the other main character is this kiddo: Eli, a 10yo boy from 1870s London, "lifted" from the past and stuck in Nikhil's care for training on how to be a modern person. Eli is a rambunctious little brat who's confused but he's trying really hard ok??? he's never seen a microwave, self-driving cars, or women in trousers. he LOVES: food, adventure stories, being doted on, befriending strange folk. he HATES: eating insects, being condescended to he's UNSURE ABOUT: wearing short sleeves in public

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there are more characters (ohhh yes) but i'll talk about them later.

so, mandarin is the lingua franca in datavend, both bc china (now also a corporate state) is the dominant world power, and bc datavend was itself founded by chinese expats. it's still a recognizably western society and everyone speaks english as the common tongue, but chinese is the language of formality.

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eli learns only one phrase in chinese, and it's "sustainable development." he uses it all the time.

nikhil (tucking eli into bed): goodnight, kid.
eli: sustainable development.
nikhil: yep.......................... that's right

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