ON THE PLANET SNARFOOT, more than 33000 lightyears from Earth, the Terrans had been able to trap and disable 2 alien spaceships: the spacescout which was used for locating suitable oxygen worlds for sowing of the so called “FatMoss” and the huge seedship with zillions of flying robots which heretofore had sown the “Seeds of Ruin”. The Terrans under the leadership of Perry Rhodan discovered to
their surprise that their 2 opponents were robot creations and
strictly followed the orders of “constructors” who subsisted on
the spores of the blubbery lichen – or did so in ancient times,
because the present existence of the mysterious Constructors
is extremely doubtful, by all investigations which have been
The world of the Constructors is the planet Mechanica. Mechanica is a busy world, as the Terrans eventually discover, altho it has supported no organic life in eons. The Constructors were long ago extinct but the heritage of the lizard people is as active as ever – especially the mysterious harvestship which the Terrans would like to put to work for the benefit of humanity.
1/ ADVENTURE ON AZGOLA
8240 LIGHT YEARS from Arkon and 37,111 lightyears from Terra-and thus situated at the border of the known universe and close to the gulf between the galaxies-was a lone sun.
It was listed in the star catalogs of the space-traveling races under the name of Azgos. Its 4 planets had never played a significant role and only the 2d had ever been inhabited by living beings. It was called Azgola but its inhabitants, the once spindly Azgons, had been evacuated. This turn of events put Azgola in the focal point of attention of many galactic power groups. Now the heretofore little noticed planet far from the centers of conflict had become a touchstone of human intelligence because Azgola was destined to be the proving ground for determining the superiority of human beings over robots.
Rhodan’s expeditionary fleet circled the system at a respectable distance. The Administrator himself was aboard the battlecruiser Sirius of the Solar class. He was accompanied by Reginald Bell and several mutants. The final review of the situation was arranged so that the commanders of the other units could take part by telecom.
Perry Rhodan recapped the prior events in a short outline for the purpose of acquainting with the facts all those who had been absent before. It was an essential precaution to make clear the imminent action to the fullest extent.
Rhodan paused for a moment and gazed thoughtfully at the array of little picture screens in the command center of the Sirius. Each showed a face-trustworthy and highly determined. One of the faces was most remarkable because of its large size, the face of Col. Jefe Claudrin, Commander of the superbattleship Ironduke. He exhibited a confident grin.
Rhodan cleared his throat. “Don’t be overly optimistic, Claudrin,” he warned in an unusually serious tone. “We won’t, win this contest with the power of our war materiel. It will not be decided by our technical skill but by the power of our logic. We are dealing with an opponent whose positronic brain is far superior to ours. All will be in vain if we make the slightest mistake. I repeat once more so that everybody will be aware of the historical background: an extinct race, probably lizards, lived on the planet Mechanica, more than 50,000 lightyears from the stellar cluster M-13. Their metabolism was distinctly different from our own. They did not take food in the same manner we do but lived from spores which they ingested thru their lungs and probably breathed in thru their skin as well. In order to obtain a sufficient supply of food they sent out robotships. They used 3 ships to do the job: The Scout to discover suitable planets, the Seedship with the spores as a cargo and the Harvestship, which has so far eluded us. We have already been able to find the scout and the planter and disposed of them. Now we are awaiting the arrival of the harvester. It should return to the Azgola system, provided we succeeded in operating the abandoned switch station on Mechanica in the correct manner and have transmitted the appropriate radio signals.”
Rhodan paused once more. He knew that his men were waiting for his orders to start on their missions but the time had not yet come. “The lizards, who probably died out thousands of years ago, have created a gigantic civilization of robots. Those 3 ships were part of their heritage. The 2 most important ones have now been disabled and the danger of further epidemics eliminated but we also have to capture the harvestship in order to undo the damage they have caused. What happens to be good for one is not beneficial to one and all. The lizards sustained themselves with the spores of lichen whose seeds were sowed on planets with warm climates by the planting ship. The lichen grows quickly and requires no care. It blooms virtually without interruption and emits spores of microscopical size which are neither poisonous nor harmful as such: Their nutritional value is beyond belief. Breathing these spores provides extremely efficient nutrition but the deposition of fat within a few days is so excessive as to cause obesity which in the long run proves to be fatal. Nobody is able to resist this excess of fat as long as they must breathe. For this reason our scientists have picked the simple name of `fatmoss’ for this exotic plant.”
Noticing that one of his commanders grimaced slightly, Rhodan raised his voice. “I relaize that the gentlemen of the officer corps never had to fight a case of overfeeding in our history but this most incredible thing has now happened. We were forced to evacuate the 2 million inhabitants from the Azgola planet. The Azgons had become so fat that they could hardly move. We had no other choice than evacuation because we are still in the dark about the harvesting method of the extinct lizards. Presumably the’ moss is sensitive to cold temperatures and is destroyed below 10� C. However Azgola has a subtropical climate where the blubbery lichen proliferates and can’t be weeded out. Of course it would be feasible to accomplish this now that the planet has been evacuated but it would mean that we can’t use Azgola as a trap for the harvestship. This could cause the loss of Arkon 2 because the team of scientists who was assigned to study the lichen was so careless as to infest Arkon with the spores. The first effects are already visible. Vast stretches of the industrial planet’s land are already covered by the moss and the Arkonides living there are beginning to get fat.”
“Will it be necessary to evacuate Arkon 2?” Claudrin inquired in a booming voice.
“That is impossible,” Rhodan shook his head. “Arkon 2 is much too important for the stellar empire of Atlan. Besides it could not be avoided that the spores of the fatmoss would be spread wherever they go. As useful as this plant is, it can turn into a scourge if it is not controlled. And we do not yet know how to control its deleterious defects. Nor do we know as yet how to harvest the spores and use them to best advantage. We can learn this only from the missing harvestship and that’s why we are here and waiting. Furthermore, let me tell you a little more about the planet Mechanica. We located it by using the calculations of Arkon’s robot Brain that evaluated the radio impulses of the 2 spaceships we have captured. It is an arid and cold planet and the robot civilization created by the lizards still exists – at least partly. We called the harvestship from the central station on the planet. The ship is waiting somewhere in space for orders which planet to visit next. We gave it the coordinates of Azgola. As soon as the harvestship arrives, the central station at Mechanica must be destroyed. This will be your job, Claudrin! You will stay on Arkon 3 till I give you the order to proceed.”
“I’ll be ready, sir,” Col. Jefe Claudrin replied from a distance of more than 8000 lightyears.
Rhodan continued: “We also found a clue on Mechanica how the lizards got their food and how the spores of the blubber moss can be adapted for human consumption in the future. Artificial suns were shining in huge glasslike cupolas which served as diningrooms for the lizards where they collected the spores. Later, when the planet became too cold, the harvestship brought the crops from the seeds planted on other planets into these cupolas. Then came a time when the ship failed to arrive and the lizards all perished.”
“And why didn’t the harvestship return?” somebody asked.
“We don’t know. Perhaps it was due to some mechanical breakdown or the scoutship was unable to find suitable planets. Besides, we can’t be certain that the absence of the harvestship was the real cause for the demise of the lizards. We don’t know enough about it. But we are sure of one thing: we must find the harvestship in order to save Arkon. That’s why we have embarked on this mission. We’ll have to outwit an opponent who died long ago but whose heritage survives in the form of robots. The ship itself is a robot. Its crew – if there is one – consists of robots as well. If we succeed in building a transmitter station – and we are now making this effort on Terra – we can direct the harvestship to go to any point we choose. And this will make it more convenient for us to include the fatmoss in our nutrition.”