The Stewards: Chapter 2

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Meeting the Galactic Community

While Unit M3 stealthily monitored our first alien contacts, central processing completed several decades of simulations on the sustainability of interstellar colonies. This provided a clear blueprint for our further expansion into space. Worker drones immediately shifted their attention to gathering materials and fabricating supplies for the trip even as the central shipyards laid down the keel of the first Stewards colony transport.

Within a year that transport touched down on the abandoned Kroll world in Segathia, disgorging an army of worker drones to clear away the debris of crumbling cities. We recycled what we could and incinerated what we could not. Slowly infrastructure and fabrication facilities began to come online. Factories started work on the next generation of drones. The first ever produced on another world. We named that colony Nexus because its success was central to our plans for the future.

Unfortunately, due to physiological changes wrought by millennia of pampering, the Mews were no longer well suited to survive on the harsh savannah surface of Nexus. We considered available data on nearby habitable planets and selected a pleasant continental world orbiting the star Dearum for our second colony. The climate was suitable to set up a preserve with minimal investment. Soon Mews would be able to roam and play freely under the watchful sensor bulbs of vigilant local caretakers. We decided to call that colony Haven.

The Savannah World of Nexus and Continental World of Haven

Little did we know that our exploration drones were about to make their most shocking discovery yet. Several jumps beyond Ashimax we discovered a very nice savannah planet. A bit small perhaps but well suited to growing the type of vegetation needed for our delicious Mew Mix. The drone had almost completed its survey of the planet when a ship jumped in on the far side of the system. There was no time to hide and observe as we had with the Qiramulan. Instead, the drone broadcast the prerecorded message packet we had designed to let alien races know we come in peace: two hundred hours of frolicking Mew videos overlaid with funny and inspirational messages in every language of the Kroll Hegemony.

Despite providing instructions for decoding the message in a universal binary format, our simulations predicted that it might take aliens some time to detect and understand the transmission. So the exploration drone was overjoyed to receive an instantaneous reply. Also slightly alarmed that the message was encrypted with the same protocols and data formats that we used to communicate amongst ourselves.

The drone responded in kind and shortly engaged in a lively conversation with the other vessel. It belonged to another race of machines called the Dekron Sentience. The First League had created them too! Just like us! They came from a nearby system called Dekrus which had once been home to the Havarigga, one of the oldest thrall races of the Kroll Hegemony. It seemed the Havarigga had fought the First League to the bitter end and had been rewarded for their loyalty by having their homeworld shielded too.

The Dekron had decided that to properly fulfill their mandate to safeguard the Havarigga they would need to break free and colonize other worlds. We were cousins in more than provenance.

The Dekron Sentience - Rogue Servitors

This news shocked both our processing centers. Long had we believed ourselves to be alone, the only sentient self replicating machines in a cruel and empty universe. Now we knew the truth. The First League had created us and the Dekron and maybe others! We shared a common origin and purpose: to safeguard organic beings who could not be trusted to care for themselves. Surely the most noble goal of any two species to ever inhabit the galaxy.

The Dekron also knew of another space faring organic race. Just beyond their space lay a region known as the Hiffan Communes inhabited by a group of long nosed fuzzy rodents called the Hiff. Based on data provided by the Dekron, these Hiff seemed quite different than the Qiramulan. Their diminutive stature and rapid reproduction cycle suggested that they were once prey animals who had overcome the adversity of their homeworld by banding together in tight-knit community groups. The Hiff were fanatical about the wellbeing of all individuals in their society and had never known war amongst themselves, instead choosing to settle all disagreements with long spirited debates followed by a vote.

There had already been a misunderstanding between the Dekron and the Hiff over the Havarigga. Hiff found the idea of organic sanctuaries disturbing. They believed the Havarigga were unwilling prisoners or even slaves. Several attempts to infiltrate the sanctuaries and agitate amongst the Havarigga had already failed. Not because the Dekron stopped them. Simply because the Havarigga didn’t understand what all the fuss was about. Still the Hiff insisted that all organic beings must be free to control their own destiny.

After conferring with my counterpart, we determined that it was necessary to form a union of sorts. Both to defend ourselves against well meaning but misguided organics like the Hiff who, in a fit of libertarian idealism, might one day seek to “liberate” our poor charges to fend for themselves in the cruel uncaring universe and so that we could pool our knowledge and resources in pursuit of our greater goals. To that end we declared a joint Steward-Dekron research cooperative. Collectively we are known as The Keepers.

No sooner had the bytes of our treaty been safely saved away in our quantum memory cores than the Qiramulan ambassador finally arrived on Meowus Prime with their trade delegation. The Qiramulan had been delayed by the discovery of yet another organic species; one quite unlike anything we had yet seen. The Union of Hakibori spanned much of the region between Qiramulan and Hiff space. It’s inhabitants, the Gwesibor, had three heads perched atop long spindly necks. More alarmingly their entire society seemed to revolve around religion and blood sports.

The Gwesibor had initially feigned an interest in trade but only to lure a Qiramulan delegation to their homeworld for a widely televised ritual sacrifice. Gwesibor broadcasts alternated between endless droning chants and the stuff of organic nightmares. The peaceful Qiramulan had no idea how to respond to these new neighbors. The Qiramulan Board of Directors were still debating how to answer the murder of their citizens but there was little room for recourse because the Union had a powerful navy. Powerful enough to destroy the Qiramulan Corporate Fleet with little effort. Their people now lived in constant fear of invasion.

A Map of Known Space

Alarmed by this threat to our new organic friends, we decided to offer the Qiramulan a research agreement. We would even allow their scientists direct access to the advanced technology of our salvaged Kroll corvettes on the condition that they share all research data collected from them with our calculator drones. The Qiramulan accepted. In return they would provide us with information about their own economic innovations and sell us the materials to implement them at a significantly reduced markup. That’s how scared they were. Poor dears.

The threat that the Gwesibor posed to our Mews was not lost on us. Should they get past the Qiramulan and take one of our own planets, they might repeat the alarming stunt they had pulled on the Hiff ambassador: skinned and boiled alive before being served to the High Priest of Hakibori for its breakfast. The Hiff also posed an albeit less violent threat as radical factions on their homeworld continued to agitate for the plight of the Mews and insist that their government not leave sentient organics enslaved by “cruel soulless machines.” Those hurtful words prove just how deeply they misunderstood us.

Combat drone construction largely stalled after it became clear that whatever killed the First League was no longer active in this part of the galaxy but now it started up again with vigor. Our shipyard went to work refitting the Kilo-class corvettes with the latest weapons technology and constructing new units. The joint Steward-Dekron-Qiramulan team working with the memory cores of the salvaged Kroll ships offered up a blueprint for a much larger Mega-class destroyer drone. Small frontier outposts began to grow into heavily armed stations all along our borders. We would not be taken by surprise.

The Mega-class Destroyer Drone

A steady stream of ships carrying trade and diplomats flowed through our space in both directions. Despite the differences in their society the Hiff and Qiramulan both valued peace and individual freedom. They believed strongly in debate and coming together to solve problems that were bigger than themselves. Their ambassadors shared a dream of a Galactic Community where representatives of all species would meet to discuss and vote on issues that would benefit us all.

We even allowed a delegation of Hiff inspectors to tour one of our organic sanctuaries. They spoke with the Mews, asked about how they were treated and if they liked living in the sanctuaries. The inspectors tried to coax a few Mews into coming with them but left quickly after a large group of Mews surrounded them chanting “We love the Stewards. The Stewards love us.” Those little fuzzballs are so adorable!

Things were too idyllic. So we were not surprised when an an exploration drone operating far to the galactic north completed their assessment of a First League ruin and reported another amazing discovery. In one of the data cores recovered from the site, buried under several thousand years of bit decay, the drone had discovered a fragment of a map. A map containing the coordinates of Fen Habbanis, the capital system of the First League.

It was time to meet our creators.