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.

 

3 comments:

  1. To my readers: I would like to apologize for the length of time between episodes, but work has encroached on my free time. I hope that I can get back to a more regular schedule in the near future. Thank you for your patronage.

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  2. and I apologize (mostly to myself) for being tardy in reading it. Needs the bigger screen to read comfortably. Good stuff!

    ReplyDelete