“RUN FOR YOUR LIVES! DRAGON!” Annika shouted. As if cued, another searing arc of electrical energy cut the bell-tower off the Church. It crashed to the ground and the echoes of the bells rang cacophonously against the sounds of smashing timber and planks .
It came into view at the lighted edge of town, lumbering out of the night. The lights of the town glinted off its armored hide as it advanced. It was easily two heights of a man to its shoulder, if not three, and double that to the top of its steel head. It was probably the length of a Pullman railway car including its tail, advancing on three pairs of legs.
Six bombard-styled cannon barrels were set along its spine, each one apparently firing at a different target. High pressure steam instead of powder propelled their payloads. Heavy cannonballs fell down upon the highest buildings, smashing them and throwing shrapnel in all directions. Metal whips, some twenty feet long, were mounted at the top of each leg, snapping back and forth in lethal arcs and shimmering in the town lights.
“Oh, Mother of God,” Hans breathed, turning white. “It really is a Dragon…”
The townspeople began to scatter like geese, with screams and shouts of fear. The Dragon stopped at the small pond caused by the toppled water tower. It lowered its head to the water and began suctioning it up. The steam-powered bombards on its spine swiveled around and fired again, shattering facades and roof tops.
Hans and Annika continued shouting instructions to the fleeing townspeople while the Dragon continued its murderous advance. Its steam-powered weapons remorselessly shattered buildings, lives and structures. There was nothing that the two of them could do but try and minimize the loss of life, including their own.
The Crimean War turned into a near apocalypse event with the summer of 1855 when the Russian military deployed the first “Dragon”.
Dragons are mechanical war machines using analog computers, capable of fueling themselves by “eating” combustible materials and “drinking” water. Heavy, armored, either six legged or six-wheeled, they are capable of traveling autonomously nearly indefinitely. Armed with a variety of steam-powered or electrical weapons for ranged combat as well as blades, chains and raw mass for melee.
These metal clad monsters are approximately 50 feet long from “nose to tail”, 13 feet tall at the “shoulder”, double that to the fully raised “head”, 9 to 13 feet wide across the “shoulders” and weighs between 70,000 and 90,000 pounds.
They carried the combined firepower of an infantry company, an artillery battery and a mad-scientist’s laboratory. Each one was directed by an autonomous analog differential analyzer equivalent to the intelligence and cunning of a Saint Bernard. This allowed them to problem-solve and act on their own to complete their mission.
The Dragon is “trained” to do two things … keep itself operational by foraging and destroy the “enemy”.
The first use was at the Battle of Eupatoria where two were dropped via Russian airships about six miles away from the Turkish garrison at night. In spite of the fact that the the Turks expected the Russian attack, they were completely unable to stop the two metal monstrosities that lead the attack. Rifle fire simply bounced off nor could artillery target the rapidly advancing machines Once the two Dragons had gotten to within half a mile, they annihilated an entire artillery battery with blasts of electrical energy.
The Turkish troops fought back bravely, but even with covering fire from Allied naval units — one of which was sunk by return fire from a Dragon — the Turks were forced to retreat. Russian artillery and infantry supported the attack and took the town, while the Dragons then headed off to their next planned target.
Within a year, every nation in the war was deploying Dragons and then Chimera as weapons of mass destruction in a technological race of one upmanship.
Due to an error in their logic design, if they suffered significant damage that might compromise their ability to forage and self-sustain, they stopped attempting to classify “friend verses foe” and instead began attacking anything that could be used for resupply and repair. Military targets were no longer a consideration; just burnable or boilable. From that point on, the Dragon was only concerned with its own survival… its military mission never resumed.