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Diesel Pulp Allied Troops

Diesel Pulp Allied Infantry
Top, Left to Right: US Light Infantry medic, three US Medium Infantry (anti-armor, close combat, flamethrower, all in unpowered armor), two US  Heavy Infantry (combat support, flamethrower, in powered armor), and one US “Rough House” AT2 Gun Carrier (walker equivalent of an armed jeep)
Bottom, Left to Right: two Allied Special Unit Light Infantry (Pacific Theater, the Yelling Yahoos; one with captured Japanese Death Ray rifle and one with an experimental Power Arm, both with captured Tokubetsu Kōgekitai swords), one Free Corps mercenary (European Theater, the Minuteman Militia) and two Irregulars (All-American Girl, with her Boom Gun and Tomastic Sword; and Sky King with his Jetpack, SpectraGoggles, and Colt 1911a .45).

diesel-pulp-troops

These are for my ’49 setting I play around with as a hobby. I have shots of kitbashed walkers here and here, and talk more about the technology of the fictional setting here. and have a history of some of that tech here.

The Light Infantry medic is a rebased HeroClix
The Medium Infantry are Dust Tactics troops
The Heavy Infantry are Grindhouse Games APE suits for their Incursion game.
The Gun Carrier is a West Wind Productions Commanche battle suit
The Yahoos are rebased Heroscape.
The Free Corps is a repaint HorrorClix.
All-American Girl is a Heroclix Liberty Belle, with a modded-in gun and sword (and she’ll eventually have a US flag on her chest instead of a bell)
Sky King is a modified Lobster Johnson IndyClix (with the lobster claw removed from his chest, and Jango Fett’s jetpack from WotC’s Star Wars line)

 

Diesel Pulp Kitbash Project: White Tsar Tank

 

In the ’49 setting, the Crimea remains under the control of the White Russians, loyalists to the Russian monarchy despite losing most of their territory to the Soviet Union. The White Russians are commanded by Anastasia the Great, also known as the “Black Duchess,” the last surviving child of Czar Nicholas II. Anastacia is a military genius with a reputation for ambushes and nasty surprises, a lifetime of conflict, and a cabal of loyal psychic stranniks with mysterious ties to the legendary Rasputin.

One of the things that has allowed the Black Duchess is hold on to the Crimea as the last gasp of the Russian Empire is that rather than build walkers (which her tiny empire simply lacks the resources to design or maintain), she depends primarily on the mighty White Tsar rolling heavy armor units. Faster and cheaper than walkers and more reliable than the legendarily finicky tracked vehicles, the White Tsar remains the only wheeled heavy armor unit in the war. Though the original Tsar wheeled mecha was too heavy to move, by using what Martian-derived technology is available to her on a revised wheeled design for a huge mobile cannon platform, the Black Dutchess has created a mobile mecha unit that performs very well, and which traditional anti-mecha tactics don’t work well against.

I plan to kitbash a “White Tsar” tank model. Here we have a picture of the real-world Tsar Tank prototype, circa 1914. This thing was massive, but never worked well. In the ’49 setting, many of its shortcomings were solved and, while it was never a great armor unit, it remained active through the Russian Civil War, almost exclusively in the hands of the White Army.

I have a model of the also-real-world VsKfz 617 Minenraumer prototype, a German minesweeper vehicle design, circe 1942. Clearly much smaller than the Tsar, it’s also a trike design, though it replaces 22-foot tall bicycle wheels with 7-8 foot pedrail wheels. Like the Tsar, it was slow and a terrible idea, and never put into production. But I plan to use a 1/35 model VsKfz 617 as the basis for my White Tsar  in the ’49 setting. Since my models are generally 1/48/O Scale/28mm, a 1/35 VsKfz 617 will look MUCH bigger, as fitting for my White Tsar II.

Also above is an illustration of a KV-2, an actual WWII Russian tank. The KV-2 has a distinctive, enormous turret. I plan to mount a 1/48 KV-2 model turrent on the 1/35 VsKfz 617 body to create the mythical White Russian.

Below, a mock up of the design.

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Tripod Toys and Diesel Pulp

My Diesel Pulp Nazis in the ’49 setting I play with are going to have “pocket tripods” as late-1930s designs they still use variants of in 1949 as light walkers. To represent these, I plan to kitbash from these McDonald’s Happy Meal “BLACK MANTA Launcher” toys I picked up on Ebay for about $7 each with shipping. Here they are unmodified next to a DUST Tactics German walker and a HeroClix heroine.

My Diesel Pulp setting assumes that the War of the Worlds happened, and involved multiple waves, one in 1899, and a second in 1903, both while Mars is in opposition to Earth. The first invasion goes very much as described in The War of the Worlds, but the second lasts until 1907 and was a significantly broader conflict. They are known as the First and Second Wars of the Worlds, and these events changed history forever.

At first Martian technology is too advanced for Earth’s governments to unravel, but eventually the secrets of compression gears, genetic chemistry, etheric generators, Cavorite, N-rays, odic forces, and red mercury began to be revealed to the nations of the world, though often at great cost and consequence, and unevenly. Some nations specialize in specific applications of just one or two of those technologies, while some secrets are unlocked only by a few specific geniuses.

As a result of these two invasions, the Russo-Japanese War, the Russian Revolution of 1905, first and second Balklans Wars, and World War One do not occur. There are many minor conflicts that do occur in the altered time and one major conflict, the largest of which is the Triples War, which is essentially a shorter version of WWI that is restricted to a conflict between the Triple Entente (the British Empire, France and the Russian Empire) versus the Triple Alliance (Germany, Austria-Hungary, and Italy). However this conflict runs only from to January 1915 to March 1917. Importantly, the United States, Japan, the Ottoman Empire, and Bulgaria do not enter the war. The Triples War did include the development of trench warfare, and it was also the first time major powers used Martian-derived technologies against one another.

Perhaps most importantly was the development of mecha, heavily armored mechanized units, specifically walkers and tracked vehicles. Because Martians had very advanced technology, and depended on walking machines (especially their tripod fighting machines, but also their working machines and excavators) a broad school of military thinkers concluded that “walkers” were clearly superior to wheeled vehicles of any kind. It was generally assumed that the fact compression gears and etheric generators were able to easily power an articulated limb, that the increased mobility of a walker was a clear advantage over any other form. After all, God had made man a walker, rather than some wheeled creature.

In Germany, a pragmatic school of planners argued that while armored legs might function better than wheels, advancements in tread technology for tractors could create a rolling war machine that would be faster, more stable, and present a lower profile than any walking design. Walker designs were clearly extremely complex, and the flexible all-compression-gear design of Martial fighting machines was well beyond any Earth nation. But as the death rates for trench warfare during the Triples War skyrocketed, the need for some mobile, armored, armed, trench-crossing machine became clear to both sides.

The British build the first Earth-designed walkers to be used in a military conflict, and both Britain and France fielded simple walker designs beginning in February 1916. The British Type I was a small two-man walker, with a driver sitting low in a central cabin that was taller than it was wide or long, and a gunner/commander sat above him. The Type I’s legs could fold up to its sides in such a way that if it was knocked over or fell, it could “squat” which would cause it to right itself, and then stand again. Though its external weapon sponsons (placed where “arms” would go in a humanoid figure) were not designed for climbing, operators soon found the strong, flexible legs and longer cannon-sponson would allow it to climb up and down the sides of trenches, albeit slowly.

Germany instead developed the A7V*, a tracked “Sturmpanzerwagen” (roughly “armored assault vehicle”). The A7V had a crew of 18, six machine guns and one Maxim-Nordenfelt cannon. It had poor off-road capability and a high center of gravity, which made it prone to getting stuck or overturning on steep slopes. It was also hot, slow, under-armored, and under-armed.

The first mecha against mecha combat in history took place on 24 April 1918 when three A7Vs met three Type Is (two armed with just machine guns, and one with two 4-pounder guns) near Villers-Bretonneux. During the battle, the machine-gun armed Type Is were damaged and fell back, unable to significantly impact the A7Vs. The remaining Type I then attacked the lead German sturmpanzerwagen with its two 4-pounders and knocked it out (killing five of its crew). The Type I then managed to damage the tracks of both remaining A7Vs. Their crews fled, which began a route among the German forces present.

The lesson learned by military planners of the time was that tracked vehicles were unreliable and, as suspected, Martians had depended on walkers because their advanced science had proven the designs universally superior for the role of front-line fighting mecha. This is arguably the wrong lesson, but it was largely accepted as “proven doctrine” by the nations of the Earth. While wheeled and tracked vehicles were still designed for personnel carriers, artillery, and support vehicles, all major militaries turned to walkers for the vast majority of their armored mecha designs. By the time the First Global War began in 1939, hundreds of walker and support mecha designs existed worldwide.

I have shots of other kitbashed walkers here and here, and talk more about the technology of the fictional setting here.

*The A7V really is the real-world German effort at tanks in WWI, and it really was a terrible design. That design really faced Brittish forces at the time and palce mentioned above, but I replaced the British units in that first real world tank-on-tank battlewith walkers, so Diesel Pulp’s first-and-only walker vs tank battle is responsible for the rise of walkers as military designs. This helps hammer home that however bad an idea a walker is for 1940s-era combat, there’s a reason they are at the forefront of heavy armored units in my ’49 setting.

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’49 –  Léo Saint-Clair (Part One)

Léo strained his sight and hearing to the outer limits of their power. It was an act of will now, as instinctive as walking, to focus on the meditation that controlled his augmentations. Causing the right blood vessels to expand or contract had taken him months to master, and for a time he feared the core design was flawed. But just as an infant learned to walk, he had learned to master his new eyes, ears, lungs, and heart. The extra power did cause the augmentations to heat uncomfortably, but Léo knew he was in no danger as long as he didn’t maintain the effort too long.

The thick fog coming up off the Nançon River made the bridge spanning the river hazy, but even that could not hide the looming wall beyond, or the massive Saint-Sulspice Gate just on the bridge’s far side. Normal eyes would have picked out little more than the wall’s shape in the dim light the few lightposts provided, but Léo’s augmented eyes were far from normal. Ultraviolet and infrared light flooded the nighttime scene, allowing him to make out the Vichy and Nazi flags hung along the wall, the guards on both the wall and bridge, and even the glint of snipers in the towers of Castle Fougères further beyond the wall.

“Well?”

Léo glanced at the speaker, the largest of the three figures lurking in the church behind him. The only American in the group, the man had originally spent weeks trying to communicate in his broken French. But since Léo and his compatriots all spoke excellent English, and generally used it in preference to suffering through his French, the man had long since given up the effort. Léo kept his voice low.

“Lupin was right, as usual, Captain Challenger. There’s an actual Nazi contingent here, and Fougères’ defenses have been significantly strengthened. Something is definitely going on here. As to whether the Professor himself is here… it is too soon to say. He stopped flying his own pennant after Marianne nearly killed him in Bordeaux last year.”

Challenger shifted his stance uncomfortably and glanced over at Marianne. The petite French woman flashed him a smile that appeared genuine, but lasted only a fraction of a second. Léo knew to look at her right hand’s grip on her pike, and saw her clenched knuckles were white. Marianne had been fighting the Axis since before Léo’s modern memories began, and Professor Ragnarok has been her chief target for much of that time. It was a credit to her iron will that she was able to stand, apparently calm, and wait in the church with the rest of them when her most hated foe might be asleep less than two kilometers away.

Challenger glanced back at Léo. “So, do we hit them or not? We can still cross through the water, using the bridge for cover, then sneak over the gate… ”

Marianne shook her head curtly, and her voice held no sign of the growing desire to act she must be feeling.

Non, Captain. If Professor Ragnarok is within, he’ll have packs of kreighunds patrolling. We’d be discovered immediately. If he is NOT within, then we lack the reconnaissance to know where the high value target is, or even what it is. Lupin’s analysis can only tell us that something vital is being held here by the Boches. We cannot afford to stab blindly into a fortification this size. If Le Nyctalope,” she inclined her head toward Léo, “identifies a potential target with his observations we can consider a plan to breach. Otherwise, we wait for Fantômas to flush the target out, or contact us with a map leading to something we can strike at clandestinely. As planned.”

Challenger frowned. “We wait how long?”

Léo shrugged. “As long as it takes, or until Lupin informs us he has a better lead. I did warn you, Captain. Fighting with the Maquis de Masque isn’t like the fighting you have done with the army. We cannot engage the enemy in direct, open conflict. The unorthodox nature of our goals and agents often leads to unorthodox solutions, and those are difficult to time to the minute. Or even to the day. Schedules for our missions are approximations, at best. Fantômas has had only a day longer than we have. We should get comfortable, and rest in shifts. This may take days. Perhaps weeks.”

Captain Challenger’s jaw chewed, though he didn’t seem to have anything to chew on. He moved back from the stained glass window, where Léo was keeping watch, and sat on a pew next to a young man who made up the fourth member of the team within the church, Wasp, who was casually laying along a pew while  wearing a chauffer’s uniform with a domino mask and a wasp embroidered on his shoulder.

Challenger seemed to get through whatever he’d be chewing on.

“I don’t like letting Fantômas operate on his own, either. I don’t trust him.”

Wasp, sitting up and moving next to him, clapped Challenger on the back and laughed.

“Of course you don’t trust him. Lupin doesn’t trust him. I would guess no one trusts him. He’s a murderer and a madman. I wouldn’t have been surprised if he has chosen to support the Vichy, given his ties to Germany. But he didn’t, and he’s nothing if not prideful. As long as he sees the occupation as the greater insult than working with us, he’ll hold up his end of things. At least that’s what Doctor Sun keeps telling me. And the Doctor has a great deal more experience with him than any of us.”

Challenger frowned, but leaned back and relaxed into the pew. Despite his size he blended into the shadows of the darkened church well, thanks to his dark green uniform, standard issue for an American Army Ranger save for the arming sword slung from his belt between a canteen and an ammo pouch.

“And were is Doctor Sun? Wasn’t the plan to rendezvous here?”

Léo winced at the entirely-American pronunciation of rendez-vous, but nodded.

“Yes Captain, that was the original plan. But after arriving and doing a brief recon, the Doctor felt it wiser to stay in reserve and I must say I agree. We may need to move swiftly through the streets, or flee into the swamps, and in either case the Doctor is better served ensuring our… transportation… remains in top shape. It… it does require regular maintenance, and if it’s spotted by sympathizers who get word to any member of the Zweckforschung, much less Ragnarok… ”

Captain Challenger gave a wry grin. “It… it is pretty distinctive, isn’t it?”

“Not always,” Wasp interjected. “As long as the Doctor isn’t threatened, and it can restrict itself to roads, it’s a fairly typical Rolls Royce Silver Ghost. Unusual, sure, but not unknown. Heck, Lenin had one, though his was a halftrack. It’s sound is distinctive, sure, but if it’s not running, it can blend in fairly well.”

Oui,” replied Marianne, with a slightly longer-lasting smile. “But a stationary car isn’t very good back-up, no?”

Wasp opened his mouth, but his retort was lost as the room’s shadows were replaced for a moment by glaring brightness. Light briefly flashed through the church’s stained glass, flooding the interior with a riot of colors. A split second later a thunderclap shook the rafters, and the shadows rushed back. Léo spun to look out the window, his optics picking up a billowing column of smoke, throbbing with infrared light, gushing up from somewhere within Castle Fougères, well beyond the Saint-Sulspice Gate. A second sun-bright light flashed within the interior of the castle grounds, his augmented eyes automatically tinting to prevent blindness as the glare of temporary daylight presaged another church-rattling explosion. One of Fougères’ far towers, barely visible even to Léo, was now missing its upper half and belching fire and soot. He spoke without turning away from the scene outside.

“That would be Fantômas. We should presume he’s flushing prey toward us.”

“Holy mackerel.” Challenger replied quietly.

Sirens began to wail, first just within the castle grounds but shortly thereafter throughout the surrounding town.

Marianne had flattened herself on the far side of the window Léo was looking out of, cracking it open so her unaugmented eyes could see better.

“I think he’s got them thinking it’s an air raid, targeting the castle itself. If they have anything crucial, they’ll certainly move it. But will they take this road?”

Léo nodded.

“Fantômas knows where our vantage was. If he’s flushing a target, he’ll have ensured they’ll come by here. I have no idea how he’ll have managed that, but his record speaks for itself. Wasp?”

The young man hopped to Léo’s side.

“Dash across the street to the cobbler’s shop. Stay out of sight! Depending on what the Nazi’s are moving and how they’re transporting it, we may need to have you slip on board, rather than ambush them. Use your best judgement.”

Without a word, Wasp jogged to the church door. He barely seemed to open it, slipping through and disappearing quickly into night which was quickly adding smoke to its concealing cloak of fog.

Another explosion shook the church.

“Good lord almighty!” Challenger exclaimed. “What the blazes is he using to hit them as hard as an airship barrage?”

Marianne shrugged. “Perhaps an airship. Or warheads smuggled in on hay carts. Or he may have found their munition dump and spread around their own bombs. Fantômas is a maestro, and his preferred symphony is mass murder. He set fire to an entire city to cover a single art heist, killing thousands to modestly enrich himself. He’s the Devil, and I put nothing past him.”

She turned to Challenger and gave a toothy, decidedly predatory, smile.

“But for now, he’s our devil.”

Previous entries in ’49

Jenkins

Carcaso

Kol

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’49 – Kol

It was cold in the Box. Kol knew it was always cold, and he sniffed to see if something was making it seem colder. His stomach growled, and if he had smelled food he could not reach that would have been colder. There was the faint scent of smoke and burn, which made his spine cold, but that wasn’t new. The Workers had been smelling smoke for more than the day. Gray light filtered in through the cracks of the Box. The light did make Kol cold. It was a bad light. A pain light.

Pain was very cold.

He pressed closer to his workmates for warmth. Kol was on the outside of the nestle, so he was colder than those further in. Kol knew he was among the biggest of the Workers. He could force his way closer to the center of the nestle if he wanted to. Maybe not the very middle – the Workers would complain, and while no one Worker was stronger than him, Workers together could do more than a Worker alone. The Bright Lady had taught all the Workers this truth, and Kol had seen the truth himself.

Thinking of the Bright Lady made Kol warmer for a moment, but when he realized she wasn’t in the Box, he became the coldest he could recall being. Of course the Bright Lady didn’t sit in Boxes. But knowing she was not nearby drew away his heat. His head sunk down, and a soft moan escaped his lips.

Gris, the Worker to Kol’s knife-side, placed a hand on Kol’s shoulder, then brushed the back of his hand past Kol’s cheek. Kol took the hand, and pressed it to his face. It was cool, but warmer than Kol’s face. That Gris would offer the comfort was warmer, still.

Together, Workers were stronger than apart.

The Box had a pattern. A sway to one side. Two kathunks, one louder than the other. A sway back. It was all the Box offered. Sway. KATHUNK, ka-thunk. Sway. The Workers swayed with the Box, and sometimes nodded with its kathunks. It wasn’t warm, but it was something to do. They knew the Box. They understood it. It was when it changed the Workers were unsure what to do. Sometimes change was warm.

But not often.

Thunder echoed in the distance, and may of the smaller Workers near the middle of the nestle whimpered and one, Kol thought it might have been little Ys, cried. Kol wanted to cry, too, but he felt the chill growing over all the Workers. If he cried, he who was among the strongest Workers with the biggest hands, then all the Workers would feel the chill that fire could not drive away. He knew he had to ignore the cold, and ignore the thunder. He snorted, derisively, then gave a soft grunt. Several Workers near him chuckled at his grunt, and the whimpering grew softer. Gris grinned at Kol, baring both slashing-teeth, and thumped Kol’s side with the back of a hand. Kol grinned back.

Workers were stronger than cold.

Workers had to Work, but that was okay. The Bright Lady gave them Work, and told them they were all equal. She was a Planner, one of those whose Work was more than others, and who made sure Work was not wasted. The Bright Lady was the first smell Kol remembered, from his time in the First Place. Like all his workmates, Kol had been taught to talk, and to use voice sounds to emulate talking. She had given him his uniform, and his knife. She had taught him how to hate the Bourj, and how to use his knife to free the Bourj’s slaves. That Work always made Kol sad. A Bourj slave looked a lot like a Worker once you freed them, except for the blood.

Not all Workers could do the Work. But Kol, and his workmates in the Box, had been praised and rewarded by the Bright lady many times. They had, she said, earned the right to have Rifles, as gifts from the Father.

Kol looked forward to meeting the Father. But apparently the Father lived far way. They had been in the Box a long time, waiting to get to the Father.

From outside the Box, the metal screams warned of a sudden jerk. No Worker liked the metal screams, but Kol had learned they sometimes meant change. And the Box was cold, so change might be good. When food came, it was after a jerk. And the quiet time was always after a jerk.

The metal scream weakened, and the sway and kathunks became uneven. Many Workers chittered their unease. None liked the Box, but steady was better than uneven. Kol did not chitter. He disliked uneven, but this always happened after a long metal scream. It was a kind of even, just one few Workers knew.

No kathunk. No sway.

The thunder continued, sometimes louder, sometimes not. There were pops as well, and slams, and sizzles. The smoke smell was stronger, and had many different smokes. Wood smoke, Kol knew that one well. Oil smoke, too. And hair. And flesh.

Kol did not think this change from the Box would be warm.

The silence in the Box was colder than the swaying kathunks. Kol could hear Planners make voice noises outside, and Tall Workers. They were not calm. When Planners were not calm, it meant a plan had gone wrong. Planners could not fix bad plans. All they could do was tell Workers and Tall Workers how to fix it. Tall Workers didn’t work as well as Workers, and many thought they were Planners, too. But they didn’t have the Brights the Planners did, and their plans were often bad for Workers.

Real plans were bad for Workers too, sometimes, but that couldn’t be helped. It was important for other Workers that each Worker try to finish a plan.

The side of the Box growled, and slid away. The gray light flooded in, and the nestle broke apart as other Workers moved away from the colder air. Kol was near the open side, and did not move away. He turned, to look out of the box.

Four Tall Workers, one with a rifle, stood in the open side of the Box. They were voice noising, loudly. Kol knew he knew the words, but he didn’t care yet. Beyond the Box were many Tall Workers, and they chattered. Some had a Bright marking them as little Planners, and these yelled at the Tall Workers without Brights. Kol realized there were many Boxes, rows and rows of them, sitting on the metal lines that carried them. They stretched out as far as he could see. Boxes. Tall Workers. Little Planners. Yelling, shoving rifles into Tall Workers hands. If there was a plan here, it had already gone bad. Kol felt his lips peeling back from his slashing-teeth. Bad plans were very, very cold.

“I said move!”

One of the Tall Workers standing in the side of the box grabbed Ys, and began hauling her out of the Box. Ys’s closest brother Yan, grabbed at her. No Worker would try to separate Ys and Yan, but the Tall Worker didn’t know better. Gris moved forward, using his hands to quickly flash a few words of explanation. Kol began to use his voice sounds to make words, to remind Gris most Tall Workers couldn’t communicate properly.

Then the Tall Worker hit Gris with the butt of his rifle. Gris was surprised, and fell, raising one long arm to protect himself.

“Get away from me, you freaks! And move out now!”

Kol felt his face furrow. Tall Workers and Workers didn’t hit each other, unless the ones being hit were breaking the Law. The Bright Lady had taught them that over and over. She had spoken of making sure Workers never hit Tall Workers, but obviously the rule went both ways. They were all Workers. They were all equal. They’d been told this.

The Workers behind Kol shuddered. Other Tall Workers grabbed Ys and dragged her away from the Box, throwing her down on the ground by the metal line. Blood leaked from her cheek, matting the soft hair covering her face. The red color and iron smell immediately warmed Kol. When a Worker bled, other Workers made it stop.

The Tall Workers grabbed Gris’s foot, and began to drag him out too. Kol didn’t know if these were actually Bourj, or if the rule against Workers hitting Workers was gone, but it didn’t matter. He knew how to stop Tall ones from hurting his Workmates. His hand dropped to his long knife, and he bared his slashing-teeth. Behind him, he heard the sound of three dozen palms slapping on knife-handles.

“Idiots! Stop this right NOW!”

The Bright Lady leaped over Ys, and into the Box. Her long coat was not as clean, and its many Brights were not as shiny, but Kol knew her scent and sound immediately. As she used her voice sounds on the Tall Workers, her hands spoke to Kol and his workmates. Wait, beloved Workers. She flashed with one firm hand.

If she’s said to stop, Kol wasn’t sure if he would have. Not even for the beloved Bright Lady. Not once blood was in the air. But she’d saved them many times by having them wait. Wait until night, when the Tall ones don’t see as well. Wait until the Bourj slaves walk past, then drop on their backs. Wait until the spoiled Planner is gone, then go back to doing things the right way.

Wait was a warm word. Kol waited, hand on his knife, and focused on her Voice.

“ …closer to death than you’ll ever know. Get back, and leave this to me.”

“Ye… yes commissar. We didn’t think… ”

“Obviously!” The Bright Lady’s voice was full of scorn. Kol knew the shame that Voice could bring, and the Tall Workers hung their heads with cold disgrace. They were, Kol thought, not that different from his workmates.

As the Tall Workers moved away from the Box, the Bright Lady’s knife-hand told Gris to pick up Ys, and bring her close. Her other hand flashed words to the Workers in the Box.

“Our Great Father is threatened, and this is why we are here. The Bourj and their slaves attack and burn his home. You can smell it now! He wanted you to have homes here, but the Bourj have burned your homes!”

Kol felt warm anger slowly fill him. The Great Father loved them so much! And if it weren’t for the Bourj, the workers could have lived here, with the Tall Workers. And then the Tall Workers would learn to work with them, as they worked with each other.

Gris brought Ys to the Bright Lady, who crouched down and cradled the small worker to her. Other Tall Ones often turned their heads, and avoided touching the hair on a Worker’s face or arms, but the Bright Lady stroked Ys, and cooed at her while keeping her hand talking.

“Good Workers, it is time to fight. We do not want to fight, but we know we must, for all Workers everywhere. You were promised rifles for this fight, but the Bourj took them. We no longer have enough rifles for all. And the Tall Workers, they are weak, and afraid. This is why they lashed out at you, in confusion and fear. You all know their weaknesses. They cannot climb as you do, or do red Work with their knives. We will let them have the few rifles here, for they are too fragile without them. We will forgive them for their weakness.”

Kol had only fired a rifle a few times, in training, but he had looked forward to having his own. When the Bright Lady took them to do red Work and the Bourj had rifles, the rifles caused terrible hurt for Workers. Killed them.  But the Bright Lady was right. Tall Workers were not as good with knives as Kol, or any of his Workmates. And if they were afraid… Kol felt badly for the Tall Workers.

The Bright Lady kept her hand talking.

“Bourj slaves are attacking our Father’s city right now. The Tall Workers can hear the fight, but we can smell it. The city may… “ she paused. “The Father’s place is threatened. The Bourj want to make all of this a Bad Place.”

Kol found himself exposing his slashing-teeth again. Only a Bourj would make a bad place.

“But we will stop them! You, and I, my dear, dear workmates. The Bourj slaves have rifles, rifles meant for you. We will scent them out. We will find them, and do the red Work. And then, their rifles will be ours! And the Father will be pleased, and we will be honored!”

Kol slapped his knife, as did every workmate. Even little Ys, laying in the Bright lady’s lap, slapped the handle of her knife.

Kol felt very warm. There was WORK to be done.

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’49 – Carcaso

Lt. Carcaso scanned the mountain pass as best she could under the circumstances. The Reade Goggles she’d been issued could pierce the darkness nearly as well as a German Vampir scope, though the image was all in shades of green, but even it was hindered by the heavy, wet snow falling around them. Smoke was still curling up from at least three fortified positions where the USS Savannah had dropped a half-dozen hundred-pounders. The crew of the “Savvy Sav” had a well-deserved reputation for being among the most accurate airship bombers in the Allied Forces, and the fact that a group of slightly crazed irregulars had successfully snuck into the pass to mark the positions with flares had helped.

But the Savannah had moved on to support the Copenhagen Offensive, and the irregulars had warned in advance they were moving on to find some secret underground castle beyond the pass. That left Lt. Carcaso’s weapon platoon to claim the pass itself and hold it until larger units of the Expeditionary Forces caught up to them, or they were ordered to move on to an active front. They’d taken some casualties getting this far, and the situation might have been impossible if the Savannah hadn’t swing by to lend a hand. But her troops still had two big 9kw Tesla tripods, the Browning H2MB, and three BARs. Those would hold a pass against anything short of actual armor units, as long as juice and ammo held.

If they were dug into the pass. Not if they were sitting in the open at one end, staring at it.

Carcaso glanced over her shoulder, and sure enough Gunnery Sgt. Macklin was hovering nearby.

“Thoughts, Gunney?”

Carcaso had learned he would tell her what he thought whether she asked or not, and asking meant it looked less like he didn’t trust her to know how to fight a war. Sergeants classically didn’t trust lieutenants with as little field experience as she had in any case, and Carcaso had nothing but respect for anyone who had survived the ’44 disaster and won a bronze V doing so.  But Macklin was also struggling to adapt to the “Rosie the Rifleman” act of ’47, and it was a struggle he lost as often as he won. She’d never been concerned she’d have to actually draw her pistol on him, unlike a few men in training, but Carcaso had to constantly consider how Macklin would react to any order she gave, and how his reaction would affect the other marines.

To be honest, it was exhausting. She was here to fight the Axis, not the men under her command.

But Macklin was experienced and competent, in purely military matters, and if keeping that experience for the benefit of her platoon meant dancing around his prejudices and limitations that was, after all, the job.

Macklin was tall, well over six-and-a-half feet, but also the thinnest human being Carcaso had ever met. Rumor claimed he’d be a carnival thin man before the war, and as ridiculous as that sounded she could believe it. His neck stuck out of the collar of his uniform like a pencil rattling around in a mug sitting on an desk, and his gnarled adam’s apple fought with the kriegshund-bite scars just below his jaw to draw your eyes into a stare. His face looked just a hint too thin to be normal, and was pockmarked with pits and thin white lines, one of which split his upper lip.

He took one long stride to be next to her, sucked on the right half of his upper lip, and scanned the pass. Carcaso had no idea what he could be looking for, at night, in snow, without optics, but she knew from experience he wasn’t wasting time. She mentally counted down from five, wondering if this would be the magic moment when his timing was different.

As she reached “0,” he spoke.

“I don’t like it, ma’am.”

Carcaso didn’t wince anymore when he forgot female officers were always to be addressed with their rank by those in their command. Lord knew she’d be called worse than ‘ma’am.’

Macklin continued. “Those pillboxes weren’t just dugouts, but they also weren’t hardened at all. Sure, there’s nothing you can do if a Brooklyn-class airship takes a dislike to you, but those didn’t just break, they’re gone. A couple of Garlands, or any heavy walker, could’ve hammered them hard enough to crack without much bother.

“That means the Heinies didn’t expect their fortitifications to be enough to hold the gap from heavy walkers or artillery. But given the state of things, they wouldn’t have hauled in the materials to build full bunkers unless they thought they could hold the pass against any reasonable threat. There’s no way they expected us to grab local air superiority, we sure as shi… shoot didn’t expect it. So they were thinking in terms of armor. And if you have the time and supply lines to haul in munitions and engineers and build actual bunkers, and you don’t expect your guns to stop heavy units…”

Carcaso nodded. “Mines.”

Macklin grimaced. “They’d have to be set up so the weight of the snow won’t trigger them. We might be able to move troops over them safely, but the Teslas… “

Carcaso shook her head firmly.

“Too great a risk. And we have other options. Send some scouts to extend our perimeter, Gunney, and get the Teslas set up. If we have contact with anything too dangerous, we’ll open up with the lightning guns along the ground toward the pass’s mouth. HQ says that should detonate any mine the Krauts have access to, but we all know HQ can be wrong. If no one rushes us, we’ll let Ford handle it. And if there’s still something nasty in the pass, the Teslas can offer him cover fire.”

Macklin nodded, turned, and started barking orders. It was, Carcaso admitted to herself, something he was very good at. As long as someone told him what to do, or there was a fight raging and no time to think, Macklin was an amazing leader. It was only when decisions had to be made in the long silence, when there was ample opportunity to second-guess himself, that Macklin became too hidebound to adapt to a situation.

One of the sergeant’s barked orders caught the attention of the only member of Carcaso’s platoon taller than Macklin himself. The figure jerked to its feet, its head turning until it was centered on the lieutenant, then it marched toward her in even, if stilted, strides.

The metal man was slightly over seven feet tall, and painted in surprisingly bright green, though in several places the dull gray of his chassis showed through the paint’s chips and scratches. A “Big Tommy” .50 cal was slung over his left shoulder, leather and canvas pouches were strapped to his chest and legs, and a transport pack was mounted on his back, though instead of a blanket roll it had a chain wrapped around the top like a horseshoe. A single red shield device on the center of his chest had “R.U.R.” written in large letters, and “4D-4RS1T” in smaller type stamped beneath that.

He marched at a constant pace to stand exactly three feet from Carcaso, then stopped with a jerk.

“Re. Por. Ting. As. Ore. Derd. Lew. Ten. Ant.”

As always, Ford’s voice was flat, emotionless, and choppy. It has taken her nearly a week to consistently be able to understand him but now it was second nature to her. As was the more crucial task of giving him orders he wouldn’t reject as violations of his core commands.

“Ford, we have reason to believe the approach to the pass, and possibly the pass itself, are mined. These areas are now your current field of operation. Examine the field with normal caution, superseding secondary and tertiary duties. Any detected mine should be eliminated with maximum combined safety and expediency. If no acceptable parameters allow for this, mark the mine or return for consultation. If a primary duty interrupts the operation, return for confirmation of this operation after fulfilling the primary duty. Analyze operational parameters and suspend for adjustment if any violation of core commands is detected.”

Ford stood, motionless, and Carcaso was convinced she could hear a faint hum coming from his chest. Then his arms bent backwards and unhooked the chain from his transport pack, coiling it in a loop in his right arm. He lifted the Big Tommy and without looking hooked it behind his head onto pegs where the chain had just been. Once that was done he marched in the same quick but stilted gait toward the pass.

As soon as he reached the last “clear” flag at the edge of their position, he stopped. His body bent down, and he jabbed his left hand into the snow. Carcaso was too far away to hear or feel it, but she knew he’d just sent a ping into the frozen earth beneath the snowpack. He remained crouched for fifteen seconds, then stood, took five swift, stilted steps, and repeated the process.

When she’d signed up for officer school, Carcaso has been repeatedly told she be in command of a mixed-gender unit. Women were needed now as pilots, mechanics, and specialists in front-line roles, and US Command wanted very much for all front-line female military personnel to be assigned in large groups and always with a woman in the command structure. Carcaso hadn’t cared, but given how often her instructors had told her that was absolutely happening, it was what she’d come to expect.

But nothing is certain in war or politics. Edvard Beneš, resigned president of the First Czechoslovak Republic and now a visiting professor at the University of Chicago, had convinced someone in the US military to smuggle Alquist Fabry out of Czechoslovakia with the only copies of the full plans for constructing Rossum’s Universal Robots. With Rossum dead, his early research in Nazi hands, and his lone factory destroyed, it had been determined at the highest levels that the US could not allow an automaton technology gap between the Axis and the Allies. Early American-manufactured R.U.R. models, Ford included, had been tested in the same facilities where Carcaso was trained.

Working with Robots in the field proved difficult, but Carcaso had a knack for it. She and Ford consistently performed in the top 5% when teamed together, and hadn’t had a single pitchfork incident. Given how few Robots were available for the Expeditionary Force, it had made sense to assign Ford to her weapon platoon.

However, fearing some kind of horrible incident that would somehow sap the will of America to fight, Congress had decided no Robot would be assigned to any unit including enlisted women. So rather than be the officer of a mixed gender unit, Carcaso was put in charge of a veteran squad of 28 men who had never served with a woman, much less been commanded by one, and one Robot.

Ford paused, nearly a hundred feet away now, and stayed in a crouch for a full minute. Then he uncoiled the chain around his right arm. Gripping the last 3 links in his hand, he lashed the chain forward at an angle, swinging the hundred pounds of metal with ease. Where the very end of the chain slammed into the ground, an explosion shot up instantly. Snow, smoke, dirt, and shrapnel were flung out in all directions. Some fell on Ford, but did nothing more than scratch his paint. He began to re-coil the somewhat shorter chain.

Carcaso allowed herself a smile. Ford was worth dozens of human fighting men or women, and she was proud of their work together. There had been some unpleasantness early in her command, and she knew there’d be more in the future. But if it meant unleashing the full power of Ford on the enemy, it was worth it.

Besides, the Robot never forgot to call her by her rank.

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Diesel Pulp US Walkers

Medium

Diesel Pulp US Walkers a1

I’m making progress on my US walkers for Diesel Pulp.

The S4a1, a2, and a3 Mulholland Medium Walkers were among the most common walkers in the First Global War, and the US manufactured more than 50,000 of them. Originally conceived as an all-purpose armor unit, its ability to match German units — Gautaz Light Walkers and the Teiwaz Medium walker — when put into service by the British in 1942 lead American military planners to believe no heavier armor unit was required. However, by the middle of the Global War it was clear the mech’s light armament and thin armor could not compete with newer Wotan and Donar Medium Walkers, or even the Russian K34 Medium Walker. Though clearly more powerful than any light walker, it was often called “The lightest of the medium-weights.” Its stability and long-term combat staying power were second-to-none, but it simply wasn’t a match for mid- and late-war Medium walkers. Luckily, it was mass produced in vast numbers, so rarely was a single Mulholland tasked with taking an enemy Medium tank 1-on-1.
When the S26 Garland began production in 1944, many Mulhollands were retrofit as variants, and thousands continued to be produced as off-the-line variants. The Torchie flamethrower-variant was among the most common, designed to supplement combined arms attacks against fortifications, urban settings, or heavy infantry. Other late-war Mulhollands were converted to engineering walkers, walker recovery vehicles, self-propelled artillery, experimental weapon platforms, and mech hunters (with much heavier guns and open turrets).
The British successfully adapted the Mulholland to carry their heavy 17-pounder anti-armor gun, and the upgunned “Mulholland Wasp” was among the most popular walkers among British armor crews.

While disagreements about proper walker battle doctrine (especially the role of mech hunters and medium and heavy walkers) delayed the production of the S26 Garland until 1944, it quickly proved extremely effective in battle. Unlike the Mulholland, the Garland was heavy even for a Heavy Walker (and some historians claim it should properly be classified as a Superheavy Walker), and its two most common main armaments — a 90mm gun or a 1.21g Tesla cannon — remained effective against enemy armor for the duration of the war.

Where Does He Get Those Wonderful Toys?!

Since I’ve been playing with my Diesel Pulp models and setting, several people have asked where a lot of the visuals and models come from. So, a post!

My just-for-fun Diesel Pulp “Weird War” setting has an aesthetic that I understand, but can’t necessarily articulate. As a result there are lots of miniature lines that have some material appropriate for it, but few that are entirely on-model for the idea in my head. For mecha in particular, I want to avoid things that are too anthropormorphic (I don’t want just diesel gundam), or too “goofy” (which is entirely subjective).

My Diesel Pulp world is focused on 1949, toward the last years of the First Global War, and after the long-running Ward of the Worlds, when Martian Walkers nearly conquered the Earth. This is a world where tracks are simply not considered reliable for front-line armor units (though anywhere wheels were used in the real world, tracks or wheels may still be considered acceptable, such as cycles and combat cars), and walkers are generally accepted as superior. Some advanced technology exists, mostly in the form of lightning guns, though individual nations have death rays (Japan), sonic weapons (America), wind cannons (Germany), rockets (Germany), freeze rays (Russia), and so on.

Walkers are divided much as tanks were in WWII, with heavy walkers, medium walkers, and light walkers. Mech Hunters take the Tank Destroyer role. Tankettes and infantry support vehicles are mostly replaced with mechettes (usually but not always very light walkers) and gun carriers (ranging from armored jeeps to extremely heavy powered infantry). Infantry ranges down from heavy infantry (full powered armor) to medium infantry (unpowered armor and often heavy weapons) to light infantry (unarmored, generally organized as real-world infantry of the time was). Different nations have a few other special units, such as German Air Cavalry (rocketpack troops) and Japanese Tokubetsu Kōgekitai (特別攻撃隊 “Special Attack Unit” – elite troops using Martian metallurgy for Samurai and Ninja style weapons) and Kikusui (“floating chrysanthemums”) kite-troops (the only nation to recreate Martian antigravity at a personal troop level).

Occult elements exist, but are rare and largely psychic in nature. Things like zombies and vampires might occur in tiny numbers, but not to the degree that troops on any side expect or prepare for such things. Germans have limited access to dinosaurs (with Allied rumors unable to determine if they are from someplace in Africa, someplace in South America, or from a Hollow Earth with a secret access point), which are mostly deployed in Africa as Donnerkavallerie (“Thunder Cavalry”). Germans also have surgically uplifted canine and simian units, though both are fairly rare (based on real-world German claims to have trained dogs to talk). Russians use Humpanzee troops (based on the real-world work of Ilya Ivanovich Ivanov), who mature very quickly, allowing Russia to maintain high-casualty-rate troop wave attacks, and who must almost always be directed by a Commissar. These are often call Organgos by other Allied units.

So, with that background, what miniatures do I like as aesthetic matches for my Diesel Pulp setting? This is just a partial list. Note that while I own some of these, many others I have just picked as appropriate, without the budget or space to actually acquire them.

AE-WWII (Darkson Design)

These are all difficult to get hold of nowadays, which is a shame. The Tumbleweed (http://www.ebay.co.uk/itm/AE-WWII-American-T4-Tumbleweed-Tank-by-Darkson-Designs-/360853779570) is based on an actual idea from the 1930s and was featured in Popular Mechanics. It neatly matches my idea for American designs to include experiments not undertaken by other nations. Technically a light walker, (torturously justified with the idea it walks on its fins, though clearly it’s a rolling mech), the Tumbleweed’s three heavy machine guns and extremely heavy armor make it more than a match for anything with light armor, and utterly unable to take on any other light walker. As heavy infantry support it excels, but only America has the industrial capacity to built armor units designed to fight just infantry and unarmored vehicles. While the guts of thousands of Tumbleweeds were sent to Britain as part of the Lend-Lease act, the actual armor was so heavy it was considered cheaper to let Britain forge that themselves. Rather than do so, the British made Jackrabit gun carriers.

AT-43 (Rackham)

Most of the AT-43 line is much too sci-fi for my Dieselpulp needs, but the Red Blok mecha work well for Russian Walkers. I already have a modified Hussar (http://www.boardgames.ca/at-43miniaturesgamehussarredblokunitbox.aspx) and modified Urod (http://www.iguk.co.uk/products/hero-box-odin-01-manon-02-at43-6477.aspx) as Medium walkers, and use three modified Kolossus (http://www.boardgames.ca/at-43miniaturegameredblokunitboxstrielitzkolossus.aspx) as Russian gun carrier they think of as Heavy infantry. I could happily use a Molot (http://www.boardgames.ca/at-43miniaturegameredblokunitboxmolot.aspx) as another Medium walker, and a Dotch yaga (http://www.miniaturemarket.com/catalog/product/view/id/32605/s/rkh-rbc301/) as a heavy walker, if I could get them at reasonable prices.

Dystopian Legions (Spartan Games)

Most of Dystopian Legions is too Steampunk to fit well in my Diesel Pulp setting, but there are exceptions. Some Empire of the Blazing Sun troops (http://www.spartangames.co.uk/products/dystopian-world/dystopian-legions/empire-of-the-blazing-sun) work for Japanese Tokubetsu Kōgekitai (though not their “Ashigaru” troops), and the Rocket Corps (http://www.miniaturemarket.com/spgdlbs21.html) are perfect for the Kikusui.

The Ke Ho Ironclad (http://www.miniaturemarket.com/spgdlbs09.html) would make a great Interwar precursor to the American Tumbleweed from AE-WWII (if it weren’t so expensive). The Basset Takeneete (http://www.miniaturemarket.com/catalog/product/view/id/34459/s/spgdlkb33/) is a fine Tankette design, and I have two, which are likely to end up as Italian or Japanese Mechette designs.

The FSA armored infantry *might* work for Medium infantry, but the design looks a little too hurky to me. The normal FSA infantry (http://www.miniaturemarket.com/spgdlfs19.html) could work well for Brittish or German greatcoat troops, with a head swap and appropriate paint scheme. The FSA treadbike (http://www.miniaturemarket.com/spgdlfs33.html) is perfect for mechanized cavalry for Germany (who did half-track motorcycles in the real world, for heaven’s sake), against with a head swap. I thought I disliked the Brittania light dragoons (http://www.miniaturemarket.com/spgdlkb21.html) as too open-air, but have begun to wonder if they’d make good light mech hunters, designed to hit-and run with heavy weapons using something similar to tank destroyer doctrine.

The Prussian Teutonic Knights (http://www.miniaturemarket.com/spgdlpe22.html), however, make great German SS Heavy Infantry.

Dust Tactics (FFG when I was buying them, it’s less clear to me where to get them now).

I like all the German mecha, and all the regular light and medium infantry units. Like many miniature lines, there is a strong pin-up element to their female units, which annoys me but can be worked around with paint and green stuff. I dislike the 2-leg US and Russian walkers, and have other choices for those in my setting. The powered armor units generally look too modern for my aesthetic, and I have chosen different brands to fill those roles in my setting. I don’t much like the aircraft.

GZG (Daemonscape)

Most of these vehicles are too modern, but the GZG Spider HQ (http://www.daemonscape.com/contents/en-uk/d5.html) works well for an Interwar or light walker design. I suspect I’d end up making it German, despite my desire to give the US spider walkers, and my constant search for French, Italian, and Japanese dieselpulp walkers.

Mekatank (Mekatank)

Several of these I don’t like, but a few are good for Interwar walkers, light walkers, or gun carriers

The Night Fighter (http://www.mekatank.com/robot_model_kit/mek48007.htm) looks like it either has a spotlight or a low-light system, making it a perfect infantry support mechette or gun carrier. It’d likely end up being German, despite my constant effort to find French, Italian, and Japanese dieselpulp walkers.

The Wolf I (http://www.mekatank.com/robot_model_kit/mek48001.htm) is pretty clearly an Interwar design, and I might make it Italian.

Secrets of the Third Reich (West Wind Productions)
This is one of the major Weird War 28mm lines, and there’s lots of stuff I like, and a little I don’t.
I love two of the four Russian spider walkers (http://www.westwindproductions.co.uk/catalog/index.php?cPath=126_210_195), the Hammer Jaw and Termit. I have one of each, which I haven’t put together yet.

My plan is to use these not as Russian walkers (I like my AT-43s for that), but as US walkers. This would make the US one of the only major powers to prefer walkers with more than 2 legs even at the Medium walker stage, and I envision them as sacrificing armor for stability and thus the ability to fire their main gun while moving (rare for walkers in my envisioned Dieselpulp setting). Also, they have manual gun loaders, which slows down their firing capacity compared to those with external magazines, but gives them greater long-term offensive staying power.

I’ll probably put Dust Tactics Sherman-style turrets on these – the long barrel on my Hammer Jaw, and flamethrower for the Termit.

Walking Tanks (Mig Productions)

At 1/35 scale all of these walkers (http://www.ebay.com/itm/Mig-Productions-1-35-38TX-Walking-Flame-Thrower-Tank-35-653-/390498932093)( http://www.ebay.com/itm/Mig-Productions-1-35-38TX-Walking-Tank-35-654/320985345121?_trksid=p2047675.c100005.m1851&_trkparms=aid%3D222007%26algo%3DSIC.MBE%26ao%3D1%26asc%3D33431%26meid%3Dacfe6bd59c7d4e71af3b3bb2ac0e1ccd%26pid%3D100005%26rk%3D1%26rkt%3D2%26sd%3D390498932093)are going to be giants. I assume I’d make the US, maybe Interwar designs, but might change my mind once I had one on my desk. There’s a third model (http://www.hlj.com/product/migf35-651/Sci) that’s so clearly Russian I’d likely skip it entirely, and I am not a fan of its leg design.

World Without End (Clockwork Goblin)

It’s important to make sure you pick up the 28mm versions of these pics, and least in most cases.

I don’t like most of their Mech designs, but there are two exceptions.

The Grizzly Medium Walker (http://www.clockworkgoblinminis.co.uk/ourshop/prod_3246483-US-Grizzly-Medium-Walker-28mm.html) is *exactly* what I want in a 2-leg US walker. It certainly meets my needs for a US mech hunter. I’m not a fan of having two very robot-looking arms, but I may be able to rework those as weapon pods, or more claw/crane looking options, if I ever get hold of one of these models.

The German Spinne (http://www.clockworkgoblinminis.co.uk/ourshop/prod_3705723-German-Spinne-Light-Mechpanzer28mm.html) is really too light and small to count even as a light walker, but it would likely serve well as a gun carrier or mechette. I might make it Italian or Japanese rather than German, however, since my Germans have Heavy Infantry to fill this role. It reminds me a bit of the Fiat L 6/40 Light Tank, an aesthetic I might be able to augment if I made it Italian.

The Soviet Heavy Infantry (http://www.clockworkgoblinminis.co.uk/ourshop/prod_3254298-Soviet-Heavy-Infantry-5-figures.html ) is pretty good aesthetically, though the weapons are a bit too modern for my tastes. They make me think of Ned Kelly, and I was already thinking of using modified Kelly Gang figures (http://northstarfigures.com/prod.php?prod=7326) for Australian Medium Infantry, so this would work well as heavy versions of the same armor program.

Also, the 15mm German Heavy Mechpanzer Thor (http://www.imagereplicas.com/clockwork-german.html) still comes on a comes on a 50 x 64mm base, which means it likely could work for a light walker or mechette, which would compliment some of my plans for spider walkers from the US.

Walker and Main Armament Design during the First Global War

This is fairly typical of the kind of worldbuilding I do for fun, when I am not so overloaded with work that all my writing MUST be on-task and on-schedule.

In this case, I have a never-slated-for-professional-publication Diesel Pulp setting that I buy and modify models to fit into. My first concern is aesthetics of these mystery men and weird war machines… but in time the world begins to form a cohesive whole that demands exploration in prose.

This is the same sort of exploration I did in the short fiction piece ’49, which is designed to be part of the same world.

While the fact that Martian Tripods had been so effective during the First and Second War of the Worlds could easily have been attributed to their advanced metuallurgy, heat rays, broadcast power, and compression gears, it nevertheless cemented in most nation’s military planners that a walker design of some kind was clearly superior to wheeled or tracked vehicles. Thus, rather than test walkers on a level playing field, most designers first theorized on why legged armor units were superior to other options, and then drew up tests to prove their theories.

One common theory in the early 1930s was that walkers had significant advantages over wheeled or tracked vehicles due to increased stability, and thus an improved ability to fire a cannon while moving with some degree of accuracy. The concept behind this idea was simple – the position of a walker was always entirely determined by the position of its articulate legs, driven by compression gears, and thus stabilizing cams could be built to read compression gear feedback. These cams where supposed to predict how the movement of articulated parts would affect articulated weapons, and automatically adjust the weapon’s position to compensate.

The reality of walker stability and predictability consistently failed to live up to theoretical models. For some reason, tripping, sliding, and even falling were never considered to be regular occurrences by military planners, and thus were ignored in tests run on articulated prediction cams. In battlefield conditions, walkers often ended up on uneven footing (debris, mud, soft earth, and even walker traps designed to limit their mobility), so assuming a given position of the legs always equaled what it should on a hard, level, stable surface often failed to give accurate adjustments to weapons.

The Nazi walkers favored heavy armor and heavy weapons, and a rapid reload time. The need to couple these with prediction cams inevitably lead to designs that placed a walker’s main weapons in articulated outboard platforms, called “Gewehrfaust” or Gun-Arms. These were normally mounted on either side of the main fuselage, and were connected by heavily armored gearing systems. As a result, any such weapons had to be auto-loading and have self-contained ammunition magazines. This gave main cannons impressive rate-of-fire and full cam stabilization… but the stabilization systems never worked well and the rate-of-fire only lasted until the magazine was depleted. A German Wotan or Donar walker armed with a Rheinmetall-Borsig 7.5 cm KwK 42 (L/70) carried twelve rounds in the magazine, and 48 more in the main body, but reloading the magazine required the walker to be at a dead stop and expose its crew for nearly thirty minutes. Worse, thought the gun could fire APCBC, HE, and APCR rounds (though that last was always in short supply), the integral magazine meant the ratio of such rounds had to be decided in advance. The gunner could dial up any round in the magazine, but if HE rounds were all that was left in the magazine, and APCR was a better choice, there was no practical way of loading the desired shell even if it was in-stock.

This lead to the advancement of more Lightning Guns and Thunder Cannons in variant designs, but Nazi Germany could rarely produce enough such weapons to meet demand. Flamethrowers, heavy flack guns, and rocket pods were more often used where LGs and TCs were called for.

Russian walkers also generally used outboard weapon platforms, and could rarely manage multiple main guns on a walker in any case, but used gyroscopic stabilization rather than feedback cams hooked to compression gears. While accuracy was never as high on the move compared to stationary fire, Russian walkers on the move could depend on hitting more than missing when shooting at targets that were in close range or that were themselves stationary. Additionally, since Russian walkers were always in short ammo supply, they were less likely to have multiple shells as an option, and might only have enough ammo to fill a single magazine in any case, minimizing the real impact of that design choice.

Americans also used gyroscopic stabilization, the only other nation to do so. However, their designs always placed a walker’s main armament inside the body of a walker. In the case of early six-legged Mulholland walker and later 8-legged Garland walkers, a single turret was used to house primary armament. The stability of the multileg suspension, coupled with gyrostabilization, gave these tanks and their variants the greatest moving fire accuracy of any Medium or Heavy walker of the war. However, the weight of the additional legs required these walkers to be more lightly armored than typical for their tonnage, and their guns were manually loaded, resulting in a much lower ROF for short engagements. This was partially compensated for by the ability to continue fire (a standard load was 55 rounds) without stopping or exposing crew, and for each shot to be loaded with the preferred shell type. Additionally, these walkers were constructed in vast numbers. A Mulholland might not be an even match for a Wotan, but three Mulhollands certainly were.

In the case of the American mech hunter Bunyan design, the main cannon was built into the center of the main body. Though also gyrostabilized, the Bunyan’s 2-leg design and antitank mission made moving fire both less accurate and less desirable. If a mech hunter could not outrange another walker, standard tactics were for it to move after every shot, to compensate for its lower average armor thickness.

’49 – Jenkins

Jenkins kept his M1941a rifle trained on the shivering family—centered on the oldest boy, who he thought more likely than the father to do something stupid—and wished again he’d taken his gloves off before they’d rushed the building. To prevent accidentally hating himself forever his finger was beside the rifle’s trigger guard, not on the trigger. But the stolen leather gloves he wore were just thick enough he was suddenly afraid that if he did have to shoot one of them, or even try a warning shot, he wouldn’t be able to jam his gloved finger into the trigger guard fast enough to keep control of the situation. He’d kept the gloves on to make sure his finger wasn’t numb from cold, but now…

“Anything, corporal?”

As always, Lt. Morgan’s voice was calm and clear. Jenkins glanced over his shoulder for just a second to see if Corporal Flores would nod, as she sometimes did, rather than answer verbally. He saw her inhale, and immediately locked his gaze back on the two adults, one teen, and three children in nightshirts. The older boy had shifted his weight when Jenkins looked away, and now froze again. He resolved not to give the lanky teen any more room to make life-ending decisions.

Jenkins always expected Flores to sound breathy and demure, and she never did. He supposed it was because the tech was the only woman he saw anymore, and before she got assigned on TF-Day his only regular exposure to femininity for six years had been taxi dancers and radio broadcasts. But Flores’ voice had an edge behind it, and if it wavered at all that was only because she hadn’t slept for three days. She was always light sleeper, as might be expected of a woman bunking in the rough with an 12-man rifle squad. But for days she’d been using a hand-held antenna she’s cobbled together—the men thought of it as Flores’ Curler—to find a radio signal from a short-wave transceiver… or something like that. Once Flores started talking about single sidebands and killer-hurts, Jenkins got lost.

“Yep Lieu, something, but nothing much good.” Jenkins’ quick glance had showed him that Flores had one cup of her field-headset over her left ear, with her badly banged up field radio hooked by wires to a bigger set they’d found in the family’s small electronics shop. She’d clearly gotten the whole rig working, another miracle to be noted when she was brought up for sainthood. Jenkins assumed she waved Lt. Morgan over to listen to the other end of the headset, since the lieutenant crossed the room to stand next to her. For several long moments no one spoke, and Jenkins could hear the hiss of snow outside and the muffled squawk of voices over the radio.

“We not… tysk?”

The trembling voice of the woman in the nightshirt did sound like Jenkin’s theoretical radio-girl, except for the heavy Norwegian accent. He was startled enough he lowered his rifle from center-mass to a sloppy leg shot and spat out “What, sweetheart?”

“We…,” the woman gestured to her whole family, “not tysk. Not soldat.”
Jenkins got over his surprise at her English, broken as it was, and caught on.

“We know.” He tried to keep it simple. Her English was going to be better than his Norwegian. “We will not harm. We go, soon.”

The mother bit her lip. She was pretty, in a slightly matronly way, and Jenkins was annoyed at himself for noticing. She was pale and had no make-up, having been rousted a few hours before dawn, but her eyes were crisp green, and her hair a glowing long blond braid. She was also, he realized, moving to stand between himself and the tallest of her two daughters.

“That! Can you make that stronger?” Clearly the lieu was talking to Flores about something he heard. Or hoped he heard.

“Not with this crap.”

It always shocked Jenkins when Flores cussed.

“I’m amazed we’re getting as much as we are. Some of it must be bouncing off the snow clouds. We can’t broadcast on any of our channels either, and they just don’t have what I need for a full repair. It wouldn’t be coded anyway, the babel is totally shot, and we’d never decode any reply.”

The oldest boy took a tiny sideways step. Jenkins locked eyes with him, brought the rifle back up to aim at the teen’s chest, and shook his head slowly. The father put one huge hand firmly on the wayward youth’s elbow, and squeezed hard. The gangly teen stopped moving, and looked at the ground. Jenkins prayed that was a sign of acquiescence, and not building determination.

Flores was still talking.

“This is good as that’s going to get, but it sure sounds real, and it sounds close. I can’t say for sure how far my box can pick things up with their big antennae, but it can’t be more than ten miles or so. I’m sure it’s south. Probably pretty close to Sweden.”

Lt. Morgan paused before speaking. “Can the Tumbleweed make it that far?”

“Maybe, just, if we get lucky on terrain. She’s got a bunch of bad fins, and one gyro is totally shot. Our best chance is if it’s just me inside driving, since I’m the lightest.”

Lt. Morgan walked to Jenkins’ side and turned his back to the family so they couldn’t see him softly speaking.

“Sergeant, what are the chances we can safely stay here a night or two?”

Jenkins shook his head, but didn’t take his eyes off the family. “None, sir. I don’t think they’re Skaugies, but I don’t think they’re resistance either. What they mostly are is worried and afraid. If we push our uninvited stopover, the younger kid is definitely going to get a case of stupid.”

Lt. Morgan removed his glassed and pinched the bridge of his nose, and said nothing. As the silence grew, so did Jenkins’ concern. When the lieu stayed in that position for several seconds, the sergeant cleared his throat.

“Sir, we can’t stay here without locking these folks in a cellar or something. It sounds like you didn’t pick up any clear signal from command or any of the units we hoped to link up with?”

Lt. Morgan dropped his hand, and replaced his glasses as he shook his head.

“No, it sounds like everyone had as terrible an arrival as we did, and no one is in position. It’s skirmishes and falling back and calls for support. Not a repeat of ’44, but bad enough. It may take weeks for a firm beachhead to be established, if one ever is, and we don’t have that kind of time. We need to find someplace we can either repair or scuttle the Tumbleweed, and if possible we need to link up with someone. Flores has a signal that sounds like a friendly force, but…”

“Not, I take it, Expeditionary troops, sir?”

“No, sergeant. Night Ogres, if the signal is genuine. At least two, maybe more.”

Jenkins felt himself give a heavy sigh. Any Expeditionary unit could be counted on to be reasonably dependable and professional. Night Ogres were Russian, and he was never clear if they were considered heavy infantry or light walkers. That was better than dealing with Free Corps, but maybe not by a lot. On the other hand, any heavy infantry was likely to have a mechanic and supply officers, or something similar. And Russian forces might still have a working supply line, or at least a known rendezvous point. If there was any shot of getting the Tumbleweed back to full fighting rotation, especially if they were going to have to fight their way back to some distant position, it was worth the risk.

Even as Jenkins decided he needed to recommend joining up with the Night Ogres, Lt. Morgan nodded to himself and clasped Jenkins’ shoulder. Jenkins had no idea why that made him feel better, but it always did. The lieu’s voice held no hint of doubt.

“Flores, grab what you can that might help keep us in contact. Get Kovac and Spencer as pack mules if you need them, and tell them to get their gear out of Joe-Louis. They’re walking. Jenkins, keep the locals calm and controlled until I give you the word, then we’ll back out. They may raise a ruckus, but if the father is building crystal sets for a living he’s a smart man. I think we can trust to know if he can see us we can also see, and shoot, him. I don’t think they’ll raise an alarm until we’re out of site, and by then the storm will give us cover.”

Jenkins nodded, and let the muzzle of his rifle drop an inch or so. He hoped that made him look like he felt it was less likely he’d have to shoot them. Nazis he was ready to shoot, and Skaugum collaborators were just tall Nazis. Heck, in six years of fighting he’d shot kriegshunds, jotuns, ghuls, kyries, and automats without batting an eye or losing a wink. Set a few on fire too, and blown up an unknown number.

But even to keep his brothers- (and sister-) in-arms safe, he wasn’t sure he could shoot a family in cold blood, just because they’d owned a radio.

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