Tecpatl awakes on Titan
Images blurred around him, unintelligible words, bright, white lights above. Small hands touching his forearms, mechanized pads moved over his arms and legs. His muscles ached. His hands, feet, and legs throbbed. Pain compelled him to cry out. But, he could not make vocal sounds.
He remembered. He had been ordered to assassinate an Elder who had been at Terra since the Tayamni illegally seized the planet, Amun, of a royal house, a well-known geologist. His death would have dealt them a heavy blow. Tlaloc encryption specialists sprang the trap. But, he only managed to eliminate a female. Female Tayamni were of no importance. He received no commendation. His superiors considered the mission a failure.
He was sitting in the captain’s chair when the particle beam hit. Alarms sounded from all quarters. The temperature dropped quickly, breathable air was thinning. His second in command called out, “Abandon ship!” He remembered looking down at the surface of the planet. Ice and glaciers stretched to the horizon. He gave the order to activate environmental controls in escape pods.
Looking at enormous cracks in the thick glaciers below, he realized the consequences of this failure. If he survived, he would be punished, publicly humiliated. Not only him, but his family and descendants. He thought of allowing the ship to break up, to crash onto the ice. At least he would be hailed as a warrior, a martyr. But, at the last moment, he ordered the crew to pods.
The pain in his face brought him back. He must focus. He tried to see the shadows around him. He was strapped down. He turned his head to look down at his body. But, it wasn’t his. The skin was pale with a brownish hue, small hairs on the flesh. Where protective, scaly coverings should be, he saw instead soft, vulnerable skin. Squinting his eyes, he looked. Short creatures scurried around him wearing surgical uniforms, carrying trays of instruments, chemicals, and syringes.
His tongue was thick. His chin moved in unfamiliar directions. He could only make a small opening between his lips. Taking a deep breath he felt the temperature of his body grow warmer. A little one walked to his side and stood, holding onto his forearm. He realized tubes were inserted into the inside of his elbows and on his hands. What was happening? The little ones, the Potacas, seemed excited, happy. The one standing next to him brought a mirror attached to a lever from above. He looked at his reflection, and realized.
In rare instances, Tlaloc military leaders failed so spectacularly, they were punished by genetic modification. Ordered to merge with enemy populations, to appear to be the same species, they were expected to destroy the enemy from within. Looking in the mirror, he saw a human man looking back at him. He smelled the scent. The aroma of warm bloodied creatures. The smell of raw food, of prey. He would live as someone so far beneath the rank of a Tlaloc warrior, they had no status. His descendants would be stained for centuries. He moaned with pain and rage. Looking to the side, he saw Potacas surgeons, specializing in genetic modification, scurrying happily around him.
He raised his head. A Potacas moved to a panel in a nearby wall, and passed his hand over it. Slowly, the panel dissolved into an image of a landscape. The Potacas turned towards him and seemed to smile, gesturing at the image. Tecpatl understood that he was not on a vessel, but on the surface of a moon or planet. The landscape was darkly yellow. He could see hills and valleys, and what appeared to be lakes. A body of liquid, the same color as the yellow sky, lay in the distance. Ripples and waves moved across its surface, the landscape serene, but lifeless. No plants, no trees, no living thing. Looking at the image, he saw gleaming, black, metallic towers, perched on a crest.
He was at the Potacas colony on Titan.