The Body Politic by Graham Stull

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Conversely, not all Nemes pools are large enough to leave the new Nairb with an adequate supply at birth. All things being equal, these poor unfortunates would be born hungry and face the grim prospect of a short, painful life.

So if it was Earth they'd fight each other for this Nemes stuff, right? Right, and so did the Nairbs, waging terrible battles for control of the vital fluid. They formed groups based on their colours: Blues teamed up with Blues, Reds with Reds.

Until the great saviour of the Nairb race: Its name was Red 326, or R-326, as its friends called it. R-326 realized that all the fighting was counterproductive: Most of the Nemes was being consumed in wasted energy used to attack and defend. In the end, everyone was losing out. It figured there should be some kind of system to allocate Nemes fairly and without fighting. It managed to negotiate a treaty whereby Nemes was rationed out to lucky lottery winners.

The system worked just fine, because it was specifically designed to discourage revolt among the Nairbs whom chance had not favoured. One thing it did not anticipate, however, was a circumstance that took a thousand years to occur: There was a prolonged period of when a lot of the blues kept winning the lottery. They lasted through not just a few spurts, but over forty spurts! Statistically, this was less likely than winning the Texas State Lottery, which is not very likely (just look at my loser mom or any of my stupid uncles). The effects were devastating. Few non-blues survived; those that did would gladly have joined together and revolted, only they kept thinking: We'll win on the next spurt. We'll be the dominant ones soon. It can't go on like this forever!

Eventually the luck did turn. But the blues, not content with the good fortune they had already had, became greedy. When on the forty-first spurt a Yellow was 'born', they ganged up on it and killed it, in clear breech of the law of R-326. A new age had dawned on Onalp: The reign of the blues.

It meant war, of course. Those of the non-blues who survived formed a 'rainbow' coalition. They stole what Nemes they could and staged guerilla raids on vulnerable positions occupied by the blues. The rainbow warriors grew wily, and Need made them resourceful. They were aided by the law of probability: Most of the new Nairbs 'born' were not blues, and so the Rainbow Army's numbers grew faster than the Blues could suppress them.

Little by little, the blues were losing their absolute control over Onalp. Some even tried to suggest a treaty with the rainbow coalition, but the animosities were too hardened, the battle lines had been drawn too deep. For the blues, the writing was on the wall (or at least it would have been, but from what I've been told, the Nairbs have neither writing nor walls).

Such was the world into which a particular blue named Blue-1441 was 'born'. It was a rather clever creature. Early in life it witnessed a completely successful sneak-attack by the Rainbow Army on a blue position and as it stood dispondantly over the dead bodies of its comrades, B-118 and B-892, it thought, "I must do something, or else I'll end up like them." And so B-1441 went to work, using all of its cleverness and ingenuity to devise a scheme for its own self-preservation.

B-1441 began experimenting with producing different materials and came up with a solid, pliant substance called Mutorcs, which it found it could fashion into vessels and use to contain Nemes in such a way that it did not lose its vital life-giving force.

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