All sapient species produce art.
It’s just one of those things like “war”, every species does it differently be it because of a quirk of their biology or simple environmental circumstances, but they all end up expressing themselves.
Some really like poetry, some music, some even do all of it at once. Wealthy empires, the VERY wealthy empire to be more exact, will sometimes use entire planets as art pieces, turning continents into canvases for beautiful paintings or paper for their poems of honour and glory.
We all thought it was impossible extravagance.
Until we met human art.
Our first contact with humanity, much like most first contacts, wasn’t made by any diplomatic force, instead one of our scout ships found an anomaly in a nearby system and went there to check it out.
It was absolute chaos there.
A system with five asteroid belts, except that instead of the usual boring rocks these ones were full of green, millions upon millions of dyson trees had completely occupied the belts, filling them with life.
Strange creatures roamed the void between the “trees”, when I say strange I don’t mean in the usual way how voidborn creatures are strange to our natural planet side adapted instincts, I mean as in they looked like planetary birds! They had wings, feathers, beaks, of all shapes and sizes, they were meant to fly in atmosphere, not in the void, those weren’t even the most bizarre creatures there, some looked like felines with weird yellow and black patterns on their skin and others like giant armoured semi-aquatic reptiles.
Many of the creatures there were absolutely gigantic, a few were the size of capital ships, some bigger!
The scout ship tried to take a sample of one of the dyson trees in a desperate attempt to understand exactly what was going on, but they were stopped and apprehended by another ship, it didn’t match any known designs at the time but the sheer amount of weapons detected on it was enough to make the crew comply
What was the reason for their apprehension?
“Vandalizing public art”
They were brought to the local human authorities, who then let them go so both sides could get diplomats ready for formal introductions and some explaining by both parties.
After the whole “Welcome to the rest of the galaxy” part was done, we of course asked what in the void was going on during their visit to the “dyson tree system”, was that some weird voidborn ecosystem that they were defending? If so, why expose it as art?
They made it.
No, that is incorrect, humans didn’t make that, a single human artist did it.
Apparently, it was some sort of memorial to something called “The Amazon rainforest” which had apparently been destroyed when they were still in the early days of space colonization.
Why in the name of the void they wasted an entire system by filling it with dyson trees and genetically modified animals?
Because it was pretty.
We all assumed this was a simple case of a wealthy individual deciding to spend all their wealth in a passion project, it happens from time to time, just not on this scale.
Things were mostly normal.
Until a science ship found another anomaly, more specifically, two gravitational anomalies that resembled that of dyson spheres.
The scientific community went crazy, dyson spheres were EXPENSIVE, only the most powerful empires in galactic history ever made one, and after its completion they usually got into the imperial equivalent of retirement, never leaving the sphere’s system and living lives of pure luxury.
And now we had just found TWO dyson spheres right next to each other in an unexplored region of space!
Ships were sent there immediately, it was quite close to human space so we all wanted to get there before they discovered the anomalies.
When we got there we expected an empire of pure luxury, stations with the only purpose of entertaining the population using the energy and materials of the “tamed” suns.
What we found was war.
Monstrous fleets fought endlessly in the void between the megastructures, and upon closer inspection we found out that one of the dyson spheres was made of biological material, in fact when we looked at the debris we found that half of the ships were made of flesh and bone, while the others were made of only metal and wire with no crew inside.
This wasn’t an empire of luxury.
This was a war between a hivemind and a sentient AI.
The senate lost all of its composure upon discovering this fact, people wondered if they should interfere and if so, which side they should choose? What would happen if one side won? Humanity’s request for a seat at the senate was put on hold in order to deal with this clear threat to the galaxy’s safety.
In the end, the choice was made to attempt communication with both sides, ships with exteriors modified to look like flesh were sent to the hive and remote-controlled drones to the AI.
Both were stopped during the communication attempts by another ship.
A human ship.
This was, against all common sense, another art piece.
“A physical representation of the constant struggles of the organic against an ever more mechanical universe” they said, and yet again all questions relating to why they had wasted TWO dyson spheres were simply answered with things like “It’s art!” or “It’s fun to watch!”
We just kept finding more and more of these “Art pieces” everywhere!
A planet filled with humans all in a constant state of war, full of trenches, swords, tanks and a thousand other primitive and advanced weapons alike? Yea, those were clones with no sentience programmed to kill the opposing sides. Why? To “show the horrors of war and how it never truly changes, no matter the technology level used” of course.
A system where one AI that only uses red equipment fights another AI that only uses blue equipment using strange animal-shaped machines? The animals are apparently called “elephants” and “donkeys” respectively. Why are the two fighting? To “show the needless bickering among the republican and democrat parties” whatever those are.
A star that is filled with giant ships that go in and out of it? Those are ships adapted to survive the inside of stars and show them to the people inside. Why would you do that? “Because parents and schools want to show their kids how stars work in a more hands-on approach” void have mercy.
We decided to stop looking at anomalies near human space.
In fact, we decided to stop looking at human space at all, even their seat in the senate was denied, mostly because the other members were scared of how powerful humanity was.
Without humanity to f**k up all of our conceived notions of what was reasonable we hoped things would go back to normalcy.
Until the Alvearium came.
The Alvearium were an extra-galactic invader, a biological hivemind bigger and stronger than anything we had ever seen, some empires tried to stop them but they just kept coming.
Soon a meeting in the senate was called and the invaders were deemed a galactic threat that all empires would fight against, enemies would all have to put their differences aside to fight the common foe together.
Some suggested calling the humans, they surely had a fleet capable of exterminating the hive and they would probably help, these people were silenced because “we can’t rely on the humans to fight our battles, besides, how bad can the Alvearium really be?”
As it turns out, they could be really bad.
The galactic fleets were defeated again and again by the sheer numbers of the hive, it didn’t matter that for each galactic ship destroyed a thousand Alvearium ones were burned to ash, not when they outnumbered us five thousand to one.
We kept falling back, again and again, until the hive finally got to populated space.
This was our doom, we sure of it, even the humans couldn’t possibly get there in time to kick down the hive, our egos would be our doom.
Until a fleet appeared in the sky.
Well, not a fleet, it was just a single ship so enormous that our scanner assumed it was a fleet.
The ship’s sheer size was not the strangest thing about it, the strangest thing was it looked like a ship, like, an actual ship used for water, not a spaceship meant for the void.
It had massive cannons on its top, usually there is no such thing as a “top” for a void vessel but this one sure had, its bottom and the lower parts of its sides were painted with a slightly faded red, the higher parts of its sides and front were painted with a black and white pattern, the rest of the ship looked like common steel.
The ship slowly turned to face the Alvearium, perfectly mimicking the rotation speed of ancient water battleships.
Projectiles the size of corvettes shot out from its mighty cannons, fire and death rained from its machineguns, “human crew” the size of carriers walked everywhere on the top of the ship, some even “fell”, almost as if they were under the effect of gravity, which given the size of the thing they probably were, just not to such an extent.
After fifteen minutes it was all done, the hive’s fleets were all just evaporated.
We knew we had made a mistake now, we were too egotistical to ask for help when we needed it and yet the humans still sent what was clearly their best, and weirdest, ship to help us.
We called the humans and gave them our undying thanks, we offered them a seat at the senate, we even renamed the system where their brave ship fought to “Human strength” in their honour.
They asked us “What ship?”
Both parties were very confused now.
That confusion grew for weeks until the ship reappeared in the void next to the senate’s station.
A single normal sized human came out of it wearing a voidsuit and asked to speak to the senate.
“Yea, sorry guys, I wanted to test how my model Bismark would do against a small threat, I’m guessing I destroyed a training hive or something? Sorry, I went a bit too hard on the weapons, I can pay for another one if it’s bothering you this much”
That day it was decided by unanimous vote of all the senate that humans would be alerted of any and all possible galactic threats, in return, humanity was to keep all human artists and their creations at least fifty systems away from non-human populated territories.
Republished with permission from the author, Reddit user u/Mercury_the_dealer. Image created using Stable Diffusion 1.5