Lieutenant Shawn Marquez was one of the best in the special forces, earning him a place as the Lt. of the Devil Dogs: the leading forward observing group. When the army needed eyes on the ground they sent for them.
The human race had spread across the stars like a wild fire, until finally they came upon an alien race called the Ikanu that had laid their own claim to the planets that humans had recently settled.
Despite many warnings from Ikanu messenger drones, humanity was confident in their own superiority and was willing to duke it out if necessary.
The Ikanu launched their great fleet attacking a human colony and overwhelming their meager defenses in a matter of minutes. Intel only showed a black out and North Star battle group had been sent to check things out.
It had taken days for anyone to realize that the planet was not sending in any status reports or communiqués of any kind. Since the North Star group was the fastest and best equipped they had been the first choice to be sent to the planet arriving hours later.
Sensors when they jumped in at the nav beacon showed nothing on the planets surface, but also no sign of the enemy in orbit. On the planet there were no signs of devastation, but a total blank slate as far as the ship sensors were concerned on all the vessels in the battle group after running their scan.
Now it was the Devil Dogs' turn to go down and eye ball thing, perhaps even taking on the enemy before help could be sent after they reported in. An elite soldier he expected to kick ass, take names and go home. A fate as history would record he was doomed to never achieve...
"Johnson watch the right flank! Come on you Devil Dogs, let's pull it together. I want this thing by the numbers, just like in all the drills.
You've trained for this boys and girls now get it right. Ortega get me my communications, and find out why fleet is not responding." Marquez called over his head set to his squad leader and communication officer.
"Sir second squad's transmissions are garbled, must be part of the communication black out. Switching to an alternate frequency." Ortega called back.
"Good patch it through." Marquez called back as he tried to spy the enemy with his binoculars from his place on a low hill overlooking the settlement.
Looking down at the settlement he wondered why none of the military units stationed there hadn't reported in.
"Ortega give me a three way with squads four and three near the city. I need intel on the situation." Marquez said.
"On it Lt." Ortega said.
Jacobs from squad four picked up first calling in.
"Sir I'm with one of the civilian leaders now. Apparently no civilians were harmed during the course of the attack.
It was sudden and he says beams of light cut through the clouds taking out the gun emplacements first. Afterwards they took out the rest of the military followed by anything used to support military infrastructure. None of our military personnel fired a shot and no enemy troops have moved in yet." Jacobs said relaying the information from someone Marquez heard in the background.
"Squad three can you confirm from your positions inside the city?" Marquez asked.
"Yes sir, intel confirmed all military buildings have been incinerated right down to their foundations. Only small bits of rubble are left, but barely anything I would recognize as a building. I had to look over our maps to make sure they were actually here.
I can't see any collateral damage to neighboring buildings. Have you ever seen anything like this Lt.?" Benson said.
"No I haven't, not even in the Battle of Gray Ridge. I have never seen bombardments like this. They're too pinpoint and precise to be anything like we could deliver." Marquez answered.
"Holy shit! Not even the hi-techs could have matched this? What have we gotten ourselves into Lt.? They just took out took the military and left the civies alone. What are they planning?" Benson said his voice shaken.
"Take a breath Benson. We need you ice cold for whatever might be out there. We'll figure out later the enemy plans after we find a way through this black out. For now I need everyone to keep their eyes peeled.
Squad three, continue your sweep of the city, and four pull out to the outskirts in case the enemy tries to move into the settlement. I don't want fleet having to dig them out." Marquez said.
"Roger Lt." Both men called back carrying out his orders.
DZ21 was the 21 first settlement of this sector. A plains world as they called it the planet was made mostly of grassy hills with a few mountains spread throughout its surface.
After awhile the record keepers and namers had decided that simple letters, and numbers were more efficient than giving the place a real name. If they hadn't then any record keeping would be impossible as fast as these things sprang up.
Humanity was growing at an exponential rate and there was just not enough planets to hold them all.
"Got second squad now sir. They seem to be in a lot of trouble. Should I send for help?" Ortega said interrupting Marquez's thoughts as everything seemed quiet on his front.
"Send squads four and five in to assist, and let me hear Johnson's squad myself." Marquez said.
"Roger sir." Ortega said.
"Lt! Lt! Send help quick! They're everywhere! Oh God, I've lost half my squad in a matter of seconds! I can't see them ... wait there they are ... how did they..." Johnson said his transmission cutting off as gunfire was heard over Marquez's headset.
"Ortega tell the squads to hurry on the double!" Marquez called out only to hear static, "Ortega can you hear me? Ortega!"
As he got ready to turn to see what had happened to his com officer a series of pulse hits struck him in the back from a Ikanu weapon, tearing him apart more effective than a bullet and with a lot less pain. Nerve endings died shutting off parts of his body like a kill switch.
Numb and weak he hit the ground as the rest of his squad returned fire before he slipped into darkness.
Awakening in lurch Marquez found his body tingling from head to toe. Trying testing his limbs to see how everything worked finding that everything moved as it should.
"Good you are awake." A strange alien said walking in a simple gray uniform, with its loose shirt tied with a black belt around his waist.
Looking around he saw that he was in a plain gray room. Judging by the looks of the room it was a medical room. Marquez could even see what looked like surgical devices, and he himself was lying on an examination table.
The walls themselves were each made of seven sets of metallic panels that seemed to absorb a lot of light without giving off a lot of shine.
His eyes glowed with a greenish hue to them, while the rest of him seemed to mirror a human body. By the looks of him he was about middle aged as far as humans went, but who knew the life span of whatever species this alien belonged to.
His hair was a dark brown and his skin Marquez would have described as Caucasian.
"Who the hell are you?" Marquez asked.
"I am Teneve, a medical practitioner here on Ika. You are currently in one of medical facilities where you have been recovering. It has been some time since you were last awake.
Your psychology is different from ours and in the end we were forced to transfer your consciousness as your old body was too badly damaged. You were crippled Lt. Shawn Marquez." Teneve said.
"So I am a P.O.W.?" Marquez asked.
"Not as such, but I hardly think your people would accept you back as one of them now. Perhaps it is best to show you. Come with me please." Teneve said stepping to his right and placing the flat of his palm on the wall before him.
A section of the wall slid into the ceiling quickly before Marquez's eyes opening a doorway.
Stepping in Teneve waited for Marquez to follow. When Marquez did step through he found a small room where a large mirror hung on the wall.
Staring into it he saw a pair of glowing blue eyes staring back at him.
Touching his face Marquez asked, "What have you done to me?"
"As I said your body was no longer functioning properly, and it was decided that a new one was needed. You have been given a great honor. No alien has ever been given their own symbiote to bond with." Teneve said.
"What symbiote?" Marquez asked looking at himself and seeing only human flesh.
"This is not the body you were born with human. That tingling you are feeling is in fact you symbiote becoming a part of you. From now on it will carry out your actions free your mind up to carry out anything it wishes without having to worry about the mundane.
You will no longer feed on solid matter but energy itself just as we do. Your mouth is no longer your feeding point but these..." Teneve said raising his palms, where two green glowing points in the middle of his hands could be seen.
Lowering them back down as Marquez found he had them too Teneve continued saying, "Even your breathing now is merely a reflex. Our people do not require air. Since your body is made to live off of energy any blood born pathogens are also no longer a problem. You will never again suffer from any foreign ailment that I can promise you.
The symbiote will work with you and protect you because it needs you. It is a partnership that we have developed over time. Through us it gains full consciousness and we live through it."
"Why would you do all this for me? I am your enemy." Marquez asked.
"You will find that many things have changed, and that we do not think as humans do. It was one of our problems in ending the war against your people." Teneve said.
"The war is over? How long was I out?" Marquez asked.
"As I said for some time. The exact amount is unimportant, but I have been instructed to provide with the details." Teneve said.
Heading out into the main room he touched another wall opening it to show a long white hallway with holographic visual displays built into the walls.
Walking with Teneve he noticed many other worlds and something else.
"Is this how normal Ikanu see? Nothing seems to have changed about my vision." Marquez asked.
"That is because your mind is still thinking like a human. Focus instead on the energy flowing to each of the holos." Teneve said as they continued to walk.
"What are you talking..." Marquez began to say, stopping in his tracks as he did see lines of energy in each wall.
Some of the lines were the same color of red or white, while still others were orange or green. All of them led into each holo connecting some and bypassing others.
"Wow!" Marquez said marveling.
"Shawn." Teneve said to catch his attention.
When Marquez turned to look at him seeking a being of glowing green light surrounded by a rainbow of color shining out from his edges he heard Teneve say, "We should hurry. My superiors are eager to get you up to speed."
Consciously switching back to his former vision with ease Marquez said, "What's the rush?"
"Your military training will begin tomorrow. It has also been decided that you will be trained as one of our own soldiers.
You can of course refuse and that is why they wish you to look through the viewer first. Free will is deeply respected among the Ikanu." Teneve said.
Marquez didn't know what to say and apparently Teneve needed no response. Turning around he continued down the hall waiting for Marquez to catch up.
The viewing room was a large room with a high glass-like ceiling looking up at the twin suns of Ika. One was a dark orange while the other was a brighter yellow.
Looking around the room he found they were alone, despite the fact that there seemed to be many cushioned seats with a single helmet hooked into each of them. To Marquez this seemed to suggested many people could use the place at once.
The helmets themselves were hard wired into a small monitor behind the heads of each seat, while the seat itself could be leaned back for the user's comfort. The seats were white in color matching the room itself which gave the place a kind of glow to it.
Interesting enough this didn't seem to hurt his eyes as it would have if he were still completely human. Marquez made a note of that meaning to ask about it later.
A single station at the far wall probably controlled each viewer sending them the images they needed. The human military had been working to accomplish such a feat, but thus far the technology was in the early stages for them.
"Why is no one else here?" Marquez asked
"It is out of difference to you. Most Ikanu children find their first viewing difficult with other people around: it can prove to be distracting. The lack of other people is merely a precaution to make this easier on you." Teneve said.
"So I'm just supposed to lie down in one of these things and put on that helmet?" Marquez guessed.
"Yes, you will find a small feed inside that which will transmit information through your eyes by projecting a stream of energy through them.
It will in effect allow you to see all the information we can offer on any subject stored in our archives. Its main purpose is to be an educational tool but I suppose this does fulfill that quota." Teneve said with a friendly smile.
Taking an unconscious deep breath Marquez steadied his nerves and laid down in the seat. It felt and look like a dentist's chair and it felt comfortable enough. It was nearest to the station where Teneve would be controlling everything.
Teneve handed him the helmet and waited until he put it on. Stepping to the station he keyed in a few controls passing one his hands over them. Lights lit up on the instrument display on the console.
"Ready?" Teneve asked.
"I guess." Marquez said.
That's when the images hit him all at once. They were flashes at first as he tried to focus on melding them together.
"Just let go Shawn. Don't fight the images and relax your mind. They will sort themselves out on their own." Teneve said.
Taking another breath Marquez tried to do as Teneve told him. Letting the images flow instead of trying to control them he found that they did indeed sort themselves out in his mind.
Everything seemed to be from the Ikanu point of view, as if he were seeing things from the point of view of their generals and captains. Through their minds he saw the Ikanu battle plan and a lot of things he had seen before now suddenly made sense.
He and the rest of the forward scouts had been wondering why the Ikanu had only attacked the military instead of using a general bombardment. The answer was simple: the Ikanu attack had been a warning.
They had expected the humans to counterattack, and when that failed for them to then realize that they had been outclassed and stop further hostilities.
Unfortunately the humans had considered the attack a prelude to further invasion and decided to fight it out. As their fleets approached leaping from beacon to beacon the Ikanu saw their approach.
After a short conference it was decided more drastic measures were needed, and the Ikanu fleet left behind enough troops to hold captured worlds on the frontier before speeding to earth itself without the need for beacons.
Ikanu were capable of calculating jump coordinates in their head without the need for a computer or a beacon. This gave them more freedom of movement allowing them to jump directly to their final destination without having to make side stops.
Making sure they were sighted by some of the human sensory warning nets they announced their approach while the human fleet desperately tried to catch up. When they finally did they found the Ikanu fleet waiting already in battle array while the humans tried to reform and a space battle ensued.
The Ikanu fleet vastly superior decimated the human navy destroying many ships before the humans surrendered. Marquez could see the Ikanu's superior missiles striking the hulls of the human ships, hitting them in combination with energy weapons that could be adjust and focused to deal a variety of lethal damage.
Some ships were torn apart by pulse strikes, while still others suffered direct hits from energy beams. Human missiles and bullets from anti-ship and missile cannons bounced harmlessly off Ikanu shields.
Even in dogfight battles between the two sides fighter escort the Ikanu came out on top. A number of Ikanu pilots took on as many as ten human ships in a matter of seconds, destroying sometimes three at a time with their missiles and energy weapons.
While the fighters only used energy beams such as lasers they had been set to lethal levels. All other settings had been turned off after killing orders had been issued.
Death it seemed was the only way the Ikanu could get humans to understand their peril. Capture didn't seem to work so the Ikanu went all out as far as engaging the human fleet.
No fighters were to enter Earth's atmosphere and if a human fighter headed in to escape the Ikanu pilots simply let them go. They job was to take out the ships that were still fighting until the enemy fleet was gone or they gave up.
Marquez gasped as he saw images of a group of Ikanu fighters running out of their counterparts to shoot at and switched their attention to the human capital ships. One carrier had the unfortunate fate of being ganged up on by four of them.
Firing missiles and using their energy weapons they made devastating sweeps with their armament as they passed. When the human shields dropped the fighters split up into two groups one focusing on engineering while the other two attacked the bridge.
Secondary explosions marked the destruction of the carrier and all those who were not able to make it off. Marquez noticed few escape pods so it must have been almost all hands.
With that job done the fighters reformed efficiently moving on to the next large vessel unless a human fighter crossed their path and they jumped on it like a pack of wolves.
The Ikanu had no illusions about playing fair. Their job their was simple to kill efficiently and expertly focusing their attention where it was needed.
The Ikanu regretted the loss of life but realized it was the only way to avoid a long drawn out war which would have caused the death of innocent civilians.
Through it all Marquez gained a deep respect for the Ikanu. They hid nothing showing all their faults and every mistake.
If someone killed needlessly they were found and punished. Not one thing was hidden from him as he replayed each part over and over again searching for any falsehood.
These people were the real deal. Even in victory they tried to uplift those on captured worlds offer genetic enhancement as well as lesser technology which was superior to that of humans.
The humans existing on those worlds found a freedom they had never before enjoyed, and a voice in the Ikanu government as they sent their representatives to join with thousands of others.
The Ikanu Empire spanned a stretch of space far greater than that of the human race and they had many resources to draw from. Some of their settlements were not even planets but space stations orbiting a planet or in open space.
Eventually the captured worlds were returned to the Alliance control as the current human government called themselves decades later. Marquez had indeed been asleep for some time.
When the images finally ended Marquez removed the helmet and sat up.
"And now you know." Teneve said.
Turning to look at him Marquez saw the sadness in his eyes. Even now he still grieved for those lost.
"It was a cultural misunderstanding we should have taken into account. We thought you would understand and few would be lost. It was not our intention to have to kill so many simply to make you see." Teneve said.
"We didn't want to see either. We thought we were the big dog on the block but you proved that we were wrong.
If we hadn't thought we were so tough, the warning you gave us would have never have had to have happened in the first place. Looks like both sides made a mistake. Can I ask you a question?" Marquez said.
"Is there another reason we want to train you?" Teneve said seeming to voice Marquez's exact thoughts.
"How did you know I was going to ask that?" Marquez asked.
"You will find we know a great many things about you. Since the war we have made it our business to learn all we can about humans. Your inquisitiveness is not unlike our own. It is deeply ingrained into our two peoples.
Even now we monitor your race. A problem has come to our attention which your leaders fail to realize: the inhabitants of the captured worlds are already disliking the pressure put on them to conform to their former ways by those who are now in power in the Alliance worlds.
They now see themselves as superior to their former brethren and there is growing talk of open rebellion. It seems a matter of time before civil war breaks out. We are doing our best to intercede but we shall see if anything good comes of it." Teneve said.
"So I'm training just in case." Marquez said.
"If you wish you do not have to return or even afterwards you may return here. You are not just human but also one of us. We would welcome you here." Teneve said his friendly smile returning.
"Thanks." Marquez said and meant it.