The second Guardian
Captain's log: galactic date 10340 2-19: In the morning we return to the lake, having intentionally left it
unobserved by withdrawing all our equipment the previous night. We find the platform and bridge as before, but
the Guardian has vanished, or is it hiding in the thick morning fog? Our sensors do not detect it, but the energy
source beneath the lake is still present.

Something is approaching us across the bridge, it looks like the Guardian emerging from the fog. Readings
indicate it's presence now, but it's signature is different from that of the first guardian. This second robot is
clearly of the same basic design, but appears to have a different function, and it appears unarmed.

<Alien Robot> "Do not be alarmed. I am ambassador to JS-640. Why have you come to the planet

<SciTech Mikovin> "Ysurt-T3-Beta, that's not an easy name, not like the name indigenous people would use."

<Ambassador> "It is the galactic type designation."

<Captain> "So this is not your homeworld, or planet of origin, then?"

<Ambassador> "No, we are the keepers of YT3. What is your purpose here?"

<Captain> "We are simply explorers..."

<Ambassador> "You have come to colonise this planet."

<SciTech Jana> "No, we are just explorers, who is JS-640?"

<Ambassador> "You must not interfere with the platform!"

<Captain> "Why? Tell us its function."

SciTech Mikovin's log 2-19: 3:04: Me and Engineer Dexon have just found ourselves standing alone by the
bridge. The Captain and Jana have gone and we appear to have lost some 50 centons [about 30 minutes] of
time. I recall seeing lots of bright lights dancing, yes, they came from the Ambassador robot - it must have used
some sort of hypnosis to stun us while it took the Captain and Jana away. We shall send a robot probe to
investigate the platform and the water beneath it.  I have alerted the Starstrider which is standing by with laser
batteries targeted at the platform.

Captain's log: galactic date 10340 2-19: 3:04: Myself and first science technician Jana Novis find ourselves in a
strange room, but how did we get here? Our instruments and weapons are missing. I recall seeing strange
lights, something to do with the ambassador. This room is no more than 20 metres square and the floor, ceiling
and walls have the appearance of polished titanium alloy. There is nothing else in this room except a single
console with a chair and a headset, and small ducts that provide us with conditioned air. We can find no
apparent entrance or exit. The only sound is a gentle humming which reverberates through the floor and walls
and is indicative of electrical equipment somewhere nearby. The console appears to be some sort of computer
game console. The display shows a board in three dimensions, with pieces arranged in two sets of four with 5
pieces of each colour in each quadrant of the board. The game seems to be displaying a demo which indicates
that the objective is to gain control of the four corner-most squares and the central square. Placing on the
headset I discovered that I can move my pieces by thought alone and the is playing the opposition.

Captain's log: galactic date 10340 2-19: 4:55: Working together me and Jana have played four games against
the computer, but lost every time. This is not surprising, neither of us have seen this game before. We hope
that we do not have to win in order to be released from here!

Captain's log: galactic date 10340 2-19: 5:25: We just lost the fifth game and just as we were about to refuse to
participate in frustration, a door, hitherto concealed, opened and the Ambassador (or an equivalent robot)
entered the room.

<Ambassador> Congratulations you played well.

<Captain> But we lost every game!

<Ambassador> Yes, but you played well nevertheless, but even if you were masters of this game your
probability of defeating JS-640 would be vanishingly small.

<Jana> If we couldn't win then why have you kept us in here and forced us to play five games with this JS-640
whatever he is?

<Ambassador> I apologise for any inconvenience, but we had to evaluate you and ensure that you posed no
threat to Shield Station Alpha-YT3-Beta. We have learnt that you are explorers and a responsible people. You
are here only to learn. We conclude that you pose no danger to our mission.

<Jana> You could tell all that from a game!?

<Captain> Shield Station Alpha ... whatever, you people don't like names do you? What are you shielding and
who is JS-640?

The ambassador has lead us into an adjacent chamber, in the centre of which is a vast column of
plasma-conduits which pass through the translucent floor and ceiling to other floors above and below and
stretches as far as we can see. A single computer console floats without means of support off to one side. I can
see an image of The Starstrider on one of the monitor screens and on another is a picture of YT3's sun.
<Ambassador> Please allow me to explain. This is generator 7, section 26. There are 8 generators like this
one, each with 100 sections or floors like this one. Power cells store the energy generated for future use.
Over on the monitor you can see this planet's yellow star, which is a young star with some seven billion years
left of its life. However, the nearby nebula, from which you came, is a hostile place. There you have seen
stars being born, stars like the nearby blue hypergiant that you know about. When our Mother passed
through this region of space 467 000 years ago this hypergiant had just been born, but already life was
evolving on YT3-Beta - beta since it is the second planet from the star Ysurt, which means 'Jacinth Flame',
the T is your designation 'terrestrial' for a rocky planet with a solid surface and this is a type 3 terrestrial
planet. As you know, blue hypergiant stars are unstable. We estimate that in another 0.67 million years this
blue hypergiant will die in a vast hypernova explosion, but even before that it may undergo one or more
dramatic supernova-like outbursts. Even as far as we are from this star, there is a high probability of a jet
from one of its outbursts, or even the final hypernova, blasting this planet and sterilising it. However, we have
constructed a neutrino detector, made from solid neutronium, and sited deep beneath the surface of this
planet. This detector will detect the neutrino burst from any nearby supernova-like event and because
neutrinos pass easily through matter, they will reach us before the damaging radiation and so they will signal
the coming blast. When such a signal is detected we will use these plasma-generators to generate a shield
around the entire planet, protecting it until the danger has passed.

<Captain> That's incredible! You built this entire complex, beneath this planet's surface, in order to protect a
planet that contained primative life from a natural catastrophe. But why? There are many life-bearing planets,
why go through all that bother to save one?

<Ambassador> It is no hard matter for us. The Mother's technology is far more advanced than your own. She
evolved billions of years before all your kinds that make up your alliance. As all physical systems can be
described mathematically, so we simply need the mathematical equations and a source of energy, and then
we can generate anything we can design by simply converting the equations into matter. This complex is over
400 000 years old, and yet it is as good as new.

<Jana> But why? Noble as it is, why should you care what happens to this planet and whether or not life on
here continues to evolve?
<Ambassador> Why not? We overcame the obstacles of existence a long time ago. We value life and so why
shouldn't we help to protect it?

<Captain> Do you know what the life on this planet will evolve to become?

<Ambassador> That information is not available.

<Jana> But you are interfering, maybe the supernova will cause a mass extinction that will trigger new life to
appear here. Why not let Nature take its course?

<Ambassador> You also interfere by colonising habitable worlds. Do you not consider what impact you may be
having on such worlds. Maybe you prevent them evolving their own intelligent life forms.

<Jana> Yes, but those planets support us instead, and we are intelligent and we have a right to survive. Every
time we kill worms or bacteria we may be preventing the existence of a future civilisation that would have
evolved from one of those creatures, but it is not for us to worry about what may be, so long as civilisation and
life continue. Any simple act may prevent whole races of people from coming into existence, but we do not
consider those acts of murder.

<Ambassador> Yes. We are not so concerned with the form that life takes, only that it continues. You may
colonise this planet if you wish, but we shall protect it from becoming sterile.

<Captain> We have not come to colonise, we are explorers far from home and it will be a long time before our
kinds colonise this part of space. Even if we were colonisers, we shall not interfere with your - experiments.

<Ambassador> The platform is a portal that grants access to this complex and it will be guarded against
uninvited intruders. Now, you are free to return to your business, i shall lead you to the transporter and return
you to the platform.

<Jana> You still haven't told us...

<Captain> Who is JS-640?

<Ambassador> We are JS-640, the computer network responsible for this shield station. We are the child of our
Mother who is now many thousands of light years from here. 'JS' is a translation into your language, and means
Joie de vivre Systems.

We returned to the platform and were greeted by a ground team. Apparently, as soon as they targeted the
platform, the two conical obilisks generated a force-shield around it and Dexon's team were trying to breech it.
Returning to The Starstrider I discover that our biologists have discovered several indigenous plant-like life
forms fit for consumption. They have also discovered that, curiously, the green sky of the planet results from
micro-organisms high in the atmosphere that trap Ysurt's light for photosynthesis. The wavelengths of light that
they do not use, are utilised by the orange-brown vegetation on the planet's surface. Then I remembered, Joie
de vivre Systems, happens to be a computer entertainment company back home, in our own galaxy. Could it be
that JS-640 is from the distant future? Perhaps the name is more likely to be a coincidence, after all the
Ambassador said it was translated. Perhaps, life to those highly technological creatures is but a game?

I have recalled the ships' crew, time to end their shore leave, but several crew members have not signalled in
and seem to be missing...

Click here to continue the voyage...