Dark Angels

January 24, 2021

The colonists of this place know so much about their planet. They have worked hard – on pain of starvation, it must be credited – and developed unique techniques for survival. But a mystery surrounds their reasons for coming here.

This was, on initial scans, a most inhospitable ball of rock. That much is not disputed. Of all the worlds settled by humanity, this was one of the toughest nuts to crack.

Hundreds of thousands of planets were surveyed from orbit. The vast majority were dismissed as settlement material almost immediately, while others began a thorough vetting. Finally, there followed a period of recruitment, when applicants for the frontier life were chosen to start a new settlement.

With few exceptions the histories of the most successful colonies would show promise revealed itself very early on in this process. Attractions like mineral mining, sports, or exotic flora and fauna were easy clues. Orbits which provided varied and/or temperate climates were favourites too, though terraforming was a possibility on suitable bodies.

But something about this particular planet called to the souls hundreds of expeditionists, colonists and the general public, despite the lack of obvious benefits. The place scraped through the initial sift, but as soon as word spread of its discovery applicants flocked to the migration offices to sign up.

The planet barely looked like it had ever been suitable for life, unlike the other colony candidates. Its surface was pock-marked and angular, devastated by meteorite impacts. Rumours abounded of the ruined remains of an early civilisation, but nothing was confirmed. Still, an almost supernatural attraction was in effect, and people who before had never so much as considered a life on another planet signed up in droves.

The conditions were tough, and made tougher by the dilution of skills. Amateurs hindered progress through their clumsy attempts to help out. But no one was heard to complain. A transformation of the place, from hellscape to habitable, was unparalleled. And yet, the journey promised to be long – generations long.

No one suspected the true nature of the planet’s draw, and none would for centuries. For hidden forces were at work, much of the colonising efforts being directed towards the sleeping guardians of the place. For the scant ruins paid scant attention by the early surveyors were the remains of a once powerful civilisation. That civilisation had been brought to its knees by a series of catastrophes, many of their own making. But their power brought protection, and the beings of that society retreated deep inside the planet, and awaited the time when they were healed.

In the meantime they set in motion vast machines which could harness the will of those future peoples drawn to land here. The machines worked tirelessly for eons, gathering strength, nudging orbits and sending out tentative signals. With infinite patience the machines and their masters spread their influence, awaiting an answering consciousness. They drew that consciousness – humanity – to themselves and finally set them to work.

Even now, deep underground, in caverns ancient and inaccessible, these dark angels direct, manipulating and shaping the world above in pursuit of an atmosphere into which they can re-emerge, that they can again call home.