Cam looked up, slightly startled by her sudden approach, and slightly annoyed by her request. However, Cam had finished what little notes he could get here, so he could afford to talk for some time. His eyes drifted to the fruit on Caroline’s plate. He didn’t ask about the strange appearance. He had seen weirder, and he was quite intelligent enough to discern that this was not actually a heart. “Alright. I’ll oblige you. What would you like to know?”
His own food, a half-eaten slice of French toast that was likely more syrup than bread, sat abandoned in the middle of the table.
Cam continued speaking, habitually looking around the room, despite having throughly examined every detail already. “You would be surprised how few people ask questions like that. In universes with no native Jumpers, perhaps, I may get a few confused glances, assuming intelligent life exists at all (which is somewhat rare in itself), but there is a not insignificant probability that any given universe with such intelligent life will have already been documented and Jumpers will have been recruited. But I digress.”
He looked at Caroline, awaiting her questions.
[Dining Room (Caroline Thao, Cam, Many Others)]
"It is possible," Caroline said, "that my universe has documented individuals such as yourself. My own organization is odds with the currently-existing structures of power in my world. With information, like most things, we are stuck with the scraps the bourgeois let fall down from their overstuffed plates."
It occurred to Caroline, then, that the surest way to get Cam's interest would be to ask an unusual question. And the mutterings of some of the more obscure Dead Gods furnished her with such a question...
So she began. "Am I correct when I assume that inter-universal societies of 'Jumpers', as you call them, exist?" She adjusted her glasses, then continued, "I'm under the impression they do, to some level, even if only as loose guilds of mutual affiliation through shared experiences. And if they do, have they ever 'quarantined' universes whose occupants are deemed too dangerous to be allowed to roam the greater multiverse?"
Edited by KillerClowns on Dec 27th 2022 at 9:44:30 AM
Cam thought about the question momentarily. “Yes, such an organization does exist, headquartered in a nexus universe not unlike this one. And as for the other question, I’m aware that such universes exist, but I’m not senior enough to get the details, let alone visit. The organization has been around for hundreds of millennia, two hundred years is nothing.” This was, in part, a lie. Although his own lifespan was indeed minuscule compared to the time the society of Jumpers had been around, the data archives were available to him, along with every Jumper in existence, although his inability to visit was true. He just didn’t trust this person with the details on the most dangerous places in the multiverse. Only those who had gotten through the extensive training and checks required to be a Jumper in the first place got access, and, well, she hadn’t. In fact, Cam had barely so much as met her. And anyone who was brazen enough to ask about universes too dangerous to go to directly out of the gate before even knowing if an organized system existed, he figured, probably needed the information, perhaps for purposes that would endanger not only himself, not only one universe, but all of them.
“Any other questions?” He asked, eyeing her suspiciously.
[Hralia, Gabe, Selene, Wolf, Mort, Koyel]
And at last, the stalemate broke.
Koyel had been hoping to wear Mort down, but Mort had figured this out. Under the aggression was efficiency. And, at long last, it was Koyel who was just a big too slow.
One thrust to the gut. A slap to the ribs. Once it started, it didn't stop until Koyel, aching even through layers of cloth, said, "yield!"
Mort smugly slung his staff over his shoulder with one hand, and offered Koyel the other. "Life lesson, son: you try to play defense forever, you're gonna get hurt."
Koyel shook his head and stood. He was feeling it, but not badly. As he'd said, it wasn't his first time in the ring. Pain was a part of life, as he saw it. Gods had no sympathy for anyone who lived their life trying to avoid it. Standing up straight with only a slight wince, he said, "you got some deeper meaning there outside the fightin' ring?"
"No shit I do," Mort said. "You still planning to go back to your village and grow rice 'til your gods come to take ya once we got that Clan dealt with?"
Koyel, at least, was astute enough to piece together the implications. He groaned again, and this time, it had nothing to do with pain. Then he made his way out to the edge of the ring and sat cross-legged.
Mort, standing triumphantly at the ring's edge, took a gander at the crowd. That big centaur-alien's sheer size was impressive, but they didn't seem like they had the kind of fighting spirit Mort and Koyel took for granted. Wolf, maybe, but probably not. Maybe he'd give it a shot, but Mort figured was an IT guy first. The girl with the tattoos, who knew? He'd be willing go easy on the kid if she stepped in the ring, though... but not too easy. Sometimes you had to teach people how to lose, how to take the hits. And... some kinda cybernetic furry? We shoulda invited Midwest to this shindig. He idly measured the lemur-person up, noting the cane at their side and wondering what it implied.
Edited by KillerClowns on Dec 29th 2022 at 8:04:06 AM
Outdoor Dining Area/Sparring Circle
Clearly, Hralia's world is nothing like the one Selene knows, if potions are as foreign a concept to her as they seem. And unfortunately, Selene is not someone who can really explain them. "I don't know much about the science of potions," she admits. "So however water-breathing potions work is a mystery to me. I bet my girlfriend would know, though! She's great with alchemy." She pauses, remembering the logistics of that. "Granted, she isn't here. So that doesn't really matter."
The match comes to an end, and Selene only now seems to realize it was happening. She was a little preoccupied with the whole 'aliens are real' thing going on.
Outdoor Dining Area/Sparring Circle[Hralia, Gabe, Selene, Wolf, Mort, Koyel]
Wolf's brow furrowed. 'Human divergent' - whatever did that mean? And would it be too invasive to outright ask? Gabe's appearance and the fact that there were 'divergent' humans caused him to assume the futuristic definition of 'colony' - another world or at least some sort of artificial habitat rather than the sort of colonies they had on his own Earth.
Back home, he would have felt quite suspicious of anyone asking what he did for a living, but here... well, he had no idea of what Gabe's culture was so there was no reason to assume that the question was any more than curiosity and no cause to suspect ulterior motives. Besides, they'd volunteered their own, first.
He shrugged. "I'm currently workin' as a salaried Data Analyst for a government-funded organisation - not sure what colour that makes my collar, these days. I've done m'fair share of blue-collar work in m'time, as well - I gen'rally don't let the job I'm doing define me as a person." He took a sip of his latte. "As to the, ah, piloting ports: on our Earth - in the universe I come from - we don't have them. Not yet, anyway. Elon reckons he's working on it but it's still in the experimental stages." He gave a cynical chuckle, revealing his opinion of Elon's chances of success.
"We don't have human divergents, either. As far as I c'n make out, everyone here comes from different universes - sometimes from different time periods within those universes. The Earths that some of them come from are nothing like the one I know. They have supervillains or magic or routinely jump between dimensions." He pointed at the two combatants. "The older bloke - he's from 'Earth', but not the same 'Earth' as I'm from. For me, a lot of it sounds like stuff straight out of fiction; but for the others, my world probably sounds like a fictional one."
'Gabe' was as gender-neutral a name as 'Sam', given it could be short for masculine or feminine forms of a name, so it was no use in determining gender. Being uncomfortable with outright asking 'what is your gender?', Wolf instead fell back on his preferred script. "So anyhoo, my pronouns are he 'n' him. I also accept they 'n' them." His own pronouns volunteered, the invitation hung in the air for Gabe to reciprocate if they desired to do so.
Engrossed in talking with Gabe, Wolf was oblivious to the conversation between Hralia and Selene and was only peripherally aware that the sparring match between Mort and Koyel had come to an end with Koyel clearly defeated and Mort standing triumphant at the edge of the arena. Wolf raised his latte in salute to both of the combatants to acknowledge a good fight, took a sip then set it down to resume his meal.
Hralia: Inn, lobby, sparring circle
Hralia glances back down at the girl with a confused look of her own, though her lack of expressive facial muscles obscures this somewhat. Ingesting(?) these 'potions' with little knowledge or regard for the underlying theory or even how they work on a basic level strikes her as remarkably reckless. Is this typical where she's from? Are the ingredients known? Do they even have demonstrable effects, or had she been lied to at some point...?
She at first opts not to open that particular can of worms right now, but mention of alchemy catches her ear regardless and curiosity overwhelms her. "Where I'm from, 'alchemy' is something of a precursor to modern chemistry, at least as humans know it. The study of elements and compounds." she explains, keeping things as concise as she can manage given her propensity to ramble. "Of course, this 'alchemy' often involved experimenting with and imbibing chemicals we now know to be quite toxic in the hopes they would produce miraculous effects, like turning common metals into valuable gold... to invariably limited success."
"I gather your peoples' efforts have been somewhat more fruitful?" she then asks with a fair bit of hopeful caution, attention having wandered somewhat from the combat ritual, which now seemingly draws to a close with one participant gaining the upper hand and soon emerging victorious.
Turning back to it for a moment, she fiddles her manipulators nervously, unclear on whether she's supposed to clap or make some other gesture. She also remains entirely oblivious to being sized up, though that's rather more due to her lack of fine vision and little cultural attention paid to eyes in general than social awkwardness.
Gabe: Inn, outdoor dining area
Gabe leans back in her seat and shrugs, pulling one leg up over the other and crossing them. "Hhey, I was half righ-" she remarks as Wolf takes a sip of his drink, but the next thing out of his mouth about 'universes' makes her do a visible double-take in his direction, entirely pulling her attention away from the sparring match. Okay, where the hell am I?
"T-tthink someone ttook t-the wrong meds this morning." she mutters to herself with something of a bemused chuckle, listening to his explanation of things while she reaches down to a pants pocket to verify the label on the pill bottle she carries with her. Well, it wasn't me.
The name 'Elon' at least rings a bell, though—not only is Wolf indeed claiming to be from another Earth, but evidently one about 400 years behind her own. She briefly considers telling him how that particular historical figure ends up being remembered, but opts not to cause any time paradoxes assuming he's being truthful.
"...yeah, 'she' works." she answers his question in rather noncommittal fashion. "T-that sort of thing t-tttook a back seat when gene modd-d-modding took off, you can imagine." the lemuroid goes on to explain, indicating herself and her more blatantly nonhuman features from toothy snout to gently-swaying tail. "Almost ha-had a war about it, bunch of us went off to stt-start anew."
She then sets about delving into the paper bag she'd brought with her, but only gets as far as unwrapping her ham and cheese croissant before she gets the distinctly familiar feeling that she and her cane are being stared at, and a twinge of irritation follows. "S-ssquare up and I'll beat you with it." she taunts the victor of the duel before taking a bite, remaining firmly seated but shooting a venomous glare.
[Hralia, Gabe; Selene; Wolf; Mort, Koyel]
The mention of Elon brings back wry memories. Oh, man, that poor dumb fuck. I remember him. Tesseract, Artemis, and Helion sliced that motherfucker up like a Thanksgiving turkey, didn't they? Looking back, compared to the modern megas, he was almost cute. No black ops goon squads burying people in shallow graves, no legion of disinformation-spreading AIs that made the Kremlin look like a third-rate pyramid scheme.
Then there was the lemur-person. So she's a fighter, eh? Mort returned Gabe's glare with an approving grin, and squared up on the opposite side of the ring from Gabe. Let's see how good she is. He had no intention of going easy on Gabe, either; he respected her enough for that.
As to her mention of gene modding... a few idle half-formed thoughts moved through Mort's mind. A vaguely negative sense, a mental link to some of Western Amalgamated's projects. This was counteracted by the fact that Gabe didn't look like a corpo, or a customer for cutting edge corpo experimentation. And to be fair, Midwest was also into that kind of 'transhumanist' stuff, though he was... well, he was smart enough to get through law school, and Mort would trust the guy with his life, but Midwest was still filed in Mort's mind under "weird fuckin' dude". So it was a net neutral. Then again, given what she'd said about gender and gene modding... he wanted to ask more, but that was getting into a topic Mort only talked about with people he really trusted.
During this time, Koyel had ordered a glass of Qorisayane whiskey and asked the staff to retrieve his pipe and tobacco. He now sat, puffing his pipe and watching the goings-on curiously. He'd only taken a single sip of the smooth, light amaranth whiskey thus far, pacing himself. It was a sipping whiskey, no doubt about that, and he had no reason to rush through it. He was listening in a bit on Hralia and Selene's conversation, but didn't have anything to contribute quite yet aside from noting that it reminded him of his own world's apothecaries.
[Dining Room (Caroline Thao, Cam, Many Others)]
Caroline had read some of a certain Qorisayane book, the Book of Amaranthine Graves. It had been declared heretical by the Xayusa Temple, which meant that, while it was technically legal in Qorisa, any publisher who put it on their presses would face a boycott and a PR disaster. Still, her own connections in the Thousand Golden Flowers, one of Qorisa's splendidly-named political parties, had gotten her a copy when she'd inadvertently demonstrated just how badly she'd misunderstood the Dead Gods at the time.
One of its passages involved a conversation between the book's author, Ayate vashon'Soqaxil, and the Dead God Watcher-of-Walls. Well, more of a monologue by the latter; while the Dead Gods claimed to despite human languages, they enjoyed hearing it in their own voices. Like most Dead God monologues, it was a bizarre, meandering thing, full of odd asides, mathematical commentary, and sudden threats of extreme violence that were forgotten moments later. Something about "walls made of nothing" between the "Possible" and "loathsome Impossible", except that the "nothing" was apparently the opposite of something rather than its absence. And also explicitly not antimatter, Ayate had gotten a word in to ask about that. As most Dead Gods were literal-minded, using strange language only because of their deteriorating psyches and distance between their psychologies and humanity's, one interpretation Caroline had considered was that those the Watcher-of-Walls deemed the "loathsome Impossible" had built the walls to keep something in her universe restrained there. Caroline could think of two entities off the top of her head that would qualify.
So it was almost certain no Jumper like Cam had ever entered her universe. If they'd only been around hundreds of millennia, the "nothing wall" would have already been ancient by the time they'd come onto the scene.
The half-baked plans Caroline had to use this sort of inter-dimensional travel to her organization's advantage could be scrapped, then. So could any of Western Amalgamated's schemes, but they didn't have to know that. All things considered, it was a relief to Caroline to have further evidence that, as the Watcher-of-Walls had implied, her universe was quarantined. If Earth's history of contact between technologically disparate societies was any indication, outside visitors would be unwelcome.
Of course, there was the awkward fact that she was here, in this nexus. Perhaps, in the same way they could host countless forms of magic and language, they had ways to prevent the spread of what made her universe so toxic. Her next question might be her last, Cam seemed suspicious and alarmed already. "Could someone in such a quarantined universe," she said, "come to know about it? Would there be explicit signs, or would their sciences just conclude they were alone in the multiverse?"
Edited by KillerClowns on Jan 6th 2023 at 4:15:14 AM
Cam started to answer. “In theory, it depends on the extent of the danger, but in practice, we have never, as far as I know, had a universe dangerous enough not to warn them and give a last chance to shape up.” As he spoke, he appeared to connect the dots of a possible motive for her. “If you are wondering whether your homeworld is quote-unquote ‘quarantined’, the answer is no, at least by the organization I belong to. If it had been, you wouldn’t be here. Protection of nexus universes in general is especially vital for the universes deemed too dangerous to leave their own bubble. I understand that there is those who have honour in every society, but one must sometimes sacrifice nuance for time.” He shrugged. His suspicions were fading, but not entirely gone either. The person he was facing could still have unrelated ulterior motives, and he could be entirely wrong about his guess.
Outdoor Dining Area/Sparring Circle: [Hralia, Gabe, Selene, Wolf, Mort, Koyel]
Selene nods at Hralia's mention of chemistry. "Some folk call it chemistry, yeah. Kari—that's my girlfriend's name—she says she's heard that's a big thing over in Viljesko. That's another country in my world. It borders Thylos to the east. Anyhow, it's because it sounds less magical, I think." She shrugs, flipping her braid over her shoulder. "Stupid, if you ask me. But then, most of what Viljeskans think regarding magic is stupid."
At Hralia's mention of her world's alchemy, Selene furrows her brow. "Turning other metals to gold? That's impossible. Some believe that mages who control metal could do such a thing, but as far as I know, it's a completely unfounded belief. I'm not familiar with transmutation, but nothing that drastic is possible. Gods, can you imagine what it would do to the economy?" She chuckles. "In any case, potions generally aren't toxic unless they're intended to be. So I suppose we have had more luck than you."
Edited by NoItsBecky on Jan 14th 2023 at 9:48:45 AM
Outdoor Dining Area/Sparring Circle[Hralia, Gabe, Selene, Wolf, Mort, Koyel]
As he listened to Gabe's reply, Wolf finished off the last of his meal, skewering slices of sausage on the end of his fork and using them to clean the traces of egg yolk from the plate as best as he could.
He could understand Gabe's shock and brief concern when he mentioned other universes - it had been a shock to him, as well, and the only 'meds' he had taken that morning was his BREO Ellipta, which wasn't known for psychotropic properties or hallucinogenic side effects.
Her reference to gene-modding, added to her previous self-description as "human divergent", gave him a pretty good idea of her origins, now: principally human but with alterations. Such extensive genetic manipulation was still well and truly in the realms of speculative science and Science Fiction in his place and time, but the concept was at least familiar to him. He wished his father were here with him... just so he could say "THIS! This is what reading 'all that Sci Fi shit' is good for!"
Admittedly, this wasn't exactly a scenario the average person usually had to encounter and probably wouldn't feature on any 'Top 10 Reasons to Read Science Fiction'. Probably not even in the top 100.
Her abrupt 'Square up and I'll beat you with it' caught him off guard for a moment, wondering if he had said or done something wrong until he realised the comment was directed at Mort who was grinning at Gabe from across the arena. Wolf's gaze snapped from Mort to Gabe's cane as he made the connection to 'beat you with it'.
Wolf smiled. Gabe was clearly far more confident in her stick-fighting abilities than he was in his own... he didn't think for a moment that his half-arsed fucking about 'quarterstaff fighting' using broomsticks with his mates back in his twenties put him anywhere near Mort and Koyel's league. Some target shooting, on the other hand...
Wolf placed his knife and fork on the now empty plate and picked up his latte. Over at the edge of the arena, Koyel was having a drink and puffing on his pipe; Wolf dug his vape out of a vest pocket. "I c'n well imagine there was nearly a war," he said in answer to Gabe's comment. "We've got wankers who find it hard enough t'comprehend that gender, sexuality 'n' gender expression all exist on separate spectra 'n' can't cope with neurological or ethnic diversity. I c'n only imagine they'd be even worse if they were confronted with human diversity that encompasses people that don't look 'traditionally human'." He was well aware that quite a few people from his own Earth would take one look at Gabe and instantly think "Abomination". Quite a few others would see her as an object of ridicule or derision... which was only slightly less bad. "Sorry, I can't really imagine why gender 'd take a back seat just because exotic variants of humanity exist. If anything, y've added to the rich diversity of humanity while subtracting nothing."
He took a thoughtful puff on his vape. Gene modification - in both Science Fiction and serious hypothetical considerations - didn't always have the best track record. Hell, prenatal genetic testing - as available on his own world - was problematic enough when the wrong people got involved... it was hard to think of it without the word 'eugenics' instantly jumping to mind. Gene modification, well, that'd be a eugenicist's wet dream!
An unpleasant thought occurred to him. "Was your gene modding done as 'n adult, to your specifications, or is this how someone else decided you'd be born?"
Hralia: Inn, outdoor sparring circle
Hralia wonders for a moment if Selene's 'alchemy' even refers to the same thing—her people evidently haven't been drinking mercury, at least. "Indeed it is impossible, as was... eventually discovered."
The girl's mention of 'Viljesko', after some thought, elicits a brief little trilling noise that goes untranslated—a laugh. The apparent animosity reminds her very much of intertribal disputes and disagreements back on Avuura that persist to this very day, though she only knows of those through secondhand accounts and stories told to her by her family unit.
She shakes her head, taking a breath and singing a brief little tune that her translator duly renders into language Selene can understand:
Through song we teach and learn.
Through song we are bonded.
Through song we are one.
"Something passed down from my family troop, about the importance of unity and commonality. It's... you may call it a song or poem, but poetry and stories and songs are one in the same to my people. It loses a fair bit of its flow and nuance translated, of course, but that's the gist."
Gabe: Inn, outdoor dining area > sparring circle
"Yeah, no, this ain't a new tthing." she assures Wolf, taking another bite of her croissant and a long sip of her drink. "Parentts, gran'parents, all like me, all as science made us."
She thinks for a moment, hauling herself up out of her seat with some effort before making her way into the sparring circle, enjoying her meal all the while. "My hist-history is a bit rusty," she swallows. "but the first H-Ddd-H-Divs were military, supersolddier project... their welfare came under scrutiny after it folded, then the ttt-ttech went public after a big push." the lemuroid goes on to explain, finishing the croissant as she looks over the rack of sparring weapons, pointedly not taking any.
"We started using it to treat genettic conditions, dd-ddiseases, birth ddefects... made living in space easier too. Zero-g atttrophy? Fixed tt-that. Then 'bout t-two hundred years ago, got real widd-widespread, big focus on aesthetics, stuff got shady again." she hefts her cane, turning it upside down and gripping it down close to the handle like an impromptu foil as she takes her position across from Mort, assuming a stable fencing stance with some care to avoid putting too much weight on her right knee.
"Suits in leadership dddidn't like us much, thought we were lesser, obscene, then a bunch of us ddddivergents gave 'em the finger, fucked off into space after FTL got big, then..." she shrugs, "yeah."
Turning her attention back to her newfound sparring partner, she does a brief 'come at me' gesture, arms spread. "Ttt-try me."
Edited by Chortleous on Jan 19th 2023 at 11:58:41 AM
[Sparring Circle (Gabe, Mort)]
Mort moved fast, immediately and ruthlessly exploiting the opening Gabe had so generously provided. A quick jab to the center of mass...
...except not quite. A feint, meant to trick Gabe into thinking he was overextending, before falling back to counter whatever she tried. If she had some kind of trick or scheme, he wanted to bait it out. Trick fighting was good and well against goons and bullies, but against Mort, even drunk as he was, it would come down to fundamentals.
He was measuring her stance, her footwork. For him, his grounding and footwork made all the difference when he fought. He wasn't as light on his feet as he'd once been, but he could shift his weight fast, back and forth to make a strike, avoid a blow, or sometimes, just roll with the hits. If he was reading Gabe right, she didn't have that same liberty. How did she compensate? It wasn't impossible, Mort just needed to know the details.
He watched her cane carefully as well. Was this just a good, solid fighting cane? Or was he about to witness some mall ninja shit?
[Dining Room (Caroline Thao, Cam, Many Others)]
Caroline nodded to show her understanding. "Thank you for humoring my questions," she said, with a slight, grateful smile, as her fork toyed with what was left of the cake. "I ask because we have evidence one of our world's previous dominant civilizations was both extremely advanced and highly aggressive. If anyone received a quarantine message, it would have been them." She cut off a slice of the cake with the side of her fork, then continued, "these days, the only travelers out of my world would be my organization and a certain large multinational corporation." She sighed, and explained, "I'm mostly worried they'll end up doing something that we'll all end up paying for. When the rich do stupid and greedy things, they always try to find a way to make someone else pay the price for their actions..." she trailed off here, but it was clear she had no shortage of examples in mind.
Gabe: Inn, outdoor sparring circle
The first thing Gabe's newfound sparring partner might notice is the divergent's utter lack of any measurable reaction to that feint, not moving to parry, not backing away, not so much as flinching—the second thing he would notice is her staring at him like he's an idiot as he pulls back, almost daring him to try again and strike her for real with something of a shit-eating smirk across her snout.
Inwardly, she knows full well she's being sized up, examined, her reactions gauged, and she'd decided right as she stepped into the ring that she wasn't going to give him the advantage. Countless battles in a claustrophobic metal coffin hurtling through the silent void of space had long fostered nigh-unbreakable nerves and made this kind of thing easy.
This is nothing.
If the human wants to dance, she can dance. She'd been making her own assessments of him all the while, of course, noting his apparent lack of augments, age, as well as... mild drunkenness, though she could smell that on him easily enough. All that in mind, though, he seems fairly spry, and with what she'd gathered to be a more than adequate grasp of whatever fighting art he'd been practicing with his prior opponent. Let's test that.
With only a subtle change in grip and a shift in her weight as warning, Gabe lunges forward in a hard two-handed downward swing with the full intent of forcing him to either evade or parry, perhaps block, lest he be hit directly in the head. Should he do either of the latter, he'd find the lemuroid to be far stronger than her wiry physique might suggest, albeit still within human limits.
Edited by Chortleous on Feb 22nd 2023 at 11:26:39 AM
[Sparring Circle (Gabe, Mort)]
Now here's a motherfucker with something to prove. She was totally confident with that bullshit. Not just pretty confident. Totally confident. And she had to show it off. She was right, sure, but that stillness... not the slightest attempt to prepare for the possibility that maybe she was wrong. Arrogance like that gets people killed.
Or maybe she's just Dead God levels of doesn't-give-a-fuck. That'd be just my luck.
Sudden downward strike. Almost outta nowhere! Damn, she's good. Mortimer has no confidence in his raw strength, and with swift footwork, dodged aside. Yet, even though he was not so much as grazed, he silently cursed his age and the beer. Sloppy. I can do better.
His retort, hoping to land before Gabe returned to a ready position, another jab to the ribs. Controlled, probing, but this time to see how she reacted to something that would make contact if not handled. Still conservative, still testing. Everyone had their weakness. He knew his. He just needed to know Gabe's... and to know if she knew it.
Edited by KillerClowns on Mar 25th 2023 at 2:35:09 PM
[Dining Room (Caroline Thao, Many Others)]
Caroline was paying attention as she waited for her food. It paid to keep one's ears open in her current line of work. Approximately one-hundred-ninety-three years old. Nine thousand jumps. Average time in a given reality is... she took out a small computer and input a calculation, slightly less than eight days. Assuming a fairly even spread, that is. What dictates the destination? Thuexatiqome mentioned that Songtech portal devices have safety protocols that prevent the users from inadvertently getting themselves killed. The jumps must as well, or very few jumps would land inside a breathable atmosphere. (Caroline was not an expert on astrophysics and the like, but she'd picked up that most of the cosmos was empty as part of her general education.) Of course, depending on how good the safety protocols are, a certain number of jumps could be very short indeed. It could well be that a certain percentage of those jumps consist of brief times in inhospitable regions or dangerous situations...
Her thoughts were interrupted by the arrival of her food: a rather alarming-looking shortcake.
Qorisa's heartfruit is not named for having a "heart symbol" shape. It instead bears an uncanny resemblance to the meaty heart of a living creature. It isn't so close that one could mistake one for the other, but with its oblong shape, red flesh, disconcerting "veins", and thick red juice, the name was all too apt.
Caroline's large shortcake was thus topped with hearty helping of whipped cream and a thickly sliced, thoroughly recognizable heartfruit. The fruit's sanguine juices dripped down, soaking into the spongy cake, and pooling on the plate below. Caroline had grown used to the fruit's unusual appearance, and simply began cutting herself a particularly promising slice.
After a moment's thought, she picked up her plate and softly approached Cam. "May I join you?" she said. "I'm sure this is common, and you might be tired of it, but my own world's knowledge of inter-dimensional travel is very lacking. So," she gave an amiable smile, "I may have a lot of questions you've probably heard a lot of." However, she did not ask them yet. She'd see how he felt about it first.