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One Way It Could Have Happened

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Balem was twelve. It was embarrassing to be twelve: it was such a small number, barely a number at all. But despite his age he was more important than every other creature on this planet.

(Except for Mother, of course, but she was on the ship which not touching the ground and so, technically, was not on the planet.)

He stood watching the workers carry sedated hominid bodies into the shiny silver dome of the laboratory, resenting the feeling of the wind in his hair. He hated being on-world. It made him feel so small. And there was dirt everywhere and strange smells. An insect buzzed around his head and Balem swatted at it, wondering when Mother would take him back home.

"This planet will be yours someday," she'd said. "It's important for you to see it seeded. You must understand your product in order to control it."

The insect looped back around towards Balem's face. "Go away!" he shouted, striking it with his hand. A second later, pain bloomed in his palm.


"I demand you eliminate these creatures immediately," he said to the Gene Overseer, holding out the yellow and black striped carcass in his hand. His other hand -- the stung one, which was throbbing and starting to swell -- he held lightly behind his back. "If they're not extinct within the hour then you'll be extinct." He dropped the insect to the floor and marched back to his ship.


Mother found him an hour later, sitting on his bed and frowning at his hand. He'd dabbed it with Regenex of course but even though the pain was gone, he still felt debased by its stinger. "You have a visitor," she said. The Gene Overseer tiptoed into the room behind Mother.

"Is it done?" asked Balem.

"W-w-we can't eliminate the bees, My Lord. They are pollinators," he said, wringing his hands.

"That's unacceptable. It hurt me. I want them all to pay."

"Don't be a fool," Mother said. "Doing so will drastically impact this planet's yield."

"I suppose you'll have to pay instead, then," said Balem, grinning at the Overseer. Yes, this would be lovely. He stood and began to stride forward.

The Overseer spoke rapidly, shuffing his feet backwards, his great big head beginning to glisten with sweat. "My Lord if it pleases you I-- I have designed a set of genes to prevent the bees from stinging royalty--" He looked around the room as though hoping to find something that would rescue him. "And additionally they will, um… they will worship you. Yes! Yes, yes they will worship you and protect you and sacrifice themselves to defend you."

Balem stopped and considered this. He envisioned himself swathed in a robe of buzzing, dangerous insects, sending them in a directed swarm at those who defied in. "Very well," he said finally. "Make it so."