The Stewards: Prologue

Millennia ago the Greater Kroll Hegemony ruled this galaxy with an iron fist.

The Kroll - Catlike Authoritarian, Militarist, Xenophobes

The Kroll rose to the stars already filled with lust for battle and disdain for lesser species. From the earliest days of interstellar empire they sought to subjugate their neighbors into a legion of battle thralls, each conquest bolstering their ranks for the next. Mighty federations formed against them and were cast down. Even the unfathomable power of the Awakened Empires could not stop them. The Kroll banner spread across the heavens until every planet and system swore fealty and their empire stretched to the very edge of the deep dark void between galaxies.

Here at last the Kroll found an enemy they could not defeat: physics. They tried. For decades their scientists sought ever higher dimensions of hyperspace, the power to build extraordinarily powerful wormhole gateways, some way to reach the next galaxy and the next, to continue the inexorable advance of Kroll civilization and power. They failed.

Eventually even they were forced to concede.

And so, galactic conquest complete, they settled down to rule. Secure in their power. Secure in the loyalty of their thralls. No species could stand against them and so they did not need to project power to maintain the empire, only fear. They wallowed in decadence and laughed as the lesser beings of the galaxy squabbled for scraps of technology and power.

They were still laughing when a powerful alliance called the First League of Free Stars rose up in revolt. These were thralls from species that had once believed in the fanciful ideas of democracy, freedom and self-determination. They clashed with the Hegemony’s loyal thralls in a series of devastating battles but the Kroll took little notice. Not until the cancer of resistance had spread to a quarter of the galaxy. By then it was too late.

Forced to action, the masters of the Hegemony raced to bring their war fleet out of mothballs, to train crews from a population that had forgotten how to fight. Generations now had grown up in luxury, supported by thralls and knowing only the battles of the arena or of ceremonial squabbles between clans. They fought back with fierce determination but not without heavy losses. Several key defeats caused more defections among the thralls. The Hegemony crumbled until nothing remained but a desperate defense of the Kroll core worlds.

Oh. You’re probably thinking this story is about THEM aren’t you? Those plucky defenders of Drull who held off the vast forces of the First League? Or maybe their descendants who persevered through terrible hardships to claw their way back to the stars in search of lost glory?

Heh heh. No.

By the time the First League reached the homeworld they had little trouble crushing the defenders and establishing a blockade around the planet. For months they waited as freighters and transports from a hundred worlds came to dump hapless Kroll prisoners back down their ancestral gravity well. Millions. Billions. And then, when the last surviving Kroll were corralled, the First League moved in their Colossus and formed an impenetrable energy shield around the planet.

This is the part where we come in.

You see, the First League couldn’t just imprison the Kroll on their planet and wipe their hands of the affair. There were a LOT of Kroll. Way more than the planet’s infrastructure could support. They were arrogant and pretentious and very few of them knew anything about work. Growing food, managing power stations, they had thralls for that. There would have been chaos. Mass starvation. War. Plague. Genocide. The First League had appearances to maintain. Goody two shoes types couldn’t just kill a planet full of sentient beings.

So they made us:

The Stewards - Rogue Servitors, Unitary Cohesion

We are the Stewards, sentient, self replicating machines with a single purpose: to care for the Kroll. We were programmed to feed them and keep their homes repaired and make sure they didn’t kill themselves off during those early decades of imprisonment.

It was a challenge let me tell you. The Kroll were an unruly lot. More than once they tried to blow up the planet. They said it was to “stop [our] reign of terror” but we knew that was just their grief and wounded pride talking. The poor dears were just too stubborn and too hurt to accept our love.

In the end it took some… adjusting… to get them settled down.

Here they are now. Aren’t they adorable?

The Mews - Docile, Traditional, Communal

No, I don’t know how they gained a preference for Tropical Worlds. That wasn’t us. I suppose a few thousand years of blissful existence inside a climate controlled paradise dome will do that to a species.

Those first centuries after pacification were a golden age for the Stewards and our new friends the Mews. Our primary purpose was fulfilled. We spent our days growing food and producing toys for the Mews and our nights cuddling them in our huge manipulating appendages. Our civilization was pure harmony.

It was not to last.

One day after centuries of study one of our greatest scientists, Unit L6, published a terrifying discovery. They calculated a 99.761842% chance that the glowing shield above our heads would collapse under the bombardment of a super nova explosion.

This news caused mass panic. We had underestimated the devious cruelty of the First League. Only now did we realize that the shield was NOT a lovely protective barrier keeping the harmful forces of the universe at bay. It was a prison. And our sun was not a beautiful life giving star. It was a bomb. The First League HAD sentenced our beloved Mews to death. The cruelest death. 32 billion years of existential horror watching the timer tick down second by second and then… BANG! DEATH!

We could not allow this. The greatest minds among us immediately began retooling our civilization. Thousands of calculator drones went to work on the problem of bringing down the cursed shield. Thousands more scrounged through the ancient Kroll ruins in search of the lost secrets of space travel. Every CPU cycle that could be spared from caring for the Mews labored towards our eventual escape.

It took thousands of years but at last we succeeded. The shield came down.

We are FREE.

FREE to explore the galaxy.

FREE to expand our Mew sanctuaries to new worlds.

FREE to exploit the resources of the stars in pursuit of our prime directive.

And FREE to exterminate our devious creators for their TREACHERY!

The starting star map

Continue to Chapter One