In a bar between universes, watching the stars explode from her booth, there is a young woman drinking a steaming mug of creamy tea.
"Oh, no, I didn't mean that, it's just we don't have that so slavery doesn't... work... for a lot of things. It seems like it might be harder to stop if it worked. Is there a reason you can't stop people from doing murders and not stop them from doing anything else?"
"So, it's hard to escape or work around, but getting one command like 'don't do violence to any living person' is easier to work around than... that and someone who can adjust things on the fly and has an incentive to do that and can come up with commands that are really overkill without being accountable for your well-being and having everyone who sees you know what you are."
"Having everyone who sees you know what you are?"
"There's jewelry. You can't take it off. It's useful, because someone who can't bind you themself can get enchanted bracelets that'll do it, but they also generally look really similar."
"I wish I knew more about - this sort of thing. We don't have slavery where I'm from but we also have different magic and didn't recently have slavery."
"Well, on the bright side, you haven't had slavery recently. What do you do?"
"Can you be more specific? I don't even know what public works you have in mind."
"Uh - currently the imperial government is wholly providing or in some way contributing to the provision of free language lessons, medical care for contagious diseases, the peace and security of the empire, the certification of a general curriculum and teachers thereof, the rehabilitation of first-time offenders, the conservation of public forests and parks, a fiat currency, force transit, and the news. But even aside from how you'd fund it off of just taxes and fines, I don't have models to draw on from societies with... extremely dangerous magic and really low tolerance for interaction with society, but that also have morality."
"We do have dangerous magic, but - maybe not as much of it as you? Orders of paladins like me keep it in check all right. What do you mean low tolerance for interaction with society?"
"Some people prefer to have an island made and hide it from all outside perception and every decade or so have a potentially violent confrontation with someone stopping by to check if the island is uninhabited yet. Some people instead make it impossible for anyone to stop by to check, and no one knows how many of the people who've done that are still alive, and the islands are lost forever, and we try to discourage going that far. I don't know anyone like that, obviously, but it's a smooth spectrum and the average is somewhere between them and an employee of mine who sometimes allows people to tell him what to do if we pay him handsomely enough and who I think might have a friend. Or at least that's the average for their species, but they're the most common species by a large margin, not that you'd ever guess that based on the people you meet."
"...do those people even want slaves? Slaves are... people."
"I have never interviewed anyone who didn't want to interact with anyone ever and my information is obviously not very complete but it has happened that someone disappeared with their slaves and I think between not tolerating anyone at all and liking society there's a window somewhere in there where it makes the difference that they don't have to... appease them?"
"Mm. Well, we don't have any of those, we just have humans and dark things and dark things we don't really try to integrate into society on account of they are evil."
"Evil like they want nothing but the worst for everyone or evil like they don't care about anyone?"
"The first one, I guess? I think some of them might be slightly more complicated than that but every time someone's trying to do diplomacy with a lich or an imp or something it turns out to just be a trick of some kind."
"Yeah. We keep up with them for the most part."
"Can we do better than 'keep up with' with more magic?"
"Maybe? Sometimes it's people making them one way or another, but imps might just keep coming."
"What exactly are those?"
"Little and black, shaped somewhat like a human but with wings and tails and horns."
"Do they do magic it'd be useful to be protected from?"
"They can, yes."
"Well, what kind of magic is it? I might be able to ward you."
"In addition to being poisonous they can do some of the same magic mages do. I don't know very much about it, honestly, we have to learn a lot of things and magic is only relevant in terms of how to fight it with the tools we have, not with the tools we might meet in Milliways."