Chapter 1



The future Galactic Council was very pleased with our work on the coffee caper, and asked if they could call on us if they ever needed us again. We agreed to help whenever we could, but we were glad to get back home. We felt that the future was better when you worked up to it gradually.

Right now, the big concern at home was the problem of the conquering fish with mind control capabilities. There was unanimous agreement that they had to be stopped, and humans, with their natural resistance, had to be the primary attacking force. Other species could help, but only in close association with humans for the mind protection they afforded.

Since the fish required a water environment to live, their mobility on many planets was severely restricted; therefore, they should be easy to find in such cases. We decided to concentrate our initial efforts on these locations and get some experience before attacking them on the water-covered planets where they could move about as they wished.

The Galactic Police Force, GPF, was well stocked with humans and grokins, the first mind-controlled species that we had encountered. The grokins were humanoid enough that they had no trouble meshing with humans, and an excellent working relationship was quickly established. Until the GPF could get more experience, they assigned two grokins to a human, figuring that this ratio would make it easy for the grokin to stay close enough to a human to be protected, yet, to be an effective fighter in his own right. This ratio could be adjusted as the need arose.

After a thorough study of the possibilities, a desert planet was selected as the first target, since we expected that this would put the most limitations on the fish. The locals called their planet by a long name that defied pronunciation, but translated as "Paradise," so that's what we called it and the natives were dubbed paradisians. They were nocturnal and spent most of their time underground. They resembled the giant scorpions which had been among the first amphibians to appear back in Earth's remote past. They stood about 4 feet tall, but their curled tail reached a height of nearly 10 feet. This meant that we would have no problem walking upright in their burrows where they spent most of their day.

The paradisians were not very intelligent, but presented a formidable enemy if one got too close to their claws. The only reason the fish bothered with Paradise was the very high concentrations of iridium present there. The paradisians were forced to mine the iridium ore and deliver it to ports where the fish loaded it onto their FTLs for transport to refineries. Iridium was one of the few minerals that was rare enough to warrant this type of treatment.

The fish kept six of their number in residence on Paradise, one at each pole, and four equally spaced around the equator. This was enough to keep the paradisians under complete control. We had no idea what to expect in the way of defenses at each residence, but we figured that the fish had never before faced an effective resistance, so they would not have much of a defense in place.

We decided that a coordinated attack was called for. We recruited enough humans to make up 6 teams, with a mobile reserve as the seventh team. Each of the Retro Team members was placed in charge of a 4-member group assigned to attack the residences and be the reserve. I was to step back and be in overall control. I wasn't happy about being out of the actual combat, but bowed to the inevitable. The new team members now all had implanted communicators and a lot of the training time for the squads was involved in being sure that they fully understood how to use the devices.

As nearly as we could tell, all 6 residences were carbon copies of each other. Paradise's poles were so warm that there was little concern for ice and snow, and the equator was so hot that the water tanks were probably refrigerated, though we didn't know for sure. As a precaution, all 28 team members were issued environmentally controlled suits to maintain a reasonable body temperature.

Finally, we were ready to attack! Amy's squad landed at the south polar residence and found that there were no obvious barriers to entry. The ambient temperature was about 20 degrees Fahrenheit, much too cold for native paradisians to be exposed to. This, combined with the iron control maintained by the fish, made it very unlikely that natives would or could ever attack.

Amy led her crew in through a loading dock which had a door that was easy to open. Once inside, they found themselves in nearly total darkness. The natives needed little light and the fish overlords never left their water tank, so there was no need for much lighting. We had planned for this by issuing everybody in the group but Amy the light-amplifying goggles. Amy had her vision opened up for the full spectrum of radiation, so she could see through walls with her X-ray vision and pick up on any detection devices with her radio frequency vision.

We did not expect any booby traps, since there was a lot of traffic by natives up and down the halls. We hoped to meet and convert natives to use as guides early in the attack, as we had done when we invaded the fish's FTL ships back on the prehistoric Earth.

Amy's group quickly met with a native, who skidded to a halt and bowed low. "I don't know who you are, but you must be related to the gods! You have released me from the hateful control of the fish masters. Please, I beg you, kill me before you let them regain control of my mind!"

"We are here to put an end to the slavery your people have had to endure. Help us to locate the fish master and we will shut down its control immediately. We have other groups attacking the rest of the fish masters' residences, and you should all be free very soon if you will help us."

"Wonderful, what do you want me to do?"

"Lead us to the fish master's quarters. We will do the rest."

"Very well, that's simple to do. Please follow me." Amy's crew followed the native through a maze of corridors, leading down into the core of what amounted to a city. As they traveled, they picked up more released natives who dogged their footsteps in fear of being recaptured by the fish master. Finally, there got to be so many of the natives following them that something had to be done.

Amy explained her solution to the problem and all of the natives agreed to go along. The humans set their stun guns to a 2-hour stun level and shot all of the natives within reach of the beam. The natives were now immune to the mind control of the fish masters until they regained consciousness. This wasn't an ideal solution to the problem, but it was workable. It also set a time limit for Amy's group.

They hurried behind their original guide toward the fish's tank. The native became more and more euphoric as they got closer to the fish master and his mind was still not under outside control. They eventually reached the fish's tank and Amy looked through the transparent walls and the monster within. She shot the fish with her stun gun set for 24 hours of unconsciousness. She could see the fear in the fish's four eyes as she pulled the trigger.

Pandemonium broke out as hundreds of natives in the immediate vicinity were released from the thrall of their hated master. Many came running to the holding tank to see what had happened. Amy asked them to go among their people explaining that they had been released from slavery and she hoped that they would cooperate with our people who would try to bring justice back to Paradise.

Most left immediately to carry the word. A few stayed around to see what would happen next. Amy asked if anyone knew where to find the controls to shut down the transporter dampener shield, so that her people who wanted to help could be transported in. Two of the natives signaled that they knew how to kill the field and scurried off on that errand. Very soon, Amy knew that the field had been shut down, since she could now contact us at headquarters directly from her implanted communicator.

Amy reported all that had happened and asked that the support people be sent in to take over so that she could leave. I told her that 4 of the 6 residencies had now been captured, so we hoped that the rest would be in our hands in a few minutes. Meanwhile, we were moving support troops in as fast as we could line them up.

Cicero's experience at one of the equator residences had been very much like Amy's until his team got close to the environmental tank. They were advancing down a long corridor when they were suddenly attacked by machine gun fire. The fish had somehow gotten warning about the attack in time to get a defensive line set up before they reached his tank.

The machine guns shooting at them were at the extreme of their effective range. Unfortunately for the people on both sides of the battle, the natives doing the shooting were too far away for the humans to influence their thralldom. Nobody would ever know why the natives started shooting as soon as they did, but, by shooting from such a great distance, they warned the attackers soon enough that they were able to take cover and avoid being hit by the bullets. Was this somebody breaking mind control by bending it to his advantage, or was the fish master that foolish? Who could tell, but the result was the salvation of many of the people who accompanied Cicero.

Cicero was the only member of his team who was enhanced, so it was up to him to stop the machine guns from hurting anyone. He set his stun gun to a 15-minute stun charge and ran as fast as he could in a zig-zag pattern toward the machine guns. As soon as he was close enough, Cicero fired a sweep of stun rays at the machine gunners and knocked them all out. Cicero had been hit by several of the bullets, but nowhere that they could do him any damage.

As soon as he was sure that all the opposition was unconscious, Cicero disabled the guns by bending the barrels in a sharp angle so that there was a bullet-stopping kink in each barrel. He then waved to his companions to join him at the machine gun nest.

Once his group had reformed, Cicero had his native guide lead them to the environmental tank. They found the tank and Cicero shot the fish master with his stun gun. As in Amy's situation, pandemonium broke loose. Many natives rushed to Cicero's location to find out what had happened, but a few enterprising souls rushed to the tank and jumped in. They used their murderous claws to tear the fish master to pieces before Cicero realized what was going on. Well, that was one monster that would never trouble anybody again.

Cicero called in as soon as the dampener field was shut off. There was some tsk-tsking behind me when we heard the report about the death of the fish monster, but I thought he got what he deserved. Five of the six residences had been captured. The only one left was Arthur's.

Arthur was also working on an equatorial residence, and this was a different experience from what the others had met. His crew had spent a lot of time wandering around in the labyrinth of corridors without making any real progress nor meeting any of the natives. "What the hell was going on?" he wondered. "We should have met somebody by now. Does the fish master know we're here and is he just playing with us? Here it is, the middle of the day and nobody is around. Oh, shit! I forgot, the natives are nocturnal. No wonder we haven't see anybody!"

They wandered around some more and finally ran across an individual who was asleep, but looked like he ought to be some sort of guard. Arthur poked it with his boot and yelled, "HEY! WAKE UP, SLEEPYHEAD! WE'RE HERE TO RESCUE YOU, BUT WE NEED A LITTLE HELP!"

"Hunh? What? Oh my gods, where has the master gone? He's no longer in my head hurting me!"

"Wake up! You are free as long as you are near us. Now, tell us where to find the fish master so that we can destroy him."

"What? You can't fight the master!" With that, the native jumped up and started running away as fast as he could scurry. In disgust, Arthur shot him with a 2-hour stun charge.

"Well, maybe we can find somebody with some sense if we go in the direction that idiot was running. Let's go that way." They started off down the corridor branch taken by the frightened native. Before long, they came to what looked like a barracks room. Arthur walked in and shouted, "WAKE UP! WAKE UP! WHO'S IN CHARGE?"

"I'm in charge. What do you want?"

Arthur turned to a native who was somewhat larger than the others and said, "We're here to rescue you from the fish master. We need some information. As soon as you wake up, fully, you will realize that you are no longer mind controlled."

"By the gods, you are right. This is the first time since I was a hatchling that I have not felt the master pushing on my mind. How did you do that?"

"We don't have time to go into details now. But you are safe from the master as long as you are close to one of us. Now, will you help us?"

"Of course I'll help you. This few moments of freedom is worth my life! What can I do to help?"

"You can lead us to his environmental tank. Once we find him, we will put him permanently out of action. Then you will be free, forever."

"My squad will help you. Follow us! On your feet, men. Our salvation is here! We're off to rid ourselves of slavery, forever!"

They marched directly to the tank, which Arthur's team had passed close to several times without realizing it. As soon as they came into the room with the tank, Arthur shot the fish master with the usual 24-hour stun.

"Is he dead?" asked the native squad leader.

"No, he's just stunned. He'll wake up in 24 hours."

"Never! Kill him, men. We can't allow him to wake up!"

Several natives jumped into the tank and attacked the fish. Arthur couldn't do anything about it because he was mobbed by dozens of natives who suddenly realized that they were free of their master. By the time Arthur regained control of the situation, the fish monster was dead.

Arthur managed to find a helpful native who knew how to turn off the dampener field, and he was finally able to contact us at headquarters. He gave me the full story and we could chalk up one planet free of the fish monsters!

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Story tagged with:
Science Fiction / Humor / Violent /