Friday, September 30, 2016

Rough Riders on Mars! - Chapter 23 – Miss Linton’s Story

Chapter 23 – Miss Linton’s Story

I left Lieutenant Griffin in charge and took a well deserved rest. I awoke shortly after noon to check on our progress. We were still moving by the engines, so we were making good progress. I then checked in with Miss Linton about Miss Jordak’s condition. She said that the woman was resting and should pull through.

With that, I went back on deck to discuss the plans for our return with Griffin, Chronto, and Kumlik.

“We are three days out and it will take as many to get back,” I said. “What do you suppose we’ll be sailing into?”

“I am sure that Reytik knows we are gone by now.” Chronto said. “He has probably deduced where we have gone, but hopefully he does not know the means by which we’ve traveled.”

“If he does not know about our ship,” Kumlik said, “he will figure he has at least a month to act against us.”

“True,” Lieutenant Griffin, “ but I’d think he’d want to act sooner than later, before our men or Borlak have a chance to strengthen their positions.”

“I agree.” I said. “Should we fly over the city at night, what do you think we will be able to determine about their situation.”

“If Reytik has pressed the issue,” Chronto said, ”there will be ample evidence that can be seen in the dark.”

“For the sake of argument,” I said, “let’s assume that Reytik has acted. I am guessing it would take him about a week to round up the troops he needs.”

“I think that that is a safe assumption.” Chronto said.

‘So, when we arrive, he will be in the early stages of his assault.” I said.

Lieutenant Griffin said, “If he plans on a siege rather than an assault, he may be just leveling buildings to create a kill zone.”

“Kumlik, What time do you think we will arrive in the area of Ceraunius?” I asked.

“We should have a decent view of the city on the evening, two days hence.” He said.

“Well,” I said, “that is when we’ll know if we are siege breakers, reinforcements, or avenging angels. Let us plan for all three options and we can select the most appropriate when the time comes.”

We spent the rest of the afternoon and on into the evening posing different scenarios as to what and where Reytik would act. Then we would devise plans to counter his moves. We finally broke for dinner when Miss Linton came in to our makeshift war room.

I asked her how Jordak was faring, to which she replied that she was progressing admirably and would be ready for visitors sometime tomorrow. I said that that was wonderful news and that I was curious to hear the lady’s story. I then asked how she was doing.

“Well, I was never in any real danger,” Miss Linton said, “until we were a day from Palamnus. That is when we were ambushed by Deyak. Fortunately, you came to my rescue before anything happened.”

“It is also fortunate that we have made the friends we did in Ceraunius.” I said. “Otherwise, we would still be trailing you and who is to say what would have happened.”

“I was wondering how you came by this magnificent vessel.” She said.

I then asked, “Did you learn anything about as to why you were kidnapped and why this Deyak tried to take you from Jordak?”

“Reytik does not deal with most desert tribes and especially those led by women.” Miss Linton said. “Therefore, Jordak’s tribe could only get their necessaries at extremely inflated prices. Jordak assumed that we were in league with Reytik, so she captured me to use as a bargaining chip in order to obtain better treatment for her people.”

“As she soon found out,” she continued, “we are not in league with Reytik. Then, a day out of Ceraunius, one of Deyak’s men, a spy in Jordak’s camp, tried to carry me off. The attempt failed and the man was killed.”
“Yes,” I said, “we found his body as we were tracking your flight across the desert. Please continue”

“Well, Deyak is from the Trinythios region,” Miss Linton explained, “and that is a state that is well known for hiring out its soldiers to the highest bidder. They also fear the spread of the democracy movement. Because Jordak is in favor of democracy as well as an interloper upon Trinythios territory, the ruler of Trinythios could solve three problems by attacking our party. First, he could get rid of Jordak’s tribe; second, he could get a recalcitrant minor noble out of his hair; and third, he could strike a blow against democracy. He also had the added bonus of being paid a hansom sum by Reytik.”

“At least he achieved his second goal.” I mused.

“Indeed he did.” Miss Linton replied.

“How did your capture by Deyak come about and why was Jordak not killed on the spot?” I asked.

“The man that Jordak killed did not make his rendezvous with Deyak,” she said, “so he assumed ‘Plan A’ had failed. Of course, Deyak had planned or expected ‘Plan A’ would fail. He knew where he wanted to attack and he had overwhelming numbers. Jordak’s men were shot down before they could act.”

“As for why Jordak was captured instead of killed,” she continued, “Reytik wanted to make a public example of her. If she were taken, I fear her fate would have been worse than death.”

“I believe that.” I replied. “That same fate may await us, if we do not make it back to Ceraunius in time.”

Saturday, September 17, 2016

Rough Riders On Mars! - Chapter 22 – Linton Recovered

Chapter 22 – Linton Recovered

Chronto and his ten men, Private Fandru, Professor Edgren, and myself set out in the waning light in search of Miss Linton and Jordak. The trail was not difficult to follow, as there was no attempt to cover their tracks. Not far up the trail, Chronto stopped momentarily.

“Jordak is wounded.” He said. “This is Martian blood.” He said pointing to a blood stain glistening in the sand.

“That looks like a fair amount of blood.” I said. “We must hurry, for with Jordak disabled Miss Linton will be alone and unprotected!”

We began to double time, with Chronto and my Private in the lead. After we had covered about a mile, my two scouts stopped.

“What is the matter?” I asked.

“They have changed course.” Private Fandru said. “We are looking for their tracks.”

This was made more difficult because the sun had set and the Martian moons provided no real light. I ordered everyone but Chronto and the Private to be still so as not to disturb the ground any more than it already had been. While I was settling the men, Chronto produced to small spheres that emitted a faint light. One he gave to Fandru and the other he kept. With the dim light, They searched either side of our column.

Shortly, Chronto called, “There! They went towards those rocks over there.”

With that, we changed our course and followed Chronto and the Private to the near valley wall, where there was a large outcrop of boulders. We stopped about twenty yards from the stone outcrop.

“I can see nothing.” I whispered to Chronto.
“Nor can I.” he replied. “We could be walking into an ambush.”

I ordered the men to quietly lie down as I moved a few paces off to the side.

I then called out “Miss Linton, it is I, Colonel Roosevelt. Are you there?”

I heard rustling from behind the rocks, but could still see nothing.

“Miss Linton, please answer so that we can come to your aid!” I called again.

“I am here Colonel!” she cried. “Jordak is seriously injured. I need your help!”

We rushed forward, following the light of Chronto’s globe. Jordak was wrapped in blankets but still shivering noticeably. Miss Linton’s hands were stained with the Martian’s blood.

“You men fashion a litter!” I ordered. “We must get Jordak back to our ship quickly if we are to save him.”

“Indeed.” She said.
With that, we got Jordak onto the litter and headed toward the ship. Fortunately, we were less than a mile from the Iska Mahayi.  After giving the proper sign and counter sign, we climbed aboard. Jordak was immediately taken to the Captain’s cabin for treatment. Professor Edgren and I followed Miss Linton in to render whatever assistance we could. In the light of the cabin, I was able to get my first look at Jordak. I could only see his eyes peering out from under the blankets that were heaped upon him. Those eyes were scared, yet intelligent and youthful. More youthful by far than one would expect in a leader of desert bandits.

As Miss Linton prepared her medical kit for use, I commented to her, “He appears to be very young for a man who leads a large desert tribe. His eyes are rather, well, feminine”

“There is a good reason for that.” Miss Linton said. “It is because Jordak is a woman.”

“That is surprising, considering the culture of most desert tribes.” I said.

“She is a remarkable woman.” Miss Linton said. “You should listen to her story, once she has sufficiently recovered.”

“Indeed I will.” I replied.

Miss Linton, with the aid of Professor Edgren, then went to work extracting a bullet that struck Jordak’s right shoulder. It took quite a while for them to remove the bullet, but they finally achieved their goal and stitched then bandaged the wound.

As they finished with the patient, I examined the bullet that they removed from the woman’s shoulder.

“This is a Martian bullet.” I said.

“Is that important?” asked Professor Edgren.

“Only in that it confirms that none of our men are responsible for the endangerment of Jordak or Miss Linton.” I replied.

“That is all very nice,” said Miss Linton, “But she needs rest. So, you two need to find somewhere else to continue your conversation.”

With that, the Professor and I exited the cabin, We went up on deck and I asked the pilot to take us back to Palamnus, slowly.

“It has been a long day, Professor.” I said, “Perhaps you should get some rest. I will get things squared away at Palamnus, then you can relieve me when we get started back to Ceraunius.”

“I gladly will comply with your request.” The Professor replied. “I am exhausted.”

With that, Professor Edgren went below to his cabin. In the meanwhile, Chronto and I went to the bow of our ship to keep watch. We listened more than watched as the night was near pitch black. My admiration of the pilot’s skill increased greatly as he steered us to Palamnus without incident in the near utter darkness.

Upon our arrival, I met with  Lieutenant Griffin, who was in charge of the prisoners. From them, he discovered that Deyak, who was in the pay of Reytik, ambushed  Jordak several miles from Palamnus. Jordak’s warriors were killed or scattered and she was captured along with Miss Linton. Reytik was to keep Miss Linton as a bargaining chip against us, while Deyak took control of Jordak’s lands. Lieutenant Griffin was told that Jordak’s tribes were decimated and those that survived were sold into slavery.

My next duty was to mete out punishment to the brigands in our custody. We could not take them back with us, but we could not send them off unpunished. I decided to issue each of the brigands three days rations of food and water and ordered them to walk back to their homes. I kept all their weapons and their mounts, then sent them on their way. I knew it was a death sentence for most of them, but those that survived would impart a healthy respect of our brand of justice on the rest of their tribe.

After the bandits were out of sight, I gave the Moa-nui we took from the hostiles to the residents of Palamnus. This put us in good standing with the people there, which I hoped would pay dividends at some later time. So with our accounts settled, we boarded the Iska Mahayi and headed back to Ceraunius.

Friday, September 2, 2016

Rough Riders On Mars! - Chapter 21 – Skirmishes At Palamnus

Chapter 21 – Skirmishes At Palamnus

As the sun cleared the horizon, I saw a line of Moa heading our way. Next, I saw a group of twenty Martian warriors following in pursuit. They were jumping up and down and screaming incessantly. They gave a ragged and ineffectual volley towards our man then took off running after him.

The man leading the moa disappeared through the cleft in the hills. We were hidden in the hills above the cleft, ready to ambush the pursuing brigands. After the last man passed into the defile, Chronto ordered them to drop their weapons. Their leader whipped around and fired a shot in our direction while the rest of his tribe dove for cover.

A general firefight ensued. We were well protected on top of the rocky hills while the bandits had scant cover in the valley below. It was not long before we had dropped several of the bandits. After the brief exchange of gunfire, in which seven bandits were killed or wounded, the remaining ruffians threw down their weapons and surrendered.

I led half my men down the hill to confiscate their weapons and tend to the wounded. Chronto found their leader. He was shot through the leg and abdomen, but would survive. We made makeshift litters and had the unwounded prisoners carry their wounded comrades back towards the town.

As we moved toward the town gunfire erupted from behind the village. Chronto turned to me and said “The rest of their band is trying to escape out the back, but they have run into more than they have expected.”

“I can only imagine.” I said. “Will they take any prisoners?”

“We shall see.” He replied.

A thought then came to mind and before we started again, I asked Chronto, “I suppose the residents of the village are still there. Do you expect any trouble from them?”

“These people have been dealing with opposing sides since this town was founded.” He said. “They will be allied with the party that is here, or they will be neutral if two contending factions are here.”

“Very good then,” I said, “Let us move on.”

We advanced warily upon the village. We reached within fifty yards of the town and there was no sign of activity. I halted momentarily and ordered the prisoners to be held there while I took an advanced guard into the town to investigate. As we entered the town, it seemed deserted, though one could feel the eyes watching through shuttered and curtained windows. Chronto led us to the local official’s office. He knocked on the door and an elderly man appeared. Chronto conversed with this man for a bit, then the man retired back inside and closed his door.

“He said the men that were here belonged to Deyak.” Chronto said. “They were to wait here for Deyak’s return.”

“Who is Deyak?” I asked.

“He is not familiar to me.” Chronto said. “However, he is due here today or tomorrow.”
“It sounds like he is or was riding with Jordak.” I said. “I wonder if Deyak was the dead man that we found?” I mused.

While we talked, the rest of Chronto’s men came in. They had no prisoners. Chronto told me that they encountered half a dozen bandits and they all perished in the gun fight that occurred.

We questioned our prisoners, but only learned that Deyak had gone east (toward Ceraunius) and was due back at any time. I asked if he was with Jordak to which they replied in the affirmative, with an unnerving chuckle.

After detailing guards to watch the prisoners and posting lookouts around the town, Chronto, Professor Edgren, and I found a small cantina and had some lunch. As we finished our meal, we received a message from the ridge that dust was seen on the horizon. We paid our bill and went to the ridge.

From the ridge we could distinctly see the dust cloud from many riders.
“They will be here before dusk.” Chronto said.

“Good, then we’ll have this business finished by nightfall.” I replied.

I placed half the men concealed on the backside of the first ridge and the rest hidden on the second ridge. We were going to spring our trap when the bandits were between the ridges. Chronto, the Professor, and I were on the first ridge so that we could monitor Jordak’s progress.

The sun was low on the horizon when the marauders passed into the gap in the first ridge.

“The two men riding near Miss Linton are bound.” Chronto said.”One is an Akulu. He wears the colors of Jordak. The man in the lead is an Akulu of a different tribe. The warriors here are his.”

“Are you saying Jordak is this other Akulu’s captive?” I asked.

“It appears so,” Chronto replied.

“This complicates matters.” Professor Edgren said. “We do not know how this man will behave.”

“We can only trust that this Akulu has the same morals as Jordak.”

“I thing we can assume that he does, otherwise Jordak would be dead already.” Chronto said.

The brigands passed us by without noticing. At least this new Akulu didn’t notice. I believe Jordak saw that we were here. Jordak leaned over to Miss Linton to speak with her then to the other captive. As the bandits filed past, Jordak and Miss Linton began to drift to the right of the group.

Once the last bandit cleared the gap, Chronto announced our presence. My men popped up and leveled their rifles on the tribesmen. Suddenly, Jordak’s man, the other prisoner, spurred his Moa-nui. IT swung it’s head and smashed the nearest brigand’s skull. Other brigands drew their swords or fired their guns wildly. With their shooting, My men opened fire. In the confusion, I saw Jordak and Miss Linton gallop off to the right, up the valley.

“Jordak is escaping with Miss Linton!” Professor Edgren cried.

“He won’t get far.” I said. “The Iska Mahayi is not far up that way. The ship’s crew will stop them.”

The men continued to rain fire down upon the hapless Martians and it was not long before they were all dismounted with many of the men dead or wounded. I had Chronto call down and ask them to surrender. To this they responded with a volley of their own. Unfortunately, we were obliged to continue the slaughter. It was not long before all the brigands were down. I ordered the men to advance into the valley cautiously then ascertain the condition of the men below.

We found some wounded and more dead. We tended to the wounded and had the dead buried. Once the wounded men were stabilized, we had them transported back to the town. The sun was sinking low when Private Fandru came up to me.

“Colonel, I found the trail of the yahoo that took off with Miss Linton.” He said.

“Do you think we can track them down before dark?” I asked.

“We can try.” He said.

“Then let’s go.” I replied

I called for Chronto and ten of his scouts to come with the Private and myself. I put Lieutenant Wilcox in charge of the prisoners with the rest of our men at Palamnus. I was still in hopes that the men at our ship would catch them.