A loud cough came from the door behind him - the the endless knocking of junior officers and senior NCOs who needed his help to sort out one minor problem or another had threatened to bring down the whole structure thus a change to a less violent announcement was required.
"Enter - What is it?" the major snapped, his eyes still focused on the mess accounts - where were those d---ed bottles of claret?
"Burning party ready to depart sir!" replied the Sergeant Major pushing aside the tattered "door" as he entered.
"What's going out Sar'n't Major?"
"One company of regulars, a section of Trucial Scouts and a Gatling gun..."
"A Gatling gun sir, a type of small bore revolving cannon from America. It's said to have firepower the equivalent to a company of rifles. The Royal Navy swears by them, sir and we 've been ordered to field test one and report back on the results. Begging your pardon sir, I see the written order from Battalion there on your desk, just under those two bottles of claret..."
"Yes, yes, very good..." was the waspish reply as the Major tucked the offending bottles out of sight beneath the desk, "Who's leading this little scientific gun testing party then?"
"Captain Cybbel sir, late of India I believe. Fancies himself a bit of a writer."
"Ah yes him. Do you know if he fancies porter? No never mind that, he has his orders, tell him to get on with it, I have to get back to more pressing matters."
The Major turned back to his accounts, oblivious to the smart salute rendered by his most senior NCO who depart with all the briskness appropriate to his rank.
The Sergeant Major strode over to the waiting column ending his march with a crashed of highly polished black leather on dusty Martian sand next to a ragged looking horse and a rather less ragged looking rider. He followed with a mathematically precise salute.
"Begging your pardon Captain Cybbel, the Major says you're to head out sir."
The rider was staring fixedly at the two reptilian gashants packing the mechanical gun,
"What rhymes with 'dinosauria,'" he thought to himself, "Sorry Sergeant Major, what was that?"
"The Major says you are to head out now"
"No words of encouragement to the men from him then?"
"No sir, he just made reference to your written orders...."
"Hrrmm," Cybbel replied looking concerned, "that's a touch cold given what happened to Puller's lot. I'll have to come up with something myself then. Thank you Sergeant Major, you are dismissed."
The NCO saluted smartly, the Captain returned the salute equally smartly and returned briefly to his previous thoughts.
"'In memoria', yes that might work it wasn't perfect - but then it didn't really have the tone he needed to elevate the men's spirits."
Cybbel shook way that particular remembrance and turned to the men and Martians of the little column arrayed before him.
"Now listen up men, we have a job to do and I know you are the right men for it...." his voice was swallowed by the morning mist as he he did his best to instil some pride and honour in these men, no his men that he was about to lead into battle.
|The Valley of Death|
|Once more unto the breech|
Captain Cybbel commanding
Second Company, Earl of Hereford's Regiment of Foot Regular V1, Single Shot Breech Loaders
Special Detachment 1st Askari Rifles Regular X3S Muzzle Loader Rifles
No. 7 Experimental Battery Regular V0 Gatling Gun.
The Martian forces are:Har'd'tak commanding
Har'd'tak's Hellions (Num'da's Raiders) Irregular V2, ½ Musket, ½ Bow armed
First Band Kas'trum Marines Regular V2S Rifled Musket
Har'd'tak looked down the narrow valley. Loyalists in the Earther occupied village off the main canal had sent word that a column was on the move, undoubtedly to seek revenge for the massacre at the temple ruins. The prizes, both in loot and hostages were significant, but some of the tribe felt that they were not worth attracting the attention of the invader. The riders had long since passed through carrying with them the booty of rifles, loot and, it was said, a prisoner or two.
Cybbel looked down again at his printed orders. Yhey read in summary and decreasing order of importance:
- Locate and recover any breech loading weapons and if possible ammunition.
- Locate and recover any officers or gentlemen held by the enemy.
- Regardless of the outcomes of items 1 and 2, burn any buildings and confiscate any live-stock or portable goods.
- Locate and recover any other imperial property such as uniforms, helmets, belting etc and liberate any enlisted men.
- (in a different hand that looked suspiciously like that of a certain senior NCO) Assess the utility of the attached Gatling Gun in field operations, compile a report of strengths and weaknesses, and include a list of recommendations in favour or against.
Under no circumstances are wells or other water sources to be interfered with!
|Scouts out and into battle!|
|An odd array of thorns trees blocks blocks progress.|
The glass beads mark the limits at which the Trucial Scouts will uncover the two ambush parties.
|The Scouts press forward - Alert to danger.|
|Back out of sight behind the ridge line|
|The Martian view|
|The Redmen pull up behind the scouts|
|Skirmishers to the ridge!|
|The Trucial Scouts open fire!|
|But it's saved.|
|The morale roll...|
|The ambush team fires....|
What's that odd machine? The Gatling deploys.
|"Give me an L!"|
|No hits on the red men.|
|One hit on the traitorous Scouts!|
|Gatling test script Item 2: Open fire at the enemy|
Har'd'tak watched a small red coated figure as it did something at the side of the odd looking gun. little flashes of light flickered from it and for a moment the Hellions watched unconcerned. Then a sandstorm of bullets kicked up the sand up and down their position. Khaki clad figures could be seen running between the gashants and the gun, bringing ammunition to feed this terrifying beast.
|Doubled thanks to Yankee technological know how|
Har'd'tak's men squatted nervously on the other side of the ridge. They would not face this new terror for treasure or glory and wishing to live another day, they quietly withdrew.
|The Scouts Make another ineffectual effort|
|The Red Tide approaches!|
|Begging your pardon sir....|
|There seems to be something wrong with our bloody Martinis today|
|The bows execute a tactical retreat|
|The Earthers advance|
|The bows keep running|
|The Bows saunter away|
|Fer C___t's sake - Hit something, anything - even the bl__dy dirt!|
And the game ends as the last bowman walks calmly out of sight.
Cybbel looked down from his mount.
"So what was the problem Sergeant?"
The NCO held out a handful of shiny gold metal fragments.
"Old ammunition sir - the wound brass type case. It's been in storage so long it's starting to fall apart. The men are cleaning their rifles now and I have the platoon NCOs taking stock of the drawn case ammunition and redistributing that. We should have enough for another engagement without haveing to draw on the old stuff"
"Thank you Sergeant, carry on."
With things well in hand, Cybbel turned back to his poetry.
"When you lie bleeding on the red Martian Plain...."
No that wasn't right...
In a simple mud hut, in a simple mud village, two dishevelled figures listened expectantly to the sounds of battle in the nearby valley. One sat listlessly, the other searched the ground behind him with his finger tips and having found a not quite blunt bit of rock, began sawing at the thongs that bound his wrists. Help was coming.