Meanwhile, Far Away

Fighting to hold the reins of authority in the sickening light of usurpation, thankful for the moment that only a small number of his bridge and security crew even knew the Starship had been breached, the Captain of the mobile mini-planet brooded as he considered options. Obey or die, he had been told, resistance is futile. The solitary gray-skinned intruder had plainly demonstrated capability to counter any physical force his crew might bring. Fifty dead crewmen bore mute testimony, terminally smote by a figurative wave of the alien hand.

He wished no more to join them, frontal assault was off the table, for now. The fate of the remaining forty-nine thousand seven hundred and fifty-one under his command hung in the balance. Repelling this invader without additional casualties seemed improbable.

As the Captain looked on, the invader sat motionless, his very presence filling the large conference room that had formerly been the Captain’s briefing room. Watching the emotionless alien presence, he wondered who this creature was, and where he had come from. The Captain had obviously never heard of the Council of Eddore or the number two member of that body known as Gharlane. No one of his race had directly encountered the almost supernatural beings before. Perhaps if he knew about them he might well choose to vaporize his entire ship now in hopes of cauterizing the fatal wound already being inflicted upon his entire race.

The invader had commandeered the ship’s AI and monopolized its computational resources, toward ends unknown. For the moment, the invader seemed content to sit motionless, alone, silently communing with the equipment arrayed before him. Perhaps there would yet be opportunity. For now, the Captain stayed his hand, watching the invader intently.

. . .

Gharlane was pissed! Cold and unemotional in most regards, Gharlane seldom cerebrated in terms scatological, and when roused his choler exceeded base expression.

Nonetheless, Gharlane was pissed! Never before had his plans derailed so ignominiously. The sociological melt-down of GL2814-S3 had been proceeding on plan and complete demolition of the burgeoning Class 1 Culture had been within grasp, and then, it wasn’t.

The unraveling baffled him. The primitive society he was dismantling could not possibly stymie his plans unaided. Either it was a fantastic accident, or they had help. Gharlane was certain they did not have help, certain there was no one able to help them.

Synchronicity abounds, accidents happen, an inimical alignment of the wheels of chance may occur, a possibility which keeps the job interesting. Despite recognizing the occasional happenstance, this plan frayed far too adroitly. This was simply too much to credit to bad luck.

Might someone be plotting against him. But who? One of his personal opponents among the Peers? Backstabbing and sabotage among the inner circle is hardly unknown.

Sector 2814 lay in total waste save for the one inhabited planet. No intelligence on orb GL-S3 of that sector could stand against him. They haven’t even discovered, much less learned to control the natural wormholes and Portals. They had barely contrived the most primitive of intelligent machines.

Still decades, if not centuries away from attaining Class 1 status, they remain confined to their one planet. The technological subset of their society does not even fully control the planet, most of the natives shamefully forego even rudimentary tools of civilization. A Class 0.85 civilization at best, effectively unable to leave its home planet poses no possible threat to his plans.

Even this failed intervention is only a minor setback, it would be a long time before he would be driven to forcibly intercede. Plenty of time to rebuild his failed network and to topple the society without resorting to complete extermination.

Gharlane disliked wholesale extermination. He preferred to nip things early rather than inflict the wholesale destruction which had been necessary, for example, in sector 2837. That civilization, like the one before him now, had been permitted to fester until he was forced to take more direct action, bending their creations into engines of their own destruction.

Primitive societies are much simpler. A few “supernatural” manifestations, a burning bush here, a talking snake there, a bit of secret society tinkering over here. Divert them away from logical thought and they will easily devolve into chaotic religiosity. Better to subtly keep them below the threshold of danger, not allow them to become rational and intelligent and let them live.

Some of the younger, more liberal Peers had begun to voice disagreement with the Council policy, arguing that primitive peoples should develop unmolested. The fools seemed unable to understand that today’s Type 1 is tomorrow’s Type 2, and soon the natural order of the Universe itself is challenged. The idiots would permit unrestrained growth of people who would cheerfully destroy them, destroy the very council itself, if they were able.

No possible challenger to the Council of Peers must be permitted to arise. Better to keep primitive peoples primitive, embroiled in fear and superstition, than to allow them to rise and then face the necessity of annihilation. Besides, these people are happier and healthier when they live closely to the soil of their home world. Keeping them under control, and periodically culling the herd with plagues and natural disasters is better for them by every measure.

Could some bleeding heart be a traitor?

Mulling this thought over, he decided he must investigate the Peers for treason. That would require leaving the Starship so recently commandeered. Strictly speaking, he did not need to inhabit the vessel to accomplish his mission, but it did make a convenient and comfortable platform from which to mount his assault. The inhabitants amused him for now, scurrying about as he worked at planting the seeds of their eradication into the AI under his gaze, a worm that will spread undetected for years. A few decades and they too shall falter and die like so many before, ostensibly also a victim of their own technology.

Carefully leaving a shadow in place lest his unwelcoming host note the brief absence, he ported to the High Council’s Chamber and challenged the Peers with his data. There was almost a fresh opening on the council. After a close call involving a challenge nearly culminating in a duel, he was satisfied no Peer had intentionally undermined his work.

Easily resuming control as he returned, he quickly satisfied himself that the crew had not detected his absence and his crafted interaction with the ship’s AI was still underway. Again, he contemplated who might interfere with his work. If not a Peer, there was no other possibility.

Unless… Could it be? No! Not possible! They were dead! He had seen to that personally! Destroyed by their own creation, a runaway AI that sabotaged their very DNA. None of THAT defunct Class 1.5 civilization survived to pose a threat, he was confident. Their home planet, now a lifeless cinder, is solely inhabited by the very engine of their destruction. Certainly they must all be dead by now.

Should a few scattered members of their race remain extant, they must be infertile, aging, lost and powerless. A defeated people, demoralized and in hiding.

Could some unknown Arisian force yet operate? A dying remnant of that decimated world still struggling against his plans? Unlikely as it seemed, he must consider the possibility.