A Lost boy somehow gets even more lost.
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"...same way it always does? I wasn't due to be made till after the next two ports but we've got slack in the supplies, and nobody knew anything you spoke, so here I am."

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"...I think we're still missing each other, but I'm happy enough that it works as well as it does, and that they sent you." It would be even more surprising if it worked perfectly; all the magic he's ever seen has some weirdness that came with it too, or would cause some further down the line. He knows some fae can walk through people's dreams, and it's possible she did that to learn his language, which would also explain some of the mixed words.

Maybe he should ask about the singing? No, not important right now. "So, uh, is it okay if I ask what's going to happen to me?"

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"Unless you have some huge objection to being put off at the next port that's sure what's easiest for us. But it's possible you'd want to stay aboard a little longer to learn more Cluster so you won't have to hope someone on the round also has plans to make a new person sometime soon and can throw in your language on top."

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Right, whatever they did for her to learn his language is probably hard or expensive in some way, and they probably wouldn't be able to spare a translator just walking around with him all day...

"Learning the language is probably a good idea," he says. "I don't mean to impose, I'm really grateful you guys picked me up, but it would also probably be good to know more about the ports... moons? You'll be stopping in, so I know if I'll be welcome at any of them." He looks around for a place for them to sit, and wonders if the gawkers would get tired of watching the conversation if they can't understand what they're saying. "Would you mind explaining a bit more about this world, and what the next few places you'll be stopping are like?"

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"Rounds," she says. "Is the most literal translation. Moons doesn't seem right to me but I don't think I've ever seen a moon so I couldn't say why. We go to trade hubs, nowhere weird, and the next stop isn't a really strict proleround where they'll be picky about how you were made. The one after that is, though, they won't let you disembark unless you have a whole pedigree." She rolls her eyes.

Sitting is impossible but they can park in an alcove.

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It reminds him a bit of sitting on a bunk bed during summer camp to talk with his friend Matt after hours in their cabin, except the content is more like his halting exchanges with some of the people he met in the Hedge. "Let me see if all that translated okay... so when you said round earlier you didn't mean like..." His mind grasps for the word, comes up empty. Doctors make rounds... what are 'rounds' actually? Turns in a game... points where things start? Or stop, in the doctor's case. "...Stops, you meant the, uh, not-moons... small planets? Which are where you make stops, but you meant the small planets themselves.

"And each port you go to is at a trade hub on a round, but it's not the port that matters, it's the type of round it's on. And the next round won't care where I'm from, but the one after that is a... proleround." Does it matter what a prole is? "And prolerounds care about where I'm from. So they won't let me off the ship without... a passport? Documents showing I'm not a criminal? Something like that?"

He gets a sinking feeling as he considers that, the obvious next thought being... "Also, what do you guys use for money? I don't have much of value, except maybe a couple of my lucky rocks." He pulls out a few to show her.

Sharpy is an obsidian arrowhead that never seems to chip the way most would. He found embedded in a tree maybe a year ago, after which it thanked him for pulling it out and offered him one of three boons, all of which sounded like too-good-to-be-true traps. It got mad when he tried to politely decline, and so he assured it the arrowhead was payment enough, which mollified it enough that he could leave. He's been saving it in case he needs something sharper to tie around the end of one of his arrows.

Shiny is a piece of white stone unlike any he saw on Earth. It soaks in light when exposed to it, then slowly leaks it out through the crack across the surface over the course of a few hours. He found it shining in a river one night, and it's saved his hide a few times. He gives it an affectionate rub, glad it made it through the fall.

Skipper is a really great skipping stone. He's not sure if it has any special properties, but it feels really good in his hand, and he just knows that when he finally throws it it's gonna bounce at least a dozen times.

Then there's Ruby, which may in fact be an actual ruby the length of his pinky, but he has no idea what those look like when uncut or unpolished. It's a pretty, deep red color, in any case, and was given to him as a gift by one of the Lost he befriended years ago.

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"We've got all kinds of money on board, since we're a sail, but I gotta admit I don't recognize those and wouldn't know what they're worth! Prolerounds don't care where exactly, they care what you're like and if they can be sure that's how you are, does that make sense? Way more than 'not a criminal', they're so picky. I think I have enough documentation to go to ground on some of them but nobody on board more than ten years old does except a couple of the officers, the proleround didn't use to be in this area and only drifted in around then..."

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"It sort of makes sense." It leaves him pretty screwed either way, since he can't really prove anything to anyone about what he's "like." He puts his rocks away, trying to parse the "ten years old" comment. He hasn't seen any kids around until he met her, maybe the rest are just staying out of the way...

"How quickly do the rounds move, compared to the ship? If I get off on the next one, would you guys be coming back around before it drifts away, or not? And if proleround won't let me off, what about the round after that?"

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"Oh, rounds are lots slower than sails. They don't move with the wind, they just... go. It's really complicated to explain, I know all about it but I have no idea where I'd start to describe it to you... we'd hit the next round again a dozen times before it made sense to rethink our route. What round is New York on?"

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"Earth. We call it a planet, but it's where everyone lives. We have one other 'round' nearby, our moon, but no one lives there, it's too small and has no air. All the other rounds in our solar system are way too far to sail to. Well, you could, but it would take months or years. And a very different kind of ship." He smiles. "Our space isn't as friendly as yours."

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"It has... no... air?" she blinks. "It's... all water...?"

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"Oh, no, no water either. It's totally empty between the moons and planets, the rounds I mean, and the stars."

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"Empty in a way where there - look here, I don't think that makes sense. Air's what fills a hole if you dig one and you can't dig a hole that doesn't happen to."

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"Sure, but the air comes from somewhere, right? If there's some that goes in the hole you dig, there's a bit less that was somewhere else. I think my world's space is something like what you'd get if all the air gets stuck in a few really deep holes, which Earth is one of."

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"You're from... a... hole. - no, you know what, I don't think I believe you, that's just too farfetched. There is no way you will ever be able to live on a proleround but we can let you off at the next stop, okay?"

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He's a little taken aback at her abrupt dismissal, but after a moment he realizes these people may be as ignorant of other worlds as most people on Earth were.

He took for granted by the casual way they brought him on board that, if they don't mean him ill, they're used to random people from the Hedge appearing in need of help.

That and the obvious oddness of this place made him assume they'd be open to the idea of other odd things.

But of course it's not odd to them. And he should probably be treating this more like... like an alien landing in the ocean back on Earth and being pulled into a fishing boat. If the alien looks human, why would anyone assume he was anything other than an unfortunate castaway?

"Right. Well, whatever you can teach me of your language and w-and the rounds, before then, I'd appreciate it. What's the deal with your music, anyway?"

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"What about it?"

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"I can understand it. Or at least, I think I can." He repeats what he heard. "That meant 'to look at the sky and to sail it,' right?"

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"Yes. So you know a little Central already, great, what gives you trouble with it?"

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"I don't,  though. I mean other than that song I know nothing, and I only heard any when I got on the boat." He's getting a sinking feeling...

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"Had you maybe heard a translation?"

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"No."

The sinking feeling is getting worse. She's not acting like there's some obvious answer, here. So it's not the boat or the song or the world.

It's him. 

Or rather, it's some Hedge magic he brought with him. Something inherent to the part he was in, maybe, or something he saw or ate or, more likely, heard...

Damn it. This one's not dangerous at least, but what other magic is hiding inside him like booby traps, waiting for the right trigger? How many things did he eat or touch thinking he got lucky enough to find something without any weird effects?

And how long will it last? Forever? Or is it "recent"...

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"Can you try... if this isn't weird, if it's not offensive to ask..." Alien, he's an alien in a normal world who's being mistaken for someone of another... country, or something. "Could you sing me a song?"

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"I don't know any in English, but I can sing you something in Central or Spollan or Aamiqun or Tlanibek or - do you care what kind of song at all?"

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