council" and "popular ruler of unlimited power and no traditional standing," it will pick the fourth of these to translate it into, tyrannos.)

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Nod. "There are illustrati with animal domains, but I don't know if that's like the people you mentioned."

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He'll pull a picture of Doc Fenris out of one of the pockets on his costume. It's a small square card, only a few inches across, but more detailed than any painting she's ever seen, unless there's a painting illustratus somewhere.

Doc Fenris is clearly huge, even in the picture, is implausibly muscular, bearded, very hairy for a human if human he is, and is wearing gigantic metal armor, an enormous weight of crudely made, hand-forged riveted iron, with iron claws extending past his hand that look intended to tear through flesh. His face is halfway to being a wolf's muzzle, and his ears (largely covered by his helmet) are unnaturally large, hairy, and pointed.

"He breeds dogs."

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"Yeah, my assumption from the portrait would be a dog illustrati with an iron illustrati friend."

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"The armor's no stronger than ordinary metal, but he disapproves of using anything he didn't make himself, and the modifications he's made to himself mean that he can wear much heavier armor than almost anyone else."

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"Is that something dogs can do? Wear heavy armor?"

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"No, but Fenris's dogs are much stronger than any animals anyone else has managed to breed, and so is he stronger, himself."

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"Fair enough. I've never actually met an animal domain illustrati, maybe they're like that too and it's just hard to tell because illustrati are all stronger than regular people."

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"What are the more common domains, where you're from?"

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"It's less that some are common and more that some are rare, and there's almost certainly a feedback effect where a person with a more convenient or appealing or useful domain has an easier time leveraging it into further fame and becoming known for their domain, but some that seem at least fairly frequent are fire, light, sound, cloth, wood, iron, water, stone, blood, bread..."

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He nods. "That makes sense." 

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"Does it? I was expecting you to want to know what the going theories are about why the domains we have and not others."

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"Oh? There are theories?" He cocks an ear. "You mean about why silk and cotton are grouped together instead of cotton and wheat?"

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"That sort of thing, yeah. It seems to almost go on the fame of the concepts in the same way illustrati power level goes by the fame of the person. We have some records of steel becoming a separate domain instead of a thing that iron illustrati could do!"

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And at this point they are arriving at the flying machine of the Atlantic Six! It is sort of a big metal bird, except elongated and with wheels instead of feet, and it clearly ought to have two wings but presently only has one. It probably ought to not have a hole in the side or be scarred by fire and smoke, which smoke is very high in the air but this point with no fire visible.

There's a curved wall of reddish-purple rock almost completely surrounding it, and what's inside the circle is burned.

And there are other superheroes illustrati! One of them is standing on the wall; he's wearing a colorful costume and has a gauntlet on his right hand made of red glass and volcanic rock and some metal she is clearly not familiar with. Another is flying; his costume has brass knuckles and a bird's head on the mask. A third person is a woman in dark and light shades of grey, in a domino mask that hardly conceals her face at all. The other two she's already seen.

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She feels somewhat less out of place in her silly paper armor with people who are themselves not dressed like normal people. "Hello. Sorry about your -" What is that thing. "- explosion."

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"Airplane. The Swift."

(Minerva is not dressed like a normal person at all!)

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"If you encounter the Queen," says the woman in grey (whose mask looks very symbolic), "anything that means she can't see your eyes will stop her."

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"The important thing is that she not see my eyes and not vice versa?" she asks, peeling a layer of paper off a bit of a vambrace to make herself a slitted veil dangling from her hat.

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She nods. "Dark glasses will suffice."

Or one-way glass, if you know an engineer who can make it.

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"Will this?" she asks, as she sticks the veil to the hat.

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"Yes," says Veritas.

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"Oh good.

So now what?"

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"Now we borrow a car from the local police -"

(That word may or may not translate as different from "army" or "band of people with big sticks", depending on just how civilized her home country is)

"- so we can get an airplane ride back to New York, the city we live, before the Tyrant causes a crisis too large for us to manage."

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"- he's going to do more than blow up the airplane?"

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"- When we last fought him he tried to use a weather-control device to cut New York off from the rest of the world so he could rule it as a king."

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"...you have a lot of devices here."

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"Yes. Science and technology have progressed very quickly in the past sixty years." She quirks an eyebrow. "Which is, of course, not something anyone here is responsible for."

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"I did a good deal more popularizing than inventing, Veritas."

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Minerva smiles slightly behind her mask. She hasn't gotten very many people to copy her, yet, but she will.

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"Well, I hope they're on net more like this nifty translator than like the weather control device. Though I suppose weather control has its benign uses as long as nobody steals it."

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"That was what happened, yes."

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"The translator's very helpful, yes, I did a lot of traveling before I settled down and it's useful to get a start on the language."

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(Minerva has not designed a universal translator yet, but strongly suspects that if she did, it would only work on languages that she gave it dictionaries for. The Smith is bafflingly impressive, sometimes.)

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"It's really cool, yeah."

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"Happy to help if there's anything else you need," says the Smith.

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"Since you're not from around here," says Veritas, who has noticed that Kybele is slightly confused "- people try to take over the world a few times a year. Their plans usually aren't very sensible, but it's still our job to stop them before they get anyone killed."

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"Are they mostly doing it because they want to be fam- oh, that doesn't even work here, does it - do they have particularly interesting ideas for what to do with the world if they get it?"

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"No."

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"Rarely."

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"...then why do they want to do it?"

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"The two leading nations in the world have weapons that can destroy human life on the planet -"

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Skeptical snort.

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"- and are pointing overwhelming numbers of them at each other and constantly building more. It is a crisis and something should be done but building more superweapons is not helping."

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"- ah. I guess that would be... the sort of thing."

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" - There are always things that can be done, if people will cooperate, to make the world a better place; if every country in the world spent half as much on armies, say, they would all be exactly as protected as they are and they could all tax their people less, and everyone would be better off. You can persuade people to cooperate, but that's hard, and you need to understand what they're thinking and show trust and help them understand where you're coming from, and so many supervillains think that they can just skip all the difficulties; if they can use force to make everyone do the right thing, they can just be in control, and can do whatever's best for everyone and then be free to do whatever they want."

"Sandor thinks that if he can take power, that will be it, and it will be over; if he can come up with one idea smart enough to beat everyone all at once, he can rule the world, and all the world's problems will be over. I think - people are more complicated than that; power is more dangerous than that, truth is harder to find than that - and he can't do it anyway; there's too many people out there who don't want to be ruled, too many people with their own skills and talents and problems too complicated for a single genius to understand. But he's going to try anyway, and so we try to stop him before too many people get hurt."

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This has kind of the sound of a long-rehearsed speech. She supposes she was kind of asking for it, as long as he has one handy in his pocket.