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Mar 21, 2019 9:59 AM
Mikoto and Elvira in Milliways
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Terror and - it doesn't look like there's anything she can do about it, except hope whoever actually deals with mages here shows up sooner or something.

 

If she's utterly careful about not actually using any magic it won't - actually be that bad, having a collar off is getting there in as bad as non-volitional gets but it's still non-volitional -

(Terror)

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"I don't know why you're afraid, or why you're so reluctant to have it removed! It's holding you back! No one here cares, Milliways doesn't even care about crimes committed outside the main room. If you don't believe me, we can ask Bar. We can ask other people. I can get someone to demonstrate magic to you and that theirs isn't bound. I can't show you myself, because my world doesn't even have magic."

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More flinching at that tone and nonverbals. (She doesn't know what to do, and she can redouble on compliant and cooperative and trying-not-to-be-trouble but it doesn't seem like that helps and she doesn't know what else to do-)

"There's only mages in - the world I came from, but there's - fiction with power-havers who aren't mages. Who are - still" she says a sci-fi word for 'like humans but including other species too'. "I - understand if that's real in some other worlds."

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"If your definition of 'mage' doesn't include all power-havers then I can say with some confidence that no other world I've heard of has your world's version of mages."

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She doesn't know what to say to that, what she's supposed to say to that.

(She's spent enough of her on recess time reading, she's read enough sci-fi and fantasy and all that. They've got worlds with mages, and worlds without magic, and worlds with 'witches' or 'empowered' or 'metahumans' who have powers but count as humans-and-the-like, and worlds with mages and also that. And sometimes there's renegade mages who try to misinform some poor unsuspecting magicless kingdom about what they are, or try to pretend to be some other thing. She's read enough about how those kinds of stories end

(The stories are for humans, don't tend to specify once the mage disappears offscreen if it's torture to death or being sold off to someone who thinks that torturing mages more than punishment allows is just great fun, or if occasionally the Authority of Mages eventually  finishes tearing them apart repeatedly and telling its own mages to put them back together and sends them off to some high oversight factory for the next decades where someone thinks their work is worth putting up with them screaming at night.) 

She doesn't know what worlds this woman has heard of. She doesn't know if this is some elaborate test or the woman is - very confused about something somehow or only ran into worlds with non-mage power-havers or - 

She does know what'll happen to her, if someone who definitely knows what a mage is and isn't pretending about it comes by and she's talking (or giving any sign she's thinking) about oh, what if she doesn't wear a collar and wanders around with people telling her that acting like a human power-haver is just totally fine. (Well, maybe not exactly what'll happen - probably aliens invented their own punishments and didn't just somehow copy Earth's exactly. She's not imagining that'll make them any better from the receiving end).) 

Looks down and doesn't say anything.

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"...Look, why don't you talk to Bar, who knows more about different worlds than me, and - you can recommend a book or several to me that explains mages, and your world, so I'll understand the inferential gaps better. Bar can provide me with any openly published book in any accessible world."

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"Yes, ma'am.

I'm sorry, I don't think I know books like that, ma'am."

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"I'll ask Bar for recommendations, then. Are you alright to return to the main room?"

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"Yes, ma'am." (She has no idea what could possibly make her not alright for that - she's healed and everything, and she wasn't even injured to the point of unfunctionality to begin with. But that doesn't particularly matter. And at least the stupidly terrifying interactions seemed to have stopped for the moment, and the woman is not currently trying to take her collar off.)

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"This way, then." And she'll lead the way back into the main room, and up to Bar, where she asks for a few books on Elvira's world to be transferred to her data pad.

She apparently ignores Elvira after than, speed reading through the books. Going by how fast her screen's scrolling, her reading speed is firmly in 'inhuman' levels - there's no way she's looking at any given screen significantly longer than the human eye can register an image as distinct.

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She follows, stands next to the bar (Bar?). Isn't sure how to talk to them(?), attempts out loud as the woman had done.

"I was told to talk to you, sir or ma'am?"

(She is not about to try reading over the human's shoulder.)

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Elvira's world has mages! They do magic. Compared to other kinds of magic she might have seen worlds have, not super powerful but pretty varied. Healing, wards, imperfect but existent truth magic, constrained but existent teleportation, senses, detection, some disguise, enhancing technology, integrating with computers, making items with magically given properties, various fine scientific applications, improvements to crops and roads and buildings. A few violent applications though those aren't used much in the present day. And so on.

Mages are enslaved. Specific policies have varied and do vary, but - all of them, for all of recorded history and everywhere in the present. It's both considered quite important and taken for granted. 

US mages grow up in facilities called magehouses before being sold or sent off to various jobs. They are never left alone with each other, or for that matter alone at all (with a few occasional exceptions including field mages). They never have their own space, nearly never have belongings. They do have free time, usually on a schedule like everything else. 

Mages who break rules, seem like they're considering breaking rules, or might have ended up with the idea that they might break rules are punished. Rules include actual behavior as well as details like attitude. Mages who look like they're going to be too much trouble are killed in childhood. Mages who were not killed in childhood but then turn out to be too much trouble are usually tortured to death.

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To Elvira: a napkin appears on the bartop, saying, "Ma'am is fine. I'm Bar. First drink is free, and I can also answer questions. Not all of them, but many."

(For Mikoto: Does it say where mages come from? Are they born exclusively from other mages, scattered in the human population...? Is there a justification given for this - even societies with deeply ingrained slavery tend to have some kind of spiel saying why it's okay.)

And that explains some of why Elvira seems so reluctant to trust her. Mikoto figures it's likely she's refusing to believe - or risk believing - that no, this place doesn't have a concept of mages like her world does, and most from Mikoto's world wouldn't even think to enslave them.

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"Yes, ma'am." 

She was told to talk, so she can't just stand here. Can't ask about who's in charge of her because the human who was insisting no one is is still right there; can't ask about said human, same reason. (Can't ask the kinds of things mages have no business asking about in general, obviously.)

"Might I know if someone wanted me to come here?"

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By natural default mages are born scattered. Mages are somewhat more likely to have a mage kid, but pretty much no one allows that to happen if they can help it, because after a point the pregnant mage can use the unborn mage's power and it's hard to contain properly. There's a way to 'draw' mage births to desired targets. These days in most developed nations mages are born in artificial wombs (no one else is; the artificial wombs aren't good enough to successfully carry a non-mage human.)

Mages are fundamentally untrustworthy, dangerous, treacherous, and generally terrible. If they're not contained properly they're a threat to society and everyone, but with the right handling they can be kept in place and useful. Occasionally despite all precautions a mage gets away and starts destroying things and attacking people, which just goes to show why they need to be kept under control.

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For Elvira: "The landlords control the door. They don't communicate with me otherwise."

For Mikoto: Hm. She'll try to find more about the collars.

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"Might I know who the landlords are?

Might I know what they would want me to do?"

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Collars keep a mage's power contained, and keep a mage from using it without permission. They come with controls, which are keyed to those authorized to give a particular mage permissions. Out of range of any controls, they'll generally go to a default suppression level - no active magic, but they allow a mage's magical senses and passive healing. (You can tighten controls beyond that, but outside of neutralization in an emergency (which collars can thus conveniently double as!) you generally shouldn't - it's pretty bad for the mage on the receiving end.)

The technical explanation for how collars work is complicated and magic-involving and not generally published publicly in full. 'If you try to take it off it'll explode' is pretty common knowledge, though, and there's a variety of attempts at layman explanations for why that's the case.

Basically: you might naively imagine that a collar contains magic the way you might contain a physical creature by putting a wall around it. This is incorrect. The collar is in interaction with the mage's power, and this is what creates the containment, and suddenly breaking it causes the explosion. (There are attempts at analogy with diagrams of popping a balloon, or two people standing up leaning against each other and one of them disappearing causing the other to fall over, even though it's not quite the same.)

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For Elvira: "The landlords control the door. I don't know their identities. They don't make demands of anyone, except the rules for the main room, which are no nudity and no violence."

For Mikoto: So she'll need other magic, preferably meta-magic of some kind, or else some way of - making the explosion not matter.

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She's pretty sure that translates to 'if they got her here for a reason she's not getting to know it'. 

Attempts to think of more questions that are probably permitted.

"...Might I have a drink?" (She doesn't know if local mages have the same rule about being allowed to ask that, but it is hopefully not too dangerous a test, and possibly to some extent an informative one. And she is thirsty.

She keeps an eye on the human for objections.)

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For Elvira: a drink tailored exactly to her tastes appears!

For Mikoto: She writes a note to Bar asking if security is likely to be able to get Elvira's collar off. The response is that Bar's not sure, but some of the people who've worked security in the past have had likely powers. (She's also continuing to read about magic and collars throughout this, but she doesn't expect to find much more useful information).

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...that isn't water, but it looks like she was allowed to ask, and you drink what you're given as well as eat. She drinks it. 

...it tastes very good. She's briefly distracted and somewhat worried about this (was she supposed to be given a taste suppressant?), but, well, it was given. She drinks while she tries to come up with more questions again.

 

"Might I be permitted to ask about a mages' code" ...they might not call it that "- rules for mages of - a world that isn't mine?" That might be pushing it but she's going to be in for something anyway, and if she doesn't try anything she'll take longer to learn anything. 

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Well, if she was wondering why Elvira was concerned about the collar, her reading will inform her that mages who end up without collars can expect some amount of torture as deterrent in case they could have avoided this and so they don't get ideas, and mages who end up without collars and then do unpermitted magic can expect quite a lot of torture. 

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For Elvira: "Yes, but relatively few worlds have mages with the same magic system as your world, and many of those worlds are variants on yours. Rules for different magic users exist in many worlds, either as formalized laws or as informal codes of conduct. Do you want examples of rules pertaining to your magic system, or examples pertaining to magic in general?"

For Mikoto: Does it describe what mages are capable of, once relieved of their collar?

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(...that's a kind of weird concept to think about in reality, variants. Not that most of this isn't weird to have in reality.)

...if they're getting people from all sorts of worlds there must be some kind of translation here. She remembers a word for mages that shows up in fantasy and sci-fi sometimes (used by aliens/fairies/whatever and humans to talk about both their mages when they're being fancy and also saying things like 'Terran homeworld', or when they're trying to figure out what kind of power-havers someone new has); if translated conceptually it'd come across as something like 'power-haver/inherently bad and can't be trusted/needs to be controlled').

"Might I know some examples of rules for [that word]?"

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