Kaigun: Steampunk chapter 3


Andreii trudged through pine needles. Though not the deciduous forests of his youth, it was good to be back amongst trees, after walking most of the summer across the howling prarie. He and his sister had stumbled into the little village and been largely ignored: Borsven must not have acted rightly, or drunk too much. That's what everyone thought. No bird could face the whole village and, while the tracks and damage were undeniable, Andreii felt they didn’t even quite believe him, somehow. He knew this was never had lived up to the standards for manliness that now pertained. Before the fall, he’d been the class intellectual and now as a cripple, they treated him as only half a man. Everyone was quite sure it couldn’t happen to them.

They had left the village in less than a week though. That wasn’t because of his warning, but simply because the chicken came back. I came into the street one wet knight, doing some gigantic satisfied representation of clucking and ate a pig and a woman, notwithstanding the assault (ineffectual) of three village toughs and not a few carefully hoarded rifle rounds which, frankly, it appeared not to notice, except as interesting sounds. As before, the giant monster showed neither pity, nor anger or even interest in the scurrying bugs it pecked at, only a brief impersonal hunger. The town met that night in the little church and decided to move West to civilization, leaving everything.

Now the summer had almost passed, and by most reckoning they were a little North and East of lake Baikal. Mostly they had passed refugees moving East, or satisfied hardy people like themselves who, like themselves, couldn’t be frightened by chickens of any size. Everyone began to feel foolish, and some wanted to join up with one of the bigger towns and go back to farming, but then they were overtaken by people they’d passed a week ago, whose village had been raided and destroyed by a band of the monsters, two hens and one enormous red rooster with one eye. There were no more suggestions to stop after that.

Andreii was guarding the rear of the column. The men and bigger boys were in front, scouting trail while Andreii and the old men followed behind. In the middle were the horses and wagons (nobody had gas any more) and the women, the value of the community. At the back were the tacitly expendable rear guard, canaries to sound the alarm if an attack came from behind. Andrei's wooden wrist itched, well below the elbow where the arm had come off; scratching it wouldn't cure the illusion, he knew.  He kicked a rock and tried to distract his mind.

Why everyone expected the chickensaurii (he thought of them such) to lay ahead in ambush like Mongol cavalry was a mystery to him, the monsters hadn’t given a hint of any improvement in brainpower: they were just bigger. He spent a lot of time thinking about them, thinking about how to kill them. Around the fire at night, his ideas of giant crossbows or pits with lances at the bottom were laughed off. They would find some vestiges of the authorities, report the problem, and a division would be sent, or a fast attack jet. This turned quickly to bluster though because everyone knew if there wasn’t electricity or gas, or television (and there had been none of these things since the day after the first day of the war, 8 years ago), then there was no government, no fast attack jets, no authorities. No one had even seen a contrail since that first and last day of fighting. The good news was that society had returned to normal immediately - well, normal for 100 years ago, but hardly the bickering rapacious collapse predicted in lurid science fiction apocalypse scenarios. In rural Russia it was the same as always, only horse powered and without train service. There was some hunger in the far west, where once metropolises stood, but bombing had reduced population as well as municipal infrastructure.

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