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.

Thursday, June 23, 2016

Rough Riders On Mars - Chapter 15 – Things Get Hotter

Chapter 15 – Things Get Hotter 
Our station was laid out as follows; the first room was the office area where we conducted business with the locals as well as business pertaining to our forces. Then a barracks, jail, and infirmary. As I had wounded men from both sides of the conflict on my hands, I had to figure out what to do with them. The city guards were severely beaten, but had no life threatening injuries, so I placed them in the barracks. The rioters had some critically injured among them, so they were located in the infirmary.

Miss Linton had her hands full attending all of these men, so I sent out for Martian physicians. I was able to obtain help from to doctors in private practice, but no one from the government facilities would offer aid. As the guards would not accept aid from the Martian doctors, Miss Linton, with the aid of two burly privates, administered to their hurts. The Martian physicians attended the civilian wounded, with some supervision by Miss Linton.

After a few days all of the city guard were discharged (without their weapons) and escorted back to the Mayor’s office. The lightly wounded civilians were also released, but those with more serious injuries were retained. With the diligent work of the Martian doctors and Miss Linton, these men were ‘put to right’ in short order.

In the city, tensions were ever increasing. Reytik issued an edict banning groups larger than five men from gathering on the streets. The guards were traveling in groups of three or more. They were also carrying more weapons than normal. To make matters worse, the guards were flexing their muscles and generally being a nuisance. This, of course, led to an increase in the clandestine activities of the democracy movement and these activities centered in the area around our station.

As the days passed, I noticed watch towers, similar to ours, popping up all around the government sector of the city. There was also a sharp increase in the number of people brought in for questioning by the city guard. More than a few of those people left the guard stations in worse shape than when they entered. This further increased the tension. I knew things would come to a head soon.

I talked with Professor Linton about the situation.

“I know that the incident outside our station has caused some consternation with the government, but the situation seems to be escalating at a greater pace than one street fight can account for.” I said. “What other factors are widening the rift between the merchant classes and the government?”

“Aside from the guards’ strong arm tactics, Reytik is attacking the merchants’ ability to pursue their livelihood.”

“How so?” I asked.

“Most of the people in the democracy movement work in the food industry, either growing, supplying, or preparing foodstuffs for consumption. Reytik has been placing tariffs and taxes on all of these businesses in the hopes that it will force them back in line with the government.” She said.

“But won’t the government’s faction be affected as well?” I asked.

“Reytik is importing food for his supporters, so the retailers are being hit twice, losing business and increased taxes.” She said.

“And this has had a unifying effect on the democracy movement.” I said. “But they cannot be in any way prepared to start an all out rebellion.”

“No, they are not.” Miss Linton replied. “However, Reytik is going to push them until they either give up or they rebel, in which case, Reytik will crush them. Unfortunately, I believe that the partial success of the rioters has emboldened the more radical elements of the movement and they may act rashly”

“That could destroy the entire movement if it goes badly.” I said. “Is there any way to dissuade them from such a course of action?”

“We can try.” She said. “But I think you should consider strengthening the station in town and preparing the remaining troops for battle.”

“I believe I shall, thank you Miss Linton.” I said.

I knew if things came to a head that our station would be the target of an attack by the government forces. So I ordered the station reinforced in a manner that would not be obvious to those on the outside. I did not wish to provoke Reytik with preparations for war. I also billeted two platoons at the station at all times along with the two Colt machine guns. At the fort, I increased the watch and kept the remaining artillery ready to move at all times. The two telegraphs were manned at all times and contact was maintained on an hourly basis. I made my command center in the station in town and left Lieutenant Ballard in command of the fort.

With our preparations made, all that was left to do was wait. The civil unrest increased over the weeks, thought the scale of the altercations was much smaller and unorganized. The city guards were still manhandling innocent civilians while the democracy movement fighters were sniping at the guards. For the most part injuries to both parties were minor, but it was obvious that it would not be long before the attacks became more lethal.

It finally happened when a small group of city guards were assaulting a female shop keeper a few blocks from our station. Several men ran to the young woman’s aid and engaged the guards in hand to hand combat. During the altercation, some of the guards drew pistols and shot two of the civilians down. They then overpowered the remaining male civilians and redoubled their attack on the woman. My man in the watchtower, seeing the whole scene unfold, took aim upon the guards’ leader and shot him dead. At the same time another group of armed civilians appeared. More shots were exchanged, between the civilians and the guards before the guards retired. It the end, four civilians were wounded, one critically, and one guard was dead. I could not determine if any of the guards that escaped were hurt. The young lady was scared and bruised, but received no major physical damage.

This was the first time that the fairer sex was involved in the feuding and I headed toward Reytik’s office to register a protest. I lead five men and Professor Edgren down the street toward the government quarter. The streets were abuzz with outraged citizens. On the way we encountered several civilians pleading for us to put a stop to the guards’ indiscretions. I assured them that we would do all in our power to bring about peace.

As we rounded the corner the air was rent by a massive explosion. We were thrown to the ground by the concussion of the blast as smoke and debris flew past. I laid in the street stunned for a few minutes. Once I recovered, I staggered to my feet and checked on the rest of my group. I found that no one was injured, so we pushed on to the Mayor’s office.

Monday, June 13, 2016

Rough Riders On Mars! - Chapter 14 – Riot In The Street

Chapter 14 – Riot In The Street
I called Professor Edgren to join me so that I could determine the meaning of this situation. I had my men take custody of the guard and get him some medical attention. When the Professor entered, I had him ask the shopkeepers what had happened. He conversed with the men for several minutes then turned to me.

“It appears that these gentlemen have caught our arsonist.” He said. “The beaten guard apparently had a little too much to drink and began to brag. The owner of the establishment was a member of the democracy movement and he got word to these men, and the rest is obvious.”

“Tell them, thank you and that we will handle the case from here.” I said to the Professor.

He told them what I said. The Shopkeepers bowed then exited the room, satisfied that we would take the proper actions.

“Let’s go see how our prisoner is doing.” I said. With that, Professor Edgren and I went to the jail to see how Miss Linton was faring with the man. When we entered the room, she was just finishing up with bandaging the man’s head, which had a nasty laceration. We moved off to one side so that we were not directly in his sight. I then asked Professor Edgren to address him by the name on the medallion found in the burnt out shop.

This he did, and upon hearing the name, the prisoner turned toward us. That’s when I knew we had the arsonist and not some unfortunate city guard that was in the wrong place at the wrong time. With that, I began questioning the man.

“Mr. Maytik, what brings you here from  Palamnus?” I asked.

“Work.” He replied.

“What kind of work?” I continued.

“I am a guard. I was protecting my client.” Maytik said.

“I know you will not give me the name of your client, but perhaps you can give me the general location within Ceraunius that you were performing your duties? I asked.

“You are correct that I will not divulge the identity of my client. However, I will tell you that we were in the government district.” He said.

“Did you make any stops in any other part of town? I inquired.

“No.” he replied.

“The men who brought you here, waylaid you outside a tavern in the commercial district, correct?” I asked.

“Yes.” He said. “It is an establishment frequented by the city guard, many of whom are my friends. After my shift was completed, I went there with my friends.” He said.
“Why do you suppose those men, who would hold more animosity toward the local guards, singled you out?” I asked.

“I really could not say. Perhaps they wanted to grieve my friends by assaulting me. Perhaps my employer’s business was damaging theirs and they needed to remove his protection before attacking him. I do not make friends outside of my station, so I could not say what prompted their actions.” Maytik said.

“What do you know about the fire that occurred yesterday, a few blocks from here?” I asked.

“I know nothing about it. My only concerns within this city are those that affect my employer’s security.” He replied.

“So you have absolutely no knowledge of that event?” I pressed.
“That is correct, not even its location, other than what you just said.” He retorted.

“Then perhaps you can explain how I found your identification bracelet in the ruins of that fire?” I said.

The man turned pale and instinctively grabbed his wrist where the missing medallion should have been. His eyes darted around the room, looking for a means of escape as he got up to a crouch from the chair he was in.

“Sit down Mr. Maytik!” I ordered. “You cannot escape. And if you did make it out our door, you would be torn to pieces by the mob waiting outside. You see, those men brought you here because they know that they will not get justice from Reytik’s government. They do not know what they will get from us. But, you can be assured that if you set foot outside of this building by yourself, you will not make it ten yards down the road.”

Maytik slumped back into the chair a defeated man. “I suppose I am a dead man either way.” Maytik said.

“On the contrary, Mr. Maytik,” I said, “American justice is firm, but fair. It can be lenient if you cooperate, though rest assured you will atone for your crime.”

Then, there came a knock at the door. I opened it to find our orderly there saying that Mr. Reytik was here to see me. 

I went into the other room and greeted the Mayor. “Good afternoon Mr. Reytik, what can I do for you?” I asked.

“Mr. Roosevelt, you have a man here accused of a crime that I would like to take to our jail for interrogation.” He said.

“I am afraid I cannot do that Mr. Reytik. If I let you walk out that door with Maytik, neither of you will make it to the end of the block.” I said.

“Let me worry about that, Mr, Roosevelt.” Reytik said.

“You didn’t bring a company of soldiers with you, did you?” I asked.

“Indeed I did. So you can see that I have nothing to fear.” He said.

“You are a fool Mr. Reytik!” I said. “You have just started a riot that will only end with blood in the street.”

“I think you over estimate the general population of this city.” Reytik said.

At this time, my lookout burst into the room. “Colonel! there’s a bunch of angry civilians outside facing down some city guards!” he shouted.

“Good lord!” I exclaimed. “This is going to get messy quickly.”

I ordered Lt. Griffin with ten men to take Reytik back to the Mayor’s offices. They went out the backdoor. I then ordered our Colt machine gun up to the roof. I too went up to survey the situation. I saw maybe half a hundred civilians screaming and brandishing makeshift weapons blocking the door to our station. Opposite them were twenty city guards nervously handling their rifles.

From somewhere, a loud report sounded. I could not tell where the sound came from, but it was the starting signal for the melee to begin. There was a moment of stunned silence. Then the civilians found out that they were not injured. In that instance a hail of stones flew at the guards. Many connected causing the guards to duck, fire wildly, or reel from the impact. The civilians then rushed the guards.

The melee was a confused mess. I heard several gunshots and saw a few men drop. The civilians were on the guards so quickly that they had no time to draw their swords. I saw swinging rifle butts and flailing clubs. There was punching, kicking, and biting. Due to their training, the guards were holding their own against the mob, but just barely. Then a cry went up in the side street as a new group of civilians joined in the fray. 

I could see that this was going to turn into a massacre if I did not act soon. I went over to the Colt crew and ordered them to fire a burst over the heads of the combatants. The shots tore into the wall across from our position, raining bullet fragments and masonry chips down upon the combatants. The noise and sting from the flying debris halted the battle while unengaged civilians began to flee.

I had Professor Edgren shout out, “Disperse to your homes or you will be arrested!”

The remaining civilians then gave way. Many of the guards began loading their rifles as if to give fire.

The Professor then called out, “Drop your weapons or be fired upon!”

I ordered the Colt to be trained upon the guards to reinforce the point. They dropped their guns to the ground and moved off towards the Government Quarter. There was a score of men left on the ground, some moving and moaning, others not. I took a squad of armed men out to attend the wounded and round up the weapons left on the field.