|"The Road Not Taken"|
|Affiliations:||Crew of the Indomitable|
When the Indomitable came out of hyperdrive, Captain Togram first saw to his soldiers and then went to see the steerers Ransisc and his apprentice Olgren. They were busy attempting to locate habitable planets in this new star system. While Togram was there, the steerers discovered first Jupiter, then Mars and finally Earth. Ransisc sent Olgren to report this to Warmaster Slevon and the fleet proceeded to Earth.
On arrival, the ships congregated above the pole of the hemisphere with the most land. This doctrine made visual rendezvous easy prior to invasion. The Roxolan tested the atmosphere by using a flyer to take a luof down in an airlock and see if it survived. In this case it did.
The fleet landed and Togram deployed his foot from airlock three in two lines, one crouching and the other standing and aiming over the first's heads. He saw alien warriors already present and a delegation of local nobles approaching. He ordered his troops to fire, and then reload for a second volley before charging with bayonets. This show of force and superior technology always demoralized the primitives.
But not in this case. The first volley, which had brought down the delegation of nobles, had less effect on the warriors. Their returned fire did not sound like any gunfire Togram had ever heard. And it made none of the thick, choking clouds of smoke that gunpowder did. It did scythe his company as though they were a field of grain. Only a squad's worth of soldiers remained to begin their bayonet charge and they only advanced a half-sixteen paces before falling.
Hope rose when Togram saw a flyer swoop down and musketeers began to fire from firing ports. Several pots of gunpowder were also dropped. But hope died when one of the local's aircraft destroyed the flyer. In addition, the local's cannons began firing making exploding sounds in the starship rather than the usual crashing sound solid shot made. One explosion flung debris towards Togram and the world went black.
When Togram regained consciousness, he first thought he had indulged in too much water-of-life the night before, especially given the way his head ached. But then he saw that the room he was in was as bright as day and yet the lamps in the ceiling did not flicker or smoke. His memory returned and he realized he was a prisoner of the aliens.
A few minutes later, two of the aliens entered the room. One was a warrior and was extremely alert. The other was a female in a white coat. To Togram's surprise, the female directed his education in the alien's tongue and in his interrogation. The female, whose name he had heard as Hildachesta (actually Hilda Chester), also learned his language.
When the two had learned enough to communicate, Hildachesta probed to learn why the Roxolani attacked. To Togram it was obvious, to take what the aliens grew and make use of it for themselves, and said so. She also probed into the Roxolan hyperdrive but Togram was a soldier and could not provide much information. However, to his surprise, he was not mistreated for his failure to answer as he would have been if he were a Roxolani prisoner.
A few moons after his capture, Ransisc limped into Togram's room. Aside from the limp and a few new scars, his air of amused detachment remained. He indicated that Olgren had been killed in the attack but that he had meet several others before he came there.
They discussed the possibility of rescue but agreed that there were too many things that could go wrong in space for their superiors to be suspicious of their failure to return. Also, even if the High Warmaster did send a second fleet, it would be no more successful than the first. The humans had too many war machines.
Togram said rhetorically that they must be wizards who sold their souls to the demons to gain this knowledge. But Ransisc disagreed. He had raised this with a human savant who replied with a poem by a human named Hail or Snow or something of the sort. The poem described someone at a fork in the road who took the less used track. Likewise, the humans had failed to discover the secret of the hyperdrive and so developed other technologies.
During the discussion, Ransisc reminded Togram that the humans now did have the hyperdrive, thanks to the failed Roxolan invasion. They then looked at each other, appalled and said "What have we done?"