Thursday, May 19, 2016

Rough Riders On Mars! Chapter 11 – Talking With The Prisoner

Chapter 11 – Talking With The Prisoner
We took our prisoner back to our fort and put him into a makeshift jail. I then called my officers and advisors together to recount the events of the morning. I then asked about what was learned from the wounded Martians in our custody.

Professor Linton started, “These men were hired by an unknown agent from the region around Isidis. They were paid the going rate and were told that it would be an easy job because they would out number their foe three to one.”

Lieutenant Ballard interjected, “I’ll wager the next bunch gets paid better.”

“Indeed.” Professor Linton continued. “These deals are typically carried out in this manner, it protects the parties involved.”

Professor Boas then took up the narrative. “These mercenaries are professional fighting men and not just desert tribesmen out to make extra money. Their poor showing today is due to the fact that they expected to be fighting city guards, which are typically a lower class of fighting man. Rest assured, our next encounter will not be so easy.”

“I will hold my judgement of our adversaries until I become more familiar with them.”, I said. “However valuable this information is; it does not get us closer to discovering who hired them.”

“Not directly.” Said Professor Boas. “However, the examination of the property carried by the dead and wounded revealed a greater number of Ceraunian coinage than expected for men from Isidis.”

“That is condemning circumstantial evidence,” I said, “however, it is not definitive proof that the instigator came from here. It can be argued that the perpetrator used Ceraunian coins to shift the blame away from the actual guilty party. Reytik supplied us with a good number of possible culprits in our interview.”

“Did we get any hints from your interviews with the wounded?”, I asked.

“Not about who hired them.”, said Miss Linton. “However, I did learn something about the size of the underground self-government movement.”

“What have you learned?”, I asked.

“It appears that this movement has permeated the lower social classes almost completely. And it is not just confined to the Ceraunius sphere of influence. It has expanded to the neighboring city-states.”, Professor Linton said.

“Who makes up these lower classes?”, I asked.

Professor Boas explained, “The agrarian community, the commercial community, and some parts of the warrior community.”

“What parts of the military?”, I inquired.

“One group is the mercenaries that we encountered today are part of the movement.”, Professor Boas said. “The units attached to the government and the upper echelons of the mercenary formations are pro establishment, of course.”

“This sounds like the majority of the population.”, I said. “So why is it that it appears that this movement is making no gains?”

“There is no unifying force to solidify these disparate groups into a single powerful movement.”, Professor Boas said. “We are sitting on a powder keg, once a prophet is found to unite the downtrodden, the entire region will explode into a great, and probably a terribly violent, revolution.”  

 “Very well.”, I said. “Let’s go see what that hired gun has to say.”

Professor Edgren and I made our way to the makeshift jail. Our man was sitting, staring at a blank wall, aloof to the goings on around him. We entered the room and sat down at the table, opposite the man. He had his back to us. I started with introductions.

“I am Colonel Roosevelt and this is Mr. Edgren. We would like to know your name, please.”

He said, “I am Melderk.”

“Very good, Mr. Melderk, can you tell me why you provoked a fight with us?” I asked.

“Sir, it was you who intruded into my affairs.” He said.

“You sir, interrupted our meal by intimidating our host”, I responded.

“He needed to be reminded of his place. These shopkeepers and farmers are becoming too bold for their own good. And it has been getting worse since you Earthers arrived.” Melderk said.

So, you do not approve of these people striving to control their own destiny?” I said.

“Ha! These people can barely control their own kitchens. They would do better to leave the control of the government to those bred for it.” he retorted. 

“So, you and the other City Guards with you were merely attempting to maintain the natural order of life in Ceraunius, correct?” I asked.

“That is correct.” Melderk replied.

“Very well, Mr. Melderk. What can you tell me about the attack on our base this morning?” I asked.
“Mercenaries, hired by those wishing to maintain order in our society.” He replied.
“Are you referring to members of the Ceraunian ruling class?” I inquired.
“Mars is bigger than just Ceraunius,” He said. “Our cities are connected by more than just canals.”
“Indeed.” I replied. “However, for now, I am only concerned with this small area. So, do you believe that our presence here is disrupting the order of your society?”
“My beliefs are of no consequence.” Melderk responded.
“Then your superiors object to our being here.” I prodded.
“No more than you and your kind objected when the Nagi-Fej wished to take charge of your world.” He replied.
“Very well, Mr. Melderk,” I said, “you are free to go. However, I would like you to deliver a message to your master.”

“What is that?” he asked.

“Tell Mr. Reytik that I will not tolerate his minions molesting those of the merchant or farming communities that choose to do business with us.” I said.

“I will deliver your message,” Melderk responded, “but be aware that it will take more than winning a tavern brawl and thrashing worthless mercenaries to gain overlordship here.”

To that, I said, “Good day Mr. Melderk.” And had him escorted out of our fort. I then ordered Private Charles J. Fandru, a Caddo Indian, to trail him and report on any stops he made.

Well, Professor,” I said “I appears we may be getting into something much bigger than we once thought.”

“Indeed it does.”  Professor Edgren said. “Let’s hope that the city-states are no better organized than the Democratic movement is."

"At this point, I feel we are fighting an undeclared “small war” with Reytik and the Ceraunian “nobility”." I said." Hopefully, our good showing in both of our encounters will lessen their zeal to try something else.”

“I hope our reinforcements arrive soon.” Professor Edgren said. “That would give Reytik further pause before he considers his next move.”

“I agree whole-heartedly.” I replied.