Post by hardlec on Dec 23, 2016 20:31:26 GMT
Alternative history means it didn't really happen. HG Wells' Martians did not actually invade. The consequences of this invasion did not really happen. This story presumes a second invasion that is as fictitious as the first.
There are historical presuppositions in this piece, and there are fictional presuppositions in this piece. The story you are about to read is fiction. There are homages to actual people, places and events to provide a comfortable frame of reference. Enjoy.
Lieutenant Colonel George Patton sat on his bed and looked out the window of his room at Walter Reed Hospital. His gown felt somehow like the light deerskin he wore in the sweat lodge, but the city lights did not resemble stars. He tried to remember how he got to this place at this time.
I had a very vivid dream about a malevolent red eye. It was disquieting.
I returned from London today from the London Olympics. I achieved the Silver medal. I took the .22 pistol given to me by the King of England and cleaned it again. His Majesty gave all the Pentathletes identical pistols to avoid any possibility of the heavier 9mm pistols used by the Germans and several of the other teams from causing injury. Had I used my .380, my shots would have covered each other and I would have been scored 2 or 3 misses. Instead of a medal, I would have placed rather low in the scoring. Some things are not in my control.
Tomorrow I get on a train and head for training as a Rough Rider. That shall be a pleasant change from the endless hollow awards ceremonies.
Chief Black Elk, appointed by Roosevelt as a General, is in command of the training of the Rough Riders. This is, to the best of my recollection, his introductory speech:
"There is no chicken-shit in rough rider school. You can't use "the book" to think for you." Black Elk, Lakota chief and head instructor of the Rough Rider school orated. "You Aw-cee-fer types need to know that until lead or iron learns how to respect rank, you will have to learn to accomplish your missions without using it. You enlisted men need to know that you need to be able to think and not just to obey. "I was just following orders" will not be used as an excuse here.
You are the eyes and ears of the Army. Each man needs to know how be a cavalryman, a repair man, a forager, and a spy.
This does not mean you will be an undisciplined rabble. You will have discipline, you will show respect to your brother's in arms, and you will be a credit to your uniform.
Before you learned how to march, how to polish brass, and how to make a bed. Well, there are no parade grounds where you will be training. There's no brass to polish on a field uniform, and you'll be lucky to have a bed to sleep in.
We will teach you to ride a Motorcycle, to fix a motorcycle and to fight from a motorcycle. We will also teach you to use your wits, your ingenuity, your experience, and your stones.
You will be challenged every day. You will learn how to think for each other and for yourself. We expect you to succeed. Take hold of the fact that the harder the problems, the tougher you are. "
After today I did my maintenance on my Harley, I am learning that my bike has as much personality as any of my horses. The better I care for my bike, the better it takes care of me.
Today we had a break for lunch, but there was no food. Black Elk reminded us all that the native game is not an enemy of the U.S. and we may not shoot rabbits. Most of us are making small cashes of food, and crucial bike parts.
Today we learned to use the Harpoon gun. It can be used to launch signal flares, smoke grenades and also a grappling hook. The hook can be used to get a man across a gully almost 30 yards across. With one man across, we can send over more cables until we can make a cable bridge a bike can cross, even a whole troop.
Today I learned how to splice cable with my Pocket Tool. The multi-bladed pocket knife they issued us seems to become handier every day. I keep a second knife in my boot against the day we have to turn ours in at the beginning of the day's training.
I had the dream about the red eye again last night.
This evening, when the platoon was bivouacked in a camp, Black Elk paid a visit. By now everyone was used to how he seemed to just appear out of the desert. No one knew how, but everyone knew he could.
"Tell me, lieutenant, When did you and the men start to carry unauthorized food and parts? You've been much more successful than we've planned on" Black Elk asked.
"Since the day after we went without chow the first time, Sir. Everyone remembered how you told us to use our ingenuity" responded Patton.
"Amazing. Most of the instructors figured that you would break before you accepted that 'the book' was wrong. You figured out right away that 'the book' is only one of many tools at your disposal. You made us all proud, George" said Black Elk.
Today I learned that I was scheduled for a vision quest. Clad in traditional garments of the Lakota, I went into a place of solitude. Young men often took their adult names from such an experience. My vision was sinister and disturbing.
I saw a wheel of fire, it was terrifying. It destroyed cities and towns. Men fought against it, but they could only stop it, not turn it back. I saw the same red eye that had disturbed my sleep for several weeks.
Several others seeking their vision have seen the same thing. Yesterday we learned that great flashes have been seen on Mars. It is believe the Martians are coming back.
I realized that I have been accepted as a member of the Lakota tribe as well as a member of the Rough Riders. He felt a great sense of honor, but no joy. A Martian invasion would test much more than my character.
I am assigned to be a platoon leader for Second Platoon, Charlie Troop, First Squadron, 10th US Cavalry Regiment. The historic regiment of the Buffalo Soldiers had been converted to the Rough Riders. General Leonard Wood had recommended "Black Jack" John Pershing as the overall leader of the Rough Riders. With the plan to have Rough Riders to have the overall strength of a Division, Roosevelt took the opportunity to make another of his Spanish American war friends a General. Pershing used the opportunity to re-invigorate as many of the "Black" units as possible. No one had any objection to this, and later the Congress and High Command would appreciate his foresight.
Platoon leaders had rather little to do with Generals. I am in command of a mainly black platoon, as integration was just beginning, and I am was happy for it.
A black trooper has to be twice as good as a white one to get half as far. Respect the men, and they will respect you. Take care of the men, and the men will take care of the Mission. My philosophy, learned in the sweat lodge, should serve me
well. I joined his new command the day the cylinders fell. It explained my nightmares.
After only a week, my platoon was ordered to pack up and take a train to Denver. There we would meet up with an infantry battalion to be their recon element.
"Well, that's a hell of a thing. Going to war and I hardly know my men's names.
The regiment of rough riders has been re-assigned. My platoon has been attached to an infantry battalion. The infantry needs rough riders in the traditional cavalry role as scouts. My new CO's name is MaGullicudy. His instructions to me were understandably terse.
"I need my eyes, Lieutenant. Keep your command out of combat as much as possible. I'm not sure what men with rifles can do against those monsters, but we will surely teach them as harsh a lesson as we can. We have a battery of Hotchkiss guns in every company, and 8 3-inch guns in support. Those guns can hurt Tripods, or at least that's what the British say. Find the Tripods, tell us where they are, and let us crack them like eggs."
That night we located three tripods.
Col. MaGullicudy Set a good trap. The battalion was arranged in a "V" with the 3" guns at the point. We lured the tripods into the trap, then sped off, circling around to the back.
We could only watch in horror as the tripods simply ignored our infantry and walked straight toward our guns. The hotchkiss guns did nothing, the infantry troops ran in fear at the sight of the huge Martian machines.
The guns did score some hits, but the Martian machines soon brought the guns under their heat rays. They destroyed the guns and carriages. Thankfully, the crews escaped.
It takes days to make a gun, but years to grow a gunner.
The battalion was routed. Then the Martians pursued the fleeing troops with their minds set on slaughter.
I took my platoon toward the headquarters. We rescued the colonel and most of the staff.
It took two days to round up all the stragglers. Men had rallied in random places and dug in to defend. Many times my rough riders and I shared stories with the infantry soldiers. We were of one mind. We had seen the elephant. Now we were ready to kick ass.
Our Battalion has been re-organized. Many units have been badly damaged by encounters with the Martians.
I now have a troop of rough riders. We have a company of the new tanks, and the artillery has been replaced. The guns are now on the beds of trucks and ammunition is carried in a trailer. The guns can be set up fast, and they can evacuate fast. The Martians will not be able to simply wade into us, we now have the ability to maneuver with more than a handful of bikes.
The Martians are all over. I have a whole troop, but it's all we can do to scout. I have assigned my fastest riders to the Col. as messengers. Anyone who though the Rough Rider corps was frivolous is denying this now. I read the account of how many Rough Riders have earned the Congressional Medal of Honor. Almost all posthumously.
One of the smaller tripods was nosing around, alone. It blundered into the positions of bravo company, one of our infantry units. Bravo Company had the new .50 machine guns, and they were able to force the machine to retreat: right into us. We attacked.
We rode in circles around the thing, to fast for it to aim its heat ray. We were able to hook it with our grappling hooks and tie up its legs. By that time the infantry had brought up one of the new Howitzers. The tripod was a sitting duck. The gun knocked it down. The machine blew up before we could get to it, but still, it was greatly satisfying to kill one of the things. I made three recommendations for the bronze star. I also have a dozen purple hearts to distribute, but, blessedly, no letters to loved ones.
The orders came today to prepare for an attack. Col. MaGullicudy used the same trap we used before, but with key differences.
The Rough Riders would lure the Martians into the trap, but we would form on the HQ and be ready to counter-attack instead of closing the back door.
The tanks would close the back door, swinging around and attacking from the rear.
The artillery would be split, one battery in the center and one on each flank. The new howitzers have a lot more range than the old guns.
Our infantry are hardened troops. They remember combat, and their faces are cold and set. There will be no fear, nor mercy.
The Martians attacked today. They came straight at us at high noon. They expected us to turn tail, and indeed, the Rough Riders had no trouble getting them to chase us.
The fire discipline of the Infantry was outstanding. We lead the machines right into the cross-fire. With a signal from my flare-gun, the Colonel unleashed hell.
The lead tripod, headed north, was solidly hit by all three batteries. For precious seconds it seemed to just stand there. The next three salvos hit it again. Those gunners must have used up a year's worth of luck, but the lead machine blew up.
The machine on the east turned and moved southeast, trying to run out of range. It ran right into the tanks. We had six of the new MkIIIs, and they shot with 18 of the big 4-inch tank guns. The up gunned MkIIs took their licks as well. A 21 gun salute. The tripod still tried to retreat, and ran right into bravo company. They knew what to do. I saw the tripod go down when the Colonel signaled: Go Get 'Em, George.
In the course of the attack, I took a dynamite bomb and climbed up a loose grapple line with it. Thank god for my boots and gloves, I was able to hold on to the rough cable. I got into position, pulled the lanyard and got my dynamite bomb wrapped around the knee joint of one of the legs. I slid down the rope but I still got caught in the blast. The tripod went down, but I fractured my collar bone and my bike got stepped on.
I am being sent to the rear for my injuries. I am also being transferred to the Tank Corps. It seems junior officers with combat experience are in high demand for the tanks, they take a lot of causalities. Thankfully, my nightmares have stopped.