Chapter 13 – Rumblings Of Insurrection
Chronto and I made it back from our excursion with no incident. So, it was time to get back to the business at hand. But, before that could happen, I was forced to relate our adventure numerous times to various groups of the men. They all marveled at my “Good Fortune” and wished they too could have been there. I do not blame them, as being cooped up around the fort for weeks is trying on adventurous men’s spirit.
During the time between the restaurant encounter and the arrival of our last reinforcements, I was able to acquire a building in town that we would use as an office/station. Its location was only a block from Borlak’s restaurant. Once we had bought the building, we began making it defensible. We were able to construct a makeshift telegraph that ran from the fort to the station. We also constructed a watchtower on top of our building. This afforded a view of much of Ceraunius. These two additions allowed us to see trouble at a distance and call for support before a situation became precarious.
With the addition of our new location, I busied myself making a rotation schedule so that all of the men would become well acquainted with our area of operation. This would also help them become more familiar with the Martian society, which would in turn, reduce the possibilities of incidents occurring due to our inadvertent social transgressions.
Over the weeks while we were constructing our new post, I noticed that the city guards were acting more belligerent than normal toward the shop owners. Toward my men, however, they tried to maintain an attitude of aloofness. The blocks around our office appeared to be off limits to the guard, as none were seen, nor would they come to investigate an alleged crime. Therefore, it fell to us to keep order in our section of town.
Asking around, I found that the guards were targeting the brunt of their hostilities towards those people that were most active in the democracy movement. Most were just being verbally threatened, but some were physically abused. Unfortunately, a couple of the shops were broken up and one was burned to the ground. Finding no relief from Mr. Reytik, these men came to me. I asked these men if they had any clues as to who perpetrated these attacks. While they all agreed that they were thugs hired by the government, the could make no positive identifications of the assailants. So I still could not obtain the evidence against the Mayor needed to prosecute him. Also, I was not sure that I had the military strength available to enforce the peace should I oust the government.
I took a couple of my men and went over to the burnt out shop to see if there were any clues as to the identity of the arsonist. Digging through the rubble, I noticed that the debris was made up entirely of building material and there was no evidence of merchandise that a store should contain. It was obvious to me that the store was robbed before it was torched. Other than the lack of the store’s stocks, there appeared to be no other evidence to be found. As we turned to leave, one of the men kicked some rubble out of his way. This revealed a shiny metal object that caught my eye. I picked it up to examine the object. It was a medallion of some kind, though I could discern nothing about it’s origin. I put the medallion into my pocket and we headed back to the station.
Once we had returned, I had our telegraph operator signal the fort to send the Professors over for a meeting. Upon their arrival, I recounted the recent events that had occurred in town as I understood them. We were all in agreement that things were rapidly coming to a head between the democracy movement and the government.
Miss Linton began, “These attacks are targeting the leaders of the democracy movement. Reytik is trying to quell the movement by intimidation for now, but I can see that his actions are becoming more violent almost daily.”
“Indeed,” Professor Boas said, “but he was lenient with the movement’s leaders and they have now moved into the safety of our cordon. This will keep the movement alive and force Reytik into direct conflict with us eventually.”
“No doubt.” I said. “What sort of support can we expect from the population?”
“In general, those supporting the democracy movement will actively support us.” Professor Boas said. “Though they will be woefully inadequate as fighting men. They have no training and will be using only improvised weapons.”
“What about mercenaries like my friend Chronto?” I asked.
“They will make a good cadre for training purposes, but there are not enough of them in our area to make a big impact.” Said Professor Boas.
“Well, they will need to arm and train themselves quickly or give up the movement." I said. “We cannot allow the movement to perish, so we must find a way to help them without provoking Reytik into action.”
“I will talk to the leaders of the movement at the next meeting.” Miss Linton said. “Perhaps I can convince them to start a militia.”
“Very good.” I said. “By the way, I found this medallion at the shop that was burned down. What can you make of it?”
Professor Edgren took the medallion to examine it.
“This is an identification bracelet.” He said. “It belonged to a man from Palamnus, a small town down the Thyanis canal. He is a constable there. From the condition of the bracelet, it appears to have been lost prior to the fire.”
“Is Palamnus a tributary to Ceraunius?” I asked.
“Marginally,” said Professor Edgren. “Palamnus is situated near the Phlegra Montes, on the banks of the Lucrinus Lucas. They are not dependent on Ceraunius for food while Ceraunius requires the Reiciopondium that they mine. Its distance from the city also offers Palamnus protection”
“A man from a nearly autonomous region has no reason to set fire to a business in Ceraunius.” I said. “The only reasonable explanation is that the Palamnus man was a hired arsonist.”
The others agreed with that assessment. As we continued our discussion, we were interrupted by a disturbance in the adjoining room. I went out to see what was the matter. Amongst my men, I found several angry shopkeepers and a beaten and bloodied City Guard. I knew things were rapidly spiraling out of control.