"The problem is simply stated: Given the number of metacosmic, interstellar and superhuman beings that visit, emerge, stay and interact on our planet every year, we are deeply concerned with the possibility of cultural shock and erasure."
That was An Bao Shun, a functionary working for the UN. We were sitting in a cramped office at the United Nations Headquarters, NYC. To make it easier we're were both speaking in Mandarin.
"Try to look at it from the view of ordinary humans," he continued, "All the changes these beings represent are larger than any cultural clash or transformation in the entirety of human history."
And he was right. I thought about it.
One day a Russian women wakes up for work in an auto factory in Kemerovo Oblast, only to hear on the morning news that some 13 year old supergenius in Mexico City has invented a means for cheap teleportation technology. Or to take another example, a Presbyterian minister in Parker, Pennsylvania finishing his Sunday services walks out of his church only to witness a street battle between a being claiming to be the ancient Egyptian god Horus and the minions of another god named Set. Or imagine the problems of a team of physicists, just finishing the latest upgrades to the Large Hadron Collider, who now have to consider how the existence of magical forces might affect their data. Or a man in Scotland, a proud eater of haggis, leaves his farm to discover a talking sheep drinking McEwan's at his local public house.
Any one of these changes would utterly transform the world. To have them all occurring together and with such speed, it was a wonder human cultures of any kind could endure the shock.
My own existence is a shock. Your media would call me a robot, but that is oversimplification. I'm artificial organism, a full conversion cyborg and former human. I am a refugee, and escapee from a version of Earth ruled by a police state of superhumans. Which brings me around to why I'm sitting in this guy's cramped office speaking Mandarin.
"As you may know, we've obtained the cooperation of the Big Five, the G-20 and related blocs to install and monitor a global network of gravitometer stations. With these we hope to catch the arrival of metacosmic beings—or at least those that don't arrive by truly supernatural means—and have an assessment team on site within 6 to 12 hours."
Mr. An was punctuating his briefing by stabbing at a white board and drawing boxes and arrows around all manner of acronyms, country names and symbols. I wasn't entirely sure, but I think he was avoiding looking at me. It became a littler harder for him after I took my jacket and hat off. My chest, arms and thorax aren't entirely human and this is more obvious when only in shirt and tie.
"And that was how you guys spotted my arrival," I said, "The gravity waves of spatiotemporal merger triggered your grid and bang! You send a team to pick me up in a bar in Kingston."
Or maybe he was just put off by my informal language. His face tightened up a little.
"In no way are you under arrest or under suspicion of any crime, Mr. Farlops. We just wanted to recruit your help. As you can imagine we are under constant pressure from lack of staff and lack of resources. The threat of hostile ETIs, the arrival of superhumans and metacosmics has lead to a profound shift in the global balance of power but it's not like the major governments have reconciled themselves to it. Political change is frustrating and often very slow. I'm sure you can understand this. Everything is now on a different scale and the world is slowly learning this.
"As it is the UN needs all the help it can get."
"You know," I replied, "maybe you should just let it happen. Let all this change roll over this world. From what you've told me you know there are countless other universes out there, many containing a myriad of other Earths with different histories. You have machines that make traveling to these other universes and other Earths childishly easy. Why not just flee to an Earth that doesn't have this problem?"
Mr. An's face hardened further still, he seemed about ready to say something before I interrupted with, "And besides, given this infinitude, how can you be sure, there aren't an infinite number of offices like this one where an infinite of yous and mes are having this same conversation and all those mes just refuse anyway? What about the fate of those worlds, eh?
"Not that it matters. You're lucky to be in one of the universes where this version of me says yes. Yes, I'll hunt these superbeings for you."
An smiled warmly and with visible relief. This only made me wonder how many interviews An conducted that didn't go so well.
"Great. Great!" he switched on a video projector, displaying two maps of the United States and the Philippines,"So let me summarize your first mission. 6 days ago, the gravitometer grid caught a signal here, in the United States, in the Midwest. Luckily the arrival, being a machine, had a very distinctive appearance and it made straight for Topeka which put it on the FBI's Hoover System. We were very lucky to have the FBI cooperate with us, but they only did so after the subject left the country. So that gave the subject at least three days lead time. We now know it's somewhere in Quezon but there the trail gets muddy because elements of the Pinoy criminal underground became involved—"
I'll spare you the details. Basically it was a typical military briefing, what was known, what needed to be found out, what needed to be done, that sort of thing.
So, they put me on a plane out of Detroit Metro bound for Quezon. My quarry is another artificial organism, sapient like myself—apparently with some kind of agenda. What's in the Philippines?
Oh well, I guess I'll find out.
(To be continued in Chapter Three.)