553/A Lonely Bird

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A Lonely Bird
Date of Scene: 16 March 2020
Location: Art Classroom - Happy Harbor High School
Synopsis: Colette finds Kian at last. They talk about wings and lying. Much is learned about alien psychologies.
Cast of Characters: Kian, Colette O'Connail

Kian has posed:
    If you have wings and a sharp knife, you are never at a loss for a pen.
    Certainly Kían has found it more comforting to go the traditional route, than to simply take up an Earth-made pen or pencil.  There's so little that makes sense to him, he's going to clutch at what he can.
    He has taken the advice to keep himself out of sight.  He doesn't understand it, but he has taken it, and after hours in a corner of the art room, he's quietly and methodically scratching away with a quill, a pot of ink, and many sheets of paper.
    It's helpful that he's a studious sort by nature… but what fiend from which hell came up with this abomination of a language called 'Ing-lis'?

Colette O'Connail has posed:
    Colette has been busy since getting her posting as a TA.  She's been impressing with the extra shifts she's put in.  The school is new, the teaching staff is still somewhat in flux, and an enthusiastic TA is a boon.
    So far her ulterior motives do not appear to have been detected.  She has been scouting the student body, providing little provocations and tests, evaluating and searching out those amongst them who may come under the category of unusual talents.  Another search has so far been fruitless though.  She became interested in Happy Harbor when Captain Marvel mentioned such a school existed, and Kian would be sent there.  Such a school is frankly so unusual that when you know it exists, it isn't hard to figure out which new school it would be.  Her interactions with the other students are confirmation enough that she surely must be in the right place, but so far, no Kian.
    She had of course considered the possibility that Kian's appearance would be disguised in some way.  His poor grasp of English should surely have given him away though.  She also rather doubted that Kian would fail to greet her if he saw her, regardless of what SHIELD might have told him.  She might have been losing faith in ever finding him if it wasn't for a few unguarded remarks she had overheard in the staff lounge, of a student being kept away from the rest of the students.  A clue.
    A clue that lead Colette to wander the halls after hours on her TA days, checking empty dorms, classrooms, rooms that are still under construction, basements, everywhere.  And then finally, success.
    Colette peers through the narrow window in the art room door, and sees an empty room.  No… not quite empty.  There's a mess of paper on one desk.  She peers round, checking the angles, and there he is.  Unmistakable.  What other student has wings?
    The door opens with a soft click, and closes a second later.  Colette stands there grinning.  "Hello, Kian.  Um, Kie."  She holds her fingers to her lips and gives a 'shhh'.  Kian may well have picked up on the human gesture by now, all things considered, but who knows?

Kian has posed:
    Kían looks up, startled, fearful, he's been caught when it was explained to him that he should not be seen… wait.  Recognition settles in, and he bounds up from his desk and across the room, chattering happily in his language.  The first couple words—"Kolét tavár'h!"—are the only ones not spoken at extremely high speed.  She is a familiar face—and more importantly, she saved his life.
    He looks like he's going to go for a genuine flying tackle, until the last possible second he slams on the brakes and stops just in front of her.  "Kié, Kolét.  Know not hyu here," he says in thickly accented, halting, clumsy English.
    No, he hasn't picked up on the 'sh' gesture yet.

Colette O'Connail has posed:
    Colette grins down at Kian and leans in to give him a quick hug, careful of his wings.  Then puts a hand on his shoulder and starts to guide him back to his corner.  She makes a downward gesture with her other hand, and whispers "Speak quietly," to him "I am not supposed to be here."
    Again there is that reminder of the alienness surrounding Kian.  Physical contact, but no mental contact.  The same weird carrier signal.  At least he knows it's not universal here—that mind contact is possible.  He has done it often enough with Carol.  How strange it must be, to never speak mind to mind.
    "Your English is getting better," Colette says with a smile.  "I… had to check on you Kian.  Make sure you are safe."

Kian has posed:
    It's clear from the look on Kían's face that not all of Colette's words landed with equal comprehension.  He has no way of knowing whether she can tell, but he actively tries to make mental contact through the physical contact.  Nothing.  It's like trying to have a mental conversation with a wall.  Alas.  He was hoping for a shortcut so they could talk more easily.
    "In'g-lis iss… nnh."  He shakes his head and shudders.  "Iss no e-zee.  Iss… nnh."  Spread out on his work surface are several sheets of paper, covered with what must be his written language, interspersed with less gracefully block-printed letters and words.  They're not as unformed as a first grader's might be, but they were clearly written with uncertainty and unfamiliarity.
    "Iss no e-zee," he repeats.

Colette O'Connail has posed:
    If she can tell he's trying to make contact, it certainly doesn't show.  The expression of linguistic confusion certainly lands though.  Colette's expression is sympathetic.  Then smiling, encouraging.
    Colette picks up one of the pieces of paper, scanning what Kian has written.  "Not easy," she corrects carefully.  "English is not easy."  Another smile.  "Hard.  English is hard."  She speaks slowly and precisely.  She places the paper back down and takes a seat.
    "Are you happy, Kian?" she asks.  "It is hard.  To be here.  Away from home.  But I hope that you can be happy."  She glances towards the window.  "Do you understand happy?"  She gives a smile and points to her lips.  "Happy."

Kian has posed:
    "Iss har't," Kían repeats.  There isn't much to get from the birdman's notes, at least not without being able to read his language.  Most of the English is single words and phrases, with explanatory (to him) commentary.  Perhaps interestingly, there is one longer stretch of written English, and rather than going back to the beginning, on the next line it just carries on from the right hand side of the page, with the letter forms reversed, heading back the other way.
    As for her question… that really gives him pause.  "Hápi—" he begins, and tries again: "No know.  Alone, but alife.  No wit' f'ren's, fa-mi-lee but hef here to be.  No know, I."  And there he just trails off.  He just hasn't got the words, not in English—although his eyes speak volumes.

Colette O'Connail has posed:
Colette shakes her head at Kian.  She takes his hand, and very carefully places it on top of her own, then gestures from him to her.  "Friends.  Okay?  Not old friends.  Not friends from home.  New friends, yes?"  Another smile.
    "Soon, you will have more new friends."  Colette speaks slowly and carefully, emphasising repeated words, gesturing where she thinks it will help.  "I know someone who can fly, like you.  With wings.  Like you."  She points to his wings.  "Soon, I will help you to meet him.  Okay?  Good?  But you must learn more English."
     Colette takes the paper with the longer text on it, and a fresh sheet.  She takes a pen from her pocket and says "Watch."  Slowly and carefully she copies out Kian's text, but when she reaches the end of the line she lifts her pen, eyes going to Kian, and moves it slowly and carefully to the next line, making sure he sees her doing it, and continues from there.  "Like this.  Understand?"

Kian has posed:
    Kían actually smiles just a little.  "Know, I.  Kolét tavár'h iss f'ren Kolét.  Tavár iss f'ren."  He points at Colette.  "Hyu iss Kolét tavár'h."
    He listens carefully, clearly trying to glean as much information as he can—and his eyes go wide when he hears the words 'fly' and 'wings'.  Startled, he slips back into his language: "Akh'shon ar'h-táiNa Akiár'khe-táiOkh… AKH'tái?"  The last question sounds almost like a demand, and he takes a moment to force himself to calm down.
    "A-po-lo-jee," he finally says, carefully sounding out the word.  "Hyu say iss a one like me?  Wit' kan'thar… nnh!"  His frustration with the language barrier is more than a little evident.  "Wit' win's, like I?"  He spreads his wings slightly as he speaks.  "Iss no Akiár, but iss haf win's like I?"
    He pays no attention to the writing lesson.  It's not as important as what she said before.

Colette O'Connail has posed:
    Colette cannot help a big grin at Kian's reaction.  She struggles to keep a straight face.  "Yes.  Not Akiar.  Human.  But… special human.  Special, like Captain, like Leonid, like you.  He has a gift.  He can change.  If he… wants to fly, he has wings.  Kan'thar.  One day, wings.  One day, no wings.  Understand?"
    "But!"  Colette picks up the two sheets and holds them to Kian, one next to each other, giving them a shape.  "English!  You must learn.  Learn first.  A little more.  Then soon, I will take you to see him.  Okay?  Look!  Learn this.  It is important."
    Colette places the two sheets of paper in front of him and taps her finger on the one she wrote.  "This lesson is important, Kian tavar'h.  If you learn this, English is easier.  Not as hard."

Kian has posed:
    Well, that explanation didn't help focus matters any for the little birdman.  "How iss haf win's and not haf win's?  Kan'thar takh!  …nnh.  Win's iss win's.  Iss… oh.  Oh!  Iss rhy'thar, iss God-gif', takh?  Yis?"
    He perches himself on the stool again, and picks up his quill, more to give his hand something to do than anything else.  "Iss ler'n Ing-lis.  Ki'thar iss gooder… nnh.  Bet-ter.  But only on touch.  An' hyu, no on touch.  Iss—"  And there's a small, crisp crackle as his frustration gets the better of him and he snaps his quill in half.  "Ái, c'Rhys'yw…."  Quickly and methodically, he crumples it into a little wad and holds it tight in his fist and concentrates.
    There is a growl of electricity and a sharp but brief scent of ozone.
    When he opens his hand again, nothing remains but ash.  "Iss back to God-s," he says reverentially, dusting his hand clean and selecting one of the two other quills he had prepared.
    Now he's willing and prepared to pay attention.

Colette O'Connail has posed:
    "Yes!  A gift.  Rhy'thar.  You will see.  Soon."  Colette gives another tap on the page.  "When you learn a bit more English!  Then… proper flying.  With a new tavar, with kan'thar."  If that's not going to encourage the bird-man to learn quickly, nothing will.
    Colette watches Kian's business with the quill with considerable curiosity, and tilts her head at the reverence.  An interesting data-point.  And kind of touching.  When he's done, she focuses on the page again, tracing the words with her fingers.  "Like this… then… here.  Down, and start again, not back.  Understand?"  She writes the sentence out again to show him, then turns back to look at him.
    "Kian tavar'h.  Please… Captain Marvel, Professor MacIntyre… they do not know that I know where you are.  Ummm.  Me, here… secret.  Shhh.  "There's that finger to the lips gesture again.  "Do not tell, okay?  They… care about you.  Some humans are scared of aliens.  Scared of you.  They want you to be safe.  I am not supposed to know, they worry I would tell people.  We will be quiet.  Okay?  I have to go now…" A finger pointing to herself, and then to the door.  "But I will come back.  Help with learning English.  Help you meet new friends.  Help you get lots of chance to fly.  Soon!"  Big smile.

Kian has posed:
    Kían watches the writing lesson, taking notes in his own language… and yes, when he reaches the end of a line, he simply drops down one line and continues writing in the other direction.  "Iss… nnh.  No haf wor'd," he says with evident frustration.  He's only been learning the language for less than a month—there are a lot of words for a lot of things he doesn't have yet.  "Iss no bes' way to write.  Will do… but iss no bes't way," he finally says with regination, lacking any way to explain.
    He listens carefully to Colette's explanation—but clearly without total comprehension.  "Hyu iss wit' s'kool, yis?  Iss Kolét q'sakh, iss tea-cher?  Mar-fel iss know hyu know I.  I no… nnh!  No know how say."
    This time he has the presence of mind to set his quill aside… and then his small, three-fingered fist comes down on the tabletop with a bang!  "No can say!  No haf wor'd!  An' wit' hyu, no haf ki'thar!"  He taps his temple.  "Can not say, what need say!  No wor'd, no ki'thar.  What hyu say, I no… I not know.  What I know, I not… I can not say.  Iss… iss… nnh!"  He looks like he wants to cry just from the sheer frustration of having a mind and not being able to express it.

Colette O'Connail has posed:
    Colette knows one way that will be sure to break the communication barrier.  She leans forwards, wraps her arms around Kian, and gives him a hug.  "Hey.  It's okay Kian.  I know it is frustrating.  It is hard.  I am sorry I don't… do not have ki'thar."  More than she wants to admit, but that's another story.  "But it will get better."  She lets him go and leans back.
    "Ye…yes… " she says slowly.  "I am… a teacher, sort of.  A new teacher.  Not supposed to know you are here.  Not every teacher knows.  I came here because Marvel said you would be here.  So I can make sure Kian tavar'h is okay.  Marvel does not know I am here.  She thinks… she does not know me.  Does not know it is safe.  So if she knows I am here, she will be unhappy with me.  So… do not say, okay?  Shhh."  The finger gesture again, then a smile.
    Colette taps on the page again.  "Learn.  Then soon everything will be better.  I promise."  The smile becomes a grin.  "And no, boustrophedonic writing systems not better.  And you don't need to understand that word yet."  The smile becomes a laugh.

Kian has posed:
    Kían is first a little surprised at the hug, but he does not fight it.
    Then he leans into it, and hugs Colette back.
    And then without any warning, he starts to cry.  He doesn't bother speaking, he just clings tight until all the fear and frustration and everything drains out of him and he doesn't feel better so much as he feels less bad.  "A-po-lo-jee," he finally snuffles out, not looking up.
    He listens, tries to understand.  "But… I know hyu here.  Hyu know hyu here.  Can no say I no… I not know."

Colette O'Connail has posed:
    And there's another thing humans and Akiar have in common.  Parallel evolution—parallel biologies—produce parallel expressions, parallel gestures, parallel body languages.  There are no universals.  There are beings out there who don't follow the common path, who have fundamentally different body languages.  In a former life, Colette met a few of them.  Most she met were surprisingly similar how they express themselves.
    Colette gives Kian a pat on the shoulder and a gentle squeeze.  In all probability that translates too.  "You know I am here.  I know I am here," she repeats, slowly.  "Marvel does not know I am here.  It is… good if nobody tells her that I am here.  If she knows I am here, she might believe that I should not be here.  Then I would have to leave.  If she knows, she might make a mistake, and everyone is unhappy.  Understand?"

Kian has posed:
    "No," Kían says.
    "No… un-er-s'tan?  No.  Iss not… iss not s'kool of Mar-fel.  Iss s'kool of Mórikan miríth.  Iss not s'kool of Mar-fel," he says with certainty.  "Mar'fel good, iss not haf Kolét go.  No.  No un-er-s'tan."

Colette O'Connail has posed:
    Light dawns.  He can't sense her mind—the logical conclusion is the Martian part of her mind has somehow tapped subconciously into her human brain and triggered a shielding program as a self-defense mechanism.  He doesn't understand why, so presumably his race has never developed mental shields.  They only have single language—which means it is probably an artificial language, and their linguistic development occurred psychically.
    To a martian, psychic barriers are second nature.  They preserve a strong distinction between their public minds and their private minds.  The inner voice, shared only with those closest to them, and the thoughtstream of the race.  The Akiar?  Perhaps it is all thoughtstream.  To such a race, how do you explain the idea of withholding information?  They probably have no such concept in their language.
    "Kian… " Colette speaks very slowly and carefully.  Even more so now as she searches out the right way to word this.  "Because Humans… because we do not have the ki'thar, it is possible… I know something, and Marvel does not.  Or someone can know something, but not understand it fully.  Like a child who has not yet had time to learn.  If your information..  if you do not know everything, if you do not know all, you can make mistakes.  Marvel is good.  Morrigan is good.  They want you to be safe.  But they do not know my mind.  They are not certain I also want you to be safe.  So they will worry.  They may make a wrong decision if they know.  So it is good not to tell, when they do not know all.  So they do not make a mistake.  When we can not share, when we do not have ki'thar, sometimes this is the best way."

Kian has posed:
    That's a lot to process, and Kían has to condense a lot of really complex concepts into the few simple words he knows in Colette's language.  "But—when I come here, hyu get me from water.  Hyu… safe?  Safe me.  Can not thin' you bad to me."

Colette O'Connail has posed:
    Colette nods her head slowly.  "When I went into the water to save you… it was dangerous to me.  Marvel saw that.  She did not see you fall.  Did not see that… there was no time to find a better way.  A safer way.  So maybe she thought that I made a mistake, even when I tried to help.  I am young, Kian.  When Marvel or Morrigan think about me, they think maybe because I am young I make mistakes.  Even when I want to help.  So they might think it is dangerous to you if I am here, because I might make a mistake.  Because we have no ki'thar, they can not know it is safe.  That I will not make a mistake.  When you teach a child about fire, you must also teach them that fire can hurt them.  It is a mistake to teach them about fire if you cannot teach them it can hurt too.  If Marvel knows I am here when she cannot know it is safe, it is like teaching a child about fire, but not teaching the child that fire can hurt.  Later, when Marvel knows that I am safe, it is okay to tell her.  Not yet."

Kian has posed:
    "No, no, no… not un'er'stan'.  c'Rhys'yw, hwy hyu not haf ki'thar?  Iss e-zee.  Nnh."
    It takes him a few minutes.  He has to think.  Maybe even pray.
    "I… no say I know hyu here," he finally says, with some difficulty.  "But if ask, I mus' say.  No ask, no say.  Ask, say.  I can no say wrong thing when I know."

Colette O'Connail has posed:
    Big smile.  "You got it, birdy buddy," Colette says.  Religious issues with lying?  Makes a kind of sense.  Akiar have telepathy.  Presumably most of the animals on their planet do not.  They probably think the gods gave them telepathy to make them special.  The sharing of mind, the sharing of knowledge.  Lying would be a betrayal of the god's gift, perhaps.
    Colette gives Kian's shoulder another squeeze, and stands up.  "If she doesn't ask though, no say.  I have to go now Kian, but I will be back soon.  To help you learn more English!  And soon… flying.  Shhhh."  Again the fingers to lip gesture.
    "See you soon, birdy buddy… Kian tavar'h."