The discovery of Atlantis has led the British
Empire waxing in power in the early 20th century
instead of waning. The discovery of enigmatic
power crystals allowed the construction of great
monolithic dreadnaughts which rule the skies and
waves, enforcing the Empire’s will.
A British archaeological team exploring Atlantean
ruins discover an amazing artefact called the
Nucleus, a massive depository for long forgotten
On searching an outpost of Atlantis for power
crystals, the elite Nightshade Division are
attacked by strange deadly creatures and barely
get out alive.
The British Empire's top agent, John Murdoch joins
forces with the Nightshade Division's Captain John
Riley in a desperate race against time to stop
unseen evil forces from launching a deadly attack
against the greatest empire the world has ever
A Gathering of Storm Clouds
by C. Craig R. McNeil
Copyright C. Craig R. McNeil
ISBN: 978-1-84728-037-4***A Gathering of Storm Clouds*
*C. Craig R. McNeil*
Chaos derives from the Greek Χάος and typically refers to
unpredictability. In the metaphysical sense, it is the opposite of law and
order: unrestrictive, both creative and destructive.
The word χάος did not mean "disorder" in classical-period ancient
Greece. It meant "the primal emptiness, space". It is derived from the
Proto-Indo-European root _ghn_ or _ghen_ meaning "gape, be wide open".
***1 Old Memories, 1934*
Far beneath the turbulent surface of the mid Atlantic Ocean, thousands of
feet down through the dark freezing depths, on the long sinuous underwater
mountain range of the Mid Atlantic Ridge, the ruins of the one lost
civilisation of Atlantis sprawled. Ancient temples of broken fluted
pillars dominated the scene, once white but now stained with black and
green algae, covered in ponderous floating waves of dank seaweed. Giant
cracked cubes of granite and marble lay scattered in heaped mounds, mere
shadows of the beautiful soaring buildings they had once been millennia
before. Hulking above the ruins the great underwater peaks arced up to the
surface of the sea straining to reach the cold sweet air in which they had
once stood proud before the glaciers had melted and the floods poured over
The imaginatively entitled British colony of New Atlantis hugged the side
of the peak of Sao Miguel. Through the murk, tiny specks of light shone
through the portholes of squat oval buildings that had been lowered to
depths not fit for human habitation. Many thousands of feet above the
colony the sun shone on the balmy Spanish islands of the Azores and rich
British tourists soaked up its warm vibrant rays. There was no such luxury
in New Atlantis where no light penetrated to the depths where sperm whales
and giant squid fought for supremacy. One of the loneliest and most
isolated of Britain's colonies, New Atlantis was founded by Sir Nicholas
Rochester in the late 19th century to allow the further exploration of his
historic discovery, the fabled kingdom of ancient Atlantis and, as a
result, it had a plain utilitarian look to it, functional with little in
the way of vain architectural extravagancies.
Jane Archer watched plankton float by the porthole illuminated by the pale
yellow light filtering out into the dark. The darkness was absolute
outside the buildings. It seemed to eat any light that got out through the
inches thick porthole glass, devouring the brightness that threatened it's
domain. Jane shuddered and turned to concentrate on the activity in the
large brightly lit room. The laboratory was a tangle of tables, bunsen
burners, test tubes of various sizes, pipettes, rubber pipes and jars of
coloured chemical powders and liquids. Three men stood around the teak
floored room concentrating on packing large rucksacks with equipment.
Jonathon McHarrie, dressed in his eponymous green wax Barbour jacket, was
tall and rangy with a tangle of brown hair. He was the sensible one - but
only relatively speaking - and the head of the expedition. McHarrie was
checking his list of supplies for the trip, muttering loudly under his
breath as he ticked items off a long list, one by one.
Professor Miller Hayre was, as usual, sitting on a stool smoking his old
pipe and staring meditatively at a bubbling test tube, the purple liquid
reflecting on his round glasses. His hair was grey and thinning, lending
him the archetypal air of the great distracted professor of archaeology
that he was. Miller Hayre was an expert on Atlantean artefacts having
studied them both at the Universities of Cambridge and St Andrews. It
took a lot to get him excited though and he seemed to be in a constant day
Finally Michael Doyle, the demolition expert, was gleefully packing as many
sticks of dynamite into every crevice of his large rucksack as he could.
Nobody was quite sure if the small Scotsman was all quite there, but
no-one doubted he was a genius at blowing things up.
McHarrie frowned across at Doyle, eyeing up the many protruding dynamite
"Doyle! I've told you before! You don't need that much bloody dynamite! You
only ever need to blow some doors off, not entire buildings."
"Take a hike. You never know when it'll come in use," shot back Doyle,
sticking another couple of the red sticks into the deep pockets of his
trench coat, just to annoy McHarrie.
"You'll blow us all to kingdom come, by God! One slip and boom! That's us
done for. Commit suicide if you want but don't take us with you."
Doyle just laughed wickedly and proceeded to check his Webley revolver.
"Are we ready yet?" Miller Hayre had reluctantly come out of his reverie at
the sound of the argument.
"Yes!" said Doyle, snapping the revolver into place on his belt and jumping
to his feet, "whether McHarrie is or not."
With a sour look at Doyle, McHarrie slung his bulging rucksack onto his
shoulder and walked out of the lab down to the nearby airlock.
With another laugh, Doyle followed with Miller Hayre close behind.
Jane sighed and followed, winding her way through the lab tables muttering
under her breath about how stupid men were.
His Majesty's Dreadnaught Renown was one of the smaller submersible
dreadnaughts that the British Navy possessed and still its size was
breathtaking. Built at the Glasgow Govan dockyards, the two hundred yard
long submarine was a frightening example of British sea power, a potent
and invisible weapon. So the crew weren't happy at having to babysit four
scientists who spent their time rooting about the ruins of Atlantis.
However, as Doyle candidly put it they could lump it.
The dreadnaught did not have far to travel, a mere hour or thereabouts, so
the party sat in a cramped room near the dreadnaught's air lock with their
rucksacks piled untidily in a corner.
A red stick fell from rucksack and clattered noisily around the floor.
"Doyle! That stuff is dangerous! For goodness sake, can't you pack it away
more carefully?" McHarrie moaned, as he fed bullets into his revolver.
"It's fine, so long as you don't drop a match on it then it won't explode."
Doyle said, as he bent to pick up the rolling tube. "Here! Catch!"
McHarrie dropped his gun with a load clatter, spilling bullets onto the
textured metal floor and tried to catch the dynamite stick Doyle had just
thrown at him. His fingertips just touched it in time to flip it straight
into the wall.
McHarrie and Miller Hayre jumped convulsively as Doyle roared with
"You moron, Doyle....." McHarrie started before Jane interrupted him.
"Will you two stop mucking about. Michael, stop baiting Jonathon and
Jonathon stop rising to him."
McHarrie blushed, muttering apologies and picked up the bullets on the
floor, while Doyle gave Jane a hurt glare and picked up his dynamite.
A sailor marched up to the door and, saluting smartly, he informed the
party that they should prepare themselves as the submarine had nearly
reached the location of interest.
The section of ruins the party wished to explore had been uncovered many
years ago. No one had investigated them because they were isolated from
the main areas of ancient habitation and looked boring, an uninteresting
jumble of blocks and columns much like any other. McHarrie wanted to look
further into the ruins as there was speculation that a large air pocket
existed underneath the rubble, meaning that Atlantean relics may have
survived the millennia undisturbed and untouched by the corrosive sea. One
of the more amazing inventions to come out of the study of Atlantean
relics and their crystal power sources was that of a shield generator
which kept out nothing except pure water. One of the shield generators had
been installed at the base of the ruins and, once activated, shone like a
beacon, a rusty bubble of light that somehow held out the vast pressure of
the ocean, leaving the ruins open to the ravages of the air for the first
time since the cataclysm that had taken the buildings deep down to the
The dreadnaught shuddered, plates of iron and steel creaking under the
strain of being so close to the enormous power source of the shield
generator. Wave upon wave of invisible energy radiated out far beyond the
limits of the shield itself, pushing metal away like an anti magnet. Only
the sheer size and power of the Renown allowed it to approach close enough
to send out an airlock tube to penetrate the red shield. It was down this
tube that the exploration party descended, McHarrie and Doyle bickering
again, this time about how much explosive was necessary to blow a tunnel
through the bottom of a mountain which was an ongoing argument between
The hard rocky slope was slick with a dampness that even the shield had not
pushed out as it grew to encompass the ruins. A short climb ahead over a
thin white layer of sea salt, lay the crumbled building which could now
seen as a larger version of the Greek Parthenon in Athens.
Jane was more interested in the HM Dreadnaught Renown which could be seen
outside the bubble of air. The submarine was even more impressive seen
from the outside, a massive iron tube lined with portholes, its huge
underwater cannons protruding from the upper deck. At the stern flew an
anodised red metal replica of the Royal Navy ensign, brightly lit by four
lights. The low rumble of its engines could be felt rising through the
ground as the submarine moved to stand off waiting for the green flare
that signalled the explorers required a pick up.
It was difficult to see too much outside the shield but Jane could make out
the underwater mountain slope as it descended gradually to the ocean
depths, while above the slope increased more and more sharply until it
probably reached a peak.
Jane turned at an exclamation from Miller Hayre. All three men were crowded
under a large outcrop of rock which they were all tapping at with small
"By jove!" Miller Hayre announced excitedly. "I think there's a sort of
doorway under here. D'you think it'll lead up to the ruins?"
"Most likely," replied McHarrie. "No use to us if we can't get it open
"Ahem," Doyle coughed lightly. "Allow me kind sirs!"
Everyone ran back down the slope, hurriedly looking for some place to hide
while Doyle did his best to bring the mountain down on them.
A dull, low boom was felt more than heard and was quickly followed by a
cloud of dust rolling down the mountainside. Rising coughing from their
cover, Miller Hayre, McHarrie and Jane found a dusty Doyle surveying his
"When you three have stopped playing hide and seek perhaps you'd like to do
some real archaeology now?" Doyle called down.
Doyle had opened up an entrance that led into an upwardly sloping tunnel,
more than tall enough to take a man and wide enough for four men to stand
abreast without touching the sides. Despite its age, the tunnel was well
lit by glowing orange orbs set into the walls. Some flickered on and off
but Jane had no doubt that this was probably due to Doyle dynamiting the
entrance more than any failure in their manufacture.
Without another word, the party stepped into the tunnel and, led by
McHarrie, they walked slowly upwards, drinking in the age old atmosphere
of mystery. The tunnel walls were bare and totally smooth, the tunnel
having apparently been cut out of the rock by a machine. No living being
could possibly have created such a tunnel by hand.
The tunnel was long and perfectly straight. To Jane's eyes it was boring
too. No wall carvings, no paintings, nothing. The only thing of interest
was the fact that despite the incredible age of the structure, it was in
almost perfect condition. The tunnel ended abruptly, opening up into a
small square room. Dust lay on the floor, inches thick, and swirled
upwards in choking clouds when disturbed by the explorers heavy boots. The
room was bare but well lit by light globes. Moving quickly onwards they
walked through an open doorway into another short corridor leading to
another plain room. And so it went on.
McHarrie kept careful notes in a flip notebook whilst Doyle dropped small
square orange cubes of painted wood every few yards to keep a track of
their path. The complex was large, certainly one of the largest they'd
been in yet. However, it was also one of the least interesting they'd
explored. The only things present in all the rooms they visited was dust
and light globes. There was no decoration whatsoever, no carvings,
paintings, writing, nothing. This in itself was unusual as Miller Hayre
pointed out, as all other Atlantean buildings discovered were covered with
faded frescos, text and pictograms. The building was also in amazing
condition. There hadn't been an air bubble at all. The entire complex was
airtight and had been since its submersion in the cold Atlantic.
Jane was beginning to despair of finding anything of note and she saw that
even Miller Hayre was growing fidgety at the lack of objects to analyse.
Doyle was complaining at the lack of things to blow up and tossing a stick
of dynamite from hand to hand much to McHarrie's annoyance and concern.
McHarrie was in front, as usual, leading the way, barely looking into any
of the rooms they passed now due to their similarity. Suddenly he stopped
short, Doyle almost bumping into him.
Cutting short Doyle's complaint, he stepped through a doorway on his left,
exclaiming "Now, this is more like it!"
Upon entering the large square room, the party almost walked into a large
black marble block about five feet high and ten wide, in the middle of
which glowed a single blue star shaped button. In the centre of the room
was a large circular platform of polished black material. The platform was
raised slightly out of the surrounding grey stone floor and was around ten
feet in diameter. Everything could easily be seen, as the room was bathed
in a bright yellow light that seemed to come from the walls.
Apart from the marble block and the circular platform the room was as bare
as the rest they'd seen, much to McHarrie's irritation. Everyone's
attention focussed on the star shaped glow.
"Well," said Doyle, not bothering to look around, "who's going to press
Tentatively, Miller Hayre pushed the blue glowing glass button. It clicked
and instantly the ambient light in the room dimmed. From the four upper
corners of the room, thin beams of blue and white appeared and shone onto
the circular platform in the room's centre. A blue line appeared in mid
air floating above the black circle, before stretching out into a white
rectangle that hung a few feet about the surface and reached up almost to
the ceiling. A series of semi opaque pictures formed on the rectangle and
text and pictographs flowed back and forth at disturbing speed. As the
scientists watched in astonishment, the rectangle melted away and a giant
eight foot tall figure formed, surrounded by a faint nimbus of blue. The
figure was possibly female but it was difficult to tell. It was slim, its
body's contours covered from ankle to neck by a bodysuit upon which
flashed and flickered pictures and ancient script. The figure's long
delicate face was bare and hairless, very human like but with an ethereal
beauty accentuated by shining black almond shaped eyes.
The figure bowed and for the first time in hundreds of centuries, Atlantean
was spoken on Earth.
While the four scientists stared in wonder at the astonishing creation
before them, the black marble panel which had before only shown the single
blue button, had now come alive with flashes of rainbow colour and a
myriad of coloured shapes and pictographs now shone brightly in the
"What did it say?" whispered Jane to no one in particular.
"I've absolutely no idea," breathed Miller Hayre quietly. "Aren't you meant
to be the world class linguist?"
The professor took a step forward to the glowing figure. "From the way he,
or it, bowed I think it's waiting for instructions."
Doyle strode up to the figure, carefully testing the black raised surface
with his booted toe before stepping onto it and walking round the blue
giant studying it from every angle.
"D'you think it's real?" he said as he lifted his hand and prepared to prod
"Don't touch it!" Miller Hayre, McHarrie and Jane all yelled at once.
Doyle prodded the figure's calf and the tip of his finger disappeared
before reappearing as he pulled it out.
"Nope. Didn't think so. Looks like this thing here is generated by light.
Great stuff don't you think?"
Doyle didn't wait for any response and started waving his hands in the air
and hunting for clues as to how the technology worked.
Miller Hayre was examining the script and pictograms on the console.
"Jane, dear, can you make out anything of this writing? Some of it looks
remarkably like Ancient Sumerian."
Jane peered closely at the text. The vast majority of the text was
obviously intended to label the bewildering array of glowing buttons.
"Jane, any idea what language it was speaking in?" called out McHarrie as
he looked up from pencilling down details in a notebook.
"Seeing as this is old Atlantean technology then perhaps it was Atlantean,"
Jane replied with a touch of sarcasm. McHarrie could be downright stupid
McHarrie threw a hurt glare at Jane which she studiously ignored while
Doyle laughed heartily.
"Lords and lady of the now future. How may the Nucleus help?" The voice
radiated around the room seeming to come from everywhere at once.
The figure bowed again and despite her absolute astonishment Jane thought
she saw a hint of a smile on its face.
"By jove! It speaks English! How on Earth....?" Miller Hayre spluttered
"We, the Nucleus, have observed you since you entered the Institute of
Knowledge. We analysed your speech and word patterns and we can now
communicate. Is this acceptable?" the Nucleus spoke with a perfect Oxford
accent, very similar to Miller Hayre's.
"Oh, I say!" Miller Hayre was bubbling over with excitement running his
hands repeatedly through his thinning hair.
"What are you? What can you tell us? What happened to Atlantis? Where....?"
The questions poured out from Miller Hayre like a never ending torrent.
The Nucleus coughed politely, in such a human way all four explorers
stared. Doyle and McHarrie now stood next to Jane and the Professor
listening intently to the Nucleus. Even Doyle for once seemed to be in
"Ahem. If the revered lord would like us to answer the first query then we
"Erm..... Yes. Sorry. Please do," Miller Hayre stuttered.
"We are the Nucleus. We are a repository of knowledge for the civilisation
called Atlantis. We were created a great number of your months ago, long
before Atlantis died and its survivors were scattered around this
To Jane's ears it seemed as if the voice held a hint of sadness.
"Our creators were great and wise people and before they fell they realised
that one day, if we survived, we would possibly be found by their
descendants who could use our knowledge to help the human race scale the
great heights of Atlantis and progress beyond without falling into the
same traps that they did."
The Nucleus fell silent. Jane felt the silence was foreboding as if old
ghosts were watching the proceedings with interest and not necessarily
"What happened to Atlantis?" she asked, her voice sounding small compared
to the omnipotent tones of the Nucleus.
"My lady," the Nucleus turned its dark eyes onto her and Jane shivered
despite the heat of the room. "The story of Atlantis and its downfall is a
long one and we shall not attempt to tell it all to you this day. We
believe your friends in the submersible may worry if you are too long. We
shall tell you a much abridged version and will attempt to provide you
with a book copy when you next return."
The giant blue figure of the Nucleus raised its legs and sat cross legged
in mid air, hovering three feet above the circle platform.
"Come, my lords and lady. It is customary to sit cross legged when a story
is to be told."
Doyle grinned. "Just like being at school again", he said as he walked
jauntily round the black marble control panel and sat down in front of the
waiting Nucleus. McHarrie, Miller Hayre and Jane followed close behind and
sat down next to Doyle.
"The story of Atlantis is a long and glorious one, one that started many,
many months ago....."
"In the beginning, six hundred thousand months ago, mankind had already
survived the rise and fall of many empires. The continents had begun to
settle into their current positions leaving the many separate tribes of
man spread over the globe. The continent of Atlantis stood by itself in
isolation and it was here that existed the most vibrant and
technologically advanced civilisation that this planet has seen. The
people of this continent were fair-haired and blue eyed, very different
from the peoples of the surrounding continents who were mainly dark haired
and brown eyed. The Atlanteans were a tall race, often reaching seven or
eight feet in height and they were mighty warriors, proud and fearless in
the hunt, running down giant mastodon and sabre toothed tigers with ease.
"There were seven tribes on Atlantis, each proud, stubborn and warlike.
There were many wars between them before they were united by the great
warrior statesman, Gia Khan. Under his long leadership, Atlantis prospered
and the seven tribal towns became seven great shining cities rising high
and bright above the surrounding plains. In the middle of the continent,
Gia Khan decreed a city should be built, a capital where the heads of the
seven nations would meet and decide how their country should be run. This
capital was also called Atlantis.
"As the months came and went, Gia Khan passed into the Elysium Fields
beyond the starfields of Orion and Atlantis greatly mourned his passing
but his legacy continued to bless and inspire Atlanteans. Atlantis thrived
and went from strength to strength. Great libraries were built and
scientific institutions flourished and the power of Atlantis grew at an
exponential rate. One of the greatest achievements was the discovery of
how to create great crystals capable of storing and releasing enormous
amounts of energy. This discovery led to the Great Age of Creation when
the crystals were used to power everything from ships to flying carriages
and even vessels that ventured into the great unknowns of space. The
population of Atlantis expanded beyond the boundaries of the island
continent into the dark unenlightened world beyond. Cities were
established in the great mountains which you know as the Himalayas, on the
great plains of America and the Steppes and in the jungles of Africa and
South America. Trade between Atlantis and the colonies made Atlantis and
her children wealthy beyond dreams.
"The enormous power afforded by the crystals allowed sophisticated
mechanisms to be created to make the Atlantean way of life easier. Society
became stagnant and slothful as the many months passed and, over the
generations, degenerated to a sick morass of wanton idleness. As society
degenerated, old arguments between the original seven tribes were dragged
up and old hatreds sparked and flared. The tribes went to war with each
other and great battles were fought, not just across Atlantis, but across
the entire planet. Atlantis threw off its lethargy and plunged itself into
a self destructive conflict that raged back and forth between the seven
tribes. Alliances were formed and betrayed, cities bombarded, towns raped
and pillaged, mass murder committed and never was there a victor. In the
end, one of the tribes, the Tuatha de Danaan, on the verge of
annihilation, sued for peace. The six other tribes ignored the request and
joined forces to destroy their weakened opponent. Realising they would
never win, the Tuatha de Danaan sent their women and children away from
Atlantis and activated a doomsday machine they hoped they would never have
to use. This doomsday device melted significant portions of the polar ice
caps and the resulting floods poured over the globe causing destruction
that was so widespread it passed forever into legend, imprinted on the
collective consciousness of man.
"Atlantis was badly affected by the leviathan floods that swept down from
the north, but worse was to come. The sudden and extreme melting of the
polar ice caps allowed the land trapped under the billions of tons of ice
to rise and the reverberations made themselves felt down in the fault line
of what you call the Mid Atlantic Ridge on which much of Atlantis was
situated. As the polar lands rose, Atlantis sank under the smoke of
erupting volcanoes and violent earthquakes.
"The sinking was rapid and much of the Atlantean technology was lost.
Survivors of Atlantis were numerous but of the original population many
perished, unable to escape the great waves that washed over the doomed
continent. Of the colonies that had been established in the dark lands
only that in the distant Himalayas survived the convulsions of the earth.
Its name is Shangri La.
"The survivors lay the foundations for future empires on Earth, hoping to
create a new Atlantis but without the frailties their civilisation had
succumbed to in its final days. Civilisations such as Egypt, Sumeria and
the Olmecs owe much to the knowledge that Atlantis was able to impart.*
"And we, the Nucleus, watched and stored everything for the generation that
would find us."
Seated on hard wooden benches in a sparse, close room on the Renown, each
scientist brooded alone, deep in their own thoughts, dwelling on the
shattering revelations that the Nucleus had revealed to them. The entire
pre-history of mankind would need to be rewritten, the scientific
community would be thrown into a turmoil, but above all lives would be
changed forever by the knowledge that the Nucleus held within its memory.
The Ministry of Science and Engineering would go stark staring mad about
Miller Hayre gloomily imagined the droves of scientists that would now
descend on New Atlantis, all demanding to see his discovery, all demanding
precious time to test their own theories about Atlantis, all impinging on
his own time with the Nucleus. And that's if Ministry of Defence didn't
close the area off and declare it a state secret which was very likely.
Bugger. But they had to let people know because this discovery was just
far too big to hide.
McHarrie's mind was racing. The possibilities for constructing new weapons
powered by the Atlantean power crystals was now within his reach. For too
long they'd been limited to using the crystals only to power vehicles,
being unable to channel the energy efficiently enough to power a weapon.
The Nucleus had hinted at crystal powered weapons. He was sure of it. His
friends in Germany would be extremely interested when he reported back to
Doyle was not in a good mood. He'd only been allowed to blow up one thing
and that had been it. What a waste of time the trip had been. He wondered
if the Nucleus would have anything to say on the matter of explosives and
thermodynamics. Now there was a thought.....
Jane's thoughts were her own.
*2 The War Factory, 1935*
The silence of millennia echoed through the corridors of ancient stone.
Once, many generations ago, long before the supposed dawn of modern
civilisation, the corridors had rung to the sounds of scientific and
military endeavour. The clash of metal and grating of stone still hung in
the air, a tinkling that could be heard if you listened hard enough. Once
there thrived a civilisation that reached the four corners of the Earth
whose people lived in prosperity and freedom, people that were giants
eight feet tall. They sailed the oceans bringing peace and prosperity
wherever they went and were treated like gods. But they became complacent
and complacency bred contempt for each other. Hatred. These mighty people
split into factions and fought. The mighty energies they had harnessed for
good they channelled into creating mighty war machines. And they fought.
And fought. And now they fight no more. But the war factories they created
still stood, although they were now many hundreds of fathoms beneath the
waves. Silent, dark and lonely, they remained undisturbed, monuments to
the evil excesses of a long gone people.
Water hung from the high vaulted ceilings stretching, fighting the
inevitable force of gravity before dripping down splashing loudly into
cold black puddles. Lonely howls of unknown creatures wound through the
miles of darkness sounding like lost souls stranded on the banks of the
Suddenly, there was a deep low, bass thud that resounded far down into the
hidden depths of the ancient mausoleum of war. Dust trickled down from
crumbling joists, scaring skittering creatures away.
The dripping of water continued its reign of the silence, dripping
Once again the air was assaulted, this time by a shrill whine which slowly
increased in volume before screaming to a halt. There were more low thuds,
followed by a sharp crack of stone and a huge bang, as a huge two foot
thick chunk of granite fell into one of the corridors. Blinding light
streamed in, slicing through the thick dank darkness, shredding the gloom.
Motes of dust spiralled in the sudden draft, the smell of oil and grease
permeating into the violated sanctity of the temple of destruction.
From beyond the light source came a deep menacing tread. Something was
coming. Something heavy. The light flickered as a bulky squat humanoid
shape loomed into view at the newly cut doorway. The figure was heavily
armoured with rounded plates of iron and steel covering every aspect of
its seven foot tall body. Tubes ran from the legs and arms, interfacing
with the carapace. The mighty right arm held an enormous cannon like
weapon. Steam and gases rose from gaps between the armour blowing away in
the oily breeze. Above the mighty carapace a tanned face stuck out from
the protection of the power armour, taking in all that was lit by the
lights shining from the shoulder pads. Captain James Riley had arrived.
In the depths, something stirred and sent out commands to its children.
Riley's team moved smoothly into action like the well oiled machine it was.
Hand picked from the British Empire's regiments, the soldiers underwent
months of gruelling training and conditioning before they were considered
good enough for Nightshade. The elite Nightshade Division consisted of the
best infantry troops in the world.
Quickly the five soldiers scanned the immediate area, power armour creaking
and steaming as weapon barrels swept around. Then without a word, Riley
lead them deeper into the building.
Torchlight flashed over the intricately coloured wall murals that were
etched and painted on every corridor and room wall. Bright reds, blues and
greens swirled in the yellow light, huge sea scenes dominating and drawing
the eye at every turn. Here and there, small globes threw a minty green
luminescence into the close surrounding area but beyond there was only
darkness. Riley led them deeper and deeper going over the plan he held in
his mind's eye as he did so. Find the power crystals. Escape. It was
simple. Neat. Easy. Except for one thing. Two previous expeditions had
failed to return to their home submarine Dreadnaughts. Twenty men were
missing - more than likely dead if the garbled radio messages were to be
believed. The messages consisted of screams, cries for help, savage
snarls, the rending of flesh and had shocked everyone who dared listen to
them. The British scientific colony of New Atlantis appealed for help and
the Nightshade Division were sent in, supposedly on a training mission to
test out the new power armour the boffins at Bletchley Park had designed.
In reality the Ministry of Science and Engineering at Whitehall in good
ol' Blighty was nervous about finding opposition to their continued
acquisition of the Atlantean power crystals.
A solid metal door appeared out of darkness ahead of the soldiers, shining
an unnatural silver hue. Complex symbols and writing were embossed at head
height on the door. Riley pulled out a piece of paper and checked the
symbols and complex lines written on it with those on the door. They
matched. Their objective had been reached. With a sigh of relief he turned
to his men and.....
..... screeches and howls raced down the wide corridor they had just come
down. Screams from the very depths of hell itself were raised in a
cacophony of hatred against the intruders.
"Quick. Inside now," Riley shouted.
The door squealed open on protesting hinges.
Sergeant Miller turned, covering the squad's rear as it slowly squeezed
through the doorway, hulking frames outlined against a soft blue light
from within the large room they entered.
Something moved ahead of him, caught in the green wall lights. White fangs
dripped and yellow claws scraped against the granite floor and night black
bodies swarmed over each other desperate to kill, screeching with rage.
Miller raised his Gatling cannon and flicked the safety off.
"Miller! Move it! Get in here!"
"There's hundreds of them. I'll hold them off. Get the crystals and get out
of here. Now." Miller was glad his voice didn't betray the icy fear that
gripped his heart with hard fingers.
Armour clattered and creaked as Riley appeared behind him and swore
The two men looked at each other, a mutual sense of understanding passing
between them. They had no choice.
"Victory or death, Miller," Riley said has he turned away.
"Victory or death, Captain," Miller returned as he heard the metal door and
his only escape clang shut. He could hear bars being dropped behind it. He
could feel Death at his shoulder, waiting.
The black horde had stopped, seething. Heads turned and focussed on the
soldier, standing massive and immovable, all alone against them. They
could feel other warm living bodies nearby, behind this one. Kill, kill,
kill! As one they surged forward.
Miller took an involuntary step back as night descended screaming upon him.
He pressed the trigger of his gun, the barrels span creating a shrill
whine which drowned out the screaming which in turn was drowned out by the
roar of bullets hurling themselves through the air, thirsting for lives to
The torrent of night paused and swirled as body after body fell shredded,
bright blue ichor splattering and dripping from the walls. But as the
waters of the Amazon are relentless so was this tide of hell and the sheer
mass of bodies pushed the fiends on.
Brass bullet cases span and bounced away from Miller, collecting in small
piles. The roar of the spinning cannon deafened him and the flickering
glare of cannon fire blinded him but still he stood, seeking new targets
with unerring aim, protecting his squad, a King Canute against the sea.
Suddenly the rage of firepower stopped, the Gatling cannon whining
uselessly, out of ammunition. Miller clicked a switch and the gun fell to
the floor with a clatter. His power armour complained as the flexed his
arms preparing for unarmed combat. Victory or death. His would be a good
The dam burst with a howl of victory. Fangs flashed and talons reached for
flesh to rend. And Death prepared to take the life of a hero.
The metal door began to buckle under the ferocity of the creatures'
attacks, bulging and groaning under the sheer weight of bodies behind it.
Power crystals secured, Riley and his remaining unit members were scouring
the cavernous round room for escape routes. At the north of the room
directly opposite the buckling door was a set of double doors, encrusted
in rust and green deposits but Riley was searching for a route back to
their submarine mothership. He was having little luck. A further set of
double doors led to a comprehensive cave in with no way past.
"Rafferty! Black! Get those doors down. We're going to have to go north."
The two soldiers tramped heavily over to the rusty doors, vapour steaming
into the damp air from their suits.
"Johnston, contact the Renown. We need another route out of here."
The sound of metal on metal reverberated around the room like a bell
tolling a doom and Rafferty and Black battered the doors down.
The silver door was holding against the relentless assault of the unknown
creatures, bending as it was but it wouldn't hold for much longer. Time
was running out and they would die soon if they didn't get out.
"What did Renown say?" asked Riley as he moved to follow Rafferty and Black
through the open doors.
"Couldn't contact them, sir. We must be too deep in the complex."
"Damn. Johnston, how deep down are we in here?"
" I reckon about two hundred fathoms sir."
"And the North Atlantic Fleet is close isn't it?"
" Last I heard it was operating on exercises about twenty miles away. Are
you thinking about going for the surface, sir?"
"Got any better ideas?" growled Riley. Things were bad. This was turning
into a suicide mission. And what the hell were those things out there?
Miller had carried enough firepower to level an army and that hadn't done
him any good.
Going for the surface wasn't the best plan but it was the only one. Escape
back to the Renown was cut off and they were lost with a horde of hell
beasts baying for their blood. Fear crept down Riley's spine as he heard
echoes of screams all around him in the dark corridors. The darkness was
oppressive, a living creature pressing on the men trying to devour them.
The only light now was from the soldier's torches but the shadows just
seemed darker, the light less stronger, weakening as they strode ever
deeper into the warren of corridors.
They were taking a well deserved break, eating chocolate from foil wrappers
and sipping water from canteens. The huge low ceilinged room was sparse,
coated in dust as was normal in this place. Broken pieces of stone
littered the floor and the walls were lined with rusted cracked tubes of
metal. Great shards of clear crystal lay in heaps under holes in the
ceiling. Nothing remained to give a clue as to what the purpose of the
room had been.
"Johnston, anything from the Renown?" asked Riley.
"Negative, sir. Not even a directional signal."
Still nothing. The building must be linked to others within the Atlantean
city complex and they'd managed to find those tunnel links. Fantastic. So
much for coming out on the other side of the building they'd originally
There was a blur at the edge of Riley's vision and Rafferty screamed in
fear and surprise as a long black creature leapt at him, sparks flashing
as its claws scraped his armour, fangs glistening in the torchlight.
Johnston was nearest to the Irishman and, armour clattering, he grabbed the
beast's arm and yanked. Power armour motors whined as the man's strength
was enhanced ten times. Bones snapped, blue ichor spurted and Johnston
staggered back as he wrenched the right arm off the nightmare animal. It
barely seemed to notice continuing its relentless attack, its head shaking
back and forth as its jaws gripped flesh. Rafferty's screams of pain rang
on as he desperately tried to fight his attacker, staggering back into a
wall. He slumped to his knees but as he did so he managed to gain purchase
on the animal and throw it away from him. Black and Riley who were running
over to help fired their guns, the automatic shotgun shells blasting into
the black body, spraying fountains of blood into the air as it jerked back
under the impact of the large calibre bullets.
The threat disposed of, Johnston scrambled over to Rafferty. He took one
look at Rafferty and promptly vomited. Unable to break through the armour,
the attacker had gone for the only prominent weak spot. His face. Only a
bloody ruin of muscle, tendons and smashed bone remained.
Rafferty's left hand spasmed, his clattering armour breaking the unnatural
silence and spurring the shocked men into action.
"Johnston, get a grip man. Keep an eye out for more of those animals."
Johnston moved away wiping vomit from his mouth leaving Black and Riley
kneeling next to the badly injured man.
"There's nothing we can do for him," Riley said to Black as he struggled to
remove the forearm sections of Rafferty's armour. Succeeding, he felt for
a pulse. It was weak which wasn't surprising. The man was probably in
acute shock and pain. His breathing was ragged, coming in bubbling gasps
"Will you do it or will I?" asked Black.
"I'll do it," said Riley injecting a syringe of morphine into Rafferty's
bloodstream. It would help dull the pain and give him some peace.
Black got up and walked away. A seasoned veteran, he had no stomach for
what Riley had to do.
Riley pulled out his service revolver, the dark metal weapon cold and heavy
in his hand. Holding it to remains of Rafferty's temple, he paused as
Rafferty reached out and gripped his free hand. He knew what had to be
done. They couldn't take him with them and to leave him alive would be an
abomination. Mercy had to prevail.
Riley pulled the trigger.
Johnston leaned against the doorway leading out of that room of death. He
was pale and obviously in shock. He was young compared to the rest of the
veterans and he wasn't totally battle hardened. Rafferty was... had
been... a good friend of his. This should only have been a recon mission,
scout the area out, grab the goods and get out. They were getting picked
off one by one as easily as they themselves could take out a normal
civilian. They were being played with, mere toythings to be picked up and
discarded after being broken, beaten, shredded, pulped, destroyed.
Johnston began to think they weren't going to get out of here. Taking deep
breaths of damp air he tried to compose himself, tried to suppress the
mounting panic he could feel pushing its way up from his stomach to his
chest clutching for his heart.
"Are you OK, boy?" asked Black as he scanned the wide corridor for
"Could be better," replied Johnston cursing himself for the tremor in his
"We'll get out, don't you worry. We'll find a way out soon. These corridors
can't go on for ever."
"Do you think?"
Black smiled grimly, staying silent as Riley approached.
"Let's go. No point hanging around..." Riley paused. "Did you hear that?"
The three men stood silently, ears pricked for the slightest sound.
A rumble could be felt vibrating through the stone floors making dust dance
in the torchlight.
Johnston's radio crackled into life making all three soldiers jump in their
armour causing the interlocking plates to jangle loudly.
"...shade, can you hear us? Please respond. Renown calling Nightshade, are
you receiving? Please respond."
Grabbing the radio hanging from Johnston's back, Riley almost yelled with
relief at the sound of the Renown's radio operator.
"Renown, this is Nightshade. Repeat, this is Nightshade."
"Captain Riley! Good to hear from you! What's happened down there?"
"Will tell you when we get on board. We are two men down and require
"Riley, we've triangulated your position. The Renown has been able to dock
with a doorway two hundred yards north north east from your current
position. Proceed with all possible speed for evacuation."
"Roger that Renown. See you in five minutes. Get the tea on. Over and
Replacing the receiver Riley looked at Johnston and Black.
"Well, you heard the man! Let's get moving."
The evacuation point was probably at the far end of the corridor they were
in. The roof of this wide corridor was tens of feet high, the ceiling
barely visible in the darkness. Fluted pillars and buttresses soared
gracefully meeting overhead supporting the frescoed ceiling. Once this had
been a place of beauty despite its ancient use. Now...
Moving three abreast, the soldiers hurried as fast as their heavy armour
would allow. They were nearly out of this nightmare world, nearly back to
the warm and bright submarine, nearly home. The thought of this spurred
them on, sweat trickling down their faces, ragged breathing catching in
their throats. Nearly home.
A sharp hiss split the air curling and lashing its sibilant caress against
the ears of the men. Ahead of them, what had once been a dark night was
now ablaze with stars which supernovaed into long, white and deadly fangs.
Ahead of them lay a seemingly insurmountable obstacle beyond which lay
their only escape. Uncountable numbers of filthy, glistening night
coloured creatures swarmed over each other, scaling the walls and pillars
like living oil. Harsh hisses and screeches sprang from their foul mouths
as they waited for a silent command from their parent, the command that
would finally destroy these interlopers.
They knew there was no escape. Hope had fluttered and died in an instant,
blown out like a candle in a hurricane. They would be caught before they
had run five yards. The three men knew there was only one thing to do and
that was to fight their way through to the escape beyond. Weapons clanked
as they were hastily checked and firing bolts pulled back into place.
Three large calibre weapons swung up at once. This was it.
Victory or death.
"Straight through them men," ordered Riley. "Don't stop until we're clear.
With those final words the three men charged, automatic shotguns pumping
out round after round. Small splashes of blue appeared in the living wall
which seemed to contract for an instant before surging forward, the
creatures moving as one, a single entity of rage and loathing.
The deadly wave crashed into the three soldiers knocking Black off balance
despite the weight of his armour. He continued firing as he fell, blue
fountains of ichor splashing out over the swarm.
Despite his own orders Riley turned to the mass of shapes that had
smothered Black when he fell. He could feel claws and teeth scraping over
his armour setting his own teeth on edge. He reached back with his left
hand and grabbed something which squirmed in his iron clad grip. He felt
pressure around his wrist as a barbed mouth gripped it. Black was down.
Riley could see flashes of gunfire from within swarming mass that covered
Black. Where was Johnston? Riley pulled with all his strength and threw
the creature in his grasp down to the ground with one smooth movement. He
crushed its skull with his foot feeling bone crack and splinter as he
pushed down. Riley felt bodies thudding into him. Black. He pulled the
trigger of his gun and night skin parted as he fought his way to where
Black was. Left and right, up and down he swung his gun, hitting out at
any creature that got in his way. Riley could feel himself being weighed
down by the sheer number of bodies that clung to him scrabbling for a way
into his armour. He stumbled, tripping over the gutted remains of a
creature and then suddenly he was lying face down on the ground. Screams
of triumph pierced his head making him dizzy. Desperately Riley fought to
push himself up, fought to free himself from the slavering jaws and
curving white claws that squealed over his armour. A sharp pain stabbed
through his right knee and Riley felt a claw dig its way into the
Staccato gunfire. Small calibre bullets. Lots of it.
Riley couldn't get up. The weight pressing on him was far too much. He was
exhausted. He'd failed. Victory or Death. Death called, holding out a bony
hand for him to take. Riley growled, deep down in his throat and pushed up
hard, getting one foot on the ground while ignoring the pain from his
right knee. His gun was out of ammunition so he used it like a club
battering the blunt weapon to his left and right, bodies giving way to his
onslaught, teeth and bone shattering into shards under the force of
Riley turned his head, puzzled. He could hear more gunfire, totally unlike
the boom of the large calibre weapons Nightshade carried. And then he saw
The Royal Marines were pouring out the opening in the wall beyond where the
Renown had docked, firing as they came. The CO had several Bren guns
providing covering fire to his squads as they engaged the creatures.
Caught by surprise the creatures were falling back under the withering
rain of fire the Marines were exposing them to.
Riley despatched two more creatures who snapped at him and then they were
all gone, vanishing as fast as they had appeared called away by an unknown
Ignoring the urgent calls of the Royal Marines, Riley limped over to the
shattered body of what was once Sergeant Black. He was definitely dead.
His limbs stuck out at unnatural angles, his amour scratched and clawed,
prised off in places where the creatures had slipped their long claws
through the gaps in the armour plates. A pool of dark red blood was
forming under the body.
"Sir, I think we better go now before those creatures come back with
It was Johnston. Battered but in far better shape than his commander.
"I'll take Black onboard the Renown, sir. There's a medic waiting for
Riley was too exhausted, mentally and physically, to argue with Johnston
who was breaching every rule on the chain of command by telling Riley what
As he limped back to the Renown, Riley was glad for his all enclosing
helmet. He didn't want anyone to see him crying at the savage loss of his
*3 The Launch of the Queen Victoria*
The crowds had been gathering since the day had dawned bright and sharp
over the sooty grey industrial city of Glasgow, still Second City of the
Empire in 1936. A chill February wind whistled and whined through the
cobbled streets and avenues blowing in the salty smell of the Atlantic
from the west, whipping colourful banners back and forth and snapping the
blue, white and red bunting strung between lampposts.
The River Clyde waterfront, opposite the Govan shipyards, resounded to the
calls of street hawkers selling everything from souvenirs of the momentous
occasion to meat pies and roasted chestnuts, their voices soaring above
the roar and tempered pandemonium of the swirling masses, competing loudly
with each other trading lively and sometimes sharp banter. Balloon sellers
with masses of bright balloons in a rainbow of colours did a roaring
trade. Nearly every child had a balloon on a string with the string
wrapped around their wrists to stop it blowing away. Union Jack flags were
tightly gripped in mitten clad hands, fluttering in the wind.
On the dull melancholy Clyde itself an armada of small rowing boats hovered
in place against the slow meandering current, carrying everything from
individuals to large families all regaling in the occasion of the launch
of the mighty new dreadnaught, a new pride of the British Royal Navy, a
further protector of the British Empire and all who lived in it.
Six years in the making, the mighty battleship stood in the dry dock of the
Govan shipyards of the Fairfield Shipbuilding and Engineering Company.
Constructed of the finest steel and iron available in the Empire by the
best ship builders, the six hundred yard long behemoth filled the horizon,
a cliff of sheer steel soaring high above the ground to the huge decks on
which bristled the barrels of the finest weapons to come out of the
armament factories of Birmingham and Sheffield. And looming above these
minor weapons, dwarfing them all, were the five primary batteries. Each
battery sported four 32 inch cannon, each cannon more than capable of
destroying an enemy battleship with a single hit, their long, deceptively
slim, barrels giving the dreadnaught the ability to pound a target into
oblivion from over forty miles away. The dreadnaught was Britain's mailed
fist on the seas, a potent and visible symbol of the power wielded by the
Empire and a warning to all its enemies; Britannia rules the waves.
Down the many decks leading to the engine room, deep in the bowels of the
ship, hung a spherical red crystal magically suspended in mid air
surrounded by copper pipes and great brass flanges. The crystal pulsed
constantly, casting a strange alien light around the unlit room. In a way
this was the heart of the dreadnaught, the source of its mighty power, the
reason that a six hundred yard long, half a million ton vessel could rove
the seas at will. The ancient power of Atlantis.
Next to the vast ship was a raised platform decorated with imperial purple
and crimson red sashes. Large Union Jack flags with the king's coat of
arms in the middle fluttered from flagpoles in each corner. The platform
was thronged with the important people of Scotland, the lords and earls
and their ladies, all dressed in their best silk and tweed finery,
diamonds and jewels glittering in the weak winter sun. The King of
Britain, Emperor of the British Empire, Edward VIII was present to launch
this feat of ingenuous engineering. A hub bub of conversation wafted
across the water, a symphony of idle chit chat, talk of holidays in India,
big game hunting in Kenya with a dark undercurrent speaking quietly of the
unsettling events in Europe and the continuing rearmament of Nazi
"I doubt it'll make any difference to us no matter what Germany does," a
well fed city councillor was saying to the king. "It's not as if the Hun
have the firepower to compete with the Grand Fleets or the Air Arm."
"No, no, that's true but this Hitler chap could cause problems with our
trading routes to India. Our airships pass directly over Germany on their
way there," interrupted a moustachioed man, dressed in a black tailed
coat, a bright blue silk cravat protecting his neck from the cold wind.
"He's not going to attack our airships, especially when the Air Arm can
bombard anywhere in Germany with impunity. No one would dare to strike
against the Empire," returned the councillor.
King Edward listened politely, sipping from a crystal flute of champagne
while nodding in agreement. It was a bitter day and very exposed on the
bare platform. The side of the dreadnaught was a bleak grey metal cliff
face that made the platform seem even colder. He'd be glad when this
engagement was over and he could go back to the deer stalking at Balmoral.
Personally, he doubted Adolf Hitler would do anything rash. He'd met him
and he seemed a thoroughly decent chap, if a tad hard on the Jews. And the
blacks. Gays too. Nothing to really worry about.
"What about America?" interrupted a new speaker. The voice was gruff and
commanding as befitted the military upbringing of General Barker.
"What about America?" said the councillor pompously. "Should take the
bloody colonies back if you ask me!" he harrumphed. "Should keep an eye on
that country, you know. Wouldn't surprise me If they tried to invade
Canada one of these days. You watch them!"
"I do agree," said General Barker as everyone nodded sagely in agreement
with the councillor. "America is easily the biggest threat to world peace
at this moment. American warships have been shadowing our shipping lanes
in the Caribbean and our men in the Pacific say the US naval bases at
Hawaii and Pearl Harbor are being rebuilt and reinforced. It's not us that
needs to worry though. I would say the Nipponese would be under threat."
"Oh, yes. Their war against the Middle Kingdom of China will sap much of
their resources. Big place China. Been there and it just goes stretches
forever. But what does Nippon have that America needs? The Nips are in
China because they need the resources. Nippon has nothing that America
"Taking over Nipponese interests would consolidate US power in the
Pacific," said General Barker launching into a detailed analysis. Edward
allowed Barker's voice to fade into the background while pretending to
listen politely. Edward had heard all this talk of an expansionist United
States before. It was a frequent topic of conversation at the dinner
parties he'd been to in the past month. One could get bored of hearing the
same topic again and again. He wondered when it would decided to slap down
the US before it decided to turned an eye on British interests.
Edward's butler approached him deftly threading his way through the crowd
before carefully whispering to the king that it was now time to launch the
Making his excuses to his companions, Edward handed his champagne glass to
the butler and, the crowd parting in front of him, walked to the podium
facing the dreadnaught where a magnum of champagne stood ready to christen
the new ship. A range of microphones stood in front of the podium from
Pathe News, the BBC, the World Service and others, wired up to broadcast
to the people crowding on the docks and the river front and across the
The breeze stiffened as Edward cleared his throat and mentally shuffled
through his speech. There was a hint of snow in the air, a bite that went
straight through his clothing, chilling him to the bone. He wished he was
on the river front with the common folk, next to all the glowing braziers
and with something warmer than a glass of champagne to keep the cold at
bay. Still, not long now. He had asked for the speech to be short and
short it was. He jumped as a voice suddenly blared out from speakers along
"Ladies and gentlemen of the British Isles, citizens of the British Empire.
His Majesty, the King."
A roar of appreciation and excitement rose up into the air along with the
steam of thousands of breaths. Cheers and whistles resounded along the
riverbank which was a riot of colour as thousands of Union Jack flags were
waved by adults and children both.
Edward smiled and waved hesitantly. Despite Wallis, the people still loved
him. Or maybe it was just the excitement of seeing a ship they'd worked on
for six years being launched. He eyed the soon to be Queen Victoria. She
truly was gigantic, a massive leviathan of steel and iron. He coughed
politely before beginning his speech.
"As I stand here in Glasgow on this great day I understand why this is
truly the second city of the Empire. Only here in the shipyards of the
Clyde can be found the skill, determination and industry to produce this
great leviathan, this great symbol of British sea power that stands before
The cries and cheers of appreciation had started before he'd finished his
last sentence and continued for a good minute before dieing down.
"This mighty ship will roam the waves protecting our Empire and all who
live in it from the aggression of our enemies and their allies. The world
we live in today is a dangerous world, a world of jealousy, hate and evil.
A world that conspires to overthrow our solid British values and replace
them with their foreign ways. This ship shall help ensure that the day
when that happens shall never come."
Edward placed his hand on the lever that would release the champagne
"I name this ship Queen Victoria. May God bless her and all who sail with
He pushed the lever down and the champagne magnum swung down in a slow
graceful arc to smash against the side with an enormous boom that echoed
through the air as if coming from a distance.
There were cries of consternation and alarm.
"What was that noise?" someone said.
"No idea. Was it not the dreadnaught ship launching?"
There was another enormous boom. And another. And another. A shrill shriek
sounded overhead and Edward heard General Barker exclaim, "Shells! We're
A huge explosion erupted in the River Clyde just a few hundred yards from
the podium. A fountain of water shot high into the air, higher even than
the Queen Victoria, before crashing back down again and splashing in a
wave over the river banks. The many rowing boats in the vicinity were
reduced to less than match wood, their occupants shredded in the massive
"The King! Save the King!" Edward heard someone shout seconds before
another shell whistled in down through the air and crashed into the
crowded river bank across from the podium. The explosion was truly
enormous, a huge gout of yellow and red that engulfed the tightly packed
men, woman and children like an evil dragon's flame. Bodies were thrown
about like rag dolls with missing limbs. Nearby a building collapsed under
the shock of the blast, crushing many more people and sending a cloud of
choking brown and grey dust rolling up the river.
On the podium the quiet chatter had turned into screams of panic and
pandemonium reigned as the great people pushed and shoved to get off the
platform crushing underfoot those that fell. Edward's butler grabbed his
arm and pulled him.
"Sir, hurry! You've got to get off here now! It's not safe!"
Edward looked uncomprehendingly at the man, his face blank with shock. Who
on earth could possibly be attacking the greatest nation the world had
A shell landed a hundred yards in front of Edward, right in the midst of
the people who were running to escape the bombardment. The blast blew
Edward and his butler backwards off their feet onto the wooden floor of
the podium and Edward could feel where his face had scorched in the heat.
His head throbbed where it had banged painfully against the wood. The
flagpoles at each corner of the platform had snapped and fallen to the
ground trailing their proud banners in the black scorch marks.
A series of explosions blossomed along the docks like deadly flowers,
blooming bright mixtures of red, orange and yellow, destroying the four
vast blue dock cranes that stood by the wharf. They toppled slowly and
gracefully on to the stone wharfs, metal limbs bending and grinding,
before smashing into bits like ugly works of art.
The shrieking whistle of a shell pierced the air overhead and Edward's legs
finally obeyed the orders his brain was screaming at them. Running
jerkily, his hands over his head to protect himself from the debris and
shrapnel that was shredding the air and anything in its way, he hastened
towards the steps leading off the podium, his faithful valet supporting
him. Ahead of him he could see a scene of carnage. At the bottom of the
steps lay the councillor he'd been talking to minutes previously, his
plump body punctured by jagged stones and metal. Bodies lay in disarray,
some cut in two either by the blast or the resultant shrapnel. Blood
flowed red on the blackened concrete.
But it was too late for Edward. The whistle of the shell grew louder and
then the podium erupted in a vast gout of flame. Edward VIII, King of the
British Isles, Emperor of the British Empire, sovereign of four hundred
million people, died.
The attackers finally found their range and His Majesty's Dreadnaught Queen
Victoria, abandoned in her launch bay, never felt the lap of water on her
keel before she died under an onslaught of shells and bombs. The first few
shells exploded harmlessly against her foot thick armour plating but
heavier guns were deployed and the plating shattered exposing the
unprotected insides. The shelling was merciless and explosions racked the
dreadnaught from bow to stern until finally, deep in the bowels of the
mighty vessel, a shell exploded in the engine room. The wind ceased it's
cold moaning as if catching its breath, the shelling slackened as if the
aggressors sensed that their prey had been mortally wounded and the Queen
Victoria erupted in an explosion that was heard as far away as Belfast,
many miles away across the waters of the Irish Sea. The stern disappeared
in an expanding fiery sphere of roiling orange tinged with eerie flashes
of green lightening. The explosion funnelled up to the front of the ship
and blew out the graceful curve of her bow with a violence that threw
pieces of the ship tens of miles away.
The shelling stopped completely. The wind resumed its ghostly moan as if
lamenting the dead - and of the dead there were many. Bodies lay around
blackened craters in the river side. What had been a lively scene of
colourful joviality just mere minutes before was now a harrowing scene of
death. Families lay together, parents covering their children as they'd
tried to protect them from the death that rained down from the skies.
Blood pooled in black puddles. Body parts lay scattered around, the flesh
turning cold and blue.
A bright red balloon floated up in to the sky, high and far away from the
death and destruction and ruins that lay below.
"Good morning and welcome to the BBC News. The Empire is in mourning as the
search continues for the body of King Edward VIII, murdered along with
many hundreds of innocent people in the sneak attack on Glasgow by forces
of the German Empire.
"Today, in the aftermath of the attack, people are asking `What now?' We
can reveal that the Ministry of Defence at Whitehall has already prepared
a declaration of war on the German Third Reich and that Prime Minister
Baldwin will officially make an announcement in an emergency session of
Parliament later on today. We now go across to Mr James Harker, our
correspondent in Glasgow."
"Thank you Mr Duncan. I can easily see the giant shattered hulk that is the
remains of the dreadnaught that was to be the Queen Victoria. Many fires
are still burning as fire crews struggle to contain a blaze that
reportedly reached four hundred degrees fahrenheit. The only thing we can
be grateful for is that the warship had not yet taken on any munitions
otherwise the devastation would have been even more severe.
"Witnesses said the ship that was to be the latest addition to the British
Fleet came under heavy shellfire as it prepared to launch. It is believed
that King Edward VIII died instantly when a shell hit the platform on
which he was standing. Simultaneously, Glasgow's docks on the Clyde came
under a sustained bombing attack from planes flying at extremely high
altitude. The bombing killed many thousands as they thronged the streets
to celebrate the launch and maiden voyage of the Queen Victoria.
"Hospitals throughout Glasgow are at maximum capacity as they attempt to
deal with the injured and maimed. Emergency trains are transferring the
less severely wounded to hospitals in Perth and Edinburgh.
"I have been told that the Dreadnaught Ark Royal and its battle fleet is
now stationed off the coast of Scotland near Colonsay. Overhead, I can see
the aerial Dreadnaught Merlin hovering high above, casting a long shadow
over this burning and injured city. It is too early to say if Britain's
military is gathering for a counter attack or if it is simply defending
the city from any further attack.
"One thing very clear though is that people are angry and shocked at the
destruction, death and carnage caused here. They are asking how such an
attack could happen and are demanding revenge.
"Mr Harker, BBC News, Glasgow."
"Thank you Mr Harker. The Right Honourable Winston Churchill has tabled
several questions in the House of Commons today asking how there was such
a catastrophic failure in Britain's security and how German forces could
marshal such military strength so near to British sovereign territory
without the knowledge of Britain's intelligence services. He claimed that
German ships had been sighted near the Outer Hebridean island of Skye by a
fisherman but no action had been taken. The Prime Minister, Mr Baldwin
denied that warnings of an attack had been ignored and that the attack
would be met with a rapid and robust response.
"At Balmoral, the royal family are in mourning and across the Empire, flags
are flying at half mast in respect for the dead king. Prince George, the
as yet uncrowned King of the British Empire has already met with Prime
Minister Baldwin to discuss the succession and the repercussions of the
"The German ambassador, Freidrich Kohl, has been expelled from the German
embassy in London. The Germans have repeatedly protested their innocence.
The German Fuhrer, Adolf Hitler, in an unprecedented move has contacted
the British Government directly to deny any involvement in the attack and
said that they had no reason to attack Britain, nor to murder the King.
The German ships off Skye had strayed off course during a military
exercise and had not in any way taken part in any attack.
"It is uncertain if this will sway the Government's decision to declare war
*4* *Our Man in Greenland*
It was cold, bitterly cold. The air was cold, the sky was cold, the water
was cold, the ground was cold. There was a total utter absence of any heat
whatsoever. And John Murdoch, MI6 agent, felt it. The wind cut like glass
splinters through his fur lined parka, numbing his body. What he would
give for a roaring log fire and a hot bath.... Murdoch sighed, his breath
steaming out into the chill air, temporarily fogging his view of the
American campsite down in the rocky valley below.
"Bloody stupid American bastards. Couldn't choose somewhere a bit warmer
could they? Had to choose the middle of bloody Greenland," Murdoch cursed,
wishing vehemently that something large and hard would fall on the
campsite and squish it so he could go back home to Blighty. At least the
rain was warm there.
Murdoch's wish remained unfulfilled and the campsite stood unscathed, a
collection of tents and wooden huts sprawling over the rocky white valley
floor. Peering through the binoculars Murdoch noted the armed guards
posted around the perimeter. They carried the M1 Garand rifle which they
used mainly for leaning on while smoking or chewing gum. Typical lazy
Yanks. God knows how we lost the colonies to that rabble, Murdoch
reflected as he scanned the circumference of the camp for any surprises.
Not seeing any, he moved a stone that was sticking into his side before
focussing the powerful lenses on the tall metal derrick at the centre of
the camp dwarfing the surrounding buildings. The derrick stood over a
gaping black hole cut deep into the hard earth. Currently nothing was
happening but Murdoch had already seen a team of ten men lowered into the
hole on a lift barely five minutes ago. He was sure he'd recognised Dr
Jonathan Knight, the eminent American archaeologist and also Professor
Mitch Melling, an expert on ancient civilisations. This would back up the
rumours that had reached the ears of MI6 of the US discovery of ancient
relics. Not just any ancient relics, oh no, none of your humdrum ancient
Egyptian stuff here. The powerful ones. The really, really old ones, pre
Deluge and all that. Atlantean artefacts. Can't have Johnny Foreigner
getting their greasy mitts on the likes of them, least of all the bloody
Americans. Had to find them here though didn't they, not somewhere
Murdoch checked his Webley revolver was loaded and oiled before sliding it
back into its hip holster. He checked his watch, checked the position of
the pale watery imitation of a sun and sighed. It would be a good couple
of hours before sunset and only then would he be able to risk sneaking
down to investigate the diggings. Murdoch sighed and hunkered down into
his parka desperately trying to find some warmth. It would be a long two
The camp was lit in a blaze of white arc lights making the night as bright
as day but making the shadows seem darker. Murdoch easily slipped past the
pathetic sentries and then he stuck to the sharply defined shadows cast by
the many wooden huts and tents. Once past the guards the camp was quiet.
Smoke was trickling out of the many tin chimneys and light glowed warmly
from the many windows. Animated chatter leaked out from inside the
buildings but Murdoch wasn't interested in what they had to say. His
orders were to close down the excavation before the US uncovered anything
they could use to threaten King and Empire. The dynamite was ready and
waiting in his rucksack. Murdoch rushed silently from building to
building, sticking closely to the shadows, eyes and ears alert for any
sign of danger. Security was lax though as the Americans weren't expecting
any visitors and were confident that their "archaeological" dig wouldn't
attract any unwanted attention. Within minutes, Murdoch was a darker
shadow hiding in the shadow of a pile of steel girders scant feet from the
bottom of the derrick that loomed high above.
There was nobody working tonight and the area surrounding the derrick was
eerily silent. A series of arc lights attached to the metal structure
harshly lit the ground with their unnaturally bright beams exposing frozen
mounds of excavated earth, further piles of steel girders, some wooden
crates and numerous tracks leading back to the surrounding campsite.
Double checking that no one was around to interfere with his mission,
Murdoch pulled off his rucksack and carefully extracted the dynamite. This
dynamite wasn't the normal stuff though. The boffins at Bletchley Park had
done them proud with this improved explosive which was double the power of
normal TNT. It was a tad unstable though so it paid to be careful. They'd
also come up with an improved acid based timer much like that used in a
grenade but more stable and allowing more precise timings to be set.
Murdoch set the timers to ten minutes which he calculated would be more
than enough time to allow him to get away.
Somewhere in the camp the coarse note of a truck's diesel engine starting
up destroyed the cold silence. Murdoch paused, waiting to see where the
truck went. Hopefully it was going on an expedition somewhere but night
time was a funny time to have an expedition into the frozen wastes of
Greenland. Maybe the driver was just turning it over to stop the engine
freezing. Both hopes died as Murdoch heard the truck slip into gear and
the engine get louder as it made its way towards the derrick. Murdoch
heard voices from his left and he cursed silently as he saw a line of men
walking towards the derrick flapping their arms to keep out the deep chill
and complaining about the beer they'd had to leave behind. He shrank
deeper into the shadow he was crouched in knowing that it was unlikely he
would be spotted unless someone stumbled right into him.
The man in the lead turned round and whistled.
"Right! Listen up!" he yelled over the constant complaining.
"OK boys, Hank is bringing the truck up and I want all these crates loaded
up in the next half hour."
The men groaned loudly and started complaining again.
"Hold on! That's the bad news. The good news is that we're going home
It took a second for the announcement to sink in before a cheer resounded
into the air.
"Yeah, yeah. I know. We're going back home! But until tomorrow we've got to
work our butts off clearing the site. So as I said, crates on the truck
for the Iceberg and be goddamn careful with them. Dr Knight will have our
hides if we break anything that's in them. Come on! Let's go!"
And with that, he clapped his hands and the navvies went to work. The truck
had appeared by now, one of the big ten tonne Fords the Americans favoured
and the men began to load it up with the crates. The crates didn't appear
to be heavy but the navvies handled them gingerly, almost as if they were
scared by the contents.
Murdoch huddled in the precious darkness. Thankfully the truck was parked
some distance away and the various stacks of crates weren't situated
anywhere nearby so he wasn't likely to be discovered. He loosened the
strap holding his serrated dagger in place on his belt. It never caused
any harm to be prepared for all possibilities. Old Baden Powell had it
right there Murdoch reflected.
Murdoch's mission had changed. He was too late to scupper the dig. The
Americans had found whatever they were looking for and were now preparing
to leave by the sound of things. What was the Iceberg though? Murdoch was
fully briefed on US military vehicles and the ridiculous names they called
them. Iceberg wasn't one he was familiar one. Maybe it was an icebreaking
ship moored off the coast nearby. He was going to have to find out what
was in the crates before he destroyed them. If the Americans had got their
hands on Atlantean technology then MI6 needed to know.
Once again Murdoch cursed. The roaring fire and hot bath had just receded
further into the distance.
The nights were long in Greenland but Murdoch gave up a silent prayer of
thanks that the navvies finished their job quickly. He obviously wasn't
the only one feeling the cold. One by one all the men including the truck
driver walked back to their warm and cosy wooden huts and their beers
leaving Murdoch alone.
He shivered violently. The cold was intense and he hadn't been able to move
for nearly an hour. His thighs ached as blood started to flow properly
through the cramped muscles but his feet and fingers had nothing to give
him but a painful numbness. Murdoch hoped he wasn't going to get
frostbite. Once he'd investigated the truck and planted his dynamite he
was going to have to evacuate quickly.
Quickly scanning for any patrolling soldiers, Murdoch hoisted his rucksack
onto his shoulder and ran across the frozen ground towards the silent
truck. The crates were stacked three high in two rows with a canvas
tarpaulin pulled tight over them. Murdoch pulled himself over the tailgate
of the truck and in between the tight gap between the rows of crates. He
groped through his rucksack for his flashlight and, covering it with his
gloved hand, he turned it on filtering out just enough light to examine
the crates by. There was nothing special about them, being normal wooden
cargo crates. As far as he could see they were all stamped US Army in
large black capital letters. One crate was stamped " 143 of 150". Murdoch
quickly counted the crates on the truck. There were only thirty crates
Using his dagger Murdoch prised out one of the panels on the side of the
crate nearest to him. The crate was filled with straw which almost hid the
multi coloured glows from within. Murdoch reached inside and felt the
sharp edges of a crystal. Pulling his hand out he tapped the panel back
into place and checked out another crate. More soft pastel glows, more
sharp edged crystals
Damn them. They'd found power crystals. Lots of them. MI6's worse fears had
been realised. There was no way that he could blow up the truck and its
cargo now. Apart from the resulting explosion being a tad larger than what
would be deemed safe it would still leave over a hundred crates of God
knows what in the hands of the enemy. Murdoch sighed. This mission was
going from bad to worse. Time to field test his thermal sleeping bag. The
space between the crates was small and cramped but tucked up right at the
back he should be able to hide from unkind eyes. Murdoch spread out the
black sleeping bag and climbed in feeling warmth return to his limbs as it
heated up with his own body heat. It wasn't a roaring fire but it would
do. He hunkered down for the night.
Murdoch was jolted awake by the sound and vibration of the truck starting
up. It was broad daylight and Murdoch castigated himself for sleeping as
heavily and as long as he did. Luckily the truck hadn't been searched
otherwise he would've been a dead man by now. He grimaced as the truck
bounced along the rutted track and out of the camp. He caught glimpses of
frantic activity taking place as the entire camp was dismantled. Trucks
were everywhere with tents, cabins, drums, cookers, everything being
loaded up onto them. Murdoch wondered how a camp this size was going to be
transported back to the United States. His question was soon answered as
the truck jolted up a slope and into a huge cavernous opening. For a few
seconds Murdoch thought he'd entered a cave but then he saw the metal
beams arcing overhead forming a lattice structure. Artificial lights shone
everywhere from the ceiling all the way down the sides. Lamps had been set
up at ground level to guide the truck and its fellows safely into the
depths of airship. At least that's what Murdoch hoped he was in. The
Americans couldn't have acquired the expertise to build an craft the size
of an air dreadnaught. Not this soon. Could they?
The truck continued to travel further and further into the giant craft
until the entrance was a white speck in the gloom. Murdoch hazarded a look
over the tailgate of the truck. The craft was truly gigantic. He could
barely see the sides of it. There was no doubt that this was a dreadnaught
class aircraft and one at the upper end of the size scale as well.
Murdoch jerked back into the safety of his hiding place between the packed
crates as the truck ground to a halt. He heard the driver jump out and
slam shut the door behind him. Chains clinked heavily and Murdoch assumed
that the truck was being secured for the flight. He couldn't see the
driver but he could hear heavy tacked boots sounding off the metal surface
of the floor which then receded into the distance as the driver left his
truck firmly secured.
Murdoch crept to the tailgate and was about to jump out when he smelt
cigarette smoke and held back. It was just as well he did as seconds later
two American GIs appeared cigarettes flaring in the half dark as they drew
longs drags of smoke deep into their lungs. They carried Thompson
submachine guns under their right arms ready for use. Despite their
cigarettes Murdoch got a sense that these two men were a tougher
proposition than the lax camp guards. And despite Murdoch's best wishes
they stayed in front of the truck obviously guarding it specially because
of its precious cargo.
Now would probably be a good time to let MI6 know where he was. Working
carefully to avoid making any noise and alerting the guards, Murdoch
unlaced his left hiking boot and took it off. He struggled to rotate the
heel which was caked in ice and hard black muck. Once the heel was rotated
he examined the tiny short wave radio transmitter set into the tough
rubber. There were no loose connections so he pushed a tiny bare metal
wire down into a connector with his fingernail which would complete the
circuit and start broadcasting his location to the waiting "fishing boats"
which would be able to triangulate his position. It was a crafty thing.
The aerial was a wire in the shoelaces.
Still it wasn't going to do him any good if all MI6 would find was a dead
body. He weighed up his options as he fixed the heel back in place and put
his boot back here. He could wait here in the truck until the airship
landed, wherever it was going. The chances he would be discovered then
were pretty high because the truck would be under guard from now on. The
only other option was to escape from his hiding place out into the
airship. It would be jolly good if he could escape before it took off and
save him a lot of bother.... The light at the end of the cargo hold closed
up and Murdoch could feel the vibrations from the engines as they stepped
up a gear. He felt a slight but tangible lurch which told him he was now
airborne. Bloody fantastic. He only hoped he wasn't going to America.
Time to escape though. The guards had relaxed visibly once the cargo hold
had been sealed and were swapping small talk while leaning against the
tail gate of the truck they were guarding. Murdoch unsheathed his knife,
the long serrated blade glistening evilly in the half light available.
Slowly straightening up to a standing position he reached up to the canvas
covering the crates and cut a large `X' with his knife. Four flaps of
canvas fell down quietly and Murdoch carefully climbed up the side of two
crates and pulled himself out on the top of the truck.
It was difficult to see anything in the gloom of the hold. It wasn't that
there wasn't a lot of light. There was, as arclights shone everywhere, all
the way down the sides of the hold to the entrance, high overhead and even
shining up from the metal floor. It was just that the hold was so enormous
that it seemed to swallow up whatever light was present.
Murdoch could see about six or seven more trucks parked in a row nearby. He
couldn't see what was in them as they all had canvas covers but there were
no guards. The trucks were all parked neatly in a row in front of a huge
metal wall that divided the cargo hold from whatever lay beyond. If the
Americans had based their dreadnaughts on the British ones then Murdoch
reckoned that the arsenal for the main gun batteries lay beyond. Shame he
wouldn't be able to lob a stick of dynamite in there. That would wake them
Murdoch had half an ear on the two sentries' conversation when he heard
something that made his breath catch in his throat almost choking him.
"I heard that the Limeys are blaming Germany for the attack on the Scotch
city. Hell! I heard that they're so goddamn riled up that they're going to
attack the Nazis!" said a voice with a Southern redneck accent. The same
voice hooted with laughter.
In between guffaws, the redneck voice explained to his companion the great
joke the US was playing on the Empire. By attacking "the Scotch city", as
the ignorant Yank called it, and then beating a fast retreat, the US had
got away scot free. The Limeys had seized on the fact that a German fleet
was in the area and immediately added two and two together to make a whole
mess of it.
"How'd you know all this?" a second voice asked dubiously. "I reckon the
Germans have been gagging for a fight for ages and grabbed the chance when
"A pal of mine is in some intelligence group. Me and him got our hands on
some good Kentucky bourbon two nights ago and he told me the whole story.
I think it's true but I don't know how a whole fleet sailed up to England,
blew the place up and then got away. Still reckon it's true though."
Ye Gods! If it was true then the Grand Fleets were on their way to attack
an innocent country! Inasmuch as Germany could be called innocent. Murdoch
strained to hear more of the conversation but redneck was now boring his
companion with a tale of a cock fight he had been to.
Murdoch could feel his heart beating loudly against his chest. He had to
stop the British attack on Germany. Despite the machinations of Hitler,
Germany was still an old ally, the royal families once connected by blood.
It wouldn't do to have the country attacked needlessly.
Taking slow deep breaths, Murdoch calmed himself, quietening his thudding
heart and clearing his head. He slipped quietly down the side of truck
landing lightly on his toes with only a whisper of a thud easily drowned
out by the distant rumble of the dreadnaught's engines.
Murdoch straightened up from his controlled fall and looked straight into
the eyes of a shocked sentry who had just walked round from the back of
"Shit!" the GI swore fumbling with his Thompson sub machine gun. "Jarv!
Recovering from his own shock and embarrassment at such an elementary
error, Murdoch leapt forward in a catlike manoeuvre and swing his dagger
in an arc. The sentry collapsed with a gurgle of blood as the razor sharp
blade sliced through his jugular and windpipe in one fluid movement. His
gun clattered to the ground.
"Pete! You OK boy?" asked the second sentry, the one with the Southern good
ol' boy accent.
Murdoch saw the shadow of the second sentry edge closer, Tommy gun held
high. Murdoch launched himself round the corner and flung his dagger with
unerring accuracy straight into the GI's heart. Not missing a step Murdoch
cleared the remaining six feet and punched the GI hard in the face while
snatching the Tommy gun with his left hand. It wouldn't do to have the
dying GI fire off a few shots and alerting the entire ship.
Murdoch retrieved his dagger, wiping it clean on the dead redneck's jacket
before hiding the two bodies under the truck deep in the shadows. With any
luck by the time they were discovered he would be well on his way out of
Murdoch picked up the redneck's Tommy gun. It was well oiled and the bolt
action was smooth. He stuffed some clips of ammo into the pockets of his
jacket and stashed two grenades into his belt before running lightly to
the far wall avoiding the lights set into the floor. Despite the number of
lights, the side of the cargo hold was in deep shade. Murdoch made good
time as he sprinted down towards the cargo bay doors. There were numerous
hatches leading out with the hold illuminated by red lamps but they were
Upon reaching the massive doors Murdoch gave a sigh of relief. They seemed
to be an exact copy of those that were on British dreadnaughts. MI5 was
going to have to do something about industrial espionage especially on
this scale. The doors were attached at floor level by massive hinges on
the port and starboard sides of the dreadnaught. Two sticks should do it
he calculated as he carefully placed his dynamite on either side of one
hinge. Oh, sod it. Just make it five. And he packed another three sticks
around the hinge making sure the red tubes couldn't roll out. He quickly
arranged another five dynamite sticks on the second hinge before returning
to the shelter of the shadows on the port side and sprinting back down to
The dreadnaught's engines changed in tone powering down ever so slightly.
Just in the nick of time Murdoch thought. I really hope they haven't
brought me to America! He laughed silently to himself. If the dreadnaught
was preparing to land then he doubted it very much. At maximum speed they
couldn't have travelled more than three hundred miles - barely enough to
reach the coast of Greenland.
Murdoch slipped round to the line of trucks, carefully keeping an eye out
for sentries. The trucks were chained down to the floor by chains tied
through their axles. Using his knife Murdoch quickly broke the padlocks
holding the chains together and jumped into the driver's seat.
"Hey you! What do you think you're doing?" someone called out.
Murdoch didn't bother to look up to see who was shouting at him. The keys
were in the ignition so he fired the engine up, released handbrake, put
the truck into reverse and floored the accelerator.
The wheels span on the slick floor, rubber struggling to grip the metal
surface. Burnt rubber fumes filled the air and the truck squealed
backwards accelerating rapidly.
Murdoch heard the staccato sound of a machine gun firing and the windscreen
cracked into a mass of spiders webs as bullets crackled through into the
cabin. Murdoch ducked just in time as a bullet narrowly missed his head
but catching his right ear reducing it to a bloody mess.
Ignoring the burning pain he jerked the steering wheel to the right and
pulled on the handbrake. The truck creaked alarmingly in protest at the
violent treatment but allowed Murdoch to complete the handbrake turn
without breaking down.
Bullets were thudding into the truck with alarming regularity as Murdoch
stamped on the accelerator and sped towards the cargo doors, slipping and
sliding on the slick metal floor.
Time to pray, Murdoch thought. Shame I've no bloody time!
Spinning the steering wheel, Murdoch flipped off the pin on one of his
grenades and threw the metal oblong out the broken passenger side window
to land near the port side hinge of the huge cargo door. The truck skidded
heavily, thudding into the huge door before roaring off to the starboard.
Eight, seven, six, five....
Murdoch threw his second grenade out towards the starboard hinge, skidding
sideways as he manoeuvred the truck to face back down the hold. Bursts of
machine gun fire showed him the location of the bastards who were firing
on him. Couldn't they just let him get away in peace?
The truck sped down the length of the dreadnaught as a huge explosion
blossomed upwards annihilating the port hinge.
Bastard Americans. Their bloody grenades have six second fuses not eight.
Nearly took me with them. Dashed bad show!
Seconds later the truck rocked wildly as a second explosion blasted its
stationary target to smithereens. Murdoch had to fight desperately with
the steering wheel to stop the truck careering out of control, wheels
spinning, desperately seeking grip.
There were squeals and protesting cries of tortured metal scraping against
itself and the great cargo hold door fell gracefully off the wounded
dreadnaught, leaving in its place a gaping shining hole to the outside.
Producing a spectacular handbrake turn, Murdoch hurled the battered truck
round again to face the jagged opening to what was hopefully freedom.
Murdoch crossed his fingers and hoped the dreadnaught wasn't two hundred
feet in the air. He gave it another five seconds, ignoring the shouts of
panic and rage, followed by the chatter of machine gun fire. Standard
procedure was for a dreadnaught to land immediately when faced with a
catastrophic disaster such as cargo bay doors flying open.
He gunned the engine, pressed the accelerator and the truck jerked forward,
its back end sliding around as the wheels fought to bring it under
control. A loud bang caused Murdoch to look into his side mirror and see
that a rear tyre had blown out probably caused by one of the bullets fired
wildly in his direction. The mirror shattered as a bullet ricocheted off
it, throwing glass splinters into the cabin. By then it didn't matter.
Murdoch braced himself as the truck neared the hole to freedom. Nearer,
nearer. Blood pounded in Murdoch's head causing his ear to throb even more
painfully. He could feel a sticky trickle of blood trickling down the side
of his neck.
And then the truck was airborne, engine screaming, wheels clutching
desperately at thin air.
The white ground rose to meet him. Murdoch had time to thank God before
having every bone and organ in his body jarred and mashed against each
other as the truck crashed heavily onto the white surface. Ahead was the
hulking remains of the cargo hold door, rising high above the flat ground.
The truck raced ahead with a clatter of broken components. Gulping in air,
Murdoch managed to get his breath back while steering around the giant
smashed door. Now he needed to escape from wherever he was. He glanced
about hunting for landmarks. There were none. The landscape was totally
flat and covered in a thin layer of snow. He was near the sea though as he
could smell the salt in the brisk cold wind that worried its way into the
truck through all the broken windows and cracks in the truck frame.
The area was crawling with enemy soldiers though. Anti aircraft cannon
fringed the locale. Giant aircraft hangers lay to Murdoch's left where he
could see fire engines rushing towards the smoking, stricken giant he left
behind him. It looked like a permanent base. Damn! He must be in the US
somehow! No that couldn't be right. They hadn't been travelling for
anything like the time needed to get anywhere near the Americas. Where the
hell did the US have a permanent base this close to Greenland? Aircraft
were prowling overhead. Murdoch thought they looked like Mustang ground
attack planes. Time to move!
Where're the bloody roads out of this place? The truck was running flat out
straight for one of the anti aircraft cannon while Murdoch searched for
signs of a road. There wasn't even a fence anywhere which was unusual to
say the least. Dashed unsporting if they didn't even try to stop a chap
from escaping. The crew on the AA gun ahead were jumping up and down
waving their arms frantically in the air. Murdoch slammed the brakes on.
Never ignore a man panicking as much as these chaps even if they're the
enemy. The truck wheels lost their grip on the icy surface and the truck
swung round totally out of control smashing straight into the sandbags
surrounding the AA gun before crashing to an ignominious halt, smoke
pouring from the engine. Grabbing his Thompson machine gun, Murdoch jumped
out awkwardly clutching his left side. Felt as if he'd broken a couple of
ribs. The three AA gunners were dead having been hit by the out of control
Limping over to the skywards pointing AA gun Murdoch realised he could hear
the crashing of breakers on rocks from below. Those American chaps had
just stopped him from driving over a cliff! Murdoch briefly saluted the
shattered bodies of his saviours. Time to survive! Murdoch's favoured way
to survive was to create chaos within the enemy while he escaped their
clutches. In the Sudan, he'd managed to start a civil war between two
allied tribes by mentioning in passing that the favoured concubine of one
of the chiefs had been sneaking out to see to the needs of the chief of
the other tribe. Not an ounce of truth in it of course but the fuzzy
wuzzies believed it! He shook his head and stifled a chuckle as he thought
about that one. The chaps at the Garrick Club loved that story.
Taking aim through the sights of the AA gun, Murdoch pulled the trigger,
wincing as the concussion from the rapid firing gun slammed into his side.
Good show though. That was one of the Mustangs down with his first shot.
The three remaining planes scattered climbing higher skywards.
Concentrating as he was on bringing down the remaining planes his
subconscious finally put two and two together. No perimeter fence, flat
icy surface, the gang leader at the archaeology site mentioning "The
Iceberg".... Oh stunning. Absolutely stunning. He was stuck on a floating
bit of ice in the middle of God knows where. Murdoch managed to take out
another Mustang his shots severing its right wing. As it spiralled
earthwards to explode near the beached dreadnaught, Murdoch reached into
the bottom of his rucksack for his last hope. Even he was going to find it
difficult to escape from a floating military base with no support. The
transmitter in the heel of his walking boot was for tracking purposes
only. The transmitter he retrieved from the padded bottom of the rucksack
was far more powerful and signalled an agent in distress. Murdoch flicked
the "On" switch and unreeled the twelve foot long aerial cable. He then
piled some sandbags around the delicate device to protect it from the
chaos that was sure to ensue now.
While he had been doing this the Americans had finally got their act
together and several troop carrying trucks were on their way to harass
him. Behind them the fire engines were dousing the blaze that had been
threatening to envelope the stern of the dreadnaught. Murdoch swung the AA
gun from its skywards position to one pointing directly at the lead truck.
The driver realised too late what was happening and tried to avoid the
hail of bullets that crashed mercilessly into the bodywork before
detonating the fuel tank. Limp bodies flew high into the air tossed high
by the resulting explosion before being engulfed in flame. The other two
trucks halted in a spray of ice particles and snow before disgorging their
cargo of troops. Murdoch quickly turned the gun on the new enemy catching
another truck in a pitiless salvo.
The soldiers were all lying flat on the snow crawling forward, weapons
before them. The AA gun wouldn't traverse far enough to let him target the
soldiers. Taking aim with his Thompson he picked off three of the soldiers
before the resulting covering fire forced him to take cover behind the
This could be it, Murdoch thought. No more fighting for King and Country.
No more gin and tonics at Ascot. No more impressing the ladies with tales
of derring do. Dashed bad news. Murdoch spluttered as a bullet kicked a
spurt of snow into his face. He stuck the Thompson round the sandbags and
let off a brief burst of shots in several directions and was rewarded with
cries of pain and shouts for a medic.
Let's see what we've got. Three magazines of ammunition for the Thompson
including the one already on the gun, one grenade, a dagger and errr....
that was it.
A metal shape landed at his feet. Murdoch quickly picked it up and tossed
it back over the sandbags. The grenade exploded loudly in the air and
shrapnel pattered off the sandbags. More yells of pain.
Murdoch almost kicked himself for being so stupid. What weapons did the
gunners have? He quickly searched the three bodies keeping low as the
covering fire had greatly intensified. A pistol between three soldiers?
Murdoch grunted in annoyance at his paltry find. Still, it would do.
Turning to face the blistering hail of gunfire threatening to shred his
sandbags, Murdoch saw the top of a GI helmet peering over part of his
cover. Pulling a pin from a grenade he counted to four before throwing it
just over the sandbag wall. Shouts of panic were drowned by the resulting
The grenade explosion destroyed much of his cover. Murdoch was going to
have to surrender or die or both more likely once the American Secret
Service got their hands on him. He threw the last grenade in the general
direction of the approaching GIs, fired a quick burst from the Tommy gun
before running desperately for the edge of the iceberg. Maybe there were
boats moored at the bottom. "It never hurts to optimistic, Johnny," Nanny
always said. "Have faith and the good Lord will look after you," was
another one. It was hard to be optimistic with the air full of hot lead
all looking to bury itself in his body, an entire enemy military base
stirred up like a hornets' nest and finally, but definitely not least, a
long rocky way down to the sea with no guarantee that there would be any
means of escape.
An involuntary scream wrenched its way from his lips as a searing hot pain
burned through his upper right leg. He fell heavily, nearly passing out as
he landed on his broken ribs. Murdoch gasped with pain, desperately trying
to drag himself upright. Wouldn't do to get captured by the Americans. The
boys at The Garrick wouldn't think much of that! Murdoch's vision blurred
and black spots seemed to flicker behind his eyes. No. Must keep going. A
bullet thudded deep into his right shoulder spinning him round causing him
to drop his Tommy gun. Fire ran through his mind. He couldn't move his
right arm now. His shoulder must be shattered. Looks as if he wasn't going
to get out of this one. Blighty was going to have to wait....
Murdoch could feel his blood running out of his body taking his life with
it. Darkness was descending, like a curtain being pulled across a window.
He couldn't hear anything except a dull roar in his ears, like a waterfall
far off across a wilderness. Momentarily his vision cleared. He could see
Heaven rising slowly from below the white ice cliff he had intended to
throw himself off. Its size was beyond comprehension, a shining white
torpedo shaped monolith gilded with gold and brass over a mile long.
Hallelujah, Murdoch smiled as darkness rolled over him.
The GIs' howls of triumph at downing their prey died to croaks of fear as
their entire field of vision was filled by the massive warship. Klaxons
screamed the general alert and the GIs could feel the iceberg vibrating as
planes were brought up from their underground hangers and launched into
the air by steam catapults. Behind them came the rumble of Lincoln tanks
rolling across the surface to create an artificial barrier between the
planes taking off and the threat that loomed across the entire base.
Hundreds of GIs ran in chaotic formations across the ice slipping and
sliding as they went, following orders bellowed out by their sergeants.
There were further rumbles as sheets of ice slid back revealing heavy
cannon rotating up into place facing the enemy airship.
There was a collective gasp of fright from the entrenched GIs and the
simultaneous click of hundreds of rifle and machine gun bolts being pulled
back. A hatch had opened, a tiny square black mark on the glistening white
bodywork framed by sheets of water pouring down the concave sides.
Countless unseen motors whirred smoothly as the white warship's secondary
weapons rotated to face the enemies of the Empire a multitude of lethal
black barrels dotting the spotless whiteness all dwarfed by the sheer
vastness of their parent. The ships main batteries were still hidden out
of sight below the cliff top.
Private Clancy was scared. Sure they had enough firepower to blow even that
thing up, or at least he hoped so, but he didn't want to die while they
did it. His rifle shook in his grip and he squeezed his hands tighter to
stop them shaking so badly. A shot barked out from his rifle as his
fingers clumsily squeezed the trigger and suddenly the world was full of
Machine guns rattled, Lincoln heavy tanks blasted out their shells again
and again, the fixed heavy cannon threw in their combined firepower, AA
guns chattered as round after round spat out of their mouths. Aero engines
screamed as Mustang fighters dived into the attack, cannon and machine
guns spitting fire.
Seconds passed like hours, then minutes like days. And then suddenly the
deafening outpouring of firepower was drowned out by multiple blasts and
suddenly there were no more Lincoln tanks defending the USS Ice Base
Independence, no more AA guns, no more heavy cannon.
Many of the GIs survived the demonstration of firepower by the British
When debriefed, a second lieutenant would note that he had seen movement at
that tiny square black mark on the side of the airship, seconds before the
Royal Scots Nightshade Division had jumped from the open hatch on to the
US sovereign territory of Ice Base Independence. Ten men. Ten seven foot
giants totally invulnerable to small arms fire. They'd managed to take out
one of them with two lucky bazooka shots if it made any difference. They'd
been annihilated. No other word would suffice to describe the effect of
the awesome merciless firepower those ten giants had wielded against the
GIs. There must have been at least a thousand American soldiers out there.
Twenty two survived the battle, with fourteen dying of their wounds. Eight
Once they'd finished their show of power, the Nightshade Division had
picked up their dead comrade and the spy and jumped back into the open
Then the airship had taken off, taking out a few of the Mustangs as
effortlessly as if it had been swatting gnats, before heading south east.
Excalibur was the name of the airship. It had never been seen before, a
myth whispered fearfully in the corridors of power of Britain's enemies. A
bogeyman, a tale to frighten children into doing what they were told, a
ghost in the darkness.
Copyright © by C. Craig R. McNeil
All rights reserved unless specified otherwise above.
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