So I’ve read a few humans are weird posts and it got me thinking, what if humans are the only species to evolve to use fire. Like, most intelligent species will instinctively flee in panic the moment they catch sight of an open flame, yet show a human infant a fire and if they don’t know better, they will try to grab it.
Humans will burn everything. Most of us won’t eat anything unless it has been “Cooked” first. (A human word meaning to heat food until it has begun to denature but not yet started to carbonize.)
Start a small fire and instead of fleeing, humans will gather around it and start socializing.
We get intoxicated by setting specific plants on fire and inhaling the smoke, often with the burning embers mere inches from our sensitive face.
We use it to clear land for agriculture and hunting. We use it to punish criminals. We even use it for purely aesthetic purposes. (Think fireworks.)
Heck, we we discovered hydrocarbons, the first thing we did was burn them. In fact, humans were burning so much hydrocarbons they were literally altering the atmosphere of their planet.
Heck, humans have died because they literally did not have enough materials to burn.
Now imagine hostile aliens want to invade earth. They don’t use fire except for carefully controlled and heavily guarded industrial purposes. They also don’t know much about earth other than it is definitely inhabited and the people haven’t developed intergalactic travel.
They’re expecting to face primitive forces armed with the local equivalent of clubs and bows. What they get is, to them, a strange anachronistic jumble of expected primative technologies and highly advanced technologies that they definitely shouldn’t have.
They’re not expecting guns. (Projectile weapons that consist of a narrow tube with projectile and a chemical propellent stuffed into one end. Instead of an electromagnetic pulse, the propellant is ignited and the expanding gases shoot the projectile out of the tube.)
They’re not expecting powered vehicles. Instead of electric motors, humans have what they call the internal combustion engine. (A motor that works by sucking flammable gas into an enclosed chamber, igniting the gas under pressure, and using the resulting force from the detonation to move a piston. Because of that, humans have heavy machinery, self-propelled vehicles, and powered air-craft before they even really understood bio electricity.
They’re not expecting bombs, or incendiary weapons. (It was also how it was discovered that their bio-polymer armor, while excellent against projectiles, can actually burn at surprisingly low temperatures.
They’re not even expecting smelted metal. Steel to them is a high tech material that can only be produced under specialized conditions of extreme heat, and requires very specialized facilities to produce. They are shocked to discover that humans have been smelting copper before they developed writing.
And they are definitely not expecting nuclear weapons. (Which are basically “bombs” that instead of using combustable chemicals use an uncontrolled nuclear fission reaction. They are also aghast to discover that not only was this apparently the first thing we thought to do when we discovered fission, but that competing human faction have “how many of these weapons stockpiled!?”
After retreating in disgrace, the task force sent to monitor the plant is horrified to report that humans are rapidly expanding into space. They aren’t using gravitic lifters or electromagnetic mass drivers. They are apparently simply loading equipment and personnel into special “missiles” and using a shit ton of highly combustable fuel to simply launch themselves into space.
Gather around my children and you shall hear of the most terrible, most implacable, most improbable friends ever met by our people. They came from the third planet of a tiny system, surrounded by desolate space. Not one sentient species for hundreds of lightyears, and they managed to propel themselves into space.
We watched from afar as they developed slowly. We watched as they warred among themselves, brutal and savage. We watched as they rendered regions of their planet uninhabitable to themselves, a hardy species able to adapt to even the most hostile of environments. We watched as suddenly and without warning they united under four banners, the rest falling by the wayside. We watched as they expanded into what we had begun to use as a buffer zone, to allow these humans to burn themselves out in.
But they did not burn themselves out. Despite their warring among themselves. Harsh people. Humankind is a race of warriors, do not be fooled by the eloquence of their diplomats. In their own words, “All diplomacy is a continuation of war by other means”. Their greatest artists and philosophers were born from blood and conflict. I had the privilege once to view a painting by one Pablo Picasso, entitled Guernica. It was a savage piece, with not a drop of color. It showed the horrors of war, and the irony of it all was that the painting hung in the office of one of humankind’s generals.
It was sudden, when they burst from the containment zone. When they realized they were not alone. And we, with heavy hearts, prepared to fight them bitterly and to the last. Imagine then, our surprise when humanity embraced us among the stars as long lost brothers. They were overjoyed to discover they were not alone in the darkness. Despite their brutal and warlike culture, despite their glorification of death and violence, their people do not seek out combat. An ancient general of theirs once put it thusly “Although a soldier by profession, I have never felt any sort of fondness for war, and I have never advocated it, except as a means of peace”.
For centuries humanity worked to better itself. They unified under a single Interstellar Empire, the Empire of Man, the Human Empire, however you called it. They enjoyed art and music. They became leisurely at home, exploratory in the field. Their weapons of war were long gone, beaten into plowshares as they say. Humanity was finally at peace. There was no conflict among them, a few border skirmishes for certain, and they kept a small standing military, but nothing more than that. We considered them domesticated.
At first we were surprised at their transformation, then overjoyed. We welcomed them into the fold of the cosmos, embraced them as they would embrace us. We thought we knew humanity then, that we had seen them at their best and their worst. We were wrong, so very wrong. We did not truly understand humanity until the Texar-Hakara came into the void between the stars.
Seemingly more brutal, more bloodthirsty than even the humans, they swept into our region of space like conquerors. They smashed whatever feeble resistance the Yungling managed to put up, took their planets, enslaved the survivors, and pressed on. The Junti were next, utterly destroyed. The four great races left, ourselves, the Itaxa, the Kukrama, and the Illnaa, banded together to try and stop them. In our arrogance, we did not include the humans in our pact. Too few in number, too weak in frame, too backwards in technology we thought.
The Texar-Hakara hit our borders like the great wave that sweeps life from the beach. We hardened our hearts and prepared for the worst. Seeming without pause they crushed our border defenses. They obliterated the first fleets we sent to them. The Itaxa fell to the Texar-Hakara, enslaved, killed, scattered to the corners of the galaxy. Then the humans sent us an offer, a request really. They asked to fight alongside us.
Bemused, we accepted. What else could we do? Deny them the right to fight with us for their very survival? We thought to assign them as rearguards, to ferry our people to safety after our fleets fell. We thought wrong.
Humanity swept into the stars with a fury unmatched by any other. Their fleets were not the heaviest. Their guns not the most accurate. Their soldiers however. Their sailors. Their warriors were unmatched by any others in the cosmos. I remember the first battle in which the humans fought the Texar-Hakara like it was but a single solar cycle ago. Our forces were on the brink of breaking and fleeing. Our ships were gutted ruins. Our fighters exhausted and out of missiles. Then humanity fell upon the flank of the enemy, and the full force of the Human Empire was unleashed in a single moment of utter fury. Landing craft spat across the distance in an instant, slamming into enemy hulls and disgorging humanity’s greatest weapon, their Marines. In close combat humanity is unstoppable, and so they took the vast distances of space combat out of the equation.
Their ships belched fire and plasma. Lasers crossed the vast distances in the blink of an eye. Half the Texar-Hakaran fleet was obliterated in minutes. The other half turned to face this new enemy, only to be wracked by internal explosions as the Marines did their work. Their greatest ships turned on the rest of the fleet, a handful of humans holding the bridge against waves of enemy attackers to turn the tide of battle.
The Interstellar War came to a screeching turnaround. The advance of the Texar-Hakara halted, like it had hit an immovable wall. In many ways that is what humanity is, an immovable, implacable wall. Then, with the ferocity humanity is alone capable of, they routed the Texar-Hakara. Not from that lone battle. They pushed them out of Itaxa space, liberating the slaves. The space of the Junti and the Yungling was swept clear of invaders. Then the Texar-Hakara committed the gravest of sins in humanity’s eyes. They warped a fleet to Earth, jewel of humanity’s empire. They burned that blue and green world. They destroyed it, and the trillion people it housed.
Humanity is a forgiving race my children. Even their most terrible of wars have resulted in lasting friendships between nations. When they left millions dead and broken on the muddly fields of their world, they rebuilt the aggressors. They raised them from the mud, dusted them off, and welcomed them back into the fold. But there is one thing that humanity cannot, will not, tolerate. It is abhorrent to them my children. To strike at their home, to strike where they raise their young ones. Where they leave their mates and non combatants. To strike there is to raise the ire of the human race, truly.
Humanity raged. Their attempts at obtaining the surrender of the Texar-Hakara halted. The war turned from a righteous war of liberation to a furious and hateful war of retribution. We begged the humans to stop, to leave what few planets the Texar-Hakara had alone. Our pleas went unanswered for months, until a single human ambassador came to us. His face was cold and emotionless. He told us, in no uncertain terms, that the Texar-Hakara had doomed themselves and that any trying to aid them would suffer the same fate. Quietly we watched then, as humanity wiped the Texar-Hakara from the stars. The Texar-Hakara pleaded for mercy. They offered their unconditional surrender. They came to us and begged on bent knee for us to reign in the mad dogs we had unwittingly unleashed into the universe. Humanity had for so long repressed their warrior culture. Tried to become better. Then we had given them back into the fires of war, and humanity had awakened it’s warrior past.
The Texar-Hakara ambassadors were taken from our halls by grim human Marines and thrust out airlocks. Finally there was but one planet left, and we came to the humans, we pointed to our own losses, our own dead friends some of whom had lived for longer than humanity had been among the stars, and we begged the humans not to take the last of the Texar-Hakara’s lives.
I watched, children, I watched as the Texar-Hakara’s world burned. As humanity left but one of their planets alive, a simple backwater colony of no more than ten million. Ten million, out of the trillions. Then the leader of the human military turned to me, and with no emotion in his voice, told me that humanity accepted the unconditional surrender of the Texar-Hakara, and walked off the bridge of my ship.
My children, the lesson here is that a warrior past is never truly gone. Only buried, mayhaps even wiped from living memory. But gone? Never. Humanity showed us that.
Hey guys, so I wanted to add to the humans are weird thing that’s going around, and this kinda came to me in the shower, so…enjoy?
Zah Rem was dying. They knew it the moment the Ra-Sek corridors
of the station began to feel cold. It had been easy to dismiss the chill at
first. The Humans always kept the main corridors to a barely tolerable 24
degrees Celcius, the Terran unit of heat. So Zah Rem had kept to Ra-Sek
corridors, content to survey the movement of their officers from the comfort of
But then they had Stopped in the Ra-Sek sustenance area. The
area was used infrequently as most of the new officers preferred to communal
sustenance area, and so some time had passed before a Terran ensign
accidentally stumbled across them. The human had run to get help, and that’s
how Zah Rem found themself in the infirmary, a heat unit glowing above their
bed as machines monitored every pulse of their internal fire.
To the Ra-Set, the Cooling was a very private matter. It was
some small mercy really- a natural death for a Ra-Sek happened over the course
of only days, and after the initial passing ceremony the Ra-Sek left the dying
in peace to contemplate their life. At least, that’s how it had been before.
A human, mouth closed
in a Ra-Sek neutral expression, sat at the end of their bed, eyes occasionally
flicking between the machines and their pad. This one was the human counterpart
of Zah Rems previous station and they knew this one well. She would not be
leaving unless the dying process miraculously reversed. Humans always seemed to
treat this like a logical possibility.
Zah Rem had lived such a long time, even for a Ra-Sek. They
had seen the rise of space travel for their people, the first contacts with
other races, some friendly, some hostile. They had seen stars flicker out of
existence. And then, they had seen the arrival of Terrans. What a ludicrous,
terrifying thing that had been.
The humans had arrived in strange, nonsensical machines
seemingly only barely capable of long distance space travel. Most of them had
arrived asleep. The Ra-Sek had initially been very wary of this smaller race. Humans
could regulate their own body temperatures. Humans lived short lives but took
life-threatening risks, seemingly for pleasure. Humans reproduced quickly and
freely, having offspring even in space, so far from their own world. Humans
would fight, losing limbs they could not regenerate, and then fight more.
In short, they were too dangerous not to make allies of. And
so the Ra-Sek had, and in their many years, Zah Rem considered this one of the
wisest choices of their people. The humans had helped them explore planets
previously thought uninhabitable. They had seen human shipmates run headfirst
into aggressive unknown flora and fauna and categorize it, collect it, and make
it known. In one instance, they had seen the entire brunt of humanity brought
to bear on a now extinct warmongering race, simply because this race had been dubbed
“bullies that don’t play fair”.
The human shifted in her chair. “Hey dragon, still alive?”
Zah Rem exhaled a plume of steam. They knew this word
referred to them, and that it was a reference to a Terran creature that may
have never even existed. They had seen a picture once, and they did see the
similarities to a Ra-Sek. That didn’t mean they had to answer.
The human sighed and flicked her eyes up and across, a human
gesture of annoyance. “I know you’re alive, your monitors are going. I wanted
to ask if you need anything.”
“Need? I am dying, there is nothing more I need.”
The human curled her upper lip, almost perfectly mimicking
the Ra-Sek gesture of annoyance. Human mimicry really was uncanny. “I know
that, but, is there anything you want? Water? Food? A book? Are you just…gonna
sit there until it happens? Aren’t you…y’know, uneasy?”
Now that was a strange word to use for this state, and Zah
Rem wondered if their translator had translated the Terran Common incorrectly. “Uneasy?
Why would I be…Uneasy?”
The general shifted in her chair again, suddenly transfixed
by her pad. “Well, I mean, are you…afraid?”
Zah Rem tilted their head, trying to mimic a gesture they had
seen humans use. “Why would I be afraid? I am dying, this is a normal process
for all living things.”
The human seemed frustrated, and Zah Rem once again saw the
wisdom of their own tradition of leaving the dying to cool in peace.
“I know that! I
just mean…aren’t you afraid of what happens next? Like, to you…after you die?”
her shoulders curled inwards.
After…death? Zah Rem snorted. “Nothing happens after death.
Death is the end of life…is it…is it not so for Terrans?” A pang of fear
twitched in Zah Rem’s core. Humans…died completely, true? They thought of all
their deceased human shipmates the other humans had burned, or buried under
soil, and suddenly they were…uneasy.
The general waved at
the air “Don’t call us that. And yeah, yeah, human’s die all the way too-“Relief.
“But, some humans…we have this…idea, that a part of us, the sentient part,
lives after we die. And, I don’t know where it goes, but death comes to collect
it, and guide it to where it’s supposed to go next.”
“Death…comes? As in, the concept of death is…sentient? and… travels to the location of the dying to
take their consciousness? Where? Why?” Zah Rem’s internal fire quivered, and the
monitors began to chirp and hum in complaint.
“Woah woah take it easy!” Their human counterpart stood,
touching their forelimb gently. This gesture would have been aggressive among Ra-Sek,
but they had long since learned that humans touched other beings freely. Her
hand was warm, and the heat soothed Zah Rem’s own heat. The monitors quieted.
“Y’know what? Forget I said anything, it’s just a dumb
Terran myth. You wanna see this picture of a cat I found?”
And, for once, Zah Rem really, really did.
The next few days passed quietly. Healers checked the
monitors as discreetly as possible and the general was a constant presence,
sneaking back in every time the Ra-Sek healers shooed her out. For the most
part, she worked on her pad, guiding the directors of her officers. Zah Rem was
mildly envious of this, but they felt the cooling settling in, and they were
content to reflect on past action instead.
Well, mostly content. Try as they may, Zah Rem could not
shake the idea of death as a sentient presence, and tendrils of fear began to
snake into the waiting, fear that, like in so many impossible ways, the humans
might be right about death. They did not want their consciousness to be taken. They
took to scanning the room when their human wasn’t looking.
This fear was probably what exacerbated the process. It
happened suddenly, their internal temperature falling, falling, and the general
was shouting, calling for help and Zah Rem knew they were beyond help, nothing could
help, but they were so afraid of Death being attracted by the cries, if only
And suddenly they were alone in a space that was not bright,
and was not dark. They…no longer felt cold, but not warm either. It made Zah
Rem…uneasy. And then they heard footsteps, and in the distance there was a
small flicker of light.
The light drew closer and closer, and with it Zah Rem began
to make out a figure in strange clothing. The figure wore long, black clothing
that flowed downward, with a hood that obscured the head. It was carrying a
long stick with what looked like a small ball of fire on top. They also saw the
glint of long, sharp looking metal, reminiscent of a Terran knife.
Zah Rem bared their teeth. A weapon. This must be Death. If
it was, it wouldn’t steal their sentience without a fight.
The figure closed in.
“Stop. Come no further.” Zha Rem growled. “I am Zah Rem of
the Ra-Sek. I have seen races rise and fall. I have seen stars flicker out of
existence. I have fought alongside humans.
I will not let you take my consciousness.”
There was a moment of silence. And then a strange sound came
from the hooded figure. A soft, musical sound, not unlike a Ra-Sek trill, very
much like…a human laugh. The figure lowered it’s hood.
Of course, Death would be a human.
Zha Rem felt the anger leave them all at once. The human
smiled, mouth closed, and reached its dark hand out to touch Zha Rem’s forelimb.
Their touch was warm, and Zha Rem felt the warmth coil around their core, lighting it once again.
Sometimes I am amazed by the simple fact that books are just frozen in time.
That I can just grab the same books years later and the text is exactly the same, the story goes down in an identical way every single time. I can start the same book from the very beginning over and over again, and the characters start out just as fresh, just as new, completely oblivious to all that is about to happen.
Seasons change and I will age, but books will always repeat their same old story, word for word, for as many times as anyone wants to read them. The world could burn down and humanity could go extinct, but a single comma cannot and will not ever alter in a book that’s already been printed.
Claire Randall will always start out on that second honeymoon. Theon Greyjoy will always kick that head. Bilbo Baggins will never expect that party. Everything will alway play out exactly as it did the last time.