A Skirmish of an Ironclad Cossack

     Stray shots ring out against the night, waking you. You find yourself lying in a crater, covered in charred slurry and soot. In the distance, you see light coming from rifle slits in the perimeter wall formed by an armoured train. There is distant chatter, groaning soldiers, and a half moon. The two sides have dug in for the night.

      As you regain consciousness, pain stings you wide awake. The senses return. The air... It reeks! It smells like... like...

 

     ... Nothing. You haven't breathed air in years. Your chassis is still sealed, your flywheel is still running, kerosene sparks in your hammer, it is time to retake the Motherland.

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     Why, of course, how could you forget? The frost claimed your body, but you still fight for your land. A few shots is nothing compared to the cold that freezes breath in the air. You are a hero.

     You are lying on your side, your legs still kicking the air as if they were running. A sure sign that your flywheel is still linked and spinning. You lift your impulse hammer and slam it into the ground. An explosion streaks out its exhaust. Prop on it, there you go, up on your rapid, screeching feet.

 

     You are the Ironclad Cossack. Of course, but you are also a strategist. You won't stand a chance against a landship, even at night. True bravery is knowing when to back down. Return to the trenches. They need you.

     Be prudent. Be diligent. Had you known this back then, the frost wouldn't have taken your body. Had your comrades not known this, the frost would've taken your life, too. Return, report, and plan for...

 

     Wait, what's that? Silhouettes against the dim night sky! Helmets, swords, a muffled juggernaut with a steamthrower, it's a team of trench busters! And that's your night sentry on the ground! The glint of a blade catches your eye as it rises, the squad's shadow looms over the disarmed guard. You ignite your impulse hammer right before he swings, and they all turn to face the noise. They freeze.

 

     They've never seen something quite like you, but they won't be stunned for long. You wonder if the short one is reaching towards his pistol. In the final second of silence, you made your decision. No brother-at-arms will be slain by them. Not on your watch.

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     Before they even open their mouths, the shaft of the flywheel engages your transmissions. The clockwork within you springs to life. Your hind legs punch into the charred earth like pickaxes. The hydraulics fire, and you shoot towards them like an arrow. A fifteen-hundred pound arrow.

     The footmen leap out of your way, into a faceful of mud. The juggernaut stood still, tossed his steamthrower to the side, and puts his arms out, bracing for impact. You turn your torso and wind your arms. Kerosene flame trails through the air behind your weapon.

 

     You slam the hammer into his torso with a sweeping uppercut. The firing pins all spark at once and a huge explosion surges out of the exhaust, shaking the earth. The juggernaut falls back, with his right arm almost torn off. You pick up the sentry and drive your hind legs into the juggernaut, before he even hits the ground, kicking off of him and darting away to your trenches. Just as quick as you struck, you disappear into the darkness.

 

     The next morning, a dozen more British landships appear on the horizon. Together they drive Eastward, trampling over your trenches. The trench busters last night were to ensure that no roadblocks were ahead. Your squadron was able to stall a landship for several days, and thanks to you, the enemies are clueless about the blast mines just North of you. A few distant explosions go off, a few Brits cuss out loud. You commander shouts, all sleepy-eyed: "Get ready, soldiers. Let's do it all over again!"