In the finale of CNET's historic crowdsourced sci-fi novel, the war on Earth is over, but the story of the multiverse may just be getting started.
Eric Mack and contributors
CNET contributor and lead "Crowd Control" writer Eric Mack asked readers to help him write a science fiction novel, and hundreds from around the world -- more than 120 who shared their names and many more anonymous -- collaborated via a single Google Doc, working under a Creative Commons license to shape the rough draft of a story. From that draft, CNET created the novel you're reading now.
This is the last installment of "Crowd Control: Heaven Makes a Killing," CNET's crowdsourced science fiction novel written and edited by readers around the world. New to the story? Click here to start. To read other past installments, visit our table of contents.
From the Diaries of Cindy Parker.
(Date and location undisclosed), Earth, circa December 2051
Cindy stood in awe of the top-secret bunker. The flight to the distant corner of the desert and half-mile elevator trip underground made her feel as if she were back on T.S. or in another yet-to-be-discovered universe.
The members of the security council sat in their tall chairs behind the sleek black table and stared out at the small group of people assembled at the closed treaty meeting between the Transhumans and the Uninstallers.
The meeting was a formality. Peace had already been established. Both sides had declared victory officially and the truce had been publicly announced by Josephina Parker (with Charles Danish at the controls of her body, a fact known only to a select few), Rebecca Danish and President Istvan across all media. The real turning point had come even earlier though, during the confusion over soldiers from each side often being resurrected in bodies from the other side. It was the ultimate form of empathy; both rebels and Transhumanist troops were left bewildered and without the will to fight.
This meeting was partly ceremonial in nature, but still closed to the public as the parties also planned to use the occasion to discuss what would happen next.
Before the assembled representatives sat the Transhumanist President Istvan and his security secretary, and Rebecca Danish and Alex and Cindy Parker. Missing from the meeting was Charles, who was visiting Khloe instead. Since few people knew he was currently occupying Josephina's body, he and Rebecca had decided it best if he keep a low profile.
The chairwoman spoke first. "Based on recent conclusive evidence, we are now aware of the existence of an analog universe and another called Earth MC-2. Thanks to the scientific research, led by esteemed scientists Alex and Josephina Parker, we have knowledge of the true nature of the multiverse. While we have not made this information public yet, for fear of panic, all of those in this room today are aware of what we are dealing with.
"As we come together to form peace here on Earth, it is in our hands to ensure the safety of our entire planet and civilization. We are no longer our own greatest threat, and we now know that we are not alone. It has also come to our attention, thanks to the efforts and bravery of the Parkers' daughter, Cindy, that both sides, the Uninstallers and the Transhumanists, have been exploited by the 'bad seed Earth,' if you will."
A cascade of whispers and grumbles went up around the room at the mention of what Cindy recognized as a reference to Terra Superioris' role in the confusions. She found it somewhat ironic to condemn T.S., given that the zombification of the war had ultimately led to its end.
"The Assembly recognizes that both sides are hungry for retaliation for the disturbing, duplicitous and manipulative game this alien force seems to have been playing with human lives, but we do not feel this is productive at this time. We are only now recuperating from the horrible war that our planet and civilization have undergone and we are learning from our mistakes. Moving forward, instead, we'd like to find a way to protect Earth from future manipulation by the world that calls itself Terra Superioris."
She smirked just slightly as she mentioned the name, but Cindy caught it.
"Alex Parker is here today to discuss his proposal for how to do this. Dr. Parker?"
Alex stepped forward in his sharpest suit. Cindy forced a smile. It was hard to be proud of her father, despite his clear brilliance. He had earned much credit for his role in bringing an end to the war, but few knew her mother's real role in bringing about peace. Fewer understood the sacrifice she made remaining on T.S. while her former body was being used essentially as a mascot, first for rebellion and later for peace over the preceding months.
Alex cleared his throat, and Cindy tried to clear her mind and focus on his words.
"I have invented a means by which to travel back and forth between the worlds without having to die." A gasp from everyone gathered could be heard. Apparently, they had not been briefed beforehand about this new development. Alex continued, "My daughter Cindy has traveled there and back, safely. There are still risks, but what is important is that we have proved the possibility of interversal travel.
"At this time, the Superiorans, as they call themselves, likely have no idea that we have this technology. They have also recently discovered a means of traveling back and forth between universes, thanks to the help of my wife Josephina, who, as some of you will be surprised to learn, lives and works among them. We have no idea how they will choose to use this technology. At this time, my wife has decided to stay on Terra as an ambassador of peace, which I believe is the most significant role she can play at this time until we can join her."
"Excuse me, Madame Chair, if I may." President Istvan spoke up. "While I respect greatly the work the Parkers have done, they are scientists, not trained in diplomacy, warfare or international, I mean, interversal, affairs. I propose that we first conduct a reconnaissance mission. We need to gather intelligence on Terra Superioris and this so-called migration system."
The council members murmured among themselves. "Quiet down," the chairwoman commanded the room, and a deep hush fell. "I agree completely," she said.
"Madame Chair, I'd like to head this effort," the security secretary spoke up. "It's going to require just the right agent, and I'm not sure we have anyone in our ranks that fits the profile. A knowledge and familiarity with Superioran society is going to be key. I'm going to need this body's support to start a new recruitment and training program specific to this mission."
For the first time, Rebecca Danish spoke: "I think I may know the perfect candidate, Mr. Secretary."
"We'll be happy to take your input, Mrs. Danish," the secretary replied, obviously skeptical about the suggestion. "Thank you for your continued willingness to work with us."
"Anything in service of maintaining heaven on Earth, Mr. Secretary, Madame Chair."
"Thank you. Security staff is hereby directed to pursue such an intelligence mission with consultation from Mrs. Danish," the chair announced. "Now on to the most important item of business. If there are no objections, we invite both leaders to sign the documents."
From "A Migrant's Story."
Tenochtitlan District, Terra Superioris, 2052
Charles Danish stood nervously at the front door of Meta's family home. His eyes drifted to the brass rivets in the door knocker, and was struck by how old they were. Every dent and divot, every scrape and scratch a story, many lost to time. Every story, no matter the size, had its time, but they all ended the same. He grasped the knocker and let it sound, and the door opened to a smiling Meta.
"Well, if it isn't the old man! I heard you'd resurfaced. What was it? Been hiding out at the beach? The Peraltas finally give you your own space elevator? Come in, come in. You'll have to tell me all about it. I can't imagine what made you want to come back to this place after whatever adventures you've surely been having away from us."
Meta moved from the doorway to urge Charles inside. Charles hesitated before speaking.
"Well, you know, somebody needs to keep an eye on you; might as well be me, right?
The old man let out a big belly laugh and slapped Meta on the back as he crossed the threshold into the apartment.