ASH: Time Capsules #13 - COAPing Strategies

Dave Van Domelen dvandom at
Wed Feb 21 08:23:28 PST 2018

     [The cover shows a man and a woman in "we're from the government"
      business suits sitting down at a table with a person who is clearly
      several dozen hamsters operating an endoskeleton and wearing a 
      trenchcoat, with a drawn-on paper plate for a face.]

    //||  //^^\\  ||   ||   .|.   COHERENT COMICS UNINCORPORATED PRESENTS
   // ||  \\      ||   ||  --X---------------------------------------------
 //   ||      \\  ||   ||               COAPing Strategies
//    ||  \\__//  ||   ||            Copyright 2018 by Dave Van Domelen

     "Bureaucracy is perhaps the greatest boon to historians of the future,
even if it's the bane of historians in their own lifetimes," Professor
M'Cormack held up a slim stack of paper, slightly yellowed with time.  "The
detritus of meticulously preserved documentation may show us a skewed picture
of the times, but no more skewed than sifting through an ancient midden.  And
slightly cleaner."
     "It helps that they always move so slowly," Kaoru nodded.  "I bet that
even today there's still offices that print out copies of everything on
archival-stock paper and stick it in a sub-basement somewhere because of
regulations no one bothered to cancel.  Another piece of pre-disaster
paperwork?" he asked his thesis advisor.
     She shook her head and slowly rose to walk over and hand the paper to
her graduate student.  Age was starting to get the better of her, and she
used a cane when walking farther than across a room.  "2026, and evidence
that sometimes bureaucracies can move very quickly when there's a motive."
     Kaoru took the proffered sheets.  "Combine Office of Alternative
Personhood?  Oh, right, they had to deal with a complete redefinition of what
it meant to be a person back then.  But how is this a demonstration of speed?
Isn't 2026 over a generation past when the problem arose?"
     "Yes and no.  This document is from December of 2026, and in September
2026 there was apparently a still-classified event that got every major world
government to lurch into regulatory action, because it looked like their most
powerful superhuman assets might be unable something.  I'm not
cleared to know about it, but that probably means it had to do with magic or
extradimensional matters, especially if it's still a tightly held secret a
century later...."


To: COAP Employees Grade 1
Subject: Orientation Documents
Attachments (5): 
     Senate Regulation 2026-314-ALP
     COAP Table of Organization
     COAP Employee Handbook
     Confidentiality Agreement Sign And Return
     Feedback Form

Welcome to the Combine Office of Alternative Personhood (COAP)!

As one of the first employees of this new governmental office, you're bound
to have a few questions, and hopefully this email and the attached documents
will answer most of them.  That this new office is already almost ready to do
business is a testament to the professionalism of all of you, who were
selected for transfer on the basis of your work ethic, flexibility, and
experience dealing with unusual situations.  Many of you are former agents of
the Department of Super-Human Affairs and are intimiately familiar with the
sorts of things that led the Senate to decide a dedicated office was
necessary (attachment 1), and those of you who aren't should know that DSHA
personnel are well-represented in the decision-making apparatus of the COAP
(attachment 2).

You are all, of course, familiar with the Academy of Super-Heroes, the
Combine's official superhero team.  Many of its members are no longer
strictly human, even by the standards of supernormal individuals, but the
Combine remains committed to ensuring that they still enjoy all the
protections of citizenship.  And even non-citizens, such as visitors from the
worlds of the Planetary Confederation, should feel secure knowing that their
legal personhood is recognized by our laws.

The duty of the Combine Office of Alternative Personhood is to help those who
identify as persons, but are not baseline homo sapiens, protect their legal
rights.  You will find yourself helping applicants work with both government
lawyers and private legal firms, performing ombudsperson duties in the
courts, and acting as a first contact for a wide variety of the world's most
exceptional individuals.  

Don't worry!  Combat duty is not a part of COAP's mission statement (see
attachment 3), we are the ones who hopefully stop conflict from happening
over misunderstandings, and help iron things out in the wake of any
regrettable incidents.  The DSHA and the NAC Marshals will remain responsible
for any potentially hazardous situations, but you will likely get to know
most of the Marshals quite well over time.  (If you get to know one
particularly well, see attachment 3 section 12 paragraphs 34-38 for
regulations concerning inter-agency fraternization.)

You are expected to read the Employee Handbook fully before the end of your
first month on duty, but as an existing Combine employee you will find most
of it fairly familiar.  The aspects that are likely new to you are covered
most heavily in sections 2 and 15, but the remainder of this email is
intended to be a short summary of the purpose and duties of the COAP.


While the Combine Consititution was written in the 21st Century, with full
awareness that there were more ways to be a person than to be born a baseline
Homo sapiens, the specific wording was left intentionally vague so that
future regulation could be crafted to meet the needs of the day.  The day's
needs have become more apparent in recent years, and the Senate has created
an official mechanism for establishing Alternative Legal Personhood
(attachment 1).

An Alternative Legal Person is anyone who meets the legal defintion of
personhood but who isn't a baseline human.  A more complete list can be found
in the Employee Handbook, but known types of ALP include, but are not limited

Artificial Consciousnesses
Spirits - Free-Floating
Spirits - Bound
Spirits - Possessive (with exceptions as outlined in the Employee Handbook)
Photonic Entities
Psionic Engrams - Machine-Resident
Psionic Engrams - Organic-Resident (with exceptions as above)
Uplifted Nonhuman Terran Lifeforms
Extrasolar Xenosapients
Extradimensional Xenosapients
Sui Generis Posthuman Variants
Temporarily Legally Dead Individuals

Some classes of ALPs have already been granted overall legal personhood
through court cases or government policy, such as Extrasolar Xenosapients and
certain types of Artificial Consciousnesses, and an applicant need only fill
out appropriate forms and provide proof of their membership in the class.
Others remain to be decided on an individual basis that is similar to the
process of becoming an emancipated minor.


The COAP's mission includes a goal of making everyday life for an ALP as much
like that of a traditional person as possible.  Once confirmed for
Alternative Legal Personhood, the applicant will have all the relevant rights
and responsibilities of a traditional person.  This includes criminal
liability, but even non-citizen ALPs have legal rights, where an unrecognized
individual may find themselves without any protections.  To give an extreme
example, a "monster" can be destroyed without due process, but the same
entity if recognized as an ALP would be entitled to a trial.  

However, the realities of an ALP's physical (or non-physical) situation may
create unique challenges to the work of ensuring their rights, particularly
the right to property.  You may not realize how much effort has gone into the
biometric systems that let you pay bills with a thumbprint, or access secure
areas via passive retinal scans, but it took decades to work out all of the
many problems inherent in such systems.  Consider how difficult it would be
to get a thumbprint scanner to recognize a Pranir's clawpads.  Or a
disembodied spirit that can only physically manifest through a host body, and
may have different thumbprints on different days.

The technical branch of the COAP is dedicated to finding new ways to let ALPs
access our existing security infrastructure with minimal difficulty, so that
an ALP's identity and property are as safe as anyone else's.


"Monster" is a very loaded term, and its use is strongly discouraged, but
keep in mind that many of history's worst monsters have been baseline

ALPs whose appearance inspires fear or disgust but who genuinely wish to be
good citizens are given every possible assistance by the COAP.  In some
cases, technology produced by the DSHA in cooperation with STRAFE's Tesla
Branch can be used to disguise ALPs or help them harness any antisocial
traits and/or appetites.

ALPs who commit crimes are subject to prosecution just as baseline humans
are, and as noted previously, alternative persons who do not seek ALP status
are not guaranteed the right to trial.  Due to the hazardous nature of
interacting with such individuals, COAP will not be directly responsible for
attempting to recruit potentially violent alternative persons.  Rather, this
will be a duty of the DSHA, the NAC Marshals, and the Academy of Super-


Where possible, we work with the relevant agencies in the ALP's home nation
to confirm their legal status.  

The Combine has reciprocal agreements with the Eurasian Union's Ministry of
Other Intelligences, the SEATO Office of Alternative Persons, and Bureau 38
of the People's Republic of China.  The Central Asian Confederation has an
agreement in principle, but as of December 12, 2026 had not formalized a
program of their own.  The Muslim Confederation's official position is still
to treat all but baseline humans as non-persons with no legal rights, and
Khadam is still negotiating a number of points with regard to lab-created

Should a non-citizen request recognition as an ALP, or make any other
diplomatic request that would require being a legal person, in the absence of
any classification by their native government the COAP will be responsible
for determining their status.  This does not legally entitle the non-citizen
ALP to any other rights, merely consideration as a legal person.  As a Level
1 Employee, you will not be responsible for any cases in which diplomatic
disputes may arise, however, such as asylum-seekers from the Muslim

IMPORTANT: If an alternative person native to Khadam or the Muslim
Confederation approaches you for assistance, immediately inform a supervisor,
as the current diplomatic situation precludes our direct involvement with
such individuals.  Inform them that the DSHA will be contacting them.

By agreement with the Planetary Confederation, any legal person of the
Confederation is automatically granted ALP status in the Combine.  The status
of cybernetically enhanced individuals, which is heavily restrictive under
Confederation law by comparison to Combine legal precedent, is currently
under negotiation.


1) You will be exposed to a significant amount of confidential data as
an employee of COAP, you must sign and return the attached confidentiality
agreement by the end of the month.  (attachment 4)

2) The Employee Handbook is a fairly early draft at this point.  Please fill
out the feedback form (attachment 5) to let us know where it could be


     "So, how'd those COAP negotiations with the Santari go?" Kaoru quirked
an eyebrow wryly as he gave Professor M'Cormack's cane a significant glance.
He knew his advisor well enough to realize that she didn't just use it as a
"reminder of the era" she studied.  She really could have benefitted from
spinal and hip implants, but wouldn't get them.
     "Now, it's not that bad, but I'll agree that their prejudices against
cybernetics are more a case of cultural inertia than honest security concerns
at this point.  Anti-hacking security has gotten much better, and
mind-hacking of non-cyborgs has unfortunately also gotten much better,
removing most of the actual practical reason for the restrictions.  At this
point, most Terrans with cybernetics only face minor legal inconveniences
when traveling to Santari-dominated worlds.  But I do value my ability to
work with colleagues on those worlds in sensitive matters, and by visibly
rejecting cybernetic repairs I grease the bureaucratic wheels a bit.
Because, COAP and its like aside, you were quite correct that bureaucracies
are otherwise very slow to change...."


Author's Notes:
     The cover is a reference to the webcomics Narbonic and Skin Horse, as
well as a callback to Time Capsules #12 (which was posted about nine years
     My motivation for returning to Time Capsules after a nearly decade-long
interval had to do with preparing for ASH #123, in which they would try to
get into the sealed-off city of Berlin via the Office.  After the scare of
nearly losing several high-powered supernormals, the Combine government was
motivated to regularize things as thoroughly as possible.  I realized there
was a lot of stuff that needed to be hammered out, but trying to infodump it
into ASH #123 was not going to cut it.  And while I could have made this a
basic information file, I decided to go ahead and cast it as a Time Capsule.  
     A few years ago I discovered that I was incorrect in thinking that
"Moslem" was the preferred spelling for practitioners of Islam.  While I'm
not going to go back and do a search and replace on all the old stories,
going forwards I will endeavor to stick with the "Muslim" spelling, and will
correct at least the information files.  (Confederacy vs. Confederation
vs. Coalition, though, is a confusion on my part that I'm just gonna own, and
assume that the MC refuses to clarify which translation they prefer, much
like Qaddafi/Khadafy let people squirm on how to spell his name in Roman


     For all the back issues, plus additional background information, art,
and more, go to ! is the official ASH Wiki, focusing on the Fourth
Heroic Age, but containing some information about other Ages.


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