Bad Neighbors

The citizens of the planet Zid had always been good friends with the citizens of the planet Erd. They both were peaceful, creative societies that had much in common. So, when the planet Erd made the unfortunate mistake of importing telma weed seeds, the citizens of Zid happily agreed to let the citizens of Erd live on Zid’s moon while Erd was properly fumigated.

At first, this went quite well. They were able to visit each other for concerts and plays and festivals.   It was all a lot of fun. However, once it became clear that the fumigation process would last nearly a year, things changed.

The farmers pointed out that they weren’t ready to support two planets.   There would have to be some rationing.   The citizens were given tickets and could only buy a certain amount of food each week. This put an end to many of the festivals and parties.

Some of the more wealthy people tried to buy extra tickets. Some of the more criminal people tried to forge more tickets. Some of the less practical people ran out of food early in the week and sat by the stores looking hungry. Every one started worrying that somewhere some one else was getting more than them.

Fresh water had to be shipped to the moon. As the farmers couldn’t do with less water if they were going to grow as much food as they could, water had to be rationed too. Parks went brown. Swimming pools emptied. People showered less and did less laundry. They felt icky and smelly and grumpy.

People argued over little things. Law enforcement was stretched thin. There was a large fire in a city park in the planet’s capital. When the fire brigade finally arrived, they didn’t have enough water available to put it out. It burned for days. The citizens of Zid demanded that their leaders fix everything right now or they’d be replaced.

As the tension increased, the leaders of Zid met with the leaders of Erd.   The Erd leaders said that their people weren’t happy with the rationing either. They pointed out that rationing hadn’t been part of their original agreement.   They implied that the people of Zid were less than honest, and that they were keeping back extra food and water for their own citizens. Talks broke down after that.

The people of Zid continued to send shipments of food and water to the people of Erd. However, the boxes often had insults written on them by unidentified vandals. In retaliation, an unidentified hacker reprogrammed Zid’s communication devices so that everyone’s voice sounded high pitched.

Someone kept messing with the artificial gravity on the moon just slightly, and no one was sure what to expect from one hour to the next.   Someone painted rude words all over Zid’s famous statue gardens. Someone disabled half of Erd’s laundry facilities. Someone sent Zid’s leaders a computer virus that turned their computers off an hour before lunchtime one day.

Erd began negotiations with another ally and moved out after one of their leaders woke up one morning shaved bald. The citizens of both planets rejoiced. The rationing ended.

Erd’s people never stayed more than a month at a time with their other allies.   They had a year of travel and parties and returned home with warm feelings toward everyone but Zid. They sent gifts and payments to everyone else when they finally returned home.

Zid’s bill was ignored, as were their angry missives. The friendship between the two planets, which had lasted for centuries, was over. Or was it? A well-meaning Kettian leader, an ally of both people, decided to step in and help.

In a meeting broadcast all over the galaxy, he tried to gently counsel both leaders to forgive and forget. When they mentioned their grievances, he tried to counsel them to see the other point of view. He was rational and reasonable and calm. The Erd and Zid leaders felt resentful.

When he told them to stop acting like children, it was the last straw. A Zid leader poured his glass of water on the Kettian leader while an Erd leader threw a pie at him. Their people cheered them on.

“We can fight if we want to,” the Zid leader said.

“It’s none of your business,” the Erd leader agreed.

They marched out of the room together. They laughed. “That was great,” the Zid leader said. “The pie was a nice touch.”

“Thanks,” the Erd leader said. They looked at each other awkwardly for a moment. “We had fun visiting you until all that rationing,” the Erd leader finally said.

“It was fun. It’s too bad our resources got stretched so thin,” the Zid leader said.

“I’ll talk to my people. Perhaps we can meet again when things have cooled down a bit?” The Erd leader said.

“I’ll talk to mine too. I think with some work, we can put this behind us,” the Zid leader said. And, with some work and some time, eventually they did.