My name is Luna Amir Ishmael, and during the twenty-fourth rotation of my existence, I became a rebel invader for the Tau by no choice of my own.
My birth had led me to this moment. I had always been told that I was destined for some kind of violent outcome, just like all the other Tau warriors, but I dreaded it with every molecule within my being.
You see, Tau Ceti was a planet located in the far reaches of the universe, originally a barren wasteland before the Tau came to seek refuge there away from a species called Arcturians, who had turned their backs on us due to our violent tendencies at birth.
Arcturians considered being born Tau to be a curse, as infants had razor-sharp teeth and nails that would cause death and destruction should they attempt to raise the child themselves. And believe me, they had tried and tried again to raise Tau out of love, only to be met with a series of horrible events.
Because of this, our leaders would harvest Tau children from Arcturus and bring them home in pod-shaped nurseries. We did not harbor ill will against the Arcturians; in fact, most of our dealings with them were kind but direct; after all, they were our parents and the reason we were here.
It was the rest of the planets that Tau Ceti wanted to invade in the name of our mother.
"Maloof Kashif! Step forward immediately!"
A shout from further down the line causes me to startle into focus, and I swiftly salute in perfect unison with the other troops around me. We stood in the middle of the Great Hall, a massive room cloaked in beautiful silk curtains and ornate gold decorations, rows and rows of us waiting to be summoned in our silver suits.
"Maloof!" The call comes again, and Maloof Kashif, a beautiful, tall specimen of a soldier, hurries to the front of the room to receive her orders from our superiors.
As soon as the soldier bows before the stunning Tau, Sister Superior tells Maloof, "You will be deployed to Planet Centauri immediately for reconnaissance. I expect weekly reports detailing the structure of their planet and what type of technology they have. Only engage the locals after absorbing suitable DNA and cloaking yourself in a proper flesh suit."
Maloof carefully accepts a rolled-up scroll tied in a gold thread from Sister Superior, then bows harder, silky silver hair tumbling around her shoulders.
"Maloof is so very lucky! Is she not?" The bright purple alien beside me whispers to another, "Centauri is considered one of the most beautiful planets in the galaxy. She will have such a wonderful time hunting down live specimens with a ray gun and harvesting them for our superiors."
"She will," the other soldier replies excitedly. "And if we follow, we'll be able to join in, too."
I maintain a stubborn facade without revealing my true disgusted feelings, as the destruction of small, hairy creatures did not please me as it did the others. They craved the taste of blood in their sharp little mouths and violence, but I had never felt such an urge, which frequently puzzled my superiors growing up, among the other differences about me.
Tau were usually born a lovely shade of lavender and became assorted shades of brilliant purple when they reached adulthood. But at twenty-four rotations, I never lost my lavender and sometimes verged on looking pink depending on the lighting.
They also kept most of their fangs during puberty, but I did not, and instead sprouted dull molars incapable of tearing meat from bones.
I had no intention of scouting a planet for an imminent invasion, and it was terrifying to think that I might wind up dead inside a tin cylinder somewhere in space, which is one of the reasons why I was hoping the Superiors would pass over me and pick someone else to add to their chosen list of invaders.
Unfortunately, I was not that lucky.
"Luna Amir Ishmael! Step forward and receive your order!" The call comes next after three more Tau are chosen to go to their designated planets and led down a long, ornate hallway to the left of the throne and steps.
I quickly get out of line and glance back at the four rows of Tau soldiers behind me, who gaze at me with a mix of resentment and incredulity. Becoming an invader was an honor in their eyes, but for someone like me, who balked at the thought of hitting someone in a sparring match, it was an embarrassment to our species.
"Luna!" Sister Superior shrills, "Come now, as there are others waiting behind you to receive their orders!"
I quickly hurry over, my pink shoes squeaking on the tile when I walk over and stop in front of the trio of aliens towering above me. The Sisters Superior had to be the most gorgeous Tau in the universe, cloaked in deep black robes with tiny gold stars carefully sewn into the fabric. Their skin was smooth, eyes wide and mysterious, and they seemed to observe us with some distance and little pride.
I reach the bottom of the steps under their watchful lavender eyes and slowly bow until I'm resting on one knee, my hair swinging around my shoulders as I stare down at the floor.
"Luna, we have composed a very important mission for you." Sister Superior informs me coolly, "We took into consideration your lack of fangs and terrible fighting skills and picked a very special planet that the rest of the universe has been avoiding for a very long time."
I could not believe what I was hearing.
Had the Sisters taken mercy on the star in my heart and given me a planet like Centauri?
"It is called Tralfamadore, and it is located on the other side of the universe." Sister Superior informs me, and shocked gasps emerge from the crowd when she pulls up an image of a very blue and green planet on the hologram behind them. "The Arcturians seem to have been frequenting this planet in the last few centuries, but we do not know why. That's where your mission comes in. We want you to travel there and write a detailed report on your findings."
My eyes slowly widen, and my breathing becomes shallow. Becoming an invader for the Tau army and wreaking havoc on a strange planet had not been my plan. "Sister Superior," I manage to squeak out, "While I appreciate your thoughtfulness, I don't think I can accept this mission."
Another series of gasps comes from the crowd behind me.
"I'm not strong like the others," I inform my superiors. "But I'm sure you've seen my specialties in the kitchen. The toska-berry dessert I made for the Hadar festival last month was quite delicious, was it not?"
"It was actually quite delicious," one of the superiors murmurs in agreement.
"Silence immediately!" The other superior shrieks at her, then turns back to me, eyes narrowing. "Luna, we've already shown you mercy by not slitting your throat as a child upon arrival. You are an anomaly. You are not blue like the Arcturians, nor are you purple like the Tau. You are weak and small, and you seem to have a fascination with cooking things! It's atrocious!"
I stare down at the white marble floor as hard as I can until it blurs into one giant blob.
"Tell me the truth now." Sister Superior steps down so that her delicate sandaled feet are inches from my face. "Will you become an invader and go to Tralfamadore and report back on all that you find?"
I had no other choice at this point.
If I stayed, the Tau would eliminate me with a swift hand. But if I went to Tralfamadore, there was a chance that I could cut ties with my species and disappear into the local population, never to be found again.
I had to risk it all in order to live the life that I wanted to live.