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The Scenario

In a futuristic science fiction, in which hundreds of races have made contact with one another, an almost-immortal alien (thanks to billions of years of post-singularity technology) is preparing to unleash his superweapon on the universe: a colossal array of artificial planets, each bearing a mechanism to accelerate two massive pieces of condensed matter (think neutron star-level) to several times the speed of light, colliding them together. The resulting release of energy is powerful enough to overcome the energy required for the false vacuum to collapse to its lowest state. Because of various MacGuffins, the speed of light is not a boundary, and this apocalyptic event would occur at every single point of existence simultaneously. The result is, quite literally, the end of all existence.

However, enter The Heroes. They have been uncovering the villain's plot to destroy the universe (as an act of fanaticism; "the false existence must be purged"), and have found the artificial world that he uses for a base of operations, which also happens to be a doomsday weapon. They fight and subsequently vanquish the villain — and thanks to his habit of forcing his oversight on everything he does, the weapons cannot activate without his presence, rendering them inert. Everybody involved, including the presumably millions of soldiers required to aid their assault on the villain's stronghold world, knows full and well that, had that small team of Heroes not done what they had when they had done it, the universe would have ended in an instant; there is no denying that these Heroes have quite literally saved the universe.

... so, what happens next?

The Predicament

I'm going for as much realism as possible, save for the instances where the currently known axioms of existence, such as the universal speed limit of light, are broken on many levels by the villain, and few by The Heros and society in general, thanks to "major advances in technology". In the real world, any major event is surrounded by an influx of media coverage and lasting effects on individuals across the world, such as the dropping of the atomic bombs on Japan. I'm wondering how our Heroes would fare after their work is complete; would they live out the rest of their lives in fame, surrounded by the press? Would they take their bows and vanish? Would they quietly excuse themselves from the event completely, purposefully (or through coercion) passing their success to their military as a whole? Would their government promote them? Honorably discharge them? Give them the choice? Would their direct involvement be covered up?

The Conditions

  1. If the Heroes are recognized for their deeds, then there is no possible way that anyone anywhere could construe the story in any direction but the Heroes' favor; they saved the universe, and everyone in it.

  2. The Heroes worked for a secretive intergovernmental agency that was brought to the public light by a series of allegations of corruption, false imprisonment, etc. They were cast out and declared as traitors, but were fully reinstated months later when the hierarchy was replaced.

  3. Members of the Heroes may have varying opinions on how to handle the attention, should they opt to take individual routes instead of deciding as a team the best course of action.

TL;DR

A villain creates a superweapon that can destroy the universe. A small group of soldiers kills the villain and destroys the weapon moments before activation. How does the universe react to their heroism, and how do the Heroes react to the potential responses?

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closed as off-topic by TrEs-2b, Cort Ammon, Aify, enkryptor, JDługosz Apr 2 '16 at 12:23

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    $\begingroup$ As is so often the case, Terry Pratchett said it best: "It is in the nature of things that those who save the world from certain destruction often don’t get hugely rewarded because, since the certain destruction does not take place, people are uncertain how certain it may have been and are, therefore, somewhat tight when it comes to handing out anything more substantial than praise." Or for a real-world example, remember Y2K? $\endgroup$ – jamesqf Apr 2 '16 at 5:24
  • $\begingroup$ I've read books that handle everything from a hero's welcome to a quiet re-introduction to a faked death so they can hide out until they can train the next hero. I've seen heroes that take advantage of the moment for political power. I've seen heroes quietly go to a mountain and meditate to get rid of the carnage in their head after their "great victory." I think the answers may be far too numerous for the stack exchange format. $\endgroup$ – Cort Ammon Apr 2 '16 at 5:53
  • $\begingroup$ I'm thinking Commander Shepard from Mass Effect is a good example of that. Saved the universe, subsequently became "The Shepard" as people in the far future tell stories about your exploits. $\endgroup$ – AmiralPatate Apr 2 '16 at 8:47
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    $\begingroup$ As explained by Oglaf (slightly NSFW). media.oglaf.com/comic/chronotherapy.jpg $\endgroup$ – MichaelK Apr 2 '16 at 10:43
  • $\begingroup$ The universe is quite large and may even be infinite. If this happened in this little corner, it would also happen to another group of civilizations beyond our horizon, billions of times over. If something can affect the entire universe "instantly", there is no escaping it. $\endgroup$ – JDługosz Apr 2 '16 at 12:17
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There are two external factors which influence the initial situation:

  • Who outside the team knows their actions? They can spread the truth to people outside the team. If affiliated with the media, the news could be viral, giving the heroes no time to coordinate their actions moving forward.
  • Who outside the team knows about the apocalypse situation? For people to understand the heroes saved the universe, they have to understand the result of what could have been. Someone needs to share this information so people fully realize the impact of the heroes' actions.

I see several scenarios arising from a combination of the three factors you listed and the external factors I listed:

  • If people throughout the universe are expecting the end, they need to be told the crisis has diverted. Humans are naturally prone to chaos and mischief, so the sooner they are told the situation has been neutralized, the better to prevent a scenario like the "Purge" movie franchise from occurring when people take advantage of the end-of-the-world to commit all the crimes. However, this leads people to being curious of what happened to stop the crisis. People are curious and nosy, which is why they will demand an answer and will need to receive one. Otherwise, fanciful rumors will pop up and may be difficult to crush. This means, depending on the timing of the heroes' action consensus and the actions of a government body informing the citizens of the events, the heroes may be too late to stop the government from spilling the beans.
  • If no one knows of the situation and the heroes' can contain the information and maybe not inform the potentially corrupt agency, reform or not, then they have time to work out a solution between themselves over their future actions in dealing with the attention related to the situation.
  • If #2 refers to the team belonging to the secretive agency at the time of the heroics, it could compromise their status to be recognized as heroes. In this I mean it could be a clause that agents for the agency need to have secret identities. If everyone knows who you are, you are not as useful as an agent for a secretive agency.

For dealing with the attention given the team splits on an individual basis:

  • For those who do not want the attention: They can have their names erased or classified if the information is released to the public. Their involvement is listed as need-to-know to limit the potential of the information leaking as it will because people are gossips.
  • For those who want recognition but not the unwavering attention: Being a celebrity is tough; they are constantly hounded by the media. But it's nice to receive recognition for your hard work, like Olympians training to be at their best. If you have teamwork, you can coordinate the attention so it falls more heavily on those willing to have the attention. As an example, see how many celebrities who are well-known but do not have as many media stories about their private lives compared to the ones who regularly get caught in scandals. Alternatively, claim the credit under a pseudonym and/or false appearance (re: disguise); it is easier to disappear when the person never existed in the first place.
  • For those who enjoy the attention: It's also nice to be a celebrity. American presidents do not have as many income problems as the average citizen because they are able to command high prices for their presence (ex. guest presenters). The same can be said for Olympians paid to appear at different events.

A different dimension to your question is how the team can react to varying public responses:

  • Rabid Fan: If the majority go crazy over fan worship, it might be time to consider the false identity disappearance. Disappear under a new identity -- and hope you don't get traced and stalked.
  • Respectful Worship: The public respects the team are people too. They provide acknowledgement and offer what thanks is accepted, but keep their boundaries and allow the heroes space to be people too. This scenario is very unlikely because the vast majority of people are crazy about their favorite celebrities and will do a lot to be close to them, driving the media to hound these specific people.
  • Disinterest: Media buzz around the team initially occurs, but it fades as time goes on and the impact of the event fades from the public's minds. It would be easy for the heroes to fade into history. See jamesqf's comment about the Y2K bug for a real life example.

Please feel free to edit this answer if you see anything missing or requiring tightening.

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    $\begingroup$ @CortAmmon, I do not have the rep to comment on the question, but I agree with your assessment. Maybe this question is better placed as a Wiki so answers can accumulate but the question itself, which is broad and can be useful, remains? $\endgroup$ – Marion Apr 2 '16 at 6:17

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