Nathan's Laserium: Gigantomachy

The Frost Giants saved the world. It sure didn't seem like they would, when they first appeared, and that certainly wasn't their intention. They were your standard issue Norse frost giants. Very large, very mean, and very made of ice. But I strongly believe that if they hadn't have come, nothing ever would've changed. It's hard to remember but blizzards never used to be like hurricanes. As the atmosphere heated up the winter storms got worse and worse. It seemed counter-intuitive at the time but of course it makes perfect sense to us now. More energy in the atmosphere equals stronger storms. Arctic Fronts, Polar Vortexes and Siberian Highs were fierce enough before, and now they hurled their agents of vengeance upon us.

Or maybe the storms were finally so powerful that some sort of trans-dimensional portal was opened between Earth and Jötunheimr, home of the Frost Giants. No one really knows for sure. It's a question for meteorologists and, um, religious scholars, I suppose. Doesn't matter anyway, does it? Perhaps if Baugi's Head ever awakens, we can ask him.

Okay, yeah, I'm getting ahead of myself, aren't I? You know the story, of course, everyone does. You've seen the photos of the aftermath. Remember when Fort Vermilion used to be there? The Frost Giants appeared south of there, in between the Rivers Peace and Wabasca in the endless tamaracks, but they made a beeline southeast towards Fort Mac, sowing destruction as they marched. Was there some subtle criticism hidden in their intentions? That they materialized so close to the oil mines rather than the more populated regions to the south? Some say so, that they sought to punish us for what we were doing to the earth there. But they were destruction and carnage, mayhem and chaos. Do you think they cared what we were doing to our planet? If it bothered them, as far as I can tell, it was only because it took away some small bit of their fun. Less shit to stomp, so to speak.

They say it was the gods who stopped them, the last time they came, on some other continent and in some other age. Thor. Odin. Baldur. With warwolves and valkyries and hordes of screaming vikings by their sides. If not for their heroic deeds, our world would've been overrun, and none of us would be here today. There are no gods now, unless you count Boreas, Greek god of the North Wind, after whom Canada's vast boreal forest was named. He was not our ally that night. Or Aurora, Roman goddess of the dawn, who from the sky watched impassively the battle, and helped us not.

Yes, the battle. The blizzard was so intense all planes were grounded. CFB Cold Lake and its noble but ageing fighter jets were helpless. The Canadian Armed Forces were not even in it, through no fault of their own. It was the miners who held the line that night, the women and men who operate the titanic machines of the tarsands. Monsters of our own making. I think the giants headed there not out of some sense of offense but because they wanted a battle worth fighting. They kaijued the hell out of Fort Vermilion, which didn't take very long at all, and then it was like they wanted a challenge.

Here's the thing- we've been building giant robots for over a century! Yeah, they're not truly robots, but they are truly giant. And getting bigger all the time. Do you think the Frost Giants still would've been spoiling for a fight if they had known? Yeah, me too, I guess. Still, all that iron must've given them pause. Or is it only fairies who are allergic to iron? But it's not like the equipment operators were Warriors Born, or a shrieking horde of vikings, and the machines were built for digging and construction, not battle, so all in all the advantage was still squarely to the Frost Giants.

And indeed, first blood was drawn by the giants. Embarrassing for them if they failed at that, I suppose. The mines were still operating in the blizzard, but as often happens in inclement weather, the operators were idle, waiting for the snow to be cleared and visibility to return. Being night shift, some of the operators were resting their eyes, as is their wont. Uh, praying and meditating, undoubtedly. Imagine being woken up by a bison being used as a projectile weapon against you? Not fun, but as it turned out, actually fairly harmless. Takes more than a flying ungulate to wreck a 400 ton haul truck. No one was killed in that initial barrage, at least. Well, other than bison.

The first victim that night, we know her well. She's been honoured many times over, and I hear they are even building a statue for her in her native Newfoundland and Labrador. Her name was Indra Khonje, and she was a video-game enthusiast. Don't laugh as if that fact somehow cheapens her eulogies. It doesn't. She always said running shovel was like a real-life videogame to her, and her wife has said many times she takes comfort in the fact that Indra died fighting a real-life boss. It wasn't Indra who faltered, and this fact often gets forgotten in the passive aggressive misogyny that is ever present in online discussions of her role that night.

The shovel that Indra ran was one of the biggest, baddest machines in the tarsands. But it was electric. People don't realize her shovel had what was essentially a huge extension cord to give it power- 7200 volts worth. When it was severed (on purpose? I think not- I think the Frost Giants are not expert in the magic that is electricity and that they just got lucky) she was helpless. She was doomed. Wait! Let's back up. We know she died. But let's not forget how.

She shattered a Frost Giant shin. Like a badass. Sitting there alone in the dark, possibly dozing, taken completely by surprise, and faced with impossible horror, she somehow had time to get her bucket up off the ground, swing around and crush a giant's leg before her shovel lost power. And even then witnesses saw her get out of her operator's cab and throw the shovel's pair of metal catbars like spears at her attackers. You ever picked one of those up? Not exactly light. Her last words were lost in the storm, but anyone who knew her can guarantee that she probably delivered an oratorical payload 100 megatons of F-bombs on that giant. What happened next was unpleasant, but at least it was fast. Rest in peace, Indra Khonje. We will never forget you.

After that it becomes difficult to give a clearly chronological account of what happened. In a nutshell, tons of shit. It was a blitzkrieg of smash. An apocalypse of crunch.

The Frost Giants were having a party. Overturned dump trucks. Stomped bulldozers. Some of the bitumen caught fire, tires exploded, and the Frost Giants laughed. You'd think fire would be anathema to them but they are immune to its effects. Indifferent to flame. You know what's not immune to fire? People. It was bad. Really bad. Infernos and hydraulic fluid do not mix.

No one would have blamed them if they had ran. I think I would have. Blue-collar workers minding their own business, just doing their jobs one minute, caught in some unexpected Ragnarok the next. But they didn't run. They stood. True North Strong and Free, yo. It was a temporary foreign worker from Jamaica who helped turn the tide. Newell "Grouchy" Pulliam. He was the first to fell a giant. He was in a hydraulic shovel, cousin to the bigger electric one that Indra ran. Powered by two Diesel engines, so no power cables to cut. Like a charging rhino he toppled his enemy, and before it could recover, he crawled over the giant's body with the shovel's tank-style tracks and used the sharp metal digging teeth of his bucket to sever its head.

Apparently Frost Giants have methanol for blood! Who knew? Maybe Titan is actually Jötunheimr. I wonder where Valhalla is, then? If it's Mars I'm gonna be pissed.

The loaders got in on the action next. More mobile than the shovels, with three-meter-tall tires protected by chains, but the same big, stabby steel buckets. You know that metal exoskeleton Sigourney Weaver used to fight the alien queen in that movie? What was it called? Queen of the Aliens? Something like that. Anyway front-end loaders are the direct ancestors of that thing. A pair of them working in tandem improvised a balletic choreography, one to sweep a giant's legs out from under it, the other to perform the coup de grâce. They killed five Frost Giants this way before they were finally overwhelmed. Rest in peace, Grouchy. We will never forget you.

Dump trucks and dozers and dozens of pickups got in on the action. Mine rescue crews, trained to save lives, used their know-how to bring giants down. Sluggish-but-nominally mobile drill rigs were used as bait, to lure the giants onto blast patterns, where they were blown the fuck up.

The Frost Giants were defeated. Even in retreat they took their share of victims, as the piles of twisted metal still dotting the sub-arctic tundra can attest. But their threat was ended. One lonely straggler got mired in the permafrost, and it was easily dispatched once the snows finally ended.

Canada's Prime Minister, you know the one, with the hair? He went to Fort McMurray immediately, declared a state of emergency and got to work cleaning up. That was the easy part. But what really stands out from those times was the speech he gave, by Baugi's Head. That ugly, melting relic of war provided a jarring backdrop for his address. Heartfelt, and hitting all the right notes, it really didn't seem like just an excuse for a photo-op. The things he said resonated with all of us, regardless of political stripe. How, once again, Canadians and her friends demonstrated incredible valour in defending our home from unimaginable monstrousness. He gave Grouchy and the other temporary foreign workers who selflessly joined the battle not only citizenship (those that wanted it, and those that didn't got honorary standing. Imagine preferring a Caribbean paradise to Canada's sub-Arctic?) but also the Order of Canada. He named the victims and thanked them for their sacrifice. Said we were all humbled and inspired by their noble deeds. And that we should honour their sacrifice by looking at our lives, at our habits of consumption, and ask ourselves if perhaps we needed to make some changes.

Subtle it wasn't, but it didn't need to be. He was standing in front of the severed head of a goddamn Frost Giant for fuck's sake! There is nothing subtle about that. But from it was born Project Freyja. Freyja, the Norse goddess of the sun and moon and sworn enemy of frost giants. Solar, wind and even tidal power became a national priority. National policy shifted to reflect that. Massive projects were announced. And other nations, even the somnolent giant to our south, were finally roused to action. If the giants were born out of our appetite for the bones of even more ancient giants, then the legacy of their defeat would be to reverse the changes we had wrought. Too little, too late, you ask? Perhaps. A lot of work ahead, for sure, but we are no strangers to hard work, or to hardship. There've been other incursions, after all. In Siberia. Patagonia, even. But the will to change is there, finally, and we can thank the Frost Giants for that. That's how I see it, at any rate.

Now that we are ready for them, we can stop them. We know how. We've done it before. Monster mining machines, modified now for their new task. Armoured, and weaponized, and standing on guard for thee.

- Nathan Waddell