Monday, April 4, 2016

Rough Riders On Mars! Chapter 7– The Officers Of My Post

Chapter 7– The Officers Of My Post
Upon my return, I gathered my officers, NCOs, and civilian advisers together into my office. It was my intention to learn from those who had been on station longer their opinions as to the state of affairs concerning our Martian charges. The dissemination of this information would be immensely helpful to the new officers, so that we could avoid the pitfalls encountered by the “old hands”.

For officers I had three lieutenants and NCOs assigned to the platoons. These were Lt. Charles Ballard, Lt. Sherrard Coleman, Lt. William Griffin, Sgt. Hamilton Fish, Sgt. John Langston, and Sgt. Horace Sherman. Lt. Griffin and Sgt.’s Fish and Sherman had come to Mars in my convoy. In addition to the men in charge of the platoons, I had two additional lieutenants and three NCOs. These were Lt. John Thomas Jr., Lt. George Wilcox, Sgt. Dillwyn Bell, Sgt. Timothy Breen, and Sgt. Willis Huson. All of these men were first rate soldiers and leaders.

For civilian advisors, I had Prof. Edgren, of course, as our linguistics expert, Prof. Franz Boas in charge of anthropological studies, and Prof. Laura Alberta Linton was our chemist and physician. These three scientists were invaluable for their expertise in their respective fields.

With introductions out of the way, I began the interview. “Gentlemen and Lady,” I started, “We have all embarked on this grand adventure together to promote our American ideals of economics, politics, and way of life here on Mars.” “It is our mission here to improve the lives of all Martians through democratic government and free enterprise. In order to know how to proceed with these lofty goals, we need to know the current situation regarding our relations with both the Martian government and the Martian populace. We also need to determine the average Martian’s feeling toward his current government. So, I will ask each of you in turn about the observations you have made during your short stay here. Let’s start with Professor Edgren. He briefed me on his views on our way back from the Mayor’s office, but it would be profitable for him to recount our conversation for the new officers and sergeants.

“Thank you, Mr. Roosevelt.” He said. Then Professor Edgren proceeded to recount the narrative of our conversation earlier this morning. The other scientists and the more experienced officers nodded their consent with the Professor’s dissertation.

“Very good, Professor Edgren, thank you.” I said. “Next, let us here from Professor Boas.”

“Mr. Roosevelt,” Professor Boas began, “The Martian civilization is unique. For eons, the Nagi-Fej have bred the Martians for specific tasks. So, the majority of Martians were bred for agriculture, then shopkeepers/goods distributors were next, and finally, the administrators and those that ran sensitive equipment were the smallest group.

The Nagi-Fej also acquired slaves from other planets, including earth, and these were cross-bred with
the Martians to produce people even better suited for their tasks. Obviously, the existing Martian population did not take to being enslaved. Many escaped to the desert and eked out a marginal existence. These are the wild tribes of the desert that we see today.”

“As the Nagi-Fej began to dwindle,” he continued, “those abandoned towns and cities gained a newfound freedom. For the most part, however, the majority of the population did not know what to do with their freedom. The upper class Martians, the administrative and technical, quickly took control as de facto royalty. Now, these robber barons soon discovered that they had no way to protect their holdings. Because the administrative class was allowed more freedom of thought than the other classes, they were able to mold the technical class into soldiers. The soldiers protected the farmers up and down the canals in return for the goods required for their existence.”

“The exception to this model is the Chrontis Empire.”, Professor Boas continued. “Apparently, some of the Earthmen enslaved in that area came from Republican Rome. Trivium Charontis was probably abandoned by the Nagi-Fej shortly after their (the Romans') arrival. I would guess that a whole cohort or perhaps an entire legion was taken. This could explain the disappearance of the Legio IX Hispana. Regardless, of the number of Romans captured, it is obvious that there were enough to forge an empire covering a large part of the eastern hemisphere.”

“Moving on to more contemporary times, because the breeding program of the Nagi-Fej was the first of the old institutions to go. This resulted in the loss of the knowledge required to maintain the complex infrastructure that was built up over time. So, as one moves further from the central city, the canals, roads, and other infrastructure deteriorates substantially.”, Professor Boas finished.

“Thank you, Professor, that was very insightful.”, I said. “Now, let’s move on to Professor Linton.”

“Thank you, Mr. Roosevelt”, she started. “So far as mineral wealth is concerned; we are situated in a very advantageous area. This is the center of Reiciopondium mining in the western hemisphere. This is the material used by the Cophen Exclusion Zone to make flying machines. The Ceraunions do not have any flying machines, they have lost the knowledge to refine the mineral and it’s a closely guarded secret of the Cophenians. In the southern hemisphere there is a tree called Hewakuni. When lumber from this wood is treated properly, it becomes lighter than air. Perhaps with some of this wood and a little knowledge of the native curing process, we may be able to develop a refining process for  Reiciopondium for use in new spacecraft.”

She continued, "Ceraunius imports baridium from Nitriae. Baridium is the mineral used as gunpowder and as a source of artificial light. It is water activated, so their weapons are of a unique design, but I’m sure your officers can describe them in greater detail.”

“Like so many other professions on Mars,” she continued, “the medical field has suffered greatly over time. The major cities have a fairly substantial medical organization, but this falls off steeply almost at the city limits. The wild tribes, for example, have little better than witch-doctors.”

“Thank you Professor Linton, at my first convenience I will talk to the officer at Memnonia about acquiring the materials you need for your experiments. “, I said. “Now let us turn to military matters.  Lieutenant Wilcox, you were in charge of the post until my arrival, so I would like you to give the report on the state of military affairs. Of course, If you other gentlemen have anything to add, please feel free to do so. Mr. Wilcox, if you please.”

Mr. Wilcox began, “Because we’ve had so few men on station, we have limited our patrols to the immediate area of Ceraunius so our intelligence is quite limited concerning anything outside of a five mile radius around the city. That being said, the military here is rather primitive compared to ours. Their weaponry consists of spears, swords, bow and arrows, and a type of firearm. Typically, they are organized into platoons of men armed with like weapons. So a platoon will consist of all swordsmen, all riflemen, etc. These platoons are then combined into groups of three, two platoons being armed with close combat weapons and the third with a missile weapon; either bows or rifles. Finally, two companies can be combined into a battalion, of sorts.”

“So, what can you tell us about their firearms?”, I asked.

“Let me turn that question over to Sargent Breen. He has acted as our armorer.”

“Thank you sir.” , replied Breen. “The Martians use the baridium rifle. They are typically smooth bored to approximately 50 caliber. The cartridge is caseless, the baridium propellant adheres to the bullet and retains its shape from the manufacturing process. There is a water reservoir over the breech that supplies the catalyst to the propellant charge. Most Martians swab their weapon with a dry sponge after each shot to ensure that no moisture is left in the breech, as this could cause a catastrophic misfire. This weapon comes in a long rifle, a cavalry carbine, and a pistol.”

Sgt. Breen continued, “they also have three types of artillery; a baridium cannon, a baridium torpedo, and what they call a vortex cannon. The baridium cannon works on the same principle as the rifle, just on a larger scale. The baridium torpedo is a two part canister containing water and baridium. It is hurled by a device similar to the ancient Roman Scorpion. When the canister, the torpedo, hits the ground, it bursts open so that the water and explosive mix creating a fiery explosion.”

“the vortex cannon uses compressed air to force out a plume of fine baridium powder, which is then exposed to a mist of water creating a cone of fire in front of the machine. Of course, this weapon has a limited range.”, he explained.

Sgt. Breen finished up, “the primitive weapons in use are really no different than those found on Earth, so no further explanation is required.”

“Thank you gentlemen.”, I said. “Now I would like to discuss your opinions about your believe as to the Martian sentiments are toward us.”

Professor Boas said, “The general population seems to have taken little notice of us. This is mainly due to the breeding program they were subjected to for so long.  The idea of free thought seems to have been bred out of the majority of the population, and because the upper classes tend to be exclusive, the atrophied mental faculties of the peasant  class are making a slow recovery. Now the further one moves from the city, the closer and more intermingled the classes become. The ruling classes are concerned that they will lose their power, and though they are openly friendly, if feel they are working covertly against us.”

Professor Edgren said, “I agree with Mr. Boas and would add that Reytik will feign cooperation for as long as possible, while hiding behind his inability to control his mercenaries.”

Miss Linton then interjected, “I have been asked to treat several members of clandestine peasant reactionary organizations. These groups are working for greater freedom for the oppressed classes of the Martian civilization. This movement may be in its infancy, but I assure you that it is there.”

Sargent Langston added, “I agree with Miss Linton. The peasants and small shop owners are tiring of the strong-arm tactics used by the ruling classes through their mercenary enforcers. When we’ve scuffled with the guards, the lower classes definitely enjoy it more that docile, apathetic people should.”

Mr. Boas interjected, “Secret societies makes sense. The peasants know they would be way outclassed in an open rebellion and contact with carters from outlying regions have educated the city dwellers in the freedom acquired in the country. These two circumstances make the situation ripe for clandestine rebellion.”

I commented, “Well, it appears that we have been put into a potentially volatile situation.”

That’s not all.”, said Lieutenant Coleman. “Our skirmishes with the guards have embarrassed them. It won’t be long before they test us in earnest.”

“So will the ruling class of Ceraunius order this test?” I asked.

Professor Edgren replied, “Not in a way that we can prove. Reytik is too smart for that. He’ll hire some mercenaries from somewhere else, possibly Isidis. He will then claim the attack is part of a generations long feud.”

“Well, we must consider all of our actions very carefully given this new information.”, I said. “We cannot afford to risk any of our men in needless combat, reinforcements and replacements will soon be two years away.”
“Let us ponder our situation this evening and we will convene again in the morning to discuss our options.” With that I concluded our meeting. Afterwards we went to our quarters for rest and contemplation.

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