Black Iron's Glory - Chapter 202

It was a bright, sunny day. A rare day for Freia. Winter had just passed and the arrival of spring filled the land with vigor. Four months of rainy season was to follow, so the people made sure they had dried out whatever they needed. They would enjoy some semblance of drought in their homes instead of musty dampness during the endless rain.

As Claude occupied the plot of land behind the infirmary as his training ground, Perunt had no choice but to have the healers dry the blankets and laundry out on the field. Currently, the soldiers' clothes were being hung under the sun and the healers spent a lot of time before finding a good spot at which to hang out theirs.

Claude could already move as he pleased. He was watching Berklin train the new recruits. Aboyev, Moriad, and Dyavid were still in the initial stages of recovery and were seated in a corner of the yard while sunbathing and mocking Berklin mercilessly for not being able to get the new recruits in shape.

Only nine out of the 27 recruits were up to Claude's standards at the moment. The other 18 had all sorts of problems. Seven among them were even slower than the rest. The 'slow-witted' in their reports wasn't an exaggeration at all. When Berklin gave the order to stand straight, they reacted even slower than the rest. It was as if they only understood what they were required to do after seeing everyone else do it. No matter how hard they tried, it was something they were unable to change.

It wasn't that surprising, however. Claude had had a classmate on Earth who didn't understand what the teacher was saying even though all the other students did. He could never figure out what others understood so easily. Other people only took an hour to work on homework, but he had to work on it for three or four hours. While he could still barely keep up in terms of language, he was the worst in math because he didn't understand how it worked, no matter how hard he tried. His family had taken him to countless doctors but all they could say was that his cognitive development was behind. They suggested he remain at home for a year or two before continuing with caught up faculties, but he refused.

He just barely scraped through elementary school, but finally lost it completely in the first year of middle school and dropped out. Claude did not see or hear from him again for several years, not until he saw him again on television one day. The boy had taken an apprenticeship with a renowned sculptor after dropping out and had become one of the world's top sculptors himself since.

While there was at least some hope for all those already mentioned, the final eleven was beyond all hope. Two of them had such bad problems with attention and doing basic things that even Claude, who had absolutely no training in psychology, could tell they must have one or more psychological disorder. The same went for one who could physically not stand still, and yet another who had constant panic attacks. The last one was particularly annoying. Whenever Berklin shouted and order the poor sod would collapse in a catatonic state for several minutes.

How they'd gotten this far was already a mystery. They shouldn't have passed even the most basic of screening. Then again, Claude supposed they'd probably just been accepted because they were physically fit enough and someone hadn't wanted the hassle of chiding the local officials for sending nitwits instead of capable men.

Claude called a halt to the training called Berklin over. He skimmed his notes again, then turned to Berklin.

"Train these nine the usual way. Send the eight slow ones to Moriad. I'll take Myjack as my errand boy. And the last ten are beyond training. Put them on stretcher duty."

Moriad wasn't very happy with his new wards.

"They're so slow, Chief. How am I supposed to whip them into shape?"

"You're well-enough recovered to start doing your bit, so no excuses. The eight I'm giving you are slow, yes, but they can still be trained. You just have to be more patient with them. Their reflexes are fine, so there won't be any problems once you have them up to snuff."

"I don't see the point, though. They still won't be proper soldiers even if I do get them up to standard."

Claude smiled and patted his shoulder.

"Don't worry about that. You won't get them to respond as quickly as the others no matter what you do. That's not as big a problem as you think, however. We're training them to be keepers, not frontline soldiers. They'll be patrolling friendly bases and towns, not frontline trenches. It's not like they're not trying. In fact, I'm pretty sure they're working twice or even three times as hard as the rest. Give them a chance, Moriad. If nothing else, they deserve at least that."

"Fine," Moriad caved.

"Good. I'll tell you what to do later. Just follow my instructions."

The better part of the work had thus been done. The rest was just drillwork until everyone was good enough. Claude's one main remaining responsibility now was to decide with what weapons his men would train and work.

None of his men were good enough to use muskets, so he had to find them something else. He considered for a time giving them muskets with his modified sights so they could work like light infantry, sharpshooters if you would. They wouldn't have to worry as much about drill work and coordination in that case.

He'd have to get approval from his tribesman, however. Someone was bound to notice the strange addition to his men's weapons at some point, so he couldn't just do it in secret, and it was illegal to modify a military musket privately.

He headed to the tribe's headquarters, where a musket on Lieutenant Most's table caught his eye. Something about it was very familiar to him. It took him a moment to remember that he'd modified the same model musket before.

In fact, he'd received a letter from Welikro a month earlier begging him for forgiveness for letting his modified musket fall into the national firearms institute's hands. It had been confiscated at some point and they were investigating the modifications.

The youth had said it was all his father, Kubrik's fault. He had used the musket to show off to his old comrade and won in a match of accuracy. It had drawn the man's attention, who passed news of the modifications on to the institute. They'd immediately confiscated the weapon.

Welikro only learned what had happened after finishing his training. Claude didn't mind, however. Though he couldn't be as indifferent now that he saw the very same modification on an institute issued musket. He wasn't too keen on taking credit for the design, however, but he was proud of it, so he couldn't resist asking a few questions when he saw his superior staring at the musket unhappily.

"This is..." he asked as he picked up the musket.

"The Aubass Mark 3. The institute's latest design. I hear they've worked particularly hard on this one. We have 500 of them at the moment. We've been given a hundred of them since we're the strongest," Most explained.

"Then why do you look so glum?"

Claude wasn't too happy to have his design stolen, whether he particularly wanted the credit for it or not, but what had been done, had been done. At the very least the new design should make them more combat effective.

"I handed out some of the muskets to the men, but they've sent them back. Even 4th Tribe's refused to use them."

"Why? Something wrong with them?"

He couldn't quite understand what could be the problem. It wasn't that hard to learn to use the new sights, no harder than it was to learn to use the old design. In fact, he'd argue it was easier, even his little sister had picked it up quite easily.

"The muskets are fine, they just don't look good. They call them 'kink-necks' because they have to tilt their heads to one side all the time to aim, and it's giving them kinks in their necks. They've been declared unfit for use in formation since no one can aim properly with them."

Claude wanted to curse the fools and laugh at them at the same time. He couldn't believe they were still trying to use the old tactics with his musket. They clearly didn't understand the principle of building one's doctrine around the soldier and his weapons. Instead they were demanding their weapons be designed around their doctrine.

The proper way to use these muskets were as the weapons of sharpshooters and skirmishers; units that could make the most effective use of the range and accuracy these new muskets had. They should completely do away with the idea of formation-based combat as well.

Claude's eyes lit up as he finally noticed the opportunity he'd been given. He decided that since he couldn't take credit for his design, he could at least take credit for being the one to develop the proper doctrine for their use. At the very least, this meant he didn't have to spend money modifying the now-old Aubass Mark 2s.

"If no one wants them, why don't you give them to me, Sir?" Claude asked.

"You? What do you want with them?" Most asked suspiciously.

"I have a bunch of greenhorns, don't I? They do need weapons as well."

"That's not what I mean... Are you sure you can trust them with muskets? Sticks ought to be safer."

"It will be fine, Sir. I've picked out a couple that can be trained properly with some surplus effort. The rest won't get anywhere near weapons."

Most stroked his chin for several long seconds, then nodded.

"Alright. Send me a list with the names. I'll see how many I can get you."

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