Fact

What Lessons Can We Learn from Deepmind vs the…

What Happened?

Recently (in December, although the results were only just revealed Jan 24), a team of Artificial Intelligence agents created by the group at Deepmind — the same group that created AIs to beat the Chess and Go world champions — challenged two Team Liquid Starcraft II pro players (TLO and MaNa) to a 5-game match playing as the Protoss race and proceeded to defeat each player 5-0. A week later, MaNa defeated a new agent 1-0 for humanity’s only win.

What Are the Details?

Deepmind self-training strategy. Human examples to begin, then competition against other AI agents to improve.

Deepmind is an organization, financially supported by Google, that creates self-learning artificial intelligence programs. They’re best known for creating the AI agents that defeated the chess and go world champions.

Since then they’ve turned their attention to Starcraft II. Not only is the e-sport an incredibly fast-paced game with a large number of aspects for the player to consider at any given time but, more importantly, it features ‘imperfect information’ or, as it’s more commonly known, The Fog of War. In other words, while in chess and go the players can see the entire board and judge their next moves using a totality of information that includes the up-to-date position of the opponent pieces, in Starcraft II the only information a player has is what their pieces can ‘see’ on the map at any given moment.

Deepmind began by training an initial AI agent using human replays from all leagues. They used this agent to spawn new agents, which then trained further by playing each other in purely AI leagues. There they learned to develop and counter their own strategies.

Once ready, the Deepmind team reached out to Blizzard for a pro player to test their AI bots on and TLO was the name give. The Little One is a German pro known for his ability to play all races, and for being a generally all-round nice guy. They chose a Protoss vs Protoss match-up to reduce the complexity for the AI agents. A 5-game match was agree upon and played in early December. TLO lost 5-0.

However, it was only revealed after the match that TLO was playing 5 different agents, each with preferred strategies, meaning his standard method of adapting to an opponent wasn’t effective since he was effectively playing five different opponents.

Given that TLO does not play Protoss as his main (he’s a Zerg player), Deepmind then reached out to his teammate MaNa who was also beaten 5-0, this time by a set of agents trained for a week more. Some interesting revelations occured during that match, which led Deepmind to train a new agent, which MaNa managed to defeat 1-0.

What Does it Mean?

To start with, it’s important to note that the single human win was, arguably, the fairest game of the challenge as it used a new agent, trained in one week to only act on what was showing in the camera view of the screen — just like a human player would. It appears this was done because it came to light in the 9th game (4th game against MaNa), that the AI had perfect micro (individual unit control) while managing three squads of units in vastly different parts of the map. Something no human player could do. Presumably, while the original AIs were handicapped to human actions-per-minutes (APM), they primarily used the mini-map to manage units, giving them a massive advantage over humans, who cannot do that (at least partially because the minimap is in a tiny corner of the screen).

The other point worthy of note is that the human players commented that they could not adjust for the AI’s tactics from match to match. It came to light the reason for that was because there were, in fact, five different AI agents, each with preferred strategies, instead of one. This also put the human players at a vast disadvantage because it was equivalent to them playing a team of five pros while not knowing anything about their opponent’s tactics. Something that would rarely happen in human pro matches.

On the positive side, there were some interesting strategies that the AIs used repeatedly. While the human-like AI walled-off, many of the other AIs didn’t. All AIs, however, over-saturated their gas mining in the early game, choosing to expand later than their human opponents. It became clear that this small difference in income ended up resulting in a stronger economy, something underestimated by the human community of Protoss players. Of course, these strategies have only been tested in one type of match-up so it remains to be seen what other interesting strategies the AI will come up with.

Conclusions

This was a very interesting challenge. The main difference between Starcraft II and board games, and the reason the DeepMind team chose this game, was to see if their AIs could perform to human-like capabilities in an environment with imperfect information. That is, anyone who’s played Starcraft knows of the Fog of War, segments of the map you can’t see because you don’t have units there. Entire battle in WWII have been won due to creative use of the Fog of War, so this is not an idle challenge.

Interestingly, and perhaps a bit worrying, the Deepmind agents, once trained, can be installed, fully functional, on laptop computers. That’s right. While the training phase takes a vast amount of resources (equivalent to 50 GPUs for each agent), the finished agent can then function on a device that any person can buy. Scarier still, an agent can be trained from novice to pro in a week, amounting to the human equivalent of dozens, or even hundreds, of years of playing.

While the real-world consequences of this technology are obviously frightening, in game, I’m looking forward to the pros training with AIs to develop new and interesting strategies. Perhaps more feints or double feints, and other bits of misdirection. One strategy the last AI showed itself vulnerable to, and confused by, was oracle harassment of its mineral line. Humans would have dealt with that easily while the AI was confused time and time again. Presumably, future agents trained from this one will not be fooled but it will be interesting to see how man and machine relearn the game together. And I’m looking forward to seeing a single AI agent enter a pro tournament.

Fiction

Cover Reveal – Game, Set, Deathmatch by Edwin H…

Here is the cover for my new Science Fiction novel. Based loosely on First Person Shooters, it follows DaemonS and the Apocalypz Cowgirls who find their Death Match hopes derailed by disaster as they uncover a plot to end all life as they know it.

Release Date: November 15, 2018

Fiction

Battleship: Original Serial Fiction – Episodes 20, 21, &…

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.

Turn: Canada

Incoming Fire:

  1. Miss (USA, G-1)
  2. Hit (USA, C-7, size:3)
  3. Hit (USA, J-6,size:4)

Return Fire:

  1. Attack (USA, D-1)
  2. 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.”

“Casualty report?”

“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.”

“Aye, sir.”

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.”

“Aye sir.”

*   *   *

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.

Turn: U.S.A.

Incoming Fire:

  1. Hit (Canada, D-1) Aura Mainyu –> You sunk my Battleship!
  2. Hit (Canada, I-1)

Return Fire:

  1. Attack (Canada, E-9)
  2. Attack (Canada, H-3)
  3. Attack (Canada, C-6) **bonus attack for hit**
  4. 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.”

Turn: Japan

Salvo:

  1. Attack (USA, L-7)
  2. 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.”

“Weaponry?”

“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.

Fiction

Battleship: Original Serial Fiction – Episodes 17, 18, &…

The Canadian spec-ops team search for the generator powering the electromagnetic field as Admiral Johnson struggles to keep his fleet in one peace during the resticted fire protocol.

Meanwhile, American Admiral Stone and Dr Greer discuss whether to kill the true source of the EM field should the Canadians discover it.

…and… a new, unexpected player enters the game. Introduced by ‘Lala13’, it’s… well, I wouldn’t want to spoil the surprise.

If you’re new to this co-written serial, you can find Episode 1 here.

Turn: Canada

Incoming Fire:

  1. Miss (USA, I-1)
  2. Hit (USA, C-5, size:3)

Return Fire:

  1. Attack (USA, K-1)
  2. Attack (USA, K-5)

Sure enough, luck had run out. He hated being right. Captain Peart stood on the bridge and assessed the damage through his binoculars. The HMCS Shabandewan had taken a hit to the bow and was listing badly.

“Ready the lifeboats, and offer our assistance to the Shabandewan,” he ordered.

“Transmitting.”

Captain Peart swept the position of the unseen enemy fleet. The order to stay was unusual, but these were unusual circumstances. The enemy fleet had been on a vector right down the St. Lawrence so the initial attack was understandable but, in light of recent developments, the prudent action would have been to back off and leave the situation to the politicians. Yet that hadn’t happened, despite the almost certainty that they faced an American fleet.

“Shabandewan accepts our aid, Captain. They report the collapse of forward bulkheads and flooding of the bow compartments. They’ll stay afloat barring more hits, but they’re out of the battle.”

“Launch lifeboats,” he answered automatically, his mind elsewhere.

The only reason there could be for staying was if this wasn’t a standard American fleet. Thus, the real reason they hadn’t disengaged must be…the electromagnetic field.

Could the Admiral believe it was generated by the American fleet, itself? If so, that would truly be a prize worth fighting for. But by launching an attack, there was as much chance of destroying any generators as saving them. Perhaps that explained their recent orders to avoid any ordinance delivery along a longitudinal vector through the zone. It was possible the Admiral had launched a covert team. That could also explain his silence on the topic. If true, however, they may need air support for the extraction.

“Prep a squadron of sea-harriers for launch, notify pilots to be on standby.”

“But, Captain, we can’t fly in the EM zone.”

“We’re not going in yet. But I have a feeling we may be needed.”

As the small armada of lifeboats sped across the gap between ships, Captain Peart watched the elevators lift the aircraft to the runway. The Nunavut might yet have an important role to play in the closing act of this drama, he thought.

* * *

“It’s too soon to tell, Admiral, but the field seems to dissipate faster after each discharge of the EMP.”

“That’s something. At the current decay rate, how many more discharges do you estimate before a negative effect.”

“Well, we don’t know the charging time, sir, but if we can assume a linear decay sequence with a twenty-minute charge cycle, I would estimate they still have another ten uses before the field dissipates faster than they can charge it. Again, that assumes a linear decay in field strength, Admiral.”

“I understand, Lieutenant. It’s all we have to go on for the moment, but it gives us some hope.

“What’s the latest sit-rep?”

“The Shabandewan’s taken a hit, sir, Nunavut is lending aid. The Atikokan and Nipissing have left alone the crippled ship for the moment, as per your orders, and continue to bombard the zone.”

“Keep me apprised of any developments, Lieutenant,” he said, turning to leave the bridge. Admiral Johnson checked his watch – forty-five minutes remaining to the team.

* * *

The small team floated at the base of the battleship. In the cover of the dark and the friendly fire, they had decided on a silent approach via the surface. Sergeant Gary Wilks searched the side of the vessel for identifying marks but found none; not even a designation. This was no ordinary fleet.

He gave the hand signal and launched his boarding grapple the same time as the other five shot into the air. All six caught the railing and the team scrambled up the taut lines hauling their scuba tanks on their backs. The tanks would have to be hidden on the deck. He didn’t trust the raft to stay afloat in the strengthening storm and the gear would be needed for their extraction.

The deck was oddly quiet and the team stowed their gear in nearby lifeboats before entering the closest hatch. He gave a series of hand signals and they split into their two designated groups. The others sped off down the stairs for engineering and, what should be the simple job of crippling the generator. His team had the more challenging task of finding the EMP plans.

The corridors seemed oddly deserted in the quiet red strobing of the emergency lights. It made him uneasy. The crew must be somewhere, and he didn’t relish the thought of coming upon them all at once.

The triad sped silently down the corridors, quickly checking the room designations as they crisscrossed the narrow maze. He was about to order them down a floor when a sign caught his attention: Tactical. He signalled guns at the ready as the trio surrounded the door.

They each pulled out a specially modified pistol. Standard ‘covert’ orders were in place and they were to use non-lethal force. All pistols were equipped with tranq-darts.

On his mark, Xiou hammered in the door with a powerful kick and the three burst in the room. The four Lieutenants dropped quickly amid the hail of darts. Bill closed the door behind them, locking it, before joining Gary and Xiou at the telemetry station.

The entire fleet lay before them, mapped out on table-top computer screen. It was a standard, protective deployment, clearly designed to provide maximum cover for the two capital ships.

“Sarge,” whispered Xiou. Gary turned quickly from the table.

“What do you got for me?”

“Fleet records, sarge. From launch, updated to the present.”

“Let me see,” Gary said, as Xiou passed him the most recent log.

“The ‘Zarathustra’.” It was a name he didn’t recognize, but that meant little these days. With the rampant production of weapons of all types, it was virtually impossible to keep up with every new vessel commissioned.

Gary flipped quickly through the pages. They detailed the attack by the Canadian fleet, including hits on two vessels, the Ahura Mazda and the Aura Mainyu. It seemed the latter was currently being evacuated. That might explain the absence of crew, as they helped rescue their comrades. But there was nothing regarding an EMP generator except a mention that their systems had been knocked out prior to the initial attack. It actually seemed that the fleet wasn’t entirely sure where they were.

Gary signalled Xiou and Bill and they both came to him quickly.

“Men, I think things have just gotten more complicated.”

“How so, sarge?” Bill was looking at the telemetry map as he asked.

“There’s no record of an EMP generator in the logs except in response to its use. I think it’s safe to assume it is aboard another ship.”

“But there are six ships in the fleet, sarge, that could take forever to search,” said Xiou.

“At the very least, we’d better hope its not on either of the cruisers or we’ll have to retrieve it from Davy Jones himself.”

“This ship,” Bill interrupted. They both turn to where he was pointing.

“I think you’re right,” Gary said, a smile growing on his face. It was the largest ship in the fleet. Sophia, was the label and it appeared to be a carrier. As Gary recalled, there was little mention of it in the logs. He had a feeling that was their boat.

“Alright, men. Back to the deck. We rendezvous with the beta team and make our way over to the big girl.” He didn’t want to address the question that was on all their minds, ‘how were they going to board a carrier?’.

Gary replaced the logs and scooped up his bag as the three headed to the door. A shadow lingered in front of the door and the team froze.

As the handle turned slowly, stopping part way from the lock, they quietly pulled out their pistols from amidst their vests.

The handle turned back and forth and then jiggled violently before there was a shout, “Hey! Why’s tactical locked?”

“Whadda ya mean?” came the distant reply.

“It’s locked!”

“Let me see that.” The doorknob jiggle some more, followed by a hammering on the door.

“Anyone in there? Hey Mike, you there, what’s going on?”

“I’m tellin’ you, there’s no one there.”

“And I’m tellin’ you, there has to be. It’s against regulations to leave tactical during a battle, let alone lock it.”

There was a brief pause in the voices before both spoke in unison, “call security!”

They were sitting ducks if they stayed. Better to chance the two outside the door, than fully armed security officers.

“Follow my leader men,” Gary whispered. He lunged for the door. Flicking the lock and throwing it open, the trio burst into the hallway. There were two men running down the hall, Gary shot the first in the back and he dropped like a sack of sand. But the other was already out of range of the pistols. To make matters worse, heads had begun to poke out from the cabins.

“Quickly,” Gary said, turning back the way they had originally come.

As the trio sprinted off down the hallway, there was a distant explosion below them and all the lighting suddenly went out accompanied by the dying hum of fading electricity.

The beta team must have taken out the generator in engineering, they didn’t yet know that this was the wrong ship. He wasn’t sure if their timing great or terrible.

Turn: USA

Incoming Fire:

  1. Miss (Canada, K-1)
  2. Miss (Canada, K-5)

Return Fire:

  1. Attack (Canada, C-7)
  2. Attack (Canada, J-6)
  3. Attack (Canada, G-1) **bonus attack for hit**

Captain Ronald Durant watched the darkening sky as thin slivers of lightning sliced through the heavens to kiss the ocean in the distance. The deck was silent, for once. He watched as the last of the crew boarded a lifeboat headed for the Zarathustra, Lieutenant Rodriguez among them. The USS Ahura Mazda would no doubt start evacuations as well, but space was tight, they wouldn’t be able to ask the Zarathustra to take on any more survivors. The Sophia was too far away. Their only hope would be the two remaining ships, the Aries and Athena, but they were small, and bringing them into the battle-heavy zone would only make them easy targets. Luck had given the Ahura Mazda a second chance. The recent enemy attacks had both missed, but none were even close to making impact with the Aura Mainyu. The enemy’s sudden change of heart didn’t sit well with Captain Durant. Before, they had fired heavily on the ship, missing every time. Why had they ceased their attack now? They no doubt knew where to strike the fatal blow by now.

What the hell was Admiral Stone thinking, making them stay out here, fighting this goddamn battle? He’d remembered her bitter little slogan “Goddamn Americans,” and the way she would saunter around so arrogantly, pretending to be the reluctant soldier, the humble hero. Just an act. She knew something, something big, something that she was willing to risk her life – no – his life, the lives of his men, the whole goddamn fleet for.

“One way or another…” Durant said to the growing storm, “one way or another, I’m gonna find out what you are hiding from us, my dear Admiral. And it better be worth it.” He couldn’t help but think of Joseph. Durant had had Joseph transferred into his command just before deployment, a favor for a close friend. Now he’d wished that he hadn’t used the leverage of his rank to get the young recruit aboard the Aura Mainyu, now he’d wished that he’d denied the request of a good man if only to save his life.

*  *  *

Admiral Stone stood before the reinforced door of the sealed lab impatiently. The two armed guards greeted her and began the sequence to open the heavy door. It was a real circus act. The door was outfitted with some fancy new security crap. The procedure reminded Admiral Stone of the arming of a nuclear warhead, bad Hollywood movie style. First, the two guards used their keys, in unison. This opened up a small panel. The men each placed their hand into their own slot and waited patiently. Stone was surprised to see that the delicate instrumentation had not been damaged by the EM field, but then again very little in the doctor’s lab had been damaged. Apparently, the shielding in the lab had been made of a different, more costly material. Too costly to use in the shielding of the fleet. As if price really mattered now.

Stone could hear small electronic beeps as the panels scanned the fingerprints of the two men and read their vital signs. The way Dr Greer had explained it, the two men had to be of good health, and their heart rate had to be within normal parameters in order to get the door opened – a preventative measure to keep any unwanted guests out. Admiral Stone only hoped that the two men could keep their calm even if the Sophia were under attack. What use was it to be locked out of the lab then? Luckily though, the lab could be easily opened from the inside. After all, the procedure was meant to keep anyone out of the lab, not trap the doctor or his men in.

The door slowly opened as the two guards saluted her in, seconds later the door was closed, and a series of clicks could be heard as it locked into place once again. Dr Greer stood in front of the glass tank that housed the Prototype, staring up into the milky water while scribbling into his notebook. Stone could tell by his rapid movements that he was agitated.

“Coms are back up Doctor, I’m sure you’re aware. That means that radar is going to be back too.”

Dr Greer looked up surprisingly, as though he hadn’t seen her enter the room. “Oh, Admiral Stone. Yes.” He tilted down his notebook to show her his scribblings – as if they were supposed to mean something to her. “I’m surprised they’ve gotten word to you so quickly.”

“Like I said, coms are back up.”

“Yes. Well, take a look at this,” he motioned for her to take the notebook.

“Dr Greer, you know that’s all Latin to me.”

“Yes, but I’ve charted out this graph, it should be rather simple to-“

“Simple for you is a headache for me. Why don’t you walk me through it.” She didn’t have time for this.

After a pause, the doctor answered, “You see this?” He pointed at a progressive downward arch in the graph, “We’ve picked up anomalies in the EM output of the Prototype. Seems that the first discharge spiked dramatically, performing well above expectations. Probably why our systems got fried. But the second and third discharges have decreased dramatically. The decay rate is accelerating.”

“And this means…”

“It means, that the Prototype is failing. I don’t know, maybe we were overzealous. We should have started at a lower charge rate. I think we’ve done some serious damage to the Prototype.”

Greer set down his notes and walked over to the tank. A small steel plaque adorned the front of the tank, the word “Archangel” inscribed into the metal. The tank itself was large, at least ten feet long and wide, and high enough to nearly touch the ceiling. The base was hooked up to a large generator, with massive cables snaking out of it and cutting into the lower decks, connecting it to the super carrier’s two nuclear reactors. Behind the thick glass, the anthropomorphic figure could be seen. Hairless, pale, the androgynous figure looked as though it were sleeping. Greer had said more than once that this was where humanity was headed, this was human evolution at its best. The thin, weak looking figure trapped in this glass cell, represented the epitome of human evolution. Stone doubted that, but this monstrosity had been genetically engineered from human DNA, and any being that could create an electromagnetic blanket by pure will alone was something to be feared as well as respected. It was for this reason that she felt fortunate that this thing was just a shell. Empty. With no soul, or consciousness. It wasn’t aware of itself, had no grasp of time, heck, without all of those tubes and wires to keep its heart going, without the milky water that provided it nutrients, this thing would easily die. Admiral Stone did wonder about the sedatives though. Dr Greer was very adamant about keeping the amount of sedatives flowing into the Prototype at a continuous rate and monitored its responses to them religiously. Why was he so concerned with keeping it drugged up if it didn’t have consciousness in the first place? If it couldn’t feel pain? Couldn’t think? If it weren’t really alive in the first place?

“I think its dying…” Doctor Greer said, his tone of voice filled with an air of failure.

“Dying? I wouldn’t call this much of a life, doctor.”

“If the Prototype fails, this will set the Archangel Project back years. Its taken us three long years to get it to this state.”

“The Archangel Project? I didn’t think you were capable of such shortsightedness Doctor. If this thing fails, we won’t last until the end of this battle, and correct me if I’m wrong, but you’ve gotta be alive to continue your research, yes? What exactly is wrong with this thing anyway? Why haven’t you fired the EM field again?”

“It’s not necessarily a problem with the Prototype. It’s the energy from the reactors. Like I’ve said before, the Prototype is not a conscious being. Sure, its biological, but we can’t just tell it to discharge the EM field whenever we want. Instead, we use power drawn from the nuclear reactors to stimulate it. In the same manner that antivenomists apply a small electrical charge to black widow spiders in order to stimulate them into producing venom, we use this diverted energy to stimulate the Prototype into discharging the EM field. But the current data suggest that the application of the energy is actually harming the Prototype. Our buffers aren’t doing a good enough job, the energy is coming through too harshly. As a result, it’s taking us more and more time to calculate the correct amount of energy needed to stimulate the Prototype without causing further damage, and the EM charges themselves are getting weaker as the Prototype gets weaker. We can’t keep the EM field up much longer.”

“How long before you can activate the Prototype once again?”

“Admiral, I’m not sure you understand – “

“I understand completely. Now I’m reminding you for the second time, your research doesn’t mean jack if we don’t make it out of this engagement alive. This thing is the only edge we’ve got right now, we have no choice but to use it. Repair the buffering system to the best of your abilities, anything you need that I can provide, you know you’ve got. Just remember, we’ve got two cruisers about to sink out there, and then we’re next.”

“Yes, Admiral.” Doctor Greer turned away and returned to the panel that controlled the energy output of the nuclear reactors.

“Admiral Stone?”

It was Captain Jackson. His voice floated above a sea of static as Stone picked up her radio. “Captain, this better be important.”

“It is. We’ve just received word from the Zarathustra that they’ve been boarded by an as of yet unidentified enemy party.”

“Boarded?!”

“Yes Admiral. As best we can tell, a small team of at least six men boarded her. There were at least two teams. One was spotted in tactical. Lieutenants Michel Smith, Jose Cortez, Vincent McCarthy, and Tom Black were incapacitated in the attack.”

“Incapacitated? Three men took out four Lieutenants?”

“It appears that the intruders were well armed as well as trained. A covert op. Luckily they used non-lethal rounds. Tranq darts from modified pistols, best we can figure. Another one of our boys was attacked in the hall just outside of tactical, he’s with the others in the med bay. One managed to get away and sound the alarms, but that wasn’t before the other team managed to take out generator one.”

“They got into engineering?”

“Looks like it. They damaged the generator pretty badly. We’ve got engineers down there working on it right now, but they are scared out of their minds. Seems like a few of them were down there when the enemy team infiltrated the ship. They had the team cornered for a little bit, but they managed to get away.”

“Get away? How did that happen!”

“Sorry Admiral, but those guys are just engineers. They aren’t too good at handling situations like this. They did try though, but the team was too good. Again, we’re lucky that those were non-lethal rounds, or two of our engineers wouldn’t have seen another day.”

“So you’ve lost both teams?”

“Yeah, and there’s no telling if they were the only two that boarded the Zarathustra. Its gonna be hell for them to get out of there though, now that the crew’s oh high alert. That was a stupid move, if you ask me Admiral. We’ve got twice the men onboard now, how do they expect to get out of there?”

“No, Captain. I’m sure they would have known that the Zarathustra was lending aid to the Aura Mainyu, they used all of the activity as a cover. Besides, it will be hard to coordinate activities with a couple of hundred men who aren’t familiar with the ship.”

“I see your point. But why did they board us in the first place? Were they after our battle plans? That doesn’t explain why they took out the generator.”

“They Prototype. They were trying to steal it.”

“So they do know of its existence. That would explain their reluctance to sink the Aura Mainyu. This changes things considerably.”

“Yes. Captain Jackson, resume attacks on the enemy fleet. We do have a confirmed hit, right?”

“Yes, Admiral. Should I concentrate our attacks there?”

“Yes. Sink that ship, Captain. Also, increase security on the deck, I want extra men guarding the lab. I don’t think I need to remind you of what’s at stake here.”

“No Admiral.”

“Good. I’ll be up top as soon as I’m done here. We’re preparing to fire the EM generator again.” With that Admiral Stone turned to Dr Greer, who had been listening to the conversation with obvious fear. “Dr Greer, we need to fire the Prototype now.”

Dr Greer nodded slowly as if he’d been put into a dream state.

“How easy would it be to kill this thing?” Admiral Stone suddenly asked, staring up at the figure in the tank.

“Admiral? Kill it?”

“If we’re compromised, I’m not gonna let the Canadians have this thing. I’d rather destroy it than see it in enemy hands.”

“Not much. The sedatives could do it, an overdose.”

“If those doors are breached, I want you to OD this thing. You got that Dr Greer.”

“But – “

“And under no circumstances allow that laptop of yours to fall into enemy hands. It does contain your life’s work, doesn’t it.”

“Yes.”

“Then guard it with your life.” Admiral Stone approached Greer and handed him her sidearm. He took it in shaky hands.

“I’ve never used a gun before…”

“Just point and pull the trigger Dr, there isn’t much more to it.”

*  *  *

“Confirm that!” Captain Jackson barked into his radio as Admiral Stone returned to the deck. “Say again!”

“Captain, we’ve got a mast on the horizon, headed our way!”

“What?” Admiral Stone rushed forward, “The Canadian’s have surrounded us?”

“Negative. Radar, as scrambled as it is, suggests that these are new ships, a new fleet. We’ve confirmed the presence of at least two ships, one a destroyer. They’re just too big to be anything else.”

“Should we fire on them, Admiral?” Captain Jackson asked.

“We’re surrounded….” Admiral Stone tried to think fast, but this situation was getting real bad real fast. Who were these new ships, and were they an enemy? There was a good possibility that they were, and the recent situation on the Zarathustra didn’t make matters any better. Enemy reinforcements?

“Correction. We’ve got four confirmed ships headed directly our way” Came the static-filled voice again.

“Admiral, should we fire?”

“What if they aren’t Canadian reinforcements?” Stone asked.

“That’s highly unlikely Admiral”

“Admiral, the Athena has just spotted two more ships. That’s six enemy ships headed our way!”

“We need to fire now Admiral Stone!”

“No.” Admiral Stone answered slowly. “No, concentrate our fire on the fleet already engaged.”

“But Admiral!”

“Captain Jackson, do as I say. I don’t believe that this new fleet is connected with the Canadians.”

“But if they are-“

“Then they would have fired on us by now. Maybe our EM field has covered a larger region than we thought, this may be an opportunity here, and I don’t want to mess it up. Continue firing on the Canadian fleet, with any luck they’ll think that these new guys, whoever they may be, are our allies. Hopefully, those unfortunate souls will draw Canadian fire.”

“But what if you’re wrong? What if they’re with the Canadians?”

“Then God help us all…”

Turn: Japan

Introduction.

Yukio Ren looked out of place standing on the bow of the great battleship. With her brightly-colored kimono and pale face, she didn’t look anything like the Admiral she was.

“Yukio-sama, something suspicious has been spotted on the radar.”

Ren whipped around to look Naegino Kyokuran in the eye. “Already?!”

One eyebrow raised slightly on Kyokuran’s face. “Hai, Yukio-sama.”

“Well, what is it?”

“We can’t tell yet. The radar is acting strangely, obasan.”

“Strangely? How so?”

“It seems to be… well, messed up. Why don’t you come take a look yourself?”

Before they could, a shape loomed on the horizon, dark and large.

“Is that…”

Kyokuran nodded. “Yes, obasan, I think it is.”

“Kamisama… Who are they?”

For the first time, Kyokuran saw fear on Admiral Yukio’s face. “Yukio-sama, what should we do?”

Ren’s face hardened. “Get the guns ready, but don’t fire. I want to see who these people are first.”

“Do you think that’s wise, obasan?”

Ren glared at Kyokuran. “If I fire at those ships and they turn out to be friendly, we’ll have made another enemy and gotten into a battle. I do not want that, Kyokuran.”

“And if they are not friendly?”

“We’ll deal with them the way we’ve dealt with every other enemy.”

Ren looked at the ships ahead and hoped she wasn’t making a mistake.

Fiction

Battleship: Original Serial Fiction – Episodes 15 & 16

The Canadian spec-ops team is almost in place, but will the cover fire orders end up destroying the Canadian fleet?

Has the American admiral figured out the Canadian ploy, and what is the American super-scientist Dr. Greer’s secret?

If you’re new to this co-written serial, you can find Episode 1 here.

Turn: Canada

Incoming Fire:

  1. Miss (USA, G-3)
  2. Miss (USA, D-7)

Return Fire:

  1. Attack (USA, A-4)
  2. Attack (USA, K-2)
  3. Attack (USA, B-9) *bonus attack for hit*

Captain Peart swept the horizon, binoculars to his eyes. Maybe Admiral Johnson was right. Unbelievably, the Nunavut’s luck was holding. He watched as the latest missile splashed down, spraying the Starboard deck of the Shabandawan. Someone upstairs was giving them a benevolent smile. He only hoped it wasn’t two-faced. He had the feeling that when they were finally hit, there was going to be a feeding frenzy.

*   *   *

A geyser erupted, not twenty meters off the port side of the Atikokan.

“Damn it! They’re getting closer. There’s no doubt they know we’re here, they’ve been dropping rocks all around us. Telemetry, I hope you’ve got some good news for me.” Captain Larson couldn’t see any change in the target visually, the tiny plume of smoke hadn’t altered, but he had to be sure.

“Appears to be a miss sir.”

“Damn it! Reload cannon and target hostile.”

“Receiving a set of vector coordinates, sir. They cut a swath through the center of the zone. Sir, the Shaboogamoo orders us to avoid firing on any points along that vector.”

“What! What are they playing at here?” Already they were only taking potshots at the zone while most of the fleet stood idle. If he was in command, they’d be pounding the area with everything they had, not sitting back playing possum. He was going to make a note of the Admiral’s unusual orders in his log. He’d like to see what Command would make of it. “Is our current target along that vector?”

“No sir.”

“Thank Heaven for small things. Lock coordinates and…fire!”

*   *   *

The small raft sped through the dark waters of the hostile zone, bouncing in an irregular staccato over the white-crested waves. Mist sprayed the six crewmen with each bounce, but their eyes remained focused on the area around them.

The black storm clouds hid them well, but the waves were increasing in size with every passing minute. Sergeant Wilks realized they would have to find the battleship fast or they faced a very real danger of being swamped.

As they continued on, it was clear who was currently taking the worst of the battle. Two smouldering cruisers could be seen, one each in the distance on either side of them. Truly, it meant nothing, Wilks realized. Battles could turn faster than you could say ‘Manhattan Project’. The very fact that the hostile battleship was a non-target for the duration of the mission could sway the outcome. Of course, that assumed Admiral Johnson could distinguish the capital ship from the rest even with the impaired telemetry.

His team was quiet and focused and only the noise of the motor could be heard, faintly, above the brewing storm. With luck, their engine noise would be masked on the sonar, the only sensing device immune to the EM field. In any event, they should only need a short time more before they submerged

Lightning flashed in the distance. For a moment it illuminated the silhouette of a large ship.

“Men, I think we’ve found our target,” Wilks said, pointing in the direction of the vessel.

*   *   *

“She’s taken another hit, sir.”

“Great. She should be badly crippled by now.” They could afford to spare one more attack on the cruiser before they needed to add their fire-power to the cover fire of the insertion crew.

“Lock on last position and fire when ready.”

He would give the spec-ops one hour. It should be plenty of time. After that, he had to think of his crew and his fleet and the Generator be damned.

*   *   *

“Ambassador, nice to hear you again. How is the wife? And your son? He’s starting at Harvard this year I understand.” Liaison Thomas Mann spoke aloud as he calmly paced his ornate office, hands clasped loosely behind his back. The mahogany walls and plush oriental carpet went unnoticed, his full attention on the battle of wits, the political fencing, that lay ahead.

“Audrey’s fine, she sends her love to Clarissa,” the jovial, familiar voice filled the room from the speakerphone. “We’re very proud of Donald. He’s going the M.BA. route, a leader of tomorrow and all that.”

“Good, good, that sounds wonderful, you really must convey my sincerest congratulations to him.”

“I will, thank you. So, to what do I owe the pleasure of this call, Tom?”

“Unfortunately, nothing quite so enjoyable as family life. Today has been one of surprises, Gerry. I’ve received word from our Navy that we’ve engaged a hostile fleet within our two-hundred kilometer boundary,” Tom explained.

“Really? That’s most unfortunate. Perhaps, the fleet was simply not aware of that unofficial boundary. I hate to state the obvious, Tom, but Canada does get a bit…zealous? policing this…I hesitate to say…fictitious border.”

“Oh, I assure you, it is a real and necessary boundary enclosing the sovereign waters of the Canadian Dominion and we will and are defending it with whatever force we deem necessary.”

“Well…good for you. So who are the perpetrators?”

“Interesting you should ask. Somehow, our forces have been lead to believe that the enemy fleet is of American origin. Can you believe that?”

“You must be joking? What would lead them to that conclusion? Surely they have transponder codes that would refute such a claim.”

“That’s another surprise, Gerry. The enemy fleet is cloaked in a strong electromagnetic field. Now, I don’t pretend to understand the whole of it, but apparently, this field is strong enough to interfere with anything electrical or, for example, radar.”

“Truly, that is amazing.” There was a momentary pause over the line before the ambassador continued. “How could such a field exist?”

“That’s surprise number three. We have evidence that the fleet itself is generating the field.”

“You don’t say! But, who could possess such technology?”

“Well, obviously we don’t know for certain, but there are only a few countries with such capabilities. It is for this reason that I’m contacting you. You must realize that I’d never point the finger south of the border, but we must confirm with all parties. I’m sure you understand. If there were to be a rogue element we would want to hear of it.”

“I can assure you, Tom, that it is not one of ours. And I can’t believe there could be such a well equipped rogue element in our navy.”

“No, I can’t believe it either, Gerry. I must say, your confirmation takes a lot of weight off my mind. I would hate for this to have resulted in a misunderstanding between our two great nations. It would really mean a lot to us if you could forward any intel you may discover.”

“I will Tom… In fact, as memory serves me, there were rumours of Iran developing such a weapon.”

“Iran?”

“So I’ve heard. I could be wrong, mind you, but I think it was supposed to be an offshoot of their nuclear program.”

“Their nuclear program. You don’t say?”

“Come to think of it, Tom, you know about the upcoming vote on general resolution 2214.”

“You mean, whether to invade Iran?”

“The liberation of Iran, yes. The vote is this afternoon. Canada’s good word could sway a lot of other countries. And with you on board it might free up some of our resources to help you track down this mysterious fleet of yours.”

“Well, that’s an interesting proposition, Gerry. Of course, I have no authority to authorize such an…agreement. I’ll have to get back to you on this one.”

“Of course, I understand, Tom. I look forward to hearing from you.”

“And I, you. As always, it’s been a pleasure, Gerry. Give my regards to the family.”

“I will, thanks. And the best to yours.” With that, the receiver went dead.

Tom stopped pacing and stared hard at the ceiling, lost in thought. There was no doubt in his mind that it was the Americans. That Gerry would even make the ludicrous suggestion that Iran was capable of such technology was almost insulting. The real questions were: What were the Americans up to? What plans did they have for the device? And why were they testing it in Canadian waters?

Turn: USA

Incoming Fire:

  1. Miss (Canada, A-4)
  2. Miss (Canada, B-9)
  3. Miss (Canada, K-2)

Return Fire:

  1. Attack (Canada, I-1)
  2. Attack (Canada, C-5)

“How is the evacuation coming?” Admiral Stone asked without looking at Captain Jackson. She stared at the growing storm, it seemed to tell her of bad times to come.

“We’re almost done.”

“And enemy incoming?”

“No impacts reported. Seems God’s giving us a chance to pull our men out.”

“Yeah, if only He’d give us a hit…”

“Admiral, I know it’s not my place, but isn’t one ship enough? Shouldn’t we pull out of this battle?”

“No Captain, it’s not your place, but I understand your position completely. We can’t pull out now. I’ve been puzzling over this whole thing. Why would our enemy continue to engage us? No doubt they suspect who we might be, so why would the Canadians openly engage an American fleet?” Admiral Stone looked over to the Captain, questioningly.

“The prototype?”

“Yup. I think they’ve figured out that we’ve caused the EM field, and they are looking to nab it for themselves.”

“That’s all more the reason why we should pull out.”

“You don’t think they’ll follow us? We are in the wrong here, Captain. We’ve wandered into Canadian waters, disregarded their foolish little border, and crippled ourselves with a weapon that isn’t supposed to exist. No. We need to assess our power here.”

“But we’re losing…”

“And they’re getting cocky. Just you wait, Captain, this battle can’t stay in their favor for much longer.” Admiral Stone hoped that she was right. She couldn’t afford to loose this battle, and more importantly, her country couldn’t afford to loose control of the prototype, let alone allow its true nature to be known.

*   *   *

Doctor Greer sat hunched over his laptop, typing frantically as he studied the raw data of the EM generator’s output. The generator was operating at well over 100% efficiency. It was remarkable. His small team of scientist worked at their stations in the small lab as the generator slowly powered up for the third planned EM pulse. Power from the super carrier’s nuclear reactors were being diverted  over to the generator base – although they weren’t the primary means of powering it. The electric energy they produced only served as a catalyst.

He gaze up at the large glass tank that stood before him, the milky waters churning slowly with little air bubbles. Inside, a pale anthropomorphic figure could be seen.

“Remarkable,” he said to himself. Very few people truly knew what went on behind the doors of this sealed lab. In fact, he, his team, and the Admiral were the only members of this mission team to have any intimate understanding of the operation. The project was so sensitive that his team, hand-picked by himself, weren’t even permitted to leave the cramped lab. Their living quarters were connected to the lab through modified corridors. Greer wondered how long it had been before any of them had seen the light of day, and felt more than grateful that he was permitted such freedom of movement.

The others simply thought of the Prototype as a weapon, but Dr. Greer knew that it was much more than that.

Fiction

Battleship: Original Serial Fiction – Episodes 13 & 14

Emotions run high as threat levels increase. Shots are all around the ships as the Canadian spec-ops team begins their insertion into the radar opaque zone generated by the American ships.

If you’re new to this story, you can find Episode 1 here.

Turn: Canada

Incoming Fire:

  1. Miss (USA, G-4)
  2. Miss (USA, D-8)

Return Fire:

  1. Attack (USA, B-3)
  2. Attack (USA, J-2)
  3. Attack (USA, F-5) *bonus attack for hit*

A geyser erupted several hundred meters off the starboard side of the battleship.

“I want that cruiser taken to Davy Jones’ locker!” Admiral Johnson was upset over the loss of the CF-18s. It was his call and, ultimately, his responsibility. As was everything else in this battle. “Maybe if we take out enough of their boats, they’ll abandon this madness.”

As he stood, glaring at the horizon, a second plume of dark smoke rose to the gathering storm clouds. It was further away than the first, but unmistakable, nonetheless.

“Comm? You have something for me?”

“The Atikokan reports a hit, sir.”

“Great! It’s about time. Tell them to pursue the new target, we’ll take out the first one.” There could be no missing this time – if their attacks had been accurate, then they must have surrounded the bloody ship. “Target our mark and fire forward batteries!”

The big guns thundered, launching their deadly charges into the air.

*   *   *

“We got one sir!”

“Excellent!” Captain Neil Larson didn’t need telemetry to tell him of the hit, the dark smoke on the horizon was all the confirmation he needed.

“Load cannons and target that bonfir…”

“Message from the Shaboogamoo, sir.”

What could they possibly be wanting now? “What does our esteemed Admiral have to say?”

“We’re to take out the new target, they’ll finish the old. The Nipissing will continue sweeping the zone, sir.”

“Well, what the hell did they think we were going to do?” Blasted Admirals always interfering with the obvious.

“If the trajectory is locked, fire!”

Moments later, the booming echo of their cannons rocked the bridge.

*   *   *

This wasn’t good. “Contact Admiral Johnson,” Captain Peart ordered.

“Aye, sir.”

The last attack splashed down not fifty meters off the port side. That made three very near-misses in almost as many salvos.

“The Admiral, sir.”

“Admiral Johnson. Sir, I believe they’re going to find the range on the Nunavut very shortly. We’ve been lucky until now, but I believe they’re sweeping our location. The splashdowns are too clustered to be random pot-shots.”

“Agreed, Captain,” came the reply, “but you are to hold your position. We’re on two of their boats, we’ll take them out…but we can’t do it without the Nunavut.”

“Roger, sir.” Not an unexpected answer, but still, he had hoped for some manoeuvring room. The EM field essentially crippled them and Captain Peart didn’t like feeling helpless.

*   *  *

Admiral Johnson could understand Peart’s frustration, but continuing the battle with only one capital ship would be crazy.

“Admiral, you’ve got a private hail.”

“I’ll take it in my cabin,” Johnson said, leaving the bridge.

Moments later, headset firmly in place, he responded, “Go ahead.”

“Admiral, we are holding position alongside the Shabogamoo, ready for insertion.”

“Very good. Do you need anything from us?”

“Only covering fire, sir. Give us ten minutes from my mark and then lay down a random firing pattern, avoiding the insertion vector. Once we leave your side we’ll be running silent until extraction.”

“Understood. We’re ready when you are.”

“Alright then…3…2…1…Mark.” Admiral Johnson checked his Navy-issue watch and whispered, “Godspeed, boys, Canada, and maybe the world, is counting on you.”

Turn: U.S.A.

Damage:

  1. Hit (Canada, B-3)

Incoming Fire:

  1. Miss (Canada, J-2)
  2. Miss (Canada, F-5)

Return Fire:

  1. Attack (Canada, G-3)
  2. Attack (Canada, D-7)

The storm was intensifying. Dark clouds loomed overhead and lightning strikes flashed brightly in the darkening sky. Admiral Rosaline Stone wondered what could have caused the storm to form so quickly. Dr Greer had warned that such a phenomenon could happen due to the massive amount of energy that the prototype was capable of creating, but none were sure of the extent of the disturbance.

Admiral Stone thought it best not to worry about such a storm. They had bigger things to take care of. She watched the horizon intently, agonizing over the events that she knew were about to unfold. Two of her ships had been struck in this battle, and all she had to show for it were two birds that they had accidentally brought down. Not even Greer had expected the Generator to be so powerful, but then again it was that very underestimation that had gotten them in this situation.

“Admiral. Reports from the Ahura Mazda.” Captain Jackson approached.

“Go on, Captain.”

“Half a dozen injuries, mostly minor. Zero casualties. The damage isn’t extensive. All systems are operational.”

“That’s good to hear. And what about our missiles? Do we have confirmation?”

“Both missiles appear to have missed, Admiral. Perhaps we should find new targets?”

“No. I know there’s something out there.”

“But Admiral, even for such a small area, the ocean isn’t exactly small. Perhaps we should concentrate our efforts in the north-eastern regions. We haven’t tried firing there.”

“Captain, I’ve got a feeling. And no, I don’t blame it on a woman’s intuition. Lest see this one out. Shooting so close, we’re bound to hit something.”

“But Admiral, the Aura Mainyu is out of options, and the Ahura Mazda will soon follow suit. If we could just-“

Admiral Stone grit her teeth, “Don’t you think I know that Captain? This is exactly why we can’t afford to play around anymore. Random shots aren’t getting us anywhere. At least this way it looks like we know what we’re doing. Maybe that alone will cause their confidence to slacken just enough to give us a chance.”

*   *   *

The Aura Mainyu rocked with the shock of the impact. Fires erupted both above and below deck. Captain Ronald Durant prepared for death as the second missile fired from the enemy ship. It shot wide and cruised toward their sister ship, the Ahura Mazda, striking nothing but water. A third missile killed water far off.

“Damn you!” Durant found himself yelling. “What is this to you, a game?! You know where I am, and still you choose to fire on the other ships? JUST FINISH THIS!”

“Captain!” Lieutenant Rodriguez raced to the Captain’s side, pale-faced. “Captain, are you alright? Have you been injured?”

“Just peachy.”

Peachy? Rodriguez thought to himself, has the Captain lost it? “Captain, we have orders to abandon ship. The Zarathustra has volunteered to take us onboard. Captain, you are to gather your effects and evacuate now.”

“Don’t worry about me, Lieutenant. You go on ahead, I’ll be there shortly.”

Lieutenant Rodriguez watched as Captain Durant stared blindly into the horizon. His gaze was on the enemy ships, though they could barely be seen with the naked eye. He didn’t want to leave the Captain, but there wasn’t much time before the Canadians fired off their finishing blow. He had to get the rest of the crew organized, and he didn’t think that he could rely on Captain Durant to do much of anything now. In the distance, Rodriguez could see that the Sophia was firing once again, the Tomahawk missiles cutting sleekly through the air followed by the white tails of smoke.

“They’d better hit this time, or I’m gonna give the Admiral a piece of my mind…”

Lieutenant Rodriguez wasn’t sure if the Captain had addressed the statement toward him, or if he was talking to himself. I’d better inform the Admiral of the ‘Cap’s odd behaviour. he thought as he returned to his duties.

Fiction

Battleship: Original Serial Fiction – Episodes 11 & 12

The Canadian and American navies play cat and mouse, but amid the deadly game, each is protecting a secret. The Canadian spec ops team is nearing their insertion point, but can they discover the American surprise before it’s too late?

If you’re new to this story, you can find Episode 1 here.

Turn: Canada

Incoming Fire:

  1. Miss (USA, E-3)
  2. Miss (USA, B-9)

Return Fire:

  1. Attack (USA, D-3)
  2. Attack (USA, J-1)

“We’re wading into the storm Admiral. Their aim’s getting better. They’ve been splashing all around us. It’s only a matter of time until they get lucky,” explained Captain Peart over the inter-ship comm.

“We’ve got an incoming communiqué from the Hornets, sir.”

“Patch it through, Captain. Let’s see what we can do with the info.”

The hiss of static erupted over the bridge comm. “Cap..n, we’ve penetrated the zone….ix hostiles be..ring mark……niner. The carrier…ilent, Captain. No birds on…eck, none…air.”

“I don’t like this Admiral,” Captain Peart broke in. “If the field’s dissipating, why aren’t they launching an air offensive? They have to be seeing our boys.”

“I agree, Captain. Recall the Hornets immediately,” Admiral Johnson ordered.

“Aye, sir.”

“Captain,” came the order from Peart, “get home on the double. Something’s up.”

“Ro..er, sir. Ret..n vector…et.”

“Admiral, radar’s going crazy! It’s like the field is intensifying!” Lifson’s alarm was indicative of the general feeling on the bridge.

“What! They’re firing it again? Captain. Those birds have to be out of there NOW!”

“We…eading you….systems….azy…….no contr………”

“Captain! Captain!” Admiral Johnson called desperately to the Hornets, but there was no reply. “Captain Peart, did your boys make it out?”

“They haven’t left the zone sir. If the American’s did fire off the EMP again, the Hornet’s would have had no chance. We have to consider them lost.”

“Blast it!” Admiral Johnson’s expletive echoed in the still air of the silent bridge. The flyboys were there first casualties in this pointless conflict and he hoped they would be their last.

*   *   *

“Splashdown near the Nipissing, sir.”

“Damn it! Where are they? Load forward batteries!” Somehow, the enemy seemed to have the range of the destroyers. But how could they be tracking anything through that EM field? Captain Larson wasn’t happy.

“Batteries loaded, sir.”

“Fire!” The Nipissing followed suit. Together they were sweeping the zone. They had to hit something soon.

As he scanned the sea, binoculars to his eyes, he noted a series of lightning flashes. Dropping the binoculars to get a broader view, it was clear that the area before them was clouding over. As he continued to watch, an occasional lightning strike discharged.

“That storm came up fast,” he said. “Meteorology have anything on the scope.”

“Negative, sir. We had clear sailing for days.”

Interesting. The EM field must be inducing electrical activity in the atmosphere. Captain Larson had no idea how they could benefit from this, but there must be some way.

*   *   *

The mood was relaxed but focused in the raft as the coast guard cutter sliced through the waves of the northern Atlantic. The six-man crew, clad in dark wetsuits, waterproof sacks at their feet, were each running through the mission parameters in their head, he was sure.

“Fifteen minutes until insertion,” said Sergeant Gary Wilks. He swept his gaze to each, confident in their training and determination. He had hand-picked each for this team. They had been together for three years and worked like a well-oiled machine. But this would be their greatest test.

“Once in, we’ll be flying blind. The fleet will cover us. We’re small, so there should be no problem with friendly fire. In the confusion, we should be able to slip in and out without trouble.” They listened intently to the mission review. “We know the generator must be on the battleship, but we don’t know where that is.

“Our first objective will be to locate it. We’ll cut a swath through the middle of the zone, until confirmation of target. Then we’ll have to go subsurface on approach. Once on board, we proceed to our targets.

“The generator should be somewhere near the power plant – a device that powerful is going to need a pretty serious feed. Hoa, Alex and Cal, it’ll be your job to take it out. With the generator down, we can be extracted by sub and the zone will be cleared for accurate targeting or communications, as the bigwigs decide.

“Bill, Xiou and I will locate the primary objective – the generator schematics. They should be in one of the officer’s quarters. With luck, there will be enough confusion to cover us.” He checked his watch. “Ten minutes, gents.”

They each rechecked their gear before turning, resolutely to the forward horizon.

Turn: U.S.A.

Incoming Fire:

  1. Miss (Canada, D-3)
  2. Hit (Canada, J-1, size 3 ship)

Return Fire:

  1. Attack (Canada, G-4)
  2. Attack (Canada, D-8)

“What do you mean you lost the birds?” Captain Ronald Durant approached Lieutenant Rodriguez.

“The CF-18s, sir. We had eyes on them a little before the Prototype fired, but now we can’t spot them.”

Could the EM field have reached so far? thought Captain Durant. Perhaps. But if they had caused the fighters to crash, then that was one less problem they had to worry about. “Don’t worry about those fighters. If the EM field took them down, that’s just one tally mark on our scoreboard, if they managed to get out in time, it will still serve as a lesson for them not to launch any more birds.”

“Yes, Captain.”

“Get me Admiral Stone. I want to know if we’ve been successful with any of our attacks.” The entire fleet had fallen back to Morris Code, it wasn’t as quick as a radio, but it got the job done.

The Lieutenant approached a few minutes later, “Captain Durant. The Sophia and Zarathustra both report negative impacts. They’re still hitting nothing but open ocean.”

“What! How can that be?” Durant couldn’t believe what he was hearing. All this time and Admiral Stone couldn’t manage to hit even one enemy target? How many chances did she need? “This isn’t good. Prepare for evac.”

“Sir?”

“I’m not waiting around for Admiral Stone’s OK before I prepare to abandon this floating coffin. Those ships, Canadian or whatever, have us pinned down. You know as well as I that we’ve been lucky too many times already.”

Lieutenant Rodriguez hesitated, unsure of what to do. The Captain had been stretched thin, he knew this, but now he appeared to be losing control. He guessed that Joseph’s death had bothered him more than he’d let on – losing a close friend could do that to anyone. If only they’d found him earlier, but the chaos of that first impact had put the entire crew into such disorder. It wasn’t until nearly an hour later that they’d managed to retrieve Joe’s body. The Captain’s just grieving Rodriguez thought to himself, we all are.

“Incoming!” Captain Durant’s voice broke the relative silence. “Brace for impact!” Every man and woman onboard readied themselves for the inevitable impact, but Captain Durant stared at the oncoming missile defiantly. “Come and get me you spineless bitch,” he said to himself. His curses were answered with a shower of water. They had missed! As impossible as it had seemed, the Canadian’s had missed the Aura Mainyu for the fourth time.

“They missed! They missed!” Captain Durant could here several soldiers exclaiming to one another as cheering began to erupt among the men. Durant almost wanted to cheer himself, until he noticed the second missile heading their way. The trajectory was off, the Aura Mainyu was in no danger. “Oh no…” A loud explosion silenced all of the celebrating men. The Aura Mainyu’s sister ship, the USS Ahura Mazda, had taken a hit. “No, not another one…”

*   *   *

“It’s been confirmed Admiral. The Aura Mainyu is safe, but the Ahura Mazda has taken a hit. She’s not far off from the Aura Mainyu,” Captain Jackson reported with a heavy heart.

“Damn it all! Did we lose anyone in the impact?”

“That has yet to be confirmed, Admiral. Should we return fire?”

“Why are you even asking me that? Of course we’ll return fire! But enough of this shooting everywhere crap. Were close, I can feel it. Concentrate attacks near our last coordinates, there has to be something out there…”

Fiction

Battleship: Original Serial Fiction – Episode 9 & 10

Admiral Johnson finally gets through to Canadian Naval Command only to learn of a covert operation in progress that he’s now become part of.

Meanwhile, Admiral Stone determines the EM field is the only thing keeping the American fleet alive and as it begins to dissipate, they prepare to fire the generator again.

If you’re new to this story, you can find Episode 1 here.

Turn: Canada

Incoming Fire:

  1. Miss (USA, F-2)
  2. Miss (USA, A-7)

Return Fire:

  1. Attack (USA, C-3)
  2. Attack (USA, J-9)

“They’re still firing wide Admiral,” reported Lieutenant Lifson. It wasn’t going to last forever, but for now, their luck was holding.

“Lee, do you have Command on the line yet?” It had been ten minutes since the hail. Admiral Johnson knew command had many plates on their table, but this was a priority one alert.

“I’ve got him now, sir. Fleet Admiral Jackobson.”

“Ben, what can we do for you?” The strong voice filled the bridge like a warm bonfire.

“Tom, nice to hear you again. We have a situation here so I’ll cut right to the chase. We’re currently engaged with a rogue fleet. They’re in the midst of an EM dense zone and their configuration and colours are unknown. I want to know if Command has any intel that could be useful.”

“I’ve just come from a meeting about that very subject and I may have something for you. We believe there is a good chance they are American, Ben.”

“I had my hunches Tom, but why haven’t they answered our hails?”

There was a long pause over the line.

“Tom, you still there?”

“Ben, I’m going to need you to take this at a secure station.”

“…alright, just a minute. Lee, patch this through to my cabin. And notify me if there’s any change in our situation.”

Admiral Johnson left the bridge climbing down the metal rungs one floor and stepped quickly along the narrow corridor to his personal quarters. Upon entering, he closed the door and quickly picked up the headset.

“Okay Tom, I’m clear.”

“Ben, there’s something more you should know,” Tom began quietly. “In the last quarter hour I’ve been contacted directly by CSIS on this issue.”

“The Canadian Security and Intelligence Service? What could the spooks possibly want?”

“This must stay between us Ben, I know you understand. CSIS moles in the Pentagon have gotten wind of an ‘unofficial’ weapons test that was scheduled for somewhere in the northern Atlantic. Ben, they believe that’s what you’ve stumbled upon.”

“If they’re certain, then why hasn’t Washington been notified. We should cease fire and withdraw from the region.”

“Ben, they want you to stay where you are.” Fleet Admiral Tom Jackobson gave a great tired sigh before continuing. “Washington’s been very secretive about this test, the kind of secrecy reserved only for Black- or White-tech.”

“You’re saying…”

“I’m saying, remember the Aurora project? It’s still not official after over a decade and it’s given the U.S. almost unopposed aerial dominance. This new device is a tech that can give them an even more decisive advantage on the global playing field, Ben, ground, air or sea .” He paused again before continuing quietly, “It’s tech that CSIS wants your help in acquiring.”

“What!”

“They’ve already launched,” the Fleet Admiral said.

“Who has?”

“There’s a coast guard patrol due to reach your location within the half hour. They’ll do a casual pass, leaving a special package. A spec-ops team. The team will insert under your covering fire. It’s strictly covert, Ben. Your only part is to provide the cover. The ops are unmarked and unidentifiable. Complete deniability. If successful, their extraction will be aqueous, via the HMCS Shabandawan.”

“They’re sending a sub into the area?”

“There should be no trouble if the boys secure the schematics and sabotage the generator.”

“Generator?”

“EMP. Electromagnetic pulse field generator, Ben. Can you imagine what power America would wield as sole possessor of such a device?”

It wasn’t very hard to imagine. An EMP was principally a weapon for use against developed nations. It wouldn’t find much use against low-tech countries.

“I understand, Tom. We’ll keep them clear and give them the best chance we can.”

“I knew I could count on you, Ben.”

*   *   *

It looked like a miss. Damn!

“They’re returning fire, Captain! Incoming!”

“All hands, brace for impact!” Captain Larson yelled the order into the intercom. Klaxons sounded and the red emergency lighting strobed desperately.

His adversary was more cunning than he believed. Or more lucky.

A plume of water exploded into the air off the portside bow of the Atikokan, raining back onto the deck.

“Miss, sir.”

That was close, too close.

“Prepare next salvo,” he ordered. Now that they had the range on him, he had to find them before their next shot hit home.

“Fire when ready.” He could see the Nipissing following suit.”

*   *   *

“Admiral!”

“Yes, Lifson? What is it?” Subordinates had an amazing ability to note the second a superior officer stepped onto the bridge.

“The EM field seems to be dispersing, sir. Our radar signal is sharpening substantially.”

“Great!” Finally, a turn in their favour.

“I want a recon sweep of the zone by the Hornets. Let the cruiser be for the moment.” I need to know the positions of those ships before the package arrives!

“Aye, sir. Relaying orders to the Nunavut.”

With their fighters already in the air, they should have a decisive advantage over the American fleet, thought Admiral Johnson.

Turn: U.S.A.

Incoming Fire:

  1. Miss (Canada, C-3)
  2. Miss (Canada, J-9)

Return Fire:

  1. Attack (Canada, E-3)
  2. Attack (Canada, B-9)

“Admiral, we’ve got a faint signal from the Aura Mainyu.”

“Patch them through. Captain Durant. Good to hear from you.”

“Admiral.” the connection was weak and full of static, but it was better than nothing. Durant continued, “We’ve been trying to get you ever since the first impact. What’s going on? Coms are all screwy. We can’t lock on to whoever’s firing on us.”

“It’s the generator, Captain. Worked a little too well, I’m afraid. We’re going to fire it off again, but it’s gonna take communication with it. Fall back to lo-tech communications.”

“Again? We just got you back. Admiral, I don’t think I have to remind you that we’re sitting ducks over here. We’ve lost manoeuvring capabilities-“

“I’m aware of that Captain Durant, but the EM field is our only cover. They’ve got birds in the air and all their ships are 100%. We can’t afford to lose the field.”

There was a long pause on the other end, “Alright. Admiral, do you at least know who we are facing?”

“Intel’s crap, but best we can figure they’re Canadian.”

“And Washington?”

“We can’t get through to them because of the field, and I can’t risk waiting any longer to get the signal out. Besides, we’re not supposed to be out here.”

“Understood.”

“Captain Durant, hold your position. I’m sure you’ve noticed that they keep missing you. The EM has probably fried their systems as well. We’re trying to draw fire, but if you take any more hits before we get them off your back, I want you to evacuate. The Zarathustra’s agreed to stay nearby and give you a hand.”

Their conversation was cut short, “Admiral, incoming!”

An underwater detonation exploded in the distance. Their enemy truly was blind.

“Captain Durant!” Static filled the airwaves. “Captain Durant, respond!”

“That was close…”

“Captain.” Relief didn’t begin to describe how Admiral Stone felt. This was a miracle. Even pinned down, the Aura Mainyu had been missed yet again.

“Goddamn, that was close. You think they’ll get the hint and just give up? Someone’s definitely watching over us.”

“As much as I’d like that idea, I don’t think its gonna happen.” the signal was getting stronger. That wasn’t good. It meant that the EM field was fading fast. “Durant. I’ve got to cut this short. We’ve gotta use the EM generator ASAP.”

“Yeah, and Admiral, could you not miss this time?”

“Ron, you can suck my-“

“Admiral, Dr Greer says the generator is fully powered. Would you like us to fire it now?”

“Yes. Full power, and plot the coordinates for our next attack.”

*   *   *

The line went dead as the EM generator fired off for the second time. Captain Ronald Durant figured that the Admiral was right, and the EM field was the only thing keeping the enemy fighters at bay. He wasn’t so sure that they’d be able to draw enemy fire though. How many times had they fired Tomahawk cruise missiles at their unidentified enemy? How many times had they missed? It wasn’t really a surprise that the enemy had missed them so many times, but he knew that he wouldn’t have any more chances. Even if the USS Sophia managed to land a hit, there was no way that the attacking warships were going to let up on their attack of the Aura Mainyu.

    Fiction

    Battleship: Original Serial Fiction – Episodes 7 & 8

    The battle rages on as Admiral Johnson contacts fleet command to find out what’s going on. Meanwhile, Neil Larson, a young, aggressive captain desperate to prove himself engages the hidden enemy.

    All the while, Admiral Stone admonishes her head of research for creating the electromagnetic field that has so badly damaged their targeting systems, while struggling to find a strategy that will keep them alive.

    If you’re new to this story, you can find Episode 1 here.

    Turn: Canada

    Incoming Fire:

    1. Miss (USA, L-2)
    2. Miss (USA, E-11)

    Return Fire:

    1. Attack (USA,B-2)
    2. Attack (USA,E-10)

    Admiral Johnson watched the distant blue before him. There was still only the single plume of smoke. He picked up his binoculars but just a quickly put them down, knowing what he would see from here. Absolutely nothing.

    There was a storm brewing on the horizon.

    “Any sign of contact, Lt. Lifson?”

    “No sir, no change.”

    He had to assume a miss, then.

    “Reload cannons.”

    “A hail from the Nunavut, sir.”

    “Patch it through, Lt. Lee.”

    “Admiral,” came the voice of Captain Peart, fighting to be heard above the static, “our boys in the air are reporting unreliable targeting of the AGM-JSOWs. Their boat’s still swimming.”

    “How’s she look?”

    “Small, cruiser-class. She’s flying no colours, sir.”

    “This gets stranger by the minute.”

    “Incoming!” The yell came from Lifson and was accompanied by klaxons. “Their trajectory is well wide of us, sir. One is on course for the Nunavut.”

    “Peart? You have incoming?”

    “Aye, sir. No danger, it splashed two-hundred meters off starboard bow.”

    “If I may sir, the field is acting as one giant countermeasure.”

    “Thank you for that rather obvious assessment, Lt. Lifson,” Johnson said before turning to stare toward his unseen opponent. “Hmmm, so they are as blind as us. The only real questions that remained were whether it was intentional and what could cause such a field?”

    “Captain Peart, keep your boys on the cruiser for as long a possible.”

    “Aye sir.”

    “Lee, patch me through to Command in St. John’s.”

    “Sir, the Atikokan swears she had a temporary radar lock.”

    “Tell her to fire on the position, it’s the best chance we’ve had so far. In fact, order the destroyers to begin pounding the zone. Let the vanguard test the waters, we’ll sit back and see what they stir up.”

    “Aye, sir.”

    “And get me Command. Fleet Admiral Jakobson.”

    “Aye, sir.”

    * * *

    “We are cleared to fire, sir.”

    Finally, it was time. Why they had been sitting here watching the seagulls and smelling the salt water was beyond his capacity to understand, thought Captain Neil Larson. Clearly, Admiral Johnson was getting scared in his old age. It happened to the best of them. There just came a point when you weren’t willing to take the necessary risks. But that’s what the new officers were for, he thought. Give us the positions and let the old out to pasture.

    “Cannons loaded?”

    “Aye sir.”

    “Then target last sighting and fire!” At last, he had a chance to prove himself! Captain Larson smiled as the thunder of the forward batteries sounded in the still air.

    Turn: U.S.A.

    Incoming Fire:

    1. Miss (Canada, B-2)
    2. Miss (Canada, E-10)

    Return Fire:

    1. Attack (Canada, F-2)
    2. Attack (Canada, A-7)

    “We missed again!” Admiral Rosaline Stone slammed her fist into the railing. “I can’t believe this!”

    The two enemy fighter jets could be seen by all, circling as a vulture does its dead prey. “They’ve got eyes on us, but they won’t be able to lock on until the EM field dissipates.”

    “Captain Jackson, get me Dr Greer.”

    “Yes, Admiral.”

    The seconds seemed to pass like hours, and Admiral Stone knew that for each one that passed, her men had less and less time before the enemy returned fire. She thought of making contact with the enemy fleet, but that was risky. Communications were, but the enemy had no way of knowing that. Any attempt would be seen as hostile and they’d be fired upon.

    “What are my options…” she said out loud.

    “Admiral Stone?”

    Dr. Greer stood behind her with the Captain. Greer fidgeted with a notebook as he waited to be acknowledged.

    “Do you have any good news for me?”

    He shook his head ‘no’.

    “Then give me the bad.”

    “The damage to our navigation systems and radar systems is permanent. I cant fix it here, we’ll need to dock and do a complete overhaul. I’ve tried everything I know, but nothing seems to be working. I’m sorry, Admiral.”

    “Don’t be. I have a question though. How long will it take for the EM field to dissipate?”

    “Twenty minutes or so, but like I said, it won’t do us any good. Our instrumentation is fried. I can’t fix it.”

    “That’s alright. You won’t have to. Dr Greer, I want you to prep the generator for another pulse. Highest settings. You have five minutes.”

    “What?” Captain Jackson moved in a bit closer, unsure of what he had just heard.

    “See those birds? They are gonna come down on us first chance they get. If we keep the EM field up, we keep the warships blind, and the birds circling. It’s our best chance of survival.”

    “Incoming!”

    Stone held her breath as two more missiles moved in. The enemy was using their same technique. One exploded out in the open, apparently searching for a new target. Only one missile headed toward the Aura Mainyu. The familiar mushroom of seawater climbed into the air as the weapon missed its target. The ship had been lucky, for the second time. Admiral Stone knew that they weren’t going to be lucky again.

    “If it weren’t for this disruption field, the Aura Mainyu would be at the bottom of the ocean. Let’s make the best of our little hindrance. Now, pick new targets and fire as soon as your able.”

    Fiction

    Battleship: Original Serial Fiction – Episode 6

    The battle has been truly joined and the two admirals play a deadly game of chess on the high seas, each putting new players onto the board.

    If you’re new to this story, you can find Episode 1 here.

    Turn: U.S.A.

    Incoming Fire:

    1. Miss (Canada, D-2)
    2. Miss (Canada, G-8)
    3. Miss (Canada, C-6)

    Return Fire:

    1. Attack (Canada, L-2)
    2. Attack (Canada, E-11)

    Negative impact. We have a negative impact.

    “Damn it! I never thought I’d see the day when a cruise missile missed. If it weren’t for this EM field, black smoke would be filling that horizon.” Rosaline Stone paced the deck. She needed to do something. The Aura Mainyu didn’t have much time before their attackers had her sunk, and the rest of her fleet was well within harm’s way.

    “I didn’t want this..” she found herself saying.

    “But you’ve got it. Only thing we can do now is kill them before they kill us.” Captain Jackson cut in. “Sorry Admiral. No disrespect, but we knew that this would be a possibility going into this mission.”

    “Our mission was to test and develop this damned EM generator, not get ourselves killed.” Admiral Stone sighed heavily. “Do we at least have the damage assessment form the USS Aura Mainyu yet?”

    “That’s what I came to tell you. We have one KIA and seven wounded. Two more are being treated for smoke inhalation.”

    “KIA?”

    “Yeah. Looks like the impact chucked him overboard. He’d probably been knocked unconscious. They found his body not too long ago.”

    “Continue”

    “The Aura Mainyu isn’t in any danger of sinking, but the damage means that she can’t manoeuvre either.”

    “That’s not good.”

    “No, it isn’t. Should we-“

    “Wait. You see that…they’re firing!” Admiral Stone knew that the Aura Mainyu was doomed. She watched the injured ship carefully, expecting to see it swallowed by the ocean any minute. The seconds passed and, BOOM!  Water sprayed high into the air as an underwater detonation created a massive mushroom cloud of sea water.

    The Aura Mainyu

    Boom! Boom! The Aura Mainyu shook with the shockwave of the explosion, but miraculously it had missed. Water sprayed the deck and doused the soldiers. The final missile had missed as well.

    “That was too close…”

    “Admiral, look. The sky!”

    Rosaline Stone gazed upward. Two CF-18’s cut easily through the sky.

    “Should we ready our birds?” Captain Jackson asked.

    “No.”

    “No! What do you mean?”

    “Calm down Captain. The EM field is too strong here. I doubt that those fighters are dumb enough to cruise our way, and I’m sure as hell not going to risk the lives of any of our pilots.”

    “So what do we do? Just wait for the EM field to dissipate?”

    “With those birds in the air, the EM field is the only leverage we’ve got.”

    “What are you thinking, Admiral?” Jackson seemed concerned, but the question wasn’t meant as a threat.

    “Not sure yet. Doesn’t matter right now. Right now we’ve gotta answer that little friendly gesture. Plot new targeting coordinates. The targeting on these missiles might be out of whack, but we’re bound to hit one of them eventually”

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