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First pages


The Sudan, 1898

Lieutenant David Beatty had a bullet rip through his helmet and nearly had a ship’s magazine exploded right under him at Hafir. Neither of those near-death experiences filled him with the sort of horror the enormous, alien machines did.

A shudder went through him as he stood on Fateh’s gun deck, watching the three-legged metal monstrosities stomp across the desert. They had to be a hundred feet tall. He pressed his hand against the boat’s rectangular, wooden bridge to keep it from shaking as he recalled the dispatches from London that spoke of the devastating heat rays. A stab of nausea plunged into his stomach, imagining the agony of his body being set afire.

How about killing them before they kill you.

Beatty turned away from the advancing Martian machines. “Sergeant,” he called to the burly man standing by the 12-pounder. “Bring all guns to bear on enemy. Wait for my command to fire.”

“Sir,” blurted Sergeant Ellison, the royal marine in charge of gunnery. He barked out orders to the Egyptian gun crew, who swung around the big cannon in quick order. His next shouts carried across Fateh’s deck to the other crews. The two six-pounders and the four-inch howitzer pointed at the Martians.

Beatty smiled. Ellison had drilled the men well.

“Morrison!” Beatty shouted up to the signalman atop the bridge.


“Signal the Nasir and Metemma.” He gave Morrison the same order he’d given Sergeant Ellison.

“Aye, sir.”

Beatty leaned toward the railing, staring past Fateh’s length to the other gunboats trailing him up the Nile River. Beyond it was a lump of a ship laden with crates and dozens of refugees from upriver. The transport steamer Blackwood, making all of three knots.

He thumped a fist against the bridge, cursing the slower ship’s presence. Now wasn’t the time to crawl through the river. He needed all the speed his gunboats could muster. But he wasn’t about to abandon an unarmed transport with terrified civilians.

Beatty turned back to the tripods. They had to be a half-mile away. Still out of the range of his guns. What he wouldn’t give to be back on the battleship Trafalgar, with its big guns and thick armor. Certainly it would be more than a match for the Martians.

We’re not exactly helpless. He looked at the Fateh’s guns, then at the enemy machines. He pushed down his fear, his anxiousness. It wouldn’t be long before the Martians were in firing range, then he’d show the monsters what –

A yellow flash came from the lead tripod. Beatty tensed at the sizzling sound in the air. Something streaked to his right.

Nasir vanished in a geyser of flame and smoke. Beatty jerked at the crash of the explosion.

Metemma’s guns thumped. One of Fateh’s six-pounders fired.

“Cease fire!” Beatty shouted, waving one hand. “Cease fire!” You’re wasting our bloody ammunition.

Sergeant Ellison also yelled the order. The six-pounder fell silent.

Metemma continued shooting. Plumes of smoke and sand kicked up far from the tripods.

“Morrison. Signal Metemma to --”

Another heat ray streaked from the lead tripod. A fiery explosion consumed Metemma.

Beatty clenched his jaw. Two gunboats destroyed, and they hadn’t so much as nicked the damned aliens. His eyes drifted to the Blackwood. Some of the refugees and crew gaped at the tripods in frozen horror. Others jumped over the side and swam to shore.

Letting out a slow breath, he looked back at the Martians. His insides went cold. This was it. One shot and he and his crew were done for.

“All guns!” he shouted. “Open fire!” Wasting ammunition didn’t matter now. He may as well show the Martians they would go down fighting.

Sailors repeated the order throughout the Fateh. The guns boomed. Beatty watched the shells burst hundreds of feet from the tripods, throwing up clumps of sand. He clenched his fists, praying just one bloody shell hit those bastards before the end.

A heat ray flashed over the desert. Beatty closed his eyes.

A quake rocked the Fateh. Beatty cried out as he fell to the deck. Hammers of pain slammed into his back.

He blinked. My God, I’m still alive. Loud pops came from the boat’s stern. Ammunition detonating. Smoke wafted above him. Tortured screams reached his ears.

Beatty grimaced, pushing himself up. Ellison and his Egyptian gunners lay in a heap on the deck.

“You all right?” Beatty called to them.

“Fine, sir.” Ellison bared his teeth and rubbed his shoulder. Two of the Egyptians nodded to him.

Beatty clawed at the bridge, rising to his feet, then slipping. Fateh listed to port. Flames consumed the stern.

“Abandon ship!” he hollered “All hands, abandon ship!”

He threw open the door to the bridge, ushering out the crew. Beatty ran belowdecks and into a cloud of smoke. He eyes burned as he checked for any sailors.

“Abandon ship!” Smoke stung his throat and lungs. “Aban-” A coughing fit rocked his body. He searched around him, his eyes narrow, watery slits. Beatty could barely see a foot in front of him.

The deck shifted under him. Beatty slid into the wall. A bolt of pain went through his shoulder. He thought about turning around and getting off this burning wreck.

Can’t. Not until I know everyone’s off safely.

At least, everyone who’s still alive.

Two large forms burst from the smoke. Beatty grunted as they clipped his shoulder.

“Who’s that?” asked a gruff voice.

Beatty recognized the man. Moffat, the Scottish civilian engineer who serviced the boilers.

“Captain? That you?”

“It is.” Beatty could barely keep his eyes open.

“You’d best get off this crate,” said Moffat. “She’s done for.”

“Is anyone else belowdecks?” Beatty’s face twisted in disgust from the stale taste of smoke.

“I doubt it.” Moffat shook his head. “Fire swept through right quick. I barely got out of the boiler room with this poor bugger.”

Beatty glanced at the man leaning against Moffat’s side. One of the foreign firemen, he assumed.

He turned back to the corridor. An orange aura glowed through the smoke. The Scotsman hadn’t been joking about the fire spreading quickly.

“Go. Go.” He pushed on Moffat’s arm, urging him to get topside. Beatty looked over his shoulder, biting his lip. If anyone below remained alive, he couldn’t reach them.

Guilt clawed his soul as he raced up the stairs, pressing against the wall to keep his balance. Fateh listed at forty degrees.

He made it topside just as Moffat and the wounded fireman plunged into the Nile. Beatty half-ran, half-slid past the 12-pounder and hurled himself into the water. He kicked away from the sinking gunboat, eyeing a nearby shoal covered in bushes. Sergeant Ellison and two of his gunners pulled themselves out of the river and crawled into the vegetation.

“The shoal!” He shouted to the survivors, jabbing a finger at the miniature island. “Get to the shoal!”

Beatty stroked and kicked so hard his muscles started to burn. He didn’t stop until he reached the bank. Ellison waved him over to his hiding spot. Beatty checked around him. The brush seemed thick enough to prevent the Martians from seeing them.

He twisted around, peering through the branches. Moffat and the wounded fireman emerged next, the Scot dragging the foreign worker into the brush. Beyond them, smoke billowed from the sinking Fateh. Beatty’s face tightened. He’d lost his ship. He didn’t care that it wasn’t a true warship like the Trafalgar, just a converted paddleboat with some guns stuck on it. It was his ship, and it had gone down with hardly a fight.

“Good Lord,” Moffat stammered.

Beatty looked to the Scotsman, then followed his wide-eyed gaze.

The tripods were a quarter-mile from the river. His mouth fell open. Their sheer size awed and terrified him at the same time.

The Blackwood floated into view, its deck devoid of people. Some of the refugees and crews swam for shore. Others had already climbed out of the water and ran into the desert

The tripods waded into the Nile. Beatty’s eyes flickered between the enormous war machines to the people still in the water.

Faster. Faster!

A tentacle whipped out from the lead tripod. It snatched a man out of the river. Beatty barely suppressed a gasp as it lifted him high into the air and dumped him into a globular basket on the tripods rear.

More tentacles shot into the water, quick as a frog’s tongue. Every time they came up with a struggling man or woman.

Tears stung Beatty’s eyes. He pounded the ground with a fist. He couldn’t do a damn thing to help those poor souls. Never in his life had he felt so helpless.

When all the swimmers had been plucked from the water, the Martians marched onto dry land, pursuing the remaining crew and refugees from the Blackwood. Beatty prayed at least some escaped those tentacles.

The tripods soon vanished from sight. Beatty and the others remained in the brush, tending to the wounded fireman, a Maltese named Grima. Half the man’s face and torso were covered with dark scorches and bloody wounds. Beatty grimaced at the rank smell of copper and burnt flesh emanating from the man. Still he ripped off the sleeves of his soaked uniform and used them as bandages. Ellison and one of the Egyptians did the same. Grima softly moaned the entire time. Beatty’s chest tightened. Could they get him to a doctor in time?

Are there any hospitals left in the Sudan?

The small group remained hidden in the brush until nightfall. During that time, Grima passed. With no means to bury him, Beatty conducted a very short, impromptu service, then led the others to the western bank of the Nile.

“So what do we do now?” asked Moffat.

Beatty stared at the Scotsman. Good question. But he was in charge. He had to come up with some sort of plan.

“We find other survivors from the army or navy, and keep up the fight.”

“How the bloody hell do we fight those things?” Moffat threw his arms out to his sides.

“We’ll find a way,” said Beatty. “We damn well better if we want to live, and when I say ‘we’, I mean all of mankind.”

He folded his arms and stared at the ground, thinking. Heading back to Atbara was right out. The Martians burned the city to the ground. They could continue on to Shendi, twenty-five miles south. But what guarantee did they have the town wouldn’t – or hadn’t already – suffered the same fate?

Even if the Martians had destroyed Shendi, they should still be able to salvage some supplies and weapons, then he could figure out what to do next.

“We stay with our original plan,” said Beatty. “South to Shendi.”

They trekked through the darkness, staying along the river, but not too close. Beatty had no desire for him or any of his men to be dragged off by a crocodile.

When the sun came up, they rested. Beatty set up a watch, with each man, including himself, on duty for an hour. Not only did he have to worry about Martians and crocodiles, but the damn Mahdist rebels they’d originally come to Sudan to fight. He didn’t think an alien invasion would quell their desire to kill any subject of the Crown they came across.

Too many damn things in this desert that can kill us. They also did not have much in the way of weapons to defend themselves against man, beast, or Martian. Beatty and Ellison carried their Webley pistols, though after a thorough soaking in the Nile he doubted whether they’d even fire. Even if they did work, what good would pistols be against those tripods?

What I wouldn’t give for one of those heat rays.

They resumed their march south when the sun grazed the horizon. Beatty estimated they were nine or ten miles from Shendi. The absence of smoke or flames in the distance he took as a good sign. Perhaps the town remained intact.

Energized by renewed hope, he picked up his pace, striding up a small rise.

Beatty halted at the top, staring unblinking at the sight before him.

“Something wrong, sir?” asked Ellison.

Beatty didn’t reply. He just kept staring, trying to digest what he saw.

“Sir?” Ellison marched up next to him. “What’s the . . . Good Lord.”

Three fallen tripods lay along the banks of the Nile half-a-mile from the rise.

“What happened to them?” Ellison wondered aloud.

“No idea.” Beatty took a couple of deep breaths, summoning up all his courage. “Let’s go find out.”

Ellison drew his head back. His brow crinkled in an unsure expression. He then stiffened and said, “Yes, sir.”

Webley in hand, Beatty led his men toward the tripods. Had the army in Shendi brought them down? The shadows of dusk prevented him from making out any damage.

He slowed as he neared the first tripod, half-expecting it to rise and incinerate him. But the large machine remained still.

Beatty’s heart beat faster as he came within a few meters of the tripod. He never expected to be so close to one and live. Its massive size overwhelmed his senses.

He also noticed something else. The tripod had no holes, no scorch marks, nothing to indicate it had fallen victim to artillery fire.

The group examined the second tripod. It, too, showed no signs of damage.

“Maybe they tripped over their own feet,” quipped Moffat.

They made their way to the third tripod. Beatty tensed, gripping his pistol tighter when he saw a lump lying against the machine’s turret-like top. One of the Egyptians gasped behind him.

Swallowing, Beatty took a cautious step toward it, then another.

The Martian didn’t move.

He bent over running his gaze over the creature. It reminded him of an octopus, about four feet in length a V-shaped mouth and two large eyes, now closed. The skin was greenish-brown, with gray splotches across its body. Beatty scrunched his face at the rank stench hovering around the alien.

“Hideous looking bugger, isn’t it?” said Ellison.

“How did it die?” asked Moffat. “Doesn’t look like it got shot.”

Beatty stared hard at the Martian, concentrating on the gray splotches. They didn’t appear to be part of its natural skin color.

“I think it fell ill.”

“From what?” Moffat took a step closer to the dead Martian.

“I don’t know.” Beatty shook his head.

“I guess the same happened to those two.” Ellison jerked his head toward the other tripods. “Do you think the rest of these monsters got sick, too?”

“Let’s pray that’s the case.” Beatty straightened up.

Ellison looked up and down the tripod. “Well, if these bastards are all off to the great beyond, they won’t be needing these anymore.” He patted the turret. “Imagine what we could do with them.”

Hands on his hips, Beatty gazed at the heat ray and grinned. “I already am.”



Am I the only one on this planet that has not turned into a cowardly fool?

Supreme Guardian Hashzh aimed his large, dark eyes at the video screen. All eight of his tentacles trembled. He opened his mouth and unleashed a half-shriek, half-gargle of anger.

When the piercing sound stopped echoing off the curved walls of his chamber, Hashzh spread his tentacles along the floor and read the message from the Guiding Council.

Our most recent calculations show that the Shoh’hau race has more than adequate defenses to deal with any potential attack by the natives of Brohv. As we have stated previously, the Council has determined it is highly unlikely a primitive race like the Brohv’ii can replicate our technology to the point they are able to threaten our world. Thus, your request for more weaponry for the Guard Force is denied.

Hashzh’s anger burned hotter as he continued reading.

Furthermore, Supreme Guardian Hashzh, your constant requests for more material for the Guard Force has not only grown tiresome, but wastes the time of the Guiding Council. We have stated numerous times that priority for resource allocation must go to the Final Project. Diverting those resources for armaments that will in all likelihood never be used means delaying the completion of the Final Project. You are to cease your requests for additional weaponry. Non-compliance of this directive will result in your removal as Supreme Guardian.

Hashzh wanted to cover all nine members of the Guiding Council in bodily waste. Did they truly believe the Brohv’ii not to be a threat? Had they forgotten what happened during the Cleansing Mission 13 cycles ago? All the Brohv’ii needed was for one ship to land on Shoh, and just one of their race to set foot on this planet and spread their diseases.

That fear dominated his mind. He thought of the Shoh’hau in the Cleansing Force. How much pain did they endure as those alien microbes ravaged their bodies? How scared had they been, knowing they had no means to combat the sickness?

Would the same happen to him? To everyone on Shoh?

It will if fear continues to rule the Guiding Council. They wanted nothing more to do with the Brohv’ii. Hashzh sometimes believed the planet’s leaders thought simply mentioning the word “Brohv’ii” would cause their diseases to spread throughout the world.

He thumped the tips of his tentacles on the floor, his frustration mounting. The probes he sent to the nearby blue and white planet of Brohv, or Earth as the natives called it, showed they had made huge technological strides in a short period of time. Their various nations had constructed large spaceships and equipped with beam weapons and missiles. Satellites circled their planet. They even had artificial habitats on their solitary moon.

None of which would have been possible without the craft and machines left behind by the doomed Cleansing Force.

The Guiding Council, however, refused to admit the Brohv’ii posed any threat. After such a horrific failure, they decided the best way to deal with the Brohv’ii was to ignore them.

If the climate change doesn’t cause our extinction, the humans just might.

Hashzh extended a tentacle to a panel and tapped the upper right corner. The reprimand from the Guiding Council vanished, much to his delight. Replacing it was the results from the planetary defense drills that took place during the early rotation period. What he read did nothing to improve his mood. Accuracy for more than half the tripod groups was atrocious. Many of the land guardian groups took longer than acceptable to reach their defensive positions. When he saw how the planetary defense batteries on the far moon performed, it made Hashzh shriek and gargle again.

Had the Guiding Council infected his Guard Force with their denial of reality?

That will change. He would make the Guard Force take their duties seriously. They would conduct drills from early rotation until final rotation. Perhaps he should banish some guardians to the bitter cold of the northern region. That would motivate the rest.

A short wail came from the circular door.


The door slid open, revealing a younger Shoh’hau with light brown skin and slim tentacles.

“Givrht. You have returned.”

“Yes, Supreme Guardian. My shuttle landed a short while ago.”

“Tell me of the progress being made,” said Hashzh.

Givrht gave his report. A burbling sound came from Hashzh’s throat. At last, news I can take joy in.

He thought back two-and-a-half cycles ago when he undertook this project. There were so many times when he wondered if he could actually make this happen. Now they were exactly 60 rotations away from completion. Sixty rotations until he could end the Brohv’ii threat for all time.

Hashzh felt his bitterness turn to hope. The Guiding Council has their Final Project, and so have I.


Colonel George Patton tightened his grip on the glass, glaring at the radio set perched on a shelf over the counter. He released a slow, growling breath as he listened to the interview.

“It makes no sense to spend so much money on spaceships and other weapons. The Earth is pure poison for the Martians. They’re never coming back here. The money for our military should be used to provide food and adequate shelter for the poor.”

“Yeah,” Patton grumbled under his breath. “Then watch the damn Martians blow up all those ‘adequate shelters’.”

“Settle down, George,” said his wife, Beatrice, who sat across from him feeding little George IV his bottle. “People have a right to say what they want.”

“And thanks to that damn radio contraption, anyone can say any stupid thing they want to the whole world.” Patton waved a hand toward the offending piece of technology.

A few of the other customers in the diner turned toward him. Patton ignored them, taking a huge bite out of his ham sandwich and took a huge bite while he listened to the interview.

“But top generals and admirals at the War Department have said that the Martians are capable of attacking Earth from orbit,” said the interviewer, Lowell Thomas. “They don’t have to set one tentacle on the ground to exterminate us. How do you respond to that, Mister Cannon?”

“More propaganda by the warmongers in Washington. If the Martians wanted to bombard us from space, why didn’t they do that in 1898? President Wood, Secretary of War Dawes, and all their generals and admirals want to keep this country, the entire world, in a state of fear. They want us scared of the Martian boogeyman to keep their fatcat friends in the war industry rich, while the people starve. If they want to make sure the Martians never attack us again, how about we try talking to them.”

Patton slammed both hands on the table. “Do we have to listen to this commie jackass son-of-a-bitch?”

Everyone in the diner looked at him. None of them spoke. George IV broke the silence, crying in his mother’s arms. Beatrice turned away from Patton, gently rocking the baby in her arms. Their daughters, Bea and Ruth, kept their heads down.

A fat, redheaded waitress behind the counter swallowed. “Um, I’ll change the channel, sir.”

“You do that.” Patton’s face twisted in rage.

Without further word, the waitress reached up and twisted the knob. Moments later, upbeat piano music came from the speaker.

Patton surveyed the diner. Many of the patrons looked away when his gaze settled on them.

“Any of you agree with that son-of-a-bitch? Any of you think the Martians are no longer a threat? Anyone here forget what those slimy bastards did to us twenty-six years ago?”

No one answered him.

Patton and his family finished their lunch in silence, at least once George IV finished crying. He paid the bill and stalked out of the diner, followed by Beatrice and the kids.

“Did you have to do that, George?” His wife scolded him. “That was so embarrassing. And what have I told you about using that kind of language in front of the children?”

“All right, I’m sorry.” Patton tugged at the collar of his brown Army dress uniform. The damn summer heat was making him sweat like a pig. “But what am I supposed to do. Just smile whenever I hear some commie as . . .” He glanced at his daughters. “Um, pig blather on about things he has no clue about?”

He stopped by the wall of a hardware store. His gaze settled on a colorful poster showing a woman and a young boy ensnared by a Martian’s tentacles. In the background, tripods stomped through the burning ruins of a town. Big yellow words read, DON’T LET THIS HAPPEN AGAIN! ENLIST TODAY!

“Twenty-six years, Beatrice.” Patton’s shoulders sagged. “It’s been twenty-six years since they almost wiped us out. Yet for some people, it’s like ancient history. They have no idea what it was like.”

Images of the charred rubble that had been his hometown flashed through his mind. He swallowed, remembering his parents pulling him by the hand through streets and hills, with screaming people fleeing around them. He recalled the sight of tripods in the horizon, the orange hue in the night sky caused by the fires from Los Angeles. His jaw clenched, thinking of all the friends and relatives slaughtered by the damn Martians.

Beatrice rubbed Patton’s arm. “Enough of us do remember what it was like. Let that man on the radio spew whatever nonsense he wants. People like him won’t stop the rest of us from doing what needs to be done.”

Patton patted her hand. “I hope you’re right, dear.”

They piled into the family’s Buick Touring Car. The hydrogen fuel cell engine hummed to life. Patton pulled out onto the street. A breeze flowed through the open compartment. Patton glanced into the sky. His thoughts flew past the blue sky and puffy white clouds into the black of space, toward the red planet.

If I were in charge, we’d have already turned that damn world to ash. He’d heard rumors that the world’s leaders were about to have another pow wow to authorize the long awaited invasion of Mars. Patton had heard similar rumors for the past five years, and had yet to spill Martian blood on their miserable soil.

I’m going to have great-grandchildren by the time the damn politicians get off their asses and give the go-ahead.

Patton squeezed the wheel of his Buick, cursing the idiot presidents, prime ministers and kings who ran the world.

Like the dunderheads at the War Department are any better. Fury surged through him as he thought about their latest rebuff of his ideas to improve the self-propelled artillery, or SPAs.

Patton wound his way through the street of Anniston, Alabama until he reached Camp Shipp. He drove past the bronze statue near the main gate, depicting artillerymen fighting a Martian tripod. It had been erected ten years ago to honor all those who died in the Battle of Anniston. Most cities and towns in the United States, and throughout the world, had some sort of memorial honoring the victims of the Martian invasion. Patton imagined a statue of himself at some army base, or better yet, West Point, honoring him as a great hero of the conquest of Mars.

If I’m still in the Army by the time we invade.

When they got home, Bea and Ruth went straight to their room, probably to avoid doing anything to anger their daddy. Beatrice put George IV in his crib while Patton went to his study, closed the door and sat down. He reached around the white, block-shaped device on his desk and flicked on the power switch. A steady hum came from the Electronic Brain Box, or “ebb.” He had to wait five minutes for the damn thing to warm up. When it did, he hit Shift and 1 on the keyboard. His electronic address book appeared. Patton hit the down button until the hazy green bar settled on a name in the “R” section.

Dear Erwin,

I hope you are well on your side of the world. I also hope you are having better luck trying to convince your General Staff of the greater offensive capabilities of tracked armored vehicles than I am. Once again, I submitted a report to our War Department on how tracked vehicles, armed with a 37mm gun and two to four machine guns, can work in conjunction with battlewalkers in any offensive operations. This time, I felt I had recent history on my side. I cited 30 incidents from the Russian Civil War, the revolts in the Ottoman Empire, and my own experiences from the American Expedition to Mexico, which highlighted the shortcomings of battlewalkers. In all three conflicts, several walkers were lured into ambushes where the opposition dug camouflaged dynamite pits. The resulting explosions destroyed at least one leg, knocking them out of commission.

While battlewalkers carry plenty of firepower, their size makes it impossible to sneak up on an enemy. In Mexico, Pancho Villa’s murdering bandits usually found a place to hide until our battlewalkers passed by, then ambushed our infantry and skedaddled before the walkers returned.

Patton stopped typing, the memories of bloodied American soldiers fueling his anger. Even more enraging was the fact after three years, the Army never captured that fat fucking bandito.

After a couple of calming breaths, he resumed typing. Tracked vehicles are, of course, smaller and quieter than battlewalkers. They can use the terrain to mask their movements. They can scout ahead of the walkers for potential ambushes. They can encircle the enemy, cut off routes of escape, and let the walkers smash them into a bloody mess. If we wanted to be really underhanded bastards, we could have tracked combat vehicles lie in wait, and pounce on the enemy, taking him by surprise. Try doing that with a battlewalker.

Patton’s fingers hovered over the keyboard. He knew the Army read all incoming and outgoing ebb-messages. What he was about to say could land him in hot water.

He shrugged. I’ve been in so much hot water in my career, I feel like a damn tea bag.

He continued typing.

As usual, the War Department, in all its infinite wisdom, rejected my proposal. I’m starting to think this doesn’t have anything to do with their slavish devotion to doctrine. I believe it’s personal. They feel I’m bitter that I failed to qualify as a battlewalker crewmember, and my proposals reflect that bitterness. I won’t lie. It still pisses me off I failed in battlewalker training. But when I was assigned to self-propelled artillery, I vowed to make it the best branch in the Army. That meant coming up with new tactics and equipment.

But the people in charge of the War Department, it seems, have an aversion to anything new. Hell, some of their tactics date back to our civil war sixty years ago! Maybe if they got off their fat asses and left their cushy offices and watched real soldiers in the field, they would see the potential of tracked combat vehicles. Armored troop carriers can do more than just haul around soldiers. With enough machine guns or flamethrowers, they can provide fire support for the infantry. Our SPAs can do more than lob shells. With some modifications, they can be the lead element of an advance, smashing through enemy fortifications.

Have heart, Erwin. Whenever our leaders decide to send us to Mars to finish off those ugly squids, we will have our opportunity to show those generals we are right, and they are wrong.

Take care, my friend.

Yours truly,

George S. Patton, Colonel USA

Patton hit Shift and 4 to send the ebb-message. He then sat back in his chair. He thought of the numerous exercises his involving his 214th Self-Propelled Artillery Regiment over the past year. More munitions and supplies had been stockpiled at Camp Shipp over the past month. The base commander had also cancelled all leaves. He wanted to take this as a sign that this time the order would come down to take the fight to the Martians, but he’d had those hopes dashed before.

Patton bowed his head, praying this time it would be for real. That soon, he and his men would storm Mars, cover its rust-colored soil with the blood and guts of those murdering squid bastards, and in the process, revolutionize modern warfare.


About me

Mark Gardner lives in northern Arizona with his wife, three children and a pair of spoiled dogs. Mark holds a degree in Computer Systems and Applications and is currently attending Northern Arizona University, enrolled in the undergraduate Applied Human Behavior program.

Q. What is the inspiration for the story?
The first draft was written back in 2012, and now that the worldwide copyright to the 1897 novels by H.G. Wells are about to expire, it's time to get this story out there.
Q. Where can readers find out more about you?
My website is at there you can find my blog, book reviews, author interviews, free fiction and whatever I'm blathering on about.
Q. Which writers inspire you?
I've always been a fan of the master of alternate history, Harry Turtledove. I've been a Star Trek fan for as long as I can remember, and I've read every ST book by Dean Wesley Smith. I'll read bad scifi and good scifi.

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