August 6th 1914. Sub-lieutenant Luca Janssen’s motorcycle was falling apart between his legs, and he was still miles from Liege. The night before, the city had pushed back against the German onslaught, scoring heavy casualties. General Leman had held the city and its collection of forts and informed the Hun Army that crossing Belgium would cost them, if they could do it at all.
But that was last night, and this was a new day. On patrol around Liege, Janssen had spotted the Pomerian boor Ludendorrf. The German General had found the chink in Liege’s armour, a gap in the fortifications, and was moving troops through it towards the city. Hun recon sharpshooters had fired on Janssen before he could flee, failing to hit him but damaging his steed.
Ten miles out from the city’s walls he could feel the motorcycle shaking, vibrations numbing his hands. The platemail gauntlet he wore on his right hand clattered along with the rest of the loud contraption, its bracer bands digging into his forearm. He worked the control lever as fast as the bike could manage. But the motorcycle responded by shaking even harder, belching a cloud of black smoke and shedding more parts. As Janssen crested a hill it coughed twice and died.
Coasting now, he could see a military checkpoint up ahead. The bike’s drivetrain seized and he abandoned it, running and waving his arms. Three men jumped up and leveled rifles at him until he screamed “j’suis BELGE” at them. It looked like they’d believed him when it seemed the entire road between them suddenly leapt into the air. A concussive wave pummeled Janssen to the ground, shattering his eardrums and rupturing blood vessels. A second explosion lifted him off the ground and sent him cartwheeling into the bern on the other side of the road. The shockwave from a third German artillery shell caught him midair; his right shoulder and elbow first dislocating as he ragdolled, and then separating from him completely as he smashed into a tree. Four more shells landed on the checkpoint, shattering the ground and throwing dirt high in the air.
As the smoke cleared, all that remained of the four men was the gauntleted right hand of Sub-Lieutenant Luca Janssen. Scorched, discarded, but intact.