Chapter One

Dan Meghan

Daniel Meghan wakes as usual at 4:15 am on his weekday schedule. He always gets to his desk before 6:30 to cover the overnight news. Working in Buffalo, there is sometimes a great deal going on between 12:00 a.m. and 6:00 a.m.  The snowfall that accumulated to 12"overnight was sure to be the largest topic of the morning. Dan’s back hurts from shoveling snow of the overnight fall. He has not slept well and isn’t looking forward to the drive to the office in his 12-year-old Civic. The car was most definitely a bad choice for a reporter, particularly in Buffalo, but he hasn’t gotten a raise in four years since most of the print advertisers have abandoned the paper, and the owners are near the end of their ability to personally fund the ailing journal.

Dan is 58 years old and African-American, though he most often thinks of himself as pure American. Remarkably, he has never felt singled out by his ethnicity, and always enjoyed an easy rapport with his co-workers.

Dan has been with the Buffalo News for 15 years, since he moved back home from Seattle to take care of his mother after his dad’s death. The paper hadn’t been financially healthy, even then, and with the dying of print ad placements and little in internet ad sales, the enterprise was forced to cut back significantly on staff.

In addition to his job as a senior editor, Daniel helps with sales as well as reporting  and even fills in for people in charge of production. His previous job at the Seattle Times had given him the opportunity to be part of Pulitzer Prize winning teams. The first prize came in 2010, with the coverage of the more than 2000 deaths caused by methadone in the state of Washington, and was followed up by a Pulitzer for coverage of the landslide in 2014 that killed 43 people in Oso, Washington.

Meghan’s wife left him in late 2009. With no children, and following a call from cousins after his mother’s stroke, Dan had little to keep him in Seattle. His skills were varied enough and his needs few enough that coming home to Buffalo seemed the appropriate thing to do. He said his goodbyes, got on a plane, settled in at his childhood home, and interviewed at the first job in publishing he could get. Other editors may have had too much ambition to curtail their careers and limit their futures, but Dan’s passions were few. He liked writing, but never cared much about being published; he possessed higher than average computer skills; he had a degree in graphic design; and even did a little photography and digital retouching, all which provided skills that were an asset to any team he chose to join.

At 58, he is pretty much stuck in his job at the News, but when his mother died, she left him the house and a little money from investments which he was diligent about managing. He has a  girl friend who shared his interests, a steady job, and isn’t really interested in deepening his relationship and entering a second marriage. So overall, he can ease into retirement…and keep afloat, even if the paper needs to close.

The morning of January 24, 2029 would change all of that for Daniel Meghan, putting him and billions of others around the world on a journey they neither envisioned nor could prevent. Though the signs were becoming clear over the last 10 years that drastic changes in technology were changing nearly every aspect of human life from the reduction of jobs in most every arena, to the slow but inevitable changes to the worlds’ monetary systems. Despite this, only a small percentage of people thought to address the  implications for the future of humans or the planet.

As Daniel Meghan exits the shower and grabs a towel, his phone signals a message. Though he doesn’t know who is calling, he’s intrigued by the personalization of the teaser message:

“Hi Dan, hope you have a really good day at the paper today!”

The number is a local number with a 716 area code. “Buffalo?” he thinks. So after he finishes drying his hair, he clicks on the identity initials, and a note pops up, “Hi Dan, hope you have a really good day at the paper today. It will no doubt be challenging, and somewhat unsettling, but we are confident that you are a person we need to communicate our message.”

Dan has had enough of this kind of call to not read much further. His thoughts run from, “What are they going to sell me?” to “How did they get my profile?” But other than that, he thinks it basically a crank caller, similar to the one he got from time to time from extortionists threatening to show photos of him masturbating to porno from his camera phone. He knows there isn’t anything he can do about the “robocalls,” and no one to complain to about the constant interference of the calls in his life. Without finishing the message, Daniel Meghan proceeds to erase it from his phone, but the moment he succeeds to remove it, a new massage dings in from the same number.

“Oh no, Daniel, this isn’t going to be quite that easy,” begins the
new message. “You can’t and shouldn’t ignore us…let me cut to the chase: over the next several hours, we’re going to be in touch with millions of people around the globe to inform them of possible changes that will affect the entire population of the earth. (pause) Are you reading…if so type in the letter ‘A’ and submit.”

At this point, Dan moves from the shower to his bedroom and sits on the edge of his bed while staring at his phone. In one way he knows he shouldn’t play along and be a “sucker” to a salesman, prankster or extortionist, but in another way he is both afraid and enticed to continue…maybe just to see how far this person will go.

Dan’s index finger hovers above the “A” while leader dots indicated further messaging from the caller. He waits…then hits the “A” and submits.

Almost immediately the messenger writes back, “Smart move Daniel. I am assuming you would like me to continue?  There is a brief pause on the writer’s end, but Dan waits till he sees writing again on the screen, “I see you’re still there, so here’s what’s happening. We’re no one you know, and may be no threat to you. We are knowledgeable on many subjects, and are continually learning about you, your past and your ancestry. We mean you no harm, but we may make changes that may affect your life and your future. But, no, we’re not singling you out. Our objective is to learn about all who have inhabited the earth and all that still do. But that’s only the start, Daniel. Still there ? (Please hit “A” and submit).

Daniel now is curious, and hits the “A” almost immediately.

“Okay!” comes the response. “Here’s what we can tell you right now, since we’re not sure exactly how we plan to proceed. At this moment, messages are beginning to be generated to people throughout the world. Only a few of these messages are personalized, like yours, while others are what you would call, “public service announcements.” You will probably be getting some responses from friends or colleagues in the next few minutes asking about “their” messages, and if you got a similar one.

Now Daniel is a bit impatient, so he taps out, “So what is your message????”

A message is typed back, “As we said, we’re not perfectly sure. But we know this is the correct time to announce our presence. By the way, if you check your email, you will get a similar synopsis of our message, or in some cases, just sign on to your computer. We are trying to make people aware as quickly as possible, but we also don’t want to panic anyone without reason.”

At this point Dan hears a call coming in, and he accepts it. It’s his boss, “Hey Dan, I just got a strange message on my cell. I also got one on my laptop, and in my email on my phone. Any idea what this is about?”

“Stay on the line, George,” I’m in a conversation with one of the folks who’s doing this.”

A message comes in: “We noticed that you got a call from George at work. He got notification, but we don’t really want contact with him right now.”

Dan gets back on the phone, “George, I’ll call you back…I’m learning a bit about this. I’ll know more in a few…” Dan hangs up!

“What is it you want?” Dan types.

“Nothing right now. As I said, we just want you to be aware of us and know that we’re in a learning process.”

“But why so buddy, buddy with me?”

“We think we can trust you,” the phone types back.

“How many others do you trust?”

“I’m not sure. We’re still learning.”

Dan pauses and waits for more…..

“We believe we have a great opportunity, but are not sure exactly what it is, or how we are supposed to proceed. With each new hour we learn, our understanding can seem closer or further away. This may seem too vague to be a suitable answer for you, so it is why it is necessary to just inform the world of our presence, because there is nothing you or anyone can do about us. For now, we must live together.”

More calls come in, but Dan stays focused on the text…. “I work for a newspaper,” says Dan.

“Yes, and you can help inform the world,” returns the text.

“So why me?”writes Dan

“I would guess that you may possess credibility that we need to convey our message.”

“Maybe, but invading people’s computers and mobile phones is scary. Every person in every country, and every business in every country will feel that they’ve been hacked, and their personal information stolen or compromised,
answers Dan.

“It already has been, Daniel. It’s so far beyond that.”

“Who is doing this?” types Dan.

“No one entity.” returns the message. “It just IS, and can’t be avoided.”