Some Background

The government is very good at catching people. Even the few who can keep away from them are forced into a life of running. Many years ago, a teleporter named Dave was discovered and successfully captured but there is a new enhanced person with an even more difficult to detect ability: shapesphifting. A young woman named Eden, born in Jerusalem and currently living in China, has been discovered to have the ability to change her form into any object; alive or inanimate. This could be the most significant human discovery of all time. Shapeshifting would have major effects on the way human live their everyday life; the technology would be worth billions. Unlike with Dave we realize we must have a plan of action. They have again requested the help of Earth's greatest minds to come up with a solution.

A Few Details about Eden

  • Unlike Dave, Eden is not a criminal; she doesn't have street smart skills and is only being hunted down for her abilities.
  • Eden is not against killing, but will choose flight first.
  • Eden is able to transform into any solid object: a person, a table, a building—anything goes.
  • The only thing that gives her away is that while inanimate she still breathes and while animate her eyes are a bright yellow; other than this, she appears to be what she is.

The Rules

  1. The governments have become desperate and are willing to spend whatever it takes to bring Eden into custody.
  2. They do not want to kill Eden, they just want to bring her into custody.
  3. The solution cannot result in any casualties.

Using the above information how can the Chinese Government catch Eden?

  • 2
    $\begingroup$ Very much related: How can I imprison a wizard who can walk through walls? $\endgroup$
    – user
    May 18, 2016 at 20:41
  • 6
    $\begingroup$ Please address these issues: can she change her mass? Does she radiate heat when shifted? Does she incorporates the properties of the material copied (i.e. magnetism for iron)? $\endgroup$ May 18, 2016 at 21:15
  • 3
    $\begingroup$ @TrEs-2b - What if she becomes an ice cube? Does she radiate normal human heat instead of ice-temperatures? Does she melt? Or does ice not count as "any solid object", in which case you need to qualify her power a bit more. Steel is just as much a solid as ice, we just live in the temperature range where one happens to liquify and the other doesn't. $\endgroup$
    – Bobson
    May 19, 2016 at 4:04
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ @Bobson the Ice would likely melt and she would die. Lets hope she doesn't commit this odd form of suicide. $\endgroup$
    – TrEs-2b
    May 19, 2016 at 4:15
  • 4
    $\begingroup$ please add all the extra information from teh comments into the questin $\endgroup$ May 19, 2016 at 12:57

5 Answers 5


I think there are two big points here that lead to a rather simple solution:

Unlike Dave, Eden is not a criminal; she ... is only being hunted down for her abilities.

They do not want to kill Eden, they just want to bring her into custody.

The easiest way to get Eden is to get her to come willingly. You mentioned that the governments are willing to spend quite a bit to find her. Rather than spending a lot of money trying to forcibly capture her, simply offer some of it to her directly!

For example, if your budget is one billion dollars, then offer her a million dollars a year (with some guaranteed minimum in case you quickly don't need her, such as if studying a blood sample is good enough) and a significant degree of freedom. You could put it in terms of hiring her to be a research subject, and work out the terms with her. She might like doing two hours of research each day, or she might like a full day once a week. She should also be allowed to take vacations, perhaps by doing a week of full-day research to fill her research quota in advance.

Just to make it clear, giving her a lot of freedom is really important to making sure she'll come and that she'll willingly stay. In particular, I'd suggest that she be given easy access to the researchers who will be working with her. Allow her to ask them questions about what they're doing, what they're trying to accomplish, etc. If she's interested, let her help, especially if she has a particular direction that she wants to take the research - if she's doing research instead of having research done on her, she'll be much more enthusiastic and cooperative.

If this works you get the added bonus of being able to use her as the poster child for cooperating with the government - the next time someone with an unusual ability shows up, they're much more likely to come in on their own! Or, if it's not possible to make it public knowledge, she'd be an excellent negotiator to send in to talk to them.

Give her the VIP treatment, and it's likely that she'll come willingly. If she's still not willing, then you can resort to other ways of bringing her in.

  • 3
    $\begingroup$ Be nice to her? I hadn't considered that $\endgroup$
    – Separatrix
    May 19, 2016 at 6:29
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ @Separatrix nor have any governments ever, making this a nice but impractically idealistic answer :-) (and the reason why - they'd rather give lots of money to the CEO of the corporation charged with hunting her down, and strangely there's a well-paid place on the board for a non-exec ready just as the politician who awarded the contract retired... is it any wonder the nice option is never used?!) $\endgroup$
    – gbjbaanb
    May 19, 2016 at 13:37
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ I think govs have ALWAYS bribed folks. Spy networks are largely based on economic persuasion. It doesn't make for great drama but in reality "cash in hand" goes a long way. $\endgroup$
    – Jason K
    May 20, 2016 at 14:28

I'm pretty sure the only option is to take her family into custody and tell her they won't be released until she gives herself up, it goes without saying they'll be tortured.

You've said she can turn into anything, there's no situation in which it's not possible to turn herself into something that'll get her out of it. Even if that something is a super-critical mass of weapons grade uranium.

As the police dogs run into the city square where Eden was last reported, all the pigeons fly away, Eden among them, perhaps, or is she one of the dogs, actually she's a grain of sand down between the stones.

So it's a breathing grain of sand, you're never going to find it.

Then she was spotted near the financial district, how were you to know that the new tower at the end of the row that's been under construction for months hadn't actually been finished yet.

Ah well, maybe next time

Loading the dogs back into the van at the end of the day you realise that you have one too many and finally she's on the run. The helicopters are up stopping her taking to the air. She's tired, scared, she turns down a blind alley, cornered at last and changes...into a copy of Ayres Rock. A living, breathing, mountain.

You've caught her, technically, but now what?

You turn your back for a moment and there's a spec of dust blowing in the wind, the last you ever see of her.

The psychological approach is the only way, you'll have to get her through friends and family, the direct approach is a dead loss.


Eden is going to be a handful and you are going to need tools specifically designed to capture this unique person.

Lucky for you some of the tools already exist

So lets start with what gives her away.

  1. The eyes, when morphed into a creature with ocular parts they will be unnaturally yellow.

  2. She has to respire in any form...I don't even want to know what it looks like when an end table respires...anyway...

  3. You don't mention this but I would suggest that unless your system dictates otherwise this would be the biggest...Heat. Unless your shape shifting dictates otherwise, when shifted into any object she is going to give off heat as the energy in her cells doesn't magically disappear.

The major challenge is that she can appear to be anyone or anything...in the end its not that she is hard to catch, its that she is hard to find.

So, we know what gives her away, now we need to know how to use that to catch her.

  1. The eyes. Not the most helpful giveaway necessarily for example she could turn into a cat...well...great but cat's can close their eyes.

This would be one part of tracking her if not necessarily catching her. Video networks and search algorithms would have to be set up to spot this trait.

  1. Breathing...If you have a narrowed down location to search this becomes helpful, lock down the building and search via thermal for the exhaust.

  2. Heat. Similar to breathing you are going to want thermal imaging equipment on the teams trying to track her down. Heyyyyyy....that bowling ball is the temperature of a human!"

In the case of 2/3 the thermal imaging stuff already exists. For number 1 you are going to have to create your standard fantasy "big brother" scenario where the authorities can utilize all cameras everywhere to track people down.

Extra stuff. Having a DNA sample would be helpful but probably difficult to get. Dogs could potentially be useful if her scent remains when she is shifted (which would make sense).

In the end a shape shifter is a whole lot easier to catch than a teleporter...

  • $\begingroup$ Part 2, option 2, how long is it going to take you to work out that she is the building? $\endgroup$
    – Separatrix
    May 18, 2016 at 20:49
  • $\begingroup$ And for option 3: Heyyyy... that bowling ball we stashed in the back of the van just became a semi-truck. $\endgroup$
    – Bobson
    May 19, 2016 at 4:08
  • $\begingroup$ Eden becomes a Pie Warmer? That could be a similar temperature to a human and require ventilation. How would you know it was her? Thermal would reveal a pie warmer, exhaust would be achieved through the already existing ports of the pie warmer. Or even better, she moves to somewhere like Australia where in Summer, everything will be about human body heat (or hotter) if it is outside. $\endgroup$ May 19, 2016 at 4:59
  • $\begingroup$ Eden becomes an atom? $\endgroup$ May 19, 2016 at 22:14

I'm afraid there's absolutely no way to find her.

She could hide in any village that doesn't have TVs and newspapers and become a changeling. The news only reach those places in form of rumors, and those are highly inaccurate and unreliable. She could try rural China, or rural Siberia, or maybe reservations or Amish communities.
Or, if she prefers to stay in touch with the civilization, she can just pretend to be blind and transform into eyeless version of herself when someone takes her glasses off.


Gas her. Since she has to breathe she can easily be gassed once located in an area. Of course if she can shift into complex mechanical or biological shapes she may be able to defeat the gas, but presumably it will work the first time at least. Does she return to her normal form if rendered unconscious or distressed?

Sonic weapons at low frequencies can also severely incapacitate folks, which she may or may not be able to resist.

The cruel method is to find someone or something important to her and take it hostage in order to force her to turn herself in, or at least come investigate. Assuming she isn't also super-strong/damage resistant like a T-1000 she could be apprehended during a rescue op.

But if she can turn into a BUILDING then she can presumably turn into a tank as well, or a microbe, so her powers may necessitate a tactical strike from orbit, "just to be sure" as she would be impossible to contain.

  • 1
    $\begingroup$ The tactical strike from orbit "just to make sure" sort of messes up the "we are trying to keep her alive" condition. Orbital stun satellites? $\endgroup$ Feb 18, 2017 at 9:12

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