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A Brinnite walk-in on Byway
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"He's - busy right now. He said he - had a virtual desk environment, in my head. But I don't know of any reason he particularly wouldn't want to talk to you, when he's not busy."


"That's not real," he says, simmering. "Sir." It would be easier to sir Xakda if he didn't all of a sudden act like one of the kid's less smart peers. What's he playing at???


He shrugs, opens his hands, knits his eyebrows.

"Anyway, you have to come inside now, sorry."


"I knew that, sir. And I wanted to come inside."


He undoes a lock on the kid's tether, waits for the kid to gather his backpack and notebooks, and opens the door. The kid runs in first and Xakda follows, locking the door behind him.


He looks up from the desk where he'd been taking notes on a video of a five-year-old giving a presentation and appraises Xakda's apparent aliveness. Raises his eyebrows.


He gives almost the same explanation he gave the kid - a little more detail.



"Highest power to you, then!" It's a foregone conclusion that he's curious, so Xakda would have been less terse if he'd had the spoons and mood for giving explanations right now.


But flaming holy texts, what???????


"Oh, and on break I ordered cabinets! They come lockable."


"- thanks!"

His familiar irritation at being unsure what in human culture the conversational protocol is for handoffs in these shared projects is of course drowned out by the renewed sense he's had all day, that he must be dreaming, or something. Xakda is weird but - in a speciallylovably straight-laced kind of way. This - "Minaiyu" - would simply never happen.

". . . sorry, but, ETA on when I'll be able to - talk to - Minaiyu?"



"Um, Minaiyu, sorry, is right now a good time yet?"


<I think I can manage,> he says, a bit hoarsely.

He goes through the door. It's an extremely weird feeling to suddenly not have the physical aftereffects of crying anymore. It...kind of helps, not to be dealing with that.

"Yeah, um, hi. You...might want to start by looking at this," he says to Sinber, "so you know where things stand right now." He pulls the list of electrical-grid improvements out of their backpack and shows Sinber that sample of things Minaiyu knew and Xakda didn't, with the marks of which ones were verifiably true and which ones were not previously known to Gahai but were plausibly true.


He'd believed Xakda when Xakda'd said that Andor'd said there was a legit chance, but - this makes it realer. He reads the list. He actually knows enough about power grid design to pick up on the foreignness and ingenuity of one of the items.

<💭>Holy fucking shit.</💭>

"Hi! I'm Sinber, I kidshape." He mentally turns over the sentence fragments his half-asleep brain overheard 'Xakda' say to 'himself'.

"I gather from what I overheard this morning that you're here because of some - life circumstance that's normal to people wherever you're from, but not considered - a happy surprise - ?"


<💭>Whoops, I entirely left that part out, didn't I.</💭>


He nods, wincing a little.

"This is what happens to us when we die. I was cycling back into town and a truck hit me: it was all very sudden."

A bit of wry laughter. "Would you be happy to roll the dice on a one-way trip into the multiverse? We knew even less than we thought we did about what I might find out here, but even the stuff we did know..." He shakes their head. "Things can get pretty bad.

And even if you get lucky and they're not bad in themselves, it's...I don't know, maybe you wouldn't understand. I get the impression that people here don't tend to get attached to places and people much? Maybe you'd handle being torn away from your homeworld better."

instead Sinber is going to cease to exist oh he is very much shying away from that looming mass of horror right now, and anyway maybe these guys are right that they can stop it


"- You know anything about the whole multiverse? How? What is it like, what are we like? If-you-want-to-say.

And if-you-want-to-say, do you expect not to be able to get back?"


He intervenes briefly - "- they don't know directly, only from isekais into their world, none of which have been like ours in that they and all their isekais have story-logic souls - also the continents on Rekka aren't our continents!" then recedes.





Sorry you -

- died -

- out of where you lived - that shouldn't have happened to you, a fucking truck, Sage Carlai's will, that - sucks -

- sorry I'm being - overeager - please feel free to just dip if this is more annoying than it's worth -


I think if I isekaid to a world like that - for example - I'd -

- well I'd obviously try and take whatever soul-protecting thing they had there, back here, just like if I was in a story isekai, I guess, but I don't know how well I'd do - what do you mean we don't seem as attached, if-you-want-to-say?"


He's opened a text editor. His head is spinning. None of this is real. He's dreaming. Xakda's insane.

He hopes he remembers any of this when it's time to give interviews to important bloggers. He won't be one of those next-to-useless, dull-witted witnesses who can't . . . He'll take good notes.


He looks at the digital notepad. A couple of memories flicker through his mind: re-listening to museum tours he'd gone on; a clip, now existing in this world, of an alien song.

"So-- it's not that I don't want to say: I would love to share stuff with you, to preserve as much as I can of the information that this world can only get through me. And I don't think you're over-eager: I can hardly even imagine what it must be like for you, to encounter the first otherworlder your world has ever seen...

...but also, uh, right now it has been an extremely long day, and I don't know what kind of, uh, 'story-logic' you're expecting but I'm expecting to be here for the rest of Xakda's life--barring brain damage, anyway†--it's not like I'll have vanished come morning unless something really terrible happens to Xakda in his sleep.

Maybe we could split the difference and talk about this over food? Or, hmm, the background noise of that might interfere with--

--I'm saying this in the wrong order, aren't I, um...I suggest, uh-- whenever we do talk about this I suggest an audio recorder."


†He quietly doesn't mention his suspicions regarding differential poisoning responses: it's not that he expects Sinber to poison him, but "expecting someone not to poison you" and "telling [someone who probably has a lot of excellent opportunities to slip stuff into your food (and whose first reaction upon meeting you was to view you as (1) not a real person and also (2) a possible threat to their ~spouse)] how to poison you and get away with it" are different levels of trust, and that latter one rather has to be earned  ↩


"All entirely valid! You're not, like, obligated to divulge anything at all, to me, I just thought - I was just pattern-matching for what'd happen next, if anything were to." He shifts as much of his eagerness as he thinks he can plausibly get away with into an embarrassed/earnest, was-tired-the-whole-time poker face. "Good night."


He nods. "Good night!"

He heads off to where he earlier saw the kitchen sink to wash their hands, since they haven't done a home-entering purification yet.

It occurs to him, belatedly, that these are the first steps he has ever taken with these legs of his own volition. Maybe that should feel more momentous than it does. Maybe it shouldn't: there are a lot of firsts like that, coming up.


"So," he says, hand-drying, "from what I've seen we haven't eaten anything the whole day. Even if there was something right after the parking garage in the morning while I was...distracted, that was a long time ago. And going to bed without food is a terrible idea: leads to a vicious cycle where you subconsciously try to sleep off the hunger, which just means it's been even longer since you ate, until eventually you have to forcibly drag yourself out of bed like ten hours later. Or at least that's what happens to me; I don't know how you being there affects things, but I don't feel like now is a good time to find out.

Also I am kind of curious to try the alien food. --also kind of nervous, but it's like with the music, I can bail if I need to."


He's so incredibly bewildered and abashed at the handwashing thing - did he touch something gross??? - and also guilty - Minaiyu hasn't gotten the chance to so much as walk around yet -

- that he does not verbally rail against the simulation masters, for dropping another mystery divergence-between-their-two-worlds, now, in the form of 'how eating works.' He just rolls with the punch as best he can.

"So, around here - Gahai, I guess, that's what we call this society - I don't think I ever said - 

- almost everyone eats right before they sleep because it's hard to keep yourself on a regular sleep schedule otherwise? And I'm one of the people who just eats all my calories for the day right before sleeping, so as not to ever have to eat away from home and also not to ever have to be doing stuff and also doing the most annoying parts of digesting food at the same time. So yeah, now is when I eat."

He starts grabbing dishes and food out of the cabinets - plate, bowl, oatmeal packets, jerky of some kind - and the freezer - frozen peas - and fridge . . . 

"How does it work on Rekka?" <💭>It's comparable to music somehow? Figures, that's about the signature Rekkan ?horrible?/?delightful? vibe.</💭>


Now that he's thought about recording anthropology interviews he feels an impulse to switch a recorder on before answering, but at his current (fairly low) level of knowledge of how local computer interfaces work, figuring out how to go about that would add too much friction to what is already a bedtime routine. He'll explain it again to a recorder later.

"...huh. I mean, sometimes people with weird work schedules train their bodies into packing all their eating into one or two occasions a day, and probably there are some bodies that just come that way, but most people spread it out into around half a dozen. I guess me having my food and sleep wires crossed won't really come up much, then, if they're already bound together temporally.

Usually there is one meal, one thing that's more complicated than just eating a handful of nuts or a can of peaches or something and that's usually served hot. It varies between households what time of day: in mine we traditionally did it mid-evening. You generally try to time it so that as many household members as possible are available as often as possible, so you can all gather around the dining table and do social bonding and also so you can share the effort of meal preparation. Usually we served one to three meal options--depending on how widely liked those options were, how effortful they were to make, how many stove elements they took up, stuff like that--and if that set didn't give full coverage--because, like, good luck trying to come up with something that seven different people will eat, let alone nine--anyone who was left out would eat something else instead.

With the smaller eating occasions people mostly find a routine they like and stick to it, with minor variations like eating some apple chips instead of a peach can and occasional tweaks when you find a routine you like better. Hence my nervousness at being faced with a different set of things someone might like to eat. Although I do like peas and most kinds of oatmeal, so things are looking hopeful so far. digestion particularly annoying?"


He's frozen with his arm raised in midair, fridge open.


". . . Yes, having eaten in the last, I don't know, four to twelve hours or so, depending on the person, makes it aversive to . . . do basically any activity. For us."


Where does he even start.

Why so much time per day on food preparation? Their tech level is high enough that they should have cheap rice cakes!

What kind of person doesn't need to tailor their eating schedule to their work schedule?

But no, the priority is -

"You - you eat with your family?"

He thinks he's managed to not sound horrified! Maybe!

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