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.
"Yeah. Only if they don't like that - like, you came here by accident, but also we're going to tell the government it's okay that you're here."
"Well, I guess it'll probably be pretty easy to remember not to touch people."
"It's not like Amenta. It’s because... the world is big and full of strangers. You can do whatever you want with your friends. I'd touch you if you wanted."
"Amenta's big and full of strangers, it has thirteen billion people! The clean ones touch each other!"
"Like, families hug each other and people pat little kids on the head and strangers who don't know each other's names tap each other on the shoulder to get their attention about stuff and people get very crowded on the train or the elevator..."
"Families hug each other. Lots of people don’t have shoulders or don’t have hands or - you can kill some people if you hug them, they’re delicate. And we don't have crowded trains. We fly instead. If there's an emergency and a lot of people have to move very fast through a small space the government will probably not be angry. The government will definitely not be angry if you touch your own children."
"Well, I don't see how I'd have any children here."
"A wizard could help you make a child but I think the child might have to be just like you because there aren't any other aliens and no one here knows how to change alien babies yet. Or you could buy one but then they won't be as much like you."
"How would buying one work, even with a credit there isn't anyone who could get me pregnant."
"It depends on... I don't think Tapap even has the words I want... it depends on what kind. If you want a baby that's like an Amentan but with black hair, then it'd be from a mother who died or was sold. Those aren't very common. If you want a snake, those are very common, because they don't really care. If you want a furry one that eats fruit, the mothers care some but not a lot, sometimes they'll sell. It's almost impossible to buy a baby that talks with colors or a baby that's furry and eats meat or a baby that's like an Amentan with pointy ears, they really don't want to sell them. If you want to get pregnant, you will have to hire a wizard to use magic."
"There are people who sell their babies?????? Like they have a baby, and then they're like, instead of this baby that I have, I would rather have money, and give someone else my baby?????"
"Snake people have a lot of babies and don’t care about them at all. Other people usually only sell babies if something happened to make their old plans not work anymore. Like if the father was going to help and died or something. Or if the baby is a wizard of space or sick. Or if they didn't want the baby in the first place and getting pregnant was a surprise, sometimes, if they're a kind of person that has an easy time - my kind of person would usually not finish the whole pregnancy just to sell the baby but furry fruit-eating people do sometimes. Is it different on Amenta?"
"Yeah, it's different on Amenta!"
"I think you like how it is on Amenta better, huh?"
"I mean, this might be fine for me, I guess, but the poor babies!!"
"Does every person on Amenta feel that way?"
"Wanting... babies? Yes!"
"I mean thinking 'poor babies' instead of 'so the things I want are cheap'."
"I mean, maybe I'll buy babies, but like, mostly to save them from anybody else who buys babies, and because I can't have my own, I'd really rather my own."
"Wizards can get my kind of people pregnant. I think they can learn to get your kind of person pregnant... maybe."
"But only with clones, and that's like, weird."
"If they don't know - uh, there's a - thing, in you. It says that you have pink hair and two eyes. Can you tell me some Tapap words about that?"
"DNA? I don't know a ton about it but we know it's a thing."
"DNA! There are wizards of DNA. If a wizard of DNA gets you pregnant, they can use your DNA and not any other Amentan's DNA. They can also change it so the baby isn't a clone, but - if they change things they don't understand, the baby could be sick. So if you know anything about what parts of your DNA say what things, then maybe you can have a baby that is your baby and isn't a clone and isn't sick."
(Eyik sighs impatiently and leaves the table.)