Alexander awoke from a strange dream. It seemed like only moments before that he had stepped into the personal transport pod and placed the receiving tube in his mouth. The small amount of liquid he ingested to begin the travel stasis made his stomach churn but by then he had been placed in the chamber.
His mind recalled the feeling of disassembling, something he had experienced many times throughout his life as he transported from one place to another. But this had been the longest journey of his young life and he took a deep breath to cure the nausea. Then he remembered the dream.
Galen…he had been in the warrior’s arms and they had been joined. The feeling had seemed so real, just like those nights in the shelter. He had no way of knowing how much time had passed since that event, but even now he felt the lingering warmth in his gut and his organ was in a severely inflated state.
A technician rapped on the side of his pod and Alexander pulled the release handle. The oxygen atmosphere slowly escaped and the canopy swung open.
“Steady, warrior, your feet will find it difficult to master this tiny gravity,” The tech said.
Alexander stepped forward and was offered a hand which he refused. A warrior should be able to master any combat condition, but he still felt unsteady. The technician moved along to another pod and rapped on the shell.
He sniffed the air, realizing that the dome must be pressurized to Earth’s atmospheric values. Thank goodness for that, no more breathing apparatus. Soon enough he would be on the planet and be able to smell what he had only read about. It seemed silly but above all he wanted to smell a flower.
All four warriors had made the transition without difficulty it seemed, Alexander was glad for his troop. A female pilot came by and offered him refreshment. He drank and then looked around.
Above him was a view dome, and he could see the unfamiliar stars and the light of the small yet distant star. He knew that from here the target planet was located almost three billion miles away towards that distant star, the one the humans called the Sun. From here there was no heat from that distant fire, but once upon planet Earth Alexander knew he would feel that warmth.
There had been so much to learn about the human race and he had studied hard. His place among the FirstCon troopers proved that he had learned his lessons well. But he had been warned that a study made from such a great distance could prove to be flawed and so his quick mind was going to be an asset. Oh Galen, what have I gotten myself into?
A mandatory rest period was enforced before further transport was allowed. His body needed to regenerate, his blood flow needed to return to normal pressure. Being disassembled into mere molecules and shot across the universe in a pulse of ion energy was not something to be taken lightly. They were led into a crude barracks and ordered to sleep while the medicos monitored their bodies.
Alexander stripped off his suit and hung it carefully before stretching out on his grav-a-bed. The trip to Earth would be a short hop, mere minutes of time. Yes, seconds, minutes, hours and days, these were to become his measure of all things now if he were to identify with the humans.
Ever since he began the study of this distant race he had often wondered what it would be like to meet one. He had been given all the propaganda about the need for these bodies as protein in the food chain, but what about them? They were not like other races; they were similar in most physical characteristics. He had been warned about how his feelings might change when he finally encountered a human. Social contact was forbidden, one of the items on a long list of negatives he had been given.
But he had questions about them, issues that he could never ask about. Any discussion of these things outside of the military parameters of this mission was frowned upon, and he would have been immediately dismissed. But that was before Galen. Did humans have such intense feelings?
The sleeping period lasted ten hours and Alexander awoke refreshed and was pronounced fit by the medico. He was offered a uniform to wear but instead chose to put the suit back on, he had better get used to that tie around his neck.
They ate a solid meal which was so much better than the field rations he had been consuming the past four weeks. And then the four scouts were escorted to another dome and seated before individual data terminals.
Each of them was assigned a landing site and given a mapping program to memorize. Alexander supposed that one place was as good as another; there were plenty of humans to study. His assignment was for a place called Virginia, a defined territory within a larger entity called the United States.
His site was chosen for its proximity to a portal on the Earth intelligence station. It would be his assignment to make immediate contact with the watch keeper who had been stationed there. Perhaps the Watcher would be an Ancient One and he would be the first one in his family to ever meet one.
He viewed holo images of the site and the surrounding area. There were large lodge clusters…uh, cities and towns nearby this landing site and Alexander was going to have to be careful. He was curious and yet fearful that enough humans together might cause him damage in an attack. What would he do if a stranger appeared in the middle of his lodge?
The disruptor rod was a fierce weapon, vaporizing an enemy with a single discharge. But a show of force would only alarm the humans and he already knew they had a sophisticated communications system throughout the planet. Discovery would raise the alarm and if military units responded…Alexander could not see surviving an attack by himself.
The holo showed him something called television, part of that communication system, only this seemed to be established for information dispersal. He watched as several humans attacked one another. The slapping, poking and pinching seemed absurd, was this some means of battle?
No one was really getting hurt or damaged, what was the purpose? But the same guy was being poked over and over; did he not learn how to block that attack? It was silly and un-warrior like behavior to fight like this. Alexander got bored and went to turn the holo off just as the English words Three Stooges flashed up on the screen.
Stooges…didn’t that mean fools…dimwitted individuals? He had read the definition of comedy, and it seemed humans liked to laugh. Oh, maybe this physical assault on one another was meant to be humorous. But they were not laughing and Alexander was confused. There was so much more to learn…and so little time to do it.
The next holo reviewed other species living on the planet, these were called wildlife. It seemed that many animals lived wild in the open spaces between cities. Nothing like that existed in the Prime. If it could be consumed as protein to sustain life then it had disappeared a long time ago. The trillions of mouths to feed made that an imperative.
The animal species either seemed to be docile creatures or fierce carnivores; at least that is what the information officer had told them in class. He was told to watch out for one species in particular, the dog. It seems humans kept dogs to watch out for their possessions and property, a dog was likely to attack strangers.
“Use your weapon before they raise an alarm,” the officer had said. “A bite, though not life threatening, can disable a warrior. The creatures are everywhere, even in the dwellings of the humans.”
Oh great, Alexander thought, another thing to worry about. But then the holo showed him splendid peaks and valleys of land covered in trees. Yes, he was interested in seeing a tree. Second Prime had a few trees but they were covered in thorns that could poke right through your arm. These trees seemed quite pleasing.
A messenger came to find him and Alexander followed the female to the base leader’s housing unit.
“Ah, Alexander, how are you feeling, warrior?” the Commander asked. Alexander was impressed with the elder’s handsome features…but there was something familiar about him.
“Fit, sir,” Alexander replied, giving the raised fist salute.
“We will dispense with saluting from now on. Those clothes don’t lend themselves to our military formality. You had best forget about that when you arrive at your destination.”
“Yes, sir,” Alexander replied.
“Sit, this is just supposed to be an informal chat,” the Commander said.
Alexander sat stiffly on the bench provided, what was going on here?
“First, I wish to congratulate you on being chosen as a member of FirstCon, you honor us all. I have seen the invasion of many planets…it is dangerous and difficult work for the troops. The slow careful processing of the protein cannot begin until the species has been fully conquered.”
The Commander paced slowly back and forth with a grim smile on his face. “We are not looking for a pitched battle with Earth troops since that would waste the resource. The placement of scouts for a period of time is to assess the means of best subjugating the population. You know this. I just want you to understand you might have to hold out until the advance team arrives.”
“Yes sir, I have been told what to expect.”
The Commander held up a small crystal, looking at the surface. “Your training record is second to none. But I must ask you this…a personal question I assure you. Do you relish the idea of killing so many?
“I’m sure you don’t question the need of feeding our people, but these humans are very much like us. We may even have a common ancestor. The Prime debated this invasion for a long time because of that. It is unfortunate that the mass of protein in Earth animals is insufficient to meet the goals and budgetary demands of such an effort. What do you think?”
Alexander thought a moment. Yes, he did question the wisdom and for a very good reason. It was always in the back of his mind that if the humans were so easily farmed, then who was next? Would the population of Third Prime be chosen to feed the other planets? Was their need for protein a good enough excuse to extinguish the inhabitants, even one of their own species? Where would this end?
He saw the Commander was waiting for an answer; he dared not hesitate any longer.
“Sir, it is my honor and our mission as warriors to perform as required by the Prime. I too share in the protein, just as my family does. A warrior cannot question his orders if he is to remain in the lodge of his brothers.”
“Yes…I see, that pretty much states the obvious. But this is nasty work that I wish we did not have to perform. Honestly? I would not be as certain as you seem to be. You will be there long enough to get to know some of these humans.”
He held up a hand as Alexander started to protest. “Oh I know what the directive says, no socialization, but let’s be real here, it must happen for you to do your job. You will live among them, feed with them and at your age you might even wish to have sexual union with them.”
Alexander jumped to his feet at attention. “Sir, nothing of the kind has ever crossed my mind.”
“Sit down, my boy, sit down. No one is accusing you of anything. But may I suggest that you will have to be the sole judge of these things, the success of your mission may depend upon it. All of our leadership’s judgment and edicts aside, they do not know the circumstances that exist on this planet. This is much different than any other challenge we have faced. Just be warned, it might happen.”
“Oh sir, I certainly hope not…I am ill prepared to…”
“No, you are the best prepared of the lot according to Galen”
Alexander’s mouth dropped open at the name. “You…you know about Galen?”
The leader smiled, “Yes…Galen is my son.”
Alexander felt his body tremble. If the Commander knew about Galen then his life was forfeit, the death penalty would be swiftly carried out. But the leader smiled yet again.
“I know my son…and his ways. I was young once and felt much as you do. But there will be nothing reported. How could I? Yours is the most dangerous and exciting venture a warrior could ever undertake…you may not return. But the courage you have shown will be well rewarded if you do, and so I feel this small transgression is a mere nothing in light of the glory that will be yours.”
The Commander walked around his desk to stand beside Alexander, who immediately jumped to his feet at attention.
“Ah, to be young again. But I have seen so much in the four hundred and twenty-three cycles of my life, you could not begin to understand. You have everything ahead of you, my boy…everything, and I envy that. Be wise and come back to us.”
Then the Commander did a most unexpected thing, he stepped forward and gave Alexander a hug, his arms embracing the boy as if they were lovers. He stood back and smiled at the shock on Alexander’s face.
“Galen asked me to give you that, and sends his love. He will be leading the advance team so you’ll be reporting to him when he arrives, that should make you happy. Be at peace, Alexander, the time of your glory is fast approaching.”