Sep 26, 2021 8:05 AM
Demon Cam in Haven City
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"In general, members of the former resistance movement. Today, Kor."

Through the door and down the stairs is the hideout where Cam was first summoned, where Storm is sleeping and Kor is cleaning up from Storm's last mostly successful attempt to feed himself.

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"Ohhhhhh," coos Mrindeh, "he's beautiful."

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"He is soft and small and growing into an intelligent child," Kor says, looking up. "Hello, are you a friend of Cam's?"

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"We've never met, he got my name from Wistful - that's a wannabe-parents organization in Hell -"

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"I have never heard of such an organization. What sorts of things does it do?"

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"...mostly we just talk about how much we wish we had kids and what we'd do if we did. Once in a great while a child demon will come in and somebody'll adopt them but it's never a sweet little baby."

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"And you don't make your own child demons. That sounds... very upsetting."

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"Yeah, demons just start existing one day, and always adults, except for the ones who used to be humans."

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"Only humans? No former lurkers or Precursors...?"

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"Yeah, I didn't know you existed till today." She sits on the floor next to Storm's bed.

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Kor laughs at that, very quietly.

Storm wakes eventually. While they're waiting for that, Samos fills Kor in on what Cam told them about summoning.

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"Hi there Storm," whispers Mrindeh, when he's awake.

Storm looks at her groggily. Hides under a pillow.

When he peeks, she's got her face hidden behind her hands, just barely able to tell when he's looking through the gaps between her fingers. She drops her hands, smiling. "Peekaboo."

Storm hides again.

"Wheeeere'd Storm go?" she whispers.

He peeks.

"Peekaboo!" Mrindeh chirps. "What does he like to eat, I don't know if Earth-type food will be good for him -"

When she has a menu, she makes him some breakfast, and feeds it to him, and by slow degrees coaxes him onto her lap, beaming.

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This all reassures Samos quite a bit about the alien they're handing Storm over to.

The next time Cam checks his mail after the meeting he has letters that say they're from Kor, the metal head leader, Billy, and the leader of the Precursors in the local star system.

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...well, that's, uh, a convenient implication of time travel he hadn't especially considered, cool, he will read all these letters.

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Kor, who is after all very old, is tentatively interested in the experimental use of summoning for immortality and wants a recommendation for a safe circle design to use for it and ideally a recommendation for what to pay fairies with. He might or might not end up wanting immortality but he wants the information just in case.

The metal head leader writes that he had a conversation with the oracle. The oracle claims to be interested in peace, given the current truce between the metal heads and Haven City and given the situation with the dark makers. Also, he heard that Billy wasn't able to identify all of the humans who are allowed to use the rift gate, and he can clarify that one of them is the Heir of Mar.

The Precursor writes that they're tentatively optimistic about the progress toward a lasting peace with the metal heads, and that the dark makers are an extremely urgent threat worth taking their attention away from the metal heads to deal with anyway, and that they have no desire for war with those who sincerely seek peace, and that further questions or comments should be directed to their oracle in Haven. It's costly for the oracle to speak to people but this is important enough that it will try.

Billy has finally penned an explanation of metal head moral reasoning. Bearing in mind that it varies (though less than human moral reasoning), metal heads generally consider entities whose decisionmaking includes choices about whether or not to cooperate to be moral agents. They can be made up of other entities who are also moral agents: for example, if a democracy is composed of people who elect a leader and then do whatever that leader says instead of independently evaluating the quality of the leader's decisions. (They thought for a long time that humans worked this way but it turns out they really, really don't.) There are actions which, if one agent does them to a second agent, provoke the second agent to want revenge: battery, theft, and so on. There are actions which, if one agent does them to a second agent, provoke third parties to want revenge: perfidy, for example, is not a crime against the agent who accepts the false surrender, but against anyone who might want to surrender to that agent in the future. And then there are actions which are an offense against everything sacred, that provoke everyone and mean that the offending agent is downright evil: trying to alter someone's mind is a salient one, but trying to convince someone that an act of war is actually an act of peace counts too. (This is different from spying undercover, but they would have been much less surprised to meet aliens who thought spying was evil in this way than they were by aliens they actually met.) Happiness and flourishing don't directly enter into it, except insofar as some actions are an attack to some entities and a kindness to others; intelligence doesn't either, except insofar as it's a necessary prerequisite for making moral choices in the first place. Oh, and it's only from their centuries of exposure to humans that they're picking up on why anyone would think forgiveness was desirable or even acceptable, but these days they are starting to see it.

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That's such an interesting essay on metal head moral philosophy!

Cam delivers a standard prison fairy circle to Kor and will stick around long enough to pay the fairy for him before visiting the oracle.

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Kor examines the circle for a bit and then goes ahead and finishes it. The fairy gets multiple languages from him, including the metal head one. Also, Kor wants to know if it's safe to keep the used circle as a souvenir.

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"Yes, that's safe, it's used up now - I guess someone might copy it and if they messed up with that it could be a problem but it's not dangerous by itself."

This particular fairy does not want a long term prison job but knows someone who does.

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Convenient. Kor folds up the circle to keep it and wishes Cam happy travels.

The oracle won't be the one to break the ice but it is there among the candles, listening, whenever he gets there.

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"Hi?" Cam says to the oracle. "I don't know exactly what it costs you to speak but I'd like to know how I can be confident that the egg won't embark on a campaign of genocide if it hatches."

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"You can observe that we are in your star system, ignoring the ones you call metal heads. You can observe our greater foe and our history of trustworthiness. You can observe that we have never been the first to attack in any conflict."

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"They didn't turn up nearby when I looked."

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"Perhaps they are too entwined with eco for you to conjure some of the time."

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"I guess that could be. Is there a way I can talk to them directly?"

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"At this distance and moving into the future rather than stepping backward, if I relay messages directly, the round trip would take more than one of your hours. You could shorten this time by conjuring their responses."

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