As soon as they were ready I pushed into the valley with 20 of Lucien’s newly armored/reinforced vehicles. Trying as best possible not to break up existing crews each machine was assigned an operating crew of 4, 4 to 8 fighters with improvised firearms, 2 fighters with “modern” firearms, and 6 to 8 fighters with melee weapons only.
Reorganization of the ranks was not well received. The existing crews are highly loyal to their own and are used to operating independently, each band generally numbering no more than 6-8. Even within the same gang or cohort supergroups there is not a great degree of cohesion between crews. Several outspoken troublemakers had to be silenced to get the idea off the ground.
In addition to those obstacles I need to overcome the notion that each machine is considered to be personal property, held in common by the crew itself and there is a strong culture of individualization and customization of machines as a point of pride and personal identity. Changing these social norms will be difficult. Lucien and I have debated if this is an entirely feasible course of action in the long term.
Upon spotting a large body of Invincible at the former site of Defcon City we employed defensive formations once called a corral by settlers travelling in convoys of Conestoga wagons. We formed 7 defensive squares with overlapping fields of fire and began a bombardment with our newly built mortars.
The mortars Lucien’s engineers constructed consist of non-standard 50-60 mm metal barrels with a bipod and base plate. The effective range proved to be about 1000 yards in this engagement but Lucien thinks this can be improved upon with further refinement and experience. The shells are propelled by a charge of homemade gunpowder and was detonated by charge on impact. The bomb armed itself by means of a wind-driven propeller.
This artillery attack was largely ineffective due to poor operation and several shells failing to detonate properly. Despite this the attack had the intended effect of provoking an Invincible counter attack. For a world where battle is conducted without any field artillery it was likely very frightened to those under attack despite our poor ability to fire for effect.
Approximately 200 Invincible vehicles counter-attacked but found it impossible to engage in the type of running battle that I believe is the standard tactic of the day. I would equate the way battles have been fought so far as something akin the mounted archery or chariot duels of Greece before the advent of the phalanx.
Unable to directly attack the Invincible resorted to a sort of mechanized caracole, firing in turn with small arms while moving in two circles like wagon wheels. This had no effect on our fortified positions and our smaller number of men with modern firearms were taking their toll on the attackers.
A second (and final possible) mortar barrage was fired, causing widespread damage to the Invincible vehicles and light casualties among the crews. At the closer range we were able to compensate for out shortcomings in utilizing this new weapon. Correctly divining that they would be safe from this attack closer to our squares the Invincible moved in and were engaged by our fighters with scrap and junk pistols as Ela calls them and those with nothing more than blades and other close combat weapons.
Even with all I’ve seen here in the new world, cruelty and sadism beyond anything I could have imagined standing witness to, this charge was startling in its ferocity. This was the weakest part of the plan in my mind but it achieved a resounding result. Our close combat forces attacked with the savagery of starved dogs and the Invincible were left with no room to maneuver making them vulnerable to this attack even though they could have easily outmaneuvered an close attack in other circumstances.
In that brief and horrible hand to hand fighting 27 Invincible vehicles were seized before the main body retreated. We advanced slowly, reforming our defensive circle-square often, and the Invincible abandoned their position at the ruins of Defcon City and fled further into the valley.
Despite this equivocal victory and proof of new tactics and organizational morale remains low. Some of the warriors who were there at the battle are telling their compatriots about the value of this new way, but overall the people under my command are sullen and recalcitrant about the changes. Even many of those who fought in the battle remain unhappy.
I wish Ela was here. She has a gift for motivation and persuasion, even more than her outsized ego realizes. If she was here she’d give a couple speeches and get people singing some old song and they’d do whatever she asked of them.
But Ela is not here. As always we have to do our best with the resources that we have.