Chapter 17 – Professor Linton Is Taken!
We found a swath of devastation that marked the path of the Martian soldiers. Their assault was indiscriminate, we found men, women, and children were among the dead and injured. We immediately began to render what aid we could. I set a message to the fort to send all available men to help in the effort.
A nearby warehouse was transformed into a makeshift hospital. We had no access to the Martian hospitals, as they were all in pro government controlled areas. The doctors who backed the democracy movement emptied their offices of supplies and came to our hospital. My men immediately pitched in bringing in wounded and getting things set up. It was heart wrenching to see those innocent people coming in battered and bloodied.
I was incensed by the brutality of the attack. Such violence could not be tolerated and I was forced into action. I grabbed a platoon of men and marched toward Mr. Reytik’s office. As we neared the Mayor’s office, I noticed Martian riflemen lining the roof. When we came into earshot we were ordered to halt. I shouted to the man, “We are here to see Reytik!”
“I will inform him!” the man replied.
As we waited for Reytik, I noticed movement on adjacent roofs. I was not the only one to see it, as the men began to react by fidgeting with their weapons and looking for the closest cover. “Men, be still and stay calm. I do not think they will attack us unless they are provoked. Just keep an eye on the roofs and be prepared to move in a hurry.”
Reytik came out with a guard of twelve men. He stopped about ten feet from our position and said, “Hello Mr. Roosevelt, what can I do for you.”
“Your assault upon the Merchant sector today reprehensible in its credulity and barbarity. Such behavior cannot be tolerated!” I said.
“Mr. Roosevelt,” he said “I have been lenient with these rebels up until now, for your sake. That has resulted in increased violence from those ‘friends’ of yours. It is now time to handle this uprising in the manner that it deserves.”
“I cannot allow you to perpetrate indiscriminate violence on your own people.” I said.
“I have already set my plans into action Mr. Roosevelt.” Ryetik said. “You can try to stop them if you like. However, I would suggest that you not. Otherwise, your time here will be short. Good day Mr. Roosevelt.”
With that, he turned and walked away. I ordered my men to return to out station. As we walked away, I had a sneeze. In that instant, a bullet whizzed just past my head. Had I not sneezed, I would have been killed. A number of my men quickly turned and returned fire. I believe we scored several hits in the volley. We then ducked into a side street amid a hail of bullets. We made our way quickly out of the government sector before stopping to access the situation. We were not followed and we saw no other snipers.
“Gentlemen,” I said, “I believe we are at war. Let us get back to our station and make preparations.”
With that, we returned to our post. From there we telegraphed the officers at the fort to come to the station to hold a war conference. It was decided to keep most of our force concentrated at the fort. Therefore, 2 companies of men, the Gatling guns, and the mountain gun were to remain at the fort. The heavy weapons were to be kept in readiness for rapid deployment. One squad was to always be on watch, both at the fort and the station. I did not wish to risk my men on small patrols, so I asked Borlak if he could provide intelligence on the movements of the government troops. To this he readily agreed.
I then talked with Chronto and asked if he could get twenty men that we could train to use our spare Trapdoor Springfields. He replied that he could supply one hundred recruits if we needed them. I said that the twenty would be enough for now and that they should report to the fort as soon as possible. They were at the fort within an hour
Lt. Griffin and Sgt. Fish were sent to drill Borlak’s men. Both men were favorably impressed with the speed with which the Martians picked up the evolutions. These axillaries were to prove invaluable in the days to come.
After a tense week, I met with Lieutenants Griffin and Wilcox, who were instructing Borlak’s men and Chronto’s troops respectively. Asking about their readiness, I was told that they took to the drills with amazing rapidity. However, it was not known how they would behave in actual combat. For that, we would have to wait until the shooting started. I agreed with their evaluation of the Martians and told them to keep working our new recruits.
In the predawn hours of the next morning we were awaken by a banging on the door of the station. One of my men went to the door, but no one was there. He did find a note tacked to the door, however. It was written in Martian so I sent for Professor Edgren. While I was waiting for the Professor, I asked the lookout what they saw.
“Nothing Sir,” he replied “I heard the tapping, but when I got over there I could not see anything.”
I sent the man back to his post and ordered Sgt. Bell to take a squad and purchase a number of the Martian light globes so that we could illuminate the exterior of our station as well as our fort.
When Professor Edgren arrived, I handed him the note. As he read the note, he staggered back and fell into a chair.
“Miss Linton has been kidnapped!” he said. “It appears that a desert leader named Jordak, who rules along the Scamander canal, has taken her for ransom. In return for Miss Linton, he wants control of all the towns from Lacus Ismenius to the town of Gaesus, some fifty miles from here.”
“And he thinks we can deliver this to him?” I said angrily.
“Not at all.” Said Professor Edgren. “These demands are made of Reytik, He gave us a copy of them as a courtesy, he says here.”
“I will not have my people use a pawns in some Martian power struggle!” I exclaimed. I then called for my orderly.”Take down this message.” I ordered. “'Miss Linton alive or Jordak dead.' Now, find a Martian messenger to take it to this Jordak.”
I then called for another orderly. “This is a message for Reytik.” I said. “Have Miss Linton returned to me unharmed or I will take provocative and decisive action to ensure the safety of my people.”