Justin Time

Unit Three

His name was now Alexander. That was what everyone had been ordered to call him, and life in the Prime was all about following orders. He adjusted the shade visor on his helmet, cursing at the glare off the barren rocky plain ahead that was causing such discomfort. Damn, he thought in the new language he had been taught, where were the targets?

The nesting holes to his left and right were filled with warriors. The Vigian worms in this sector had all been eliminated but their stink remained in the soil. Their abandoned holes provided good cover from the primary sun’s radiation and the “enemy” forces they were hunting…but the tactical manuals never mentioned the smell.

The hiss of the oxygen mixture feeding into his helmet was annoying, but what choice did he have? They had to acclimate their bodies for what lay ahead. At the moment his uniform was soaked with sweat and had been for hours. Maybe the bad smell wasn’t just the worms.

There was movement and Alexander raised his practice weapon. Click…click, and the targets were briefly illuminated on the screen. The kills would be confirmed and appear on the data screens back at their lodge. War games in all this horrible heat and dust, what a joke. He missed the thrum of a real disruptor weapon and the view of a target blasted into atoms.

Their orders had come down from Second Prime headquarters at the dawning of the third sun. All warriors slated for the expedition would now begin to speak only the language used on the target planet. Alexander, his name in this foreign tongue, had been the first of his troop brothers to speak the strange jumble of words they knew only as English.

He had been born to Second Prime, son of a lodge commander and his navigator mate. His birth at the lodge farm had been the start of a pre-ordained life as a warrior, his parents had seen to that. Each of their offspring had been guided into a career of service. The males became warriors; the females trained as pilots and navigators, there was no other option.

Second Prime was a vast rocky planet, one of five within the zone occupied by their lodge. The Prime Territories had one hundred such zones within that portion of the system the humans identified as the Horsehead Nebula, and with over a trillion inhabitants that meant a lot of mouths to feed.

Commerce between planets kept the lodges busy, and farming was the major occupation of the minor races. But each family was required to give up at least one of the brood from the time they were born for military service. Alexander had been selected by his father and handed over to the barracks at the proper time.

Subjugating minor solar systems and their occupants had been a part of their normal military routine since the dawn of time and recorded history began. The seeds of life had been spread far and wide, begun by the Ancient Ones who were revered above all others. No one knew what they looked like or even if they still existed, but doubt like that was quickly punished and so no one asked.

Alexander was to become just another soldier in their vast plan. He had seen holo-pictures of the human creatures and that had shocked him. Most of the subjugated planets had yielded herds of creatures unlike himself, but Alexander saw his resemblance to these humans. Did they have a common ancestor? There was little knowledge of that kind floating around in the data banks for him to access. But he would get his answer soon enough.

The Force Leader had chosen his scouts from among the best and brightest, and Alexander found himself appointed to FirstCon. That meant he would be among the first of his lodge brothers to arrive on the planet and make contact. The plan was for the invasion force to transport to a secret staging area, a small planet on the outer fringes of the target solar system.

Being chosen for FirstCon was an honor, probably due to his father’s position in the lodge. Damn, he hated that influence over his life. In the first phase of his development his father had ruled over him with violence. The idea of whipping a boy into maturity was a common practice around the lodge. But the scars had healed as the boy became stronger through training.

Like most boys of his kind, he had assumed that he was ready to take his place amongst the warriors. He thought himself to be a grown up, but his father laughed and pushed him away. The boy had fought back and only succeeded in becoming an outcast from his father’s lodge house.

For two cycles after that Alexander lived in the barracks and stayed away from his family. He grew considerably in strength and knowledge so he went from the children’s barracks into the growing army of warriors, pledging his life to Second Prime.

Now when he walked into his father’s lodge it was as a warrior and they welcomed him to the table. There was talk of arranging a mate for him but Alexander brushed that away. It was too soon he told his parents. He would be off to distant planets and had no time for such foolishness.

But Alexander knew there would be no children from his body; he would never contribute to the lodge in that way. Maybe if he survived the life of a warrior he could retire and then think of such things, but he had his doubts. No, he was committed to forty cycles of military service and then…he simply had no idea what he would do.

Somewhere back in his sixth cycle, Alexander had come to terms with himself about sexual matters. His race was not about to perish just because he didn’t mate with a female, and in fact he found that option not the least bit appealing. His time as an outcast had shown him that there were others who thought pretty much the same about their lives.

The only time he had committed the unpardonable was with a comely youth in his barracks. Like most boys he had discovered self pleasure at an early age, but sharing those feelings with another was unthinkable. Death was the only prescribed penalty for such behavior throughout the Nebula.

Alexander knew of others that stepped across the line for forbidden pleasures, but never thought he could do that. In English the boy’s name was Galen and he was everything Alexander wanted to be as a warrior. Handsome and muscular, Galen was a born leader; several cycles his senior and the highest rank for his age in their troop.

One night as they set up their shelters on the training grounds, Galen chose him. At first it puzzled Alexander that the young warrior would even consider approaching him for such a thing. Maybe it was because his eyes followed the object of his desires every moment he was awake. Yes, he was sure Galen had noticed. It mattered not, Alexander was smitten. Galen was a sublime warrior, so worthy and strong.

Alone together in the silent darkness of their shelter, Galen did things to his body that Alexander had only dreamed were possible. But Galen had told him things…such wonderful things.

“I wanted you to have this time with me, Alex.” Only Galen had ever called him that. “Soon we will be gone from here, the invasion plans are moving forward. I hope that you will take a memory of this with you. You will be facing great danger and many will never return to the lodge.”

“You…you aren’t going?” Alexander asked.

“I am, but you will go first among the scouts,” Galen replied.

Alexander felt the elation of those words strike him. He had not known his place until just now. His eyes filled with tears at the joy…he would be first.

“Yes,” Galen said, “the honor is all yours, a warrior’s dream come true. But I have been watching you as well, and I fear for you.”

Alexander couldn’t believe his ears, Galen had feelings for him?

“I…I don’t know what to say. Will I see you there?” Alexander asked.

“Maybe, I will do my best to find you. Battle is chaos, who knows where you might be?”

“Then I will find you,” Alexander said. “I will just ask if anyone has seen the bravest troop leader in the force and that will bring me to you.”

Galen smiled. “You are the most beautiful of our young warriors, I am proud to make you mine.”

And they lay down in passion yet again until the first sun rose in the morning sky.

Alexander could not believe his good fortune. He was to be first, but he was also here with this strong warrior’s arms around him as he woke. He could not fathom what was about to happen, none of them had ever seen the first signs of a real battle, and many never would.

His time with Galen was limited to a few nights and then the Force Leader arrived on base to commence the invasion plan. Without warning, Alexander found himself placed in a transport vehicle with three other warriors and they were taken to the jump off point.

Forward base troops had been sent ahead to ready the arrival point in the target’s solar system. Alexander found himself led to the base armory where the small contingent was handed their new uniforms. The cloth was rugged and yet the form of the new clothes was strange. Alexander had trouble with the buttons and had yet to figure out what the strip of cloth was for.

“Attention,” a voice commanded, and Alexander struggled to stand up straight in that rigid form with the new pants falling about his ankles. “On the target planet these are considered the uniform of well dressed men of business, not warriors. This is called a suit and the cloth is called a tie. You will place it around your neck and tie it thusly.”

The ConLeader demonstrated the technique and the warriors fumbled around until finally they all seemed to get the hang of it. Alexander’s long arms seemed to hang out of the sleeves until the leader walked over and tugged the suit down in place.

“You will each carry a com unit and only one weapon. Be warned that the human population has never seen the effects of a disruptor rod before so use it sparingly. The position of their military units has already been mapped out for elimination when the first wave approaches.

“Once on the planet you will speak only in English, and then only when spoken to. Your first and only job is to observe the human reaction to your presence. We have yet to determine if our appearance will cause confusion or panic. Your objective is to report these finding to Com Central.

“There is an intelligence operation underway on the planet. It has been in place for many cycles since first contact. The Watcher at that post is a venerated elder who will attempt to contact you should there be any problems from his end. You will follow his orders in all things, am I clear?”

The warriors raised a fist and shouted. The leader smiled. “From now on your thoughts will be in English only. You were each chosen for a particular skill in language and thought. I expect you will survive well until the force arrives. Now hurry, the portal is just about ready for transport. Warriors of the Prime, I salute you.”

The small group raised their fists in salute but didn’t speak. Now they were supposed to be humans one and all.

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