The Watchers’ Council was an invention of a consortium of interstellar travelers who, having found one another, became very keen on finding everybody else before something bad happens. Thus, the Watchers’ Council was formed: a body that served as regulator, scout, big brother, forum, and historian.
The Starlifters were among the first signatories to the Council charter. Some few who had survived the collapse of the Transition Protectorate added their votes. Individual ships, as from the Cerdian Generation Fleet, sometimes joined as independent parties.
The Council created the innovation of inventing member civilizations, or at least granting voting seats to civilizations that had not yet made first contact with anybody. The idea was that each species’ phantom representative, selected from the Council’s own civilian numbers, would advance that species’ interests in the public arena, preparatory to their attaining space flight and contact with one of the Karvassian Buoys seeded by the Council around promising planets.
After the course of two hundred years it became obvious that the phantom Council members outnumbered the actual ones on the order of perhaps five hundred to one. Infighting broke out as to who would represent which civilization, whether separate planetary settlements from one civilization counted, and whether the lawyers who had originated the Council compact actually knew anything that the anthropologists, ethnomusicographers, and civil engineers who studied newly discovered civilizations didn’t.
It was acknowledged that the sitting members of the Council maintained territorial sovereignty over their individual uncontested and adjudicated claims. Phantom members had voting rights over matters that directly impacted their planets (and, after a long and bitter legal battle involving an industrial plasma siphoning program that “nobody would ever notice,” stars). Questions of the unexplored, uncharted, and unexploited areas of the galaxy were effectively relegated to sitting members, though phantom members could and did perform spectacular feats of filibustering in their capacity as advisory voters.
The situation of the phantom members evolved rapidly, to the point where decades of case law had already been established, challenged, amended, and reasserted for each new civilization before anybody had worked out what kind of atmosphere, technical progress, or survival the civilization was cultivating.
A body that could make decisions in faster time than subluminal couriers to every homeworld and back had some appeal. Several civilizations began to educate teams of envoys who knew not only every major policy question of the day, but an array of potential policies that might come up in discussion. These got progressively more fanciful as time passed; one representative from the Karg Ascendancy had a full playbook of how to cope should the Watchers’ Council decide it necessary to regulate the exotic bird trade, move toward iron-based alloys for capital ships, or start correcting typos in the Ascendancy’s native Quondam Imperium.
Case Study: The Owgawan Diplocrats
The Owgawan Diplocrats of Tau 21 Lambda 1 passed the Egoathropological Limit some centuries back and were watched with interest by their neighbors. A phantom representative was assigned, Starlifter 1781B, to pursue the Diplocrats’ interests in the Council. The Least Of These, a faction of phantom assignees dedicated to maximizing the influence of phantom representatives, began to insist that the symbiotic Toprawp and Vessan be treated as separate civilizations with separate representation. The phantom representative for the dual Dolphin Riders put up unexpectedly fierce opposition, perhaps having to do with the illegal economic deals she had begun conducting on the Riders’ planet without the scrutiny of an additional Council representative.
There was always some confusion as to whether the Council was watching developing races, civilizations on the cusp of contact, or its own member states. This tension is well into the process of breaking the Council’s core apart. On paper, the Watchers’ Council exists in roughly its original form. However, every original signatory has withdrawn, leaving the organization to a babel of phantom members and newly formed diplomatic envoys who came to the party very, very late. The deliberations of the body are now holovised, mostly for snarky purposes, such that to the question, Who watches the Watchers? the only rational answer can be, ‘’Everyone’’.