This Science Fiction short story is a lead-up to the book titled, Onyalum Wars. The book is part of the Science Fiction Onyalum Series written by NB VanYoos.

Picture of LeranSaterque dumped the body into the iron tub, now a cauldron of chemicals. His transformation was underway, and his strength waned in the searing pain wracking his body. The lifeless form brewing in the tub is all that remains of his latest conquest. The man was a fool, and Saterque was happy to take over the wasted life. Saterque was one of a thousand infiltrators sent to seed the future allies of the Leran, a shape shifting species led by the Creator Kiirgatt.

Their shape shifting abilities were far from what most imagined. Starting as nothing more than a tiny embryo seeded into a rodent, their true forms became little more than the brainstem of that first host.

Descended from a viral agent long ago, they developed into the complex organism able to transform into any being who’s DNA they acquired. The process was arduous, parts growing far faster than normal, while obsolete parts were discarded in bloody heaps. They didn’t take over their victims, they cloned them down to the DNA.

Depending on the transformational complexity and size differential, the process could take from twelve to thirty-six hours, and they were vulnerable during that time. This was why they had to be so meticulous when planning an invasion. Victims had to be identified, studied, and eventually isolated from prying eyes for the takeover to be successful.

Saterque was currently six hours into the transformation and his pain grew nearly unbearable. He’d accepted this mission years before, first scouting the planet and finding a suitable target. The rest was pure research. He studied their language, their culture, their habits, and favorite foods. He immersed himself in their lives, watching from afar, plotting the day he would take over. He smiled, imagining the similarities between his species and those damned Onyalum.

Did the demons feel this awful pain when they took over? He wasn’t certain how they worked, and thankfully, had not worked with any since joining the Infiltration Division. It was lonely work, but he preferred working alone. This was his third assignment since joining, and so far, he’d never been detected.

Doubling over, he vomitted a bloody pile on the floor as his body disposed of superfluous organs, replacing them with the new matrix of the host DNA. He was changing into a larger, more powerful species, and his body ached with hunger as it sought fresh nutrients to build new flesh. He opened his trunk, pulling another vial of a specially formulated brew needed to complete the transformation. He threw up once more before quickly drinking the contents. His body reacted instantly, absorbing and allocating the resources as it rebuilt the victim cell by cell.

The Leran species had no real form of their own. Since the dawn of their evolution, they had taken over hosts, destroying the body after they replicated and moved on. It was violent and destructive, and prevented them from achieving their true potential. But somewhere along the way, natural selection, or the hand of their god chose a new path for the Leran, a path where they cloned their host, integrating into the society, living off their culture as one of their own. It was a false life but successful over the eons they had survived.

He pulled on his arms, skin sloughing off as new epidermis replaced the old. The pain forced a scream into the silence, nearly causing him to black out. I must stay focused! He thought wildly, grabbing another vial and drinking heavily. The loss of consciousness would be a death sentence if his transformation wasn’t near completion. He had to stay awake and focus on keeping his body fed.

Through bleary vision, he struggled to count the remaining vials. Would it be enough? He had made all the calculations, checking them multiple times before the big day. It would have to be enough. The viscous mixture was necessary to provide all the building blocks without the need to digest. Eating was no longer adequate for their species during transformations as they adapted and evolved into the rapid cloners of today. It was this evolution that allowed them to conquer their home galaxy, now millions of light years away.

But it was worth it, this battle to claim victory for their god. Finish the job, and they would inherit the ultimate prize from Kiirgatt, their own identity. He’d promised them a fresh matrix all their own, a form and identity they would use to rule the galaxies. All would bow before them, the mighty Leran, a true species at last. Beautiful, powerful, and imbued with the experience of a million generations. All would bow to them.

Their ability to manipulate DNA brought them nearly eternal life. Repair and replacement of damaged DNA was a simple feat while taking over the new form of their host. Their core being, the brainstem, was all that aged, and it aged slowly. Saterque was over two thousand years old and had been many hundred species over that timeframe. He understood languages now dead, had lived in cultures now extinct, and remembered a home galaxy where once they’d ruled.

But that home was gone as they marched in a new conquest, fighting the reptilian Issgire on their home turf. It would not be easy, and their ability to clone and mimic the peoples of this galaxy would turn the tides against the Issgire. The Leran armies were fearless, experienced, and took the form of thousands of species with abilities and skills that would vanquish all who stood in their path. But the Issgire were very clever, and brute force would not win this battle.

His body subsided in a rare moment of calm, and he laid back to enjoy the brief respite. The man he’d taken over was not a leader on this world, but soon would be. He was a politician, but lacked the character and experience to succeed in the larger arenas. His addiction to young dalliances was his downfall, and it was what gave Saterque the opportunity to take control. He and his romantic interest had come to this remote cabin for a weekend tryst, but now they lay eternally embraced while acid dissolved their bodies into basic components.

The man’s name was Yirou, and he was nothing more than a simple politician for a local region of farmers. A legislator who drank more than his share, bed more than his share, and plotted laws based on his limited knowledge of his constituent’s farming needs. Born into money, he had bought his position rather than earned it. But that was what made him valuable, his connections.

His father was a wealthy businessman, owning large tracts of land that produced the raw resources for his food products he packaged and sold around the world. His father’s contacts on other continents would prove useful as Saterque began a quest for the ultimate position, leader of the world. It would take time, but patience was a Leran virtue. He’d done it before, and he would do it again. By the time the Issgire came to recruit this planet in their own quest for victory, the seeds of unrest will have been sown and taken root.

A sharp pain ripped along Saterque’s spine and he convulsed as the new skeletal matrix formed. He reached for another vial as his vision swam darkly from the intensity. Any other species would die from the shock of such pain, but Saterque focused on the ultimate prize as the transformation continued. He would not fail, he would take over, and he would eventually own this planet and its people.

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