[Yes, it's very late. But here is more in the continuing saga of Mr. F.]
So let's be clear, I was not put on some superfly military aircraft and jetted from Detroit to Manila in less than 6 hours.
Nope, the UN goes cheap when it can. Instead, I was put on bargain international airline and had to spend layover time. It was four hours from Detroit to Salt Lake City. A two hour wait in what was widely held as the most boring city in the United States although, to be fair, I never left the air terminal to verify this. Then five hours to Ohau. Another hour's wait. From there to Quezon in about 10 or so hours. Nearly twenty-four hours spent in transit. I didn't even get first class.
Right off this tells me that that the UN is concerned about this new arrival to Earth, but not that concerned. Either that or there is so many metacosmics arriving every year, and such a limited budget, that they have to prioritize the ones that are killing people over the ones that are mysterious, but not immediately threatening. They gave me one of the latter.
Actually I volunteered to be sent in the cargo hold since I didn't need air, warmth or to sit down properly but the functionary that gave me my tickets said it was simpler if I traveled as an actual passenger. She didn't explain why.
So now I'm boarding in coach and rubbing shoulders with the public. In the States, my seatmates took this rather well. Maybe it was because there were so many superhumans in the United States already. The cabin conversation diminished noticeably as I walked down the aisle but then resumed quickly enough as I took my seat.
"So you're that robot I saw in the terminal," the woman next to me said as we ascended to cruising altitude.
"I prefer the term 'artificial person' myself," Yes, I'd been on your Earth long enough to know that movie. On a whim, I used one of my more robotic sounding voices to say this.
"So what interest does an artificial person have with Salt Lake City?"
"It's actually a stop-over. I'm on my way out of the country. The Philippines are my ultimate destination," my old paranoia kicked in, "I'm not legally allowed to talk about it," which wasn't strictly true but I decided to be cautious.
"Oh," she said, not knowing where to go next.
"So why are you going to SLC?"
She brightened at my segue, "Genealogy studies as part of a larger project I'm working on. I'm a historian. The Church of Later Day Saints has very complete records in that area," she offered a hand to shake, "Professor Flavicsek, and you?"
A trace of concern flashed across her face as I put my metal digits in her hand but, I shook gently enough, "I call myself Mr. Farlops. I have no given name. 'Farlops' will do. I'm a newly recruited employee of the United Nations."
Her flash of recognition was obvious, "Ah, you work for UNTIL's Project Clockwork, right?"
"Yes, at least that's what my boss tells me. I'm still pretty new."
"What, is Mechanon back to—"
I held up a hand, "I'm not allowed to talk about it."
"So how did you get the name?"
"I made it up. Or rather, I took it from a piece of pop music I heard here on your world. Now, I guess that's my official name. I've had others."
"Do you mind if I take a few notes?" she said, pulling out a note pad.
"I don't see why not. Sure, go ahead." She start scribbling rapidly, checking her watch a moment. From what I could read, she was mostly noting the time, place and location of our discussion.
"It's a habit of mine," she said looking up from her pad, "I'm not a journalist but I do recognize my position as a primary source. History happens everywhere."
"Is history being made here?"
"As I said, history happens everywhere. But I don't know, that's just the point. Anyway, you had other names?"
"Well, just two. My human one given by my parents, before the accident. And then the one I took after the accident."
"Ah, yes, well, I say 'accident' as a kind of shorthand. Rather quickly after it happened, I came to view it as an opportunity. I was crushed in an industrial milling machine. I was human and my body was horribly mangled. They had me on life support, my brain still alive and able to communicate with the world through a state reader—"
"A nuclear magnetic resonance imaging machine with real-time scanning and molecular resolution. It's able to translate mental activity in the vocal and language centers of the brain into a speech synthesizer. It's bit like how I'm talking with you now, only in my case there is no longer any organic brain involved." And to emphasize this I switched to my normal voice, which sounds entirely lifelike.
She paused at that, and jotted down more notes. The guy in the seat next to hers, somewhere in his late fifties, lost interest in his book, rather pointedly put in some ear plugs, stuck a pillow behind his head and turned away from us to pretend to go to sleep.
"Anyway, of course I was horrified at my circumstance but rather quickly I came to see the event as an opportunity. I'd read the literature, including the classified stuff, I knew medical nanomachinary was up to the job. But I knew what I wanted was illegal."
"Medical nanomachinary? Illegal?"
"Nanoscopic machines built to replace cells. Where I'm from, on my Earth, our technology is in some ways significantly more advanced than yours. Anyway, the Global Praetorian Empire had outlawed most cognitive enhancement technology and very strictly regulated the rest. Such technology posed a direct threat to their regime."
"Well, the GPE is an authoritarian regime and, a populace of geniuses is not easily governed," I paused, "Maybe I'd better back up and give you more context. I'm what the press calls a 'metacosmic.' My Earth's history is very different from yours. In fact I've been on several different versions of Earth before arriving here. Anyway, I guess you could say the branching point began back towards the beginning of the Twentieth Century, or perhaps much earlier but, I think the clearest difference was General MacArthur's decision to use nuclear weapons to halt the Chinese advance into Korea in 1952."
Clearly seeing that she'd have more questions than I could easily answer in a four hour flight, she stopped the interview there and fumbled in her bag and pulled out a card. I took the cue and did the same, pulling a card out of my jacket. E-mail addresses thus exchanged, I thought it might be useful to have a historian in my contacts list.
A fight attendant announced that passengers could turn on their electronics and then explained to the rest of the cabin why the air marshal allowed me to keep operating during takeoff.
"I guess the UN has some pull with the FAA," Flavicsek mused aloud.
"Yeah, I guess. I volunteered to be shipped as cargo but the logistics officer was having none of that."
"So you were human once and became an artificial person?"
"Yep. Honestly? I considered it a step up. Anyway, by that point, I owed the Resistance big and decided to help them."
"And the Resistance is?"
"Mostly human and superhuman guerrillas organized against Emperor Cole's rule. Basically my world is divided between a global police state of superhumans fighting an inconclusive civil war against a superhuman rebellion," I paused, "Assuming it even still exists. I'm not even sure if my universe of origin exists anymore."
"Why is that?"
"I don't know. I heard rumors in Paragon before the global panic started. Something about some creature finding something called the 'M-Catalyst.' It was the end of the world, the end of the whole universe and, probably, many more besides. Civilization started to fall apart. Many, including myself, fled Paragon Earth via metacosmic portals, which is how I got here," I paused again, "Sorry, there is a lot I'm glossing over here. I can send you much more detail in mail later. It will keep me from getting bored in Salt Lake."
So we changed the subject and talked about Flavicsek's research for the remainder of the flight.