Frost and Fire

Posted by on Apr 24, 2012 in Blog | 0 comments

Frost and Fire

Written by Spartan Franco | Tags: ,

Please be aware that the unidentified ship featured in this story is not a part of the Dystopian Wars game, nor official canon.

Olympic Class Troop Transport

Olympic Class Troop Transport Under Attack!

The onyx-coloured waters of the North Atlantic churned into white-capped turmoil as the bows of the RMS Mercurial Spirit sliced through them. A thin mist was beginning to form in the chilly night air as the huge steam-ship, an Olympic-class liner, powered towards her destination.

Mercurial Spirit had been one of the most elegant ships afloat, transporting the great and wealthy in style and luxury between the Britannian port of Southampton and New York in the Federated States of America.

Now though, her elegant finery had been stripped out, and she was the temporary home of some fifteen hundred men of the 2nd and 3rd Alberta Rifles of the Britannian Canadian army. She sported several ad–hoc rocket batteries and clusters of heavy Nordenfelt triple ack-ack cannons on her once elegant promenade decks.

However, her transformation had been sudden and was incomplete – instead of dazzle camouflage she still sported her striking civilian livery of red, white and black.

On the liner’s bridge, her captain, Herbert Townshend of the Britannian Naval Armada Reserve, peered pensively out of the windows. He knew that, although the soldiers on board were calm, this journey was an awful risk.

They were heading for Greenland, for King Wilhelm City, to help reinforce the Prussian garrison that had so lately been their enemy. How insignificant that quarrel seemed now.

The ship was keeping a steady fifteen knot speed through waters crowded with icebergs, but that was the least of their worries. Townshend had heard the reports. He had seen the lurid lights flashing in the sky.

This bleak stretch of water three hundred miles east of Halifax seemed deserted, but the captain and his crew knew better. They were sailing alone on purpose – North Atlantic command in Halifax had determined that convoys made too easy a target for…

“Captain Townshend?” The voice of Second Officer Rupert Crowley made Townshend start suddenly as it cut through the tense quiet of the bridge. The captain turned towards the aft door of the bridge as Crowley entered. “Sorry to startle you sir,” said the Second Officer.

Townshend waved a hand. “Its fine, Rupert. Too jumpy for my own good. What is it?”

“Lieutenant-Colonel Beauvais asked me to give you a message, sir. He asks if you’d like him to instruct his men to douse the lights,” said Crowley. “I said I’d send him a reply over the Marconiphone.”

Townshend almost laughed aloud at the thought. Douse the lights? As if that would save the ship if…they…found it. Instead, he shook his head. “Tell him thank you, but he doesn’t need to. It’ll only make his troops more nervous I shouldn’t wonder.”

“Yes, sir.” Crowley picked up the trumpet-like ear horn of the ship’s internal communicator system and began to dial a number. He paused, looking out at the dark sea. “Has anything else been seen, sir?”

“Bergs and open water, Rupert, and I’m damned glad of it. The last reports of activity came in two hours ago. Distress signals in German…probably from Greenland. I’m keeping us well south until…”

Suddenly, the dimly-lit bridge of the Spirit was bathed in eerie, greenish light. The mists off to starboard flared as a brilliant object seemed to pass behind them, over the ship and towards the south-east. There was faint whoosh, a dull roar, and the glow vanished.

Crowley’s eyes popped wide. “Good lord, what was that?”

Townshend felt a chill colder than the air of the darkened ocean. Their luck had run out. “That was trouble. Mr Crowley, signal battle stations. Helmsman, turn us ten degrees port. We’ll see if we can’t slip past.”

He crossed to the telegraph and cranked the handle to ‘All Ahead Full’. A brief bell ring signalled that the engineers far below had acknowledged the order. Crowley switched the Marconiphone to general broadcast. “Attention all crew and passengers, this is Second Officer Crowley. Battle Stations. I say again, Battle Stations!”
Having completed his task, Crowley joined Townshend at the bridge rail. He felt the almost imperceptible shift of the deck as the Spirit began to alter course. Klaxons began to blare.

Out of the windows, Crowley could see shadowed figures on the deck below, rushing to man the liner’s meagre armament. Tarpaulins were thrown back from the Norts, magazines slammed into position. Barrel-shaped concussion charges were wrestled into their squat brass spigot launchers. “Looks like we’re as well-prepared as we can be, sir.”

Townshend sighed. “Indeed. But still, we’d better hope Spirit can outrun whatever just came down out there.”

“And if she can’t?”

“They we pray, Mr Crowley. We pray.”

Private Alastair Hawks rushed along the promenade deck with the rest of his rifle section. Rifle slung, he concentrated on holding onto a sturdy crate filled with volatile Congreve rockets, while his fellows carried the pieces of the launcher towards their appointed position on the promenade deck, just below the starboard bridge wing.

All around Hawks, other troops rushed about in an orderly frenzy, driven by the shouted commands of their officers as the klaxons blared for action stations.

His squad reached their station a few minutes later, and busily began setting up the Congreve launcher behind the newly installed splinter shielding at the rails. A thrill of anticipation ran through him as he unslung his rifle, hunkered down and peered out over the waters.

For a few moments, he could see nothing but black ocean and mists, but then…there! Five hundred or so yards away, a huge boiling disturbance rippled atop the water, bubbling and hissing. It must have been enormous to be so clearly visible.

As Hawks watched, a strange green glow appeared beneath the roiling white waters, pulsing and flaring, gradually gaining in brightness.

Suddenly, with a vast roar of rushing water, the monster arose from the depths like some dread sea monster of legend. A huge hooded insectoid head, as large as a gunship, or so it seemed to the stunned Hawks, stood proud atop three towering legs. Water rushed off its smooth, curved surface.

Olympic Class Troop Transport Under Attack!

Olympic Class Troop Transport Under Attack!

The source of the green glow was now starkly apparent. From beneath the hood and its row of glimmering eye-like lenses, there jutted a long tubular mechanism, surrounded by thick bunches of cables and terminating in an ominous funnel-like maw. A fiercer green light streamed from clusters of pipes surrounded its central core.

A sick horror filled Hawks as he looked upon the Invader, a horror replicated in the minds of every soul aboard the doomed liner. In the time it took for his mind to process what was happening, the monster struck.

The great tube swivelled and pulsed with a blinding green glow. Hawks cried out, ducking behind the splinter shielding. There was a shrieking whine followed by a tremendous roar as ship and tripod were joined by a brilliant green beam.

On the Spirit’s bridge, Captain Townshend and his colleagues did not even have time to scream before they were seared to nothing by the killing light. The liner’s bridge erupted in flames. Her forefunnel exploded, showering molten metal upon the troops huddled along the deck below. Men scream as they were seared by the lethal rain, some hurling themselves over the side in their agony.

With a terrible groan of tortured metal and the whipcrack snapping of hawsers, the remains of the funnel tumbled down on the Spirit’s portside weather deck, crushing over fifty hapless soldiers unlucky enough to be caught it its path. Flames and smoke spurted from the shattered forward superstructure.

A terrible, paralyzing fear had gripped the entire ship as the metal beast had arisen from the waters. Now, its lashing of the Spirit seemed to break the spell. The thunder of cannons and the scream of rockets suddenly cut through the air as the Spirit’s crew and the Albertas let loose with everything they had.

Curtains of tracer fire arose from the hammering Nordenfelts, but they did nothing more than disintegrate in useless showers of green light before even touching the monster’s metal skin. What few shots did break through sparked harmlessly away.

The Albertas, still holding to their drill in spite of the horror before them, cut loose with such anti-armour weapons as they had. Nearly a hundred Congreve missiles soared upwards as one with a screech.

Hawks’ ears rang as his section’s launcher belched its payload. Wrenching open the lid of his crate, he dragged out another projectile as Sergeant Grove bellowed for them to reload.

Most of the rockets did no better than the Norts, bursting harmlessly against the beast’s awesome shield. But a few did get through. A thin, ragged cheer went up as they tore several rents in the monster’s hide.

As if stung into action, the great engine emitted an undulating howl as if some enraged and injured beast. It lifted a leg and took a step forward, standing almost astride the stricken liner as the ship ploughed onward. With its bridge gone, the Spirit could not turn aside. She was trapped.

Hawks looked up as the deck was bathed in green light almost as bright as day but for its sickening pallor. He found himself staring almost directly into the maw of the monster’s weapon far above. He heard screams, curses and rifle fire around him as soldiers panicked and ran about frantically, but he himself felt strangely calm.

Olympic Class Troop Transport Under Attack!

Olympic Class Troop Transport Under Attack!

Another shrieking whine filled his ears as the terrible weapon cycled up to fire once more. Hawks silently commended his soul to the Almighty and bade farewell to his family. An instant later, he, his section and everything around them were gone, vapourised.

This time, the monster’s killing beam did not vanish. It stayed on, moving relentlessly up the Spirit’s hull as the giant angled the beam to match the ship’s course. The awful energy cut through wood, steel and flesh like paper.

One by one, the liner’s second and third funnels exploded, the superstructure beneath blowing out like cardboard, hurling hundreds to their deaths, torn and shredded by shrapnel and splinters, into the hungry waters below.

Ahead of the relentless beam, a wave of scrambling humanity raced headlong for the stern and the illusion of safety. Among them was Second Officer Crowley, who had been sent to supervise the aft ack-ack positions.

He watched, appalled, as the beam advanced, smashing his beloved ship wholesale. He watched the Spirit die, even as he himself was consumed in flames.
Only a few scattered men already in the water bore witness to the liner’s final end. They watched as the killing beam seared into the bowels of the vessel, slicing through decks and cabins, slicing through stowed cargo and masses of helpless souls trapped aboard.

Slicing finally into munitions-packed magazines, fuel storage tanks and labouring, over pressurised boilers. RMS Mercurial Spirit burst apart in a cataclysmic explosion that lit up the sky. A gargantuan pillar of fire engulfed the ship and her tormentor.

But when the immense pall of smoke cleared, the pitiful survivors, bobbing helplessly in the freezing water and soon to succumb to cold or drowning, saw one final sight, one that ensured that their last thoughts upon this earth would cause them even greater despair.

The beast, battered and scorched, still stood. The liner’s death, their deaths, had been in vain.

The tripod monster, the Invader, howling its victory as it stalked away.