First Contact
Chapter 1

Caution: This Science Fiction Sex Story contains strong sexual content, including Science Fiction,

Desc: Science Fiction Sex Story: Chapter 1 - For the last 5,000 years the Raznits considered themselves the Lords of All Creation. Now they are about to add Milltog 3 to the Raznits Empire. The Raznits intended to make slaves out of the inhabitants of Milltog 3, just like they did to every other race they encountered. The question the Raznits did not ask was did the inhabitants of Milltog 3 want to be slaves. More importantly, could a non-spacefaring race prevent a spacefaring race from doing exactly what it wanted to do?

Captain Morig Garatta sat at his conference table, contemplating the hologram of Milltog Three. The hologram slowly rotated as it floated above the conference table. The strange bluish planet was the reason for this meeting. The Captain's ship, the IRSN Tavnit Oma, currently orbited Milltog Three as he contemplated its unusual appearance. Seated around the table was his senior staff.

To the Captain's right was his Executive Officer Lieutenant Commander Dingnit Soblat. Lieutenant Commander Soblat was a twenty-two year veteran of the Imperial Raznits Space Navy. On Soblat's right was the Commander of the ship's Tuvet Marat detachment, Lieutenant Major Tilig Misling. He had served in the Tuvet Marat for the last fifteen years. On the Lieutenant Major's right was the Science Officer, Lieutenant Senior Grade Lonco Tillwin. Lieutenant Tillwin's naval rank was equivalent to the Tuvet Marat rank of Lieutenant Major. Lieutenant Tillwin had sixteen year of service in the IRSN. The last staff member at the table was the ship's Slave Master, Junior Lieutenant Raznan Torvat. With only three years of service in the Tuvet Marat, Lieutenant Torvat would not normally be at a staff conference. Because of the subject of the conference, it was necessary for the Slave Master to be present.

All of them were slender, mottled gray, bipedal, creatures with two arms. At five feet nine inches tall 175cm) and one hundred seventy pounds (77 kg) Lieutenant Tillwin was the smallest of the five. The largest of them was Lieutenant Major Misling at six feet one inch tall (185cm) and two hundred six pounds (93 kg).

As Milltog Three's image slowly rotated, Lieutenant Tillwin pointed out various features on its surface. "Note the large amount of blue; the planet's surface is seventy one percent water. As you know this is way outside the norm of forty percent water and sixty percent dry land. The large white areas on the northern and southern ends of the planet are frozen water. The atmosphere is seventy-seven percent nitrogen, twenty-one percent oxygen, and two percent other gases including carbon dioxide. This places the planet's atmosphere within two percent of Raznits standard.

"The other peculiar item about this planet is, it has three distinct land masses. Notice this one here which consists of two major landmasses connected by a thin peninsula. The inhabitants of the northern half of this land mass appear to be the most technologically advanced on Milltog Three. This long peninsula on the northwestern edge of the largest land mass also seems to have a higher technology base than the rest of the land mass."

Captain Garatta asked. "What kind of slaves will the Milltogs make? I don't want to report discovering this planet, and then have the Imperial Council cut my planet fall bonus because they're barely able to learn Raznits. Also, I hope they're smarter that the Tolni.

"I specifically prevented anyone who owns a Tolni from being in the crew. It usually takes two people to direct one Tolni. In my opinion the Emperor should order the execution of all the Tolni, and resettle the planet with slaves from Darius two. The Darii are docile, and intelligent enough you only need one man to supervise ten of them."

"Captain, I don't think you will need to worry about their intelligence. The two areas I described have industrial level societies. Once the Tuvet Marat finishes with them, the Milltogs should be more than willing to wear the Emperor's yoke."

For the last five thousand Raznitsian years (4,500 Milltog years) the entire Raznits society functioned as a slave owning society. During that time, the Raznits subdued three planets inhabited with intelligent life, and one planet without intelligent life.

The Captain and crew of a scout ship such as the Tavnit Oma would receive a bonus for discovering a new slave planet. The last time a Captain discovered a new planet was over two hundred Raznitsian years ago. That planet had no intelligent life forms, so the last time the Tuvet Marat had to subdue a planet with intelligent life forms that did not want to be slaves was six hundred Raznitsian years ago. That planet was the home of the Tolni.

The stories of how the Darii almost fought the Tuvet Marat to a standstill over one thousand years ago were considered stories to frighten little children with, not actual accounts of real battles. The Darii resisted the energy rifle wielding Tuvet Marat with muzzle loading single shot smooth bore muskets and almost beat them. Like most military organizations, the Tuvet Marat trained for the last war, not the next one, and the last war was the walk over of the Tolni, not the stand up fight of the Darii.

The first species the Raznits subdued was the Bentali, from Bental four. They were a reasonably peaceful species that had advanced to a steam based economy equivalent to Earth during the early Nineteenth Century. The most advanced weapons the Bentali possessed were longbows, which they used for games of skill. The planet had a single continent, which had been under a unified government for the previous hundred years. The only good thing that came out of the invasion was an Imperial edict making it illegal to hold Raznits as slaves. This emancipated three hundred million Raznits who promptly ended up working for their former owners for subsistence wages. Within two generations, even these Raznits owned at least one Bentali as a household slave.

Turning to Lieutenant Major Misling, the science officer added. "There is one other thing your detachment of Tuvet Marat needs to know. The gravity on Milltog is one hundred and twenty-five percent of Raznits normal. You might want to consider having them practice using their body armor in a higher gravity environment before sending them out to collect sample slaves."

Dismissively, Lieutenant Major Misling waved the suggestion away. "You're talking about Tuvet Marat, not a group of cadets straight out of the space academy. Besides, did you discover any indication the wild slaves have any energy weapons?'

Lieutenant Tillwin and Lieutenant Major Misling had become friends over the last year. This, combined with the fact they were of equal rank, allowed them to be slightly less formal when dealing with each other, even in official settings. Tillwin recognized Misling's jab as a jest, although with a serious message attached. Tillwin felt the need to caution his friend based on some of the early reports he was receiving about the planet.

"No, they have projectile weapons, not energy weapons. The problem is they seem to spend a lot of time using them on each other. I'm no tactician, but I recommend you don't let them outnumber you by more than two to one."

The Captain took over the meeting at this point. "Thank you, for the report Lieutenant Tillwin. Now, the question we need to answer is, where do we collect our sample groups of slaves?" The staff then started discussing the potential landing sites, and what kinds of individuals to abduct. After much discussion, the Captain designated five areas for collection of local residents. They agreed to capture residents of areas with the lowest technology base, and try to find areas where no one would miss the slaves.

Over the objection of the Science Officer, the Lieutenant Major decided to staff each shuttle with four Tuvet Marat guards, a pilot and a Tuvet Marat Junior Slave Master. Each shuttle was to gather twenty locals then return to the ship, so the Science Officer and the Slave Master could evaluate them. The Captain then dismissed them. The staff returned to their normal duties and prepared to capture residents of the planet below.

The Captain assigned Lieutenant Tillwin the task of translating enough of the language so the Tuvet Marat could order the slaves about until they learned Raznits. The mission to capture the wild slaves could not start until he transferred this information to the computers on the shuttles. The only problem was the residents of Milltog Three were producing electronic transmissions in over one hundred different languages.

Tillwin discovered that just the desert region selected, used at least three distinct languages. Study of the transmissions showed that the people speaking the languages used more than one name to refer to themselves. One group called itself Iraqis or Arabs, another group called itself Iraqis or Kurds, and the third group called itself Americans, English, or British. If this was not enough to give the Lieutenant a headache, there was the problem that both the Americans and the British claimed to speak English, but the words they used did not seem to always have the same meanings. Imposing Raznits on the Milltogs would definitely be an additional blessing, along with the bliss of never needing to make a decision again, once the Tuvet Marat completed their subjugation.

Viewed from the outside, the IRSN Tavnit Oma was a tube approximately one hundred twenty nine yards long (118 meters), and sixteen and a half yards (15 meters) in diameter. The ship's stern ended in a rounded point. The bow ended in a T-Head approximately seventeen yards long (15.5 meters) by ten yards wide (9 meters). Around the bow and stern were the gravitronic nodes that powered the ship. Under way in normal space, the gravitronic waves generated by the nodes produced speeds that could reach 1/2 C (one-half the speed of light). When the ship moved into hyperspace, the gravitronic nodes produced a maximum apparent speed of 100 C, relative to normal space. Thus it could cover the four light years between Earth and Alpha Centauri in 14.6 days. The IRSN Tavnit Oma had been outbound at three quarters speed for 400 days since leaving Raznits space. No other scout ship had ventured more than 40 light years from Raznits space.

The crew of the Tavnit Oma consisted of three groups; twenty-five naval officers and ratings, a company of seventy-five Tuvet Marat, and twenty slaves. The naval officers and ratings ran the bridge, engineering, and main supply. The Tuvet Marat provided internal security, slave masters, manned the three energy cannons, operated the armory, and provided landing forces as required. Five of the slaves were body servants of the officers. The Imperial Raznits Space Navy owned the remaining fifteen slaves, and used them in the galley and as cleaning crews.

In many ways, the Tavnit Oma's crew was typical of Raznits naval vessels. On a ship of the line such as a destroyer or cruiser, the officers would have more personal slaves. This was because the Imperial Raznits Space Navy assigned officers to ships based on the prominence of their family, and the officer's ability to purchase a billet. The concept of assignment and promotion of officers based on merit was foreign to the IRSN, and had been for more than two thousand years.

The result of these policies was the same as in any other military organization that gave up merit promotion. The people who rose to the rank of Admiral were the wealthy, but not necessarily competent. One of the things the Captain planned to do with part of his bonus was purchase an Admiral position in a nice quiet sector. Lieutenant Tillwin was already envisioning being the Captain of a destroyer. The naval ratings and Tuvet Marat enlisted men envisioned early retirement to small farms with several slaves to run the farm. The slaves would not share in any bonus, so they did not care what happened on the planet.

It took Lieutenant Tillwin twenty-one rotations of the planet to finally translate most of the languages involved. During that time, Captain Garatta had to move the ship out of orbit and place it behind the planet's unusually large moon. The electronic probes from the planet were becoming more persistent, and it actually appeared that their detection devices were penetrating the Tavnit Oma's anti-detection shields. This unsettled the Science Officer, as no Raznits electronic detection equipment could penetrate the shields and detect the ship. How could the Milltog, a primitive race without energy weapons or interstellar travel, have such good detection equipment?

What Lieutenant Tillwin did not know was that the sensors on the Tavnit Oma were unable to detect half the Milltog military aircraft. If the Lieutenant knew this, it would make him really worry. As they say, ignorance is bliss.

The general attitude among the offices and men of the Tuvet Marat detachment was that training in the incredibly heavy gravity was a waste of valuable recreation time. Why not just train in normal gravity? After all how could any intelligent beings survive in that kind of gravity field? The general opinion among the enlisted men was that the Lieutenant Major was mad at them. Therefore, as soon as the officers left, the Sergeant First Class in charge of training the landing crews dialed the gravity back to the standard Raznits 1G field.

This reduced the time spent in the high gravity environment to the first five minutes of each session. When the Lieutenant Major watched the recordings of the practice, he noticed that after a few minutes his men were functioning as if they were in a Raznits normal gravity field. Because of this, he ordered the heavy gravity training stopped after four days. What he did not know was his troops actually were practicing in a Raznits normal gravity field.

Finally, the day arrived to capture the wild slaves, as the Tuvet Marat referred to them. The Science Officer and his assistant Petty Officer Second Class Tolnar installed the language translation programs in the shuttles. The shuttle bay mechanics signed off on each shuttle and its single energy cannon. The twenty Tuvet Marat troops turned in their MP-211 stun pistols, which all Tuvet Marat carried while on the ship. In exchange, the armory issued them P-479 pulse rifles. The armorer issued the Tuvet Marat Sergeants, who were functioning as Junior Slave Masters, MP-212 energy pistols. Unlike the MP-211, the MP-212 had a kill setting along with its stun setting.

Standing in front of their shuttles, the twenty-five Tuvet Marat and the five shuttle pilots tried not to fidget. Captain Garatta reminded them once again the size of the potential bonus they would receive for discovery of the planet. Lieutenant Major Misling then addressed the Tuvet Marat troops reminding them to not injure the new slaves. Lieutenant Senior Grade Tillwin requested the opportunity to address the landing parties, but Captain Garatta turned him down. Garatta was becoming tired of all Tillwin's warnings about the wild slaves on this planet. Yes, the gravity was stronger, and yes, they did seem to have a high industrial base, but that was no reason to believe they could cause problems for a veteran Tuvet Marat trooper.

When Misling finished his speech, each of the shuttle pilots led their team to the assigned shuttle. Lieutenant Junior Grade Trinig Collut saluted the Ensign in charge of the shuttle bay's maintenance crew, then took command of the shuttle. The Ensign turned and quickly approached the next shuttle in line, and repeated the ceremony, so the next shuttle pilot could take possession of his shuttle.

Meanwhile, Lieutenant Collut entered the shuttle and checked the passenger compartment before walking forward to the pilot's compartment. Lieutenant Collut was the junior engineering officer. The shuttle pilot job was an additional assignment that he performed when the ship was in orbit around a planet without a proper space dock.

Entering the pilot's compartment he took the right hand command seat and the Staff Sergeant Rignag Tolbar, the Junior Slave Master for this shuttle, took the left hand seat. As Collut performed the final flight checks and closed the loading ramp, the four Tuvet Marat troopers found seats on one of the two benches that lined the passenger compartment walls. Only the Captain's Gig had regular seats in the passenger compartment. Troop shuttles used benches down each wall with an open space in the middle for cargo. Finishing the preflight checks, Lieutenant Collut requested and received permission to depart for his destination.

On each shuttle, the first thing the troopers did when the ramp closed was remove their helmets. The helmets had a transparent full-face shield hanging down in front. The shield attached to the top rim of the helmet with five snaps. The person who designed the helmets had not worried about the comfort of the wearer, only producing the helmet at minimum cost with maximum profit. The helmet covered the trooper's head down to the base of his skull, and halfway down the ears. Because of its design, the helmet tended to slide forward over the eyes of the trooper, and reduced his ability to hear. A simple chinstrap could have corrected the problem.

The designer convinced the Tuvet Marat purchasing officer that a chinstrap was unnecessary. The manufacturer paid him five hundred thousand Imperials for that decision. So far, the result of that design change was an additional profit of forty five million Imperials.

Each trooper wore body armor, front and back, under his shirt. The body armor's main purpose was to absorb energy beams and deflect a knife. The body armor was designed to stop a projectile with an impact force of 300 kg/cm2. This was one and a half times the impact force of a Darii musket ball. For comparison at two hundred meters the 5.56 mm round from an M-4/M16 has an impact force of 433 kg/cm2.

Forward Operations Base Herbert H. Burr, Iraq

Wednesday, September 12, 2007, 0525

Sergeant Robert Michaels stood in the line at the Dfac (Dining Facility), wondering if he should have gone to Whopper World instead. Granted, Burger King would charge him for breakfast and the Dfac was free, but the line was always shorter at Whopper World in the morning. The LT had been quite specific; she wanted all her Sergeants for this morning's convoy in the briefing room at 0600. Having just made Sergeant after two years as a Specialist, the last thing Michaels wanted was to draw attention to himself by being late. The three chevrons velcroed to the front of his ACUs (Army Combat Uniform) were barely two days old. Because of circumstances beyond his control, he would never add the rocker of a Staff Sergeant. In spite of that, he intended to keep his shit together as if he could become a Staff Sergeant.

Sergeant Michaels was a 63 Bravo (Light Wheel Mechanic) with the 311th FSB (Forward Support Battalion), 3rd BCT (Brigade Combat Team), 11th Armored Division. The 11th Armored Division is the Thunderbolt Division, which is not the same as the 11th Armored Calvary Regiment known as the Black Horse. The Pentagon revived the 11th Armored late the previous year as part of adding more divisions to the active duty Army, because of the need for more troops in Iraq. Michaels was on his second tour in country. His first was with the 4th ID (Fourth Infantry Division).

The 3rd BCT was based primarily in three FOBs (Forward Operation Bases) between Al Khalis and Tuz. These included FOB Burr, FOB Turner the destination of this morning's convoy, and FOB Hendrix. The 1st BCT of the 11th Armored constructed the three main FOBs during their tour in Iraq. The 1st BCT turned the FOBs over to the 3rd BCT when they rotated out. Colonel Gordon, Commander of the 1st BCT named all of the FOBs after people who earned the Medal of Honor and lived. For some reason the Colonel considered this good luck. Considering the number of Medals of Honor awarded posthumously, the Colonel might have a point.

It seemed like an eternity before Michaels reached the head of the line. In fact only five minutes passed between the time he entered the line, and the time he finished selecting his breakfast. Sitting down at an empty seat, he looked at his watch and noted he had thirty minutes before the meeting. Almost without thinking about it, he shoveled his bacon, scrambled eggs, and toast into his mouth. He washed it down with some of the Dfac coffee and decided that when he reached FOB Turner he would spend a few dollars at Green Bean Coffee to purchase some half decent coffee. Although you could not strip paint with it, the Dfac coffee definitely was not even as good as the coffee at the Green Bean. Staff Sergeant Reed in the motor pool was always receiving good coffee from home. Maybe Robert could convince Reed to sell him some.

Looking at his watch again, he noticed he had twelve minutes to reach the briefing at the CDC Yard. Once again, he thought he did not want to be late for the meeting. Rising from the table, he crossed the Dfac and dropped off his tray for the dishwashers, and quickly exited the Dfac. He headed for the CDC Yard at a brisk trot.

Approaching the CDC Yard, he spotted Sergeant First Class Carol Thomas and another soldier entering the tent where the briefing would be held. Entering the tent right behind them, he noticed that there were two empty seats. Placing his M-4 next to one of the empty seats, he sat down. First Lieutenant Sandra Johnson was standing at the head of the table reviewing a stack of papers. Her M-4 leaned against the chair at the head of the table, where she could pick it up with a movement that was so practiced she no longer even noticed doing it. As Michaels sat down, the LT glanced at her watch, lifted her head, and scanned the faces of the people at the table.

Lieutenant Johnson was commander of the MP platoon assigned to FOB Burr. They coordinated internal security, logistic support for the Mayor Cell provided by the Texas National Guard, and controlled the convoys originating at FOB Burr. This was her fifteenth convoy command this month, and the month was still young. In August, she commanded forty-five convoys, and Hajji only attacked six of them.

In the five months she had been in country, her convoys had lost two KIA and fifteen injured seriously enough for evac. Six of them ended up at Landstuhl Regional Medical Center (LRMC), and the rest returned to service after short stays in Baghdad. If you asked her, she would tell you it was all luck. If you asked the people who rode her convoys they would say it was because she planned the shit out of her convoys before they rolled. Actually, she and her troops were both right. In combat it is good to be smart, but better to be lucky.

The U.S. Army uses four types of trucks. These are the self loading Palletized Load System Truck (PLS), Light Medium Tactical Vehicle (LMTV), Medium Tactical Vehicle (MTV), and the Heavy Expanded Mobility Tactical Truck (HEMTT). PLS's haul 16.5 tons of cargo in a preloaded container. The LMTV hauls 2.5 tons of cargo usual in a box van configuration and is the base for most shop vans. MTV's can haul up to 5 tons of cargo in either a box configuration or the more common Stake and Picket (S&P) configuration. The largest is the HEMTT at 3 meters tall and 10 meters long. The HEMTT can haul an 11 ton payload up a 60 percent grade without a road at 35 miles per hour (56 KPH).

Looking up from the papers, Lieutenant Johnson said. "People, its 0600 so let's get started. This morning we are taking a convoy to FOB Turner, then returning here by 1330. Reviewing the list, it looks like we have two S&Ps and four PLS's from the 923rd Trans. Sergeant Michaels and Specialist Flynn are driving their LMTV shop vans, and the 311th is providing three S & Ps, two PLS's, and a gas tanker. We don't have anyone from KBR today so we don't need to play nursemaid to any civilian contractors. 11th Armored is providing us with three Humvees as gun trucks. They're loaded out with Two-Forty Bravos in the turrets."

For the next fifteen minutes, Lieutenant Johnson outlined the convoys march order, and reviewed rules of engagement for firefights and IED attacks. The LT positioned one gun truck in the front, one in the back and one near the center of the seventeen-vehicle convoy. The gas tanker would be third from last vehicle in the convoy. That way if an IED took it out there would only be one PLS and a gun truck behind it. At the same time, this prevented Hajji from cutting the gas truck out of the convoy without support. As the senior enlistedman, SFC Thomas would be in the third truck from the end. Lieutenant Johnson would be in the second truck from the front. This way, if the convoy had to split up, there was a commander on the spot in each half of the convoy.

The drivers were a combination of 88 Mikes (Truck Drivers), 92 Alphas (Warehouse Supply), and a 92 Fox (Petroleum Specialist) driving the gas truck. Specialist Tom Flynn was a 45 Kilo (Armament Repair), which meant he worked on anything inside the turret of an Abrams or a Bradley. Both Michaels and Flynn would be staying at Turner until they repaired a pair of balky Bradleys that the DATs (Dumb Ass Tankers) broke. After that, they would hook up with a convoy back to Burr.

There were five door kickers and a 68 Whisky (combat medic) returning to Turner from R & R so they would fill extra slots in the gun trucks. The LT was placing the medic in the middle gun truck so he was available to either end of the column. The regular crew in each gun truck consisted of a driver, a 240 Bravo operator in the turret, and the truck commander. The truck commander handled the radio and directed the driver where to go when repelling an attack.

The main weapons of the convoy would be the M-4s that each soldier carried as a personal weapon, and the turret mounted 240Bs. The M-4 is an improved version of the M-16A2. It fires a 5.56mm round with a thirty round magazine, usually in three round bursts. The average soldier can accurately hit a target with it up to 300 meters. The stock of the M-4 can be fully retracted or adjusted to fit the reach of its user.

A 240 Bravo fires a standard 7.62 NATO round and can sustain a 200 to 600 round per minute rate of fire for extended periods. It has a maximum effective range of 1,800 meters, and the average soldier can fire it accurately at targets up to 800 meters away. It is a man portable, belt fed, fully automatic rifle which the user can mount on the pinion of a firing turret of most U.S. Army vehicles, or it can be supported by its built in bipod. As a belt fed weapon, it works best as a crew served weapon, but in a pinch one person can operate it until the hundred round belt runs out. As a side note the 240B was the weapon used by the first American woman to win a silver star. She is an MP who killed over thirty Iraqis that ambushed her three Humvee patrol in Baghdad. When asked later what happened she said, "They just kept coming, so I just kept killing them."

All of the troops in the 11th Armored received ACHs (Advanced Combat Helmets) to replace their Kevlars just prior to deployment. The Brigade Commander somehow managed to acquire ACHs with the MICH package, so every soldier in 3rd Brigade had personal communication capacity. The MICH package designed for Special Forces incorporates earphones, a microphone, and transmitter into the helmet.

After six months of continuous use, the soldiers of the eleventh had become very sophisticated users. Most of them kept their earphones on and their mike off. This way if someone needed you, they could call you anywhere within 300 meters outside, or 200 meters if you were inside a truck or building. With six channels to choose from, various sections and the soldiers on guard duty could work together without interfering with each other.

The Brigade used channel one as the main channel and channel two as the command channel. Everyone knew that if you needed the guards or the MPs, you switched to channel three. Normally, convoys used channel four and set the radios in the various trucks to the same frequency. Not all trucks had radios, but the number was increasing as the Army replaced its older trucks.

Before, forming up, the LT made everyone notify the Mayor Cell they were clearing the base. At precisely 0715, the lead gun truck pulled out of the main gate of FOB Burr, and turned north on the road to Tuz. Entering the streets of Al Khalis, the convoy moved to the middle of the street.

It looked like it was going to be a good day, on every street the children were out playing. That was a sure sign the insurgents were not planning an ambush. Hopefully, no one planned to blow up the market just for the hell of it. When the last gun truck cleared the outskirts of Al Khalis, everyone breathed a silent sigh of relief. Within ten kilometers, the convoy was far enough from the river that the fields of wheat disappeared. A desert scrub quickly replaced it.

Looking at the scrub, Sergeant Michaels was reminded of a one-week leave he took while stationed at Fort Hood with the 4th ID. He drove to San Antonio, then turned west on I-10 towards El Paso. Turning north at Fort Stockton, he visited the famous caverns near Carlsbad, New Mexico. The change in the landscape between San Antonio and Fort Stockton was much like the changes in the landscape between Al Khalis and Tuz. The big difference was on that trip he did not need to worry about someone trying to kill him.

That in turn reminded him of Specialist Miguel Gutierrez who had shared that week with him. Miguel was a 45 Kilo (Armament Repair) or at least he was until an IED went off under his truck, three weeks ago on a run like this. Now Miguel was someone Robert remembered when toasting absent companions. The worst of it was that under 'don't ask don't tell', Robert could not even show his real grief when Miguel died.

Robert had nine months left on his enlistment. Miguel had seven months left on his enlistment, or he would have, instead Robert attended a memorial service and the Army shipped Miguel home to his parents in Fort Worth, Texas. Their plan had been to leave the Army and meet up again in Dallas. Some of the people in the unit suspected his and Miguel's relationship. Those people gathered around Robert to make sure he received support when he needed it.

One of those people was Specialist Linda Barlow. Barlow's husband George was a 19 Delta (Cavalry Scout) at FOB Hendrix. Three days after Miguel died, George kicked open the wrong door and took three rounds to the head. The Hajji that did it took nine rounds to the chest from George's squad mates, but it did not help George. When they notified Linda that George was killed, Robert was one of the ones who gathered to comfort her.

Somehow that got totally out of hand, and the two of them ended up on a cot in the warehouse. As soon as they realized what they were doing, the two of them stammered an apology and practically fled the warehouse. For the next two weeks, they avoided each other as much as two soldiers on the same FOB can. Now Linda was driving the PLS in front of Robert. The worst part was, Robert felt a connection with her, and wanted to find out if it was mutual.

He did not want to come across as a ghoul preying on a poor widow. Worse, it appeared that Linda thought she was taking advantage of Robert because he lost Miguel. She definitely did not know that Robert was bisexual and attracted to both men and women. That was the thing about bisexuality; you craved one partner of each sex. When Robert thought about Miguel, it felt like someone put a metal band around his heart. Dwelling on the loss could get him killed, so he tried to think of Miguel as if he were assigned to another FOB, not dead.

By this time, the terrain was low rolling hills with mixed scrub reaching almost to the road. This was the perfect terrain for an ambush, or an IED concealed under some piece of trash. In his ears, Michaels heard the LT say: "Stay alert people it was about half a click from here Hajji hit us three weeks ago." Robert had almost forgotten; Miguel was one of the two the LT lost. Robert was sure the LT was not likely to forget. For her it was a point of pride that she always brought her people home, even if some of them continued to ride in the cab with her as ghostly passengers.

Just then the lead gun truck exploded followed almost immediately by the trailing gun truck exploding. Then the damnedest thing happened. An object the size of a HEMTT swooped down and hovered in front of the lead S&P. Standard procedure said in an ambush, you sped up and moved out of the area as quickly as possible. The lead S&P swerved right, to avoid the thing what ever it was, and promptly flipped over. The PLS following it tried to break to the left around the thing. Suddenly, the entire front end of the PLS exploded. It looked like the LT would be drinking her next round with absent companions.

The entire column skidded to a halt, with vehicles twisting left and right in a fish bone pattern. The middle gun truck zipped off to the right and the 240 gunner opened up on the thing. Three seconds later, the gun truck exploded and the thing swooped to the rear of the column where the S&P that was the Tail End Charley tried to turn. The back half of the truck exploded, not only disabling it, but also effectively blocking the exit back toward FOB Burr.

During all the confusion, both Lieutenant Johnson and SFC Thomas called in the attack. Lieutenant Johnson's last act was to try to save her convoy. Even as her S&P exploded, a three-squad rapid reaction force was mounting up and heading for the convoy. The Sergeant in charge of the rapid reaction force figured an ETA at the ambush site of fifteen minutes.

That would be much too long to do the convoy any good. As the end S&P exploded, the convoy heard an amplified voice. First it spoke in Arabic, and then Kurdish. Then it said. "Put down your weapons and exit the lorries." Just after that the voice said. "Drop you weapons and get out of the trucks."

In his earphones, Robert heard SFC Thomas say. "You heard the man. Everybody dismount and leave your weapons in the vehicles. There is no way we can out run this thing. Keep alert, if you can find a way to take them down, do it." Although it felt like ten or fifteen minutes, less than five minutes passed from the time the first gun truck exploded until the remains of the convoy surrendered.

Sitting in the pilot compartment of the shuttle, Staff Sergeant Tolbar, the Junior Slave Master, chuckled. "Look at that. We smashed them like trillnig bugs. I don't know what is wrong with Lieutenant Tillwin. They aren't even dangerous; their puny little projectile weapons didn't even penetrate the shield."

Without turning, Lieutenant Junior Grade Collut, the shuttle pilot, said. "That last burst made the shield flare. I'm not sure that it would have held against a longer burst.

"Take a close look Sergeant. They're all dressed alike; I think they might be soldiers. If they are, your people might want to be extra careful."

"Don't worry about it, none of them is armed and my Tuvet Marat all have P-479s. Now let's get on with the business of finding out which language they understand. Computer, start the sequence to determine their language."

Outside, the sixteen survivors of the ambush heard a voice speaking in Kurdish, then they heard a voice in Arabic. Finally, they heard, "If you understand this hold up your hand." All the survivors held up their hands. Then the voice said if you understood this as British, hold up your hand." Everyone dropped their hands. The voice said, "If you understood this as American, hold up your hand." The soldiers all held up one hand.

The front wall of the object dropped down like a Bradley loading ramp, and the voice told them to enter the shuttle. The 11th Armored troopers heard SFC Thomas' voice in their ears. "I can see four of the bastards in there. They look like their holding some kind of rifle. I need six of you who have been practicing the Gracie maneuvers to move to the front of the line. Spread out, and cover the entire entrance. I will be in the second wave, and I need five of you with the MICH package to play Tail End Charley. If we get the chance, I want to take these fuckers out and present this thing to the Colonel on a silver platter."

The members of 11th Armored quickly sorted out what order they would enter the shuttle. All the members of 11th Armored were trained in the GRAPLE method. Instructors certified by the Gracie Brothers teach the GRAPLE method to most of the troops deploying to Iraq. To keep their minds off their loss, both Robert and Linda had been practicing the GRAPLE exercises for hours over the last two weeks.

As they approached the entrance ramp Robert noticed the others in the front line. They were Specialist Flynn, PFC Sara Nichols, PFC Maria Chavez, and Corporal Jorge Rivera. Both Nichols and Chavez were truck drivers, but Rivera was a cav scout. Robert was glad to see Rivera just to his right, then he had an idea. "This is Sergeant Michaels. Chavez, move to the far right. Rivera, slot in next to her. Nichols, slot in on his left, my right. Barlow, slot in on my left and Flynn, move to the far left. If they're stupid enough to let us close on them, break anything you can."

The others did not respond they just moved to the assigned positions as they reached the foot of the ramp. Walking up the ramp they noticed the enemy for the first time. There were four of them. They had gray skin, carried rifles, and wore what appeared to be a uniform. The uniform consisted of shiny black calf length boots, royal blue trousers, and a bright yellow shirt. All four of them were bare headed. Roberts first thought was, Damn, look at the fucking peacocks. They look like toy soldiers with gray skin. Out loud he said. "Who the fuck invited aliens to the war? Sergeant Thomas, you have to see these guys. They have gray skin and their uniforms make them look like peacocks. If these aren't parade ground soldiers I'll buy you a new set of ACUs."

SFC Thomas said. "OK people close on them but try not to scare them. How many door kickers do I have in the front rank?"

Corporal Rivera replied, "This is Corporal Rivera. I'm the only door kicker you have Sarg. I think I'm the only one who wasn't in a gun truck."

"OK, Michaels you have the rank. Think you can do it, or do you want to let Rivera take it."

"This is Michaels. I'll take the responsibility."

Rivera chimed in. "Michaels, I've got your back. Just don't get my ass shot off."

The four Tuvet Marat lined up in the classic Tuvet Marat formation. As commander, Private First Class Ringno was on the far left of the line directly opposite Corporal Rivera, Privates Benvo, Telnic, and Dravnos were in a line to Ringno's right. Private Dravnos was directly opposite Specialist Barlow, Private Telnic was opposite Sergeant Michaels, and Private Benvo was opposite Specialist Nichols.

Private First Class Ringno watched the future slaves come up the ramp. That's strange, two of the first six have black skin, three have pink skin, and one has brown skin. What kind of crazy planet is this? Sergeant Tolbar said these might be soldiers, but they're too sloppy to be soldiers. Their uniforms are covered in spots. Also, their uniforms don't fit nice and tight, like a good uniform. Not only that, they are walking in a slight crouch, not upright and proud like soldiers should.

Private First Class Ringno had never seen combat troops before, and he definitely did not realize that the slight crouch was the opening stance for hand-to-hand combat. For the Tuvet Marat, hand-to-hand combat consisted of backhanding a slave, then kicking him in the abdomen. Ringno did not know that between the six men and women in front of him, they had killed twenty Iraqi insurgents and Al-Qaeda terrorists. Corporal Rivera personally accounted for fourteen of them. Each of the others had killed at least one person in self-defense, during their Iraq tour. Like most soldiers, they did not kill without thinking about it. However, they did not lie awake nights worrying about it either.

Private First Class Ringno addressed the other three Tuvet Marat soldiers. "Look sharp, let's show these slobs what real soldiers look like. Computer, translate everything I say for these slaves, and translate everything they say into Raznits.

"Slaves move forward, then sit down on the floor. You are now slaves of the Raznits Empire. We are Tuvet Marat, your new masters."

Michaels and the rest of the first row stepped onto the shuttle, and felt like they were falling. Immediately, Michaels realized what the problem was. "Watch your step people. The gravity in here isn't as heavy as it is outside."

After two steps, all of the first rank recovered their balance and continued to close on the four Tuvet Marat. When they were halfway to the front of the shuttle, Private First Class Ringno decided the new slaves should sit down. "Halt and sit down." The front rank did not even slow down, they just continued to advance at a steady walk.

Ringno said, "Men, force them to sit down." With that, he and the three Privates took one step forward and placed their rifles against the chests of the soldier opposite them. This was the last mistake the four of them would ever make. Almost as if choreographed, the four soldiers moved as one through moves their muscles had learned over and over in training. Each one of them turned sideways, grabbed their opponents left wrist, and pulled them forward. This pulled their opponent off balance. Then they hit their opponent on the left shoulder with their right forearm, followed by slamming their foot into the location of a human's Achilles tendon. As their opponent hit the ground they slammed their heel into his head and returned to a fighting crouch. The entire maneuver took three and a half seconds from start to finish.

The four soldiers in the second rank dropped to check the Tuvet Marat and grab their pulse rifles. The bones in a Raznits' skull are thinner bones than the bones in the human skull. The force exerted by each of the human soldiers was enough to smash their opponent's skull. The soldiers in the second rank moved forward with their newly acquired rifles leveled at the door of the shuttle's pilot compartment.

At this moment Staff Sergeant Tolbar keyed his microphone. "How is everything going back there?" No one had countermanded the order that the computer translate everything from Raznits to English, so the computer promptly translated Staff Sergeant Tolbar's question.

Sergeant Michaels motioned two of the soldiers holding rifles to the left of the door and two to the right of the door. As his people took their positions he said: "You need to come out here. We have a problem."

Staff Sergeant Tolbar thought. I'm going to bust Ringno back to Private. He can't even follow simple orders. How much trouble can sixteen unarmed slaves be anyway? With that Tolbar hit the release and stepped through the door. After walking two steps into the passenger compartment, he saw all four of his men lying on the deck. They were lying very still, and there were several of the slaves between him and his men.

Tolbar reached into his holster and started to pull his MP-212 energy pistol. Behind him he heard. "Pull that pistol, and you are a dead man." First he heard it in the language of the slaves, then he heard it in Raznits. His hand froze with the pistol half in and half out of the holster. A hand that felt like a vice grip grabbed his hand, wrenching away the pistol. Then he heard. "Turn around very slowly."

Turning around, he saw the muzzles of two P-479's pointed directly at his head. The two people holding them had a look in their eyes that made Tolbar's blood run cold. For the first time in his life Tolbar saw what death looked like, and it scared him. These were not half crazed slaves trying to make a break; these were a pair of rognars looking at a chilwa they were about to have for dinner. For the first time Tolbar thought of these people not as slaves, but as vicious predators, and realized that he was their prey.

Looking beyond the two people holding the rifles, he saw two more pointing their rifles at Lieutenant Collut. It finally dawned on Tolbar that the rifles these people were holding were Raznits pulse rifles and they belonged to his men until a few minutes earlier. With a queasy feeling in his stomach he realized that the Tuvet Marat lying on the deck behind him died while pointing their rifles at these people. Tolbar remembered the rumors about Lieutenant Tillwin telling the Lieutenant Major not to allow the Tuvet Marat to be outnumbered by more than two to one by these people. It appeared that Lieutenant Tillwin might have a point. These appeared to be very dangerous people. Tolbar definitely did not want to try and break one to be his personal slave.

While all this passed through Sergeant Tolbar's mind, Sergeant Michaels informed Sergeant Thomas that the shuttle was secure. Sergeant Thomas ordered the eleven soldiers who did not have pulse rifles to gather all the weapons from the trucks. She also instructed them to check for anyone who was still alive. Hearing that, PFC George Lincoln popped his head out of the door of the lead S&P where he had been playing possum. A quick examination of the other vehicles showed that no one survived the explosion of the gun trucks or Lieutenant Johnson's PLS. All together, the Raznits killed fourteen members of the convoy, and destroyed or disabled six vehicles.

Sergeant Michaels placed Corporal Rivera in charge of setting up a perimeter guard around the remains of the convoy. Taking Specialist Flynn and PFC Lincoln with him, Michaels maneuvered one of the other S&Ps into position to stand up the overturned S&P that PFC Lincoln was driving.

SFC Carol Thomas was twenty-seven years old. She joined the U.S. Army at eighteen after graduating high school in Memphis Tennessee. She was five feet ten inches tall (178 cm), weighted 162 pounds (74 kg), with skin the color of coffee and cream. Three more courses and she would receive a Bachelors Degree in Business Administration from Troy State University.

The Army had taken the granddaughter of a Memphis garbage collector and turned her into a confident woman who could lead people without even thinking about it. Carol Thomas was smart, mentally tough and physically fit. Her CO was pushing her to apply for a Logistics Warrant Officer position. Now SFC Thomas faced one of the most unusual situations a human being ever faced. Like any good NCO, she fell back on a combination of Army procedures and intuition.

Staring Sergeant Tolbar in the face she asked in a cold level tone of voice. "Alright fuck face. Who the hell are you, and why are you screwing with my convoy?"

When the computer translated SFC Thomas' question, Staff Sergeant Tolbar acted like she had struck him. Forgetting for a moment his situation, Staff Sergeant Tolbar rose up on his toes trying to be taller than SFC Thomas. "I am Tuvet Marat Staff Sergeant Tolbar. How dare a slave question a Junior Slave Master in such an impudent manner?"

The last thing on Earth you wanted to do to SFC Thomas was call her a slave. Her grandfather was present at the Lorraine Motel the night Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was shot. The look on her face would have scared Sergeant Tolbar, except for the fact that she spun him around and grabbed his right arm. She then proceeded to twist it until Tolbar thought she was going to twist it off. In his ear he heard a hiss which the computer translated. "If you ever call me a slave again I'm going to twist you head off and piss down your throat. Do I make myself perfectly clear, you alien sack of shit?"


"Good. Now that we understand each other, you will answer my question Staff Sergeant Tolbar. Why did you attack my convoy?"

Tolbar felt his bladder let loose and the stream of urine run down his left leg. The sound of it hitting the deck at his feet was very distinct. PFC Sander said. "Will you look at that? He just peed his pants. Sergeant, I wonder what he would do if you got rough with him?"

With that Sergeant Thomas swung Tolbar around to show him the four dead Tuvet Marat. "See those four over there? My people killed them with their bare hands while your people still had their weapons. If you don't start talking, I'm going to turn you over to them. I will let my people see how long they can hurt you before you beg them to kill you." Actually, Sergeant Thomas had no intention of doing that, but she wanted to break this alien and find out what was going on. She had a strange feeling that if she waited too long bad things would happen.

Looking at his dead subordinates was the last straw for Sergeant Tolbar. He had always thought of the Tuvet Marat as the finest soldiers in the universe. These people had broken his men and thrown them away in the same careless manner that a small child would break a fragile doll. Looking around the shuttle, he could tell that none of these soldiers were even bothered by the death of his troops.

With that Tolbar began to babble. Over the next ten minutes he told SFC Thomas exactly who the Raznits were, why they came to Earth, what they intended to do to the people of Earth, and most importantly, he told her about the four other shuttles sent to gather slaves to take back to the ship for testing.

During the conversation, Sergeant Thomas made him back up several times. Not only was there an occasional problem with the translation program, but more importantly, sometimes she did not believe what he was telling her. It was still hard for her to wrap her mind around the concept that the Raznits viewed all non-Raznits species as potential slaves. By the time Sergeant Tolbar finished his story, Sergeant Thomas knew she needed to do something to stop the Captain of the Tavnit Oma from ever reporting back about his discovery. Her family had been slaves for two hundred and fifty years, and she would rot in hell before allowing someone to enslave her family again.

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