Welcome to the first installment of Iron and Ice!
This is something I initially began over a year ago and always intended to expand, but never got around to it. But now I’m going to bring this story together with weekly (no really!) updates. Every Thursday at 10 AM there will be a new section of the story. I don’t know how long this story will last, but I’ll be creating a separate archive just for Iron and Ice so you can keep track of it and go back to read any sections you missed.
Now, what is Iron and Ice, you ask? It is the story of a world where Russia as we know it never existed. Instead of a unified, world super-power, there are dozens of small nation states, warring with one another for control of the people, resources, and land. It is a brutal struggle with competing ideologies, religions, and heritages fighting for dominance.
Set in the early 20th century, the story follows one such nation, and its soldiers as they fight and die for their place in an unforgiving world against even less forgiving foes. There can be only one motherland. Who will be her chosen sons?
I will still, from time to time, post short stories unrelated to Iron and Ice, but for now the focus will be on this project. So here’s the beginning of the first chapter, titled “Snow Can Kill”. I hope you enjoy it, and thanks for reading! It’s going to be a wild ride.
Chapter 1: Snow Can Kill
Snow could kill. It was worse than all the bullets, blades, and rockets put together. It covered your view ports. It cut visibility to almost nothing. It made you slow. It made your ride slip. It made your body, already sore from hours in a cramped cockpit, ache like you’d been doing gymnastics all night. It hid your enemies until they were right on you. It made you easy to track. It caused your engine to freeze up. It meant you couldn’t touch your hatch with your bare hands – if your hatch wasn’t already frozen shut that was.
Dimitri was reminded of Makar and shuddered. Silly bastard had been on long-range recon. He must have gotten out to take a leak during a storm. They found his body clinging to the side of his ride, his fingernails torn off from scraping at the frozen hatch.
Dimitri pressed his face against the rubber lining of the view slit. His eyes stung as he peered into the blizzard. His teeth chattered, and he tugged the rough wool scarf higher around his face. Shit, he could barely make out the shadow of Yanin’s ride ahead of him, stomping through the trees. He swore as snow swirled through the opening. God, he hated the stuff.
Dimitri grabbed the radio from its holster. “Yanin! Stay within visual range, damn you! We can’t get separated out here.”
“Oops. Sorry,” came the familiar drawl. Ahead, the shadow of Yanin’s ride halted. As Dimitri approached, the mech loomed out of the snow. Four meters in height, Yanin’s ride was vaguely humanoid, but with an oblong, headless body, reverse joint legs, and arms which almost reached the ground. On its back was a delicate array of aerials and antennae, all of which were almost useless in this weather. Like Dimitri’s ride, Yanin’s carried a repeating 37mm rifle in place of its left hand. The right ended in a close combat weapon. Yanin had a standard maul, while Dimitri favored an over-sized chainsaw. He liked the way it sounded.
Dimitri gave Yanin’s ride a thump with his chainsaw arm as they came abreast.
“Thought you could ditch me out here you bastard?”
The radio turned Yanin’s laugh into a witch’s cackle. “Maybe. They’d probably give me a promotion.”
Dimitri ignored the jab. “Anything on your scopes?”
“Any contact with command or the other patrols?”
“Any chance of getting more than one word out of you?”
Dimitri sighed and put the radio down. He’d known the patrol would end up like this, alone in no man’s land unable to report back even if they found anything. A lovely exercise in futility.
He was about to order them back to base when they came upon a downed tree. It had been snapped off, leaving just a stump in the ground. He leaned forward and peered through the slit, looking for any signs of whoever had passed through. Damn these tiny slits, he couldn’t see anything besides trees, rocks and snow. Lots of snow.
Still, Dimitri was sure this hadn’t been natural. Something big had come through here and it had been in a hurry. He grabbed the transmitter again. “You sure there’s nothing on your scopes?”
“Sure I’m sure. We’re as alone out here as you are every Saturday night.”
“Check again, wise ass. There’s something out there.” He paused before popping the hatch to add, “And I’ll have you know that my Saturday evenings are extremely eventful.”
Yanin’s retort about magazines and locked doors was drowned out by the rushing wind as Dimitri popped the hatch above his head and wriggled into the open air. He brought up his binoculars and swept them across the frozen landscape, acutely aware that they were freezing to his face as he looked.
There! What was that? Damn, just a boulder. He wiped the snow from his binoculars and unstuck them from his face. For just a moment the howling wind calmed for a moment, and Dimitri glimpsed a machine through the snow. Who was that? The last thing he wanted was a friendly fire incident to add to his singularly illustrious reputation back at base. It wouldn’t be the first time patrol units had gotten lost and bumbled into one another. The wind picked up again before he could get a better look at their mystery guest.
Dimitri grimaced. “Come on. Let me have just one more little peak, huh? Who’s out there?” he mumbled under his breath. As if obliging him, the winds dropped once again. Dimitri’s blood turned to ice, and not just because of the evening chill. As if the horned helmet painted on the side of the mech wasn’t enough, he could see a long barreled 57mm cannon, traversing towards him.
Dimitri dropped back into the cockpit, banging his head against the lip of the hatch. He fumbled for the radio as Yanin was perplexedly saying, “I’m getting a weak return at a heading of 26 degrees, it’s like-”
Dimitri began to cut Yanin off when the first shell exploded between them. Shell splinters pinged off his armor as he grabbed the control levers.
“There’s at least one bastard behind the trees, 300 yards bearing 29 degrees!” He shouted as his mech leaped into action, its powerful legs sending it bounding through the snow. “Circle to the right and we’ll surround him!”
Yaninn’s reply was garbled as another round kicked up a spray of snow and dirt at his feet.
Unlike Yanin’s ride Dimitri’s mounted a four barreled rocket launcher on its back. He turned his mech at the waist and strafed to the left bringing his rockets and cannon to bear. The enemy was intermittently visible through the blizzard. A series of rockets zipped toward it on smokey tails. The Roxolan saw them coming and darted behind a copse of firs. The rockets detonated among them, but the enemy was shielded from the blast. Crashing through the burning debris, it surged forward toward Yanin.
It was a standard Roxolan design, a boxy body mounting the 57mm in a sponson on its left side, while its right had a multi-jointed arm ending in a pneumatic pincer. Although much more heavily armored than Dimitri’s or Yanin’s own mechs, it possessed astonishing speed and agility. The pilot sat at the top of the box, an armored cupola offering 360 degree visibility. It was a beautiful ride.
And Dimitri would kill it.