Sunday, April 30, 2017

Rough Riders On Mars! - Chapter 29 – Reunion At The Alamo Station

Chapter 29 – Reunion At The Alamo Station
The street was littered with debris and bodies from the building we had destroyed. Cautiously, I led my men around the wreckage and to the front of our station. The exterior f the station was pock-marked with hundreds of bullet holes. Seeing the damage, I wondered how any of my men survived. As I came to the door a voice rang down from above.

“Boy Colonel! You really know how to make an entrance!” it said.

“Why, thank you!” I replied. “How are things here? It looks as though you’ve had a hell of a time.”

“Well, them Martians kept us on our toes, but it wasn’t anything we couldn’t handle.” The man said.

“Bully!” I replied. “Is Lieutenant Ballard about?” I asked.

“Yep!” he said, “and you can see him once the barricades are removed from the door.”

“Thank you, Sir!” I said. My men and I then moved around to the main door. I could hear the work going on behind the doorway. Shortly, the noise died away and the door came open. Lieutenant Ballard was the first to emerge. He was covered in grime and I could see a bandage under his hat, but he seemed to be fit.

“Charlie, what happened to you!” I exclaimed

“Reytik’s men spent a lot of time trying to knock down our watchtower with their artillery.” He said. “They finally succeeded last night, and I was just a little too close to it when it came down. I was covered with debris and got a bump on the head, but nothing to write home about.”

“How has the troop faired?” I asked.

“We’ve been hit hard, there’s no question about that.” Lieutenant Ballard replied. “Let’s go inside and sit down and I’ll give you my report.”

“Excellent idea.” I said. I ordered my men to take up positions on the walls and keep an eye out for hostiles. Then Lieutenant Coleman, Chronto, and I followed Lieutenant Ballard to his office. We took our seats around the table and Lieutenant Ballard began his tale.

“Things were pretty quiet for the first couple of days, but I knew it wouldn’t last. Borlak came by and told me that desert tribesmen were arriving by the hundreds. Fighting began in the outskirts of town on the third day after you left. It was sporadic at first, but became more intense after nightfall. Borlak’s men made a good fight of it, but there were just too many of them. Borlak was continually pulling back and Reytik was gaining more control over the city.

On the fifth day, Reytik’s forces came to our block. Borlak’s troops were holed up in the buildings covering our flanks and rear. First, Reytik tried to overwhelm us by an assault with a great number of his soldiers. The densely packed streets made it a turkey shoot for our machineguns and riflemen. We mowed the poor devils down in swathes.

After that, they disappeared for a couple of hours. Then, all of a sudden, the buildings to the west there collapsed. Once the dust settled, they started shooting at us with their artillery. Fortunately for us they only had a few guns that could out-range our michineguns, They tried moving some of those fire projectors up close, but we were able to cut down their crews before they could do any damage.

Anyway, they used their heavy guns to knock down our watchtower. I guess that was some sort of moral victory for them. Either way, it was better for us, because had they been pounding our walls instead, I have no doubt that our casualties would have been much higher, if we would have survived at all.

The tower came down about dawn. With that, the Martians renewed their assault on our position. I think that was about the same time you started your attack on the forces surrounding the fort. It wasn’t too long after that when we spotted the first groups of Martians fleeing through the city.

Then things got confusing. We were being attacked from one side and in other places Martians were fighting Martians or one group of Martians was chasing another that was fleeing. I assumed this was Borlak attacking Reytik’s men. We couldn’t tell who was who, so I ordered my men to only shoot at those who were actually shooting at us.

Then there was that massive explosion to the east. That made the Martians scurry around
even more. At that point, there was no way to tell friend from foe, so I ordered the men into cover. We kept up a watch to make sure no one was sneaking up on us to blow the gates or something like that.

Some of Reytik’s men rallied in that building to the North and put up a heavy fire on us. They you came along and put an end to their little party.”

After he had finished, I asked “How many men did we lose here, Charlie?”
“Six killed, and fourteen wounded, a couple pretty bad.” Lieutenant Ballard replied.

“You have done well.” I said. “We will move your wounded to the fort with our other injured fellows as soon as possible. That way Miss Linton and the others will have a much easier time of caring for them.”

“So you rescued her. Is she alright?” Charlie asked.

“Yes, she was unharmed.” I answered.

“Then well done to you, Sir!” He said.
“Thank you.” I replied. “Now we need to determine what to do next. We must remove all of Reytik’s remaining soldiers from town.”

“But we can’t tell the friendly Martians from the enemy, until they start shooting at us, that is.” Lieutenant Ballard said.

Chronto then suggested “ I will send some of my men to find Borlak and bring him here. Then we can coordinate our actions.”

“Bully!” I cried. “That is an excellent idea. Please make the arrangements immediately.”

“I will be back shortly.” Chronto replied. With that, he was up and out the door.

Monday, April 3, 2017

Rough Riders onMars! - Chapter 28 – To The Alamo!

Chapter 28 – To The Alamo!

I ordered one platoon to stay at the fort, along with Miss Linton, Professor’s Boas and Edgren, and the wounded. I would then lead the remaining men by the most direct route to the station in town. The Iska Mahayi would fly low, overhead to provide reconnaissance and fire support. My force consisted of 5 platoons of U.S. infantry and cavalry (dismounted), the remainder of the U.S. Martian Scouts, a 1.65” Hotchkiss mountain gun, and the Iska Mahayi with the Gatling gun and various Martian weapons.  Jordak stayed aboard the ship to command the native artillery.

We moved forward in skirmish order to cross the field from our fort to the town proper. Our flying ship was slightly ahead of our line, covering our advance and looking for the enemy. The first line of buildings appeared unoccupied, but we continued our cautious advance, fearing an ambush.

As the Iska Mahayi passed over the first line of buildings, they signaled the all clear so we hurried up to the edge of town. From here, I divided my force into two columns. Lieutenant Coleman took three platoons to advance up the right hand street while I took the remaining two platoons and the scouts up the left hand street. This way we would be less densely packed in a single street.

We cautiously advanced up the street to the next block and met no resistance.I looked down the cross street to my right and saw Lieutenant Coleman, who also met no resistance. I signaled for Coleman to move forward as I, likewise, did. As we entered the next block, all hell broke loose. As we neared the end of the next block, we were greeted with a tremendous hail of gunfire. I saw several men go down.

Though it was probably unnecessary, I ordered the men to take cover and return fire. A brisk firefight ensued, but the enemy were well concealed, and we were making little headway. I was contemplating a headlong rush of the enemy’s stronghold, when I caught the sound of our Gatling gun fire coming up from behind. Bullets raked the hostile parapet from side to side, but only a few of our foe fell.

The Iska Mahayi stopped directly over the enemy’s fortification, then commenced a rapid ascent. By this I was baffled, but I continued our fusillade upon the bastion. I also watched our airship climb higher into the sky. It finally stopped its ascent and shortly thereafter two large barrels were dropped over the side. The barrels plummeted to earth to be dashed to bits inside the courtyard of the hostile building. A great plume of yellow-red dust rose over the structure. Suddenly the doors of the enemy base flew open and troops came pouring out from all sides, followed by clouds of dust.

I jumped up to begin a pursuit of the enemy, when Bully came from nowhere and knocked me to the ground. I heard Chronto yell an order to his men, and they promptly fell to earth and covered their heads. Realizing something was amiss, I ordered my company to the ground as well. I turned to look toward Lieutenant Coleman’s detachment, and most of the men I saw were going prone as well.

I was about to address Chronto when a tremendous explosion rocked the city. A ball of fire
rose high above the structure lifting debris and unfortunate souls with it. Jets of flame shot out the doors, flinging the fleeing men against the wall of the opposing building where they laid in a burning heap. The barrels dropped from the skyship were filled with fine baridium powder Upon the barrels bursting, the powder rapidly dispersed throughout the enemy’s building. A spray of water was released from the Iska Mahayi which reacted violently with thw baridium, causing the explosion.

Once things quit shaking, we stood up, still dazed and confused. Some time passed before we fully regained our senses. I then sent a runner over to Lieutenant Coleman to ascertain his situation. I then looked around to determine the extent of the damage to my own command. I found two of my men killed and four others injured. Chronto reported three scouts dead and five wounded. Colemen lost four killed and seven wounded.
I ordered the Lieutenant to rejoin me and bring his casualties. When this was done, I ordered ten of the scouts to help the wounded back to the fort, then come back for the dead. Chronto, and the rest of his men were to join Coleman, myself, and our men to push on toward our station. Once these arrangements were made, we pressed on.

We proceeded cautiously, but found the next couple of blocks devoid of Reytik’s soldiers. I could see our ship several blocks ahead, harassing the fleeing enemy with the Gatling gun and the Martian artillery. As we continued, we encountered small groups of Reytik’s soldiers. However, these men did not stay in the fight long. After a brief exchange of gunfire, they would fly up the street to their next place of refuge.
We finally came upon a large group of hostiles, congregated in a building near our station. It appeared that they were planning an assault on our besieged garrison. I scanned the sky above, but saw no sign of the Iska Mahayi. I did not have enough men to take the enemy position by storm, so I needed another plan.

I ordered Lieutenant Coleman to take our men up on to the roof on the building across from the enemy and begin to lay down covering fire. With the Scouts and my artillery crew, I constructed a hasty parapet. Behind this, I positioned the mountain gun. Once in position, the gun began to play upon the closest enemy tower.

Our shots tolled immediately. It was not long before the building was perforated with nearly a dozen holes. About this time, I heard the sound of the little Colt machineguns opening a fire on the government’s stronghold. This kept the enemy down and made their fire ineffectual, however, it also made it difficult for our own riflemen to make any shots.

We continued to pummel the enemy’s position with our cannon. As round after round pounded the stronghold, I noticed that the same yellow-red dust began to fill the air that was produced from the barrels dropped by our ship. I deduced that we were shelling their magazine. I ordered the sergeant to continue firing at the building while I went into the building in search of a way to deliver water to the enemy fortress. Inside, I found several long poles, akin to bamboo, some rope, a large tub, and four large crockery jars used for transporting liquid goods.

I called in the Scouts for help. I sent two to filling the jars with water and the rest to transporting the other material to the roof. On the roof, I had the Scouts construct an ‘A’ frame structure, their utilitarian swords making short work of cutting the poles and rope to length. Using two more poles I constructed a forked lever and to the forked in I attached the tub. Two thirds down the length of the lever I anchored the fulcrum and on the short end of the lever I tied two lengths of rope.
With all of the parts of our makeshift catapult build, I assembled the final construction. With some men holding up the ‘A’ frames, I had three more men lift the lever and place the fulcrum into the ‘V’ notches atop the frame. As I completed the final adjustments, the Scouts came up with the water jars.
I placed the first jar into the tub. I had five men on each of the ropes. I ordered the men to heave. They pulled the ropes and the lever went up. The jar flew from the tub and crashed harmlessly into the street.

“Men,” I said, “you’ll need to run back pulling the ropes in order to gain enough velocity”

I placed the second jar into the tub and ordered the heave. Unfortunately, having Earthmen on one rope and Martians on the other did not work. The men became entangled and the jar fell from the tub at my feet, shattering.

I ordered only Martians to man the ropes, while my men held the frame in place. The third
jar went into the tub. I ordered the men to heave and the Martians got off a clean run. I saw the jar fly through the air but heard no report other than our mountain gun.
Private Horn, who was still providing covering fire called back, “It went too far, Colonel!”
We were down to our last jar. I moved to the parapet to see the results of our final attempt. The jar was in the tub, so I ordered the heave. The Martians pulled the ropes cleanly and the jar took off. I could tell from the start that it was going long again, and my heart sank. Then Private Horn popped up and fired a shot. The jar bursted and the contents rained down on the enemy fort.
I ordered everyone to the ground and fell to the floor as well. This was immediately followed by a loud explosion. A fireball leapt into the air. I looked over the parapet to see the tower collapse, followed by the two adjoining corridors. I could also see the occupants of the damaged structure fleeing in panic. I looked over to our station and could see the defenders cheering and waving their hats in the air. With that we quit our positions and advanced to the station.