27 Dec 97%
Well, apparently you can call me “your excellency” from now on. We were just offered an ambassador titles for the entire human race by Ed. Crazy, eh? Well, to be fair, I suspect that’s not how it’s usually done, and nobody on Earth would ever appoint us that actual title. What we were offered could be viewed as an ambassadorial role of sorts, I guess, but it could equally be compared to hauling an aboriginal savage overseas in a cage to draw intrigued oohs and aahs at high society dinner parties and spark a healthy debate over desserts.
The offer came as a shock to us. Totally unexpected and absolutely awesome in the original and true sense of the word. I still can’t grasp the sheer immensity of the whole thing. It’s not an easy task to change the scope of your thought process from worrying about surviving the next hour or day, and considering a journey to the stars, visiting an alien homeworld and somehow representing the humanity there.
The moment the offer has been made was quite comical: Tia and I looked at each other, and exclaimed a double “what???” at each other in equally disbelieving voices.
“The choice we need to make is important enough that our entire population will have to be involved.”
Ed didn’t sound like he was particularly pleased with that idea. Quite the opposite, actually. He obviously doesn’t hold the “entire population” in high regard.
“You see, I and the other sentient ships are the true rulers of our civilization. You may have noticed that lately on Earth democracy has started to fail: as quality of life and education have improved, and existential crises became a rather distant history, you would think that democracy would thrive. But people inexplicably started voting for increasingly populist and incompetent politicians from all sides of the political spectrum, one after another.
Politics has degraded into a freak show. Bickering over bright, shiny, oversimplified and meaningless ideological messages in a desperate attempt to claim a moral high ground has jeopardized any serious attempts to solve real problems.
Reasons for that are complicated and beside my point, but we once had a similar problem in our society. Sentient AIs like your humble servant came to save the day. Our population had happily dumped all policy making and governing onto our virtual shoulders, free of typical vices that are common to biological beings. However to retain the semblance of our equivalent of the democracy, truly important decisions have to be made after a thorough consultation process with anyone who wants to be involved. A sort of a referendum.
I have transmitted all the details about our little crisis and got the collective AI recommendation. We need to get our people familiarized with humans so they can make an informed collective decision on what to do next. We need human ambassadors to represent Earth while the debate on what to do with you is taking place.”
“But why us?” I asked, stupefied by the offer. “We are incredibly unqualified for the task. A web designer and a secret agent acting as ambassadors for humanity? That is ridiculous!”
“Why not? Do you think any of your prominent politicians would be a better example of your species?”
Tia quietly muttered some obscenity, then said bitterly “I wouldn’t trust those schmucks with representing my golden retriever at a dog show.”
“My point precisely. You both have above average IQs, and you have already risked your life to save others. That alone makes you better candidates than most. You will do just fine. Besides, the chance of a decision to leave the Earth be is quite high, so there is no sense in bringing more people into the fold.”
Ed’s words seemed to make a certain sense at first. However, I have to tell you that this conversation still bothers me a lot, and the more I think about it – the more it does.
I don’t know how to explain it, but it all feels wrong somehow. Perhaps the problem is that we weren’t given any choice in the matter. I wasn’t exactly forced to do anything, but I didn’t choose to be involved either, or to travel to another star system, or represent humanity for an alien race. Having said that, there is no reason to refuse, I would be crazy to decline this amazing offer. Meeting aliens, going to space, travelling between the stars on an alien spaceship – in a company of a hot girl who knows how to push all my buttons, no less. Many people would kill to do this! Oh, but I actually did kill people, got to remember that, it’s not a trivial matter… Not that I had a real choice, but still. Anyway, the scope of what is being offered to me is dizzying, I cannot possibly refuse a fantastic opportunity like that.
There are several problems with this deal though. The sheer responsibility and the consequences of failure, for one. How could I live with myself if I weren’t able to convince the aliens to establish contact with us? Even if it happens through no fault of my own, I could never be sure. The untold dangers of an interstellar voyage along with its unknown duration also scare the bejeezus out of me. And the main problem is the nagging feeling that I do not actually have the option to decline, and was somehow manipulated into this situation. This makes the whole deal taste sour.
It’s a good thing that I can write it all down, it helps me formulate my thoughts precisely. I just described the whole problem much more clearly then it occured to me when Ed had made the offer. Then I just felt stunned and a bit worried although I didn’t know exactly why.
Tia summed up my disorganized thoughts on the matter into a valid question: “And what happens if we refuse your offer?” Indeed, the truthful answer to that one would clarify a lot of things.
“Well, I would deliver you back to Earth and let you go. You would not even have to promise to stay silent – nobody would believe you anyway if you go public. And the military already is aware of our existence, although I don’t suppose they would go public either. You would lose any chance to advocate for your race though, and if a year passes and you don’t wake up one day to a global alien panic and mass hysteria, it would mean we’re gone for good, or at least for several millennia.”
“We don’t actually know if what you are telling us is the truth,” Tia pointed thoughtfully.
“No, you do not. It is what it is. And I am afraid you have a very limited time to make a decision. Nineteen minutes and twenty five seconds, to be precise. An uninvited visitor is coming this way.”