Sunday, June 26, 2016

Rough Riders On Mars! - Chapter 16 – The Government Strikes Back

Chapter 16 – The Government Strikes Back

As we passed through the smoke and debris, we found a gaping hole in the building where the front entrance of the Mayor’s office used to be. Inside, amid the rubble, were a half dozen administrators and guards. I ordered my men to start digging the Martians out of the wreckage and render what aid we could. We all jumped to the task and had three men freed before the city guards began to arrive. With the help of the new arrivals, we extradited the remaining men from the debris. In total, there were two dead and four injured, one critically.
Reytik arrived as we were rendering first aid to the injured men. He appeared angry, bewildered, and scared.  

“What has happened here?” he said in a cracking voice.

“I do not know, my Lord.” Replied one of the city guards. “We heard the explosion and came here right away. This is what we found.”

“Where are the guards that were on duty?” Reytik said.

“Missing sir,” he replied.

Reytik walked through the room and out the hole in the wall. He looked around as if he thought he would find his missing men standing there. He kicked at some of the rubble, shook his head, and came back inside.

“Our men were vaporized where they stood.” Reytik said.

It was then that Reytik noticed that we were there.

“You!” he shouted, pointing with a shaking hand. “This is your doing Roosevelt!”

“This is not the time, Reytik.” I said. “Let us get your men taken care of. Then we can discuss what happened.”

“Of course.” He said as his anger was checked, somewhat.

Litter bearers came and the wounded men were placed gently on to the stretchers and transported to the hospital. Reytik was giving orders, then Private James yelled, “Look out!” and lunged forward into Reytik, knocking him out of the way as a large piece of the ceiling collapsed. He helped Reytik back to his feet and said, “Sorry sir, I didn’t think saw the roof coming loose.”

“Thank you, Mister?” Reytik said.

“James, sir.” He replied, “Private Frank James.”

“Thank you Mister James.” Reytik said.

Reytik completed his arrangements for cleaning up and securing the office. He then motioned us to follow him back to his office. I posted two of my men outside the damaged tower, as much to let the anarchist know that Americans were inside as for protecting Reytik. I, along with the remainder of my men and Professor Edgren, moved into Reytik’s office.

“Mr. Roosevelt,” Reytik began. Your presence here has emboldened some radical elements of Ceraunius and you can see the results.”

“Mr. Reytik,” I replied, “the problems you are having predate the arrival of myself, or any Americans for that matter. The violence has escalated in response to the government’s disregard for its citizens.”

“I am sure you did not come here to argue political doctrine, Mr. Roosevelt.” Reytik said. “As you can see, I have much to deal with at the moment, so if we can take care of our business quickly, I can then get on with what I need to do.”

“Very well, Reytik.” I said. “This morning some of your men assaulted a young woman near my station. They shot two civilians that came to the woman’s aid. They continued their assault, so one of my men shot dead the lead perpetrator. The remaining assailants disappeared into the city.”

“And what would you like me to do about this unfortunate situation, Mr. Roosevelt?” he asked.

“I would like you to restrain your men from assaults upon the women of the city.” I replied.

“I will see what I can do.” Reytik said. “Now I have a great deal of work to do Mr. Roosevelt, so I will bid you good day.”

We departed the Mayor’s office and made our way back to the station. I knew that the situation would only get worse. I just didn’t know how bad it would become nor how quickly it would come to a head. With that in mind, I doubled the watch and increased the number of patrols around the part of the city that we controlled.

A week passed and nothing more happened. The city guard had reduced their forays of terror into the commercial district to almost nothing. The results were that the democracy movement felt that they have won a major victory. I warned Mr. Borlak, my friend from the restaurant, that he and his fellows should remain vigilant as I felt that Reytik was planning a major strike against the democracy forces. While Borlak was heedful of my warning and tried to warn the others, those of the democracy movement outside of our sphere of protection were unprepared for what happened next.

It was a summer morning, pleasant for the Earthmen, but the Martians thought it was going to be hot. The city was beginning to come alive for the day. Then, on the far side of the city, a commotion arose. Marching through that far quarter of the commercial district was a regiment of Martian soldiers with an artillery piece. From our station we could hear a constant rattle of rifle fire and the occasional report of artillery.

I climbed the watchtower to see if I could ascertain what was happening. What I saw was several units of Martians standing on the outskirts of our zone. These troops were not advancing, but were there as a warning for us to, “mind our own business.” I observed that the number of Martian troops was greater than what we could overcome with the garrison of the station and there was no time to assemble the troops from the fort. I telegraphed the fort to make ready, in case those forces surrounding us decided to attack.

Civilians were somehow able to filter into our area bringing stories rampant destruction and murder. Though these stories were heart wrenching, my warnings to Borlak were heeded and his men stayed in a defensive posture. 

The gunfire and commotion crept ever closer to our area. My men were manning the walls with rifles and machine guns ready. As it came to within a couple of blocks of our location, a massive volley rang out, followed by a second, then a third. After that, the gunfire ceased and the soldiers surrounding our district faded away. I sent out patrols that found all the Martian soldiers gone. I then gathered a large squad and went out to ascertain the effects of the government’s incursion.

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