Author: Julian Miles, Staff Writer
We raise our fists and give a round of hearty ‘hurrahs’ for our intrepid leader. He waves from the engine deck of his Chieftain before clambering up into the turret and taking command position at the top hatch. He brings a loud hailer up.
“My glorious armoured brigade! Today we take the fight to the barbarians of Sherwood! No more shall their primitive ways and crude technology besmirch this green and pleasant land!”
I love him, I do. Professor Lionel Ferrous, Lord of the Iron Lands, Conqueror of Blighty. That last one isn’t quite true yet, but after we’ve suppressed the ruffians in Sherwood, it’s only a quick trundle up north to reduce the Anto-9 forts to rubble. Then mopping up operations and home for tea. After that, we can petition to be allowed a final campaign: dealing with the ne’er-do-wells hiding in the wilds of Sussex.
He points ahead and the roar of our armoured brigade moving off is like a punch in the chest. We lurch forward, taking up positions in the V-shaped formation that has no less than three Chieftain steam tanks as the point of the spear. It never fails to inspire me: the genius of the Professor gave these great war machines a second lease of life, even inventing lighter armour because of the weight of the steam turbine.
There is nothing like charging into battle as part of an armoured brigade. The wind in your hair, the smoke, the noise, the joyous shouts of righteous warriors engaged in redeeming this land from the ignorant and craven.
I see a flash and a cloud of smoke in the forest. Something big enough for me to catch a glimpse of hammers into the lead Chieftain. The explosion that follows knocks the other Chieftains sideways and the shock wave rolls across us like a swinging curtain of hammers. The charge staggers. I catch my breath and pull the cord that unfurls our colours.
“For the Iron Lands!”
My shout catches the ears of a few nearby. They follow my lead. I see Professor Ferrous turn my way and raise his fist in approval. The fire that spouts from his hatch frames that pose, then he disappears in the fireball that consumes his Chieftain.
I lose my helm in the blast. Looking toward the forest, I see two blocky, turretless tanks emerge. One has a gigantic, stubby weapon that looks like some mutant pepper pot. The other is a behemoth, it’s gun barrel like some wand of doom aimed at our suddenly vulnerable ranks.
A cry from the left brings my attention to the harbinger of ruin emerging from the trees at our flank. Some relative of the behemoth, it swings it’s turret to target the remaining Chieftain. In the moment before the end begins, I see the arms emblazoned upon the slate-grey armour: Lord Morrow of Grafton! We’ve been ambushed by an alliance between Sherwood and Sussex!
These, then, are the legendary Morrowtigers. Ancient god-machines of war, released from centuries-long internment in some tunnel in far-off Polska and brought to this once-blessed isle by a man as brilliant as he is evil. There also seems to be truth in the rumours he has rediscovered engines from the Before Times, for these behemoths do not smoke, nor do their motive sources make noise.
With tears pouring down my face, I grab my loud hailer.
“Retreat! Save your souls! Retreat! We cannot face the forces of Sussex!”
Not anytime soon. But I will never forget. Professor Ferrous shall be avenged.