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This is a work of fiction and is copyrighted to the author. Any similarity to real persons, living or dead is coincidental and not intended by the author.

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Chapter 01 Abduction

It was a small camp fire, out in the wide open spaces of Montana. The three men sat and stared into the flames, much as men have done since the first primate learned to build a fire. They occasionally spared some time to stare into the wide open starry vista, unmarred by cloud and pristine, without the smog found closer to concentrations of humans.

"There's the Space Station." Said the oldest man, pointed to a small bright dot moving across the heavens.

"Hmm." Said his brother, as he consulted his iPad. "unidentified, according to this, Steve." He said.

"Pretty big for a unidentified satellite." Said the youngest.

"Ah," said the oldest, as he saw it change course. "Must be a plane."

"Darn, Dad." Said his son slyly, "thought maybe it was a UFO, didn't you?"

"Nah, we're too smart for that." Said Steven Stuart. "UFO's only abduct drunken slack jaw yokels with an IQ of dirt, boy."

"Yeah.' Laughed his brother Mongo. "Any UFO tries to abduct us three; we're liable to hijack them."

"It'd be a good laugh." Replied Kevin. "I could use one, the way things have been lately."

"Got that right." Said his father.

"You ain't just ain't a woofin." Agreed his Uncle.

/\

Aboard the Cruiser Dnt!lss, Subcommander Pr!lss of the Fnfian Hegemony looked at his Intelligence Officer with dismay. "Are you CERTAIN?"

Lieutenant Commander Cn!lss lowered all six legs to prostrate his body on the deck of the command bridge. "Sir, the information we captured from the Varnar is unequivocal – their recent successes have been obtained from capturing the Primitive pre-sentients of this world, removing their brains and implanting them in their combat vehicles."

Pr!lss looked at the screen, where he could see the campfire, and the three Primitives sitting around it. They certainly looked brutal and ugly. He shuddered, perhaps removing their brains and implanting them in a combat vehicle might be a mercy.

/\

Steve looked at the light. "Uh guys." He said. He jerked his head at the moving light which seemed to have changed course, and was now heading directly for them.

Mongo looked at his brother and his nephew. "This doesn't seem funny as it could be."

Kevin struggled to his feet, as his father and Uncle did. "OK, maybe it's a Helicopter out of Fort Ben or something, Dad." He looked at his father. "Anything that the big dogs might want you for in a hurry, dad?"

The old man snorted. "Hah. That only happens in movies, son." He said. "Besides, the current administration likes me even less than the last one did." Even so, he picked up the tactical vest and slipped it on.

The other two lifted eyebrows in surprise and wordlessly picked up their tactical vests and put them on.

Kevin's wife, and Michael's had chided them about wearing the tactical vests as they went out to hunt out a prairie dog colony, but right now, something was feeling very strange to all three of the Combat Veterans.

/|\

The information that the Fnfians had stolen from their Varnar enemies had been a bit incomplete. The Varnan had been careful to select humans that were in isolated locations, and they made sure to select for those with high blood alcohol contents when they teleported them. They most certainly did not allowed armed, conscious humans aboard their ships – not until they had been properly conditioned, at least.

The Fnfians had never beamed a group of humans aboard before their ship before – it was most certainly a learning experience for both sides…

/\

The Ship descended to about 3000 meters, and engaged the teleport mechanism.

There was only a second for the three men to look at each other as the world suddenly fuzzed and blurred around them. "What the fu-?" exclaimed Kevin.

"-Ck?" he said as they found themselves in a room with a wide room with a low ceiling and dim, reddish lighting.

All three men swung the rifles down as they heard a chattering sound and saw an impossibly large ant-like creature at a panel.

"Move!" commanded Steve, as he moved off the raised dais. He headed right, Mongo and Kevin headed left, all of them keeping their weapons trained on the strange creature.

/\

Technician pnLa was a semi-sentient technician worker drone. He had been told to transport the three sub-sentient primitives from the world below. He had been told to expect them to be dazed and confused by the experience, but to stun them if they became argumentative or combative.

Unfortunately, these primitives did not seem to be at all confused. On the other hand, their stances seem to indicate combative intention – however there were two on one side, and one on the other.

He tried to point the stunner to his left, calculating that those two posed the greater threat. "Weapon!" snapped Steve.

Three 5.56 slugs shattered the stunner before pnLa could trigger it. The powerpack shorted out, exploding and incidentally turning most of pnLa into puree.

The three men were slammed into the walls by the force of the blast.

"I don't know what that was," said Mongo, "but I don't think I want it fired at me."

"Good safety tip, Mongo." Observed Kevin. "Remember that, Dad."

/\

"Did they get the Humans?" asked Pr!lss. "We should get them to Medical to start the brain removal process."

Cn!lss check his indicator panel. "pnLa." He said. "pnLa, you lazy slug, where are the humans? Did you screw this task up, also?" He stared at the panel and swore. "I swear, I think that worthless larva needs to be sent to the recycling bin." He toggled the switch. "That is odd – there seems to be an equipment failure in the transporter room."

"Go down there." Ordered Pr!lss. "An equipment failure – exactly when we beam up these humans, is too much of a coincidence."

"I'm sure it is something that pnLa fouled up, Sir," said Cn!lss.

Pr!Lss looked at his screen and pointed with his antenna. "The humans were beamed up – I saw that in the view screen." He looked pointedly at Cn!lss. "These Varnen Cyborgs are damnably efficient fighting machines." He observed.

He shuddered. "I suddenly wonder just how much of that fighting efficiency is found in the original humans – and just how much the Varnen needed to teach them."

/\

The three men examined the blasted console.

"You broke it, you Hoser." said Steve, eyeing at his Brother.

"Take off, Eh, I didn't break it." said Mike, pointing at the remains of the stick-thingy. "I shot at that thing. How was I supposed to know it was gonna blow up?"

"OK, Dad." Said Kevin, "What the frack is this?"

Steven snorted. "We've stepped into a meme, son. A TV-trope."

His brother snorted. "Slack-jaw redneck yokel abducted by aliens." He said. "right." He prodded the remains of pnLa with his toe. "Well, bug eyed monster, one-each."

"Probably more than one." Said Kevin. He jerked his chin at the ruined panel. "I don't think that thing is going to beam us back."

"Not without a lot of fixing." Agreed his father. "By a technician I trust." He continued. "Well," he said looking at the other two. "What do you say?"

Kevin looked at him with a bit of surprise. "Say to what?"

Mongo looked at him with a bit of pity. "STILL slow on the uptake, kid." He looked at his brother and growled, "ARR."

Steve hoisted his rifle to high port as he stared at the strange alien script next to the buttons on the panel next to the door. "Avast me hearties, and shiver me timbers. There's a Prize to be taken and Glory to be won." He growled.

"Who'll make his mark?" sang/growled Mongo, his muzzle trained on the door. "Away all Boarding Parties and shoot'em down like the scurvy dogs they are."

Kevin snorted. "Do ants get scurvy?" he wondered aloud. "I hope we've got more ammo than they've got crew."

"You want to live forever?" said his father conversationally. "Not like I see that we have any choices, here boy." He grinned at his son. "It's Montrose's Choice Time, kid."

"Ahh," he said, as he pressed a button, the panel beeped, and the door began to slide open. "That's done it."

The door slid open, and a guard drone stepped in, electro-halberd at the ready. The weapon was excellent for keeping unarmed and unruly creatures in line. Unfortunately, it was not much good against a keyed-up man with an AR-15 and hollow point 5.56 bullets. Three rounds had penetrated through his head, thorax and abdomen.

The creature was not, strictly speaking, a true arthropod, like earth insects – it actually had both an internal and external skeletal structure, and true lungs, instead of the book lungs of an insect.

None of that made a difference to the 5.56 rounds – 1700 foot-pounds of energy were sufficient to make a mess of its internal organs, causing it to die before it was able to comprehend the bizarre creature in front of it.

The other two guard drones with it lived scarcely a second longer, as both Kevin and Steve targeted each of them.

Mongo stepped through the door, facing left and Kevin stepped through, facing right. The hall was dimly lit with that same reddish glow.

Cn!lss was scurrying down the corridor as fast as six legs could carry him, screaming into his personal communicator. "Alert, alert, armed boarders in corridor C-"

His report cut off with finality as Mongo put a round through his head.

Pr!lss shouted into the communicator. "Cn!lss. Repeat! Repeat! What happened!" he demanded. "What is going on?" he demanded of the silent communicator.

Mongo walked up the hallway to the body. A small box was making a high pitched chitterring sound. He poked it with his toe and looked at his brother. "Walkie talkie?" he asked.

"Looks Like." His brother agreed.

"What next?" said Kevin. He was watching behind them. The ship seemed to be gently vibrating. *Were they on Earth, in orbit, or even headed out-system already?* he thought to himself.

"Don't know, boy" said his father. "I never got the schematics for an Alien spaceship crewed by ant-like insectoids."

"Geeze, Dad" kidded his son. "Given all the strange junk you've seen in your career, I figured, you probably spoke their language by now."

"Nope.' Said Steve. "If we know anything about this bunch, it never crossed my desk."

Mike stepped forward then stopped abruptly and stared at his brother. "Are there OTHER bunches of Aliens that you DO know about, Bro?"

Steve just smiled, shrugged and looked around. He picked a direction opposite from the one the insectoid had been heading. "That way." He said definitely.

Kevin looked at his father quizzically. "Any particular reason?"

"Yeah." Said Steve. "I figure this must have been a boss ant – and he seemed upset. Probably was headed for reinforcement – that's why he was headed this way." Steve pointed the other way. "So let us see what is in THAT direction."

"Makes as good sense as any." Grunted Mongo.

/\

The three men stepped through the hallways of the alien ship, rifles held at the tactical ready position. All three were carrying AR-15s with bull barrels, in anticipation of prairie dog hunting they had originally intended. They had their holo-sights in place, and laser designators on squeeze switches on the fore grip.

Steve's mind was processing the problems and prioritizing them. The immediate problem was ammunition. All three had come out with 400 rounds of ammunition on their tactical vests and LBE, but how much would they need? They each had a full canteen – but would they live long enough to need it? The same was true of food…would they live long enough to get hungry? Was there anything edible that was compatible with humans?

The hallways seemed to be of a ribbed construction, with beams that looked to provide some partial cover – at least for humans. It probably would be useless for an ant to try hiding behind one.

Steve wondered if these things had mutinies – or wars between competing ant colonies or something? The presence of the soldier ants suggested some sort of violence must occur among them. Their lack of combat ability suggested it was either uncommon to them, or humans were much better at it.

There were chitterring noises, and the scrabbling sounds of claws on the deckplates ahead of them, where the hallway seemed to turn a corner. All three men faded against the walls.

A group of soldiers ants scurried around the corner, six of them this time, all with those odd Halberd things held high.

Steve looked at his brother and waved his hand, miming, "three, two, one," and stepped out.

Both men stepped out and targeted the first two ants, killing them immediately. Kevin stepped out and knelt on one knee, aiming at the back two ants, who reared up at the abrupt halt of the dead bodies in front of them. Suddenly, they died also. The middle ones managed to get a shot off from their electro-halberds, but it apparently took a second to take full charge before firing.

Mike and Steve jumped back behind the stanchions, and Kevin threw himself flat as the bolts sizzled harmlessly into the walls. Before the weapons could fire again, the other two ants had joined their fellows in death.

The men examined the scorch mark on the wall. Mongo rubbed it…the metal had started to melt and run under the heat. He looked at his brother and raised an eyebrow. "Plasma blast?"

"Could be." Agreed Steve. "What kind of power source could you stuff in that little wand?" he said.

Kevin picked one up. "I heard it whining, sort of like an old photo-capacitor in a flash unit." He said. "Beamed power, maybe?"

"Eh." Said Mongo. "Could be." He looked around, "We are in a ship, after all, that seems feasible to have beamed power and an induction unit inside the ship for something like this."

"Interesting" said Steve. "See a trigger?" he picked one up himself. "Our bullets won't last forever."

"Ah" said Kevin, as the device started to whine. He pointed it at a wall. "This stud here" he said pointing. The weapon discharged. "Sweet" he said, pressing the button again. The weapon discharged again.

"Careful" said Mongo. "We don't know where we are. If that's an outside wall, and we're in Death Pressure, you might be opening us to vacuum."

"Good point." Said Kevin. He picked up the other Halberds. "Might as well lug these for a bit." He said.

"Why?" said Mike.

"Deny them to the enemy." Said Steve. "and we might be able to use them." He added.

"Use them?" said Mongo. "kind of slow."

"Bullets won't last forever." Said Steve, "Plus, remember that technician bug you killed? – maybe we should aim for the power pack in these things, Bro. Might get more bang for the bullet."

"Point." Said Mongo.

"Also," said Steve, "these ants don't seem set up for two gun mojo with these things. I think maybe we could do that."

"Hmm." Said Kevin. "I like that idea." He smiled. "I always liked two gun Mojo."

"Yeah, yeah, Ranger-boy." Said his Uncle.

/\

They came to another hatchway. Steven studied the panel. "Should I open it?" he wondered.

"The Lady or the Tiger?" said his brother.

"Or Sergeant Sedanko of the City Narcotics squad?" put in Kevin. "You don't win if you don't take a chance." He said.

"Point." Said Steve. He pressed a button, and the door slid open.

"Aw crud." Breathed Mongo. It was a large bay, with about a hundred of the insectoids in it, along with racks of the halberd weapons. Barracks? Chow hall? A gym? It didn't matter. The chitterring grew loud as the insectoids began rushing for their weapons.

Kevin was already aiming at the racked weapons. "Hit the power packs."

Both men joined in, a couple of weapons exploded – throwing ants- and ant body parts – back into the crowd. Suddenly, there was a loud whine. "Oh hell" said Steve.

"Run Away!" cackled Mongo, as Steve shut the door again, and they ran back the way they came.

They were laughing maniacally as they rounded the corner and the weapons began to chain detonate.

Steve high-fived his son. "NICE secondary's, boy!" he said.

"Lets hope the ship survives." Said Mike.

"Hoka-hey" observed Steve to his brother, "It is a good day to die." He said. "I just wish somebody out there knew about it – first guys to down a freaking flying saucer would be COOL."

"Yeah," said Kevin, "but I'd rather be the first ones to bring one home." He said. "Wonder what the Prize money on capturing one of these things is?"

"Well," said Steve, "first off, we take it to England and turn it in to the Admiralty Court as Salvage, if we can take it anywhere. Given who's in Power in the US, we'd be lucky to stay alive, let alone see a penny of it."

Mike snorted. "Ain't that the sad and sorry truth."

"Uhm," said Kevin, "Isn't our part of the Stuart Clan still under the Banns in the UK?"

"Naw," said Steve, "I think they repealed those about a century ago. I think they forgave our ancestors for supporting Bonnie Prince Charlie awhile back. At least they didn't give me any trouble when I went TDY there."

The ship shuddered to a particularly loud explosion, and the artificial gravity cut off. Now the ship was in zero G.

All three men felt their stomachs begin to rise.

"Eh" said Steve. "Check this out." He jumped of the deck and grabbed his feet, pulling himself into a ball and rolling like a cannonball. He splayed his arms out abruptly like a starfish and grabbed the ceiling. "Cool." He said. "I always wanted to be an astronaut."

Mike looked at him, and, not to be outdone, tried it himself. "Boo-yah" he shouted. "Way cool, Bro."

Kevin looked at the two men in exasperation. Sometimes he was not sure if these two guys were fifty five, or five. He had to admit, sometimes his father and Uncle were pretty cool for guys their age, but…stuck on an alien spaceship with bug-eyed aliens trying to kill them, and these guys were acting like it was playtime at the park.

Steve looked around the corner. The door to the big room was open again, but nothing but smoke seemed to be coming out of it – which was two good things, now that he thought of it.

No hostile insectoids coming out was good – and smoke coming out meant that atmosphere was not venting to space.

That last explosion HAD been a bit large for his tastes…

/\

The three men floated in through the blast-shattered doors. Bodies, and parts of bodies, hung in the air, along with the unidentified miasma that was probably the insectoid body fluids.

They adopted a swimming motion, sort of bouncing along the walls and grabbing cabinets and stanchions to stay in place or gain impulse.

A few injured insectoids fluttered helplessly in the zero-G.

"Hey, Skeet!" laughed Kevin, raising his rifle.

Mongo gently but firmly pressed the muzzle back down. "He is injured, and he is not a threat." He said firmly. "We can't help him, but there is no need to hurt him further."

"He's just a bug." Protested Kevin, but he kept his weapon down.

"He may or may not be a sentient being in his own right." Said Steve. "We don't yet know what exactly we are dealing with here. – but, by our rules, he is a non-combatant." He looked at the insectoids, who had stopped struggling, and seemed to be peering at them intently.

"So far we've been swinging in the dark." Said Mike, "but I – for one – have no desire to kill any more sentient beings than I need to."

"Fair enough." Said Kevin.

He looked at the Insectoid, and held up his open hand. "Hear that, fella? All we really want to do is go home. No anal probes, no vivisection, OK? You get us home, and leave us alone, and we're cool, OK?" he held up his open hand and separated his fingers in a 'V" "Peace, Brother Ant." He said.

"Let's try this way," suggested Steve.

/\

Engineer T!Lss observed the odd behavior of the Primates with wonder. He had been less then sure about the wisdom of this mission. The Fnfian Hegemony had been in struggle with the Varnen Hordes for millennia. The recent appearance of the Varnen Cyborg Battlemechs in the last several decades, however, had inflicted severe defeats on the Fnfians

It had been determined that the secret to their recent success was the incorporation of the brains of the primates of this primitive world. Apparently, something about this trip was difficult – the Varnen had – apparently, lost several ships attempting to harvest the brains of these primitives.

The Engineer had been rather surprised when he got here – these creatures had seemed interesting, but not all that formidable.

He had changed his opinion, when the primitives apparently broke confinement, and then managed to slaughter most of the crew like a herd of aalk.

And – now he changed his opinions again. They had come into the compartment, and had seen him helpless, and unable to fight – and they had spared him. Not taken his surrender – although, how would they know how to do that? – but not harmed him either.

Consciously Not harmed him.

That suggested – some interesting possibilities.

The Fnfnians – for all that they resemble mindless insects – are not exactly a "Hive mind", nor quite "individuals" either. Some of them – the worker castes, especially, have very low IQs, and virtually no personality. Some of them, however, have highly developed personalities.

/\

Commander Pr!lss opened the bridge hatchway to look for some assistance. Instead, he saw three humans. With a squeak, he scurried backward and hit the closure.

The three men scudded forward. "That" said Steve, "had the look of a control room, or a bridge."

"Looked that way to me," agreed Mike.

Kevin was pressing buttons. "Looks like he might have locked it."

"Well," said Steve, hefting one of the electro halberds they had captured, "I wonder if this thing melts hatch-metal."

Mike grinned. "One way to find out."

/\

Pr!lss was beginning to think he had solved the puzzle of why the Varnen Cyborgs were so effective in battle and so hard to kill. He was also beginning to think he had figured out why the Varnen had lost several ships to these primitives.

Now, the question he was trying to figure out, was how had the Varnen captured ANY of these damned primitives?

He looked at the red dot proceeding along the hatchway. He didn't have long before they were in here. He prepared to scuttle the ship.

He prepared a last entry for the message log, and got it ready for launch. The next fnfian ship to enter this system would trigger it's homing signal and would at least be warned by his failure.

He tried to reach the Engineering Crew to have them overload the reactor.

He got T!Lss.

"Commander!" said T!Lss. "Don't scuttle. Try surrendering."

"Are you crazy?" asked Pr!Lss. "We don't surrender, the Varnen eat us."

"I don't think these fellows do, Pr!lss." said the Engineer. "They tore hell out of the mess deck, killed most of the crew, walked in – and then just looked at the wounded and waved an empty claw and kept moving."

"They know the empty claw gesture?" said Pr!lss in wonderment. Among the Fnfian, it is a recognized gesture, that the empty claw of one warrior to another means "we will fight no more today". It is given at the conclusion of a combat.

"I don't KNOW Pr!lss." said the Engineer. "But I think these people are not like the Varnen – but they may have mistaken US for the Varnen…can you blame them?"

"Ah…" said Pr!lss. "That makes sense." He said consideringly. "That makes a Lot of sense. We may have walked into a trap set for the Varnen…and…we may yet salvage something good from this disaster."

The glowing dot met the seam on the door, and a booted human foot kicked the metal in. "Knock-knock" said Mike humorlessly as he stared through the hole, rifle pointed at Pr!lss.

Pr!lss dropped to his belly and flattened himself as low to the deck as he could, in an act of total supplication.

Mike pulled himself in, and then Steve and Kevin came through the door. Pr!lss had to scrabble with his claws to keep his purchase on the deck. He swore the beating of his two hearts was raising him off the deck.

"I don't know Dad, but I'd say his body language is trying to say, "I surrender", Dad." Laughed Kevin.

"Seems that way to me," said Steve, as he floated over to Pr!lss.

The same thought was going through both their minds – the Fnfian SubCommander, and the retired US Air Force Officer. "What the Hell Do we do Now?"