Rikki Stormgren, the secretary-general of the United Nations, a native of Finland. At the age of sixty, he is widowed with grown children. He devoted his keen mind and diplomatic talents to thirty-five years of public service before being selected by the Overlords as their only liaison with the human race. With a patience born of long experience (and adeptness at poker), he shares mutual trust and faith with the Overlord Karellen, even while kidnapped and held a short time by extremists on Earth. His cleverly arranged glimpse of Karellen does not satisfy his curiosity about the Overlords, and for the ensuing thirty years of his retirement he wonders about their purpose.
Karellen, the supervisor of Earth for the alien race called the Overlords. Immortal by human standards, he and his colleagues act as guardians of the colony Earth for the Overmind of the universe. His, and the Overlords’, charge is to act as midwives in the birth and transformation of a new generation of cosmic minds for ultimate union with the Overmind. Mentally gifted but physically barren, they insist only on global justice and order; they act to end wars, South African apartheid, and cruelty to animals. the Overlords all seem to be identical, having the physical form of the legendary Devil and requiring sunglasses because the Earth’s sunlight is brighter light than that of their own sun. His mission accomplished, Karellen leaves the dying Earth to visit the next nursery, always probing the mystery of the Overmind.
Jan Rodricks, a University of Cape Town graduate student in engineering physics. Of mixed black and Scottish blood, he is a twenty-seven-year-old romantic and accomplished pianist whose hopes to explore space are dashed by the arrival of the Overlords. Undaunted, he stows away aboard one of their starships, enabling him to visit their home planet and return with them to Earth. He has aged only six months, but the time dilation caused by relativity means that eighty years have passed on his own world. He remains on Earth, transmitting his impressions of the death throes of Earth to the Overlords as they speed away in their starships.
George Greggson, a television studio designer. Devoted...
(The entire section is 969 words.)