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by Dave Van Domelen
A Brontotherium placidly grazed under the warming sun. Meanwhile, on the other side of the galaxy, a spaceship arced next to space, bypassing the light years of distance with an uncertain grace. The race which launched it was proud to have accomplished what it felt to be the ultimate bending of what had been immutable physical law. They felt certain that their name would be remembered across the universe forever. It's a pity they didn't even last another generation.
The starship entered real space near a spectacular sight...a cloud of asteroids and planets surrounding a star almost completely, so that naught but a red glow escaped it. In an era yet to come on the planet where the Brontotherium grazed, it might eventually be called a Dyson Sphere. Excited explorers took readings on their instruments, both elated that such a thing could exist, and apprehensive that it would mean they were insignificant. After all, stardrives look puny in comparison to the engineering that such a structure would require.
Moving closer, they were astounded to find no trace of artifice...it was natural! Or at least, created by a race that could be easily described as gods. The truth was far more astounding.
The star was somehow pre-sentient. When the starship entered its domain, the minds in the metal shell sparked the star's own. It probed the thoughts of the crew, learned concepts, discovered emotions. Discovered that it liked the taste of some emotions, ones called fear and hate. Intrigued, it followed them with its mind as they departed for home, and soon he found with his senses a world teeming with emotions. Like a starving man tasting his first food, he couldn't be sated. As he drained the emotions from the world's inhabitants, they died. He fed on the fear this caused, and soon those who feared were also dead. Within a few measly rotations about his own axis, all life on the planet capable of feeling emotion was dead.
And he felt hunger pangs.
He now knew what he had been missing, and wanted more. But he realized that he must be more careful, feed more slowly that his cattle not die. He cast his mind about for what seemed an eternity, then found another race suited to his needs. This time he carefully fed, and it was at this time he discovered he could send emissaries to influence events...figures shaped as he wished, but black as his own desires. He experimented, eventually bringing the world to a fever pitch of hatred that he felt could be safely supped off for a good long time. Then he found that his pawns, full of hate and nowhere to vent it, were killing each other. Before he could stop them, they were all dead.
This was his second lesson. Hate must have a safe outlet if the crop were to not die on the stalk. When the last of that race had died, they were on the verge of discovering starflight, thanks to his help. He knew the secrets discovered by his first victims, and had passed them on out of curiosity. Now he knew that if he could direct the hate outward to other worlds, they could be driven to the edges of the universe while still feeding him.
Again he cast about for new fodder. He found several worlds with life, but knew they would take too long to reach the stars. So he drained them to ease the pangs as he continued to search. Finally he found a race to his liking, one poised to go to the stars.
With his help, they became an Empire. Spanning the stars, they conquered and killed wherever they went, and he was well pleased. There was dissent in the Empire over the morality of it all, but with a gentle nudge here or a mysterious death there from the hands of his Emissaries, things went as he wished. A quarter of the galaxy was under the thumb of the Empire, and the Empire was his tool, his dinner plate. For a millenium he gorged himself on the hatred of the Empire and the fear of their victims.
And then, he was sated. He could feed no more, and fell into a sort of sleep. Did he dream? And what dreams would an evil star have? Many have speculated, but none truly wished to know.
With his influence gone for a time, the Empire began to break up. The old hatred dimmed, and new ways of thinking took hold. An entire society now felt the guilt for what they had done, and they vowed to repent.
It took thousands of years, but eventually the Empire had become the Confederation of Civilized Worlds. It was not yet known simply as Civilization. Gone was the expansionist drive that characterized the Empire. The Confederation turned inward, on perfecting themselves, on learning to live without hatred or conflict. It was not a total success, but all agreed it was a better way to live than under the Empire. And with the new peace came a realization that there had been an outside instigator. Records and legends of shadowy figures manipulating events began to be taken seriously. After all, if they were so aggressive as to create the Empire alone, how could there have been such a turnaround? The answer, of course, was that the star was only a minor influence in the long run. They had been that evil at one time. But few races are totally without the capacity to deceive themselves, and soon they 'knew' their evil had been the fault of this Enemy. And it was necessary to find a way to defeat it should it ever return.
Thus, the Confederation turned paranoid for an age. There was peace, but an undercurrent of fear as well. The Confederated Guard was formed to protect against this Enemy, and soon took a vast portion of the resources of the Confederation. Fortunately for them, the Enemy still slept. Eventually, the paranoia eased, and although the Guard remained, the people went back to their lives of relative contentment and peace. Had the Enemy awakened during the age of paranoia, though, they would have been the ideal food for him...fear was as savory as hate.
Finally, the Enemy did awaken. His first act was to see what its pawns had done while he slept. And he was sickened by the placidity. He tried sending Emissaries to stir things up, but the Guard soon found them and exposed them. No, it was time to find a fresh world and use it to conquer this weak Confederation. They had fed him hate before, now they could feed him their fear as they fell to the new Empire. And so he began his search anew.
However, the Confederation was not simply going to react to his acts. They had developed the sciences of the mind sufficiently to know what his goals were, and knew now that their current society was the best defense against the Enemy. No hate, no fear...the Enemy would be put off. So an expansionist period began again, and they sought out races near their borders to bring into the Confederation. The educated them, gave them science, culture, ethics. And were utterly dumbfounded when all of these new members split off to form the Second Empire. It was only luck and superior resources that allowed the Confederation to survive, and the Second Empire eventually turned on itself and died.
The greatest minds on the Confederation were forced to reconsider their plan of defense against the Enemy. They realized that a world had to choose their ways from inside, not be given them from 'on high', else the conversion was false, and they were simply arming future enemies. The Confederate Guard suggested a plan of sending members to other worlds to inspire them to Civilization, while also protecting them from the Enemy. However, this was voted down. It was still too much like leading the other worlds by the nose, and besides, each world had to take its own path to Civilization. A new plan was suggested, where natives of each world would be taken and educated, then sent back to preach the virtues of Civilization. This plan was approved, and met with limited success.
Unfortunately, the Enemy soon found out this plan, and his Emissaries killed the ones sent back to teach Civilization. The old Guard plan was then suggested again, this time with modifications, by the head of the Patrol. The Patrol was the successor to the Confederate Guard, as the mission switched to keeping the borders safe from the Enemy and his minions. This new plan was to equip the natives with Patrol gear, and give them a basic mission to bring Civilization to their world. This way, the world would find its own way, and the messengers would be harder to silence. The plan was approved, and after a few mistakes and false starts, evolved into the present Patrol system.
Rechargers were deposited on worlds likely to attract the attention of the Enemy. Natives were made members of the Patrol and informed of their primary mission to lead their world into Civilization. They were to use their power wisely, and not harm their fellows with it...for they must lead by example. If a world soon found itself without Patrollers because they all had violated the Code, then the world was deemed a loss to the Enemy. The Enemy was not mentioned to the native Patrollers without prompting, and even then they would be sworn to not reveal the true nature of the Enemy to their world. If they knew the true face of the Enemy, they would 'civilize' out of fear, which as they knew to their regret, was not good enough.
Soon the fruit of their labors was evident, as one new world after another joined Civilization. Some were lost, but far less than would have been without the Patrol. And far more still teetered between the choices.
And on the plain where the Brontotherium once grazed, a young woman looked in awe at the glowing Recharger hovering in front of her...
Copyright © 1994, 1997 by David van Domelen