New Glory (Part 2 of 2)

Posted by on Jul 29, 2011 in Blog | Comments Off on New Glory (Part 2 of 2)

New Glory (Part 2 of 2)

Written by Spartan Franco | Tags: ,

With the Reliant now lagging, the rest of the battlegroup moved the intercept the advancing Blazing Sun juggernaut. The frigates went first, spitting fire from the turret auto-cannons at their oddly cylindrical Japanese opposite numbers, even as the swift enemy frigates turned to bring their serried ranks of broadside guns to bear. Their fight quickly turned into a brutal close quarters slugging match, half-concealed by the rough waters and clouds of gunsmoke. Neither side’s light craft mounted special weaponry, so they simply hammered at each other with gunfire.

Auto-cannons blazing to port and starboard, the FSS Wildcat ploughed through the melee and smashed headlong into a Blazing Sun frigate caught mid-turn. The two ships locked together as the Japanese vessel’s hull buckled.

The Wildcat’s Marine complement quickly formed up, intending to storm the enemy ship, but to their surprise, and then horror, dozens of soldiers clad in fearsomely ornate armour and wielding shining swords, swarmed out of the enemy ship and swept onto the American deck.

“Holy Mother Mary!” Marine Sergeant Ron O’Bannon gripped his Winchester rifle tightly as the nightmare unfolded before him. Caught flat-footed by the wild enemy charge, the closest Marines were caught before they could bring their guns to bear and hacked down, their bright blood mixing with the water sloshing over the deck.
O’Bannon could see that the situation was seconds from becoming a sudden rout. “Form two ranks! Fix bayonets!” he bellowed. His shocked troops were galvanised to action by their leader’s roaring command and complied instantly. And a good thing too – the enemy soldiers were mere steps away!

“First rank – FIRE!” O’Bannon shouted. American rifles barked their defiance and a like number of bloodied Blazing Sun dropped to the deck. But still they came on.

“Second rank – FIRE!” Again the rifles chattered. Again, more Japanese fell, torn apart by the point blank fire. But still, screaming their defiance, they came on!

“Charge!” O’Bannon yelled, rushing forward and planting his bayonet in the stomach of an enemy soldier even as the masked warrior tried to bring his razor-edged sword to bear. The other Marines piled in after him in a flying wedge, using skills honed as much on the football fields of their academies as during their combat drills. In his desperation, the sergeant had managed to time their counter-attack perfectly. The Japanese swordsmen were ferocious on the charge, but the tightly packed Americans presented a solid mass tipped with shining edged metal that sliced into the Blazing Sun ranks like a spear tip into flesh. In such tight quarters, the graceless but viciously swift stabbing of bayonet-tipped rifles proved more effective than swords that were unsuited to point-blank work and suddenly too cumbersome to swing. The Blazing Sun troops went down hard, the Marines skewering their smaller opponents, stamping hard and trampling the enemy fallen as they rolled onward. Caught up in the moment, O’Bannon led his wedge here and there across the deck like an unstoppable wave, sweeping the Japanese troops from the ship with bullet and blade. By the time their battle-fervour was spent, the Wildcat, decks strewn with bodies and soaked in blood enough to make even the strongest stomach retch, had managed to extricate herself from the shattered and sinking enemy frigate and swing about in search of new prey.

“Damned Suns!” Gunner’s Mate Gerry Walt of the FSS Hunt peered out of the armoured viewports of the primary fire control bunker in the cruiser’s prow. With the huge drum shaped turret being wholly filled by the massive Orlington sixteen inch gun and its automatic loader, only a small crew was required to aim and fire the weapon. “Still, looks like we get first punch on the Iwate. Get a bearing on ‘em.”

A chorus of “Aye aye, sir” rang out as the rest of the crew rushed to comply. Tall splashes arose around the charging cruiser as the enemy battleship, slowly turning, began to find their range. Through his secondary scope Walt noted with relief, but with a trace of bitterness, that the Sokotsu was only using its broadsides as yet against the Hunt and her sister. As he watched, its fore turret belched a salvo off to the north in the direction of the Reliant. “Hah! Think we ain’t worth the shells, do ya?”
The captain’s voice crackled over the tannoy. “Bridge to gunhouse – fire at will!”

Walt grinned with savage glee. “You heard the old man…let ‘em have it!”

The entire gun house crew braced themselves as the Orlington naval gun spoke in a series of deafening blasts, like the beating of gigantic drum. American turrets had but a single barrel, but their beautifully machined loading systems, strengthened with strange Sturginium alloys, could pump out salvoes to put twice or three times as many normal guns to shame. So it was proved again.

By the time the first shell found its mark, Walt’s crew and their gun had six more airborne. Great splashes arose around the enemy battleship. Some flew wide, others impacted prematurely upon the Japanese’s own shimmering shield-dome, eliciting clouds of lurid gas from the twin vanes of its stern-mounted generator. But the last found its mark with grim effect. Walt and his crew cheered as a column of flame and debris erupted from the enemy vessel’s midships deck, which began burning like a beacon against the slate grey clouds on the southern horizon.

“Yeehaa!” Walt bellowed, and then cheered all the louder as another salvo from the Cougar straddled the Japanese ship. Her prow rocket racks exploded like a deranged firework display under the pounding.

Yet still she replied only with her broadsides. Nonetheless, a powerful return salvo tore away the bulk of the Cougar’s bridge in a welter of flame and debris. Walt, his crew and rest of the Hunt’s company winced as they saw their stricken sister ship begin to slew away to starboard.

But the Cougar’s fate was merciful, compared to the horror about to befall them…

“Fore and aft primaries ranged in sir,” said one of the Reliant’s bridge officers, the words Anderson had been longing to hear. The Iwate had straddled them twice with its fore primary turret in the last few minutes as it began to turn to starboard, both to present both main turrets to the American vessel and avoid the frigate melee. Anderson held fire until both his ship’s main turrets could be brought to bear, replying only with the Reliant’s secondaries to find the range.

As the officer spoke, another salvo landed around the ship, one shell punching through the shield and exploding at waterline level next to the port side, a blast powerful enough to burst much nearby deck planking, buckle the hull plates and start several serious leaks. Simultaneously, great bursts of flame erupted from both the enemy battleship and, far more seriously, the Cougar, as the Iwate’s short duel with the cruisers suddenly escalated dramatically.

It was time to take action. Anderson called for a link to primary fire control. “Fore and aft primaries – fire, fire, fire.”

The bridge crew braced themselves as the Reliant’s mighty Orlington Thirty-Eights began to sing their thunderous chorus. In less than two minutes, a dozen shells were airborne. A minute thereafter, they showered the Iwate like a sudden maelstrom. Shell after shell crashed against its shield, creating a corona of flame and incandescent Sturginium gas. But the seventh impact punched straight through and scored a direct hit on the enemy’s generator vanes. With a colossal flash that momentarily stole Anderson’s sight, the Iwate’s generator imploded. A luminous mushroom cloud leapt from the shattered generator housing and spiralled into the sky. Even as it did so, another shell landed in virtually the same spot as the first, blowing a massive chunk out of the Japanese’s armoured sterncastle. Towering sheets of flame erupted from the gaping wound.

But even this spectacle paled compared to what now unfolded around the unfortunate cruiser Hunt. Anderson, alerted by the frantic cries of a watch officer, turned his gaze eastward.

What he saw made his jaw drop. The waters around the stricken cruiser were thrashing and boiling furiously. Suddenly, to Anderson’s sick horror, a gigantic, jointed tentacle arose from the waters. Another followed, and then another, and then more, engulfing the cruiser in a terrible embrace. Anderson knew then, with terrible clarity, just what power had smashed a Britannian gunship squadron so completely.

As the captain and his staff watched in horror, the monster’s body, terminating in a gigantic metallic beak, erupted from beneath the waves to gore the doomed ship.

“What the HELL?” Gunner’s Mate Walt and his crew staggered backwards in their cramped compartment as a wave of salt water poured through the viewports. All Walt could see was a pair of huge glowing, glazed eyes surrounded by the roots of whiplike steel tendrils that gouted steam and glowing gas. A terrible cracking and grating sound of shattering wood and tortured steel assaulted his ears as the tentacles began to squeeze. An icy chill shot through him – there would be no miracle, no respite. The Hunt was doomed.

But one last horror remained. In his final moments, trapped in the gunhouse that would be his tomb, Walt made a terrible discovery. The Hunt was being drawn forwards, towards the monster, towards its colossal metal beak. Walt broke into sobs as the gunhouse was slowly engulfed by rising waters and the shadow of that terrible maw.
Then it happened. Restraints were slipped. Hydraulics squealed. The mighty beak bit down, slicing through wood and metal, crushing whole compartments. The gunhouse compressed like an empty tin can, and Walt and his crew knew no more.

Witnessing their sister ship totally destroyed by the Blazing Sun’s terrible weapon, the crew of the crippled Cougar, less than two hundred yards away, knew that they were next. With Captain McIlroy and his entire staff blown to smithereens along with the ship’s bridge, the Cougar’s crew, under the command of chief engineer Reuben Scales, resolved to go down fighting.

The monster tore free of the shattered Hunt and surged forward. In response, the cruiser let rip with everything she had left. Rockets leaped from their racks, despite the range being far too short. Secondary turrets, even Gatling guns opened fire in a desperate final volley, chewing chunks out of the beast’s armour. The Orlington Sixteen spoke one last time, bellowing the crippled cruiser’s final defiance. Shell after shell slammed into the beast, shattering one of its eyes, tearing away a lashing tentacle, puncturing the shell already pocked and scored by dozens of minor hits.

But it was not enough.

The monster struck the cruiser like an express train hitting a wooden wall, its sheer bulk and mass smashing the stricken cruiser in half. The Cougar’s magazines cooked off at the massive impact, engulfing both craft in yet another massive explosion.

Wounded to the bottom of his heart at the deaths of the cruisers, Captain Anderson nonetheless drew upon all his discipline to focus on the task at hand. The Reliant’s mighty opening salvo had hurt the Iwate deeply, or so it seemed; the Blazing Sun battleship’s speed had dropped considerably, and her aft main turret was silent, but still her fore turret and broadsides spat fire at the Reliant and her remaining rocket emplacements and flak guns were putting up a fierce wall of fire and shrapnel to keep the Early a distance.

With the range now shortening between the two battleships the hits started coming thick and fast. A salvo from the Japanese’s main guns missed the Reliant’s bridge by a matter of yards, punching through the shield, tearing away the fore funnel and smashing part of the starboard side secondary batteries to scrap. Further hits from its secondaries caused carnage amongst the Reliant’s Marines and flak gunners as they tried to shelter behind flimsy outer bulkheads. In response auto-cannon fire swept the length of the Iwate’s hull, smashing gaping holes in its broadside batteries. Gatling fire from the few remaining crewed AA positions showered the enemy decks, slaughtering groups of rocket-pack equipped Samurai as they tried to form up for an aerial assault. From concealed embrasures in the American ship’s superstructure, Marine sharpshooters with their scoped Springfield rifles ruthlessly picked off choice targets – any Blazing Sun warrior in their sights, especially those who appeared to be giving orders, quickly found themselves sprawled on deck, their blood and brains spattering the metal plates of their vessel.

From his bridge, Anderson watched the carnage with horror. The battleship’s shield was showing signs of tremendous strain – bits of its casing were bursting apart as the pressure pent up within it sought release. The captain knew he had to end this – if the shield generator exploded, as some had been known to do under severe duress, his ship would be crippled unto death and all their efforts would be for nothing.

Anderson forced himself to think calmly through the noise and horror, the explosions, the screams and the blood. At this close range, the Reliant’s huge single guns were less than stellar, and the Iwate proving damnably resilient. Simply pounding on its hull was having only a surface effect, cracking the armour and smashing the occasional gun, but nothing had managed to equal the generator blast.

Suddenly, he saw an opportunity. Unlike his own ship, the Iwate rose high and proud out of the water. Hitting it high up was doing next to nothing.
But pressure waves in water were amplified in effect…

Anderson opened the tannoy.. “Captain to primary fire control – focus all fire on enemy waterline. Maximum depression.”

Once more, the drumbeat of the Thirty-Eights filled the air. The battleship’s shells splashed into the water, to the visible bemusement of the few living enemy sailors and soldiers on the Iwate’s deck. At least half of them, robbed of momentum or just spinning off into the depths, simply missed the mark.

But not all.

A rumbling roar suddenly drowned out all other noise. The waters bubbled furiously. Many American sailors gasped in horror, thinking the Japanese monster had returned to destroy them. Suddenly, the Iwate settled in the water. Then, with a scream of tortured metal, spewing steam and flames, the giant vessel buckled, turned turtle and broke in half.

As Anderson had hoped, his last salvo had torn out her bottom.

Cheers arose from the American battleship. Anderson surveyed the tortured sea, wary that the Blazing Sun monster was still at large. Over to the east, the frigate duel was over. The remaining Blazing Sun craft – only two of them were left, the remainder sunk, or listing badly and soon to follow them – were fleeing south at high speed. Of his frigates, three of four remained. One, the Harrier had followed its enemies to the bottom. Anderson made a mental note to commend the crews for their bravery.
Anderson knew that there were many survivors in the water, but he didn’t dare stop his vessel – the vision of the mechanical sea monster weighed heavily on his mind. As if on cue, Lieutenant Richards called out, “Captain Anderson, message from the Early.”

“Let’s hear it.”

“Captain Weeks apologises for not doing more in the engagement, sir.”

Anderson shrugged. “He deep-sixed the gyro. Man did his work by us.”

“Yes sir,” said Richards’ “but there’s something else. Captain Weeks says his lookouts have spotted something in the waters. He says it…”

Richards swallowed, but quickly regained his composure. “He says it looks like the squid thing. But from what they’ve seen, it’s damaged and leaking oil. They can see the wake on the surface.”

Anderson narrowed his eyes. “Heading?”

“South-south-west, sir, towards Kanawa. Captain Weeks requests permission to pursue. He thinks the Early can overhaul it before it gets under Kanawa air cover.”
Anderson relaxed somewhat, now that he knew the beast was gone. Silently he commended the souls of his cruisers’ crews to heaven – by their sacrifice the Iwate was gone and many other lives had been saved. He dearly wanted to go after the wounded machine with the full fury of the Reliant, but his first duty of care was to the many, many sailors adrift in the defiled waters. The Jubal Early however was bound by no such strictures. He nodded his assent. “Tell Weeks to go run that sonofabitch into the sea bottom. Oh, and take a message for long range broadcast for Port Stanley.”

Richards stood with pen and notepaper poised. “What’s the message sir?”

Anderson gave a thin smile. “Tell them we fought for Queen and country.”