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Stephen S. Power is the author of The Dragon Round, now out in trade paperback from Simon & Schuster. This is his eighth appearance in Daily Science Fiction. He is also an executive editor at Thomas Dunne Books, an imprint of St. Martin's Press. He tweets at @stephenspower, and his site is stephenspower.com.

Our attack on the Earth city was quick, efficient and effective, but I should have made it more beautiful.
When my fleet unfolded at the edge of space and I saw the world for the first time through my own eye, I realized Earthings also appreciated the higher aesthetics. The webs of blue-white light gripping the world resembled the glowing streaks of hopeful lovers darting during a mating swarm. The electromagnetic fountains bursting from countless points around the planet recalled puffs of infrared pheromones. The Earthings used darkness in surprising ways, too. Vast stretches of land, cold as oceans, gave the surrounding lights a flirtatious whimsy not unlike the way my latest lover gave its wings an ultraviolet flicker, coaxing me to chase it into the depths of night above the swarm.
That the Earthings had turned their planet into an orchestra of light was remarkable. That the symphony it played could not be apprehended all at once, I found sublime. As the world turned beneath my fleet, gradually revealing its wonders, I remembered catching my lover, breathless, clasping it and coming to know it part by part. Its fluttering wings. Its frantic legs. The quivering carpet of spines on its belly. An admiral should never be anxious, but I can't help it during a swarm, so I was relieved when my fumblings and hesitations didn't cause my lover to spurn me, but were echoed in how it came to know me at the same time, and that drew us closer. Soon we chittered and hummed in the hot air, then shivered as one when we each licked the other's throat where the shell had softened, wanting to be punctured.
Once the target city rolled over the edge of the world, I ordered the fleet to release our folding bombs. I feared that by eradicating this city, the Earth's loudest source of lights, its most beautiful blare, I might silence the symphony at once. Destruction suited such a work, though. The bombs aligned themselves along the city's axis, matching the planet's rotation, then folded space inwards. The city closed on itself like a mouth, its spires gnashing themselves to pieces. When the city exploded in a blue flash, I gasped as loudly as I had upon biting my lover's throat and being bitten myself. Afterwards the Earth's other lights seemed to burn brighter, the way the sky above the swarm had turned for an endless moment into day as my lover and I drained each other's seed.
After the attack, my negotiating teams pampered the world's leaders and played them off against one another. We said we didn't want to ruin another city. We promised them powerful weapons, new energy technology, boundless wealth. And we declared that all we wanted was for them to be our partners. Soon they lowered their defenses, and I released our enclosure drones. These divided the world into pens with tall walls of force that slowly pushed inwards, compressing the Earthings and every other soft-celled protein mass into silos. Meanwhile, the lights went out. Strand by strand, node by node, the web died. The fountains dried up. And darkness flooded the Earth. It was ugly, sad, a betrayal, how I always feel when parting from a lover, never to see it, touch it, join with it again.
So as the slurry of Earth life was sucked up into our ships to be reduced and reshaped into the calorie cubes that would feed millions of newborn larvae, I thought it a shame that the Earthings had known us only as brutes, destroyers, not for what we really are. Light weavers. Air dancers. Touch artists. And parents happy to fold across half the galaxy for our young because no piece of art is more affecting than a plump, happy larva.
Perhaps I should have made the pens luminesce. Or washed the world in gamma rays from our engines to make their final days more spectacular. Or set the sky on fire to mirror their planet-sized canvas. Better yet, I should have brought a few Earthings home alive so they could appreciate a mating swarm. Hopefully it would have been reminded them of their lovers and lost world, and helped them realize that our two races are more alike than they might have thought.
Then I would have honored the Earthings by giving them to my own larvae.
The End
This story was first published on Monday, September 16th, 2019
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