Friday, May 1, 2015



Artwork © Giby Joseph, All Rights Reserved - http://giby-joseph.deviantart.com/
Story and Characters © Davis E. Riddle, All Rights Reserved 
Brought to you by Four Fools Press: “Crazy Good Stories”

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For two weeks, Padarovich and his company followed the trail, passing through slushy fens and onto the tundra, where the ground remained frozen year-round below the surface. The tracks were strange and difficult to interpret. The colonel could not tell what they were following, if it were many machines or a single large one. He knew it was mechanical, the oil and grease trail made that plain. But what could be so big, or perhaps so numerous, in this forlorn wasteland?  How had it, or they, arrived?

He had operated observation balloons in the past and had even heard of powered gliders called somonutes in Russia or aero-planes by the English. But nothing in his knowledge or experience was large enough to transport something so great or some things so numerous through the air. What were they following?
 

A dragoon came riding up, interrupting his musings. “Colonel, we have found it!”
 

Padarovich stood up in his saddle and looked ahead but saw nothing. “Where?” he demanded.
 

“Just beyond the ridge before us.” replied the man, pointing, “It is tremendous. I have never seen a thing so big!”
 

“Take us to it,” he ordered, unwilling to discuss it further. He was a man of action, not contemplation.
The company rode forward at a gallop, their commander at the van. He rode like a madman, furious to find his quarry, to see it for the first time. They covered the ground to the low ridge quickly, passed over it, and beheld their prey. Perhaps three hundred arshins away lumbered a monster of steel and brass of the likes no person on Earth had ever surveyed. Padarovich pulled his horse to a stop and gazed in abject amazement.
 

After a moment, he removed his binoculars and trained them on his target. It looked like a cross between dozens of steam locomotives and an armored cruiser, as if one of Makarov’s doomed submarines had risen from the wreckage of Port Arthur, grew legs, and marched away with the retreating men. Numerous pipes of various sizes were festooned about its exterior, some made of brass, others darkened metal, probably steel or iron. There were several clusters of thick stalks, which must have been legs, propelling it forward. Some of the legs were broken and there was a decidedly asymmetric hunch to the machine as it walked.
 

Dark smoke billowed from several open ports, while numerous vents along either side of the giant machine vented what looked like steam. Several posts, like periscopes, were positioned on the machine’s body. Only one of them seemed to be intact and functioning, the others being bent at odd angles or snapped off. A number of hoses snaked across its back, connecting fittings leading to the stalks, legs, and even an odd sort of crane. One of the hoses was damaged, either torn or burned he could not tell, and leaked the black lubricant, creating the trail which guided them. This odd iron beast, seemingly oblivious to their presence, was trudging northward with a loping gait, moving about as fast as a man might run.
 

Padarovich wondered who might be controlling the mechanical behemoth. Further, he wondered how many men it took to man the thing. It was far too big for the Chinese bandits to have built, and the Tsar did not have the will to create such a thing. The Japanese, on the other hand, were just mysterious enough to have constructed it. They had only recently begun to meddle on the world’s stage after centuries of self-imposed isolation. Their technological prowess remained unknown. In any case, it seemed their way to create a monster great enough to rampage through the heart of a city. Even so, nothing he had seen in Manchuria had indicated they could actually build anything this massive.
 

Whatever it was, and whoever might be guiding it, Padarovich suddenly realized the great use it would be to his ultimate goal. With his company of men commanding it, he could lead it through all of Russia, marching into the heart of St. Petersburg itself. The weakling Nicholas would flee with his German whore. His men would naturally fill the void and a new day for Russia would dawn. Though he knew nothing of the defenses that this machine might employ, nor of the men who might be operating it, he felt certain his company of dragoons would be enough to take the lumbering machine over.

***
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05-01-15 Foolish Friday
8:52 AM

05-01-15 Foolish Friday