Jump to content

With One Voice (IC, Open)


Recommended Posts

Starbase #00026, corner of 40th and Allen, Midtown, Freedom City,

2nd of April, Saturday, 2016, 50 revolutions since last long-range inspection by the Lor Republic


Folding down his holocor screen, Dol-Druth glanced around at the world that would be his home for the foreseeable future. It was warmer here than when he'd arrived on the exceptionals' Lighthouse. The northern hemisphere was tilting back towards SL-43, blazing gold in the faintly nauseating blue-hued sky. A slender sliver of silver was visible through the squat canyons of Midtown's buildings, a daily reminder to the planet inspector that he could be somewhere civilized right now, and not need to leave the system to do it.


With a grumbling noise at the back of his throat, the bureaucrat leaned back in the chair of metal mesh, feeling it waver slightly under his hundred-odd kilograms, glancing at his fellow patrons, most of whom either gawked openly or surreptitiously. It was the same with the steady stream of humans going up and down the street, either on foot, on bi-wheeled contraptions of remarkable ingenuity, or in groundcars that roared and rumbled like something out of the Khanate arenas. He'd endured plenty of stares, but for the most part this settlement seemed fairly used to people with unusual appearances, so the stares were pretty much it. It was cutting into his data-gathering, especially since those that did pause mostly just took pictures, giggled, or asked him incredibly stupid questions like-


"Are you an alien?"


A very large, wholly bald white-skinned man in a shifting suit of iridescent beige swiveled around, levelling a pair of slender antennae and a pair of large, black eyes set in a humourless face at the human pupa who'd spoken, a female with a cloud of kinked black hair, clothed in vivid colours that made the inspector's gut clench. For a second, but only one, Dol-Druth considered saying "No."


But he wasn't here to lie to children, he was here to find out what these children were thinking and were going to become. With a forbidding scowl he replied "Yes. I am Planet Inspector Dol-Druth, Speaking for Dotrae, the Lor of the Manymind and the Lost Planet. I wish to learn about your world and-"


The girl was already dashing to her very embarrassed-looking dam "MOM, MOM, I JUST MET AN ALIEN!" she all but screamed, which got her a stern lecture that carried on to around the block and out of the Civic Rotundan's sight.


Dol-Druth glared at the cup of vegetable-strained water and the clump of sweetened grains in front of him. The Grue Pseudo had told him that coffee shops were common places for humans to congregate and meet new people. Had this all been an elaborate joke at his expense? "I wouldn't expect much more of a shifter, even if he is severed from the Meta-Mind" the insectile Lor muttered, taking a ginger sip of his coffee. It hadn't gotten any better after it cooled down.


Settling back into his chair, he checked the holographic sign. It at least was working as intended, saying in bright letters of soft light 




Perfectly clear. Joke or not, this place was at least where people were. All he had to do was wait. Something he was going to have to get used to sooner or later. Again.


'Bird Galactic, I hate my job'

Link to comment

Tristan spent a good hour watching Dol-Druth through a stargazing telescope from the top floor of his apartment, making up his mind about how to approach the situation.  Leviathan didn't seem necessary; surely by this point, if the Lor was dangerous, someone else would've taken steps.  Since he couldn't very well let such a rare opportunity pass by, that only left the decision of how to best make contact. 


"'Youngest Delacroix brother was spotted meeting with an alien today in Midtown,'" he mimicked an announcer voice.  "'Is the Freedom Cross Institute secretly working with, or for, a foreign power?  More baseless speculation at eleven, when we show Alexander and Delvin Delacroix having public aneurysms.'" 


He flipped the telescope back up into its usual position, turned to his extensive walk-in closet, and rummaged through the rows of outfits.  This being a Midtown mission--closer to home than he'd like, but again, this wouldn't link back to Leviathan unless things went south in the worst possible way--he chose one of his larger business suits, then set about fitting into it.  Longer arms, a broader chest, a bit of a paunch...


Tristan's face looked comically out of place on such a body when he examined himself in his full-length mirror.  He forced his head to swell, adjusted his nose and jaw to match, added some wrinkles around his eyes, and finished by putting more of a wave in his black hair, plus a few specks of gray.  "There," he proclaimed.  Out the door he went, to the elevator that wasn't precisely private but might as well be at this height when he owned the entire floor, past which point he could pass for a visitor to his own apartment if anyone asked.


A brisk walk later, he approached the holographic sign with the barest of frowns.  "Inter-terrestrial civic program?" he asked, pitching his voice to carry, halting his approach several feet away as though fearful to come too close.  "Is this some kind of exchange program?  Taking people to the stars?"  The middle-aged man chuckled slightly nervously. 

Link to comment

Dol-Druth squinted dubiously at the human. He'd gotten halfway through the strained water and could feel it doing something irreparable inside him, the sun's angle meant its fiery gaze bounced off every reflective surface around(which was most of the surfaces in this part of Midtown), and after hours of dealing with questions that were at average shockingly inane, he was at much less than optimal sociability levels.


Nonetheless, this was why he was here, it was a valid misinterpretation of this and likely other Republic programmes, and at least it was more of a conversation-starter than almost anything else he had been asked so far. Schooling his face and mind into polite crisp professionalism, the Speaker said "Not yet. It is rather the first step on that journey."


Rising slightly by way of pushing himself up with the table, the prodigious Dotra went on "I am Dol-Druth, Speaking for Dotrae and inspector of civilized worlds prior to and after their entry into the Lor Republic, a cosmopolitan interstellar authority on whose borders this stellar system currently rests. I wish to learn about this world and its people from its people, and educate them so they may make informed decisions about their future place in the cosmos."


He beckoned to the chair opposite his with a massive, fleshy hand "Would you care to join me, and talk for a while?"

Link to comment

The man's skeptical, slightly worried but polite smile wasn't forced; less than a minute into the conversation, and Tristan already didn't like the sound of it.  His initial reaction was that this was part of a larger plan to incorporate Earth into the Lor Republic--though chatting up civilians in Midtown didn't strike him as a particularly effective first step, so he held off judgment for the moment.  Besides, perhaps he'd learn something useful in the process of making "informed decisions" about his "future place."  An overall phrase that called to mind images of secret police and midnight disappearances of dissenters. 


"...Sure, I've got some time," he agreed.  He sat down and waited; Dol-Druth presumably had plans in mind, so Tristan let him take the lead. 

Link to comment

Reopening his holocor, the pale alien tapped a few semi-imaginary buttons in the light-based interface, bringing up a block of text in an alien language. Scanning it briefly, Dol-Druth cleared his throat, looked at Tristan and began at once. 


"Your culture defines itself based on differences, is that correct? "You" are you because you are not something else, someone else. With that in mind, how would you describe yourself? What makes you you? What is your definition of normal, and do you fit it? Finally," the inspector glanced at the text and frowned for a fleeti moment before turning his black, gimlet eyes back to Tristan "Under what circumstances would you want to be other than you are?"

Edited by Ari
Link to comment



He hadn't expected something this (however broadly) personal.  Tristan supposed he could lie, but he wasn't the best at it.  The consequences of being caught shouldn't be too severe, but even so...


Perhaps he could get by with a kind of truth.  "Well, that's all a little philosophical for me, but I'm in the pharmaceutical industry.  I would say that normal, to me, is living in a modern human city, doing work for money, so you can have the things you want and need.  So, if I met someone living on their own in the wilderness, or on an advanced space colony, or a person who didn't have a job but just did whatever they wanted, I would consider them different and unusual.  And then..."


Ah, why not?  His true aspiration wasn't uncommon in Freedom City.  "If I could be someone else, I'd want to be a superhero.  I'd want some kind of ability that let me be more than a regular human, so I could help keep people safe.  To be honest, it looks like a lot of fun too, when I see it on TV or read about it in the papers."


The less this conversation focused on him in particular, the happier Tristan would be, so he tried to bargain question-for-question.  "What about you?  I'm not familiar with the Lor Republic, or its people."  Dol-Druth's outlook on human individuality gave him a hunch, so he added, "Are you part of a hive-mind?" 

Link to comment

The alien across from Tristan noted down the answers rapidly, nodding slowly, though his broad face was unchanged. "Thank you for being forthright. It is important to know about the respondant, otherwise the answers are meaningless. Uncommon desire to serve the public good...encouraging."


"Dotrae is, indeed, a manymind. Singular pronouns are preferred on most planets, so we open with those." The mountainous bureaucrat leaned forward, one naked eyebrow raised slightly "A very astute observation. From what we read on the Lighthouse, few in your civilization are so trained to observe."


Scrolling through the files of the holocor with flicks of his sausage-like fingers, creating a blur of patterns across the pallid face of Dol-Druth as he skimmed the Pre-Inspection Guidelines and Methods, the alien continued in his harsh voice "'Hive' is inaccurate. We share a mind, but are each independent. Your exceptionals have recently met the Communion, a vast, thankfully now dead, single artificial entity with many parts but one purpose. We are many parts, many purposes, but a collective of minds and senses. When Dol-Druth looks at you, all Dotrae does too. He speaks our thoughts, representative and focus to the loneminds of the universe, but is also Dol-Druth the planet inspector."


Having found what he was looking for, the inspector swiped a semi-translucent map of the known galaxy onto the display, blue lines linking the Republic's stars. "Similarly, our Republic is many species and systems, united for the goal of cooperation for mutual benefit. Only a short time ago it was a cruel, selfish empire ruled by the humans of the Magna-Lor system. The Lor are still a majority, but allow other members equal voice in the Senate, election to the Praetors, self-governance and self-determination so long as it does not interfere with the aims of other members."


"For example," here the man's eyes hooded, his slender antennae curled forward as if crouching "we have read of the intolerably numerous attacks on this planet, including by the Myconid, the Grue Unity and even a stealth incursion by Khanate operatives. Given that violent first contact, how do you think you-your people feel about..."aliens"?" His hands did not make the quotes, but the antennae did.


Link to comment

Tristan accepted most of that without comment, filing it away; the description of this republic sounded less suspicious now, but of course, he only had Dol-Druth's word to go on.  At a later opportunity he'd perhaps do his own investigation on the matter.  Dol-Druth continued to support his theory of attempted incorporation, but again, Tristan wondered why the alien was out here instead of making his pitch to governments around the world. 


Are there more of you doing just that?  Or setting up tables in other cities, hoping to pressure leaders by first building up popular support?


Best to just keep feeling the situation out.  If he really didn't like the sound of it by the end, then he might pass word to Terrifica and let her conduct the kind of investigation he couldn't. 


"I think that many people are concerned by them, but that's probably the lack of general information; here in Freedom City, we've had a little more experience, or at least enough to know that not everyone from beyond our planet can be grouped together.  We're gradually learning more about our neighbors, which will help us respond to them individually, whether they're known to be dangerous or cordial.  I do think that it's prudent to prepare for trouble, given how much of it we've already found.  You say you've been to the Lighthouse; the Freedom League and other teams like it are a good start to defending ourselves."


If Dol-Druth was telling the truth about that bit--and it was a dangerous lie to attempt--then it had to be a mark in his favor.  Powerful people at least knew he was here; he'd presumably been vetted.  But the Freedom League wasn't infallible, and in any case, Tristan's response hinted at his feelings on the subject: I'd rather trust in our own heroes than join a poorly-understood republic for protection.

Link to comment

Dol-Druth took a bite of his muffin, and visibly regretted it "Defence is not precisely the problem" he explained, fastidiously removing the grease and crumbs left on his skin "considering even back when your planet had scarcely fifty exceptionals, they repelled an attack by the Myconid. Their knowledge of an obscure dimensional frequency was pivotal to killing the Communion. The issue is how those attacks affect the mindset of your fellows. Put baldly" the Dotrae rubbed his shiny scalp absent-mindedly "the problem is that such constant need for defence, coupled with the individualism and inherent competition and violence of your dominant cultures and ideologies, may mean that when your race achieves regular interstellar travel they may see resources and threats where others see opportunities and comrades."


The Speaker held up a forestalling meaty hand "We should stress may. It is entirely probable those fears are unfounded. We are here to gather information, not pass judgement, that falls to the projection branch of the mentats and the Legal Rotunda. And certain cosmic entities whose abritrary, self-righeous and self-appointed natures make them wholly unsuitable for the job."


Casting off that tangent with a snort, the planet inspector skimmed over the holographic text again, landing on a forbidding block with a sudden brightening of his broad face. "Speaking of the Freedom League, and the Lighthouse, you have a largely positive relationship with your exceptionals, would you say? You are comfortable with the role they have assumed in your society?"

Link to comment

“Comfort is relative.” The voice came from the next table. There was an Asian woman there, and two young children. Both were obviously hers. “Spend too long bulletproof and one might forget that others aren’t. The Freedom League does good work, however there aren’t any objective standards to become of the…exceptionals, as I believe you called them?” This woman was Samantha Carson (alias Terrifica), without a thing to do for Spring Break as her husband Stan was at work today. So she’d taken Lucas and Meili for a trip into Freedom City. Imagine her surprise when she saw Dol Druth just sitting in a coffee shop with his sign. Intrigued, she came in for green tea and muffins and quietly listened as her children laid waste to baked goods. “Humanity is…very complicated. Many of our greatest strengths also can serve as our greatest weaknesses. The individualism and inherent competition and violence you mentioned aren’t always negative qualities. They’ve been quite useful at various stages of civilization’s development." She sipped her tea. "As a side note, many humans would react negatively to learning there's a entirely alien-in the sense that humans have no say in how they are structured and run-government deciding our worth as a species.” The woman smiled, but it didn't reach her eyes. "I know I'm certainly feeling a little negativity on the subject."

Edited by EternalPhoenix
Link to comment

Tristan hesitated, left uncomfortable by Dol-Druth's assessment; recent global history spoke for itself, and Tristan had to admit that this visitor, if he knew about the various ongoing conflicts to the east (very likely he did), was being courteously subtle by not directly referencing them.  Given how humanity often treated its own members, how could he fault other species for feeling concerned? 


The newcomer bought him a little time to think.  Tristan waited for her to finish, didn't entirely agree but found some of her points valid, and presented his own answer.  "Yes, I'm comfortable, for the most part.  It's a little scary for a few people to have so much power, but that's always been the case here, and in other parts of the universe as well; usually, that power just rests in the hands of leaders who can influence or outright command others.  Sometimes for the better, and sometimes not.  If we refuse to trust anyone with power, then we can't function as a society.  We have to judge our protectors by their actions, and I think that the Freedom League deserves a great deal of faith based on their past record.  If that changes, then so should our opinion of them, but for now, I'll give them the credit they're due.


"As for the rest, I agree that humanity has a history of competition and violence, but this is true for any species that has endured basic scarcity of resources, which is nearly all of them.  Evolution dictates that life which fights for its needs will win out over life that doesn't.  Violence is sometimes useful--" he gestured his agreement to the nearby mother, "--even when it's also terrible.  However, we as a species are increasingly seeing the negative aspects of violence.  Our ethics have been moving forward for millennia, and should continue to do so.  There was a time when the average person had no issues with a culture of conquest, but you'll find that today, all across this planet, most people feel differently.  Once, empires were proud to expand their boarders at the point of the sword; now, we look upon that sort of greed and self-interest with disgust.  When we do take to the stars as a species, I can't promise we'll always conduct ourselves with peace, but we've at least reached the point where most of us turn to violence as a means to protect ourselves against perceived threats, not to gleefully harvest thinking beings for their resources.  Maybe we'll outgrow even that, when the time comes.  If we haven't, then I think we still won't be any crueler than most of the other life-forms we encounter."

Link to comment

"You and every planeter ever inspected." The corpulent alien offered his white hand to Samantha "Dol-Druth, Speaking for Dotrae."


"Mentioning "worth", that is not accurate. "Compatibility" is more to the truth. It would be useless to try and quantify or qualify the "worth" of any species. Besides the matter of evolution, the future is still largely a mystery, despite our efforts. What we do not value, such as human faith in the supernal, has proved very valuable to them and us."


Dol-Druth picked up his coffee, looked at it, visibly turned the concept of drinking it over in his mind, and set it back down again. "Besides, humans have already demonstrated their 'worth' before a higher court than any Rotunda. You can thank AEGIS for that."


Tapping at the screen of his computer, the rounded Dotrae swiped to another part of what now seemed to be connected or branching documents, this one marked with a symbol everyone at the table recognized as a Greek delta. "You say there is no 'objective standard' for your exceptionals. Does this mean anyone can claim to be a 'superhero' or 'supervillain', there is no process to legally or culturally define oneself as such besides personal actions and public reactions?" He looked at both Tristan and Samantha as he asked this.


As he spoke, Dol-Druth 'detached' a part of the screen, which turned into a holographic page that he 'placed' in front of Samantha. The alien letters on its steely blue surface quickly changed to Mandarin, reciting the questions the planet inspector had asked Tristan at the start of their interview.


To Tristan the alien looked almost pleasantly surprised as he added "A forward-thinking attitude. Even in Dotrae, sometimes we look at the past and shudder, unable to see then how good it is we can feel such shame where once we thought nothing of devouring ourselves and other worlds. Do you think humans will become so introspective en masse, or will that remain something for members of the upper class, like yourself?"

Edited by Ari
Link to comment

A young man, probably in his early 20s, with long, deep red hair making its way down his head and shoulders, approached the table, a plastic cup of coffee in hand. He listened to the conversation for a bit, before speaking up, obviously intrigued by Dol-Druth bringing up superheroes.



"As far as I’m aware, yes. There is nothing that truly qualifies one as a superhero or supervillain. And since most of them keep their identity a secret, you could always run across one without knowing it.”



The man took a long sip from his coffee, before continuing to talk.



“I frequent various websites focused on, as you refer to them “exceptionals”. A lot of people on their believe that a superhero is one who does good, a supervillain one who does bad. It’s an incredibly fine line, and one I do not feel I can completely agree with. What if there’s a superhero whose powers are “inherently” bad? Do they still count as a hero? I’m not sure on how the police, the army and other armed forces treat it, maybe they have some kind of classification? But where are my manners, it's you who is the one asking questions nad not me, so I suppose I will answer too.”




This day had just turned a lot more interesting for Cassidy “Bonfire” Bauer. He had been walking around Midtown to relax for a bit, before patrolling later in the evening. And then he saw an alien sitting around, talking to people. Now, that was a chance he couldn’t just ignore, talking to strangers is great, and talking to strangers to your planet is probably even greater!


Edited by olopi
Link to comment

Around him, the conversation was starting to become complex enough to lose track of the details, or to perhaps be lost himself.  Since this new man had answered the question about classification, and Tristan had nothing special to add on that score, he just replied to Dol-Druth's other issue.


"All of us, sure.  Humanity as a whole is already making these shifts--that's the point.  When just a few people at the top object to unnecessary wars or similar atrocities, that's not enough to stop it.  Not unless those few people are 'exceptionals.'  Humans are social creatures, and we accomplish our biggest projects together, whether they're good or bad.  Even today, the masses all too often go along with the orders our leaders give, rather than protest when they should, but in the past it was much worse.  The average person felt they had much less power and influence over the direction of their society, at least until general outrage reached the point of bloody revolution.  These days, as education slowly becomes better and more widespread, and our technology lets us connect faster with one another to make our voices heard, regular people are not only more aware of the consequences of warfare, but are also better equipped to speak out against it.  We still have a long way to go, especially regarding our schools; any teacher in this country will tell you that.  But we're making strides.  As that improves, so will humanity.  If you look at our history, we've been working for centuries to move away from focusing education on the upper classes, and it's having positive effects.  Society often moves at the pace of its slowest members."

Link to comment

Sam frowned. “Normal? Normal is an illusion. There seems to be a fundamental misunderstanding here. How normal is defined doesn’t actually vary from one person to the next. However, that definition itself is extraordinarily variable. It is the everyday. The expected. The routine. And therein lies my point. Human minds are not connected in any way, shape, or form. We are each limited strictly to what we can perceive and whatever nature plus nurture have granted our minds to interpret that information with. With no two sets of senses and no two brains being exactly alike, it is as I said. Normal is a illusion. A comforting one, that much is true. But an illusion nonetheless.” Her point well argued, she smiled. “With that said, I certainly don’t conform to what most of my species would consider normal. My natural intelligence is among the highest on the planet and I have an eidetic memory. There is no one else I’d rather be.”


Lucas tugged at her sleeve, and they whispered with each other for a few seconds, then she returned to the conversation. “As I and this gentleman were saying, there is no objective standard to become an exceptional. There is no training program, or licensing agency. Effectively, anyone can put on a mask and fight or commit crime. There is a option to register one’s costumed identity, but that is for legal matters. It in no way validates one’s hero status. Culturally, however, there are some universal symbols. The mask. The tights. Having visible superpowers in general. I doubt anyone would mistake Doctor Metropolis for anything but an exceptional.”


Meilin babbled in excellent Mandarin, and Samantha addressed her in the same language. She addressed Tristan’s last comments. “I don’t disagree with you. Cultural and technological advancements improved the quality of life and given a voice for virtually everyone in the Western Hemisphere and many more in the Eastern. Unfortunately, I can’t agree that there are no negative consequences to that. It goes back to what I said previously. We are each limited strictly to what we can perceive and whatever nature plus nurture have granted our minds to interpret that information with. Nature does not always provide the best material, nor does nurture always provide the best sustenance to grow on. As such, even the most backward and ignorant can have their voices heard as easily as the highly intelligent and educated. The ratio of good to bad in that is, as with everything else, subjective.”

Link to comment

"My natural intelligence is among the highest on the planet and I have an eidetic memory."  Safe to say, that bit stuck out more than the rest to Tristan.  His eyes narrowed slightly, and on the tip of his tongue sat the obvious question...but he hesitated, given that he didn't want to answer it in turn.  Dol-Druth thankfully hadn't asked his name; Tristan obviously couldn't give his real one, or support any lie with documentation. 


He settled for responding to Samantha's, well, response.  "The way I see it, recent advances in communication and information-sharing really don't have negative consequences.  Many parts of TV, radio, and the internet may be swamps of hate and bigotry, but those existed long before; all these technologies do is let everyone speak louder than our ancestors.  It can be annoying, but I don't think it's bad to know what's out there.  You talked about subjective, single-point perspectives, which is true: no human can ever really share another's viewpoint, at least not without psychic shenanigans.  What we can do is come closer than we have in the past, with better widespread communication.  If we don't like what we hear, then the problem is with the speaker, not the device they're using, and perhaps we can change opinions we disagree with using that same method, whereas in the past, isolated problems would often just fester and feed themselves for generations.  Although, as you've pointed out yourself, the difference between the 'backward and ignorant' and the 'highly intelligent and educated' can often be subjective."

Edited by Blarghy
Link to comment

Oh god I'm surrounded by geniuses.


Cassidy took a long sip form his coffee, at this point it was almost empty, while listening to the others.

Then he decided to speak up again, he frequented enough places on the internet to know quite a bit about it's culture.


“Communications are great, but I wouldn’t say they’re completely positive.  The internet for example, while yes, the “backward and ignorant” have always existed, due to the anonymity they are provided with thanks to modern technology, it is easier for them to lash out. They do not have to worry about nearly as much, which leads to more people deciding that hey, they can live out their inner bigotry too. It’s a lot easier to insult people for as long as you can if they can hardly track you down than if they’re standing right next to you. It’s not bad to know what is out there, I agree with you, but not being able to avoid it, especially if it’s directed towards you personally, isn’t all that great. We can talk to anybody much more easily, and it’s getting more and more difficult to avoid people. Don’t get me wrong, there’s a lot of great things about newer technology. I’m not extraordinarily intelligent, but I can get just about any information I could ever need for free, so it hardly matters. I love what we are able to do thanks to technology, but there are times I wish it would be easier to just ignore everything on there.”


Cass looked at the other two, he probably was the one who spent most time on the internet in this group, or at least so it felt. Well, he was on there quite a lot, and there’s a lot of hate speech to be found, be it trolls or people who are fully serious.  


Edited by olopi
Link to comment

Tristan reluctantly looked away from Samantha to Cassidy.  Wow, that's some red hair.


"You can't get away from people on the internet more easily than you could when bullies and bigots shouted at you in person?" he asked wryly with a half-smile.  "But yes, not having to look someone in the eyes does make it easier to be cruel to them.  It's like road rage; when you've got those barriers separating you, and you don't actually see the person you're angry with, you lose that sense of shame from your actions.  Maybe it's harder to think of everyone else as actual people, even, when you don't personally witness them.  Fair point.


"And I like that other bit--easier access to information, especially for lower and middle classes.  An ongoing trend for centuries, and a good one too, like I was saying earlier."  Tristan made a circular gesture with one finger.  "The internet is just the newest, most extreme piece of it.  You can't always be sure what's true, but that's always been a problem with books and formal classrooms too.  At least on the internet, most of us know to keep a healthy sense of skepticism." 

Link to comment

Samantha was visibly irritated by Tristan’s comments. “Easier, yes. More practical, no. Do I need to remind you of a certain movement that conducted a sustained harassment campaign against whoever had the nerve to publicly disagree with it? Withdrawing from social media is simply unfeasible for most occupations, and it is unthinkable for anyone who desires anything resembling a modern social life.” Taking heed of where she was and who she was with (meaning her young, impressionable children), she reigned herself in. “It is as I said before.  The information age has its upsides and downsides. It can be a source of support for the oppressed and downtrodden who desperately need it, or it can be a source of support for those who only think they are oppressed and downtrodden.” There was a moment where she looked quite sad and frustrated. “The very same qualities that foster hope and faith can and do foster hate and bigotry. Often on the same website. The thing about formal classrooms is that one was surrounded by people, who were not guaranteed to share one’s views. Many places on the internet no longer have this limitation. It has become too easy to feel completely justified in practicing prejudice against any group.”


She looked at Dol-Druth to explain it properly. “Because of our aforementioned limited perspectives, most humans don’t want to believe that our problems are our own fault. Because then we’d have to change ourselves, and change is frightening. So we blame others. We fear the unknown, the foreign, and the unusual, and the strange. And as a wise puppet once said, fear leads to anger. Anger leads to hate. Hate leads to suffering. It’s a cycle that should be familiar even to you. Ah, but please note that is a sweeping generalization. As mentioned, humans are quite different from each other. The vast majority aren’t malicious but merely acting out of benign self interest. It is only when an unscrupulous few manipulate that self interest that tragedies and atrocities can occur. Which, I imagine, is a concept you are familiar with.

Link to comment

Samantha's reaction surprised Tristan more than her opinions, given that this was just a casual discussion among strangers, without personal stakes involved.  He mentally noted her as someone who reacted poorly to disagreement.


"I think that everything you're mentioning still happened long before modern communication technologies, on just as great a scale, with just as serious consequences," he said mildly.  "Yes, online harassment campaigns are terrible and incredibly stupid, but speaking an unpopular opinion could bring you to the same result throughout human history.  You can easily find real, geographical areas where the populations hold consistent, inflexible viewpoints, or at least pretend to for fear of how they'll individually be treated if they deviate from the norm; as I see it, the only change the Internet has brought in that regard is to make it easier to relocate.  Simpler to visit a new website where everyone believes as you do than to physically move your entire life to a new city or country.  But the world certainly had regions that justified prejudice en masse long before the Internet.  Surely you can think of countless genocides, persecutions, mass ostracisations, and, your example, harassment campaigns.  The Internet may even lessen these unfortunate events, because while online communities may make your life miserable if they don't like the way you think, they're at least less likely than our ancestors to come to your home in the night, drag you out into the street, and set you on fire for being a dissenter."


Tristan gestured between Samantha and Dol-Druth, concerning Sam's second set of points.  "As for the 'benign self-interest' bit, I'd call it 'mob mentality.'  We're social animals; we achieve our greatest successes and commit our worst atrocities as a group.  If one person disapproves of some part of your personality or nature, they only occasionally go as far as violence.  Snide distaste is more likely.  If a whole population disapproves, then this story probably ends in blood--hence why mass education is so important.  We're less susceptible to mob 'justice' than we were in the past, but the problem is far from finished.  I don't think it will be, until we as a species learn the value of working together but also thinking as individuals."

Link to comment

Unknowingly, Tristan had triggered Samantha’s lecture mechanism. She leaned back in her seat and folded her arms. She wasn’t anywhere near irritated now.“It isn’t that the internet and the wider communication it has brought with it is a negative thing. It is that it has made some seem to think that vigilance is less necessary. A safe space, with no dissenting ideas, is the death of intelligent discourse. This is always true. Even if the ideas are unpleasant or even repugnant, one mustn’t turn one’s eyes away in fear or…what was that you called it? Snide distaste? We must not be the type who shrinks from standing up for what is unpopular in the present environment. To do so is cowardice. Of a lesser variety, to be sure, but cowardice nonetheless. This is not the same as being stubborn, or resistant to compromise. Yes, there is a price for behaving in this manner, and throughout history it has most often been being brutally murdered. However, without considering dissenting ideas, one cannot grow as an intelligent and responsible member of society. Without intelligent and responsible members of society, society cannot grow. If society cannot grow, then it stagnates. Stagnating societies eventually collapse, resulting in a mad dash for survival and immense suffering for the people that were once a part of them. To say nothing of the misery before the final fall.”


 She took a breath and let it out with a slight smile. “Which is why when anyone suggests the easier, non-confrontational route, I get a little irritated. Bullies and tyrants, be their goals noble or ignoble, should not be tolerated under any circumstances. One should take in all available information and decide for one’s self what is right. Not even the tyranny of the majority should stand in one’s way in this regard. Or to put it another way…just because I don’t agree with someone does not mean I want them to shut up or go away.” The slight smile turned into a smirk. “And, of course, I’m certainly not going anywhere.”

Link to comment

This is going to be a long orbit.


While the humans had been talking, Dol-Druth had been busily taking notes, the linked alien drawing on several thousand other minds to help process, refine and translate the debate into its most salient points and details. Inevitably, some things just couldn't be made to fit in the PIR's data format, either because they referred to concepts so antique as to be untranslatable in modern Galactic Standard, or because they required additional explanation and context that hadn't yet come up in the course of the talk.


For instance, the disseminated and largely decentralized nature of Earth's infant infoweb and its effect on public discourse.


Mumbling something under his breath, Dol-Druth glanced up from his holocor as the discussion grew more heated. The two upper-class humans appeared to be at an ideological impasse, one the inspector frankly had little sympathy for. If the humans were going to preach conformity and individualism at the same time and expect things to just work out, that was their problem.


"We respect your views, but must remind you that this not simply an open forum. Let us keep on track. There are only a few questions left, and afterwards you will have plenty of time to explore your differences. Now then," Dol-Druth's large, black eyes scanned the document in front of him, pausing on the next vein of this bureaucratic artery "your exceptionals have a very prominent and active engagement with your society. As they are in many cases of superior ability, do you think they will come to lead your civlization or remain in their present, auxiliary role as peacekeepers and emergency services?"


"I apologize, number three," the alien added with a frown of his snowy head at Cassidy "I was distracted and did not think to give you a preliminar. I am Dol-Druth, speaking for Dotrae. Would you please fill this out?" another hard-light 'sheet' was detached and handed to the red-haired man, with the same questions as asked of the first two.


Taking a bite of his muffin, pausing to wait for the surge of disgust to wash by, Dol-Druth checked over the notes on the holocor. "Hrmgh. In particular, what are called science-heroes, such as this city's Miss Americana and Dragonfly, or Daedalus or the shamed Doktor Archeville. They have significant reach and an authority via economics that even the likes of the Freedom League cannot easily replicate. Do you think they are a likely example of what future superheroes will be, technologically-focused and active in your global marketplace? The internet allows for the spread of information much more quickly than before, and to keep pace with the arms-race of super-powered criminality people need a good deal more money."


Swallowing with a grimace, the alien concluded "Not to mention that modern Earth science can now mimic much of what was once the sole province of the superhumanly gifted; except for exceptional intelligence, and even that gap is closing."

Edited by Ari
Link to comment

Cass was pretty glad Dol-Druth spoke up. He had lost track of the conversation a while ago and was just listening in trying not to get too confused. So he quickly grabbed the sheet, and while thinking about the questions on it, responded to what Dol-Druth asked.


“I think it’s hard to predict the future on something like this. Most heroes seem content doing what they do, but if somebody popular enough were to strive for a leadership position, I imagine they would have pretty good chances. Some powers seem more suited for something like this, but I doubt anybody would like a Telepath to run for an election. Other powers are more subtle about influencing other people. Maybe somebody simply is incredibly charismatic thanks to theirs, which would probably make them excel at political work. “


The slightest hint of a smile formed above the red soul patch, before Cass took a quick break from talking and filled out one of the questions on the sheet. Before continuing to talk, he once again took a sip from his coffee, the last one for now.


“But I don’t think that the future is all science heroes. There are enough examples of non-science ones doing well, and as with other technology, the environment will adapt to the science the heroes bring with them. I think the monetary aspect you mentioned also plays part. Most heroes who do not rely on technology will not need a lot of money to increase their skills, just time and effort. So it will become a race of technology against people training their powers and discovering new ones. “


Edited by olopi
Link to comment

"Maybe the day will come when technology puts exceptional power in the hands of everyone," Tristan suggested; he used his Morphing ability to suppress an embarrassed blush at having helped draw the conversation off-topic.  "A mass leveling of the playing field, hopefully accompanied by the average person being responsible and educated enough to handle it.  Superheroes are sometimes feared because of their huge advantages over the public, so even if we never reach the point where we all have their offensive capabilities, I wouldn't complain about using technology defensively.  I think most heroes would promote that, better allowing people to protect themselves.  Handing out doom lasers is probably a bad idea, but I can see a time when the average person has, say, a personal force field at their disposal.  Many of us are already equipped with machinery that would've dazzled the rich elite a generation ago, so it isn't impossible, for the gear of today's heroes to become fairly commonplace tomorrow."  He took his smartphone from his pocket and gestured with it for emphasis. 


"I'm not precisely opposed to heroes in leadership roles, but I can understand the hesitation, sure.  Especially if their natural abilities looked a bit suspicious for such a position."  Tristan waved, phone still in hand, to Cass in reference to his telepathy comment.  "At the moment, I think popular heroes already have a lot of sway in political circles.  The Freedom League has probably accomplished more than we know, with mere 'suggestions.'  The problem is that we, justifiably, fear leaders who're too powerful to be held accountable if they choose not to allow it.  We've seen the consequences throughout history.  Past tyrants used their armies, but if your leader can withstand missiles and toss aside tanks, how do you remove them from office if they turn against their people?"

Link to comment

Dol-Druth frowned at #3's mention of telepaths in government positions. "Yes, we have encountered considerable difficulties trying to install mentats into positions outside advisory and supplemental roles. The temptation in lonemind mentats to change others is...phenomenally difficult to combat with the law alone."


Fastidiously cleaning crumbs from his face with pinches of a napkin, the mountainous alien nodded shortly at the answers from the interviewees, his eyes once more fixed on the scrolling Galstandard letters unraveling elegantly upwards. He glanced up once at something #1 had said. Leveling of the playing field. Curious choice of words. Hmmm. Inquire?


The answer was quickly decided: yes, let us see what that means


"You mention "playing field". In your society, individual accomplishment often overshadows joint endeavours in both media and language choice, do you think this mindset, seeing your civilization as necessarily a contest or struggle between each other, will continue?"


"More broadly," his antennae quirked towards #1 "do you foresee an end to the factionalism and separation in your power structures? Or is that necessarily human nature, something your species will always depend upon for improvement and innovation?"


"For example, if New Freedom on the Southern Continent or Dakana in Africanis abandoned their semi-isolationism, whom would that benefit?"

Edited by Ari
Link to comment
This topic is now closed to further replies.
  • Create New...