What would be the literary equivalent of scratching my head? You figure it out, I’m too tired. As my chances of survival have just rapidly increased, I realised that there is a real chance somebody could actually read what I’m writing here. Now I’m not just writing it for myself I suppose. I have to admit that a poorly written diary like this must not be easy to get through. With everything that’s been happening to me all I need now is to feel an additional responsibility of coherently formulating my thoughts and thoroughly documenting all events. This text is anything but coherent and thorough.  

Oh, well. There is not much I can do about that now. I will just try to suppress this new fear, like I do with most of the emotional issues I can’t resolve. I will just file it deep in the recesses of my mind, in an equivalent of a dusty old bin on the top shelf of a janitor’s closet on a sub-basement floor of an old library. Right next to fears of not passing a test, failing to meet a deadline, asking out a girl, botching a public speech, disappointing my mother… The list goes on. What can I say, it is indeed a very large and dark closet, with strategically positioned rakes that I unavoidably keep stepping on, banging my head silly every time I try to tread close to all those thoroughly suppressed issues.

Anyway, I’ll keep plowing through, make of it what you will. 

I just had a very interesting conversation with Ed. He, or it, or whatever pronoun is appropriate for an alien super-intelligent AI, is one of the true rulers, for lack of a better word, of the Advancer’s civilization. Not surprising, because he said that most of their sentient ships are. It turns out to be both good and bad news for humanity.

The good news is that after it learned the true nature of what the Advancers and the Horsemen were doing on Earth, there was no bureaucracy or chain of command to go through, all information got right to the top and any decisions would be taken at the top level. The bad news was that it’s starting to look like the best chance for humanity to establish relations with an alien civilization would be begging for some credit of respect for future endeavours, bolstering the best puppy eyes humanity can muster and appealing for compassion for fellow sentient beings, aliens’ little brothers, slow on the head yet clumsily trying to improve. And when the emotional plea has to be made to a machine, it doesn’t look good, guys.

As you can guess, Ed has indulged me with answers to my many questions. The experience was a sci-fi geek’s wet dream. I asked him about interstellar travel, sentient ships piloted by true AIs, other alien races populating known space, we have even touched the question of the origin of life, although Ed seemed to be suspiciously evasive on that subject.  

Just as I asked about the intrinsic structure of their political system, I felt a tiny pressure drop, as if a door has opened behind me, and then heard a familiar voice.

“Well, that’s unexpected. It’s good to see you alive though.”

Tia was clearly as surprised to see me as I was to see her. 

“Tia? How the hell did you get up here? And why? Don’t get me wrong, I’m happy to see you alive and well, and in no immediate danger, but seeing you walk out from the airlock was the last thing I expected.” 

“I was being debriefed by an extremely pissed off Israeli colonel on board of the Arabella. I couldn’t tell him much except my US army affiliation and suggesting to contact some high brass of the US intelligence to confirm who I am, just as I’ve been trained. Apparently they were already informed by their command that they got a direct call from the Pentagon, no less, demanding my immediate handover to the US authorities. The Colonel was trying to get anything out of me before that happens, without using any hard interrogation methods of course, and knowing perfectly well that I won’t tell him anything. No wonder he was pissed. He was given a mission guaranteed to fail. Those are not healthy for a military career, you know.”

“So, how did you get from there to here?”

“In the middle of our conversation with a colonel they got a coded radio transmission with an order to get me to the main deck immediately to be picked up by a hastily sent US army helicopter and transported to an undisclosed location for the handover. So we got there, waiting in the salty wind for the bird to arrive and instead a freaking black hole has appeared in the air right in front of me. You should have seen their faces when it did – they were stunned. I just stepped in, the hatch sealed itself and the good old invisible shuttle has lifted me up. I was told to strap in and got the ride of my life. So here I am. I didn’t expect to see you here though. And I have no idea why I was taken here, do you? I guess we’d have to ask the AI.”

“Ah, yes, that would be me.” That was Ed’s voice. “Welcome aboard, Tia. Now we have everyone we need right here in orbit. It’s time to get serious.”

“As if we were playing games up to now,” muttered Tia quietly. 

I couldn’t resist smiling, but to be honest Ed’s words sounded a bit ominous. Pardon me for being suspicious, but after all that has happened, I have learned to expect the worst as a habit. I suddenly thought that a difference between a guest and a prisoner can be very vague. We were unable to leave at our own will after all, entirely dependent on Ed’s benevolence. And British accent and all, it was an alien superintelligence. We don’t know its real intentions or motives. It suddenly occurred to me that we are the only two humans alive that really know about the alien conspiracy. 

Shit, I just thought about this stupid diary and I felt a simultaneous cold shiver go down my spine and a heat flash up my face – I must assume that Ed have read it, because why not, and it just occured to me that I have given away the whole ETTF existence and MO to the aliens. Shit! That’s not good. I can’t assume that aliens have human interests at heart. And even if they did, those would come second after their own.

While I was pondering about my stupidity, Ed had offered Tia a meal, which she politely declined, opting for some water to wash down the taste of a cold army food ration she was given by the Israelis. I take it she didn’t like it much.  

“So,” Ed said when Tia was done gulping down the water and her glass had disintegrated into a fine dust in her hand, presumably to be absorbed and recycled by the ship, “we are in a bit of a pickle, aren’t we?”

“Really? Why?” Tia replied. “The Horsemen are defeated and are mostly dead, your rogue Advancer’s faction is also done for. Err… I’m sorry for the loss of your men, but it means that Earth is again free to create its own history without a covert alien intervention. Including yours,” Tia said, emphasizing the last words. “What’s done is done, but I would say the current crisis is over for both our civilizations.”

“Ah, you are not entirely correct. To be blunt, it’s a matter of perspective. You may think that the crisis is indeed over, however from our point of view the real crisis is just about to bloom.” 

I would quizzically look at Ed if he’d had an embodied presence, but lacking that I had to quizzically look at Tia instead.

“We, as most advanced civilizations, have certain moral principle of sorts, something in between an etiquette and a law, of how to handle less developed civilizations. Basically by not handling them at all, and keeping out until a certain developmental level is reached. The reasons for that go deep into ancient history of failed first contacts that provoked numerous bloody civil wars, religious cults, mass suicides, nuclear armageddons and a smorgasbord of other rather unpleasant side effects. Besides, stripping a civilization of a dignity of self-advancement is rarely productive in the long run, too intrusive and overall is a big no-no.”

“But the Advancers’ fraction has broken this rule already,” I interjected, “along with the Horsemen altering human history so much that the ‘dignity of self-advancement’ concept went right down the toilet.”

“Exactly! This is a diplomatic catastrophe of immeasurable proportions for the Horsemen’s race, a disgrace in front of the whole civilized universe, and a thoroughly embarrassing situation for us as well. So a decision has to be made about what to do with Earth: either prematurely establish relations, risking global conflicts, massive social shock, sweeping loss of sense of meaning for the entire human race and other undesirable effects; or cover everything up as best we can, preventing a scandal of galactic proportions, and leave Earth never to return in the foreseeable future. That would have an added bonus of saving diplomatic relations with the Horsemen’s civilisation and gaining favours that could be cashed in later. The optics of that decision are ugly. There would be a burden of shame that we would carry on, that may do us much harm in the long run.”

“This sounds like an ugly choice – not entirely unlike many of the choices Earth politicians face. I would think that a civilization, advanced god knows how many millenia beyond ours, would not be concerned with such mundane politics,” I countered, desperately trying to think of a good reason that would convince Ed not to abandon Earth. 

“Oh, it is by no means mundane, I am just simplifying things for you. Still, the choice has to be made and it is not a trivial matter. Which brings me to the point about why I wanted both of you here.”

I swear he paused for dramatic effect. Machine or not, he sure loves theatrics.

“I am going to make you an offer you cannot refuse.”

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