30 December 2008

Tablet Fairy Tales???

30 December …

Major Higgins, Lieutenant Landowski and four escort troops headed to Camp Trafalgar this morning aboard our dirigible (dubbed the Orca), piloted by our only Republic Navy representative Seaman 1st Johansson. As they lifted off from the camp, I could have sworn Johansson let out a yell, but I could have mistaken it for engine noise or the bag creaking as it rose under the strain of the passengers. I just hope one of those huge flying reptiles does not decide to attack the Orca. Or at least, if the pteros do attack, that a few rifle bullets will drive them off before they can seriously damage the bag. If all goes well, the Orca should arrive at Camp Trafalgar by tomorrow morning.

Today, we survived an attack from some truly strange creatures near the site of the temple. Plants that walked like men on two legs and attacked with grasping tendrils of viny growths! The black leg escorts were somewhat stunned, as the things have a mouth that opens to reveal a yellow looking flower and emits a deafening screech. Lady V let out a bark when the creatures were about thirty feet away - luckily, she and I had accompanied the squad on an observation walk, or the black legs would have been completely surprised by the ambush.
When I turned, I saw six or seven plant people springing from the undergrowth along the path. They screeched in an unholy high pitch as they leapt at us, injuring one of the men as they came. We fired at the creatures with our Martini-Henry rifles, dropping three of them, as the others fled into the rainforest. Within seconds, they were gone without a trace of thier passage through the thick undergrowth. Private Douglass was injured in the shoulder by a javelin made of a thin, three-foot long reed with a crudely sharpened tip. Another man was injured when he collapsed, striking his head on a boulder, stunned from the noise of the plant men's shrieks. I guess the tablets from the temple were more than just a fairy tale. One of the specimens was carried back with the squad and Drs. Caruthers and Palmer were upset they were unable to dig at the sight today.

Doc Armstrong and Herbalist Dempsey treated the injured and also began to study the plant creature. The specimen is about five feet tall, green, thin and has a pod shaped head that splits along its entire length into three valves. They have three opposable fingers and the feet have no digits as they are a single three jointed flat foot. We have no idea how they sense prey, as there are no obvious eye structures. They are definitely hard to spot as their natural camouflage is uncanny. They can easily ambush any patrol we send out and I am thankful we had Lady V today, as she was able to spot them before they attacked. I have no doubt the casualties would have been more serious if the ambush was not spotted. We will send a messenger hawk to Camp Trafalgar tomorrow with a brief report.

29 December 2008

Similar Paths and Possible Futures

28 December …

Today the RTS Santa Fe and Hammerhead departed for Earth and I felt safer knowing that the Santa Fe will have a fighting chance against the Huns. The Santa Fe has a special package on board: some of the more portable discoveries from the temple and a copy of all their scientific notes. Drs. Caruthers and Palmer were adamant about the tablets getting back to Houston safely, as a discovery such as this is an achievement many never find in their careers. I suppose they want to ensure their place in history.

The motor whaleboat dirigible is complete and will be tested tomorrow; Seaman Johansson is more than ready as he is assigned to Corporal Jones squad so he beds with them and also works at the saw mill. I have been told he is a good worker and does not talk much. I have seen for myself that he has the physique of an English Bulldog, standing five feet six inches but with huge hands and no neck.

Father Flannigan ventured out to the temple today after the sermon and lunch with most of the officers. Lady V and I have taken it easy today as RSM Taggart and I sat around smoking pipe tobacco and played a few games of chess. We talked about my boy Ian today, and his appointment to Gannon Military College. It seems as though Ian will not be alone as Taggart’s boy, William, was accepted into Gannon as well. The Naval Academy did not accept his boy either as he was only awarded the Star, not the Cross. I hope they will both get along well and will become friends as their fathers have.

Well, it is off to bed and must write my wife another letter before I rest this Sunday evening.
[Editor's Note: "The Star" is the Houston Star, a medal awarded for valor above and beyond the call of duty. Think of it as equivalent to a Silver Star in modern American terms. "The Cross" is the Lone Star Cross, the highest military decoration awarded by the Republic, analagous to the Victoria Cross of Britain. It is usually awarded posthumously. The sons of a recipient are automatically accepted into either the Military or Naval Academy if they apply. This does not mean automatic graduation, however, and many are dismissed for failure to meet the rigorous standards of the Republic's military academies.]

First Christmas on Venus

25 December …

Sergeant Thibodeaux and his expanded crew worked miracles today with Grillag, greens and potatoes as we dined on our Christmas Feast. Father Flannigan gave an inspiring mass and we all enjoyed the meal.

Chief O’Malley introduced me to Seaman 1st Class (equivalent to a Lance Corporal) David Johansson. He was assigned to us as a pilot for the motor whaleboat-based dirigible. He has been in the Republic Navy for five years and is already a very efficient coxswain with both air and nautical vessels. Since he is in the Navy, he will be under Mr. Griggs' command and not the Army's. He is therefore mine, so I will have to see skills he has besides piloting so I can assign him to one of the work crews. I have a feeling he will be put on Corporal Jones’ saw mill crew. They are a man short due to a bad injury one of the privates suffered last week. The doctors think they've managed to keep the cut from going bad, but in this Venusian mist, who can tell for sure?

Lady Venus was treated with a Grillag hip bone today that was smoked by Private Mistrot. We received mail and a few presents from loved ones. The men always enjoy mail call and it is nice to get letters from the missus.

My wife sent me some drawings our younger boys made, and our oldest, Ian James, has gotten word back that he has been accepted into Gannon Military College. I would have preferred the Naval Academy, but they do not like to admit the sons of enlisted men unless they have won the Lone Star Cross. Ian wants to join the military, and always has, but I told him if he joins he must muster in with a bar instead of a stripe. At Gannon he will be able to become a staff officer with either the engineering, signal or artillery corps; the Naval Academy is the only way one can become a Navy line officer. If Ian chooses civil engineering (which I highly doubt, as the boy is most destructive) he will be in a position like Mr. Griggs; however, I have a feeling he will become an artillery officer. He does like to see things go boom.

Well, enough rambling about a father's pride. I should take Lady V for a walk, as Chief O’Malley is waiting for us so he may tag along.

28 December 2008

Christmas Eve

24 December …

   The RTS Santa Fe and the newly commissioned RTS Hammerhead landed today, and not an hour too soon. The men seemed to all stop work at once to catch a glimpse of the gunship as it sported its speed and maneuverability flying a four mile perimeter before the Santa Fe landed. The RTS Hammerhead is sleek in design and reminds me of a seagoing brig. It is 110 ft in length and sports 12 breechloading rifled cannon. The captain of the ship is Lieutenant Randolph Roderick and the senior enlisted is Chief Drexel; the crew complement is actually forty enlisted and two officers. What a wonderful Christmas gift it is, and we will all have the chance to take a stroll on board the new ethership.

   The RTS Santa Fe brought us gifts from the Republic: mail, rations, supplies, another company of black legs, four more cooks and one more mountain howitzer with crew. With the new company, the 3rd Battalion now is up to 245 men with two gun crews. Mr. Griggs will no longer be alone as the junior officer in the mess as Sub-altern Fredrick Pummel RA reported for duty with the 3rd Battalion. Mr. Pummel's name should be familiar to anyone in the Republic, as he is the youngest son of Major General Pummel. We did not receive any more Marines, but the Santa Fe now has a crew complement of one platoon.

   We also received a gasbag and a huge wooden propeller to attach to the motor whaleboat; seems as though we are going to use it for both water and air travel. The new dirigible motor whale boat is a smart option since it has a power source and if we need to make an emergency landing on the water we will be safer (unless it is beyond the reef). The trip to Camp Trafalgar will also be considerably shorter as we will be above the rainforest. I will assign Sergeant Garcia with the conversion of the craft.

   Tomorrow is Christmas and we will have the day off. It will be nice to get the latest word and the further developments of the Hun's Imperialism. Off to the mess for some ale and tales of adventure.
[Editor's Note: The RTS Hammerhead was the first of the Shark-class of aether gunships produced by the Republic of Texas. The other members of this class of ship were named the Mako, Blacktip, and Tigershark.]

Middle Age Artillery Practice

18 December …

What a splendid day! The two trebuchet crews, after an hour of basic artillery techniques, began to hurl stones into the air towards the ether landing pad area outside the perimeter walls. Corporals Mendoza and Ferguson both hurled at least one hundred stones today and we know one thing: it is much easier in theory and we need more practice. The targets were damaged and the trebuchets are definitely deadly as the stones came plunging down with massive force. Major Higgins and the other officers were delighted and the men enjoyed the spirit of competition and began to have a lot of respect for those ancient armies who used the trebuchet in battle. The sound of the stone as it leaves the sling is amazing and has to be frightening on the receiving end of the weapon.

We lost a day of work but we now have a strengthened sense of security beyond the walls of Fort Humid. Tomorrow it will be back to the grind stone and further progress on fort improvements. I will be happy when the exterior wall is finished and the defenses are in place as we received word today by messenger hawk from our English friends of an Imperial German attack against the French on Mars as the Huns bombarded the French positions at their colony of Noveau Paris. Although the Hun are not on this continent as of yet (it is the smallest of the Venusian continents) we still have to be prepared for the worse.

Trebuchet Anticipation

17 December …

The trebuchets were finished late today and tomorrow we will be able to test them out for effectiveness. The men thought it was peculiar for a modern army to be using antiquated equipment for defense. We did have quite a few people stop by and inspect the work as the officers thought it was splendid and always gave congratulations to the men. The men themselves took great interest in the project and are very eager to see whose trebuchet will throw a rock the farthest. Corporal Miller and his red legs also took interest and will instruct the men on artillery techniques. Each will be manned during engagements and alerts. Corporal Mendoza’s squad and Corporal Ferguson’s squad will be responsible for the siege weapons as the black legs will man the walls.

I know this is a short entry today but we are all exhausted from the excitement and hard work.

Sunday Rugby

14 December …

Ahh... another Sunday to relax and enjoy the rainforest weather as today RSM Taggart and I rode Pachysaurs out and about and we managed to stay out of trouble as we were only gone a few hours. Father Flannigan had another wonderful service and the men played rugby. Mr. Griggs and Captain Higgins both played and managed to each gain a black eye as the playing surface turned into mud. Lieutenant Armstrong and Herbalist Dempsey will have their hands full in the morning with muscle strains and loose teeth.

The two trebuchets were started yesterday, as all of the main pieces have been built. The only thing left is to assemble the pieces and to also build a rock bed to roll on and ammo. The later will be the easiest as we will be throwing stones. Spot, our Triceratops, can drag the large boulders from the quarry site for our ammunition.
Enough. Tomorrow will be very busy, trying to finally assemble the main upright frame for the trebuchets.

Indirect Fire Capabilities

10 December …

Work was good and steady today through the normal weather pattern of a clear sky followed by a sunny sky, a rainshower and repeat. Fort Humid is coming along pleasantly. The outer wall is starting to take shape and will definitely give us better protection. I still feel a little edgy about that strange temple ruin. I just hope we do not awaken this ancient civilization and were they truly as tall as the four guardian statues?

Today, during the operations meeting we were discussing construction and defence when Captain Lamar discussed our indirect fire capabilities, or to be blunt, the relative lack of them. He had valid points about our capabilities with only one rifled howitzer, and produced a book with Middle Age catapults that were effective against infantry, fortresses and even elephants. I have built one such device (a trebuchet) during a combat engineering course in Leeds about four years ago, where we learned the principles of engineering in ancient warfare. Major Higgins thought it was a great idea and asked if I could construct at least one trebuchet, if not two, for a secondary means of defense. Mr. Griggs was delighted by the idea as well and together we will look over plans I still have from my course manual entitled “The Practical Guide to the use and Historical Development of Ancient Engineering Techniques in Modern Warfare. Volume I,” written by Brigadier Ian James Willoughby IV KCB, VC. Yes it is quite a mouthful but it is a very well written book and has engineering drawings drawn to scale.

Well, enough of the diary for the night, as Lady V wants me to take her for a walk to inspect troops.

27 December 2008

Fish and Wine

07 December …

I am thankful today was Sunday, as it was relaxing to get away from our usual hard labor and drop a line in the water. Sergeants Garcia, Cromwell and I caught fourteen Venusian Flounder today; one was three feet in length! As we were reaching the reef's edge we were soaked by a water geyser from some type of whale (hopefully of a non-Texican eating species). It was only about thirty feet away from our whaleboat and it took us about two seconds to head away from the reef's edge and back in towards shore and the safer, shallower waters along the beach. Lady Venus was barking and looking over the edge of the boat as if she wanted to play with the thing. Crazy dog.

Sergeant Thibodeaux smoked the fish for us and gave the rest to the crew during the evening meal. The flounder was very tasty, but I can only imagine what it would taste like smoked over genuine Texican mesquite, rather than the Venusian hardwoods we have been using. I might have to talk with Chief O’Malley about bringing some here when the Santa Fe returns in January.

Father Flannigan joined us for dinner and brought two bottles of Fredericksburg wine with him to our NCOs' Mess. According to him, "fish is not fish without the taste of the grape." I'm no fancy wine drinking fellow like some of the officers, but I have to admit that the white wine did go well with the fish. He had us rolling with tales of his youth. Seems as though he was a private in the Connaught Rangers before getting his call to a priestly vocation. At one point, Corporal Jones was even blushing in embarrassment.

The RTS Santa Fe is logging unthinkable miles as they are making return trips here monthly. With the flight time taking a little more than a week each way they spend more than half the month floating in the airless ether. Chief O’Malley was telling me about a new class of ethership the Republic is building. They are purpose-built gunships with a crew of thirty and are meant to serve as escorts against a growing Hun threat. The "Lucky Santa" only has two cannon for defense - hardly capable of defeating an Imperial German Luftschiffe. They won't be able to carry much in the way of cargo, though, so we will still depend on the Santa Fe for most of that. There is also talk of bringing material to make an airship here on Venus, for scouting, exploration and observation purposes.

Well, I must close as it is time to fall into my bunk and get ready for another hard day at work.

25 December 2008

Wind Power

04 December …

Today was another important first for Fort Humid, as Corporal Mendoza and his crew connected the newly-finished windmill to the water well pump. They also finished the construction of a water storage tank, providing us with stored water sufficient for a week. Corporal Ferguson's crew completed the timber construction of the ammo bunker and the black legs are going to provide the dumb labor for shoveling the three feet of soil required on all sides of the timber. The ammo bunker is sunk in the ground to a depth of four feet and continues for eight feet above ground. Tomorrow, Ferguson's crew will start on three bunkers to hide from any potential aerial bombardment as we have received word today of reports of the dirty Huns attacking land positions from their ether and lighter than air vessels.

The scientists have not discovered a potential entrance to the temple as their digging crews have sunk a four foot deep trench all the way around the stone slab and it seems to still be solid. One crew did find pottery and a stone tablet, all with the same writing as was found on the stone slab. The pottery is not unlike that of the ancient Greeks and Romans of our Earth. The tablet shows a pictograph of a great battle between plant-looking people and birdmen. I wonder if it is just a story book as I cannot imagine a race of vegetable people. What would they live on? Would they wither without water (not that I can imagine that becoming a problem here on Venus)? The questions are endless. When the RTS Santa Fe returns at the end of this month they will send back a few discoveries and copies of the text back to Houston.

I am planning on taking the motor boat out into the water if the weather permits this Sunday as some fishing would be relaxing. Lady Venus is growing steadily and is now about three months old. She is very playful and follows me around until she gets bored and goes to visit our cooks, who always give her scraps. She shows up again and waits for me on the porch after she gets bored with her rounds.

Working like a Mule

28 November …

The RTS Santa Fe departed for Earth as the rain passed today. It was a very busy day at work as we had to catch up on the days of work lost to the storms. Sergeants Garcia and Cromwell worked their respective crews to finish some projects and start new. Corporal Jones and his saw mill put in a long day as the fresh cut trees ran through the huge 48” blade. Corporal Mendoza managed to install the hand lever pump and catch basin today as one of the water wells was completed just before the storm. The manual hand pump will be in place until his crew can build the windmill replacement. I do feel better knowing our supply of fresh water is now securely within our walls.

Corporal Garza continued working on the fifty-seven SET Huts that now adorn our landscape, as walls and roofs were installed. Clothes line posts were also set in the dirt and cross arms installed today as well. I am definitely proud of my men and am thankful for their solid work ethic and the good NCOs who make my job easier.

Doctors Caruthers and Palmer, along with the officers, headed to the temple once again and stayed until the sun was setting in the west over the rainforest landscape. They have found some sort of writing and are still trying to translate the text. They are going to start a dig around the temple site to hopefully uncover a settlement of an ancient civilization. Who knows what they may find? Mr. Griggs was most excited and looked a little comical as his hair was still standing as he came through the gates. I took him off to the side and corrected his deficiency before he appeared before any of the men. After all, one job of a Staff NCO is to train the junior officers and also to help them save face when the need arises. For junior officers eventually become senior officers, and the respect they earn for their NCOs will carry them throughout their career.

A Wet Thanksgiving

27 November …

The RTS Santa Fe was unable to depart today as the heavy rain developed into lightning storms. Chief O’Malley and I looked at our fortifications and later ventured out to the blue ruins. The Chief suggested a tall lookout tower by the landing site, I think it is a good idea and will bring it up to the officers during the Monday Operations Meeting.

The officer entourage left out quickly this morning with a small escort element for security. I went along as well, curious to see if the lightning had affected the blue stone this time. By the time we got to the site, the whole place was electrified and beams of blue light seemed to burn brighter this time than the last. The static electricity produced by the lightning was very powerful as well. The officers stayed under the observation tent as the granite continually absorbed the lightning. I think this was a wise decision. There was enough galvanic current out there to fry a Triceratops, not to mention one of us frail humans!

I had almost forgotten about Thanksgiving dinner. Our head cook, Sergeant Thibodaux, prepared more Grillag, fish and potatoes. We finished the evening off with a pint of ale at the NCO Mess. Happy Thanksgiving.

24 December 2008

Merry Christmas to You All

In celebration of this joyous holiday season, occassioned by the birth of our Redeemer, Jesus Christ, I want to take this opportunity to wish you all a very...

MERRY CHRISTMAS!

The journal will return to a more regular publication schedule following the festivities and solemnities appropriate to this holy season.

23 December 2008

Meanwhile, back on Earth...


Three New Land Ironclad Classes Added to Her Majesty's Ever-Victorious Royal Navy Land Forces!




Hurrah for British engineering! Her Majesty's Royal Navy has put more earth-shakingly powerful land ironclads into production from the Brigade Foundries [actually, Brigade Models, www.brigademodels.co.uk]. Three new classes of ship are beginning to be produced, it was announced today: the Imperator, the General, and the Brunel classes. The photostat above does not, actually, contain any of the three new classes, which are so new as to not even have paint upon them as of yet.

Sadly, these armored leviathans are not going to be available for service here on the Red Planet anytime soon. Their immense weight will require specially designed transport vehicles to cart them across the aether to Mars. Even disassembled, it would take many trips back and forth with current vessels to deliver a single land ironclad to Mars. But what a difference that one leviathan could make in cowing the ambitions of the Kaiser's colonial administration!

[Editor's Note: This is an area of VSF gaming that I am seriously considering getting involved with in the next year. I really like the models, and the fact that the system (Land Ironclads, by Wessex Games) is compatible with an aerial system (Aeronef) and a forthcoming naval system (Aquanef). The models are quite nice, and seem to paint up well from what I have seen online, though they are a bit difficult to get hold of in the States. I took the photo above from Brigade's website. I hope they don't mind, but if anyone does, please let me know and I will remove the image. I am hoping the advertising is worth the picture grab.]

18 December 2008

Gashant Herds of Mars


Gashant Riders of the Boreal Cities

As you can see, we have confirmation that some Martians have domesticated and appear to be riding these strange, bird-like creatures. They lack feathers, and have, in fact, a rather leathery grey-ish hide. Their legs are digitigrade, they are warm-blooded, oviparous and beaked all similar to a terrestrial bird's . They lack wings, and have only small, club-like forelimbs, which are perhaps atrophied wings. Earth zoologists have tentatively classified them as reptiles, but have not completed a taxonomic report on the species.

The domesticated beasts seem to be used more in the newly-explored Boreal region of Mars, where they seem quite common. Pictured above in the photostat is a patrol rider of the city of Borea Major. The patrol our explorers encountered were quite restrained, obviously impressed with our advanced British technologies. It is hoped that our Viceroy will swiftly send a diplomatic mission to the Boreal Cities and enact treaties which will permit an exclusive trade between these advanced Martian societies and ourselves.

[Editor's Note: If you are a reader of TMP, you should know that RAFM (www.rafm.com), the Canadian company responsible for the production of the official Space 1889 miniatures, is currently selling them at 50% off for infantry and cavalry. Act quickly, folks! I know I will be ordering some cavalry units.]

17 December 2008

[OOC] Indecision Delays

So, its been a little while since I posted anything. With Christmas just around the corner, and all the time demands that brings, to be honest, I haven't lifted paintbrush, nor really considered a single scenario in a week. The closest I have come has been lurking and posting on TMP in the wee hours or from work.

Well, that's not entirely true. I started on some telegraph poles that I have decided I cut way too tall. So I need to fix that.

Anyway, the point of this post was indecision delays. I was corresponding with another gamer today, and he mentioned how his current project is stalled out while he tries to decide exactly what he wants to do with it. And that got me to thinking about how many of my projects have stalled for extended periods for exactly the same reason: indecision.

I think it stems from two things: perfectionism and lack of funds.

Perfectionism is that drive that I have when it comes to my miniatures to get them 'just right.' That doesn't necessarily mean historically accurate. With VSF, it often does not mean that. I mean that it looks 'right' to me, and is such that I think others will ooh and aah over them toa degree. I don't expect abjecy adoration. Besides being blasphemous, I think its ridiculous considering my skills in converting and painting. I'm decent, but not more than that, and so expecting a lot of WOW factor is not in the cards. But everyone likes to have their efforts appreciated, and the more thought that goes into the project, the better the results are likely to be. Since we want the best we are capable of, this leads to lots of thought. In turn, it means a lot of time spent planning and less in doing. The end result is that little gets done, although perhaps it is of a better quality. I actually ran a poll over that not too long ago.

Lack of funds is an even more fundamental cause of indecision. If, like me, your gaming budget is rather limited, you simply can't afford to buy new minis when your conversion doesn't go as planned, or the paint job comes out completely horrible, or what have you. So we again spend a lot of time in thought and planning and tweaking ideas, rather than implementing them. Again, delay through indecision.

Is there a fix? Beyond massive government bailouts of the wargaming community, that is? (Sorry - no more politics, I promise.) I don't know if there is, but I know I need to get something done, or the Lead Pile may cause the Earth to wobble.

Thanks for listening. Let me know what you think.

12 December 2008

Strange News from Earth

Floating Mystery Island Reported Over Pacific!

My friends, today we have received word that an island - entirely unknown heretofore to Earthly cartographers - has been discovered over the Pacific Ocean. Yes, ladies and gentlemen, I said over the Pacific Ocean, and over I meant!

Ancient legends of the Pacific islanders tell of a floating island called by many names, such as "Laputa" or "The High Kingdom" or "The Flying Isle." These Laputans are said to possess some extraordinary technologies, not least of which is whatever diabolical engine allows an entire island to float over the sea and the islands of the Pacific.

These discoveries have been made by a new correspondent to the journal, a one-time faithful reader such as yourself, perhaps, who has made such contributions to the success of our endeavour here that he was rewarded with correspondents' rights. Mister Arndt, our hearty welcome and congratulations, sir!

For more on the initial report, please direct yourself to this location on the telephonic differencing engine weave: http://leadpeople.blogspot.com/2008/11/inspiration-laputa.html.

07 December 2008

[OOC] Lest we forget...

Gentlemen, a glass.

In remembrance of an attack on our nation exactly 67 years ago today.

To the men and women who gave their lives defending our nation from the totalitarians of the mid-20th century, my deepest and sincerest gratitude.

To those who survived the war (such as both of my grandfathers, since deceased), my humble thanks.

May God grant your rest bring you peace, in the knowledge that you secured freedom for two generations around the world.

Amen.

2 More Deathrays Done, Plus Other Items [OOC]


Friends and Followers,

I have finished two more rays, the standard bearer and one of the carbine-armed riders. Here's a couple of pictures (sorry about the background - its my official paint desk):




Also, I received many small bits of lead from overseas this week! Yay! The folks at Black Cat bases were kind enough to pick up a couple of miniatures for me from Donnington Miniatures at Warfare in Reading (that's in the UK, for all us Yanks), and shipped them to me. One I won't be able to use for this project, but the others shall probably work. What are they, you ask? Priests! I now have a trio of priests (one mounted!) to provide spiritual comfort and guidance to the Papal forces on Mars.

I also got in a batch of Papal infantry and Zouaves from Freikorps, direct. I had to go to them, because it was faster than ordering from Little Wars, even though Little Wars (the US distributor for Freikorps) is just across town from me! Haven't started on them yet, but look forward to getting after it soon.

I did start painting the French Foot artillery I bought for the pontifical forces. I'll only have one gun crew and a breechloading field gun, plus a wrecked gun objective I am planning. But that's plenty, I think. I can see a race to retrieve the gun or destroy it before the natives can get their hands on a modern European field piece.

Also, I made a little progress on the rivers, which I will post about tomorrow on the gaming terrain blog.

That's all for tonight/this morning. Got to go get some sleep so I can make 8:00 Mass!

04 December 2008

Spar Torpedoes in the Sky

Martian Flying Cavalry Carries Torpedoes

"They're mad, I tell you. Completely barmy. I'll have to get the Royal Artillery Research and Development nobbins on this immediately!"

That was the response of General Sir Michael Stackpole, KB, when informed by this journal that it appears the Galforrian Deathray Cavalry were practicing with what amounts to small spar torpedoes in their hands. One of our clandestine correspondents in the Galforrian Empire was able to watch the flying cavalry at training, and described it thusly:

"They had these long, long poles, very thin, sort of like a regular lance. But no point on it. Instead, there was this... I dunno what to call it. Some sort of explosive device. Anyway, they flew under a few barrels full of water, suspended high up, you see, and tried to hit the barrel - swinging in the wind it was, so not too easy to hit. But when it did hit! By the Hammer of Grabthor! The barrel exploded as soon as the tip of that lance struck it solidly." (Translated from Galforric)

I certainly hope our scientists can swiftly come up with a counter stroke to these fiendish devices. I fear that the fragile peace on Mars shall soon be a memory, if the militaristic machinations of the Galforrians and their Germanic friends continue thusly.

[Editor's Note: I am heavily leaning towards this option. I have some small egg shaped beads I am thinking of putting at the tips of the lances to represent a shaped charge explosive of some kind. Possibly a tiny fragment of handwavium or something. That leaves me with two carbine-armed riders, who become the personal guard of the Prince. I only need one more pack of lancers to complete the unit if I go that route. I'll have a unit of ten lancers, with musician and commander, plus a half unit of five, with the Prince, his standard, two guards and a tambour drummer. Should be plenty, yeah?]

03 December 2008

[OOC] Adding to Eli's Lamentation

I was checking out Eli's blog I See Lead People (http://leadpeople.blogspot.com/) today. I do that a lot. He's doing some interesting things.

Eli lamented the fact that he didn't get too much accomplished on his projects as he had hoped to do in the month of November. That got me to thinking (always a Bad Idea) about how much I had gotten done.

And by 'done,' I mean get 'em off the painting/converting table and into storage until its game time.

And I am whiffing. Batting 0.000. I got a good bit of parts of a few projects done, but actually finishing anything? Not that I can tell. The closest I came to that was realizing my heart just wasn't in Napoleonics right now and packing that stuff away until such time as it is. But that's not the same as 'done.'

I worked on deathrays, and got a few of them done. Now I only need about seven more, and I have to buy some minis to get there. It being Christmas time, I should probably wait and see what I get for Christmas before I go buying lead.

I started on a few Papal Infantry. Again, waiting for additional stocks of lead to arrive. I suppose the fact that I came up with a color scheme I like is something...

I started repainting some Seebattalion troops into Etherschiffetruppen. I got about four or five close to done. Out of 20. So, progress, but no completion!

I started a minor conversion of a Battleball (sci-fi football board game, Milton Bradley I think) figurine into a 25mm German Power Armor Assault Trooper with Experimental Handwavium Engine. Even sculpted the Handwavium port (think Iron Man movie, but on the back and green not blue) and have that glued on. Still got a ways to go.

Re-visited the whole rocket situation for the second Sentinel. Decided to use the skinny missiles, even though I am not super happy with them. I would really like to find some 25/28mm Hale's or even Congreve rockets.

Worked some more on the rivers terrain project, including creating a narrow ford. Still, nothing completed.

I really need to just sit down and finish something. Anything. I know it will make me feel better. Maybe I will get something done tomorrow, as I am taking the day off work (been feeling rather ill, actually, so maybe not).

Thanks for listening to me whine on. Maybe, if I get anything done this week, there will be a more interesting post.

30 November 2008

Deathrays over Mars!

Prince Gopotty's First Recruits Take to the Skies

   A few months ago, our readers were treated to the first photostats of Martian Prince Musta Gopotty of Galfor mounted upon his (somewhat) domesticated golden whorled deathray, gliding gracefully through the cerulean skies of the Red Planet. Prince Gopotty has named his personal deathray mount "Rogor," which translates to "Slasher" in English.



   Since that time, the Prince has been consumed with the difficult task of finding Martians brave enough to join him in the pursuit of mounted aeronautics. A few hardy souls have answered his call and received the intense training required. And you can see photostats here!



   We have here the man who will be captain of the flying cavalry, Lord Impaw Sibbel. He is armed with what appears to be (at great distance, to be sure) an American .41 cal Navy revolver, with a brass frame, as was popular in the Confederate States during the War Between the States.



   The next photostat is a drummer, apparently intended to fly with the prince to provide signalling to the rest of his army far below.


   This last photostat is a shot of the first of the 'other ranks' for the Prince's Own Deathray Guards Cavalry. He is armed with a lance and a revolver. This journal's military contacts are not exactly convinced of the effectiveness of the lance when used on a flying mount, but reserve final judgment until such time as an entire unit of flying lancers can be observed in action.



   When shown the evidence of this airborne threat, a spokesman for the Viceroy had this to say:

   "We are used to the flying ships of the Martian natives. And we have countered them, to their consternation and our benefit. This new force is merely a response to the success, here on Mars, of our superior Earthly civilization.

   "Thankfully for our peace of mind, it seems that Prince Gopotty is having some difficulty finding recruits with both the nerve to mount a large, carnivorous, not-totally-domesticated flying beast and the skill to master the use of weapons while controlling said beast in flight. It will be some time still before these aerial marauders can threaten our security here in the Crown Colony. By then, the Viceroy is confident that our professional military, naval, and aeronaval officers shall have some sort of counter for this sort of perfidious, nearly silent but deadly force."

[Editor's Note: Finally! Progress on this project. I am torn on the main armament of the Prince's Own, though. A poll in the making. Which should it be, rifles or lances, or a mix? I lean towards lances, myself, but am not quite sure. There are two more saddled up and ready to be strapped onto their deathrays, a standard bearer and a rifleman. Just need to get some more leather lacing to strap them on with. Hope you like the photos. As before, the figures are Black Hat's Martian Cavalry, a mix of Command, w/Guns, w/Lances, and Mounted Princes packs. The deathrays are Safari, Ltd. Spotted Eagle Rays, and the saddles were cast by me in resin. If you want one or two, I could probably be talked into making some for you. I have actually thought about neatening up the sculpt and casting them for sale so others could do the same kind of conversions on any creature they wanted. What do you think?]

26 November 2008

Valuable Mineral Deposits

Handwavium Source Discovered Near Nova Roma!


Thrilling news, good readers!

It seems that the astonishing handwavium crystals (seen in the photostat above) have been found by Earthmen for the first time. These massive crystals can be induced to provide vast amounts of heat and light when subjected to the proper chemical baths, without requiring any oxygen at all! Imagine a boiler 'fired' by a chunk of handwavium the size of your head, and powerful enough to move a fully laden train! And it is consumed so slowly that it could last for over a year with no appreciative loss in function.

Truly, we live in an age of Marvels!

Naturally, the Colliers' Association of Britain has demonstrated against its use. Spokesman Darrel McTaggart of the CAB is quoted in the Times, "It would be a terrible error to put all of our faith in this potentially hazardous, and completely alien technology, while allowing good, Earthly coal mines to go unworked and unprofitable."

The deposits are found in a desolate area near Nova Roma, the recently Catholicized Martian city-state. The crystals grow right out of the ground, making 'mining' of them anincredibly simple task, except for one thing: the yellow floss spore plant. You may see in the photostat a small bush near one of the crystals. This is a yellow floss spore plant. Its spores, which are released with the slightest contact or even in a good stiff breeze, are highly toxic to Earthmen. Martian animals eat the stuff as if it were cotton candy. The yellow floss spore plant is supposed to be common in areas of handwavium, even in the underground caverns where Martian miners have been excavating small nuggets of handwavium for millennia.

Naturally, Her Majesty's Government is keen to gain access to these incredibly valuable deposits. Combined with the recent hydrium discoveries, it could truly revolutionize how aeroships and aetherships operate. There has been no official word out of Nova Roma as to the willingness of the Prince - or the Vatican - to trade in this vital substance. It is the sincere hope of this journal that the Prince, Bishop, or whomever is in charge of affairs of state and trade for the State of Nova Roma will be of an enlightened viewpoint in regards to this material.

[Editor's Note: The handwavium is chunks of pink foam cut in vaguely crystalline shapes, and then glued ot thin plywood bases and painted with a variety of paints, including Vallejo Model Colors and cheap craft paints (for the bases). I made them late last night when inspiration struck me. I call it handwavium because, well, I liked the word when i saw it used on TMP and it does sort of just wave a hand in the face of critics who start discussing how it is impossible to work because of laws of physics and chemistry. I am also planning on making some 'unobtainite ore' for Venus, which appears much like a blue granite, but has strange properties when exposed to an electrical current...]

25 November 2008

Added Feature!

The Atlas of Imagi-Nations

Gentlemen, I have embarked today upon an ambitious - nay, heroic! - quest: the Atlas of Imagi-nations!

You will now find, on the lefthand margin of your difference engine imaging screen, a section entitled: Imagi-nation Atlas. Below the heading are located telephonic linkages which, when selected, shall lead you to information about the imagi-nation selected.

The Viceroy of the Martian Crown Colony had this to say when his staff informed him of the news:

"Mister Womack has embarked, today, on an ambitious - nay, heroic! - quest."

Yes, I am on the Viceregal staff. My function? I write the Viceroy's speeches, actually.

Anyone with an imagi-nation that wishes to be considered for inclusion in the atlas need only contact me with their information, preferably providing me with a telephonic network address. This is easily done through the comments feature of this journal.

24 November 2008

Photostats at Last!

Papal Forces on Mars - Proof!



Using a telescopic device in conjuction with his voltaic digitizing photostatic imager, our intrepid correspondent has managed to get up-close pictures of the lead elements of the Pope's soldiers on Mars [Freikorps' 15mm Pontifical Infantry Command]. Judging by their uniforms, and consulting Roger's Handbook of European Uniforms, these men are regular infantry, not the elite Zouaves. Note the deep purple coats and kepis, and the loose fitting grey trousers. The purple, obviously, indicates the royal stature of the Earthly Host of Saint Michael, the Army of the Holy See of Rome. The enlisted men have white leggings over their black boots. This uniform was developed in 1871 for the Pope's forces. The guidon bearer has the Papal Army flag in hand.


It is hoped that more photostats will be forthcoming once additional troops arrive.

Imperial German Luftschiffetruppen on Venus


Though the photostat is blurry (damaged, I think, by exposure to the sun's rays in crossing the ether to Mars from Venus), it clearly shows a trio of German imperialist troops. The Imperial German colony of Venustaadt denies its expansionist tendencies. Only time will tell. Of course, a push on Venus might easily be followed by, or even preceded by an attempt to expand the Kaiser's influence here on Mars. Were I you, good readers, I should be on the watch for agents of the Kaiserlich Geheimenpolizei (Imperial Secret Police).

[Editor's Note: The Germans above are the first of those cruddy looking Seebattalion troops I got in a couple of weeks ago. These three are nearly done, and I wanted you to get a look at the improvements. I decided to go with a non-historical paint scheme on both sets of troops pictured today, partly to emphasize the new troop types there would be in a world with flying aetherships and secondly for the alternate history aspect of the Papal troops. In OTL, the Pope lost his secular kingdom in 1870. In the ATL, it is still a going concern, and stronger for the threats made against it in the 1860s and 1870.]

Technical Difficulties

Photostats Delayed!

With heavy heart, I am forced to admit that the photostats promised for the journal yesterday shall be delayed at least one day, and possibly longer. An unforeseen technical difficulty has caused problems with retrieval of the captured images from the voltaic digitizing photostatic camera. A cable is missing and until located, the photostatic images are locked within the infernal device!
Personally, I suspect foul play.
Truly, good readers, I shall endeavour to repair the device as rapidly as possible.

[OOC] New blog...

Dedicated to gaming terrain.

http://gamingterrain.blogspot.com

Check it out if you are into terrain or scenics.

23 November 2008

Expectations for the Morrow

More News of the Papal Forces on Mars

Tomorrow we expect to receive our first photostats of pontifical troops on Mars. One of this journal's many intrepid photostatic enthusiasts has promised to deliver to us the evidence of His Holiness the Pope's men in Nova Roma. Please don't miss it! The note we recieved which said to expect the photostats to be delivered also mentioned that there are only a few men in the shot: an officer, a drummer, and a guidon bearer, but it seems solid evidence to this correspondent!
Apparently, only a very few of the Catholic warriors have arrived so far on Mars. The rest remain in transit, through the great Black Ocean between the planets. Interplanetary heliograph has flashed a message to Her Majesty's Government and I have learned (through my own sources in Government House!) that KuK.As. Ezerzhog Karl von Osterreich left Earth only a few days ago. It will be at least a week, and possibly more, before any additional Papal forces even arrive on the Red Planet, much less get sorted out and re-equipped after their journey.

An Early Announcement

I would also like to take this opportunity to wish my youngest son, Dane, a very Happy Birthday! Tomorrow he will be ten years old - where does the time go? An entire decade. Seems nearly impossible to believe. I hope his next ten years are as good as the first, and maybe even better.

A Rainy Sunday

23 November …

The heavy rain was back today, so we did not venture out much. Even so, we did not let it spoil our day since it was nice to sit in my barracks room in the Senior NCOs Hut. The 20’ X 40’ room is split by one wall, giving me a 20’ X 20’ space to myself, and my two sergeants splitting the other side. My side of the SET hut has a desk now, courtesy of Chief O’Malley, who also brought me a nice standing oil lamp and two books. One was written by Colonel Jebediah T. Samuels, my old commanding officer, and is entitled War in a Mountainous Jungle. It's all about the Yucatan Expedition during the last war. The other is Nathaniel Hawthorne’s Tanglewood Tales. My room seems more like a home now with my cot, desk, pictures of the family and now a dog house to boot.

Lady V was happy I was around and wanted to play all day. After a wonderful mass by Father Flannigan we had a nice lunch. Lady V came with me to the NCO Mess as she tugged at people's trousers. Chief O’Malley was unsure if the weather will have an affect on their departure tomorrow. If the rain gets worse and an electric storm comes, I am sure they will not be going anywhere.

The officers did not let the weather affect their near-obsessive exploration of the temple. I think they are currently praying for another electrical storm, as they want the mysterious glowing blue stone to come back. Mr. Griggs told me they rigged up a tent near the temple so they can get out of the weather. He also told me they uncovered another blue granite walkway leading out of the central square so the count is up to four.

Well, it is off to bed and another day tomorrow and I suppose we will see if our explorers get what they want.

22 November 2008

Upon the Sea

22 November …

Today I left supervision of the construction up to my two sergeants, as the RTS Santa Fe will be headed home on Monday and Chief O’Malley is wanting to test out the steam-powered whale boat on the Venusian Sea. With Spot the Triceratops' help we were able to pull the boat to the sea with little effort. Once we launched the boat it was strange setting out on the water as this sea has clear water like the Caribbean Sea on Earth.

The crew for today’s adventure was Chief O’Malley, two petty officers and myself. We made sure we had plenty of wood to burn, as we would not want to be without power and I do not want to test my sailing skills with the small mast on a planet and ocean we have just touched the surface of exploration. We traveled up and down the coastline for most of the day, keeping the shore in plain sight. It was amazing as the floor of the sea was only a fathom or so deep for a good 500 feet offshore, and then the sea floor just disappeared to an unknown depth - our lead line found no bottom with 30 fathom of line. We saw countless fish swimming in the shallow reef area before the bottom disappeared, and Chief O’Malley caught two Venusian pink flounder, though he almost got stung by the barb of the first fish he pulled in. I made sure he knew to cut off the barb, as we did not want to take a chance of getting hit. Further offshore, we saw spouts of water shoot up from the ocean surface just as a whale on Earth would produce. We were all kind of hesitant to investigate the spots, as we saw many long shadows under the boat and some were at least as big as the boat. We turned back towards shore and made some rough sketches of the coastline. We were relieved to be back over the shallow coral bed floor as we caught five more flounder.

The officers were once again at the temple with the scientists, and Mr. Griggs said they still have found no writing but the professors have been measuring and drawing the whole temple area. The drizzling rain stayed with us all day as we have become accustomed to.

On the construction side, we will have to plan on building a perimeter wall with four towers and a heliograph tower to communicate as the landing area will be almost a mile away from Fort Humid. Not that we are in a rush, as it will be another month until the Army battalion is at full strength and are able to rotate a company through the landing area as security. We will also have to venture north at sometime into the hilly area to see if we can find suitable rock formations for a quarry, to build the roads.

Well it is off to chow and I am ready for some fresh fish, potatoes and cooked Venusian greens.

[Editors Note: The steam-powered motor whale boat is the standard gig for a warship. A typical whale boat is 26 feet in length and has a 9 foot beam. This particular model has a small water tube boiler for propulsion and can achieve 6.5 knots. The water tube boiler is used in this instance to cut down on weight.]

21 November 2008

More News

21 November …

This morning at quarters I am proud to say that our NCO ranks were strengthened as Corporal Cromwell and Lance Corporal Jones were promoted, to sergeant and corporal respectively, and Private O’Rourke was promoted to Lance Corporal. There was a need, with the arrival of eight green sappers, and the men had the required time in grade for their promotions. The letters of promotion will be sent back to headquarters with the RTS Santa Fe so their pay increases will reach their families. The squads had to be rearranged, as I do not want a corporal in charge of a squad without help, so Lance Corporal O’Rourke is now in Corporal Jones' squad. I am not sure if Corporal Jones was more excited by his promotion, the steam sawmill, or the fact that his ale has properly seasoned enough to drink.

Production more than doubled today with the aid of the new equipment, as the power of steam has transformed the means by which we do our business. It truly gives you an appreciation of how we used to build without the aid of steam power. Corporal Mendoza’s water well crew started drilling today and hit water at 80 feet; however, we will drill deeper to ensure the water is fresh and a deeper aquifer is less likely to dry up. The camp is starting to look proper as we now have ten buildings completed with walls and tarred roofs. The Allen Tar Pit is definitely nice to have nearby, as the tar applied to the roof helps the waterproofing. With the aid of Spot, we can even pull the heavy tar wagon at a good pace.

Drs. Caruthers and Palmer, along with the officers and a small security contingent, spent all day at the temple and arrived back at camp just as the sun was setting on the horizon. Mr. Griggs has said nothing to me about today’s events, but he was busy with Sergeant Thibodeaux this evening, as the planning of the meal is the responsibility of the junior officer. Now that Mr. Landowski has been promoted, he'll be on his own. Luckily for Mr. Griggs, there is an ensign now on board the Santa Fe to help with tonight’s festivities. Presently we have five Army, three Navy and one Marine officer in camp, plus the scientists are messing with the officers. This means the NCOs will have a night to ourselves and Corporal Jones will have to follow in the traditions of the service this evening with tonight’s events.

Lady Venus followed me around as best as she could today and I ended up carrying her when she tired out. Sergeant Garcia’s crew built her a dog house and it sits just inside my door. Well, I am off to dinner and look forward to tonight’s festivities.

20 November 2008

RTS Santa Fe Returns

20 November …

Today, the RTS Santa Fe returned, though we were not expecting it for another week, with the resupply of troops and some much needed equipment. She brought great news and gifts. Chief O’Malley was topside yelling orders as the Santa Fe landed just outside the compound. We are going to have to build an extension to the fort walls to encompass the landing zone.

Captain George W. Lamar, Republic Army, arrived to become the Executive Officer of the 3rd Battalion, 2nd Regiment. He hand carried the promotion letter for Captain Higgins, signed by Major General Pummel. Major Higgins is now at the proper grade of command for a battalion; he was not too surprised about the news as he had been earmarked for promotion before taking command of the Venus expedition. Subaltern Landowski is now Lieutenant Landowski as he has completed his two years in grade. The "Black Legs" also received reinforcement of two additional companies of infantry. I am glad to see the numbers increasing as with the additional two companies, the 3rd Battalion is now at half strength with a total of 205 men and a single detachment of Artillery.

The Marine Engineers contingent is now officially a heavy company, as we have five complete squads. Our numbers were increased with the arrival of eight new privates and Corporals Mendoza, Ferguson and Gonzalez. They all managed to shake the malaria they had contracted and seemed to be excited to make landfall. I can only imagine their relief to be out of the hospital in Houston that had become their home since their illness began. The men were happy to see their NCOs as the squads were reunited with one another. Sergeant Garcia and Corporal Cromwell are also pleased to see the new arrivals as the strain of command is lessened by their arrival. It is Christmas early this year for us, as we now have a steam-powered water well kit, two steam drills; one steam sawmill and two donkey boilers. We were also given a steam-powered motor whale boat.

The Republic Army saw fit to send a single 2.5” Colt Mountain Gun/Howitzer vice the requested two 3” Colt-Whitworth cannons that were requested. Corporal Miller of the gun crew was told a mountain gun could be easily transported on the backs of three mule or oxen and so was a better fit for the environment. So, the Army battalion of “Black Leg” infantry now has four “Red Leg” artillery added to its ranks.

The best thing for me is the arrival of mail, as the missus sent many letters to me and it is good to hear from loved ones as it strengthens the heart. I almost forgot Chief O’Malley brought me an eight week old puppy; a female red and white Irish Setter. He says the missus bought the dog and made sure that he brought it to me. She came with the name Lady Venus and Chief has been training her for me. The missus thought I needed some company, as our two Irish Setters at the house would always go on walks with me.

Dr. Jonas R. Caruthers, professor of archaeology at the University of Santa Fe, and Dr. Franklin W. Palmer, a leading scientist and professor of science at the Glasgow University, arrived and are here to examine and conduct research on the temple. I am sure they will have some help from the willing officers.

Well, it is off to the Staff NCO Mess, where I plan on swapping lies with my good friend Chief O'Malley as we partake of some actual Republic brewed ale.

[Editors Note: The 1879 Colt Mountain Gun is a 2.5” (7 pdr/63.5 mm) breechloading screw gun. It has a range of 3300 yards when fired with a shrapnel charge. Unlike other guns of the period, the 1879 CMG had a 1” thick wooden gun shield with ¼” brass band to protect the crew from smallarms fire. This was innovative at the time as all gun crews had previously been unprotected and easily picked off by rifleman.]

18 November 2008

Flag of the Holy See Flies over Mars!


Ladies and Gentlemen, we have recently discovered that the Roman Church has established a religious colony here on Mars!

The missionaries of the Vatican have managed to convert Prince Strohom, ruler of the minor city of Akbat, to the Roman faith. Further, Strohom has changed the name of his city to Nova Roma, and has requested that Pope Pius IX to send a bishop to oversee the establishment of their Church on Mars. The prince has already begun construction of a magnificent new cathedral, the first on the Red Planet for the Roman faith, in anticipation of the fulfillment of his request. Prince Strohom has even begun building a seminary, to train Martians to enter the priesthood.

Along with the bishop and additional priests will come a small contingent of Papal troops, including Regular infantry, Zouaves, and perhaps even a battery of modern guns. It is expected that the Pontifical military contingent will be transported from Earth by the Austrian ethership Ezerzhog Karl von Osterreich. This military mission seems excessive to this reporter, in the view of a lack of outright opponents of the changes in Akbat.

Viceroy for the Martian Crown Colony, Sir Gerald Blythingham, 1st Earl Mons Olympus, had this to say:

"Her Majesty's Government welcomes the Church of Rome's efforts to bring the benefits of European civilization and the light of Christianity to the indigenous peoples of Mars. However, we are troubled by their perceived need to further militarize the planet. Surely, the British Army and Aeronaval Forces could have provided for the safety and security of the missionaries in and around Akbat - er, Nova Roma, that is to say."

Fear not for the safety of Albertport, good friends, as the forces to be brought from the Papal States are small indeed, amounting to no more than a few companies of infantry. In addition, the city of Akbat - Nova Roma, that is - lies on the far side of the Imperial German Martian Protectorate of Marstaadt and the Empire of Galfor.

[Editor's Note: Both the author of this post and the other contributor to this journal are of the Catholic faith. Do not misconstrue the common vernacular terms for the Catholic Church used in the late 1800s in the United Kingdom as any sort of disrespect for the Church, or the Holy Father.]

16 November 2008

Sunday and No Rain

16 November …

Another beautiful Sunday has come and gone. Father Flannigan had another good sermon about Saint Paul before lunch. RSM Taggart and I had two guests with us this day as Sergeant Garcia and Corporal Cromwell ventured out with us on the Northerly path to the Venusian Sea. As the weather was pleasantly dry, we decided to take our noon meal with us and eat on the beach. It was a good ride, and you could see the path where it splits to the right (west) towards the temple.

The beach was nice and calm and simply being away from the fort seemed to relax all of us. That is, until we heard the distinctive report of a Martini-Henry rifle being fired twice, just to the south of our beachfront picnic lunch. We saw two figures dancing around on the beach in frantic circles. With the aid of my spyglass from the saddlebag of my Pachysaur, I could clearly see they were two of our men.

When we got over to them, I was unsurprised to see it was our two Cajun cooks, Sergeant Thibodeaux and Private Mistrot. Apparently, they had been collecting sand crabs at the edge of the water when they saw a huge shadow in the water and long barbs breaking over the surface. The shadow was a large fish that reminds me of a flounder, except it had three eyes on one side of its body instead of two, was pink in color and had a tail on its end with a barb like you would see on a ray. The two cooks had shot it immediately, and Thibodeaux did not miss a beat landing the big fish. As soon as he and Mistrot fired their rifles, he waded in after the thing and dragged it on shore. The fish is three feet in length, not including the long, whiplike tail and its wicked looking barb, and Thibodeaux and Mistrot are already talking about adding spices and how they plan to cook it. If I followed their rapid-fire Cajun patois anything like correctly, I expect we're going to be treated to a massive whole baked fish for dinner tonight.

Mr. Griggs said the temple had no electrical charge at all today, and even the lingering scent of ozone that had filled the air near it has dissipated. They still have not found any writing or symbols on the temple, but did find a path made of that same blue granite that stopped abruptly.

Well, tomorrow will be another long day of construction work, so I am going to get some chow - which I am sure will consist of fish and crabs - and hit the rack.

[Editor's note: Most of the fauna of both mars and Venus are, thankfully, edible by humans. The Venusian pink flounder (Paralichthys v. rosa) has a venomous barbed tail. Extreme caution is advised when landing one from a line or net. It is recommended that the flounder be dispatched by a shot (small caliber bullets or birdshot will do) prior to bringing into the boat or onto the beach. The tail barb should be immediately removed and discarded with care. Sand crabs (Mennipe v. arenas) are remarkably similar to terrestrial stone crabs, though their carapace is colored to match the sands of a Venusian beach. They are quite numerous in the ocean waters near Fort Humid.]

15 November 2008

Another Day of Rain

15 November …

The rain never stopped today as it went from heavy downpour to a light drizzle and back to a heavy rain. The men kept working and we were happy to have the pole barn to work on the walls and rafters for the SET Huts. I will be happy when the last tent is taken down and put in its box as the fabric only keeps out the rain partially. It is good to hear the men in the galley talk of how happy they are to have wooden floors and that they are out of the mud when they sleep. It makes you feel better knowing that the job you are tasked with helps the morale of the troops.

Captain Higgins, Mr. Landowski and Mr. Griggs again went to the temple and they said they were disappointed with what they saw, or more accurately, did not see. It seems the mysterious effect of the lightning is gone today, almost as if the 'magic' of the temple is only existent in the lightning storms. They did say there was only a slight feel of static in the air and the stone itself showed no mark of a lightning strike. Mr. Griggs said the stone was cold to the touch, which in the constatnt heat and humidity of this jungle is strange enough to make your hair stand up.

Well, tomorrow is Sunday, our day of rest and like usual I am looking forward to a relaxing day.

The Temple

14 November…

This morning the sky was a fiery red as the sun rose above the jungle landscape, though it was only a matter of hours before the sky changed to a bluish-green color we have come to recognize as stormsign. The wind blew in, cold and hard. The clouds broke loose with a fantastic light show and the rain came down in sheets of massive, dollar-sized drops. Lightning struck in the middle of camp with the blinding fury of God; luckily, no one was in the open or they surely would have been killed. There was also a streak of lightning that seemed to hit near the temple as the white lightning turned a bright blue. After a few hours, the freak storm passed and the cold wind and driving rain was replaced by the more usual 85 degree heat and drizzling rain. The force of the brief storm was devastating, and we are lucky we did not lose anything.

We finished ten more base structures today, so the count is now up to fifty-two. We will start erecting the walls and roofs alredy prepared by our fabrication crew working at the pole barn. Their work is not easy using older methods of construction, and I know that Lance Corporal Jones will be happy to have the steam sawmill when it arrives. I talked to Mr. Griggs last night about promoting Jones, as he has sufficient time in grade and is the most senior of the lances we have with us on Venus. Mr. Griggs says we will wait on the RTS Santa Fe to see if replacement NCOs arrive, and if an insufficient number arrive to fill our command structure properly, Jones will be promoted on the spot. Sergeant Garcia and Corporal Cromwell have also been doing a great job as usual and catching the things I do not, as it is easy to forget some details when you are as short-handed as we.

The officers went to investigate the blue lightning after Mr. Griggs and I were finished making our rounds and discussing the plans and schedules of the fort. Mr. Griggs and the other officers headed out on their mounts shortly after the drizzle began. Mr. Griggs returned prematurely a few hours later and was filled with much excitement and almost dragged me by the collar to go with him. I let Sergeant Garcia take over supervision of the construction, and hurried off with Mr. Griggs and RSM Taggart. Taggart and I mounted our Pachysaurs and tried to follow Mr. Griggs, who was pushing his mount to run as fast as it was able through the thick undregrowth which still flourishes far too near our walls. Upon arrival at the temple, RSM Taggart and I understood the haste in which we had traveled.

The flora and fauna had a static charge and the air crackled with electricity. The four guardians' eyes and spear tips were glowing, and the whole temple was cast in an eerie blue light as if the stone had come to life. The hair on my neck and my arms stood up, and I readied my carbine as did RSM Taggart. The ID disc and holy crucifix that I wear on a thong around my neck seemed to jump from my chest, as everything made of metal seemed to be pulled toward the central platform surrounded by the columns.

We could not believe our eyes. Was the place alive? Did the lightning awaken something? Did the magnetism have something to do with the guardians that stood at the four points of the compass? These were just a few of the questions we had. We were ordered not to set foot on the blue stone. Captain Higgins had already tried, but the stone shot a blue arc to his foot before it touched the stone floor. The electricity sparked through his thick leather boot and burned his foot badly. As we left the temple area, we were sure that we really needed an archaeologist or scientist assigned to our expedition as soon as possible.

Once we returned to camp, Mr. Landowski sent one of the repawks the Brits gave us to carry a message to Camp Trafalgar. The message was a standard personnel request for two scientists or archaeologists to explore the region around Fort Humid. It should go outbound on their next ethership headed to Earth, due to depart in a few days.

Well, what a day! After all the excitement, I am glad it is time to turn in.

[Editor's Note: Repawks (or more correctly, Pteranodon venustica buteo) are small, carnivorous flying reptiles approximately the same size as the Earthly red-tailed hawk (B. jamaicensis). The first British exepedition discovered by accident their ability to act as homing or carrier pigeons, and have begun keeping the creatures in replacement of the terrestrial birds, who have difficulty on Venus. No carrier pigeon has ever safely arrived at its destination on Venus; it is assumed they have fallen prey to the large number of pterosaurs of all sizes that rule the Venusian sky.]

13 November 2008

Long Days of Exploration

13 November …

Today was the second day in the exploration of the lizardman shrine. Captain Higgins, Mr. Griggs, RSM Taggart and I searched the area around the statue. The statue is located only five miles from Fort Humid so it did not take long to make the journey. Yesterday we discovered three more statues, each facing in different directions looking outward from each other. We noticed upon further examination that the statues actually each faced a cardinal point on the magnetic compass, one each facing north, south, east and west. All four statues were identical, standing ten feet tall and mounted on a five foot high stone pedestal.

The more vines we cleared, the more anxious we all got as the very floor of the area was composed of blue granite flagstones that seemed to shine like a deep blue river with the sun reflecting brightly on its surface. Each of the lizardman statues was located at the corner of a giant square, approximately one hundred feet to a side. The square was geometrically perfect - I am sure the builders knew exactly what they were doing, but the measurements they used were obviously not the same as our standards. Directly in the center of the square lay a square platform, about twenty foot on a side and five feet high. Upon this raised platform were four smooth round pillars, one at each corner, and in the center of the platform was an altar-like stone, again square. I don't know what this square within a square within a square design means. We'll have to send a report to some scientist or archaeologist or architect or something to tell us that.

By this point it was late in the afternoon, so Captain Higgins decided it was time we should head back to camp. He appeared nervous about the possibility of being caught out in the jungle after dark on this strange planet. We barely got back to camp as the sun completely faded from the sky.

We were so tired after our discovery yesterday, I fell quickly to sleep and did not even give a thought to putting pen to paper. Tonight I am exhausted as well. I will not venture out to the 'temple' tomorrow as there is work to do in camp. The officers still plan on going back to the site and are going to document the discovery. Hopefully Taggart and I will receive some mention in their official report. I will be happy when we finally return to our full complement of NCOs, as we lost three corporals (Mendoza, Ferguson and Gonzales) to malaria a month before we left Earth on our journey. I know my two NCOs have done a great amount of work. Well, it is off to bed and tomorrow evening, hopefully, I will not be as tired as I have felt these last two days.

11 November 2008

Anniversary!

Gentleman,

While I know that in the last week or so the hard news coming from this journal has been rather scanty, I hope you have enjoyed the ongoing exploits of our valiant Texican friends as they explore the Veiled Planet.

We have, nevertheless, reached a very important milestone: this journal is, today, one year old.

So, Mustafa, it is again time to break out the port and cigars for a celebratory snort and smoke. Gentlemen, we convene at the billiards table in five minutes. See you there.

[OOC] Salute

Gentlemen and ladies,

Today of all days I would like to express my profound gratitude to our veterans, of all our conflicts and our peactime forces.

Without your sacrifice, and that of our remembered fallen, this nation - this world - would be a much different, and I think, lesser place.

I would especially like to mention my family and friends who I know have served:

Jimmy Womack, Vietnam
George Womack, WWII
Sherman Loyd, WWII
their brothers (all seven of them) WWII
my grandmothers' brothers (again, six served), WWII and Korea
Jim Stewart, USN
Susan Stewart, USN
Kristian Pfeiffer, USMC
Patrick Fitzgerald, USMC
James Blanton, US Army

There are others I know I am forgetting to mention, as well as many more ancestors, stretching back to the American Revolution (Jesse Womack, Burke Co., Georgia militia). Please don't take it as a slight.

Ladies and gents, the (virtual) beer's on me.

Sincerely and respectfully,

James L. Womack

The Scouting Party Returns

11 November …

Good news today! Our officers' scouting party returned from Camp Trafalgar unscathed. The men gave a shout of joy and a salute as the party entered the gates into the compound. After debriefs from both sides were delivered, we talked of the mutual adventures. We also learned of the recent attacks by the lizardmen at Camp Trafalgar. Captain Higgins, Subalterns Landowski and Griggs were all saddened by the loss of Private Allen and were pleased by the naming of the tar pits in his honor. They were also quite surprised the pigeons did not make it back to us, as they had launched all they had - over a dozen of them.

Mr. Griggs commented on what he saw in Camp Trafalgar. It seems the British camp has a landing pad for the Ether Vessels, a freshwater well, eight Armstrong 12 pound breechloading cannons (3 in/76 mm), stone roads and access to Lake Wellington. The camp is also twice the size of our fort and has some civilian personnel living in camp (scientists and map makers).

The officers were quite happy about the progress we have made in their absence; however, they had a huge list of improvements to add to our fort. Maybe it was a bad idea for them to travel to Camp Trafalgar, as our workload has doubled with their ambitious schedule of improvements. Captain Higgins even went so far as to send a message back to Houston aboard the HMS Wales, requesting more engineers and equipment, including two 3” Whitworth-Colt Cannons (12 pound /76mm). We should expect to see the RTS Santa Fe in a few weeks, if not sooner.

Captain Higgins, Mr. Griggs and Mr. Landowski want us to show them the lizardman statue tomorrow, as it might help uncover the mysteries of these barbaric people. This is the first statue to be found of a lizardman anywhere in this hemisphere.

On the construction side of the house, we built eight more base structures. We also started building 4-hole burnouts (we will use tar as an ignition source to burn) and leach fields to replace the slit trenches. Mr. Griggs also looked at the plans for the outer walls, making notations and improvements to our initial design. We also completed a timber barn without walls so we can work on wall sections when the rain is at its worst. The rain was a drizzle most of the day and it was off and on. I am not complaining, as we can at least dig holes and place posts for foundations in drizzle and light rain.

Well it is off to dinner and I will call it a night, as I have a feeling I will need my rest for tomorrow will be a long day.

[Editors Note: The 3” Whitworth-Colt Cannon was a breechloading cannon based on the Whitworth 70mm design. It was manufactured in the Republic of Texas by the Colt Arsenal in Nacogdoches until the improved 3” Santa Fe was produced in 1901.]

10 November 2008

Venus: 10 November

10 November ...

Today was another busy day of construction as we completed another ten base structures. It is a good thing we have made so much progress on the base structures, because the rain started again around 1600. This time, the rain is very light but constant. The only good thing about the rainy season thus far is that the temperature has dropped down to the high 80s. I do not expect the temperature to drop any more than it already has since the reptiles that dominate this planet require hot temperatures for their cold blood.

I hope to start construction on the outer wall soon, as the ten foot tall inner wall is not enough for a proper defense. The outer wall will be five feet further out, with a height of 16 feet. Rifle firing ports will be added in order to fire our Martini-Henrys at approaching enemies without exposing ourselves to their return fire. The two walls will be joined together with a walkway and the five feet between them will be filled with dirt and rubble to help strengthen the wall. We plan on building escape tunnels and cellars for ammo bunkers and for cold food storage. The natural heating and cooling properties will help with food preservation as ice is a little hard to come by.

RSM Taggart and I have told no one of the statue yet. The last thing we need at this point in our deployment is for our men to start sneaking off and getting into trouble. If the lizardmen decide to attack we will need all of the men healthy.

Still no pigeons today. I am starting to worry. Hopefully, the officers' exploring party will show up tomorrow as I am anxious to hear about their adventures. Well, it is time to make my rounds, as I need to check the sentries.

09 November 2008

Half of it is Huck's and half of it is mine...

09 November …

Today we experienced another relaxing, peaceful Sunday with a touch of excitement. The day started out pretty routine: breakfast and a good Mass by the chaplain, followed by holiday routine. The men played another friendly rugby match, the Joneses worked on their brewing techniques and Sergeant Thibodeaux and Private Mistrot worked on building a room around that darned turtle-shell bathtub. All except RSM Taggart and I as we climbed aboard our mounts and headed into the wilderness once again.

Upon leaving the confines of Fort Humid we headed northwest to find a good route to the Venusian Sea. As we were riding, we saw many new species of plants and smaller reptiles just as we did on our previous adventures. After a few hours, we found the sea in all of its glory. The smell of the water was somehow different as it seemed as though we were looking at a source of new adventures. I could see in my mind Republic ships sailing upon the water and a port and road linking the fort to the sea. The sand on the beach was just as it would be on Earth. We saw crabs along the beach and I am thankful they are the same size as what we are accustomed to back home. After a few hours on the beach it was time to head back to Fort Humid, this is when our adventure truly began.

Traveling to find an alternate route to Fort Humid, we uncovered a rock figure covered under weeds and plant life. As we dismounted and approached and started to uncover the statue it began to take shape of a lizardman, just like we had studied from the British exploration manuals. We marveled at the craftsmanship of the statue of an ancient lizardman warrior carrying a shield and spear. While in Yucatan during the war, Sergeant Garcia, Corporal Cromwell and I encountered statues from the ancient Mayans that once ruled the Central Americas and I remember the feeling of amazement that came over us and this was quite similar. We started to lose daylight, so we had to abandon our discovery and hopefully when the work schedule permits we can explore the area further. At the latest, bright and early next Sunday morning, weather permitting. After all, it is duty first and I do not think the statue will go anywhere before then.

08 November 2008

Erecting the Camp

08 November …..

In the last three days we have completed twenty-one base structures for the SET huts. The Black Legs helped as we concentrated on building and they tore down and erected the tents on top of the recently built bases. This will help, because I fear there is more rain to come, and if the tents are four feet off of the ground, then we do not have to worry about the rivers running through them as we had earlier in the week.

Almost two weeks since the expedition left for Camp Trafalgar, and still no sign of carrier pigeons. However, we do see many large flying reptiles, which have been seen attacking smaller flying creatures. I just hope the officers and men of the overland expedition made it safely to the British camp and were not caught out in the open during the three-day storm. I hope they make it back safely back to Fort Humid in the next few days.

Sergeant Thibodeaux and Private Mistrot have their turtle bathtub set up again after the rain storm. They have managed to catch a few fish and we ate some extraordinary grilled fish yesterday evening. Today we had Grillag Gumbo and it was quite tasty as well. Sergeant Thibodeaux says he will have to venture out and look for some home grown spices. RSM Taggart told him that would be fine, as long as he did not go turtle hunting again. The potato garden and green onion gardens are doing quite well and are always maintained by our cooks.

The three Joneses in my command have got their still up and running and as we speak are tending to the fire. Lance Corporal Jones is, by the way, an excellent scrounger as well a brewer. Every time I ask about something he comes up with the item. I made the mistake one morning of asking him where he had gotten the eggs for our breakfast and he started to tell me how his uncle this time back in Wales had gotten in trouble with a magistrate. I told him that was enough information and to go about his business once again. He is also one of the best carpenters I have seen and is a natural leader. The lower ranking troops respond to his instruction and correction quite well. When it is time for promotions, I will suggest that Mr. Griggs promote him to Corporal.

Tomorrow is our day off, so we will attend services and relax and maybe head out on another Sunday adventure.

The Rainy Season Begins

05 November …..

After three days of the most horrible monsoon I have ever seen, the rain has finally stopped. The rain was so hard you could barely see twenty feet. The water rose to just three six feet of our perimeter walls, I am thankful we chose our location wisely as it looked as if we were on an island. I am thankful we had the roof and walls completed on the headquarters, hospital and chapel, as the tents had rivers running through the middle of them. We moved as many people as possible into the three structures; of course, our work was close to nothing as it is difficult to work when you can not get proper footing and digging holes is useless as they collapse. The only thing we kept up was the security watches manning the guard towers (as they have roofs).

Today we concentrated our efforts on placing posts for the location of the first ten SET hut barracks. After we set the posts and get the floors built, we will work on ten more bases as we cannot afford to be caught in the same predicament again. If we have the bases of the buildings ready for walls, we will at least be able to place the tents on top of the base structures.

We had so many clothes hanging on lines today drying you would have sworn we had started our own laundry business. Well, enough for now. Time for sleep as tommorrow we start digging holes and erecting new floor structures.

06 November 2008

Royal Xenological Society, Vol. 2

Giant Tortoise of Venus

An interesting new species of giant tortoise has been discovered by our Texican allies on Venus. The new species, officially classified as Testudo venustica thibodeaux (or T. v. thibodeaux), is incredibly large. It is also, according again to our Texican friends, a rather tasty meal. The Texican photostatic expert for the expedition has again provided this journal with the first glimpse of the huge beast. It is conservatively estimated to weigh in at over 900 pounds, with a shell measuring over 10 feet across! Truly a monster, and a feast for many days to the hunters who manage to kill the beast. Rumor has it that its thick shell is proof against Earthly rifles, and that only a shot to the softer tissues of the extended head or neck will bring one down. The Thibodeaux tortoise's hard beak-like mouth can shear through tree limbs as thick as a man's thigh with ease. I shudder to think what its terrible maw could do to the tender flesh of Man.

A Flight of Wild Deathrays

This photostat shows the incredible gracefulness of these dangerous predators of the Martian skies. A trio of golden whorled deathrays can be seen gliding smoothly over the dry plains of the Martian outback. This particular photostat was taken from the safety of the armored deck of HMS Wasp, on a test flight out of Albertport.



I do hope you have enjoyed the latest in our educational series of posts regarding the flora and fauna of the Inner Planets. Return again soon to this telephonic journal for more edifying fare for your mind.
[Editor's Notes: The Testudo v. thibodeaux is nothing more than a Safari, Ltd. giant tortoise vinyl toy I purchased at Michael's Craft Store the other day. It just seemed perfect.]