"The Road Not Taken"  
Analog Nov1985.jpg
Author Harry Turtledove, as Eric G. Iverson
First Appearance Analog
Collected There Will Be War V: Warrior;
Masterpieces: The Best Science Fiction of the Century;
Alien Contact
Series Roxolan Stories
Genre(s) Science fiction
Publication date November, 1985
Preceded by "Herbig-Haro"

"The Road Not Taken" is a short story by Harry Turtledove, published under the name Eric G. Iverson. It was first published in Analog, November, 1985. It has been reprinted in There Will Be War V: Warrior, edited by Jerry Pournelle & John F. Carr, Tor 1985; Kaleidoscope, Del Rey 1990; Masterpieces: The Best Science Fiction of the Century, edited by Orson Scott Card, Ace 2001; 3xT, Baen 2004, and; Alien Contact, edited by Marty Halpern, Night Shade Books 2011. This story is a prequel to "Herbig-Haro", expanding on the initial human contact with aliens that was mentioned in that story.

The story is told by four POV characters: Captain Togram commanding a company of foot on board the Roxolan star warship Indomitable; Spec-1 Billy Cox, a draftee in the US Army; Buck Herzog, an interplanetary geologist; and Hilda Chester, a linguist.

The Roxolan Empire had long had the hyperdrive and anti-gravity devices and took pride in having invented them themselves. They were also one of the most technologically advanced societies in space having discovered gunpowder, casting iron, smelting steel, manufacturing matchlock muskets and spyglasses to steer their starships.

The empire was expanding in its usual manner by sending an invasion fleet of 100-150 warships into a likely star system. The star system consisted of a yellow dwarf star and usually at least one habitable planet. If the fleet did not detect a hyperdrive emanation, they located any habitable planets and invaded them, using their vastly superior technology to overwhelm the primitive inhabitants.

In 2039, an invasion fleet arrives in the Earth's solar system. It is first detected by the crew of the Ares III, the third manned mission to Mars. The crew attempted to communicate but their radio signals were ignored and the Roxolan fleet proceeded to Earth since they had not detected any signs of hyperdrive. All vessels landed and deployed their foot to horrible effect.