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At that point I thought once again that Theo was acting just a bit over the top – too theatrical, as if he was not feeling the fine edge between expressing his emotions in a normal conversation, and the way one would behave speaking on a TED talk or teaching a lecture. I remember thinking that it was looking more like a meticulously rehearsed performance, rather than an improvised and unprepared conversation. But this might have actually been a proper first contact, so no wonder he had prepared his speech. I would have done the same in his place. He was waiting for me here for quite a while after all, so he had plenty of time to make himself ready.

After a dramatic pause, he continued.

“Before we continue this talk, I’d like you to absorb what you have heard, and familiarize yourself with the interface. I have just enabled your control functions. I’ll go take care of some alien things and will return in an hour”.

Intrigued by his remark about the other faction, I started to object, but he quickly stood up and left, closing the door behind him.

That was abrupt, but I shouldn’t complain, it’s not like the next hour was boring. It took me a few minutes to realize that there is no mouse pointer or anything like that. I just had to look at something and wish it to react, and it did. I could open documents and videos, move things around, control the playback and so on. It was very intuitive and in no time I hopped between different folders and randomly poked things, mostly videos. I recognized some people, especially from the 20th century, but many others I couldn’t identify. But it was enough to form a thought – not even a coherent thought, but more of a mental “hmm?” – and the AI would immediately annotate all the people present in the frame, and any relevant places and objects. That was amazing. It may have been the most exciting hour of my life. Possibly with the exception of actually going to space. But more on that later. 

All videos seemed to be recorded from the viewpoint of an Advancer agent, as if their eyes were actually cameras. Maybe they were, why not? The aliens were rebuilding their bodies to infiltrate humanity, so making their eyes into recording devices seemed trivial in comparison. Because of the angle it looked like those scientists and politicians were actually talking to me. Haven’t you ever dreamt or fantasized about talking to some famous person from the past? Maybe when you were a kid? I know I did. This was awesome! 

With all the excitement, by the time Theo got back I haven’t really learned much beyond what he had already told me. He sat in the same chair and looked at me quizzically.

“Any questions?” he asked.

“You were telling me something about another faction…”

“Ah, yes…” he replied with a sour expression on his face, as if I reminded him about the toothache he almost managed to forget about. “Perhaps it’s a bit too melodramatic, but for the sake of convenience, let’s call the other faction ‘Horsemen of the Apocalypse’. It’s the closest metaphor to what we call them amongst ourselves. And it’s quite fitting. Not just because there are four of them, but because of their dark philosophy. You see, they also are trying to minimize the loss of sentient life on your planet. But their ideas of how to do that… Well, let’s just say that you would find them… Alien. They have done the math and concluded that the least human lives would be lost if an extinction-level apocalyptic event would threaten the whole of humanity. 

The decision for intervention of an elder race and subsequent rushed human advancement to immortality would only be made if Earth faces a massive death count. By their latest estimates more than a billion of casualties are needed to guarantee direct alien intervention. So that’s what they are aiming for. Despite that horrifying goal the Horsemen are correct in the sense that one could argue about the ends justifying the means here. One big loss of life followed by quick and forced uplifting of humanity to immortality, denying it proper organic development and sense of identity, will result in less human deaths overall, than patiently waiting for many generations until you figure out immortality yourselves. The math doesn’t make them morally right, by your moral codes, or ours, but the moral codes are not universal. Even we do not share many of your moral values and we are much more similar to humans than the Horsemen, in as much as you can talk about similarity between alien races. Actually almost the only thing our morals have in common is the idea that good must be something diametrically opposed to causing an unnecessary suffering of a conscious being, which in itself is evil.”

Hi paused for effect, and then continued talking  in a very grave voice. He really hadn’t mastered the art of human conversation. He managed to make a serious issue look like a badly performed children matinee in an amateur theater production. 

“And so, once they showed up and started actively working on helping you destroy your civilization, the deadly game of interference and counter-interference had begun.”

He sighed again, and I somehow felt when he took control of my interface, and then he started showing me things that actually raised hairs on my neck. Some of them were really difficult to watch, especially considering their spectacular realism. So I won’t describe them here any further. Believe me it was tough. I had to squint more than once, and almost vomited at one point. Theo was relentless and kept showing me the footage, explaining in detail what I was looking at on each one.

“We tried to sabotage their attempts at ushering the apocalypse, with various degrees of success. Their first major success…”

At this very moment his phone rang. You know how in most Hollywood movies for the last 15 years everyone has a phone with this awkward default iPhone marimba ringtone? I guess directors want people to be able to relate to their characters. But do you really know anyone who is still using that stupid ringtone? I don’t. Correction: now I know one. Maybe Theo wanted to seem more human, and just had watched too many Hollywood movies? Anyway, he took the phone out of his pocket, unrolled it without picking up, swiped, scrolled, pinched and tapped for a bit, then finally looked at me.

“I gotta go now, take care of something. Feel free to study more of the videos. You will find them in the “Horsemen” folder. You have all the files on the Horsemen and all of their activities and plans there. We were lucky to intercept and decrypt most of their communications, because our quantum computer science if somewhat more advanced than theirs. It’s all translated into English for you. Once you’re done, you will find a bed ready for you up in the loft. We will talk tomorrow. Feel free to take refreshments from the kitchen. There is some liquor stashed above the fridge, but don’t overexert yourself. And I don’t advise you to leave the cabin, for the night is dark and full of terrors.” he said with a dead-pan serious face, showing off some knowledge of classic fantasy TV.

First thing I did after he was gone, was making a sizeable dent in his liquor stash.

1 Comment
  • KONSTANTIN MEDVEDEV
    Posted at 22:42h, 15 July Reply

    My suggestion:
    “I hopped between different folders” sounds quite boring and human.
    What if it will be:
    I hopped between different collections that I called “folders” in my mind to make them simpler. But actually they were interactive groups of objects slowly floating around me on different levels. Some of them closer, some far away.

    Typo
    Hi paused for effect . > . He paused for effect
    because our quantum computer science if somewhat more advanced > because our quantum computer science IS somewhat more advanced

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