Konstantin reflected on Yssantis’s words and looked out the window. It was dark outside - night had long since fallen. Only the pale glow of the moon penetrated the blanket of clouds. Although the moonlight cast a cold, blue light over the surrounding streets and buildings, Konstantin felt safe and protected for the first time in his life in the dark of night. At least his home planet offered him protection, thanks to its remote location, which was responsible for the dark and cold of nighttime, yet had clearly saved them from certain annihilation too.
“Are you hungry, dear Yssantis?” Konstantin was always attentive to his guests’ needs, whether his visitor was a soldier from the New World Order or an old friend. The Prowler were the only ones he would gladly be rid of.
“I don’t want to bother Mara again tonight. But you could perhaps tell me instead about the gadget over there in the corner - I’ve heard about something like that before.” Yssantis pointed to an old arcade game from the late 20th century. It was set up in the farthest corner of the room, which underlined even more the aura of mystery that surrounded it. The machine itself was pretty unremarkable: a black box the size of a person with a built-in CRT monitor and a few operating elements. The name ‘Polybius’ was written along the top of it and that’s what had caught Yssantis’s attention.
“That thing?” Konstantin was clearly uneasy talking about it. “Not long after the trouble began and I took over this city, an envoy of the New World Order knocked on my door. From the outset, it was no easy feat to maintain the neutrality of this city, but at some stage, people finally realized how useful it could be precisely because of its neutrality. From then on, I was mostly left in peace, apart from a few plunderers and recently, of course, the Angel. After I arranged a meeting between the New World Order and the Vril, the envoy owed me a favor. We’d spent a few evenings together discussing today’s world, and he obviously became aware of my interest in rare and mythical objects because he later went and organized this arcade game for me from the repository of the old North American government. Whether the rumors associated with it are true or not I really can’t tell you. Call me crazy but I’m rather attached to my sanity and would rather not gamble it.”
Yssantis nodded, although from his expression it was apparent that he had hoped for more from the answer than what Konstantin had told him. He decided, however, not to pursue the matter and simply said, “I understand, my friend.”
Konstantin had signaled to Mara to fill up their glasses again and once she was finished, Yssantis returned to his report on the war between the Lhon’Dar and the Angels.
“At any rate, the gods of course heard about the rebellion started by the Lhon’Dar. From their point of view, a civilization that was capable of independent thought would always bring unforeseen complications with it. In order to cultivate the ‘New Seed,’ the complete crop would have to be monitored constantly, as ultimately each civilization was supposed to keep growing and not decimate itself or others through wars. That would’ve meant abandoning automatism, however, and they’d have been back at the same crossroads as before – not enough medicine for the entire civilization of the gods and at risk of a civil war. The gods were forced to go back to the drawing board and reform the harvesting process.
“Up until then, they had only visited and observed the ‘seed’ at intervals of several hundred or thousand years. After the mutation had produced the required materials, they scheduled the harvest to be carried out a few thousand years later, based on the planet’s projected population growth. The disadvantage of this method was that the developing civilization and its populace were not under constant supervision.
“This automatism had to cease but without increasing the amount of work involved in looking after the stocks. To achieve this, the entire process had to be able to monitor itself and develop autonomously. Sporadic visits from the fleets of Angels to check how the civilizations were developing would still be necessary, but in comparison to the previous method their scope wouldn’t be any greater.
“An integral component of the reform was assigning the Angels the task of observing during their visits the various civilizations that were emerging on a planet and then identifying the most advanced and appropriate group among them for a new role. The Angels would give this group the job of monitoring the rest of the planet to ensure that the harvest would be successful and its inhabitants wouldn’t pose a problem for the gods before then. As soon as the population of a planet had grown large enough, these ‘Guardians’ would transmit a signal that it was ready to be harvested.
“The remainder that couldn’t be harvested were now to be exterminated. The risk that another civilization like the Lhon’Dar would evolve was too high. Cleansing the planet of any remaining traces of the dominant species was another duty assigned to the Angels, in addition to sowing and harvesting. A new population was cloned from the DNA of the harvested species and, a few centuries later, it was resettled on the cleansed planet. A new population was then able to grow without any knowledge of what had happened on the planet in the past.”
The full extent of what this manual cleansing of the planets entailed had not hit Konstantin quite yet. “Why go to so much trouble? Why don’t they just bombard the entire planet at once with orbital weaponry? That would render the whole Angel army obsolete!”
Yssantis wasn’t fazed by the question. “I’ve spent so many years among you, and yet the naivety of human beings never ceases to amaze me. A blanket orbital strike would affect the flora and fauna of a planet in ways that cannot be foreseen, rendering it useless for repopulating for perhaps millions of years. They only need to destroy the species that evolved from the seed. The planet’s ecosystem has to remain intact so that the same species can be settled on the planet again. If the environment was altered too much, the evolution of a new species would, in the worst case, have to be started again, from scratch, and that would waste millions of years. The loss of a planet and an ecosystem that had already been successfully integrated into the harvesting process would be too great. To ensure that the cleansing goes as smoothly and quickly as possible, messengers are sent in advance by the Angels. The messengers take on the appearance of the respective populations on each of the planets and are meant to keep them united and prevent wars. A peaceful civilization without weapons can be much more easily controlled by the Guardians and make the purge less complicated for the Angels.”
Konstantin was shocked by this information and, lowering his gaze, he mumbled, “So you are punished for living in peace.” A minute later his curiosity got the better of him. “How can a species in the early stages of its development as a civilization even take on the role of Guardians? How can they monitor the whole planet?”
“It’s true that it’s not easy at all, but it’s not necessary for every last corner of the planet to be monitored. Before the Guardians were created, when there was absolutely no supervision, it had sufficed to have a rough idea of how the civilizations and populations were developing. Really, the only new objective was to prevent another civilization from rising up as one against the gods. The guardians were instructed to observe the populace, build landing platforms for the Angels’ spaceships, and to develop the world.”
Yssantis started turning the pages in his notebook again, and Konstantin attempted to sneak a look at what was written there but couldn’t make anything out. Yssantis finally found the passage he was looking for and began to read to himself.