Training’s been underway for some two weeks now, and things are looking good for Patton’s Boy’s (as we like to be called). We’re only missing the Tesla Tank, and some support tanks, but hopefully these will be with us soon. In the meantime Captain Patton’s been whipping us into shape.
And it was put to good use two days ago, when we got reports of a possible Martian incursion near to the base. The front line is only some 100 miles away, and we’d heard odd stories of the Martians sending scouts across the line. The latest report was that a group of their scout tripods had come across the line, and was headed towards Kalamazoo.
The moment the report came in, Camp Custer went on alert. Sirens wailed and we raced towards the assembly point at the mess hall. There we were met by Captain Watts, Patton’s XO, who informed us of the enemy breakthrough. The Rough Riders had been dispatched in a wide search pattern with orders to report back as soon as they made contact. In the meantime, we were to prepare our tanks for combat.
The defensive line was just about set when a lone Rough Rider came flying into the camp with a sighting of the Martians. Three of the invaders were due west of the camp and heading this way. And waiting for them was a mix of Mk II and Mk III Steamers.
It wasn’t long before the tripods came into sight. Advancing in a line they came striding towards us, their cowls turning to and fro as if looking for something. The order had been spread down the line to hold fire until they got to within 100 yards. Whether they saw us we will never know, but they didn’t fire just got closer and closer. Then the first shots rang out and all hell broke loose. The tripod on the right flank disappeared in a fiery cloud that engulfed the entire head of the machine. It stumbled forwards a couple of strides, and then went whirling to the ground. As it hit the earth there was a massive explosion and the machine became nothing more than tangled wreckage.
The other two machines must have sensed their comrade going down, because as it did, they both let loose with deafening howls which roared like thunder. And with the howls came the heat ray. Several tanks were caught in the sweeping beams and erupted in fire. There was no hope for the crews.
We were closest to the tripod on the left flank, and after firing our opening salvo, we set Lucky Lizzie into motion. One thing that the Captain had been insistent on during our training exercises was the need for speed. Fire and fly he would say. So that’s what we did. Whilst Skip was giving orders to get Lizzie into a different firing position Herb, Joe and me were reloading the guns for a second go. Not an easy job in a Mk III bouncing around at full speed, but we managed it and reported ready for firing. At that moment the tank came to a halt and Skip yelled the command…
All three guns opened up on the Martian, as did the guns from another Mk III to our left. Six shots flew towards the machine. How many hit we don’t know as they all flew in low but it did the trick. One of the tripod legs went spinning off into the distance, severed at what might be called the knee. The three legged monster, deprived of one of it’s supports teetered and fell, and the cowl burst open as it hit the deck.
The third Martian was on it’s own, and fighting for survival. It had taken some damage from the initial exchange of fire, but was now dishing out it’s own fire, and several more tanks were engulfed in flames. It seemed to pause for a moment, almost as though sizing up the opposition and contemplating what to do. Then it spun around and made off towards the Martian line. Soon it was outpacing our tanks, and finally disappeared into the distance. We’d survived our first fight with the invaders!