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´╗┐Title: Shock Troop
Author: Bolton, Richard
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Shock Troop" ***

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                              SHOCK TROOP

                           BY RICHARD BOLTON

                      _The invaders were going to
                      make galactic history. Fate
                     made it a comedy of errors._

           [Transcriber's Note: This etext was produced from
              Worlds of If Science Fiction, October 1956.
         Extensive research did not uncover any evidence that
         the U.S. copyright on this publication was renewed.]


Zurg thwirmed, and admitted to himself that he was uneasy. Arching his
thorax, he unrolled his antennae slowly in a lazy gesture he hoped
would conceal the unseemly nervousness he felt now that the ship had
swung into an orbit around the strange planet. When a commander briefs
his officers, he must radiate confidence and calm.

"Companions, an historic moment has arrived," he began pompously, his
antennae moving in the deliberate, stylized movements of the Court
language. "Below us lies the verdant expanse of the third planet, green
gem of the heavens."

At this, several of his subordinates turned a rather puzzled yellow
around their head orifices, obviously unable to understand a gesture
of what he was saying. Only the second-in-command seemed unconcerned;
he knew from long experience that his commander would revert to common
vernacular when he had finished the usual ceremonial preamble.

Zurg did so, noting the relieved hues of his officers as he continued:
"As you all know, our scouts have reconnoitered this world on several
occasions. But now the time has arrived to make an actual landing. In
fact, companions, we are the vanguard of an invasion." Pausing to let
this register, he was pleased to see that none of the officers seemed
to be suppressing thwirms. If anything, they were calmer than he was.

"Not a great deal is known about the inhabitants of the planet,
but the dominant form of life, strangely enough, is mammalian, and
possesses some intelligence. Her Majesty desires conquest without undue
destruction. As the Queen wills, her servants shall act."

All dipped their antennae at this formula, and watched in attentive
hues as the commander went on to explain that due to the high
percentage of oxygen in the atmosphere, special coverings would have
to be worn. They would filter the air before it reached the ventral
tracheae, and leaving the head exposed, would shield all the rest
of the body. A bit clumsy, the commander admitted, but absolutely
essential.

"Now as to our behavior toward the natives--previous experience with
mammalian life-types shows that they are susceptible to panic and fear
when confronted with something totally strange, so we will use tactics
which basically are very simple. First, we will land near a native
settlement. When we march into the area, our alien appearance will stun
the natives. Our detachment of all-range telepathic sensitives will
notify us when the state of shock has set in, then our attack support
will open up with full-scale mental assault, and keep the creatures
paralyzed while we seize the area before a defense can be organized.
Then the Grand Fleet will proceed here at top speed."

"Remember that in this, as in all operations where the powers of the
collective mind are used, we must first trigger the enemy's reaction by
physical means, therefore nothing can be done until we _know_ that they
are in the needed state of shock. Now are there any questions?"

How strange actually, mused the commander as he returned to his
cubicle, that a race like his own, so gifted at pure mental contact
with other life-forms, should still use signals and colorations to
communicate among themselves. The chafed spot on his left antenna was
paining again after the exercise of the briefing. The report had said
that these mammalians were believed to converse through some kind
of atmospheric vibrations.... Odd too, that mental warfare, refined
and developed though it was, could still only be used against minds
agitated by a specific physical stimulus. And that physical stimulus
had to be provided by the invaders appearing on the scene, and if
necessary performing the Dra, a series of dances and contortions so
repulsive to most life-forms that all thinking would fade into panic.
Having once thwirmed himself at a performance of the Dra, he hoped it
wouldn't be necessary ... his musings were interrupted as the ship's
lights flickered to orange, signalling hands to stations for planetfall.

Leaving the con of the ship to his second-in-command, he shut himself
in his cubicle and made preparations to be miserably sick, as he always
was during deceleration. Stroking the chafed spot on his antenna with
the smooth edge of his left forearm's prehensile claw, Zurg raised his
medicine kit in his secondary tentacles and snapped off the heavy lead
seal with his jagged incisor mandibles. I wonder, he speculated, why
alien races always find us so frightening....

       *       *       *       *       *

The brilliant orange sun was high in the sky, but only a few filtered
beams penetrated to the sheltered copse where the slate-colored ship
lay partially concealed by artfully placed vines and underbrush. Drawn
up in three ranks beside the ship, only their heads protruding from
the loose-fitting coveralls, stood the detail picked to make the entry
into the native settlement. Zurg led them out through the underbrush
barrier they had thrown up the night before, and they emerged onto
a little-traveled dirt road leading off across the fields toward a
cluster of buildings that marked the edge of town.

No creatures appeared as the invading column lumbered along. As they
neared the edge of the settlement, Zurg, his antennae drooping slightly
from the unusual heat, turned to remind the others: "Remember, the
mental assault won't begin until we are well into the area and shock
reaction is effected, so _stay in formation_ until I order otherwise."

There were still no natives in sight on the small side street by which
they entered town; but as they turned a corner and swung on to the
broad central thoroughfare, the commander saw that the street was
clogged with natives, a great milling mass of them moving up the
street in the same direction as his column, about a hundred yards ahead.

For a moment they didn't appear to notice the newcomers, but soon a
growing number had turned and were gesturing excitedly to each other,
pointing at the approaching troop. Watching them anxiously, Zurg saw no
evidence of panic.

The column kept moving, and the crowd began parting to let them pass
through. Some darted forward as though to get a closer look at the
strangers. The commander fought off a thwirm as he realized the crowd
was now all around them, pressing in more closely on every side. The
atmosphere itself seemed to vibrate strangely, and looking around, he
saw that the creatures were opening small head orifices and striking
the ends of their forward limbs together. Were they communicating--or
was it something else? It was surely not panic.

Feeling increasingly dizzy from the heat and vibrations, he glanced
anxiously over his followers, and saw at once that they were more upset
than he. Colors were flushing their faces in meaningless successions.
One or two seemed to be staggering. The shock threshold of these beings
has been horribly underestimated, thought Zurg desperately. Only one
thing left to do--turning again, he signalled the detail to begin the
Dra. Perhaps that would overcome this incomprehensible counterattack....

       *       *       *       *       *

"I tell you Charlie, you've got to discipline that gang! They didn't
show up on time, they didn't complete the route, they put on a
public ritual that wasn't scheduled, apparently stealing the entire
show--stupid crowd yelled themselves hoarse. Then they all reeled off
into a side street. They must have been drunk to a man--I understand
about half of them had to be carried! _And_ when I confronted Andy
Sharpe, he swore up and down that they weren't out of their hotel that
morning. All sleeping off that spree they had the night before. He
actually had the nerve to say, 'I don't know who those boys were that
you claim were a block behind the end of the parade, but they weren't
our boys.'"

Charlie Dils, new Commander of the Illinois chapter of the American
Legion, leaned back in his chair car seat and blew a cloud of cigar
smoke toward the ceiling. "Maybe they were men from Mars," he grinned.
Then, remembering his dignity, he sobered abruptly. "Anyway, one bunch
looks about the same as another, once they get their masks on--good
Lord, it was a hot day for masks--but it certainly made the parade
more impressive. People are still talking about it. We're even getting
credit for having a flying saucer. Some farmer out at the edge of town
claims he saw one take off after the parade last night. Says it was
going west like a bat out of hell.

"If we can get that kind of publicity, Frank, I wouldn't worry
about Andy and the boys. I'll write him a letter. It was a great
convention--let's let it go at that."





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