Can an intelligence consisting purely of a particular form of energy feel pain, or emotions such as anger, resentment, and regret? Can such an entity even harbour a grudge?

In a previous life, when it was once of a corporeal form, the entity wondered about this. Now it knew.

Time moved differently for it now. In theory it could bask in the solar winds drifting wherever they might take it for millennia even aeons. Though it would need to ensure that its component energies did not disperse to the point where it was unable to reform as a sentient being. Yet it knew that it would never be allowed to bask for too long.

Just as when it was in corporeal form, its existence was not without purpose.

Not all dead former corporeals experienced this fate. Mostly they were either elevated to a higher plane of existence or they simply ceased to exist on any plane.

For those chosen for this particular existence, their psychological make up when they existed in physical form, was crucial. As an element of this "personality" was inevitably passed on. One clear requirement was that they would have to be able to exist alone for vast periods of time without any form of meaningful contact with other intelligences. A situation that would not suit the formerly gregarious. Also there were other even more important requirements.

Yet this form of existence had its perks. The entity was as powerful now in its present form as it had been weak as a physical being. The contrast beggared comparison. It shuddered, now, at the thought of its former vulnerabilities and powerlessness. More, it could choose to go almost anywhere. To witness at first hand what its own former race of corporeal beings could only have dreamed of, or at best viewed as long past events. . The birth or death of a star, the coming of life to a world, the beginning of the creation of a galaxy, to name just a few events

Fraternisation with others of its kind was somewhat discouraged. Yet, even given the vastness of the Multiverse, occasional contact was inevitable. While the probabilities were low, these probabilities multiplied by sufficient time made eventual contact a virtual certainty. There were protocols that covered such encounters.

Some of the broad parameters for the entities continued existence were that it should not generally interfere in the lives of the corporeal intelligences. By the same token it was not to stand idly by if it was in the general vicinity and frail, innocent physical life forms were under threat. Then there was always the possibility of being called. The call could not be ignored. The entity viewed this remote possibility with an equal measure of trepidation and excitement without even knowing exactly what the call involved. All those of its ilk felt this same way.

Early in its new life the entity drifted, seemingly by accident, towards a star system and a world within that star system. A world that was under direct attack. As it watched on with an element of interest, it realised that it would have to intervene. That the protocols would demand it. The contestation was too unequal. Something that was never allowed. With the world and its short lived, physical inhabitants saved from death, the entity felt a brief moment of elation. A reminder of feelings it held when it was a very young corporeal entity and had helped others. This was one of the perks of the job. Though the almost alien feeling of euphoria was short lived, the feeling of modest achievement could persist. An event to recall and indeed saviour in the eternity that lay ahead. A little something to help offset the predominantly lonely aeons that lay before it.

When first resurrected as energy beings most former corporeals wondered on how often they just happened to be around when things went wrong for the corporeal life forms of worlds under threat. Such as when a sun was about to go nova, when a star ship was on the edge of the event horizon of a black hole, or when a world or star fleet was threatened by a cosmic storm. With time all such energy beings came to realise that this was more than mere happenstance.

Millennia later the energy being drifted, seemingly by chance, into a star system that was familiar to it. It had been here before though not in its current form. Rather this was the star system that housed the world of its birth as a corporeal entity. What was once its home world, though it could not think of it in such terms now.

The system itself was as the entity remembered it, though now the entity saw it from a much more complete perspective. The birth world itself had come a long way. This was a race that might easily have destroyed themselves. Yet they had managed to rise above that and gone on to greater things. The numerous space craft and even star ships in the system, the two well colonised worlds, and the co-existence with several alien species were among the testaments to these achievements.

The entity remembered its time upon this world. Some 70 all too short planetary rotations of the home star. Everything that happened to it during that time flashing before its powerful consciousness in micro-seconds. These were not things it dwelled upon as an energy being. Yet now it remembered its long incarceration for an offense that it did not commit. It remembered too the death of its partner and the suicide of its only progeny during that incarceration. It also remembered its attempts to make a life for itself after its eventual release from incarceration. The obstacles placed in its path and ultimately its own cruel and painful death a few rotations after its release. The entity also remembered its own crude attempts, late in its corporeal life, to seek some measure of revenge for the evils visited upon it. Ultimately unsuccessful attempts that were born out of bitterness and frustration.

For a time it watched the world below. A concept came into its mind, one that it had not considered since it had become an energy being. Revenge. At its present power level it should be an easy matter to take revenge against this world. Despite the world's apparent technical advances its inhabitants would be defenceless if the entity chose to take revenge. Such was the entity's power level now that there was no possibility of their even being a contest.

The thoughts died and the entity moved on. That which had made it what it was had, as almost always, chosen well. This was one of the other requirements for the energy intelligences. They could not be allowed to harbour a grudge from a past life. Any such past injustices, any past corporeal relationships were irrelevant now. .

As it drifted away from the blue green world the entity realised this had been a test, of a kind, and that it had passed.

Then suddenly it realised it was about to be called and it knew instinctively, on the eve of that calling, the purpose of the summons.

The entity had been good at what it did yet not perfect. The millennia of loneliness had taken something of a toll and this had been noted. For some of its ilk the call would never come. For these perfectly adapted entities totally content with their lot, the call to the higher plane of existence would serve no purpose.

End