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Posted on Feb 10, 2006 in Armchair Reading, Front Page Features, TIAOW

The Incorrect Art of War [Episode 15] – Project Bucephalus

By A J Summersgill and Jim H Moreno

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Starring:

Doctor Sinister

Doctor Sinister. An evil Supervillain with an insane lust for power. From his secret island base, the Doctor plans to become future Emperor and Warlord of the planet Earth. Enjoys the company of cats and cloned genetically modified Dinosaurs.

And featuring:

General Menace. Graduated from West Point Military Academy with honours, served for twenty-five years in the US Army, reaching level of 2-star General in command of training facilities before being recruited by Doctor Sinister to command his New Model Army of World Domination. Has a penchant for cigars.

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EPISODE 15 – "Project Bucephalus"

A shudder of fear runs down General Menace’s spine as he slowly and carefully negotiates the dark, damp corridors in the very deepest sections of the Sinister Imperial Command Complex. Hewn from the living rock around him, and several miles underground, the corridors are often half-finished with razor edges projecting from sharply angled corners. Alarming warning signs repeatedly remind the General that this is a most unsafe place to be, and he is very careful to open the right doors, for behind every wrong entrance, a uniquely painful form of death undoubtedly awaits all unwary visitors.

With only the occasional flickering light to mark his way from hastily installed fluorescent tubes on the jagged ceilings, the General has to illuminate his route ahead with a high-powered torch, but the walls are so gloomy and often covered in mildew, it is as if the light is being sucked from the device before it can even light up the hallways. Occasionally, signs of a violent struggle are evident with ancient bullet marks or dark stains covering the walls and floor. More than once, enormous bite marks can clearly be seen in overhead bulkheads.

A distant angry roar fills his ears and the General rechecks the map he has been given before swallowing his fear and moving on…

Five sweat-filled minutes later, in the entrance lobby of Security Control Pit 174A…

Doctor Sinister: I see you found your way then General?

General: Just about my Lord, but I did take a bit of a wrong turn a few miles back and I found myself in a room full of dwarves.

Ah yes, the Troop Miniaturisation Project. I’m afraid it all went a bit wrong.

I should say so, they were hopping mad.

Well, they would be, we already had a lengthy waiting list for the racks, they are just going to have to wait their turn until we can stretch them out to their original height again.

Are you sure that’s the only way?

Well, it’s the cheapest.

Yes, but surely we can ask the Scientists responsible to simply reverse the field on their equipment?

Well, yes, we could

Oh good…

…if they hadn’t already been disposed of.

Oh.

I don’t tolerate failure General.

Well no my Lord, no reason you should. Although, with respect, the idea was yours to start with…

It was a perfectly sound idea. Entire Armies capable of being transported in suitcases behind enemy lines, to be restored to normal size on their arrival – tell me, what’s wrong with that?

Well, nothing, except it’s not possible.

Rubbish, it’s entirely feasible, I am just surrounded by incompetents. Present company excepted of course General.

Well, thanks. But I do seem to recall the science team advising against the project from the outset.

Yes, but fortune favours the brave General!

Well, that’s not entirely true is it Sir…half the rooms down here are full of brave men whom fortune abandoned entirely when it went on a fortnight’s package holiday to the Caribbean.

All valuable learning experiences General, just like today’s little experiment.

Ah yes my Lord, "Project Bucephalus". Dare I ask what this one is all about? Or why we are in the deepest, filthiest, darkest part of the base?

Well, I was studying some of those books on classical warfare you lent me.

Oh yes? I’m glad you liked them…

Well, of course I didn’t read them all

Oh no, I wouldn’t have expected you to, they are pretty heavy going.

I just skimmed through them, you know how it is.

Skimmed?

Yes, just perused the occasional section.

You, you just looked at the pictures didn’t you?

Well, yes.

That’s better than nothing. Did you learn anything?

Oh yes, lots of things, I remember there were lots of nice pictures of some ancient weapons, I spent some time looking at those. And then I studied some of the sections on troop formations. And then I found a most fascinating section on animals in war, beasts of burden and what have you. Did you know that animals can be used in warfare?

Well, actually…

…yes, horses, elephants, dogs, pigeons, the occasional cat – they’ve all done their bit. I was especially interested in the Cavalry…

Ah yes Sagacity, mounted soldiers riding into battle are a fine and ancient tradition of war. They were especially useful in outflanking enemy formations, or as shock troops to overwhelm infantrymen on the field. From Persian chariots to Knights in armour and even War Elephants. Lovely stuff.

Yes indeed, hundreds of men sweeping into battle on horseback – quite a romantic image. One in need of an update I feel.

Ah, hence the Bucephalus reference. Alexander the Great’s favourite horse. Ooh, don’t tell me, you’re taking up riding? A fine hobby my Lord. you could be like Napoleon on his favourite horse Marengo.

I thought that was a Chicken dish?

Erm…

As for me taking up riding, well, not quite, at least, not in the way you might think. I’m proposing to re-introduce the concept of mounted Cavalry to the world in a way that will strike terror into the hearts of my enemies!!

New Cavalry divisions? Erm, can I just point out…

Come, let me show you what I have lined up.

But…

No buts…this way…

(Dragging the protesting General by the arm, the two men pass through a heavy armoured door and emerge onto an enormous fenced metal gantry circling a vast circular chamber. The darkened, stained floor is some thirty feet below. Armed guards with Miniguns are stationed at regular intervals around the periphery of the decking. The two men walk the short distance to some large leather chairs and sit down. Doctor Sinister raises a small communication device to his lips.)

Release number one!!

(Below their feet, a gigantic metal door opens in the wall)

What happens n…?

(There is a sudden ear-splitting roar of pure rage from below and the room shakes as an enormous bipedal Dinosaur enters the chamber, screaming loudly, gnashing its teeth and flailing its short stubby arms around in anger. It stares up at the men arrayed above it with hate in its eyes and rakes its claws up and down the walls of the chamber, desperate to get hold of them)

Oh my.

Cute isn’t he?

Cute? Well, if you say so. I’ve never got close enough to one to see for myself.

(The huge reptile below slams its tail into the metal wall of the chamber and the gantry rocks slightly. The men on the Miniguns look at each other nervously)

You’ve never seen my Allosaurs?

Well, no. Frankly I rather hoped to avoid seeing the inside of one of these pits. Erm, what’s he wearing on his back?

A saddle.

What?

Shh shh shh, you haven’t seen the best bit yet. Release number 2!!

(Another door opens and a second Dinosaur lumbers angrily into the pit, but this one is encased in sheets of hinged metal armour plating. It thrashes around, trying to pry the metal from its back)

You armour plated an Allosaur?

Amongst other things. We also gave it titanium plated teeth, enhanced intelligence, and we’re working on a remote control mechanism for the brain. I mean, after all, if it’s going to carry our men into battle…

(The two Allosaurs see each other and immediately charge, colliding in a sickening crash of metal and coarse flesh. Stunned, they stare at each other with pure hatred, before screaming and lunging, each one trying to rip the flesh from the bones of the other)

You’re quite serious about this?

Oh yes – imagine, modern Knights of the battlefield parading on the battlefield before charging their enemies. Or Dinosaur Dragoon units ferrying men to the front line, stomping foreign armies beneath their mighty reptilian feet. At the very least, we can use them to tow some of the heavy artillery into position, just like the horse-drawn artillery of old.

Let me get this straight. You are actually proposing Dino-Cavalry?

Absolutely! They only need the occasional bit of meat which means they can refuel on the way to wherever they’re going. They are all-terrain too, and once we’ve got the armour perfected, we can even mount machine guns on their heads, or small missile launchers on their little arms. Maybe some rail guns, or laser projectors. We can turn these creatures into mighty metal war machines!

(Locked in deadly combat, the two Allosaurs thrash wildly and smash into the chamber walls. This time the gantry rocks noticeably and seems to drop slightly)

This is madness my Lord. These monsters are barely controllable – how are you going to stop them eating their riders and then galloping back to the Barracks for pudding?

One step at a time General – this is a momentous occasion. Watch as history unfolds before you!

(With a final lunge, the armour-plated Allosaur finishes its less-protected counterpart and then stands on its hind legs once more, roaring like never before. And then one of the gantry supports suddenly snaps and the entire framework begins to slowly buckle in a slow but inexorable slide to the floor)

(Looking casually at his watch) Oh look, I think it’s time to leave.

(Panicked) I agree my Lord.

(Doctor Sinister and General Menace scramble across the now steeply-sloping gantry and reach the door just in time to scramble through and slam it behind them once they are through and in the lobby. Behind them, the raucous sound of multiple Miniguns opening up at point-blank range finishes abruptly as it starts with an enormous crashing sound and the triumphant roar of a single surviving Allosaur)

General, make a note to order me some more Guards.

Will do Sir,

Excuse me.

No problem.

(Doctor Sinister heads to a desk and picks up a telephone handset) Harmony? Yes, yes it’s me. Yes, I do realise what time it is, but that’s what I pay you for. What? Yes…yes…yes I am the guy with the eyepatch. Look, I haven’t got time for this. Call the Guard and tell them we have a Code 71 in progress. They’ll know what that means. And call the Hatchery and tell them to hold fire on any more specimens for a while. (Hangs up and turns to the General rather sheepishly) They’ll, erm, sort it out now.

Oh good.

Looks like we’re scrapping the Cavalry idea then.

Well, not really Sir. I mean, you do realise that you already have a Cavalry unit don’t you?

I do?

Well, yes my Lord, your Tank divisions. Tanks replaced Cavalry on the battlefield nearly a hundred years ago. They perform all the tasks of scouting, harassing and heavy assault. You really don’t need to be messing about with Dinosaurs.

(There is a metallic smashing sound and the door behind them begins to buckle. With impeccable timing, three dozen heavily armed but extremely nervous soldiers enter through another door)

Oh good, you made it. Jolly good. There’s the door – stop my little pet coming through and I’ll give the survivors the weekend off. Good luck! (To the General) Excellent news about the Cavalry General. Let’s go somewhere more comfortable to talk this over.

I think this is a very good idea my Lord…

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A J Summersgill and Jim H. Moreno

andrew@armchairgeneral.com

jim@armchairgeneral.com

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