1. Wiping the slate.

July 16, 2016

Flat grey.

Darkening cloud. Dull stains, ink shedding, feathered edges that leak heavy thuds of rain.

The sea, passively hate filled, a monochrome void eats the tumbling horizon.

The cold wind skims the surface whipping rough peaks and punching troughs in diminishing perspective. Mean persistent whispers of  thick water rise to white static, bleak and utterly alone.

Against the gloom, sudden yellow billowing flashes of anger tear separate the sea from the sky, unnatural blooms that whither to oil smudges catching on the wind and dragging, heavy alien cloud, westward in uneven smears.

The sound takes a moment to fill the air. It’s sudden announcement sheer coke can in the desert surprise, it smacks the waters surface as it evaporates into the persistent. Whisper. White. Noise. Whisper. White. Noise. Whisper.

Calls cling to the air, screams. Echoing across the cold dispassionate grey. Muffled hundreds. Those that can shout help. And hello. And fuck. The sea, the sea remains grey. At one with the sky it absorbs and ignores the flailing, burning, mutilated shivering and begging. It laps at wounds and fills lungs, hands slapping on the glutinous frozen surface, terrified, terrified…

… another bloom, this time closer, orange and red. Sudden and fleeting, gaudy against the gloom. Igniting rounds free fire fireworks that thud and skim, Nokia snakes, filling the sky with bees, pocking the sea momentarily with white spouts then losing momentum fading down.

Again thick dough smoke rises, but the war ship it pours from drags itself forward whilst the fire eats from the inside. Men tumble from the sides, consumed then slaked, silent flaming tissue, insane, instinctual and animal. Grabbing and pulling, ducking, blind rage stoked for one more brief moment of terrible hope.

The ship, lurches, bursting across the seam, spreading in a wide arc. Those on board with lungs not melted scream and scratch at the deck as it tilts. The engines howl, breaking loose into gears and chain and pistons and gaskets and bolts and things that only arcane engineers love, shredding shards slice and the groaning ship  ceases to displace and plunges the hull starboard, clumsy death, bubbling breath cumulating and bursting through semi formed ice and then the sea… forgets.

Those alive in the water, peeled and poached, flip and turn. They scrabble. They clutch. And they all die. Pale grey remnants on the dark grey sea.

Their victor hunched and angry cuts to the wind, no time to cerebrate as it prepares to round on its next prey. All hands at battle stations. Cooks, technicians even the environmental health officer, predatory in their urgent and practised rhythm.

No damage or losses and two bastards down. Confidence rising, trust in their captain rising they ride the swell with ease a mile of engineered mayhem and steel with two thousand crew squinting at dials, oily screens and into the dark.

Several stories up, beyond the armoured safety of the green glowing bridge where the captain and officer of the watch yell profanities with little guilt and machine gun orders into infallible tubes and put hands on shoulders to steady the nerves of blue faced youths with video game reaction times who intently watch for pixel aberrations on wide screens filled with speeding real time location data, in a nest no wider than two asses sit Bob With The Face and Two Turd Terry.

Bob slaps on his helmet with hands, that look as ridiculous as clown’s feet, in thick insulated gloves. His comms are full of static, useless. So he pops the shield, pulls the bib on his fire protection away from his face and immediately regrets it, the stinging barbs of ice rain micro slashing his cheeks and making his teeth feel like the taste of steel.

“Fuck Terry, I can’t feel my hands, help me with with this link.” His arsehole ugly face over exaggerating his expression of urgency.

Terry, who still has his face shield firmly in place can’t hear him and carries on adjusting the sights for the monstrous gun that protrudes from the side of the ship a metre to the left of them. In the last run, they had been several metres off target. That wasn’t unusual considering the gun was supposed to be strapped underneath an ancient fighter plane and the linkage system cooked up by Chief Engineer Schiegel, though undeniably brilliant, was originally designed to accurately place a Class 2 diamond core drill.

The gun was a beauty though. Stolen from a museum in Belgrade during a land assault last year, it’s nearly six metres long and fires Road Runner explosive hate at any poor bastard unfortunate enough to be in the way. The bullets are slightly shorter than Able Gregg’s 12″ dick and Terry had a photo from a particularly drunken night to silence the unbelievers.

Bob slams his puff pastry glove against Terry’s helmet, rattling his teeth. Terry, pops his shield and blinks against the bitter mist giving Bob a what the fuck look.

Bob’s mangled face frozen, jawed like a puppet. “Hydraulics.” Unable to wait any longer he pulls the shield back in place and feels his face thaw as the warm flow of air seals him from the elements.

“Useless” says Terry, crackling in Bob’s ear at last.

“The link’s popped” Bob points a Cumberland at the hissing hydraulic housing. It’s on Bob’s side so really it’s his job to fix it, but Terry with a comment about his mother leans over Bob’s lap and pulls off a glove to replace the popped seal. Schiegel has designed it well for easy maintenance but it takes effort to reseat the mother fucker.

Bob feeling slightly warmer and less human takes the stick, a wicked smile and the gun silently swings, metres of black death scanning the void.

Terry points 30 degrees NNW, almost unseen tiny white daisys on the horizon, Bob rotates the gun, Terry yells into his comms, then streaks deviating slightly on gusts, white hot singing multitudes converge and poc poc poc poc the steel around them punched, a sharp tug on Terry’s shoulder nothing but a sliver slicing, then roars across comms as inside the ship small explosions and blood and bones and last breaths and begging and morphine to shut them the fuck up and then Bob opens fire with blazing golden light that illuminates the world in two second bursts of frenzied retaliation.