We sang songs to drown out the rumbling of the engines, and at least challenge the shrieking of the wind. We were bright blades piercing the breast of the night, recalling Roland and Oliver at Roncevaux, as was only fitting. We perched on columns of fire, arcing in a gentle parabola and feeling none of gravity’s curse, having solved the riddle of the Martian gravity engines.
It was just a drill, just a show for our allies and enemies. We all knew though. We knew we were going to Mars. We knew we were going to fight something ancient and terrible, and dig it out of its hole. It had tried for us, tried to conquer and harvest our world, and failed. The ogre and the dragon are terrible, but how much more terrible is the knight with revenge in his eye and steel in his hand? Well, we all know how that turned out!
Still, we were young and the universe was a new thing. Those old ships were deathtraps, with their fulminate fuses and the engines we really didn’t understand yet. It was intoxicating, though. Intoxicating not like any wine that mortals know, but like falling in love and foreseeing your own death at the same time. It was a different time.
-Michel de Traci-Bocage, Mémoires du Futur
The Incroyable class was a stopgap class of vessels designed to intercept a third wave of Martian landers that never came. Fast, lightly armored and terribly fragile, they were the first space vessels to be fielded by the Third Empire in any number. While cursed with a number of design deficiencies and poor serviceability, they did give the French crown an edge in practical engine design that extended up to the time of the loss of the Gloire.
-Dominic Rossignol, Origins of the Fall
Another illustration and a bit of the backstory for Spacecraft of the First World War.