Thursday, February 18, 2010

Part 7, Chapter 2 - Why Not a Truck of M-16s?!

Fast-forward two days to the so-called "defense base," where the Scots are settling in with little input from Jonnie. They've spruced up an old barracks, dug latrines, cleaned the chapel, built a cattle pen, started a vegetable garden (with radishes and lettuce and spring onions to prevent scurvy! ...they're honestly worried about scurvy?), set up a school, and uncovered an ancient weapons cache.

So get this - a thousand years ago, someone loaded up a truck with Thompson submachine guns. Yeah, Tommy Guns, invented in 1911, declared obsolete by the U.S. government in 1976, when all its stockpiles of the weapon were destroyed. Nevertheless, at the end of the Cold War, when much better weapons were in high supply, a truck carrying a bunch of Tommy guns ran off a road and got buried by a cave-in. There it remained - again, I stress, for a thousand years - until Jonnie's Scots find it.

The best part? The guns were all coated with "what must have been a very thick grease that, down the ages, had become rock-hard but had preserved the object." So there you have it: fossilized guns. And the Scots want to try to clean 'em up and get them ready for firing, since the men are all "remarkably ingenious with machinery; they seemed to know what some of these pipes and wires were all about, having heard of them and read of them in their books."

So they do - they disassemble, clean, and reassemble a gun none of them has ever seen before. They even test-fire it, and of course the ammunition still works. Ammo for a gun over a thousand years old. Operated by a spear-wielding nomadic people who have read about machinery somewhere.

Do I even have to say anything about how dumb this is?

The Scots are all pumped up to raid the Psychlo minesite, but at a nod from Jonnie, Robert the Fox cashes a reality check. Apparently Foxy was the sole survivor of a cattle-raiding party that bumped into some Psychlo hunters in Cornwall. He gives an inspiring speech about how they're fighting a greater war and shouldn't act too soon, and the others calm down.

Jonnie takes a walk on the grounds with his "council" - Foxy, the parson, the schoolmaster, and the historian. He mentions the academy students' futile last stand, and Nameless Historian relates what he read from "a handwritten romance in the university library about a similar battle" just south of the Highlands.

I'd rant again about where this "university" is and how they've made books and how the books have lasted but I'm still reeling from the Tommy guns and ow my head.

On the Scottish battlefield you can still see the remains of Psychlo tanks. Turns out the "romance" was written by a Highlander sapper presumably right after the invasion, and the soldiers took out the advancing Psychlos with nuclear landmines before retreating north. Which is a... creative use of nuclear weapons, I'll admit, but explains why the Psychlos haven't come back to recover the wreckage of their vehicles.

It does not explain why the human militaries didn't use nuclear missiles, or why the Psychlos decided to fight a land war despite having air superiority, or why land mines worked against hovering tanks, or why the Psychlos haven't figured out a way to get robots to retrieve things for them and decontaminate them, or why they haven't bombed wrecks that less radiation-susceptible races could reverse-engine their technology from, or...

The chapter ends with Jonnie and his council resolving not to end up like those poor, uranium-less Air Force cadets. Next time, Terl continues to be incompetent.

Back to Chapter One

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