For the city that hosts the congress of nations, Deqla looks surprisingly uncrowded to the eye. The streets are all relatively wide, letting in plenty of sunlight and allowing sufficient of room for bicyclists and pedestrians to coexist with public transport and delivery trucks, while only a handful of buildings cap out over ten stories tall. It was a city that was designed by people who knew what the future would look like, and had plenty of budget to make whatever was needed to further Aramaia's status on the world stage to visiting diplomats and dignitaries happen. Further away from the congress and the local universities, the work is rather less extravagantly maintained, but even the side streets are well lit and relatively clean to help keep crime statistics down. What they don't have is a lot of people in them on early weekday afternoons, which makes the fact that her appearance is completely unobserved a bit less unusual.
This woman is clearly doing a byplay of some kind, but honestly that's a good sign, it shows that something's flagged. She's on this train to the end now.
"I recognize that there's not going to be an ideal match given that I'm not from any established nation, but frankly I don't have better options than putting myself in your hands right now. I'll fill this out. Any recommendations for the essentials of life in the meantime?"
She puts down Liath Amara, "I'm twenty-one, should I backdate using the local calendar or use my native one? What year is it?" - Richmond, "Whatever your name is, you haven't said -" She marks down vaccinations for chickenpox, measles, mumps, rubella, flu, covid-19, SARS, polio, and meningitis - if there are any more exotic diseases she won't have vaccinations for them. Her education is "2 years university computer science (hardware programming)", and no criminal history.
"Oh, sorry. I'm Karen Marsden - spelled like so - and today's date is 14/07/539. If you want it to match exactly, let me know how many days it's been and I'll do the conversion, but if there's nothing for it to be inconsistent with I doubt it matters. Unless all those vaccines are other names for the usual ones you'll probably want to schedule an appointment to get that fixed but that's not urgent on the scale of days... I don't know if any employers here will recognize your accreditation but it'll look good on the intake forms, people are more enthusiastic about educated immigrants."
She pauses, tapping the pen idly on the desk while she thinks; her own form is somehow already finished.
"I can put you up in a hotel for a week while you search for a place to stay, or I can introduce you to someone I think would be willing to put you up while you get back on your feet. Do you have a preference?"
"To be honest, I think having someone willing to put me up is probably better for me because it'll help me get the cultural context in a way that a hotel wouldn't. I don't want to blunder around here - I suspect you have different diseases, different technology, and no doubt different culture and laws as well. Best to find a local guide if one's on offer. My birthday is August 12 of 2001 in my native calendar, but I can't do the calculation of how many days into the year in my head, I'd have to refer to my pocket calendar and I'd rather not flash it because it's foreign tech."
"If you tell me how many days in your local year and the last date you remember seeing, I can do it myself, but I think you could also just straightforwardly put in the twelfth of whichever month that is in 518 or 517 and you might slip up less. And yeah, it's probably a good idea not to alarm anyone more than you have to. Sophie - that's the friend I'd be asking to host you - is more understanding about it than most people but it'll be easier on her the less you push it."
This conversation is not actually that much less concerning but Karen doesn't seem scared so probably it's fine and anyway it's not her problem to deal with anymore, she can just tune it out and ignore it.
"Then the twelfth of the eighth month of 517, I think, I can't do that in my head. And I don't know the order you put that in."
"Day, month, year. Alright, that should be everything; I'll go get this filed and then let them know I'm taking off early today. Have you eaten, or should I plan a stop for a late lunch on the way over?"
"I came from just after supper, so I don't need anything, but it's probably for the best if I get used to the local time zone and local food both. Thank you for offering so much so quickly, I really appreciate it."
A little stiff, aren't you? Let me.
"That is to say, I'm really grateful for the save. I know you must be taking some risks or spending some favors here. I know I look all stiff but that's really my official-business face."
She gathers up her cards and cash and puts them back into her wallet, then turns over the immigration form. "I'll do my best to not cause trouble for you while getting acclimated."
"You're entirely welcome!"
About five minutes later, Karen Marsden returns sans paperwork.
"Unless there's something else you want to get done while you're here, I'll show you to Sophie's place; she has a condominium about half a mile from U of Deqla, and there's this really good Semaran restaurant nearby we can stop at. Mostly I order seafood, but there's also some vegan options one of my friends vouches for."
"No, I think I'm okay. Seafood, huh? I can't say I've tried that much. Sounds like it'll be an adventure. Inside of this larger adventure that's my broader circumstances. I'll go where you lead."
It's about a ten minute ride to the restaurant, which is unassuming on the outside but once they get past the door smells amazing. The menus have a whole swathe of fish, crustaceans, and mollusks on offer, most of which she's never heard of before, and mixed in with familiar seasonings like garlic and pepper are a host of new spices.
"I usually get the benni fillet or gatta bake, but if you don't have much of a spice tolerance the abuswe might be more your speed."
That's a great scent. Smells a little like one of her favorite Indian places.
"I have no clue what any of this is, but I'll take your recommendation. I like heat. There was a regional cuisine I liked that was fairly spice-heavy as well, so the local equivalent is great to discover."
When it arrives, the benni fillet turns out to have a citrus base about halfway between an orange and lemon to complement the spice and umami of the fish, and both it and Karen's gatta bake come in large portions. Each individual bite Karen takes is strictly neat and measured, but somehow her fish still seems to steadily vanish whenever Amaranth takes her eyes off it.
It warms her from the inside, it really does. Eating good food with a kind stranger in a whole new world has some things to recommend it. The citrus base is tangy, which she likes, and while the fish is clearly not the salmon or tuna she's used to it's not overly oily. The spices are really unique too, and the heat level is just about at the high end of her tolerance.
She smiles. "I'm glad I ran into you," she says. "I wasn't favoring my chances with the bureaucracy. This is called what, again... Benni? I like it. I'll have to buy some cookbooks once I get back on my feet, there's a lot for me to explore."
"I'm glad I got to meet you as well, helping you out is significantly more exciting than doing busywork for my boss while he's in meetings I can't shadow and it's certainly a good excuse for getting out early. And yeah, that's the one. It's not used a lot in Aramain cuisine but it's still sold in stores and Semaran cookbooks should have plenty of options for it."
When the waiter brings the bill she pays for it with a set of unfamiliar bills rather than a card, so those are at least probably not in common use.
Lindsey definitely notices the lack of a card to tap or even swipe, but that can get filed away for later.
"This is definitely going to be a lot to take in, but I'm trying to approach it with a spirit of adventure. They say you only enjoy a really good adventure fully after it's over and you're out of the scary parts."
"For most people, I think just ending up somewhere new would be terrifying all on its own, much less if it meant they got cut off from everyone and everything they knew and were missing essentials. I'm glad to see you've been handling it as well as you have."
From the restaurant it's another block and a half to reach the six story building done up in blues and greens where Sophie lives. There is an elevator, but only the one and most people (including Karen) seem to default to the stairs, though they only need to head up the one flight. Karen rings the doorbell for room 205 and then smiles reassuringly at Amaranth.
"Just be yourself and you'll get along fine."
"Karen! it's good to see you, you don't usually get out this early."
She drags the blonde in for a hug, which Karen reciprocates, and then turns to look at Sophie.
"What's this, you're taking in strays now? I'm so proud of you, it feels like just yesterday I was dragging you and Gemma out of your shells. How'd you meet her?"
"You didn't drag me out of anything! I was perfectly social, just really busy! But, uh, yes, kind of. Sophie, this is Liath Amara; she had to move here unexpectedly in a hurry and she can't get a job or pay for a place to stay just yet, so I told her I expected you would be happy to help her out."
"It's almost like you know me or something. It's a pleasure to meet you, Liath. Is there anything you'd like to talk about first or should I show you around?"
"Well, just to warn you I'm really foreign and will probably have some cultural confusions. Thank you for being willing to take me in; I'm relatively calm because I've seen this process done before with people who've had to abruptly leave families that were no good for them, and that's shown me a lot of the goodwill of people in general. It's disorienting to be in a strange place with strange people, and more than a little scary, but as soon as Karen here offered me a place to stay while I got my feet I had a feeling I'd be alright. I will probably need some time once I'm in a private space though, if I'm being honest with you."
She runs a hand through her hair. "I don't expect the larger process to be easy to any extent, but my goal for today was mostly to get a roof over my head for long enough to get into the local system, and Karen's been very good about helping me with the paperwork."
She touches her forehead. "Oh, and I should ask up front, what's your situation with your landlord, if you have one? Working this kind of problem for some other girls I knew I ran into limited guest periods in some people's tenancy agreements... I don't know if that applies at all around here but I really don't want to be surprised by needing to move out fast."
"I actually asked Karen to do some of her magic to help me pick this place out, since it was kind of predictable I'd be having people over. If I'm giving anyone a key, I need to have that recorded with the main office, and there are the usual rules that apply to anyone in the apartment - no running a commercial business out of it, no using it for illegal activities, no damaging the property, no being loud after midnight, complying with health safety and fire inspections, some rules about pets we can go over if you think it'll be relevant - but as long as I'm paying for the place who is here is my business.
"As for my own rules... Karen said you don't have and can't get an income right now, so you don't need to worry about rent or anything, but I will expect you to be at least reasonably good about keeping your space clean and to do a fair share of dishes, vacuuming, etcetera. What you end up doing is open for negotiation but I don't want this to just be my handling everything. If I think you're not getting out enough I might poke you about it, but something like being sick is a perfectly valid excuse. Please respect the privacy of my bedroom unless I invite you in or it's a genuine emergency, don't go through my mail or steal my things... there's probably some other stuff I'm not thinking of but that's most of it at least and I don't think there's anything I expect that'd be surprising."
"Makes perfect sense. I'll pitch in as best I can and be quite grateful for the support. I promise not to mess with your mail or possessions. Do you have a guest room or will I be sleeping on a couch? I'm not familar with apartment situations personally, I've always lived with my family."