This is my first attempt at Alternate History. Consider it the first installment of a novel. The background of the story is true.
German submarine wolf packs were slaughtering Allied shippping in 1942. An effective way of escorting convoys to and from England was desperately needed. There just weren't enough destroyers available, and there was a critical shortage aircraft carriers. What to do?
Inspired by an inspiration of mad inventor Geoffrey Pyke, engineers built and tested ship-like prototype ice structures in lakes in Alberta, Canada, in 1943. The idea proved feasible, more or less. Ships made of solid ice, with suitable reinforcing members made of more conventional materials, would be effectively unsinkable by torpedoes or shellfire. However, such vessels had a couple of major drawbacks. They would have been extremely expensive to build, the equivalent of $100,000,000 or more each, a fortune by 1943 standards. They also had an unfortunate tendency to gradually melt away or even vaporize in warm weather.
By early 1944, the Allies had won the Battle of the Atlantic, and there was no longer a need for unsinkable aircraft carriers. The Habakkuks never sailed. But what if they had?
At a stately six knots, the H.M.S. Indefeasible plowed through the rolling swells of the Arctic Sea off the coast of Norway. She was an experimental ship, one of the first of the new Habakkuk-class aircraft carriers carved out of chunks of the Greenland icecap. She was an iceberg shaped into the semblance of a ship's hull by jets of superheated steam. An iceberg stiffened and reinforced with inventor Geoffrey Pike's miracle material, "Pykrete" -- really only a frozen mixture of water and sawdust, but which boasted many of the useful properties of construction steel. An iceberg fitted out with triple 2,500 horsepower Liberty Ship engines. A fighting and freight-carrying iceberg. Her crew called her the Ice Maiden.
Tromsö lay ahead, about 150 miles to starboard. It was March of 1944, and there were a thousand newly-built up-gunned Sherman "Firefly" tanks and 600 Lend-Lease P-40 fighters aboard -- destined for Stalin's armies, by way of Murmansk. The weather forecast called for blustery winds, with a possibility of heavy snow later in the evening. It was sleeting lightly and visibility was down to 50 feet.
Jud Kirsch unbuttoned his military parka as he stepped indoors and muscled the door shut against the resistance of a frigid wind gust. Straight from the North Pole that damn storm must be blowing. At least they had issued cold-weather headgear with fur earflaps, rather than those less-than-useless Army Air Force regulation billed caps. He stopped at his commanding officer's desk and languidly saluted. "Captain Judson Kirsch reporting as ordered."
"I'm an engineer, not a flipping soldier," he repeated for what must have been the twentieth time. "Sure, I know more about the P-40 and what keeps her in the air than any of those glorified flyboys and jumped-up mechanics at the Curtiss Wright plant in Burbank. But, damn it all, why did they have to stick me on this motorized ice cube?"
"You sure as hell aren't much of a soldier, flipping or otherwise," Colonel Smythers snapped back. "We requisitioned you for your mechanical knowhow, not your military skills, that's for damned certain. Now, shut up your whining and enjoy the 36-hour furlough topside. I understand you've been making eyes at that nursey broad, Malice something-or-other. She has to be as frigid as the superstructure of this damned ship, if my information sources are correct, and they usually are. Lots of luck with that one, and don't freeze your pecker off. Dismissed."
Kirsch gave a sloppy salute, nonchalantly pivoted, and walked out the door of the drafty administrative building. Imagine, living and working in Quonset huts on the deck of a tossing and heaving iceberg. Then stomping your way through snow-drifted paths toward the holds and workshops. Ice caverns, really. Well, at least it had one major advantage. There were plenty of hidden places for a tryst or rendezvous, assuming you could find a willing partner, that is. Well, there was always Major Paige, commander of the on-board nurse contingent. Mary Alice was too big a mouthful for her close friends, what few of them there were, and "Malice" was probably more apt anyhow. She did have a coldly imperious manner, not to mention a rather sharp tongue. As well as dangerous curves.
"Close the damned door!"
The coal-fired stoves in the aft mess hall didn't quite manage to compensate for the frigid gusts of arctic air that slammed in every time someone entered.
"Sorry, mates," he apologized. He looked around.