Dec 16, 2018 1:23 PM
Alex and Glen enter the world from Muse
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"Changing us? Changing us how?"

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She shows him the summary she's compiled on one of her tablets, hopefully formatted to not be unpleasant.

"A lack of beauty doesn't hurt us the way it hurts you."

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"You're claiming a difference in degree or in kind?"

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"Kind. People appreciate beauty but its absence doesn't cause harm."

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"You realize that sounds pretty strange."

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She nods.

"I have enough media to prove it but it wouldn't be pleasant to watch. Some of the translated books from before you came here might help verify my story. We have found humans with much more extreme variations than this, so I'm less surprised than you are."

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"What kind of extreme variation?"

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"The farther the variations go, the more difficult it is to say if the term human applies. But of the people considered close enough to be invited into our organization, there are humans without gender, humans who form small hive minds, humans who are entirely unsocial, humans with no childhood, humans with an additional sense that is almost impossible to explain without actually receiving a memory and which they rely on exclusively, humans with no ability to understand lies, humans with strong enough empathy that harm to another is always equivalent to harm to the self."

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"That's quite a range."

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"I have several other instances of technology you don't have here yet, if that makes my claims more plausible. I'm not sure how else to prove it to you. I'm not confident even the most beautiful media won't be upsetting and most of the actually relevant footage or scientific papers aren't making an effort to be beautiful at all."

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"The most beautiful things from old Earth are all right."

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"Can you give me examples? I can try to find things that are similar."

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"Bach remains popular, and some Beethoven and Mozart and Gjeilo. I have a Gerard Richter reproduction as a shower curtain."

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Glen takes a moment to look up the mentioned artists. She's vaguely familiar with Mozart, but none of the rest.

"I don't know how instrumental music or abstract paintings would prove the differences in the cultures I mentioned. I guess they could prove that cultures that aren't yours exist and I have access to them?"

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"I'm prepared to provisionally believe you," the biologist assures her.

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"Great," Glen says, relieved. 

"I'm an engineer, not a biologist, so I don't have a good idea of where to start. If you temporarily assume this is true, where would you start looking? I assume if it was easy to spot someone would have by now, but maybe it's something you've identified and consider harmless?"

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"We're compatible with the local biology. I don't think it could be a mutation, but it could be - I don't know, some of what you said expands my hypothesis space a lot, I suppose there could be a psychic field on Muse that's doing it, but within the space of things I thought possible yesterday my first guess would be some kind of parasite or infection."

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"There are actually ways to test if a universe's laws allow for magic or supernatural abilities of various sorts. We do that as a general precaution before we travel anywhere new. We didn't find anything here. It's not foolproof, especially if something intervened from outside, but it does make it unlikely that any magic is involved."

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"So it's probably a local organism. Plenty of them colonize humans harmlessly, they aren't evolved for virulence or anything."

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She nods.

"Any feasible way to figure out which one? I have a partial, but not complete, database of scientific papers from various Earths that could help narrow it down. Even just confirming it was one of the local organisms could help, since then I could figure out how to safely contact home and maybe send a sample to a lab there."

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"Most of the harmless ones - or, harmless-seeming, at least - have pretty complete penetration into the population. I could test you and see which ones have gotten to you, if you haven't been here long."

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"A few days. I wish I'd realized sooner, but it's probably still worth checking."

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"I'll need a blood sample - a few, actually."

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"Can you do it or should I go find a clinic?"

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"I can."

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