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 Post subject: Re: Dark Earth: 1947
PostPosted: Thu Jul 07, 2016 2:15 am 
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Well, Simon Bailey's familiarity with alternate timelines is now explained...

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Bernard Woolley: You mean by terrorists?
Sir Humphrey Appleby: By the BBC, Bernard.


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 Post subject: Re: Dark Earth: 1947
PostPosted: Thu Jul 07, 2016 4:09 am 
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Ding-ding! Give the man a Bentley! That was one of the main takeaway points of this installment, along with a general sense of a deepening Cold War; China already showing signs of dancing to a different drum than that of the Soviets; and the British Empire still keeping some sense of being a top table player, even if it is self-delusory in some respects.

One of the reasons for the last point is obliquely referred to here - no mention of Singapore or Malaya falling and the IJN being defeated in a naval battle in the South China Sea. Previous chapters have outlined the general scope of the Japs being halted in Northern Malaya and Burma and then gradually pushed back; this added a further element. The guns of Singapore will play a role in a WW2 story.

Bailey's travels with the Doctor will play into some past and future events, as well as giving him a sense of perspective when it comes to young Sam.

As said last year, the latter half of the 1947 stories will start to weave in on each other to reach a (hopefully) satisfactory conclusion, as well as providing links and backstory to the Korean War, Never Had it So Good and The Red Shadow, along with future tales yet to be written.

Now, the promised notes/explanations:

- The Imperial Police are something of a cross between the Indian Imperial Police and the Palestine Police, serving as an 'all-Empire' law-enforcement agency in the manner of the FBI in the United States, along with a certain paramilitary role. They came out of the 1870s mania for Imperial Federation, which never got off the ground in the precise form its proponents sought; that would be too much of a convenient cliche in a tale that tries to be realistic yet fantastical. Personnel total around 32,000 in 1947, rising during the Cold War. It has an interesting relationship with Scotland Yard.
- The 'rings of the Empire' are Africa, India, the Middle East, the Americas and the Far East, an expanded version of the Wolseley and Roberts rings.
- The Royal Constabulary is modeled on the Royal Irish Constabulary, but based across Britain and deployed to different parts of the Empire as needed; it is controlled by the Home Office and Colonial Office in those respective circumstances. At home, they fill the role of a central reserve force, riot police, border guards, honourary protection duties, patrol of airports and Royal Highways and paramilitary aid to the civil power. Whilst Britain is still firmly in the camp of policing by consent and isn't a society that requires a full gendarmerie in the manner of the Europeans, the Royal Constabulary are capable of filling that role should the need arise. 154,000 personnel as of 1947, capable of operating in a light, mounted or motorised role.
- The British Armed Forces, those of the Dominions and colonial units all operate under a unified command structure in wartime or in situations such as the Malayan Emergency. The Royal Space Force recruits from across the Empire, being funded by both Britain and the Dominions.


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 Post subject: Re: Dark Earth: 1947
PostPosted: Thu Jul 07, 2016 4:18 am 
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WHat off-planet colonies does the Empire have?

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Bernard Woolley: You mean by terrorists?
Sir Humphrey Appleby: By the BBC, Bernard.


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 Post subject: Re: Dark Earth: 1947
PostPosted: Thu Jul 07, 2016 6:11 am 
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I'll have to steal a bit from my Space: The New Frontier story currently under development to answer that correctly.

1.) All three moons of Earth are claimed (Luna, Minerva, Bellona). In reality, British control is confined to the main polar basesand other smaller outposts. There are plans for a city on Luna.
2.) Mars: Eastern Qobal, the Southern Barsoom peninsula, Southern Cimmeria and the Zandros Archipelago
3.) Both Martian moons
4.) One of the two Venusian moons (Concordia; Tyche is neutral ground)
5.) Large swathes of Central Venus
6.) A nominal claim over the entire of Vulcan

Mars

Image

North is to the right of the screen and the northern and southern ice caps are not shown on this picture.

The names of the continents/land masses (clockwise from the top left) :

North Tharsis
Hesperia (central island)
Ral Andrex
Cimmeria
Barsoom
Zandros Archipelago
Qobal
South Tharsis/Elysium

- Barsoom is divided by a large central mountain range and deserts. It is broadly analogous to India, with several native empires, including the Southern Martian League.
- Cimmeria is a continent of hot, dry desert surrounded by verdant coasts and a mountainous interior/Lost World of volcanic jungles; consider it an inverse West Africa.
- Hesperia has similarities to Australia/Zealandia, but has an equatorial climate.
- The centre of Qobal is a blasted wasteland as a result of ancient war and an impact event. Myriad pelagic kingdoms flourish around the coasts.
- North Tharsis, South Tharsis, the remainder of Barsoom and Ral Andrex have several strong empires/nations.
- A large part of southern Ral Andrex is covered by a huge continent spanning rain forest, while the north, centre and coasts are temperate zones similar to a cross between North America and Europe.
- North and South Tharsis are a blend of temperate areas, mountains, jungles, canals, deserts and steppes, in the manner of Asia. There was an ancient attempt to dig a Tharsian canal across the central isthmus that was abandoned after 600 years amid the downfall of the Galiran Empire.
- The tallest mountain on Mars is Thax’itchactil, known to Earthly geographers as Olympus Mons.
- The largest city is Dhars Khras in central Tharsis. At over 5000 years old, it is an independent melting pot and the solar system's central hub of intrigue.

Venus

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 Post subject: Re: Dark Earth: 1947
PostPosted: Thu Jul 07, 2016 7:19 am 
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Is the main base on Luna called Moonbase Alpha...? Maybe it has a small fleet of transporter ships with bird of prey names.

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Bernard Woolley: You mean by terrorists?
Sir Humphrey Appleby: By the BBC, Bernard.


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 Post subject: Re: Dark Earth: 1947
PostPosted: Thu Jul 07, 2016 7:34 am 
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Unfortunately not, given its 19th century origins. The main British spaceport is Victoria Station at the North Pole of Luna, with other major settlements including New Albion, Fort Edward and George V Station.

Settlements on Earth's moons are small scale mining, exploration, refueling, communication and trading posts, with some larger 'agricultural' settlements on Luna. There are above ground and subterranean inhabitants, including Selenites, and a thin but survivable atmosphere. Minerva and Bellona are smaller, harsher places.

However, one of the first cavorite spaceships to travel from the Moon to Mars was HMSS Eagle.


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 Post subject: Re: Dark Earth: 1947
PostPosted: Thu Jul 07, 2016 7:39 am 
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Fabulous as ever,

By the way, 32" guns at Singers!! Making Schwerer Gustav & Dora look inadequate :-)

Have to keep an eye on the Witchfinder General's mob, Matthew Hopkins wasn't exactly the best role model.....

Very glad to see one of my favourite occupants of the blue box, though the cape and frilly shirt version also seems appropriate here.


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 Post subject: Re: Dark Earth: 1947
PostPosted: Thu Jul 07, 2016 7:54 am 
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Much obliged, Timbo. Always good to know I've hit the mark with readers and comments are a writer's lifeblood.

The Guns of Singapore were put in place in the 1930s and were the largest British coastal artillery of the war along with the well-known Dover Guns of a similar calibre. Hitler was quite upset when the latter went into action; the circumstances came down not to espionage but Vickers, Armstrong-Whitworth and Krupp coming to the same conclusion. The Singers Guns had a maximum range of up to 125 miles with some rather nasty arcane tricks for accuracy of fire; sabot shells go out to 250 miles and provided the Japanese with some nasty problems in 1942 when they tried to outflank the main Commonwealth defensive line. Back up was provided by 24" howitzers, 15", 9.2" and 6" guns.

Matthew Hopkins was far from the best man for the job. The modern day Witchfinders are very harsh and hard men bordering on fanaticism who are very good at their jobs, yet far more professional than Hopkins.

This isn't the first appearance for the Fourth Doctor; others may come in good time.

When the last part of Chapter 8 comes, it will take us to some interesting action in the depths of the Sahara where men must march or die. Before then, there will be some orbats for Korea, the 1950 timeline entry, the Soviet tanks of the Second World War, the next part of Never Had it So Good and the first installment of the Space tale, which is taking form as a draft. I may even work on my idea of a Book of Beasts, consisting of short entries like the earlier one on dragons; that will make a nice appendix for The Red Shadow when it is finished and if I can find a publisher.


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 Post subject: Re: Dark Earth: 1947
PostPosted: Thu Jul 07, 2016 8:17 am 
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Was the Eagle armed with a laser?

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 Post subject: Re: Dark Earth: 1947
PostPosted: Thu Jul 07, 2016 8:27 am 
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No, but along with her sister ship Ark Royal, she did carry four 12" guns. No use in space (not that there was any need in 1885) but extremely useful when operating on the strange seas of Mars.


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 Post subject: Re: Dark Earth: 1947
PostPosted: Thu Jul 07, 2016 11:24 am 
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Simon Darkshade wrote:

Matthew Hopkins was far from the best man for the job. The modern day Witchfinders are very harsh and hard men bordering on fanaticism who are very good at their jobs, yet far more professional than Hopkins.


I must admit that I was thinking more of a Witchsmeller Pursuivant- level of fanaticism...

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Sir Humphrey Appleby: By the BBC, Bernard.


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 Post subject: Re: Dark Earth: 1947
PostPosted: Thu Jul 07, 2016 6:53 pm 
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That sort of fanaticism, whilst amusing, wouldn't have the legs to last centuries. In the absence of an English Civil War, this is one avenue that channeled some of the more extreme Puritan/Noncomformist elements of society. The longevity of the WG's department comes from the broad impact of the Arcane Revolution, which will be detailed in due course.


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 Post subject: Re: Dark Earth: 1947
PostPosted: Fri Jul 08, 2016 1:34 am 
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Ah righty ho.

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Bernard Woolley: You mean by terrorists?
Sir Humphrey Appleby: By the BBC, Bernard.


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 Post subject: Re: Dark Earth: 1947
PostPosted: Fri Jul 08, 2016 12:17 pm 
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Hehehehehehe....

This is great stuff! I particularly liked the Doctor reference.

Belushi TD


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 Post subject: Re: Dark Earth: 1947
PostPosted: Sat Jul 09, 2016 12:55 am 
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Glad you liked it. I'd been hinting at a certain Doctor for a while and this will not be the last time he appears.

I'm going to take the rough hand-drawn maps above, add polar icecaps to them on A3 paper, then have them digitised, coloured and fixed up with continental names, major cities and what not; Mars in particular will not looked as crammed, hopefully.


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 Post subject: Re: Dark Earth: 1947
PostPosted: Sat Oct 08, 2016 1:52 am 
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1947 Part 8d: Saharan Sojourn
August 16th 1947

The rays of the late morning sun beat down brutally on the magnificent desolation of a vast and unforgiving desert that cared naught for man nor time. Once, countless thousands of years ago, before even the time when the oceans drank Atlantis, this had been a shallow sea teeming with life, then a green and pleasant land for man and beast alike. That time had passed, but one day in the distant future, it would come again as it had before, for far beyond the ken of mortal men is the turning of the wheel of time. Then came the days of the Agefall and the Darkness, now lost to the memory of all but the most ancient of dragons and elvenkind. The winds blew from the south, the rains left for the north and the great desert grew all around. They swallowed the last remnants of the antediluvian outposts of old, leaving no trace. Now, there was aught else but the sands of the Sahara – implacable and insuperable.

And through it, the Legion marched on.

Legionnaire Anthony Clark regretted ever leaving the far more salubrious surrounds of South Australia for what was probably the seventeenth time that morning alone, shook his head to shoo away the tiny, irritating flies that plagued even this desolate emptiness and resisted the temptation to swig from his canteen. There was a long way to go yet before midday and longer still until they reached their destination. The rolling dunes stretched on from here to eternity, silent sentinels shaped by the hot winds that coursed about the column and sent tiny particles of grit stinging across the tanned faces of the men. The sun was as merciless as the nights were freezing and the occasional sight of yellowed bones reminded all that this was no country for men.

They were almost two days march out of Merzouga, a small village that sat near to the nebulous border between Morocco and Algeria and miles from anywhere else. Their platoon of the Foreign Legion had been ordered to accompany a group of American oil prospectors and their two Berber guides to a new potential strike deep in the Erg Chebbi. Their level of excitement seemed to indicate that it was something very, very big indeed.
The place was almost overrun with Americans now, what with the naval base at Casablanca and the airfields up in the north. Capitane Le Blanc’s briefing had painted their mission as a simple task, made slightly more difficult by the recent depredations of Arab rebels in the area, which warranted the extra platoon. Simple my foot, thought Clark.

He had been with the Legion for a little a year, having been one of many former Australian Army soldiers who found peacetime demobilized life not quite to his tastes. After giving brief thought to trying his luck with the East India Company, the mercenary companies in Central and South America or even the Royal Space Force on Mars, he had boarded an airship in Adelaide with thirteen shillings in his pocket, his one coat on his back and a thirst for action in his heart. Bombay, Alexandria and Marseilles had passed in a blur before he had found himself being bawled at in French on a hot and grimy drill square in Sidi Bel Abbès less than a week later. Most of his fellow recruits had ended up on a slow boat to Indochina within a few months, but Clark had the miserable luck to end up in the backcountry of Morocco, fighting a war that few knew and even fewer cared for. He came to the Legion for action and he had certainly found it; in his company alone, there had been fifty seven men killed or carried off into the desert to a fate worse than death since January.

It had been hard to forge bonds of close comradeship with his fellow Legionnaires at first due to the language and the natural coolness that veterans extended towards all new replacements lest they grew too fond of those most likely to perish in their first battle. Yet he had survived nonetheless and was now one of the old hands in the 4ème Compagnie of the 6e Régiment Étranger d'Infanterie. It was a motley crew with much to be motley about, drawn from virtually every continent across the world, tempered by the iron discipline of the Legion and forged into an elite fighting force under the sun of North Africa. They had their share of grizzled rogues, swarthy cutthroats and star-struck adventure-seekers but their greatest source of manpower came from the forgotten soldiers from the recent war, and not just from the victorious side; there was something of a disproportionate number of Alsatians, Swiss, Ruritanians and Liechtensteiners, many of whom bore burn scars on the underside of their left upper arms.

Their leader was young Capitane LeBlanc, fresh from France and somewhat lost in the desert, yet with an iron core that drew the loyalty of his men. Clark’s closest camarades were Wozzeau, a strange Polish fellow with long black hair, Joakim, a heavily tattooed former Swedish tanker, and Ben Hawkins, a young blond American drifter who didn’t talk much about his mysterious past other than to hint that he’d had some sort of involvement with the US Army and the Trinity test. Above them all was the chisel-jawed Sergent-Chef Luck, a tall, dashing Englishman with the heart of a lion and his steady offsiders - Sergeant MacLeod, a silent, wild-haired Scots swordsman and the ever-loyal and ever-steady Corporal Tenet, a rugged Belgian who was a crack shot with his trusty MAS-36. There were others, such as the taciturn bearded Cossack giant Ilya Drago, who strode in front of him carrying the Hotchkiss heavy machine gun and belts of ammunition, but all suffered under the same burdens with nary a complaint.

The Legion had offered them many things – a home, a shelter, a place to forget and the guarantee of action – but above all else, it offered them glory. The names of fields of honour such as Sevastopol, Camerone, Tuyen Quang, and Verdun echoed down the ages, redolent of tremendous courage and tremendous sacrifice. Wherever France had fought over the last century, the Legion had been there, watering fields around the worlds with their blood. In the most recent conflagration, they had been at the forefront of the fight, time and again, winning renown at Bir Hakeim, Monte Cassino and Berlin. It had been the legendary tales in the papers and flickering battlefield footage from the wartime newsreels of their last struggle against the Nazi beast in its lair made up Clark’s mind that this was what he wanted. The reality was this scorching sun and the endless bloody sand.

All things considered, it was a bit better than home. At least less of the wildlife tried to kill you here in the Sahara.
…………………………………………………………………………………………………………

Clark looked up and squinted at the top of the next dune. There was a slight glint up there, right where it shouldn’t be. He slid his rifle off his shoulder and began to raise it warily as Sergeant Luck came up beside him with his BAR at the ready. The rest of the column came to a quiet and unsteady halt.

“You see it as well, Clark?”

“Oui, mon Chef.”

“Good man.”

Capitane LeBlanc jogged up in a crouch, Luger in hand. “Arabs?”

“Possibly. Could be them, could be the goblins, could be something else.”

“You better check it out, Sergent-Chef.” LeBlanc deferred to his more experienced non-commissioned officer as he had done several times on their journey thus far; he knew that Luck was well known for his good fortune.

“Very well. Drago! Wozzeau! Get up to the left and cover us. Brodden! Hawkins! Up on the right. Tenet, come with me and Clark!”

They moved forward very cautiously, covered by the arrayed guns of the column. The climb up to the top of the dune seemed to take half an eternity as Clark’s heart beat a staccato rhythm in anticipation. Tenet panted heavily as they made their way up and Luck’s teeth were gritted in concentration. At long last, they reached the crest. What awaited them was neither man nor goblin nor even their works.

It was a bizarre spindly device sitting on its side. Four long metallic legs protruded off into midair from one side and intricate swirling spools of silver wire surrounded a large cluster of non-Euclidean spheres all was covered in weird green-tinted carvings. The top was blackened and tarnished as if by an intense flame. A sickly glow emanated from what he presumed was its underside, giving the surrounding sand an altogether unpleasant green hue that somehow twisted his stomach, already much abused by the weird metallic taste in his mouth that had been growing as they climbed the dune. It was altogether the stranger thing that Clark had ever seen.

None of the legionnaires were able to identify it, nor the language of the carvings. Once Luck was assured it was not a cunning Arab trap, the five Americans bustled forward, eager to examine the find. There was much hushed and excited conversation, replete with wild gestures and even the hideous spectacle of one of the oil blokes hopping up and down in a demented jig that looked for all the world like a giant beetle being fried with a bolt of lightning. Clark saw Luck and MacLeod exchange a dour look of profound suspicion at the antics of the purported oil men. In the end, it was painstakingly packaged in a convenient supply of cloth and secured inside the column’s spare howdah. It was at that moment that he thought he saw the glint of something red shining inside the dark hood of one of the silent Berber guides; remarkable that they could carry on swathed in robes and gloves like that.

They made a further ten miles before halting for the night, pushing hard through the heat of the afternoon and the increasing bite of the whirling sands until further progress was deemed impossible and the column made camp for the night in a sheltered hollow. Sentries were posted atop the surrounding dunes and warding beacons were lit to hold out the bitter cold of the Saharan night and its more dire denizens. Clark, having been thankfully spared guard duty, huddled in around a roaring fire with his usual cronies, swigging from the communal tin wine cup and chewing on tough morsels of what he guessed was some distant estranged cousin of beef stew. The camels were arrayed around the men, dark humped shadows in the night, oblivious to Joakim regaling his fellows with his favourite far-fetched story of how he destroyed a Tiger tank with a single lucky shot during the last war.

“It was magnificent, I tell you, bloody magnificent! One shot from two hundred metres with our 75 and kazaam! The whole bloody turret went sky high! Nothing better!”

“Ha ha ha! What a story! Clark?” Wozzeau offered the cup to him as he cackled in his impenetrable accent. He accepted and took a long swallow of the rough, sour wine. Quite a bad drop, but he’d had worse.

“Cheers, Wozza. So, what do you blokes reckon that thing we found today was?”

“Aliens. Definitely aliens. From outer space in a flying saucer! A big one.” Wozzeau was earnestly vague in his precise prescription.

“Nah, probably some trick that the damned Salopards got off the bloody Russians! You can never trust them.” Joakim grimaced as he always did whenever talk turned to the Reds.

“I’m not so sure.” Hawkins sat back, silhouetted by the flickering flames of the campfire. “It sure didn’t seem normal. I didn’t even touch it, but it felt like it didn’t belong here. It reminded me of something I once saw, back before the war, back in the carnival.”

The other legionnaires nodded grimly. Hawk didn’t like to talk about the past at the best of times, but whenever the carnival came up, he clammed up even further. His tales had something disquieting about them, like the strange one about a man without a face.

“Whatever the bloody thing is, we’ll be rid of the bugger soon enough.” Clark swallowed the rest of the wine, stretched back on his bedroll and stared at the stars, pinpoints of light in the vast, distant abyss of the black sky.

Funny. Some of them looked like they were almost staring back at him.

………………………………………………………………………………………………

The next morning, Clark awoke with a start out of pleasant dreams of hearth and home to a cacophonic uproar of shouting. The sun had not yet emerged from over the horizon and the grey predawn sky seemed somehow bursting with malice and threat. He blearily looked out over the dying embers of the fire to see men beginning to rush about, some taking up defensive positions atop the surrounding dunes and others gathering around the farthest fire. Grabbing his rifle, he stumbled over to the latter group and was barely able to hold back from retching when he beheld what lay before them. Three legionnaires lay cold in the sand, the jagged red edges of what had been their throats open in the crisp wind and huge splattered pools of blood surrounding them. Two other bedrolls lay empty, their occupants seemingly pulled away into the night, leaving behind their helmets and weapons.

“Merde.” A pale LeBlanc appeared profoundly horrified by the ghastly sight and held his pistol in a shaking hand. He turned to Luck for advice and reassurance. “Arabs?”

“Oui, mon Capitane. Or something worse.” The sergeant’s face was dour, but his eyes flashed with a white fire. Blood had been taken and there would be payment. He nodded grimly to MacLeod, who stood impassively on the other side, sword in hand.

“Sir! We have found tracks leading away! At least three men and two horses heading out to the south. We also found this!” Private Blausche, one of the company’s Ruritanian contingent, clicked his heels together as he presented a curved Berber dagger covered in drying blood.

LeBlanc finally got a hold of himself and straightened up to his full height with new determination. “We will go out after our comrades and bring them back or exact a full vengeance! Sergent-Chef Luck, muster the men for march!”

Sergeant MacLeod walked up to his commander. “Sir, the men who were killed or taken…they were the ones who touched the object last night.”

“I see. Is it intact?”

“Yes, sir. Secured to the camel.”

“If anything should happen, kill it and don’t let anyone touch it.”

Within ten minutes, they had struck camp and were off over the dunes in a square skirmish formation, following the fresh trail of the raiders. The Americans and their guides were huddled together in the middle of the company around the strange thing, their faces radiating sheer terror at the rapid change in the course of events. Clark glanced over at the nearest man from his position on the right flank. It seemed for an instant that his face shifted in the dawn’s early light, changing from hollow horror to something like elation...or…hunger? He blinked and looked again. No, simply fear again. A trick of the light, or maybe of the dark.

The 4ème Compagnie forged its way onward through the desolate dune sea, the tracks winding through the mountains of sand and only the grunting bleats of the camels breaking the tense silence of the march. The sun shone wanly through green-grey clouds in stark contrast to the beating heat of the previous days. Every man was on edge as he trudged forward, warily looking about for the telltale flash of metal that would be the harbinger of doom. Gradually, the dunes seemed to ebb away and grow infinitesimally smaller. The ground seemed to be different now, firmer and littered with occasional clumps of rock. Clark wiped his brow on his sleeve and saw the first of the birds circling beyond the next dune. Vultures, so it seemed. Cresting the rise, they saw before them a grey valley covered with scattered stones and free somehow from the sands that surrounded it. On the far side, a series of low brown hills lead off into the distance and at its centre lay a group of shattered columns about the crumbling remnants of a ruined building.

Luck trotted next to LeBlanc. “Nothing like this on the map, sir. The tracks look like they go right into the middle of the ruins.”

Before he could reply, they were interrupted by excited chattering between the Americans and their suddenly ebullient guides. Their leader, a cheerful, bluff fellow who wore his pith helmet on a daringly jaunty angle, galloped forward on his camel to where the lieutenant and sergeant stood.

“Amazing luck, guys! Azayku back there says that this is the spot we were looking for! If you set up your perimeter, we can have a closer look.” He beamed at them pleasantly, flashing a winning smile.

“Monsieur Carrington, at this time, your prospecting is no longer our priority. We are going in to look for my men. You may come down, but stay the hell out of my way!”

Carrington grumblingly fell back into position as the company made their way down the dune into the valley, compliant at least on the outside.

The legionnaires warily approached the edge of the ruins, covered by the impassive Drago and his huge machine gun. There, however, the trail came to an abrupt end, as if the men and horses had disappeared from the very face of the earth itself. They spread out around the broken columns, but found only dust and ancient stones. Luck bent over to look at the faded remnants of an inscription at the base of one of the columns, stared at it for a long instant with furrowed brows and then beckoned for Clark and Hawkins to join him.

“Look there. Same writing as on the object. Seems all to convenient, doesn’t it?”

“Too right, Sergent-Chef. You think that they wanted us here?”

“Definitely. Whoever ‘they’ may be.” Clark spat contemplatively in the dust.

“This gives me one heck of a bad feeling.” Hawkins shook his head with a faraway look in his pale blue eyes.
………………………………………………………………………………………………

After half an hour of fruitless searching, most of the men had sought whatever shelter they could find among the ruins, whilst the Americans fussed around with some of their arcane equipment. Half a dozen pairs of sentries had been posted on top of the the surrounding dune and a scouting party had been sent off to check the hills. Most of the remaining company stood on guard in whatever shallow scrapes and holes they could find or were dragging stones to form a series of rough barriers to provide some cover.

Clark was taking momentary advantage of the shade of a most convenient column when a series of shouts and running feet roused him. He looked out to see Sergent-Chef Luck in the midst of an intensely whispered conversation with one of the panting scouts. Luck shook his head and strode up to Capitane LeBlanc, who was busy positioning the company’s machine guns and trying to get through to support on the radio.

He saluted smartly. “Mon Capitane, they have come back from the hills.”

“Well?”

“They report Arabs, sir. Thousands of ‘em.”

LeBlanc’s eyes widened in shock as, in the distance, the unmistakable thunder of hooves began to become audible. He grimaced and placed his kepi firmly back on his head.

“Sergent-Chef, form up the men about the ruins, one platoon on each side. We’ll show these damn savages what the Legion can do.” He turned back to the radio set for one final, plaintive attempt at summoning aid. Above him, the bold flag of the Legion continued to flutter in the breeze.

Within seconds, the company was scrambling to their positions, instinct and training now taking over. Twenty riflemen knelt steadily on each edge of the ruins, with Drago’s Hotchkiss and the three FM 24/29s positioned in the centre of each fighting position for optimal arcs of fire and the four BARs holding down the corners. As the sound of the Arabs grew closer, Clark would have preferred a few Vickers gimpys, some mortars or even a 25pdr or two. Joakim crouched down beside him and stared out over the dune line in anticipation as he fixed his bayonet.

“What I wouldn’t give for a tank right now…”

First came the high pitched ululations and battle cries and then the enemy was revealed – a serried dark mass of sword and rifle wielding horsemen cresting the dune to the south and flashing down towards the legionnaires, fanning out as they rode.

“Hold your fire! Aim for the horses!” The commanding voice of Sergeant Luck rang out over the din of the approaching foe. “Hold…FIRE!”

The rifles crashed and the machine guns roared and countless dozens of the faceless foe were catapulted from their mounts as they crumpled from the coolly aimed shots. The first powerful volley shifted to independent firing as each man picked out his target and dispatched them. All the while, the machine guns and BARs kept up their staccato beat in the background as they swung on their relentless killing mission - back and forth, back and forth. The screams, dust and carnage enveloped Clark as he focused on his task, picking off men and horses as they came. Then, as quickly as the charge had started, it turned into a full retreat as the raiders fled back to safety beyond the range of the merciless guns. A few shots followed them, then there was stillness, with only the sound of panting from the defenders and the groans and whinnying of the dying to break it. The smashed corpse of the nearest horseman lay just forty yards away.

“Will they come again?” Wozzeau’s unmistakable bleat came from further down the line.

“Without a doubt.” Corporal Tenet replied, not even seeming to have broken a sweat. “Now shut up and reload.”

Yet for once, Tenet’s instincts served him wrong. They remained poised and ready, watched by and watching their enemy as they sat atop the dune line in ever growing numbers. After an excruciating fifteen minutes, their ranks parted and two horsemen rode down the dune, one bearing a white banner of truce. Captain LeBlanc and Sergeant Luck walked cautiously out to meet them as they halted amidst the gore of the battlefield.

“Who are you and what do you want?” LeBlanc’s cold fury could barely be contained.

“I am Abdallah Ben Sidi. You have heard of me?”

LeBlanc nodded. Before him stood one most notorious of all the Bedouin leaders in Morocco, known for his fierce hatred of the French and an iron code of honour.

“This is good. Your men fight well, but you can see you are outnumbered. I have no quarrel with you on this day. I only want that which you took from the desert.”

“What about the men you butchered last night, you cur?!”

“We took none of your men, although we could have done so quite easily. Will you give me what I seek?”

“Why do you want it?”

“It is something that should never have been found again and certainly never bought here. It is evil, Captain, a pagan idol from a far off dark time. You must sense it.”

“Is that all?”

“You realize that should you not take this opportunity to simply get up and march away, there will be no quarter.”

“Again, is that all?”

“You are a brave leader among brave men, Captain. Soon you will be a dead leader among dead men. Farewell.” Ben Sidi spurred his horse away back to his own ranks. Luck turned and fixed LeBlanc with an impassive gaze.

“You think I did the wrong thing, Sergent-Chef?”

“Perhaps, mon Capitane, perhaps. For all the right reasons.”

They came on again and again throughout the afternoon, always with the same chilling battle cry and always with the same brutal result. Once, the Bedouin made it through the outer line of the legionnaires and only a hell for leather bayonet charge lead by Captain LeBlanc threw them back at the cost of nine men. Another fifteen had joined them by the time the sun had sunk below the horizon and night embraced the valley, including the indomitable Drago and the valiant MacLeod, who had fallen sword in hand while taking on a dozen savage foes. Of the American oil men, only one now remained alive, the others having perished in the regular hail of fire from the dunes that came with the relentless attacks. Their guides had disappeared in the chaos and confusion, as their type was want to do, thought Clark bitterly.

The crackle of the radio could be heard from the centre of the ruins, as Corporal Tenet tried hopelessly to make contact with the fort or any hint of outside civilization beyond the cruel desert. The chill of the air was made worse by the sight of fires burning atop the dunes and the sound of many hundreds of the enemy gathering for what must be the final charge. Ammunition and water were running low, but it was more likely that a lack of the former would kill them first.

“Clark!” Luck’s voice rang out low and urgently. “Go back and get me a few more clips and restock your own supply. I’ve got a feeling we might need it sooner or later.”

He ran at a crouch back through the ruins, vaulting over a smashed stone to where the now-dead ammunition camels lay. Ahead of him, through the gathering gloom, he could see the flitter of movement as another figure darted from shadow to shadow. Gripping his rifle, he followed, careful not to make a scintilla of an iota of a sound. It crept towards one of the deceased dromedaries, uncovered a cloth bundle on its back, and stretched forth to touch it. Clark started forward, only to be caught in a flash of green light and the ground disintegrating below his feet as he fell down, down, down…

……………………………………………………………………………………………

His fall was broken by a thankfully soft pile of sand that sat at the end of a long, narrow tunnel that sloped down into the earth. He was unarmed, save for the trusty knife he kept in his boot. Of the battleground above, he could hear nothing and, there being no obvious means of climbing out of the hole, he decided to head off down towards the flickering greenish light that beckoned to him in the distance. The stonework on the walls was precise and showed no sign of age or neglect, which belied the apparently abandoned nature of the ruins. After half a mile or so, the tunnel began to broaden until it finally opened into tall, rounded cavern. In the centre of the room sat the strange object and, pacing manically around it in a frantic circle, was none other than Wozzeau.

“I did not touch the pagan idol! It’s not true! It’s rubbish, I did not touch it, I did not!” He looked up with pure black, sightless eyes. “Oh, hi Clark!”

“Wozzeau…what happened?”

“I don’t know, I don’t know! I went to get more ammo and then I heard a song.” His characteristic drawl was now growing longer and deeper, as if the words were being physically pulled out from him. He staggered to a halt and then halted, staring blankly straight ahead.

“What song?”

“The Song of the Gate. It called him because it needed a vessel.” A soft, hissing, mirthful voice spoke from the shadows behind Clark. He whirled around, whipping out his knife instinctually. There stood the two Bedouin guides, seemingly surrounded with an aura palpable malignance.

“Put away your little blade, human.” The other spat sibilantly, gesturing dismissively with its right hand. Clark’s knife flew away out of his hand and stuck to the wall behind him. “Much better, now, to have two. Much betterrrr.” With that, both of the guides undid their veils, revealing midnight black faces and cruel, curved, crimson eyes that glowed with malice.

Dark elves. Oh, dear.

“Ah, you recognize us. Most pleasing. It would not do for both sacrifices to perish without knowing the purpose of their end.” The nearest dark elf gestured perfunctorily with his gloved hand, freezing Clark in place. “This is an ancient place, from back when your kind were but brutes huddling in caves.”

“They really still are brutes when you think of it, Zverâshul.” observed his companion conversationally.

Zverâshul turned around, rather perturbed at having the flow of his diabolical monologue disturbed. “Tir’Azayku, this is why you don’t get invited on these missions more often. Honestly, if you weren’t my sixth cousin…” He turned back to his captive. “Now, where was I? Ah yes. This is an ancient place where once we did honour to the Old Ones and flew the primal paths of power. Then came our disgusting surface relatives and their wretched lizards, sealing the gates with fire and sorcery.”

“Then…the relic is the key?” Clark managed to gasp

“The monkey speaks! I told you this was a smart one!” Tir’Azayku almost leapt into the air in glee, but remained on the ground after a withering stare from a disgusted Zverâshul.

“No, that was not the key, human, merely the bait to bring you all here. The veil of magery over this valley could not be penetrated save if a mortal soul willingly entered it. The local savages have been rather efficient in keeping out any interest for far, far too long, but the greed of your kind presented an excellent opportunity for us to exploit. Our little toy did the rest.” Zverâshul laughed maniacally as he concluded, drawing out a black dagger from within his robes. “And now, it is time.”

He walked slowly across to the paralyzed Wozzeau, plunged the dagger into his belly and drew it slowly upwards as Clark looked on in horror. His comrade’s flesh and bone scorched and melted away as bubbles of iridescent flame coursed out of the wound, gradually enveloping him in a whirlwind of flashing colour until there was only a pillar of sickening fire.

“Ancient One, Lurker at the Threshold, the door opens. Y’ai’ng’ngah, Yog Sothoth. H’ee-l’geb, F’ai Throdog. Uaah!” chanted Tir’Azayku and Zverâshul, their hands held high in supplication. The room shook and rippled as unspeakable eldritch forces coursed about for the first time in millennia. The tips of dozens of amorphous slimy tentacles began to peak out shyly through the top of the pillar of flame, like a cautious kitten peering out behind a door at a piece of wool.

“Excuse me.”

The dark elves spun around in utter rage at the polite interruption. Hawkins, Joakim and Luck stood at the entrance, aiming their rifles at the vile creatures. Sergeant Luck indicated Clark with the barrel of his B.A.R.

“Sorry to interrupt, but we kind of need our man here for the battle up top. Mind if we grab him? Thanks. Oh, by the way,“ He then let loose with burst of fire that blasted the heads and shoulders of both Zverâshul and Tir’Azayku into a bloody mist “Remember never to fall for that old trick.”

The swirling lights blinked and then gradually faded into nothingness. His captors’ destruction broke the spell that had held Clark in place and he exchanged a swift, welcoming embrace with his fellow legionnaires.

“We’ll deal with what happened here later. “There’s an Indian rope back there waiting for us. Not long until dawn up there and it looks like they are getting ready for the big one.” Luck’s gruff growl broke through the relief of the reunion as they set off at a jog back up the tunnel.

…………………………………………………………………………………………….

The situation in the ruins above was, to put it mildly, dire. Several thousand Bedouin cavalry and camelry sat poised atop the dunes to the south and the west in massed ranks, waiting for the signal to strike as they sang and chanted in the cold greyness before sunrise. The legionnaires were quiet behind the stones, enjoying a last cigarette or wistful thoughts of far off homes. Captain LeBlanc moved amongst them, exchanging the odd word and clapping some of the men on the shoulder. Nothing further needed to be said. They took up their positions, loaded their rifles and gazed outwards on their impending doom.

It began with a terrific screaming sound from the sky, followed by dozens of explosions as rockets and cannon-fire tore through the ranks of the Bedouin and the rhythmic booming of bombs. Clark looked up at the swooping shapes above in the sky and broke out into a broad grin and then laughed out loud, pure and true. The other legionnaires joined in, now whooping and cheering as they saw the red, white and blue roundels on the U.S. Navy Skyraiders that sped overhead, putting the enemy to flight.

“Looks like the cavalry are here!” shouted Hawkins in triumph

LeBlanc’s despairing efforts of their previous night had not proved to be in vain after all, being picked up by chance by USS Essex as it steamed into Casablanca. Half an hour later, the first reinforcements arrived aboard a hulking skyship. LeBlanc’s report was received coolly and the strange device carefully levitated aboard by hard-faced American wizards. As they filed aboard, Clark overhead snippets of a conversation between a French colonel and an impassive USN commander.

“You know, this could work out well, Francois. We’re always on the lookout for new sites to test atom bombs.”

“I can think of no better use for the place.”

There was one final surprise left for the morning, coming in the form of MacLeod emerging from underneath a pile of enemy corpses. It turned out he had only been knocked out, although Clark could have sworn he had seen him take at least a dozen shots; MacLeod assured him it had only been one as they shouldered their packs.

And so, with the rising sun and the battle behind them, the words of Le Boudin on their lips and the desert in front, the Legion marched onwards.


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 Post subject: Re: Dark Earth: 1947
PostPosted: Sat Oct 08, 2016 9:18 am 
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Zut alors!

Cthulu, Highlander (or possibly groundskeeper Wullie), Warhammer Dark Elves et la Legion, formidable!


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 Post subject: Re: Dark Earth: 1947
PostPosted: Sat Oct 08, 2016 9:43 am 
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Glad you liked it, Tim. You picked out a few of the references correctly this time. There is Cthulhu, Carnivale, Highlander, Luck of the Legion, March or Die, Commando/The Legion's Last Patrol, Warhammer/Forgotten Realms Dark Elves, the lead singer of Sabaton and quite possibly the worst film ever, The Room.

A few other customary Easter eggs included.


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 Post subject: Re: Dark Earth: 1947
PostPosted: Sat Oct 08, 2016 12:56 pm 
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Spot on, make it a book and i´ll pay for the sacrifice of a few threes. Thank you for the continued efforts and the strong tales it produces.

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"Common sense is sadly a commodity rapidly becomming more uncommon"

also know as the "to many people disagree with me" syndrom


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 Post subject: Re: Dark Earth: 1947
PostPosted: Sat Oct 08, 2016 1:04 pm 
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You're most welcome and I do plan to eventually publish some of this material; a few of the names of some characters will be altered as necessary. There will be another 4 chapters of 1947, each made up of four stories that will be increasingly connected, as well as exploring different styles and tones along the way. The conclusion, as said before, will bring the strings together.

Before any of that will come Chapter 10 of the Red Shadow (now on the homeward stretch), some timeline material and a few other goodies.


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