Author : David Botticello

When the Nezzan ambassador abruptly walked out of a Council session, nobody really thought much of it. It was a time-honored method showing political irritation. Not that the Nezzan had ever used it before. They were a quiet species—fundamentally reasonable we thought—but quiet. Ideal citizens, really.

The Nezzan introduced themselves into galactic society in the usual way. First encountered by a long-distance cargo hauler that had wandered off course, they were eager to meet new races and participate in our burgeoning community. They joined the League of Free Worlds. They traded interesting variations on the most current technologies. They became active members of our polity, spoke at our councils, and joined even our most idealistic causes.

Usually, it’s the little cultural quirks that cause friction. One race worships the color red. Another hoards natural fabrics “because they’re fuzzy.” Every so often an ambassador gets offended, often as a political ploy, and then there’s an apology, some commiseration over Illyrian wine, and an economic concession. The affairs of state go on.

The Nezzan fleet attacked exactly as their ambassador’s shuttle debarked. We checked. The offensive was cold, strategic, and planned in alarming detail. But the Nezzan were never the most powerful of races; with only moderate technology and a below average birth rate, their ability to wage war was nothing special. To be sure, they caused serious damage to a few worlds—the attacks were particularly unpredictable, and therefore, effective—but the Nezzan never had any real chance against our Coalition Fleet.

We sent messages. What grave offense had set the Nezzan on their murderous course? The Nezzan gave no response. We sent envoys, but they were turned away at the edge of Nezzan space. So we turned inward to our own resources, but our great scholars and xenologists just shook their heads and shrugged. The Council voted to send Senior Mediator Drelax to search for answers and seek out peace. He made it past the border by virtue of his venerable reputation, but then sat daily in a conference room, in the finest government building of the largest city on the Nezzan homeworld, alone. It was not until the last day of his visit that Drelax was joined by the Nezzan’s most esteemed ambassador, Nax Nioryl. He, too, said nothing. Nioryl perched on the edge of the table and smiled pleasantly, implacable as a neutron star. After an hour of Drelax’s entreaties—begging for peace, or armistice, or at least some measure of explanation, the defeated senior mediator rose to leave, turning to Nioryl for one final question: simply, “Why?”

The Nezzan ambassador stared back wordlessly.

Still, we finally got an answer, of sorts. Two days ago a Nezzan heavy cruiser parked in low orbit over a primordial world deep inside the League’s territory. It deployed a plasma cannon of alarming scale and magnitude, carving intricate lines of ancient Nezzan calligraphy into the crust of Colmar Prime. As we gaped at the images coming in, great glowing scars in the planet’s the now-boiling surface, we realized this was Ambassador Nioryl’s response. Loosely translated it reads:

“Why? . . . Because life grows. Because gravity pulls. Because the stars burn.”

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