by Jake Christie

a story.

There was a planet where the only inhabitants were a race of good-natured green orbs of energy. The green orbs of energy were completely self-sufficient, with no predators or prey, and they spent their days peacefully humming and glowing. They were pacifists and rarely caused problems among themselves or others, especially since nobody else knew they were there.

Then, one day, a group of spacemen landed their spaceships on the planet. The spacemen introduced themselves in the way people introduce themselves to pets, which is to say politely and calmly but with the subtle implication of a very one-sided relationship. They invited the orbs to join them on their spaceship and return to their planet. The orbs, like pets, were both obedient and eager to go for a ride. The spacemen took the orbs home with them, and returned again and again to get more.

On the spacemen's home planet, the orbs of energy were put to use precisely as orbs of energy. The spacemen had thousands upon thousands of devices and appliances and vehicles and urban power grids that could be run endlessly by the orbs. The orbs, who found providing free endless energy to be emotionally satisfying and tickle slightly, gladly obliged. The planet hummed with energy.

Some of the spacemen, however, were not satisfied with cleanliness, convenience, and free energy. They wanted the kind of power that didn't come out of a socket, the kind of power where they didn't have to rely on some alien orb – the kind of power that they themselves could hold over others. They discovered that turning the orbs into bombs was quite simple; all they had to do was kill them. When the orbs died they exploded with enough power to level scores of city blocks, enough force to tear craters from the planet's surface. They immediately launched one of these bombs and some of the planet's other inhabitants, whom they didn't like very much, and the first orb died, taking a not-insignificant number of spacemen with him.

These other spacemen took very little time in figuring out what had happened, and counter-launched their own bomb. Now two orbs had been killed and taken millions of the spacemen with them. The rest of the good-natured orbs, who had been so happy to power the spacemen's cities and vehicles and personal entertainment devices, were not happy about this. With two of their own murdered, eons of pacifism started to seem almost childish. So they asked the spacemen, quite politely, to stop using them as bombs. The spacemen agreed, insomuch as each side believed the other side was stupid enough to tell the truth, and they continued to make bombs. Eventually one side used a bomb on the other – it doesn't really matter which – and the orbs gave up on pacifism. The humming green energy orbs fought back.

It was a massacre. The only way for the spacemen to stop the advance of the orbs was to kill them, and every time they killed an orb it exploded in a mass of fury and destruction. The spacemen tried to surrender, but the orbs had learned how much a spaceman's word was worth. The orbs fought until the spacemen were all gone.

When the dust settled the orbs were alone on the planet, and they began to realize just what they had done. The way they had conducted themselves – the way they used their power – had made them as bad as the spacemen. They had turned into monsters. In the ruins of the planet, the orbs denounced warfare. They embraced pacifism and goodwill, lest ever betray their nature again. They taught their offspring the good virtues they had known on their own planet, before they were taken away. Within a few generations the planet was rebuilt, and the war forgotten. With no predators or prey, the orbs spent their days peacefully humming and glowing.

Then, one day, a group of spacemen landed their spaceship on the planet...

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