Re: Pirates of Du-cor
Leviathan of the Sky
"Captain, we have passed the middle aerocline," reported the helmsman, keeping his eyes on his instruments. Seated in the center of the aerial battleship's control room, the captain nodded at the report. "Sound general quarters, Mister Wolley," the captain said.
"General quarters, aye, Captain," Seye Wolley, the ship's executive officer, said, confirming the order. Walking the short distance to the vessel's port wall, the powerfully-built man grabbed a wall-mounted microphone, keyed the button and said, "All hands, general quarters! Repeat, all hands, general quarters! This is not a drill!" Releasing the mic button, Seye pushed the alarm button next to mic, sending a muted, but audible, triple-tone rasp echoing throughout the warship. The ship's crewers ceased whatever they had been doing and ran - quickly but calmly - to their battle stations. Hatches were closed and dogged, loose equipment and items were quickly and securely stowed, and the lighting throughout the large vessel altered from it's normal gray-tint to a sapphire-hue (to ease the harshness of viewing the 'surface').
Once all of the reports had come in, Seye turned to the captain and said, "Captain, all hands report ready and at battle stations."
"Thank you, Mister Wolley," she replied. "Seal the ship."
"Seal the ship, aye, Captain," he acknowledged. Turning to his right slightly, Seye grasped a lever and pulled it down. All over the ship, any external openings - vents, portholes, etc. - shuttered or irised shut. "Bring us to periscope depth, Mister Wolley," the captain said. "Periscope depth, aye," Seye answered after taking his customary place behind and to the right of the captain's chair. Raising his voice slightly, although the helmsman had heard the captain speak, he said, "Mister Planar, bring us to periscope depth."
"Periscope depth, aye, Mister Wolley," came the reply. Pressing a pair of buttons on his control yoke, the helmsman pulled back on the yoke. Special ballast chambers began pumping out the denser air they contained and pulling in the lighter-pressure air around the ship, raising it up towards the still-distant surface of the cloud-layers.
At the time the ter-coran ship began its rise to the surface, an aer-coran merchant convoy was 'sailing' across the great Sepiw Ybab Sea. Due to the higher probability of a pirate attack in this area of the Sepiw Ybab, the convoy of three bulky-yet-aesthetically-pleasing Noclaf-class light cargo freighters, and an Elgae Dlab-class armed merchantman was escorted by two Worra-class light cruisers - sleek, modern aerowarships equipped with some of the most modern weapons and defenses available. The two aerowarships belonged to the aer-coran nation known as the Namnori Kingdom, while the merchant vessels were a part of the Acirema Republic Merchant Fleet. The Acirema Republic was a close ally and trading partner of the Kingdom. Though both nations are 'major' players in the global arean, they are among the smallest of the aer-coran's 'First Tier' nations; their most advanced techologies are comparable to the largest nations' training- and export-level equipment.
The Elgae Dlab-class ship was the 'flagship' of the ARMF convoy; it was captained by Tataroshii Sal, one of the most experienced ship captain's in the ARMF (he retired with the rank of captain from the Acirema Republic Naval Fleet). He was thankful to have the two Namnori warships along; ever since leaving the Namnori port city of Zekarah, he had a gut feeling that something was going to go wrong.
And during the thirty-seven years he'd spent in the ARNF, he'd learned to never doubt his instincts.
Onboard the NNS Twlight Rainbow, one of the two Worra-class cruisers assigned to the Acirema convoy, the captain was feeling very nervous and struggling somewhat successfully to hide it. This was his first cruise as the commanding officer of a ship - he'd just been promoted to the rank of captain after completing the 'Master and Commander Program' at the Namnori Naval Command School (NNCS). Fortunately, most of the officers, non-commissioned officers, and senior enlisted personnel aboard the Twilight Rainbow were experienced to one degree or another, so they were able - and, surprisingly, comfortable with - breaking in a wet-behind-the-ears captain. It didn't matter to them that he was a prince of the Namnori royal bloodline; as the fourth child (third son) of the Royal Family, he wasn't in a direct line to the throne of the Kingdom so while they treated him with the respect and deference he was supposed to receive as a prince, they weren't afraid to - politely and respectfully, of course - correct him on his mistakes.
"Relax, Captain," said Commander Dis Puzlen, smiling indulgently at his ten-years-junior commanding officer. "You're making even me nervous."
Smiling hesitantly, Captain (Prince) Jallen Namnori nodded. "Sorry, Commander Puzlen."
"Don't worry about it, lad," the older man replied. "Just remember that you have an experienced crew. Just give the orders you need to, and let your crew fulfill them. Unlike the Caltran Union or the Undaria Confederacy, you don't have to micromanage the ship."
"Right," Jallen replied, flushing slightly. Sighing, he said, "I just can't help feeling like I've got to prove myself."
Dis sympathized with the twenty-three-year-old young man; he'd felt the same way when he was a twenty-something lieutenant commander with his first command (which, for an Lt. Com. in the Namnori Royal Navy, was a destroyer-type aerowarship). He suspected, though, that it might be worse for Jallen Namnori, being both a prince of the Royal Family and a first-time captain.
Before he could say anything to ease his captain's nerves, the sensor operator interrupted:
"Captain, the Twilight Rose reports an intermittent contact below the surface."
The closer the ter-coran warship came to the surface, the greater the chance of discovery. Its captain and crew knew that they would be detected by the far more advanced scanning systems of any aer-coran ships in the area as they neared periscope depth; however, some of the aer-coran ships were able to scan 'deeper' than others. But the crew of this ship had confidence in their vessel's defensive systems and unique design; it would hamper (somewhat) the aer-coran sensors for a time.
"Periscope depth," Mister Planar, the helmsman, reported three hours after the order had been given. Nodding, Seye Wolley turned to the captain and said, "Captain, we are at periscope depth."
"Very good, Mister Wolley," she replied. "Raise the 'scope, if you please."
"Raise scope, aye," he replied, moving to tap a button on the chart table a few feet behind the captain's chair. From depressions in the ceiling and floor a couple of feet in front of the captain, pedestals rose and descended to connect together. Walking to the column, the captain lowered the handles and pressed her face to the eyepiece of the periscope. 'Walking' the scope, she scanned the area above for targets. Unlike other ter-coran warships, her vessel only had a single periscope; it combined the functions of the navigation periscope and the attack periscope into a single unit. The operator could switch between the two 'modes' by the toggling of a switch mounted above the starboard handle of the periscope itself. She'd only completed two-thirds of a turn when she saw the aer-coran merchant convoy.
"Mister Wolley, convoy sighted," she reported. "Course southeast to northwest, course one-three-five, range forty-five nautas. Convey consists of three Type-Two freighters, one Type-Four-Arga merchantman, two cruiser-type escorts."
As she was relaying the information, Seye was charting it using an erasable writing tool known to the ter-corans as a gras pen. "Course and targets plotted, Captain," he said. Gesturing to a crewman standing by for that purpose, Seye relinquished responsibility for plotting and adjusting the course and track of the aer-coran vessels to assume an executive officer's usual position during combat: that of a weapons system coordinator.
"Down scope," the captain ordered. The crewman at the chart table pressed the appropriate button and the periscope lowered/raised into the floor/ceiling.
"Mister Wolley, ready all guns and defensive systems and prepare to surface."
"Aye, Captain," he said. Having moved to the port wall of the control room already, Seye only had to raise the mic to his mouth to say, "Ready all guns, repeat ready all guns and prepare to surface. Engage defensive systems."
As the ship was already at general quarters/battle stations, it was only a few minutes before he received the necessary confirmations.
"Captain, all guns report ready, electronic countermeasures and fog generators are on, and we are prepared to surface."
"Very good, Mister Wolley," she replied. "Surface."
Onboard the Acirema merchant ships and the Namnori warships, everyone hurried to battle stations. The escorts increased speed to place themselves between the ter-coran pirate - contact had finally been confirmed only when the pirate was minutes from surfacing - and their charges.
"How could it have escaped detection for so long?" Captain Jallen Namnori asked.
"There is a possibility it could be a ter-coran stealth raider, sir," Commander Puzlen replied. "Possibly three, judging by the size of the radar contact."
"I don't recall their capabilities," Jallen admitted sheepishly.
"Quite alright, sir," Puzlen replied. "They are pretty rare; only the largest of the ter-coran pirate bands can afford them. Their armament is comparable in size to ours, although they have less guns due to the need to carry munitions for them. Though the size of one of a ter-coran heavy destroyer, they have less weapons due to their sensor-resistant design."
"So they are dangerous, but not too hard for us to handle?" Jallen replied in a questioning tone.
"That would be my assessment, sir."
Unfortunately for the aer-coran convoy, it wasn't three ter-coran stealth raiders. As the ship's angled and angular bridge tower breached the surface, it was evident that not only was it turning to directly engage the two light cruisers but it was also much larger than a stealth raider. The ghostly blue fog the rising ship was shrouded in was unique to only one ter-coran pirate clan; the size of the ship confirmed who it was that was attacking them, for there was only one ship like it.
"Escorts have moved to engage, Captain," the scanner operator reported.
"Mister Wolley, ready the forward turrets and the broadside cannons," the captain ordered. Keying the mic, Seye said, "Forward turrets, load heavy piercing rounds; broadside guns, ready canister rounds."
Everyone on the bridge of the Twilight Rainbow - and on every ship in the aer-coran convoy - stared in horror at the apparition gliding towards them. It was two-and-a-half times the size of a Worra-class cruiser, with more than three times the firepower - the fact that it was conventional didn't matter too much.
"A Ghostwing ship," Jallen whispered in fear and awe. Dis shook his head.
"It's not just any Ghostwing ship, sir," he corrected. "It is the Ghostwing ship. The Caltran Union calls it the 'Leviathan of the Sky'. It's name is the Shadoraptor, and not only is it the flagship of the Ghostwing's fleet, it is the personal ship of their chieftan, Rachel Wyvern."
"Fire main guns," Rachel Wyvern ordered.
"Forward main guns," Seye relayed, "fire."
The bridge crew watched as the Shadoraptor's ghostly bow was momentarily shrouded in blackish-gray smoke as its six forward heavy guns fired.
"True leaders do not follow the paths of others; they make their own."