According to records kept in the vault of the Lumiere Monastery, on the mantle of the Scorpius Neutron Star, the earliest All Worlds Fairs did not have docents, instead allowing the deities and demiurges of pre-history to freely wage war, love, and politics around the exhibits.
In a desperate attempt to bring sanity to this divine madness, Innocent the 8th, Cyber-Pope of Proxima Centauri, offered his Swiss Guard to serve as concierges and security during the All Worlds Fair that was held in his universe.
It did not turn out as he had hoped. While that All Worlds Fair had a substantially lower mortality rate than any Fair which had come before, the Swiss Guard were corrupted by the experience, becoming the foul creatures John Milton so ably described in his book about that year’s Fair: “Paradise Lost.”
Guilt and remorse for what he had unleashed on the multiverse cut Innocent’s brilliant career short. But the Assembled Ministries of the All Worlds Fair concluded that though the eternal threat of Fallen Docents was a terrible price to pay, the expanded reach and order that had been brought to the Fair must be retained. Mindful of Innocent’s mistakes, they set out to find a better way to assemble a team of docents who could withstand the rigors and temptations that come with spending days inside a finite space-time filled with infinite wonders.
Thus was created the Galactic Olympics that are held in every galaxy, in every universe, across the 3,000 Discontinuous Histories. Every species, on every planet, in every solar system, that has developed intergalactic travel is invited to send their greatest athletes, most brilliant thinkers, and most lucid dreamers to compete.
Contestants think they’re only competing for glory. In fact they are striving for a far greater prize: to catch the eye of the All Worlds Fair. To be invited to serve, first in their home universe and then perhaps in all reality, as the hands and voices of the infinite.
Each year they shall stand for days where others are permitted only hours. They shall guide all who come before them, speak with the authority of angels, and wield the weapons of gods.
Every Docent a traveler meets is thus an accomplished master in some aspect of competition or higher culture. Sar Pathas is a star of stage and screen in the Andromeda Galaxy; Ellel vos Nun has protected the prime ministers of three different solar systems; Red Skeller has made princes and patriarchs weep at the beauty of his banjo playing.
The list goes on. Travelers who attend the All Worlds Fair are cared for and kept by some of the most accomplished beings in any universe.
Very few of them are human, but this year all will appear to be so, as it is the custom of the Docents to appear as the dominant intelligent species on the planet where each fair is held. (A few Docents will appear to be dolphins as well.) This is an enormous sacrifice for many of them: limiting themselves to four limbs often feels like amputation. But they are courageous, knowing that the comfort and sense of dignity that they provide visiting guests is a significant factor in their enjoyment of the Fair. The Docents’ mantra for these moments of terrible transition, sometimes whispered before they enter the matter transmuter, sometimes screamed from within it, is “Everything Quantum Can Change.”
For all their dedication and sacrifice, Docents are never strident or humorless: they train specifically to defuse tension with whimsy and art. Their official motto is “Docents Rides Vobiscum,” which roughly translates as “Docents are laughing with you.”
But do they have an unofficial motto? Docents won’t talk about it with outsiders, but there are rumors that their intense esprit decor has lead to secret rituals and forbidden practices that they engage in during each new All Worlds Fair.
In particular, it is said that the Docents organize their own entertainment, culled from the ranks of their personal favorite entertainers from their home universes. According to these rumors, secret cabarets in hidden rooms and pocket dimensions within the All Worlds Fair. It is believed that Docents have a secret password to gain access to these events involving the letters “O.S.C,” possibly standing for “Only Strong Candidates” or “Owls Shouldn’t Chant” – both of which refer to cults of Fallen Docents who have been forced from the ranks and down to the pits of prison realities.
Docents can be identified by their distinctive epaulettes with a decorative pattern based on their own DNA, and a round cap they wear that is designed to double as a soup bowl in emergencies. Though their credentials and prowess are intimidating, Travelers to the Fair should not hesitate to call upon the Docents for assistance on any matter: they are there to serve.
Docents can help Travelers orient themselves through the Fair’s thousands of component dimensions, assist with translations of obscure dialects ranging from Blek to Schinkitanct, provide directions to the restrooms, assist with medical conditions including virtual nosebleed, and offer helpful advice. They are informed and well versed in every All Worlds Fair exhibit, including non-existent ones, and often have inside information about the artists and performers.
The highest calling of a Docent, their true aspiration, is to divine what each person needs to see at the Fair – even if they don’t know it.
Take advantage of their service, Travelers: it may be the most extraordinary opportunity of all.