It's a family dinner. They've taken another pound or so of meat out of stasis, in five little pieces browned and covered in salt, still hot from when it was seared two months ago. There's a big pot of oatmeal and a salad and bowls and spoons for people to serve themselves. The people are just sitting down - a middle-aged couple, a strikingly handsome man with very dark skin, a young woman whose eyes are focused on something not in front of her, and a girl just launching into a monologue. They're really not expecting company.
"...okay." She will take the thing.
It’s a closed box that is perfectly silent even when its contents shift. If she opens it she’ll discover a device inside playing a movie.
Ooh, what's the movie about.
A... cat alien? or something? is in a forest, pointing out objects with their tail and naming them. There are also sentences about location and motion (the leaf is falling from the tree to the ground, the rock is not moving...). The language is tonal and entirely lacks dental stops and the way the alien pronounces it the distinction between the unvoiced fricatives may actually be impossible for Peka's mouth.
"I don't know if I can pronounce all this? And I don't learn as fast as you... how do you pause this..."
"You can’t pause it." Dareni sighs and mimes closing the box. "I pronounce it differently - I say 'Hárī àr Sárág Màrsáehū'."
She closes the box. "Why can't you pause it? - Hati ah Satak Masaehu -?"
That seems worse than the physical shape of her mouth requires but it’s not like dental stops mean something else in Hari.
"It doesn’t - it’s - I want to tell you something so hard to say." Frustrated sigh.
"Should I... sing more?"
"Yeah. I learn the words you sing."
"Yeah, it's really cool. Is there a kind of thing that a song about it might help you with the thing you wanna talk about?"
"Yeah. Words and - people? Aliens? And... what are all... shapeshifter and understanding Tapap and ēá - what is - maybe the thing Atan is not? I don’t know."
"I'm not sure what all of that is getting at but I can sing, uh, the alphabet..." She sings the Tapap alphabet, and then a kids' TV song that Shahn likes about parts of speech, and then an old poem set to music about a wizard who could turn into various animals having adventures, and... what is eyah supposed to mean, the color green? stars? magic? holograms? She can come up with at least partial songs about all of those things.
Dareni tentatively suggests that it probably means holograms once she has the word. "That doesn't help me say why you can't pause this thing or how to pronounce Hari, but I can say aliens are wizards. Hologram wizards, knowing wizards, different wizards - no shapeshifting wizards."
"How many kinds of wizards are there - uh, one two three four five six seven eight nine ten eleven twelve -" she'll go on like that until stopped or when she gets to forty.
She lets Peka go all the way to forty, because maybe she'll need those numbers later, but then says "Twelve here. I don't know how many on Amenta."
"Oh, Amenta doesn't have wizards!"
"You have songs about them. And... things. You have good things."
"Maybe you don't mean wizards, you mean something else? Uh, scientists or something? The songs come from, like, composers, you don't need magic."
"I mean... I can see you aren’t a wizard. You can't make - " this plate of food is a convenient prop " - a lot of food. You can't make it better when people are bad. You can make... a good thing? You can't make lots of good things."
"Uh, I don't know what you mean, but I'm pretty sure Amenta doesn't have any wizards... it has doctors? And... farmers?"
"Doctors have, like, medicine, and they can do surgery, and they can like... do tests to find out what's wrong with people? Farmers plant seeds in the ground and they grow into food plants like, uh, wheat, or apple trees, or whatever, or they raise animals like cows or chickens..."
"Say more about seeds and tests?"
"Seeds are the little bits of plants that new ones of those kinds of plants grow from. Like the pits in peaches. Tests are like... I don't know much about this but like they can sometimes put some of somebody's blood in a machine to find out if they're, I don't know, low on a mineral or, um, infected with something?"