A Monster In The Sky_The End
by Steven Mohan, Jr.
Togo scanned the horizon and saw Nevsky’s sister turning. She was maybe ten, twelve thousand yards to the south-southwest of Mikasa at an elevation of two hundred feet. The leviathan was wreathed in smoke and she was burning amidships, a yellow flame throwing a column of black smoke into the blue bowl of the sky.
But she was moving.
Togo watched her for a second.
The leviathan’s squat bow was swinging left.
Togo’s hand tightened on the binoculars. She was coming left, coming left and picking up speed.
Togo dropped his binoculars. Fuji and Mikasa were bow-on to the skyship, most of their batteries masked by the angle of the ships. Togo’s mouth suddenly went dry. He felt time and distance ticking away as the Russian sky cruiser picked up speed.
He leaned in to the voice tube. “Captain, forward gun mount acquire the cruiser. Fire at the cruiser.”
The admiral turned to Taniguchi. The boy was watching the monster as it came for them, watching it with his mouth hanging open, his eyes wide with fear.
“Lieutenant,” Togo barked. “Order Fuji to come right ninety degrees and bring her portside guns to bear on that skyship.”
Taniguchi jerked his head down in a rough nod, not even bothering to acknowledge the order. Then he ran back to order the signal himself.
Mikasa‘s guns opened up. Water exploded a thousand yards behind the skyship.
Togo swallowed. This was not a concern. He had the best gunners afloat. (But the leviathan wasn’t exactly afloat, was it?) They would lower their elevation. They would find their target. They would pull that obscenity right out of the sky.
Togo licked his lips, anticipating the next blast from his forward twelve-inchers.
Just as the leviathan came hard right.
The shells missed again, this time on range, but wide right.
And then the leviathan’s guns opened up. They were not twelve-inch naval guns. But they weren’t three- and five-inch popguns, either. He heard the roar of the cruiser’s forward gun mounts and saw white water explode two hundred yards aft of Fuji‘s stern.
Mikasa answered back. A smoke round traced a neat path over the skyship’s bulk. Togo slammed his fist into the compass stand. His gun crews had failed to adjust for the beast’s descent.
The leviathan’s guns roared again, and this time they hit. Togo saw smoke and fire billow up, aft. Suddenly Fuji was turning.
“What’s she doing?” shouted Taniguchi.
“Her rudder’s jammed,” snapped Togo. Fuji was four thousand yards away, but she was coming around again. Now she was stern-on to the leviathan.
And the monster was still coming.
The leviathan was close enough that Togo could see that her bridge was damaged, the glass shattered and the window framing bent. He saw a single figure hanging on to the framing. He means to kill us, thought Togo.
“The Russian,” he whispered, “he’s going to ram us.” Togo gave his order. “Come about to a reciprocal course, Captain. Flank bell.”
The leviathan’s guns spoke like thunder. It was like thunder and a second later, Togo heard the terrible cacophony of a hit, felt an explosion rumble through the guts of his flagship. And again. This was not the clank-clank-clank of shells bouncing off his hull. This was the horrible sound of shells punching through nine-inch armor.
This was the sound of a mortal blow.
He felt his ship—his ship—settle, down by the bow.
The leviathan was close enough that Mikasa‘s forward six-inchers were joining the twelves. And now the world was nothing but the terrible roar of big guns. It was like being inside thunder. Mikasa was taking a terrible beating, and so was the Russian sky cruiser. He watched as a Russian five-inch gun was torn away. And then another. The enemy vessel was shedding armor in huge chunks, it was falling like rain, filling the air with a gray, gritty haze. The fire he had seen amidships reached out toward two more.
But the leviathan still kept coming.
The skyship’s guns fired and Mikasa shuddered violently, throwing Togo to the deck, smashing his head against the compass stand. For a moment the world faded to gray. The admiral shook his head and jagged pain jerked him back.
The bodies of his aides were scattered all around him, some of them dead and some of them dying. The heavy metallic stench of blood filled his senses.
He no longer found it glorious.
The world sloped away from him to the left. Mikasa had taken on a fifteen-degree list to port. Even as he lay on the deck he could feel the battleship slipping into the cool embrace of the sea, feel her settling into her destiny.
Her guns had fallen silent. Pointed down at the sea, she could no longer reach the enemy above.
Togo managed to climb to his feet, reached for the voice tube. “Captain,” he croaked. He swallowed. “Strike our colors. Abandon ship.”
“Hai,” barked the captain and said no more. This was too painful an order to repeat back.
Over Togo’s head the Zed flag was burning. He looked up and saw the battered leviathan claw its way into the blue sky. And at that moment Admiral Togo Heihachiro knew that Japan would not rule the east, after all. And he knew one more thing. It was not the age of the gun.
It was the age of the sky.