Play with Fire – A Short Sci-Fi Story

The first thing any sapient species learns to master is fire.

If you master fire you can cook the meat of your prey, scare away predators, burn forests to make way for pastures and villages.

But fire is also a weapon.

A wooden hut is no match to the hungry flame of the torch. Walls and towers become the ovens that cook any unlucky enough to be inside. The thirst of Prometheus kills more than any spear.

Eventually, your control of fire will be so great that you will learn to melt metal and forge tools for mining, farming and, most importantly, killing.

The fire brings the copper spear, the bronze sword, the iron musket, and eventually the hyper-alloy laser gatlings of the modern day.

The fire goes from a weapon to a tool that makes weapons.

That is how all sapients develop.

Except for one kind.

The humans were not very interesting when we found them. Their tech was average, their railguns were good but not revolutionary, and their biology was impressive but their low birth rate meant that they would be bodyguards for the wealthy instead of replacing the Soldats as common troops.

But then something interesting happened, or rather, something didn’t happen.

No pirates raided the humans.

It was an abnormality. Almost every sapient species as soon as they are introduced immediately asks for help in dealing with the pirates that flood their territory expecting unprepared prey. The humans didn’t ask for help, if anything they seemed unaware that there even were pirates entering their territory.

News spread among the scum of the galaxy that anyone who boarded a human ship never came back. These rumors led to many courageous young men trying to be “the one” who stole a human ship and even more rumors when none of them came back.

Traders caught on that humans seemed impervious to piracy and bought their ships. Said ships were promptly stolen by pirates thus proving that the humans themselves were the reason no one came back.

Soon the humans were the haulers of the galaxy. The human nations from the United Nations of Terra to the Empire of the Southern Cross all signed an unofficial treaty: don’t say a word as to how you keep away pirates, don’t take prisoners and monopolize the hell out of the transport industry.

It went well for the first few years. Humans got rich, their companies got influence and their haulers got to spend an awful lot of time drunk in alien worlds.

Then the Confederacy declared war on the Empire of the Southern over some colonies, and with the imperial troops came the “Unidades imperiais de chama” and tales of those who fought them.

And the tales were simple: fire.

Modern armor has always been made of flexible and programable material that detects heat and fully “hardens” after a certain limit is achieved. It is a great method for dealing with laser fire since lasers work by focusing heat on a specific point and burning everything attached to said point.

The UIC didn’t use lasers though. They used something they called “promethium fire” as fuel for their “Lanças de fogo”. The chemical was a lot like ancient napalm with the main exception being that it burned much hotter, hot enough that it triggered the “harden” command of the enemy’s armor, and since the fire spread through most of the body, the entire system would lock thus preventing them from fighting back.

The process was simple: get to where the enemy is, flood them with an absolute gigantic amount of promethium fire, and either capture or execute the now-frozen enemies.

That is how the humans captured pirates. They just set them ablaze and launched them to the vacuum.

The Confederacy tried to fight back, of course. Generals ordered their troops to set higher and higher “hardening” temperatures which the humans responded to by creating even hotter versions of promethium.

Then the humans lowered the temperature of their lasers and went on a full offensive against the Confederacy. When the imperial troops met the enemy, their lasers were just below the temperature which triggered full hardening of the armor.

In two weeks the Confederacy signed a treaty of surrender.

The treaty was filled with reparations, promises of demilitarization, the Empire got the title of “protector of all humans in the Confederacy” which was basically them giving themselves the right to declare war at will under the pretense of “protecting their kind”. Boring things.

But most importantly it gave the rest of the galaxy a clear message.

“Don’t invade our borders, play with fire and you’ll get burned”

Republished with permission from the author, Reddit user u/Mercury_the_dealer. Image created using Stable Diffusion.