The military of the Faethorn Empire are developing a new weapon to defend themselves from attack. The weapon makes forcible use of a minority group, the Thorne, within the Empire, splitting the Empire into factions who approve or disapprove of this human rights abuse. The military itself is riven by those who want to develop, but not test weapons, and vice versa.
Gearwheels meshed and iron strived against iron; a shudder ran through the vast superstructure like an earthquake in miniature. On the upper deck the Captain gazed calmly out to sea, watching the iceberg as it adjusted its course to ram the ship.
"It's clearly not a natural phenomenon," said the woman stood next to him. She inclined her head and peered up at the Captain, who was easily six inches taller than her. He turned slightly, and spat in her face.
"Of course it isn't, you stupid witch."
She wiped her face with a withered, blackened hand, the steel chains binding her wrist rattling like lost Hope in Pandora's box.
"Then we shall sink when it hits us," she said.
"You'd like that, wouldn't you?" The captain sneered at her, the fingers of his left hand twitching, trying to ball into a fist.
"I would die too."
"You and all your filthy, verminous children. If you weren't so valuable alive, I'd flood the hold and drown you all myself."
The iceberg slid closer, and a high-pitched whine started sounding like a titanic mosquito circling the ship. A red light flickered fitfully to life on the Captain's wristwatch.
"Watch and learn," he said, tiny flecks of spittle flying from his mouth. "See what you can do when you're properly harnessed." He lifted his wrist to his face, and said quietly, with authority, "Engage!"
More gearwheels meshed and turned, and an inhuman cry of pain and rage rose from the hold of the ship. A brilliant lance of blue light leapt from the gun-tower and struck the iceberg. Instantly steam fountained from it and rapidly blocked the view. As the iceberg boiled away the ship became wreathed in chilly fog, the Captain smiled a hard smile, and the woman on the deck collapsed, blood running from her nostrils.