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Jun 24, 2021 5:13 PM
Actana Silvers Interview Terry
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"A stimulant? We do have people that can create food, they are a bit overworked, but we are willing to make exceptions for the interviewed. One of my powers is the ability to restore people's wakefulness, a minute of contact is like eight minutes asleep."

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"That won't be necessary. Either thing. I rather couldn't do much about it if you were going to do unpleasant things to me, but there is still the general principle of wariness."

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Flinch. "I am sorry for the uncomfortable power dynamics. May we start? You mentioned an U.S. which the translation is giving me as United States, is that the politic unit we took you from?"

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He goes into Lecture Mode! If they ask about things a Wikipedia search couldn't find, he'll probably get more recalcitrant.

"The United States of America is a political unit considered to be one of the most richest and most powerful on my planet. It's a federated democracy, with an overall government that delegates many functions to the 'states' that make it up but retains a lot of central power. It's run out of Washington, D.C. There is a Congress, which debates and makes laws and is made up of several hundred people who are individually elected from the states. There is an executive branch, led by the President, which is charged with enforcing the laws, dealing with foreign countries, authorizing military action, overseeing governmental agencies, that sort of thing.

"The President is also elected, and appoints his subordinates. There is a judicial branch - the courts. They interpret the law when things are not clear, find the guilt or innocence of criminals and decide the punishments, and so on. Membership of the Supreme Court, head of the judicial branch, is a position held for life. New justices are assigned by the President when they die. Most people hold far more loyalty to the United States as a whole than their individual state, and the states don't have much power compared to the federal government."

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Eli nods and writes things down. "Would you recommend we focus our questions on the U.S. or is there another political unity that's more welcoming or a safer bet to accept us?"

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"It's probably a good idea to look at several but I know much less about any others..."

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He nods again and makes a note. "We can keep it on topic and investigate other countries later. What can you tell us about..." he appears to be chewing on the word "American? What can you tell us about the American culture and norms? Is there a difference between the treatment of humans and non-humans? Practice of magic? Taboos regarding religious practice, sexuality, nudity, waste management, funeral rites, gender roles and drug consumption?"

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"Nonhuman sapients are... Unheard of but sometimes speculated about. Hurting animals needlessly is illegal and ones we think are more intelligent than others or that are near extinction get extra protections. Reactions will vary but generally positive I believe. You'll probably get some gawking, some paranoia, a bit of racism... But mostly acceptance. A lot of fans too. I really can't predict it. Uh, magic is also not a thing. However, scientific and engineering education and work is highly prized and valuable. You'll be exciting. There are a lot of taboos of varying strengths, maybe ask about specific situations?"

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Eli blinks. "Okay, pausing the taboo conversation for a bit. What do you mean you don't have magic?"

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"We have never observed anything that could not be ultimately explained by scientific observation and resolved down to physical principles. Everything we do is - tools that use physics, designed through deep understanding of the way the world works. Teleporting people around defies the laws of physics as we know them, however, and magic is the word for that. Maybe you have a deeper understanding of the universe than we do. Maybe you have magic. I don't know."

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"We would define magic as a specific source of power. It exists in the world in lower quantities in the environment, or in higher quantities inside magical beings, like myself. I probably going to need to poke at the concepts more to be sure, but I don't think we are using the methods as you describe them. I know at least six people that can teleport, any law breaking they may have committed was towards institutional laws about breaking into people's homes."

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"The laws of physics aren't laws but - rules we've figured out about how the world, uh, works. If you have a - kind of energy - that you use to do things. You just. Have different physics than us. No big deal."

He looks like it's kind of a big deal, though.

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Eli sure thinks it's a big deal too, but from another angle. "That sounds like something we definitely need to check carefully. We did expect different magic, but... I don't think we can make progress on this topic unless we visit your world and for that we need to know what to do and what not to do. Back on taboos? Have you seen anything here that has offended you?"

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"Aside from the kidnapping? No, nothing in particular springs to mind. These things are sneaky, though."

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"Sorry, again. If it helps, it's not something I ever considered doing before the world went to darkness. And I am aware of cultural clashes, we have thirty-five hundred people from all over Actana, things have not been easy. Let me see... nudity norms? What levels of covering or not covering your body would be acceptable and implications thereof?"

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"...Showing more skin is generally associated with being more casual and more flirtatious, but it depends on context. In almost all public contexts, most or all of your torso, plus hips to thighs, should be covered. Men have slightly less strict standards, upper bodies can be bare in a few more contexts, such as if doing manual labor. It is still unusual, but not quite as unacceptable as for women. Very tight or revealing clothing is also sexually connotated. When swimming, it's acceptable to wear less clothing, down to things that only cover the genitals and butt. Plus breasts, on women. Revealing clothing is not always unacceptable, but is almost never formal and respectable. Tattoos are not respectable. Failing to wear shoes outdoors is unusual, but not exactly taboo. Bare genitals or butts in public is never acceptable, and women's breasts very nearly almost never. I'm missing a lot of nuance but that should give you an idea."

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Eli nods as he writes down. He makes a quick drawing and is labelling the relevant areas.  "When you say never acceptable, do you mean that the person is shunned? Targeted for violence? Arrested?"

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"Depends on context. Arrested is likely. Targeted for violence is also likely in some places. Avoided is almost certainty... Ah. It is extremely taboo to expose children to anything sexual, which extends to things connotated as sexual. Arrest and a bad reputation is almost certain and violence is possible if it seems like you are exposing a child to sexual things. Context matters as with everything, but, er, there are few contexts that allow it. Parents changing diapers or helping their own kids bathe, or legitimate accidents or misunderstandings, is about it."

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More note-taking and frowning. "I am not sure the places here that assign sexual connotations to nudity have a greater sensitivity towards children being exposed to such things, though I wouldn't be surprised if that matches. Uh, if you stay here long enough it's highly likely you're going to see breasts from humanoids, or complete nudity from non-humanoids. Or complete nudity if you decide to use the larger bathing facilities. How much do you want to avoid that?"

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"When in Rome, do as the Romans do. Or at least don't get offended by them. I will be fine. Communal baths and locker rooms and are one of those contexts where things get a bit more relaxed, though they are not common in America, really. Are they gender segregated? Ours usually are."

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Eli makes a so-so gesture. "That's actually the norm most places, but not here. We put on dividers. We tried assigning different times to different groups, but it required more effort to coordinate than it was worth. Thank you for being understanding, and again, do tell us if anything - besides kidnapping - makes you uncomfortable. Uh, do you think there is going to be exceptions to different body plans? Or people with internal genitals?"

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"Probably best to be conservative, to make a good impression? If there's nothing there, it'd still make people feel uncomfortable, I would imagine. Formal and respectable and conservative would be the right optics to have."

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Nod. "I am trying to be thorough in part because we do not know what respectable looks like from your perspective." Pause. "Also, I know some merfolk that would be bothered that I didn't ask." He shrugs. "We can debate any specifics after having more time to think. Moving on, are you comfortable discussing gender and sexual topics?"

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"Oh very well, I suppose we must, musn't we? Fine. Though, I'm starting to get curious about you lot too - the world is ending you say, so what ended it? Might it happen to us?"

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"That's a fair question. Feel free to ask more. The world was ended by a group of entities of great power who have been locked and bound for a long time. They have been draining magic and life to break out, causing infertility. Then they covered the world in darkness and turned many into crystal covered monsters that attack and covert others. This was all so they could break free and then commit suicide, which made the monsters' infection slower and completely reversing the infertility problem." Pause. "That affected the planet but we are on the moon which didn't have that problem, by being out of their reach."

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