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Nov 28, 2020 6:06 AM
ves and imrainai in bliss stage
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"I wanna pilot an anima."

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"Not till you're fifteen."

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"Lame." Maybe she can convince Karen not to tell them when her birthday is. "Why not?"

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"Because half of the people who have ever become pilots have died or blissed or had a nervous breakdown, and we believe this is an inevitable consequence of becoming a pilot."

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"Then unless you think it's less risky with older kids, you should want younger kids doing it, so you don't lose a bunch of really competent and valuable people who've already learned how to do a bunch of stuff."

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"Lev doesn't want people to become pilots unless they're old enough to know what they're getting themselves into."

His own opinion on the subject remains unstated.

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"Well, what am I gonna be getting myself into, exactly?"

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Chris points to a machine of a style Suzanna probably doesn't have the words to describe but Karen would call "zeerust." It shimmers slightly, as if it doesn't quite exist. 

"You'd get into that machine," he says, "and your consciousness will be transported to the aliens' world. It corresponds to ours, but it's... dream logic. Space is warped. The people act like NPCs in a video game-- uh, you probably don't remember video games-- they have one or two lines they say but they can't react to things the way humans do. Sometimes stores will sell nothing but forks. The specific form it takes is affected by the pilot and the anchor. You've met Lev, when he anchored all the people were versions of his parents and they told you that you're a useless failure. My friend Rachel's is neon-colored and plastic. I-- am actually not comfortable describing my dream world to a fourteen-year-old."

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"Doesn't sound that scary unless you have bad dreams." She makes a mental note to tell Anemone not to mess with the robots.

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"The content of your dream world isn't directly related to what you dream about, but generally well-adjusted people tend to have more pleasant dream worlds," he says. "The anchor sits here. They talk you through your dream world; like I said before, their mind also helps shape it. The anchor's love forms the chassis of your anima, which will protect you in the dream world. It's more complicated than this, but basically the more they love you the stronger the chassis is. When the chassis is damaged, your relationship with the anchor is damaged. You form other parts of your anima-- your weapons, your sensors, that sort of thing-- from other relationships, and it works the same way, except that they don't shape your dream world."

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"Coooool. - is it dangerous to be an anchor, the way it's dangerous to be a pilot?"

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"The anchors aren't going to die, and seem to be less likely to bliss or have breakdowns than pilots, but no one's sure whether we're going to discover something horrifying five years down the line."

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Close enough to safe, then. "So Karen could be an anchor for me and that'd work fine?"

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"Karen's your leader? Maybe. We generally prefer that anchors be high-- the jargon we use is 'intimacy'-- relationships, which basically means relatives or people you're dating."

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"Karen's my aunt. Technically. When the bliss happened my mom fell asleep, but Karen didn't fall asleep right away, and then she realized everyone else was falling asleep and not waking up, and she took drugs for like a week so we'd have someone to take care of us."

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"It seems likely she'd do fine," he says. "One final point: we don't totally understand how this works, but-- if you use strong, healthy, high-intimacy relationships to build your anima, it'll be easier for you to do things and you won't damage the relationships as much and you won't get injured in the dreamworld, and three months after you start piloting you will bliss or break down. If you die in the dreamworld, you'll die in real life. If enough of your relationships fall apart-- either because of normal stress or because your anima was damaged-- you will have a breakdown or you'll bliss. Inevitably, at some point, if you keep piloting, you will break down or bliss or die."

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"Someone's gotta do it, though, yeah?"

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"Yes."

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She regards the robot somewhat more solemnly than before.

"I'll let you know when it's my birthday, then."

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"If you like, I can request you if you decide to stay here, and until then you can scavenge or anchor or learn to fix solar panels or shoot a gun."

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"Sure. Guess I'll fix solar panels until then."

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"I look forward to it."

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Rebecca is going to pull all of the children out of school and/or work for physicals.

They have what Rebecca has, much to her irritation, come to think of as the usual array of problems: injuries that didn't heal quite right, parasites, malnourishment. She treats what she can, regrets how limited her medical cabinet is these days, writes down the problems she can't fix for her records, and tells the kitchens to make sure they eat extra protein and vegetables. 

They are variously competent at hiding their surprise at Rebecca's gray hair and wrinkles.

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And Lev pulls Karen into his office for a meeting. 

"What did you do before the bliss?"

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"Lots of things, none of them very impressive. When it happened I was working at UPS and a nursing home. Before that I worked at a supermarket and a library and a pet store, plus some other places I wasn't at very long."

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