Sep 28, 2023 12:34 AM
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We've mostly converged on alphabets since they generalize best, so there aren't too many letters.


He wakes a couple hours after Toy-Mun, scrambles for the nearest clock-calendar - which, it so happens, is on a lanyard around his neck.




Wh'th'fuck'm'I'on'thfloor - ALIEN.

Sorry Toy-Mun. Good morning!"


He sees the dishes.

"You found the food. Nice!

. . . I guess I get ready for work now. Um. I leave this hour. Then after that I'll be back in - about nine hours." He feels awful, like he's abandoning a fresh-caught feral cat to new confinement. A sentient fresh-caught feral cat. With a sword.

". . . Can I map you a few of the places you might go, if you want to get out of this box today?"


Toy-Mun chuckles at "alien" and smiles.

- Good morning, Kwaiets. And yeah, I did - even though I found out I can't actually read what you have written. There were only so many places to look. So… you leave for work, you say? If you could quickly tell me what each letter reads here, - they show him the notebook with their notes on letters, - I might start learning what your language actually sounds like while you're away. That's certainly going to be more useful - and, with any luck, when I repeat it out loud, translation magic might work to tell me what I just said. Or not, who knows how the spell is set up? Anyway… I'd rather to not leave this place alone, so mapping letters is more useful than mapping places for now.


"- that's brilliant, holy shit I'm so sorry, I forgot the simulation masters are cruel and you can't read -"

He takes a moment to deliberately comport himself and calmly makes recordings of each letter sound (indexed to a description of what the letter looks like) on a little cheap recording device that was one of eleven collecting dust in some drawer somewhere in the dwelling.

When he's done (it didn't take long) he squints and frowns at Toy-Mun. "I'm not sure we've given you an accurate impression, even now - Gahai is safe! No one will try to kill you unless you try to kill them, no one will even threaten to kill you unless you teleport into their presence or do something equally unfamiliar and dangerous-seeming." He knows this probably doesn't mean much next to the danger distribution of Toy-Mun's actually experienced history, but maybe it will be enough to tip the scales. He wants to stress it early, in any case.


- No place is safe until you know its laws and customs, - Toy-Mun answers in a very serious tone. - I can easily do something that's normal for me but - how did you put it? - "unfamiliar and dangerous-seeming" for locals. Hell, I carry a sword, and no one else does, how's that for unfamiliar and dangerous? Speaking of… - Toy-Mun suddenly smiles. - Could you show me that weapon of yours? The one you were going to "shoot" me with?


He almost tries to explain that carrying a weapon, even if they did recognize the sword as a weapon, would not be considered threatening, but then stops himself. He needn't press the point any further now. Toy-Mun will get used to it in due time.

He smiles back. "Sure."

He quickly unloads the gun - showing off the little conelike brass bullets - and, the contraption having been rendered safe, demonstrates the firing mechanism. The whole thing is un-Earthly, designed to be gripped and fired with very precise hand control the whole way through.

"You can't see it, but there's basically a blunt needle here -" he points to the space behind the chamber where bullets are loaded - "that pokes a bullet, which deforms it just enough that its internal chambering breaks down and two powders inside it mix and explode, forcing this heavy part -" he indicates the nose of one of the bullets "- out of this, which is just a skin -" he indicates the rear of a bullet  - "the skin sticks in the gun but the heavy part is forced by the expanding gas from the explosion down the tube at high speed and - well, at speed high enough to go through most things you might want it to go through.

We can go practice shooting tonight or sometime if you want." He shrugs, doing his best not to care if Toy-Mun wants.

<💭>Sages, when did this become about my feelings. I was supposed to be overthrowing science. It's just that every day I have to go to work. Whatever. Kwaiets mindset growth. I can, I must, I will! Fuck all y'all.</💭>


Toy-Mun looks at the weapon with eager interest. Clearly means to harm others are important to them.

- So, a small controlled explosion pushes this part out of the gun at the thing you aim at, and it goes through the target? Yeah, this looks… decidedly unsafe but very cool. I most certainly want to practice using it. And what's with this skin? Where does it go afterwards?



"The gun does what it wants with that - it doesn't really matter for the firing, obviously, so long as it gets it out of the way of the next bullet. This one ejects it out of here -" he thumbs open a port on the side of the gun. "With some gun types you can get the casings reloaded - I think this is one of those - I personally would just sell them as scrap metal if I bothered to collect them at all, though. I'm not a gun expert and I'd rather be sure my casings were new.

And cool, we can go to a range tonight, if you want - indoor is closer but outdoor might be more fun - although a little chillier - and it's only maybe twenty minutes' train ride and walk away."


Toy-Mun nods sagely.

- This makes sense. You wouldn't want your equipment to be faulty. Neither would I, that's why I carry a grindstone for my sword in the bag. Anyway, I guess you are to go to work, and I... I have a writing system to master. And possibly a language. See you in the evening!

They go back to the letters, marking each of them with the letter of their own writing system. It's not an ideal fit, but close enough, only a couple of letters require some additional notes. Afterwards, with a break for taking care of the sword and for physical training, they dedicate themself to transcribing one of the books. The trick with pronouncing things out loud doesn't seem to work.


"- See you, then!"

<💭>Toy-Mun is trustworthy, Toy-Mun is not literally a cat with hands and a sword, I am not abandoning Gahai to . . . to whatever Toy-Mun is, this is the Code-following thing to do . . . I am such a mess at this what am I going to do in five years when artificial wombs are cheaper and I have an actual child . . . eh, that's forever in the future

. . . should I - we - actually have turned Toy-Mun in to some - adults -

- no, nothing really bad will happen, it would have already, and we can't just let him go - we're pursuing our advantage, this is the Code-following thing to do.</💭>


Kwaiets's job, like so many held by Gaha'e thirteen-to-twenty-year-olds, is to maintain and operate a particular segment of a production line. His name (and shift, along with the names and shifts of two others, and three B-backups and three C-backups) is emblazoned on a little plaque bolted to the wall of the clearly-bordered area.


His employer makes an intermediate industrial chemical. He's been here for a year - not at the same job, but it's a long time, and he's itching to leave, just to see how things are done somewhere new.

It's a pretty uneventful day. Which is to say, some annoying thing fails at least once an hour, and he has to continually plug the holes and decide whether to try to permanently-fix them himself and risk fucking things up further, or bother one of his bosses about them and risk looking a little less competent than he could have. The production line is never on the verge of breaking down or slowing because of his problems, they're only shadow-problems, future breakages, but the juggling act is still stressful enough to convince his hindbrain he's working a Real Job, or he wouldn't stay at all.

He did not pick this stress level for simultaneously wondering whether he might have set a time-bomb to explode the universe from his apartment. At one point he genuinely contemplates going home early. He doesn't, though.

When he gets home, nine hours and fifteen minutes after leaving, he scans the room with a thousand-yard stare.


Aside from consumption of three more grain cakes leaving its traces, the room doesn't seem to have been bothered much. Toy-Mun raises their eyes from the book they've been transcribing - meticulously, if without much understanding.

- Hello, Kwaiets, - they say, smiling at him. - I hope you are not too tired from your work and our plans to go shooting are still in place? I've been writing this book in my alphabet - wanna hear my feeble attempts at pronouncing it?


<💭>Sweet, no carnage!</💭>

". . . Yes, and - yeah, we can start heading to the range whenever you're ready - presumably you want a change of clothes, long pants and stuff -" he gets going on supplying these.

". . . You just stayed here all day?" He could lie, but he probably won't.


Toy-Mun simply nods to the last question before beginning to read, with a strong accent, the transcription of the book written before, clearly having no idea what words are pronounced. When pants are provided, Toy-Mun changes them without even stopping reading - underwear remains on.


(We don't have any protections about lying being okay if you do it in sign language, so it doesn't even occur to Kwaiets to prod for a verbal 'yes'.)


"Whoa, that's really good. You don't know what you're saying, right?" Incensed: "How the hell can that work??"

He opens a safe and fishes out some of his spare ammo. It's an effort to conceal his enthusiasm about the impending trip, but he does. <💭>Don't oversell it.</💭>

"Hmmm . . . do you want, like -

I could get you a stupid-looking kids' dictionary" (he sounds apologetic) "large font and all that, right away. It'll take more time to sift and find first-principles, starting-language-less beginners' guides to approximately-this-dialect, if any even exist, that are any good, but if I find any I'll send them your way, too."


- A stupid-looking kids' dictionary is exactly what I need, it seems, - Toy-Mun nods and adds with a coy smile, putting away their notes: - What was I saying, by the way? It wasn't anything… unfitting, was it?


". . . Unfitting? I mean, it was a cringey old kids' 'how the universe works' book that I should really throw out, not at all your speed. The part you were reading  started with how 'Big Sun drags the heavens with it as it skirts the earth'," he's blushing out of embarrassment now, it really is cringey rhyme - "because heft is all to Master Gravity you're worth."

He remembers all too well the following page (in smaller print and with diagrams, it's a book for slightly older kids with some poetic mnemonics because some people like those, or probably just like writing them) explaining how years work differently from days and how to observe them. He'd stared at it for an embarrassing number of hours when he was four through six, and made an awful """table""" of starmaps to try and corroborate it like it suggested . . . not coming to much of any conclusion, and certainly not any of the ones the book authors had been angling for.

He slings on his backpack and looks Toy-Mun up and down. "You ready?"


Toy-Mun chuckles.

- I might need to return to that book when I'm more fluent then, - they claim and quickly put their belt back with sword on before nodding. - Ready as I'll ever be. I don't need my bag with me, do I?


"Not unless there's something in it you want to use," he says cheerfully, and heads out.

"So, um, have you ever been target-shooting with any kind of projectile weapon?"


Toy-Mun decides against taking their bag with them and follows Kwaiets out.

- Me? Oh, no. I mean, I maybe tried to use a bow once, but it clearly isn't my favoured weapon. I am more of a thrower if I need to attack at range - I have even managed to throw my sword somewhat effectively when needed, even though it's not, strictly speaking, balanced for that.


They pass a few solitary people in the halls on their way down and out of the complex, wrapped up in their music or thoughts. One guy has an enormous blocky eyepatch that doesn't look like it serves any medical purpose.


He half-nods, then suddenly narrows his eyes at some point in the middle distance of the little elevator.

"Can females where you're from throw more accurately than males?"


Toy-Mun follows Kwaiets, looking at the people they pass with some amount of interest but not staring.

At the question, her eyebrows jump up. With a clear surprise in her voice, she responds:
- I... don't think so? It was obviously never tested, but I think that males generally have better thinking in terms of where things are in relation to each other, this could apply here, too. But training amounts for more than such inborn qualities anyway.


He nods. "I'm not sure about relations, but males here have better thinking about space, too, as well as upper body strength . . . 

I was just thinking it would make sense if breasts were for throwing like ass cheeks are supposedly for distance running. Is all."


He looks straight ahead at the horizon as they enter a street more crowded and sunnier than last night's, but otherwise the same, and starts for the familiar subway station.

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