Maria followed the man’s gesture and saw a set of stairs leading underground. She immediately realized what the man had meant when the wind turned into a deafening roar and the sound of objects hitting the building became ubiquitous. Niarith and Lolanene were already on their way down the stairs, and the man followed quickly behind Maria as she did the same. As the man entered the stairway, he slammed the door closed and pulled down another metal shield from the ceiling. He did the same at the bottom of the stairs. The basement they’d entered was dimly lit, but well furnished. In front of the stairs was a wood paneled wall, which went to the left for a few feet, then corned left, and hit the wall with the stairs. On that wall to Maria’s left was a door to another room. On her right the basement formed a sort of wide hallway, which led to a small bar on the left, and a living area to the right. The floor was carpeted with strange, brown, shiny, almost sharp fibers that looked uncomfortable to walk on, except for near the bar, where it was wooden, and the living area, which had a softer, light blue carpet.
The girls filed into the bar and living area, which had a comfortable looking couch, a large recliner near it, and another pair of HoloTV poles embedded in a shelving unit which held various decorative items. On one wall was a false fireplace, in which crackled a holographic fire, though real heat radiated from it nonetheless. Along all the walls were various photos of farm equipment, and some of the man with what must have been family. There were shelves perpendicular to the couch, on which many small models of farming Auto-Maton units sat. The three girls sat on the couch wordlessly, listening to the sound of the wind above.
The man entered the room after a moment, awkwardly standing near the bar, perhaps unsure what to make of the three strangers he was now trapped in his home with. “Iskhodya iz togo, chto proizoshlo vyshe, ya polagayu, vy menya ne ponimayete.”
The three girls glanced at each other, not understanding the man. Niarith spoke up. “Uhm, sir? I’m sorry but we can’t understand you. Do you understand us?”
He signed, a look of annoyance on his face. He looked down, the palm of his right hand on his forehead. “Zamechatel'no, inoplanetyane…”
“No.. planet.. Yanay?” Niarith tried to sound out part of what he’d said.
He nodded “Da, inoplanetyanin. Vy ne otsyuda. Yesli by vy byli tam, vy by govorili na etom yazyke.”
Niarith sighed, and pointed to herself “My name is Niarith. She pointed to the others in sequence “Maria, Lolanene.”
He stood, staring for a moment, his hand on his chin, interpreting. “Akh ya vizhu.” He pointed to himself “Menya zovut Borisoriv Kozanaliv.” He stepped further into the room, sitting down on the large recliner that was near the couch. He then turned to the HoloTV and said “Televideniye, na”
The HoloTV immediately lit up, showing the iconic HomeScreen, where the user could choose what media to play on the device. Borisorov said, again to the TV “Kanal, mestnost' 884, sistema Syrcus, planeta Niltelenidae, sektor Lirato, poseleniye Dzhiato.”
The image on the holographic screen changed to show a news station. He spoke again. “Pryamaya podprogramma subtitrov k nastroyke za predelami mira.” The man speaking on the TV spoke in the same language as Borisorov, but subtitles appeared on the screen in the standard language spoken in FIC space. [As reported earlier, the storm currently over the Jiato area has intensified, all residents within 100 kilometers of Jiato are advised to take cover immediately, if you have not already done so. We are recording wind speeds of over 400 kph. Expect major damage to any Auto-Maton Units left outdoors. Atmospheric projections currently indicate this storm will strengthen slightly within the next several hours, before weakening, and potentially dissipating, as it reaches Lake Nilaron.]
“Well that don’t sound good.” Lolanene was huddled up on the couch, holding her knees. “‘Course the first real weather I get t’ experience is some kinda storm from the deepest dark. Just my luck.” Niarith wordlessly reached over and put an arm around the girl.
Maria simply sat awkwardly, not sure what to do or say in this situation. Borisorov seemed to relax upon hearing of the incredible severity of the storm outside, and leaned back in his chair. Maria turned to Niarith “Hey dear?” Niarith turned to her. “Did you know the people here didn’t speak our language before we got here?”
Niarith sheepishly looked down at the floor. “Uhm… no.”
Maria just stared for a moment. “How did you possibly miss that? I thought you said you’d researched this world!”
“Okay, so. When I said research, I may have just uhm, looked up ‘nearby agri-worlds’ on the VRnet and just set a course for the nearest one.”
Maria just stared, her mouth slightly open, but she had no words. She looked to Borisorov, who simply shrugged, having no idea what was going on. He seemed to think for a moment, then his face brightened and he said “Vot der'mo! U menya yest' ideya!” He leapt up from his chair and wandered away into the other room across the basement. For several minutes there was nothing but the foreign language on the TV, and the howl of the storm outside.
The man returned, holding what looked like a small metal box. It had speaker holes in it, and a small opening on the other end. He flipped a switch on the side of the box, and spoke into it. A moment later, a jarringly familiar synthetic voice came out of the box <MESSAGE BEGINS> <THIS SHOULD ALLOW ME TO COMMUNICATE WITH YOU THREE MORE EFFECTIVELY> <MESSAGE ENDS>
Lolanene flinched violently, and Niarith immediately stood up, her eyes wild. Maria very nearly rushed the man. Borisorov stared in utter confusion. He spoke again <MESSAGE BEGINS> <THIS IS JUST A TRANSLATION DEVICE> <PLEASE TRY TO STAY CALM> <MESSAGE ENDS>
Niarith regained her senses first “Listen. Sir. We’ve recently had a very traumatic experience with that specific synthetic voice. It’s nothing you did, but. Please don’t use that.”
He sighed <MESSAGE BEGINS> <I STILL CANNOT UNDERSTAND YOU. IT IS ONLY ONE WAY> <MESSAGE ENDS>
Maria stepped up to the man and took the device from him all in one motion. She spoke into it. “This voice is traumatic to us. Please do not use it.” <SOOBSHCHENIYe NACHINAYETSYA> <ETOT GOLOS TRAVMATICHESKI DLYA NAS> <NE ISPOL'ZUYTE YEGO> <SOOBSHCHENIYe KONETS>
The synthetic voice that the girls knew as the voice of Dr. Formolius’s Units sounded odd, speaking this other language. Borisorov listened to the translated message from the device, and nodded. “Konechno. Ne khotel by dostavit' vam diskomfort. YA proshu proshcheniya.” He took the box back from Maria and placed it on the bar. He then sat back down in his chair with a sigh. The wind continued to howl up above, but for now, things were okay. Cozy, even.