Treachery abounds as the casualties mount in this global game of battleship. Will the Canadian spec-ops team find the generator? Just how damaged is loyalty among the American captains? And is the Japanese fleet really there by fortunate coincidence or is there something sinister afoot?
If you’re new to this co-written serial, you can find Episode 1 here.
- Miss (USA, G-1)
- Hit (USA, C-7, size:3)
- Hit (USA, J-6,size:4)
- Attack (USA, D-1)
- Attack (USA, I-1)
Lightning danced ominously about the ship, foreboding doom with every strike. Amidst the darkness and electrical flashes, Sergeant Gary Wilks heard the man-made thunder and saw the linear blinks of discharging cannons, the Zarathustra’s among them, on the sea around them. He could only hope that none of the projectiles hit home.
Beta team had rendezvoused scarce moments earlier and the six were now en route to the lifeboats and their stowed gear. The distant echo of the lower-deck sirens reached them over the howling wind and leant their movements an extra urgency. They kept a low profile, staying to the shadows of the port side gear. The Starboard deck had become uncomfortably busy suddenly with the return of the rescue rafts and Wilks knew his team didn’t have much time remaining.
“What’s the plan, Sarge?” Cal reminded him quietly that beta team wasn’t aware of the change in plans yet.
“It’s on the carrier, boys.” The low whistles were masked by the growing wind.
“How we gonna board a carrier?” Alex asked, strapping his tank to his back. The others each wrestled into their own gear.
“No idea,” Wilks stated matter-of-factly. “We’ll cross that bridge when we get to it.”
“Any idea where we’re going to get to it, Sarge?” asked Cal.
“Roughly, yeah,” Wilks turned to his left, searching for the large silhouette over the dark waters around them. “It should be somewhere over…” and then he saw something that made his jaw drop. Pointing, he finished weakly, “there.”
As the others followed his gaze, they stopped, staring in stunned silence. A single “dear Lord,” was heard whispered on the cold wind.
Several hundred meters in the distance was the largest ship that Gary had ever seen. In the blackness of the storm-covered waters, a faint, eerie glow emanated from its base. If there had been any doubt as to where the generator was before, it evaporated in the chill wind and the shadow of the behemoth on the horizon.
* * *
The high pitched whine of metallic death rose in an ominous crescendo before being cut short by a cacophony of carnage and fire. Shrapnel splattered against the side window of the bridge, a staccato of death and destruction.
Admiral Ben Johnson staggered from the impact as the missile tore a hole in the aft quarter of the HMCS Shaboogamoo.
“Damage control! All stations report,” he shouted to the comm.
The Lieutenant listened carefully for a moment before reporting.
“Engineering sustained heavy damage, sir, the main compartment is flooding. We’ve lost all propulsion systems and generators are at fifty-percent.”
“Unable to confirm, sir, but the bulkheads have collapsed, trapping the engineering crew.”
“Dispatch a rescue team and order all non-essential personnel to abandon the engineering sector.”
As the rumbling subsided and Johnson regained his feet, he swore in the direction of the unseen enemy. Covert team or not, world-changing technology or not, he would be damned if he was going to go peacefully into that last good night. Whatever role politics may have played in this battle was over as far as he was concerned. Now was the time for action. And the first job was to sink the ships they had a bead on.
“Orders to Nipissing and Atikokan. Ignore non-attack vector. Do whatever it takes to drop those cruisers to Davy Jones’ locker.”
* * *
Captain Peart could only shake his head. Another hit on the Shabandawan, aft third. Miraculously, the ship was still afloat, but she listed almost sideways in the water. Lifeboats from the Nunavut surrounded the helpless ship offloading the crew as quickly as possible. They would have to be fast, because, from the smoke rising off the deck of the Shaboogamoo, it looked like they would be needed again soon.
He feared the feeding frenzy was about to begin. He only hoped they managed to stay out of the jaws of the beast long enough to do some damage of their own.
* * *
The missiles were splashing around them like rain. Captain Larson was not a religious man, but at times like these he could almost believe someone was holding an umbrella for him.
“Incoming orders, Captain.”
They’d better make sense this time, thought Larson.
“We’ve free range, sir. Fire as we will, only directives are to sink the cruisers first.”
“It’s about time! Pick our target and fire!”
Their big gun fired off a satisfying volley. This time, they were sure to put a nail in the coffin.
“Captain!” Telemetry yelled across the small bridge.
“What is it?”
“Another spike in electrical distortion, sir. They’ve fired the EMP again.”
“That was fast. Is it me, or does the pulsing seem to be coming quicker?”
“And not as strong, sir,” telemetry confirmed.
“Hmmm. Interesting,” thought Captain Larson. He turned to survey the distant fleet before him. What could it mean? Were they overtaxing their new toy?
Lost in thought, he turned from the window…only to turn back quickly, recognizing something was wrong with the scene he had been observing. Captain Larson trusted his intuition, it was seldom wrong. What was it that had bothered him?
He snatched up his binoculars and quickly counted the faintly visible ships of the enemy fleet…five, six, seven, eight…!
“Comm, get me the Shaboogamoo and Admiral Johnson,” he said, much more calmly than he felt. The CF-18s had confirmed his own observations of a fleet of six ships. So why were there now more than ten?
Captain Larson had the feeling that things were about to get worse before they got better.
* * *
“There they are!”
The yell from behind woke Sgt. Wilks from his awe-inspired stupor.
“Time’s a wasting, men,” he said, rushing to the edge of the deck. “We have a job to do and we’re already late.” He glanced at his waterproof watch, “we’ll have no more help from the fleet, so this one’s on our own. Into the water.”
A bullet ricocheted off a nearby lifeboat. “Hold your fire,” came the call in the distance. “We don’t know who else is over there.”
Wilks knew it was their chance. Perhaps their only one. “Let’s go men!” Virtually as one they leapt from the edge of the deck, plummeting toward the water, feet first.
Almost instantly, the bullets resumed, to be quickly drowned out by the muffled gurgling of the ocean as Wilks plunged into the dark depths. As soon as his ballast stabilized, he flicked on his waterproof torch and searched for the other dark shapes of his team. Spotting the light, they turned to him. All but one, who floated bent double, slowly sinking into the abyss below. Cal. A small stream, dark in the torchlight, trailed his sinking head.
Gary Wilks paused a moment in respect for his lost teammate and friend. Unfortunately, a moment was all the team could afford and he signalled them on toward the giant carrier.
- Hit (Canada, D-1) Aura Mainyu –> You sunk my Battleship!
- Hit (Canada, I-1)
- Attack (Canada, E-9)
- Attack (Canada, H-3)
- Attack (Canada, C-6) **bonus attack for hit**
- Attack (Canada, J-7) **bonus attack for hit**
Lieutenant Jonathan Rodriguez watched helplessly as the fires on the Aura Mainyu spread. The death blow had finally been dealt. The cruiser groaned as if in pain as bulkheads collapsed, and metal twisted on metal, made pliable by the intense heat. Even from the Zarathustra, he could feel that heat, the heat of its death. The darkened sky only served to intensify the horror of the great burning wreck.
“Incoming!” Came a shout from amidst the throng of men and women on the deck.
What? No! He had just survived a barrage of enemy fire. Could he have had such poor luck as to evacuate to a ship that would suffer the same fate?
“Report!” William Smith, captain of the Zarathustra struggled to be heard above the confusion of the recent evacuation.
“The Ahura Mazda. She’s taken another hit.” came the reply from a nearby Lieutenant.
“Get me Admiral Stone, and somebody hail the Aries and Athena! Evacuations on the Ahura Mazda should have started half an hour ago!” Captain Smith stormed off as the crew of the Zarathustra tried to shuffle their new passengers below deck and out of the way.
“Lieutenant Rodriguez, sir.”
“Yes?” Rodriguez responded to the officer.
“We’ve received communications from the Sophia. Admiral Stone wishes to speak with Captain Durant, but we’re having little luck in locating him. I just thought that you might know where he is.”
“No. I have no idea where he is.”
“But Lieutenant, you were the last one seen with him.”
“He didn’t board the Zarathustra?”
“We assumed that he came aboard with you. Your lifeboat was the last that we received.”
“He wasn’t there…”
“Oh. Perhaps I’m wrong. He may have boarded earlier than you. This place is a real mess, sir. Sorry to have bothered you.”
Lieutenant Rodriguez nodded slowly as the man walked away. He couldn’t help but gaze up at the burning wreck as it slowly sank into the sea. Could Durant have still been aboard? He thought to himself. “No….”
* * *
Captain Ronald Durant’s lifeboat rocked violently as he made his way to the Sophia. The Aura Mainyu had been claimed by the sea, and her sister ship would soon follow. Durant grit his teeth as he thought of all that had been lost in this battle, and all that remained to be lost.
What foolish device could be worth such a high price? What insignificant little advantage was the Admiral protecting? He only needed to know what this was all for; he only needed to understand.
Captain Durant loaded a full magazine into his pistol as he thought about the complications that would arise once he tried to board the Sophia. It was an aircraft carrier. Not easy, but her crew didn’t know anything about his intentions. He would play nice until the Admiral was within range, and then he’d let Rosaline Stone have a piece of his mind.
* * *
Captain Jackson gave the latest damage report for the fleet. “The Aura Mainyu has been completely destroyed. Evacuations were a success, the crew is aboard the Zarathustra. The Ahura Mazda reports a second hit. Fires on the stern deck have spread rapidly. The generators are both at zero efficiency. Rescue attempts are underway but moving along slowly. The Aeries and Athena may be too far away to lend assistance in time.”
“That’s not good…”
“No Admiral. There’s more. The Zarathustra has reported a second sighting of the enemy team that has boarded her. Seems they were making their escape when they were spotted by two of our boys. The two opened fire on the team, but not before they managed to jump ship. There is one confirmed enemy casualty, but the others are still unaccounted for.”
“They may be headed here.” Admiral Stone thought out loud.
“We believe so.”
“What of Durant? I need to speak with him.”
“We are currently unable to locate Captain Durant. It’s understandable, there is an awful lot going on aboard the Zarathustra. He is to contact you as soon as possible.”
“Very well.” Admiral Stone looked to the horizon, and couldn’t help but pause at the sight of the oncoming and unidentified fleet that slowly approached.
“What are we gonna do about them?” Captain Jackson asked. “Should I order an attack?”
“No. How have our attempts at communications come along?”
“They haven’t responded. Electronic communications are still unreliable though.”
“Understood. Continue trying to establish communications. In the meantime, we will continue attacks on the Canadians.” The two columns of rising smoke in the distance gave her confidence despite the situation. “You have orders to fire as many missiles as you can Captain Jackson. Hopefully, they’ll think that our new arrivals have joined us in this battle, they just might pull back. All we need is a little luck. We can still come out of this thing on the winning side.”
- Attack (USA, L-7)
- Attack (USA, J-12)
“Hail the two fleets,” said Admiral Yukio Ren. “At least we can try and find out what’s going on here.”
“Hai, Taishou,” came the immediate response from her young comm officer.
She didn’t like the idea of an entire fleet living in an EM dense zone. It was too suspicious.
“Obasan, with all due respect, we must intervene. Clearly, the nearest fleet is under attack by a very unusual weapon.”
“That could be, Kyokuran, but I’m not convinced.” He seemed awfully eager to attack someone. “I’d still like to contact the two fleets before acting rashly.”
“Of course, obasan.”
“Taishou, Admiral, I have made contact with Admiral Ben Johnson of the Canadian fleet. He is awaiting your response.”
”And the other fleet?”
“I’m sorry Taishou, there has been no response.”
“Very well, put on the Canadian Admiral.”
The comm officer pressed a button and signalled Ren.
“Admiral Johnson,” Ren said.
“Yes,” came the static-filled reply. “To whom am I speaking?”
“This is Admiral Yokio of the first, restored Japanese fleet.”
“You guys don’t waste time, do you? The U.N. only passed your request two months ago,” Johnson said.
“This is not a world where the slow prosper Admiral. But we are not here to speak about my fleet. It seems that we find you in somewhat of a…situation.”
“You are correct there. We came upon this fleet after they had entered Canadian waters and were on a direct route to the St. Lawrence. Communications were impossible as they were, and continue to be, cloaked in an EM field. We had little choice but to engage them as hostiles.”
Ren paused for a moment in thought before answering.
“And do you know the origin of your hostiles, Admiral?”
“We believe them to be American.”
“What?” she said in surprise. Had she been drinking sake it would have been spewed all over the bridge.
“You’re engaged with the Americans?”
“We believe so, that is correct. We engaged before learning of their identity. We have no means to communicate with them to try and explain the situation. Furthermore, we have some fear that they may be a rogue element. As far as we can see, there is no reason for them to be in Canadian waters or testing such weaponry here.”
“We have evidence to suggest the EM field is self-induced. They must have an EMP generator aboard.”
The first voyage of the First Restored Japanese fleet and they had to run straight into an international incident of world-shaping proportions. She had heard nothing of such an American technology. If it was true, then it was ultra-secret. Which meant it was ultra-dangerous. Even to Japan.
“What help can I offer you, Admiral Johnson?” she asked. Even as a staunch supporter of the U.S. she could understand that their sole possession of such technology could not be allowed. It would skew the balance of power even more than it already was. And just when Japan had a new chance to become a player.
“We’re currently under heavy fire. We could use some heavy-gun support. Targeting of anything in the EM zone is…bad to say the least,” he answered.
“You have the support of the Japanese fleet Admiral.”
“I’m happy to hear that,” he said, signing off.
Ren signalled her officer to cut the connection before giving the order to target the EM dense zone.
“Do you think that is wise, obasan,” Kyokuran said.
“Very,” was all Ren was willing to answer at this time.
Kyokuran fidgeted for a few moments before asking, “If I may, obasan, I will attend to the hanger. A personal inspection of the aircraft readiness may reassure and inspire the pilots,” Kyokuran said.
“As you will, Taisa.” It was unnecessary, of course, Ren realized, but Kyokuran could be very temperamental and hot-headed. Sad as it was to admit, she often preferred when he wasn’t on the bridge. When they returned to Japan, she would request that a new captain be assigned her.
As Kyokuran left, Ren returned her attention to the scene before them and watched as the pair of cannons from the Hiroshima loosed their cargo into the dark sky.
* * *
“Yawa”, said Kyokuran under his breath as he climbed down the stairs to the reactor deck. Surely, it must be clear even to Ren that they should side with the Americans. How could she even think to believe Canada capable of such technology? And how will our great American allies behave after we fire on them? Ren was too filled with anachronistic nobility. He could see her as an honorable samurai defending some pitiful farmer against a powerful lord. If they had allowed Maguro like her to become samurai. He laughed to himself. He always felt better insulting Ren. Even if he had to keep up the pretence of servitude.
He wound his way through the corridors and conduits that fed the reactor until he reached the door to a small closet. Opening the door, he went in, turning the light on as he did.
“Bonkura.” She actually believed he cared whether the pilots were ‘inspired’ or not! Oh, he would give his little pep-talk to them, but there were more important matters to attend to first. The fleet had to be warned. Dr. Greer, that useful but naïve gaijin may need to take extra precautions now that two fleets would be firing on him.
The room was empty save for two moderate-sized crates, a metal shelving unit on the right that was filled with some empty cans and boxes, a stool and a small laptop computer.
Kyokuran sat on the stool and turned on the computer. The Toshiba booted from standby in only a few seconds. Opening the custom notepad, he typed his message and hit the ‘send’.
A small progress window opened, displaying dots corresponding to the translated code. Each time he communicated with Greer, he imagined the signal speeding through the ship to the laser transmitter/receiver he had planted atop the island. Buried amidst the other communications systems, it was the only reliable device for communicating through an EM field.
The window flashed ‘transmission successful’. Now the ball was in Greer’s court.