Bright Heart, in grave perplexity at the turn which events had taken, retired into solitude for a brief spell of meditation and heart searching. It became clear to him that the example which he had set was not enough to grip the simple and inconstant spirits of his followers. He had lived wholly and joyfully according to the faith, but now it was time for him to die for the faith, and in such a manner that his death should set all hearts ablaze.
While he was thus meditating, he was visited by the other greatest mind of the early cosmos. The visitor was a being of a very different kind from Bright Heart. By origin a satellite nebula, he was minute and bald and extremely mobile. But it should be remembered that, though in the nebular view a dwarf, according to our standards he was nevertheless immense. In the normal course of evolution he would end his life by disintegrating into a "globular cluster" of many million stars. At the time of this momentous visit he was still in full maturity and appeared as a bright and definite globe very much smaller than the smallest of nebular cores. His tresses had long since been attracted from him by the mighty central member of his group, around whom he had impotently revolved throughout his bitter youth. Not until the use of subatomic energy had become general had he broken away from that oppressive home life to range about the cosmos at unheard-of speed, replenishing his resources now and then by slaughtering a lone nebula, chastising many a haughty bully, eluding in every region the recruiting sergeants and all those officials who sought to seize him as vagabond, as outlaw, an antimilitary brigand, a disturber of the peace. His success in avoiding capture had depended partly on his extraordinary agility in the use of subatomic energy, partly on his small size; for he was a difficult target, could easily hide among the tresses of a friendly normal nebula, and at no very great distance was invisible to nebular sight.
This unique being bore a name which in his native speech had approximately the significance of the English "Fire Bolt."
To the earnestly meditating Bright Heart now came Fire Bolt, a meteor out of the darkness. The larger nebula, rapt in thought, aimlessly drifted and rotated, as do all nebulae in inaction. His outermost tresses were gathered in upon themselves, imperceiving, inert. Fire Bolt spun round him shouting ethereal halloes to the abstracted spirit of his companion.
At last Bright Heart was roused. He greeted his small visitor with formal, even reluctant politeness; for his meditations were not yet brought to a conclusion. But very soon he was drawn into earnest parley. So lengthy and so vital was the discussion, that the two incongruous beings entered together unwittingly into a unique dance measure, expressing their varying accord and disaccord by inflection of gesture and orbit.
Fire Bolt began by very respectfully expressing his admiration of Bright Heart's work and his acceptance of Bright Heart's aim, namely the creation of the one harmonious and all-embracing dance community in which every nebula should gain fullness of life by faithful participation in the whole cosmical pattern of dance. This, he said, was his own constant aim.
Bright Heart said, "Fullness of life demands not only service in the cosmical pattern but glad beholding of each neighbour as an individual spirit. And this must come first."
"It is true," said Fire Bolt. "It is the chief truth of all. But there are some, the warlords and oppressors, whom, though we must behold them gladly as factors in the universe, we must resist and kill as malefactors in our society. As we must freely give our own lives in service of the neighbours and of the cosmical dance, so we must be ready also to kill in that service."
But Bright Heart said, "That we must never do. That is the great false step, shattering to the dance. Till we are ready in our thousands to die yet never kill, the killers will thrive. Meet evil always with good. Behold all nebulae gladly, even tyrants and hooligans. Expect, and they will dance."
Then Fire Bolt: "In youth, as you can see by my baldness, I was a satellite. My great bully showed me nothing good, nothing worthy to dance with. And as for these warlords and powerlords, they are past ii savings."
To this Bright Heart replied, "No one is past saving. The underlying principle of glad beholding is in each one of us, striving for expression. That great principle, that spirit which conceived the cosmos, demands that all shall participate."
Again there was a pause, then Fire Bolt said, "I have come to persuade you that though your aim is right and glorious, your method is futile. It would be the right method if nebulae were far more intelligent than they are or far more generous. But in the world that is, not killing but limp mildness is the great error. And what has happened to your work? Triumphant at first, it is now stultified by mildness, and the cunning of the rulers. The time is come for ruthless action. If you will consent, and call your followers to arms, I, who am not without experience of action and not without followers, will be your ally. You shall provide the vision. I will provide the ruthlessness in pursuit of the vision. Together, we can make the new world."
But Bright Heart would not agree. He said only, "No, I will not kill, but I will be killed. And the manner of my dying shall kindle such a spirit as shall never be extinguished."
In vain Fire Bolt pleaded with him. "Can you not see," he said, "that we are all directed by the sheer mechanism of our nature, that we are the sport of mighty forces, that you cannot alter the current of history by a fine example and a momentary widespread glow of emotion? The warlords and power-fiends cannot change their nature. They must love mastery, even as I do and you do. And fate has given them a mastery baleful to the people. They are but instruments through which mechanical power enslaves us all. It is useless to appeal to them. We must seize their power. This baleful-precious mechanical power must be controlled by those who will to establish the new world."
"This mechanical power," said Bright Heart, "is to be had only by the slaughter of innocents. The dance pattern of the cosmos needs the cooperation of the lone nebulae no less than ourselves. We must forego power forever."
Fire Bolt answered, "We who are ready to die for the cause must dare to kill. Even when the revolution is achieved, and there is no further need for armaments, we shall still need power, that the lives of citizens may be enriched by swift travel and a thousand joy-giving inventions. Of what use are cattle save for the support of citizens?"
The tresses of Bright Heart quivered and contorted in protest and indignation. But he said only, "Two solitaries I have known, and I have danced long and gladly with them. They are not cattle. They are imprisoned in themselves, but they shall be set free."
There was a pause, then Fire Bolt said, "I find it in my heart to believe you, and indeed you may well be right. It may be that the new world, when it has been established, will forego power and emancipate the lone nebulae. But meanwhile we must use them, or the revolution will never be achieved."
For some while, Bright Heart and Fire Bolt continued to plead with one another, but neither was convinced. Finally it was agreed that Bright Heart should first carry out his new plan, challenging the rulers even to the point of martyrdom; but that, if his death failed to bring in the new world, Fire Bolt should let loose his revolution.
Nebula Maker Contents