Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Rough Riders On Mars! - Chapter 18 – I Weigh Our Options And Determine our Course



Chapter 18 – I Weigh Our Options And Determine our Course

I called my officers to a meeting at the station. We needed to discuss our options to bring this situation to a successful conclusion.

Men, I am sure you have heard about the abduction of Miss Linton by now.” I began. “It is now up to us to determine our next course of action. So first, Let’s review our current situation. Currently, we expect hostilities from the government troops at any time. If we send out an expedition to rescue Miss Linton, we will be inviting action by Reytik’s men. I assume my message to Reytik will be met with derision. Finally, we know nothing of Jordak or what forces he has.”

“We cannot sit here and wait for things to happen.” said Lt. Coleman

“We whipped the Martians easy enough in our first fight.” said Lt. Wilcox. “I reckon we can do it again.”

“Indeed, we defeated a force of ill equipped desert ruffians easily enough and we could do the same with Jordak’s men.” I said. “However, I am more concerned with how we’ll fare against Reytik’s well armed guards.” I continued, “I will not just sit here and wait for events to unfold, but we must measure our actions to ensure the safety and success of this endeavor.”

“What do you suggest we do?” asked Lt. Thomas.

“First, we determine the strength of Jordak’s tribe. Then we can calculate the force required to rescue Miss Linton.”, I said. “We have the auxiliaries of Chronto and Borlak at our disposal to either augment our field force or the troops that remain here. Professor Boas, what can you tell us of Jordak?”

“Most desert tribes are made up of from two to five clans containing around twenty warriors each.” He said. “Occasionally, two or more tribes may join together to pursue a common goal, but these mergers seldom last long.”

“Send for Chronto.” I told the orderly. “Perhaps he can give us more information specific to Jordak.”

When Chronto arrived, I asked him to tell us what he knew of Jordak.
Chronto said, “Jordak is an Akulu on the Lacus Ismenius. He has three Taifa in his camp. This would equal about one hundred and twenty warriors. Each group is armed with a variety of weapons. Approximately half have hand to hand combat weapons and the other half have shooting weapons, mainly bows but with a few guns. He has no artillery, but I hear he has acquired a Lagusan and a handler,”

“What is a Lagusan?” I asked.

“A Lagusan is an earth elemental creature.” He said. “It can move through the ground like we move through air. Should the lagusan engulf an object, like a baridium torpedo, it can transport the object underground. It is directed, telepathically by the handler to a location where it then can disgorge the item, where it will remain unseen below the surface. Typically, the baridium torpedo is set with a timer, so that it will explode once the Lagusan has moved away”

“Thank you Chronto.” I said. “This information tells me what I need to know.”

I had one of my men call for Borlak as I formulated a plan with my officers.

“I feel that we can spare only one company and Chronto’s scouts for the rescue mission.” I said. “I will also include one of the Gatling guns. How long will it take to get to Jordak’s camp, Chronto?”

“ It is about 500 batu (450 Earth miles) from here.” He said. “The journey will take about 38 sol on foot.”

“That is unacceptable.” I said. “Jordak has a day head start on us. Is there any chance we could catch him?”

“I doubt it.” Chronto said. “His whole force is mounted, no doubt. And even if he is slowed by his captive, he will still make close to 40 batu a day.”

“What if we take a canal boat?” I asked.

“That would cut our time down considerably,” he said, “perhaps even in half.”

“We would still be away about a month.” I said. “ We still need something faster!”

At this time Borlak entered. “I think I can help you, Mr. Roosevelt.” He said. “In a special warehouse, not far from here, I has a ship I acquired from an Argyrian pirate. It should get you there ahead of those bandits.”

“Can it carry forty men, our artillery, and our provisions?”, I asked.

Borlak replied, “Certainly, it was a merchant ship before it was employed in more nefarious endeavors.”

“Bully!” I replied. “Then, after nightfall, Chronto and I will take our men to your warehouse. We will embark the men and supplies and be off before daybreak. Thank you for your assistance Mr. Borlak, with your help we may yet come out of this affair ahead.”
“You are most welcome Sir.” He replied.

I sent Lieutenants Griffin and Wilcox to make things ready for the expedition while I continued to converse with my remaining officers, Borlak, and Chronto.

“Borlak, Do you realize that when Reytik discovers us missing, he will probably try to finish you off?” I said.

`I believe you are right, Mr. Roosevelt.” He said. “But he is going to mount another offensive sooner or later. Hopefully, we can keep your leaving a secret until your return. However, we shall be adopting a defensive posture until your return.”

“Coleman, you are in charge of the fort.” I said. “And Ballard, you are in charge of the station. Hopefully, I will not come back to find another Alamo and Goliad.”

“Here, here!” my officers exclaimed.

We broke up our meeting so that our preparations could be made. My company made things ready to move quietly out of the fort after dark. Coleman and Ballard worked toward making things look normal with one third fewer men, and Borlak went to set up a defensive perimeter that looked like nothing out of the ordinary.

By nightfall everything was in readiness. We moved quietly out of the fort toward the Leontes canal. We moved up the canal to Borlak’s warehouse. We met Chronto and his company outside. A side door opened through which we entered. What we found inside was amazing.

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