Sep 23, 2019 7:47 AM
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"Of course I'll try to pay you back anyway, I'm not planning to forget this just because I could."

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"It's really not a big deal for me. I wouldn't want you to be slowed down finding your feet by trying at the same time to find opportunities to repay me."

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"...So many things about what you just said don't make sense that I'm not sure what questions to ask."

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"...it's not particularly costly for me to feed you and sleep on opposite shifts for the duration of this trip. I expect acclimating to be complicated, not because there's anything set up to be an obstacle but just because you come from a very different culture, and I want you to acclimate well and comfortably without unnecessary distractions. Paying me back would be an unnecessary distraction."

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"You don't expect me to be able to get home and you're invested in my ability to prosper separately from what it means for my ability to pay you back. Why either of those things?"

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"I suppose it might be possible to find your home but it could take much longer than a human lifetime, depending on various things. I can survey around where you appeared, in case it was a shortish-range effect and you came from a neighboring system somehow, but that doesn't actually seem very likely to turn up your planet any time soon. The second part... I'm a nice person?"

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"Uh. I. First of all, what do you mean when you say you're a nice person?"

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"I'm invested in people's ability to prosper separately from any ability they might have or develop to pay me back."

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"Oh, okay. There are probably some people like that at home. Is that related to the thing the translator called 'moral' earlier?"

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"Yes, although morality is more complicated than niceness."

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"I see. Well, if you want to hear things about my world you can ask - I don't think it's somewhere you can reach from here by going in any direction, you said earlier that there were distance limits on how far away we could detect life but I think you said that because you don't know about our magic, not because you know it better than I do. I wasn't saying so because I was worried if I did and it turned out to be impossible to get there you wouldn't finish saving me."

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"I will finish saving you," T'Mir assures her. "Do you have an idea how you got here?"

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"It was sudden. I didn't notice anything unusual right before it happened. I was at home and I don't know of any strangers who were in town at the time. If it was done with a kind of magic I'm familiar with... but I don't know that it was and telling you which kind it would've been wouldn't mean anything to you anyway."

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"It wouldn't, no, though I'm curious how your magic all works anyway."

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"Everyone can do one thing with it - moving things, making illusions, vanishing things, making things warm or cold, gene editing, there are twelve options and no one has zero or two of them. As far as anyone knows it's random which one you get, it doesn't seem to run in families or anything. Mine is illusions. I don't know what in particular you want to know."

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"Because all people can do it where you're from you consider it significant to personhood?"

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"Yes. There's a theory that - I'm not the right kind of mage to have really studied this, so I might be wrong about some of it. I think a long time ago people were less different from animals, not using language or having laws, and they made mistakes with their magic if they were reckless or thoughtless or stupid or forgetful, and sometimes those mistakes killed them. So over time we became more fully people through the use of magic, because only the people who could use magic well survived and had children. Or so I heard."

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"That's... not unrelated to how sapient species here arise from animals, but without the magic involved."

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"So other things besides magic make people?"

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"The going theory is that - hm - do you breed animals for various purposes?"

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"There are people who do."

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"The going theory is that any environment in which some individuals reproduce more than others, whether the others are dying young or failing to find mates or what have you, the environment is breeding the species, and sapient species are ones which encountered unbounded pressure to be smarter and more reflective - we think in most sapient species these pressures were social, but some species have other explanations for themselves."

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"Fascinating. That makes sense. And then they invent things to do what magic does for... normal people." She assumes it would be rude to point out how unsettling the idea is.

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"Yes. And likely some things magic doesn't do, if there are only twelve kinds of magic."

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