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Jilderen

The Imperial Navy sets sail

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Chapter 1: Konstantinopoli Sea

Fair skies and calm seas, what more can a navy wish for on a fine day like this? At full speed, the JC-3 Battle Group crossed into international waters. From here on out, they would keep only minimal contact with the Ducal Council until they reached their destination. It would be quite a while before this gathering of naval ships would be even close. Undoubtedly someone would detect them at some point, with all the satellites up above no one was truly fully hidden. However, this was not what bothered Rear Admiral Eyckenweart. Something about this mission did not sit well with him, some bad feeling stirred deep within.

Looking to his left, he saw two JF-3's fly past with engines roaring. The carrier he commanded, the HRIHS Seghbroeck and flagship of this Battle Group, carried two dozen of these around. After a long period of testing, this would be the first time these planes would be put in actual use. For now, the pilots had some time left for their regular training sessions. In a weeks' time, a rendezvous with a supply ship was planned to provide the last load before they were truly all by themselves.

"Sir, you have a message from the Full Admiral."

Taking a small note from the communications officer, he read the few words that it contained. "It seems we have Imperial approval for our task at hand. From here on out, we need to be battle-ready at all times."

Looking down at the screen in front of him, the map of Europa showed the path they needed to take to reach their destination. With the chatter over the radio going strong, morale was exceptional. It had been a long time since any of these young men and women went out far at sea. They all were looking forward to some action. Still, the Rear Admiral only hoped morale would stay this strong once action found them.


(OOC: I was unsure as to where this should go, either here or in some other sub-forum/section/thing. For now, this will do. If it needs to be moved, we'll see. I'll be adding a bit to the story every day or every other day. Discussion thread: http://www.europans.com/index.php?showtopic=4101 )

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"With all due respect, Sire," the Minister of Trade, Heloisa Pilen, said during her meeting with the Archduke, "are you sure this is the best thing to do?"

The Archduke nodded gently. "Yes. I do realise this course of action might seem rash. The timing might have been better, especially with this plan of Orioni to get the major economic powers together. Still, this plan will not be altered. I have read your objects and a written response has been given. I do not know what other arguments you want to put forward to change my mind."

"Your response was clear enough, shan't deny that sire. I only wanted to know you are absolutely sure about this. I do agree this is a situation that must be handled, but surely you agree this is a harsh course of action?"

"That it is. Alas, our diplomatic attempts have failed, as the nations where pirates are operating from claim that they do so outside their laws. We can employ armed convoys or continue with these needless detours but, as you should know, minister, these are much more costly and time-consuming."

She nodded. "Opting for an active hunt, sire, is..."

"Minister, stop it. I will not hear any more of your objections. The navy has already sent out a Battle Group. Just because it is an active hunt, it doesn't mean we will simply kill without prejudice." The Archduke sipped his coffee. "Any other questions, minister? I have other matters to attend to as well."

"No, sire."

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"Pan-pan, pan-pan, pan-pan; all stations, all stations, all stations. This the CSC Helios requesting help. We have a complete engine failure and adrift," the captain radioed for a second time. Being adrift in the middle of the sea was not the worst thing, but given the high pirate activity of the past few years here in the Konstantinopoli Sea this could go south rather quickly. Sure, announcing the emergency via radio might actually attract the pirates, but the engineers aboard would require several days to fix the old diesel engine.

 

"Capt'n?" the first mate said with a bit of tremor in his voice well over an hour later, "there's something on the radar. Three small crafts, coming in from the north."

"How long 'till we've got a visual?"

"With this weather? Ten, maybe fifteen minutes."

"Damn. Tell everybody to get inside and lock the doors! I'm not taking any risks out here."

 

The ship's whistle signalled seven times. Every single sailor aboard this ship knew exactly what that meant. From the captain's seat, it looked as if ants darted across the two-hundred-meter long container ship. A few moments later, they all were inside and locked the steel doors behind them. All they could do now was wait. Hopefully, these small crafts were not pirates, but everything pointed at the fact that they were. Fifteen minutes later, the grey skiffs were within visual range. There was no doubt about it: pirates. Armed with large guns and RPG's, the came right at the CSC Helios.

 

Cussing loudly, the captain once again took the radio in hand. "Mayday, mayday, mayday. This is the CSC Helios and we are under pirate attack!"

The radio stayed silent.

"Mayday, mayday, mayday. Is anyone out there!?"

Nothing.

 

Well, not exactly nothing. With a loud bang, a large crack appeared in one of the windows. The pirates fired a warning shot, letting the seamen know that they were dead serious. Being unable to go anywhere, the captain had little choice but to simply hope the pirates would be unable to get aboard this ship.

 

Suddenly the radio lit up: "CSC Helios, we heard your distress call. Do you copy?"

"Yes, thank the gods!" he said after jumping at the radio. "Who is this?"

"We're coming in from heading 1-5-6, flying low. We're here to help."

 

These words had barely passed the radio and a single plane, a JF-3 of the Jilder army, dashed past the Helios at only a few metres distance. With a sharp turn, it flew upwards vertically, only to disappear into the clouds seconds later. This low pass was definitely noticed by the pirates, as their skiffs now laid still in the water. Several seconds passed before the fighter plane once again appeared, guns blazing. In a single strafe, two of the boats were blown to pieces. The third one turned around and sailed off at maximum speed, the pirates aboard shooting at the plane to no avail.

 

"CSC Helios, this is Pilot Officer Veelschot of the Jilder Ducal Air Force. The pirates have been neutralised. Do you need any further assistance?"

The captain laughed, but his face quickly turned grim as the water around the bodies started to turn red. "That was... an overly clear message. Our engineers can fix the problem, it will only take a while."

"We're just here to help. The pirates should back off, for now. We'll keep an eye out just in case."

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Sitting in his armchair, the Archduke looked at his tablet with the first results of the Battle Group on an assignment that had become known as 'Operation Calm Seas'. The ships themselves had barely reached their hunting grounds, but the skies had seen frequent visits from the young JF-3 fighters. Relying mostly on the communications and sighting of the commercial shipping, the initial effects of the Jilders' presence was hardly noticeable.

"You've managed to stop five pirate attacks, sinking twelve ships in the process. In three occasions the pirates got aboard the freighters and take the crew hostage, resulting in three civilian deaths and an unknown amount paid in ransom."

"Indeed, Sire," the Full Admiral nodded. Swiping to the next page in the report, she pointed at the map and explained: "There are currently three possible scenarios we are considering. If we stick to the central area of the sea, we have maximum coverage with our fighters, but it comes at a cost."

 

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:pic: Map the Full Admiral showed the Archduke

 

After the Full Admiral gave some explanations to the map, he looked at her and said: "All three options have their up- and downsides. Just find out where the pirates are coming from and focus on getting rid of these. Going from sighting to sighting is only treating the symptoms, we must find the cause."

"I shan't argue with you there, Sire, but we have must be careful not to upset any foreign governments if we are to target harbours that harbour the pirates. We mustn't risk war over this."

"Most definitely not."

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Naval Department
Imperial Command Center
O'polis

Admiral Mario Ramius: "And you are absolutely sure they have no idea we are monitoring their movements?"

Unnamed naval intelligence officer: "Affirmative sir. Ever since the conception of the MIDAS programme we have only included EOS members in the usage of this system. A more cautious reply would be to say we can never be 100% sure, but the chance of this Jilder battle group detecting MIDAS would be highly unlikely. They would have to physically run into one of our buoys. With the first generation that might have been possible, but not with these latest semi-submersible upgrades. Right now the only thing that actually penetrates the water surface is the new, 2m tall flexible antenna. Try finding that in a 20x20km grid."

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:pic: Admiral Ramius reviewing intelligence with an officer

Ramius: "Good. Now tell me: where are they right now, and what is their projected heading?"

Officer, pointing at the screen: "Sir, their actual destination is still uncertain. From our monitoring of shipping lanes between Novanya and Miiros, we know they entered the Konstantinopoli Sea late last week. Their operation seems to be one of combating piracy. Our own recent intelligence suggests the pirates are based off several islands in the northern Konstantinopoli Sea. During the past years, this area has become a real hotbed of piracy, mainly due to anarchy in the surrounding nations of Haken, Cypericos, Damak Var and Byzantium Nova."

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:pic:  Konstantinopoli Sea situation according to MIDAS

Ramius: "I see. Well, in that case, their actions against the pirate nuisance will be doing everyone a big favour. Keep monitoring the situation. You are hereby directed to inform the general staff if and when their heading changes towards the Paranoid Archipelago and Miiros islands. Even when combating piracy, we cannot allow them to abuse the EOS silence as an excuse for raiding our allies."

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Rear Admiral Eyckenweart closed the message he received on his screen, nodded and stood up, hailing all ships: "Ladies and Gentlemen, we have received a new set of orders. We are to seek out the pirate bases and seize them. The initial plan of bombing them out of existence had been scrapped due to a significant risk of collateral damage. Once we have full domination of the seas and skies, paratroopers will be flown in to secure the harbours."

"Isn't that a violation of sovereignty?" one of the officers next to him asked.

"We have our orders to secure the pirate bases, not to take over any of the islands. In the meantime, we must continue our current efforts."

Sitting back down in his chair, the Rear Admiral looked at the latest overview of reports. Apparently, word spread rather quickly among pirates. Reports of attacks had dropped, especially in close range of the Battle Group. A more definite strike was required, exactly because of that, the Ducal Council decided to take out the bases by force. Unlike what the Rear Admiral expected, they were less hesitant on taking up a more permanent position in this region.

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:pic: Suverin submarine, submerged, Konstantinopoli sea

The Royal Maritime Fleet of the Great Queendom of Suverina was monitoring the anti-piracy actions in the Konstantinopoli sea of its ally, Jilderen, as closely as possible and with great interest. Despite the tight cooperation concerning defence, Suverina had not been approached by the Jilds about the matter of a joint operation. They apparently wanted to execute this on their own, which wasn't all too surprising. All the Suverin experts, all the cooperation and joint exercises had been of much benefit to the Jilds navy, but the Jilds were of course as much interested in improving their ability to operate independently as they were in improving their ability to operate jointly with their ally. The Ministry of Defence figured this was one of the times the Jilds wanted to test their ability to conduct independent operations.

Suverina had been aware of the departure of the Jilds Taskforce. But despite the Jilds setting out for an independent operation, the Suverin Navy saw an opportunity to conduct a joint Jilds-Suverin naval exercise. The Jilds just simply wouldn't be aware of it. If the exercise went extremely well, the Jilds wouldn't be told until after, if they discovered it, success would be measured by how long that took them.

A decade ago the stealth ability of modern submarines had been impressive, in many circumstances Suverin submarines could operate undetected, and in remaining circumstances, they were very still extremely hard to detect. However, technology progresses as always and current day Anti-Submarine Warfare (ASW) technology has vastly improved and the ability to locate submarines had seen some great progress. Naval experts and marine engineers in Suverina, and surely in other parts of Europa as well, had for some years now been discussing the highly current subject on if manned submarines were becoming obsolete. Even the most silent submarines of the Suverin navy were faced with the great dilemma; the closer they operated to the coast the easier it was for nations with modern and advanced submarine detection technology to detect them. Many believed unmanned submarines would dominate the future of the Suverin submarine fleet. Scientists and engineers worked hard on making the submarines less detectable, but without a revolutionary breakthrough in research, it seemed most uncertain that submarine stealth technology could keep an edge over ASW submarine detection technology.

In order to gather valuable experience, the Suverin Navy decided to let one of the submarine flotillas stationed in the Suverin military base in Jilderen to follow and monitor the Jilds operation. The aim was to monitor the Jilds activity without detection. Also, despite combating piracy falling under international law and therefore is legal, Suverin military analysts worried that not all nations would adhere to international law and believed it to be advantageous to have Suverin presence should something about the Jilds operation go awry.

From below the Suverin submarines monitored the task force, from above satellites, kept a close watch on pirate activity and from all around Europa intelligence sources gathered as much information they could. Suverina was trying to assess exactly how much information they could gather, later Suverina would share its information with its ally. The Suverin navy believed the operation would provide much valuable experience and data.

Suverina wished that its ally would share more information about the planning of how the operations were to be continued. But the Jilds were secretive about that, and Suverina didn't wish to pressure its ally for information, as of now Suverina was content with the official progress reports. But predicting their course of action provided valuable experience.

According to the continuous evaluation, the operation was going according to plan. However, Suverin Foreign Intelligence was working hard on gathering more intel on exactly what measures the EOS and other nations in the area were taken to monitor the Jilds.

(OOC: I'm creating an OOC thread to discuss a few things.)

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:pic:Drone being prepared for launch

Like a massive wasp, the drone flew across the waters, looking for potential prey. Massive container ships were ignored, for it was looking for something much smaller. Just a few meters above the surface, the pilot who was in control from miles away had its eyes out for something he had spotted on a previous flight. In a flash, it passed, but the coordinates were logged.

"Got it sir!" she exclaimed happily. "It's a buoy of sorts."

The captain patted her on the shoulder. "Good, good. Helmsman, set course for those coordinates! I want to know what it is."

user posted image

With engines roaring, the Jonker-class corvette set course, ploughing through the waves. In fifteen minutes they reached their destination. The buoy that bobbed gently up and down in the calm waters was most likely not purely for scientific purposes.

"Well, let's see if we can hack into that network. If it's purely science, they won't mind us having a peek. If there's something else, well, they won't know we're looking along," the captain said as a wide grin appeared on her face.

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"With all due respect, Full Admiral," one of the members of the Ducal Council said infuriated, "we are talking about citizens of a foreign nation!"

Calmly she remarked: "You have any better suggestions? We could send them back to their own nation [plot 0.42], but it is rather clear they are not all that much interested in keeping these criminals from doing their job. I much rather see them be judged according to our laws. They belong in gaol so they can be re-educated to be proper human beings."

"I agree with you there, but I seriously doubt the Jilders are willing to have foreign thieves imprisoned here. Frankly, I don't like that idea myself."

"Please, by all means, provide us with an alternative. The fact is that we currently have 31 pirates in custody and our ships in the Konstantinopoli Sea are no Prison Ships. This matter has to be resolved and soon."

The council member sat down without giving a proper reply. Given the length of this discussion, a brief intermission was declared to allow all to have a drink and grab a quick bite. It was obvious that all agreed that the pirates must be put to trial, but none of them truly wanted it to happen in Jilderen itself. Some suggested bringing back the ancient tradition of Prison Ships, yet others suggested acquiring (the actual means varied) a section of land from [plot 0.42] to construct a prison. Perhaps even an 'International Anti-Piracy Court' in due time.

The Full Admiral, together with her colleagues the Chief Marshal and the High Commander, knew that this discussion could go on and on. The Battle Group was planned to host 40 prisoners at most, but at the current rate, this number would be exceeded within a week. Especially troublesome was that the government of [plot 0.42] was unwilling to cooperate. For now, the only real solution they had was to bring in another ship with a larger capacity, a helipad and enough capacity to store dozens of prisoners in a humane way.

Luckily there was an old ship that fit these requirements. A quick dust-off and stocking up with goods, this retired cruise ship would probably give the prisoners more luxury than they were used to. En route, the cabin doors could be reinforced with proper locks. She was not fast and in the meantime, it was most likely the captured pirates had to live in cramped conditions, but it was the best they had to offer.

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(OOC: This post can be used as coinciding the 1st day of the G7-summit. Just to have a time-frame when these two storylines might cross.)

"So basically what you're saying is that we either have to pause our current mission or cram even more pirates together?"

The Commodore of the frigate nodded. "Yes, Rear Admiral. Our crew compartments are unsuited to house criminals and I cannot guarantee the safety of the captives if we put even more together in the brig."

"The relief vessel is a few days out," sighed to himself, "and I cannot harbour anymore as well."

"The number of pirates exceeds our expectations, sir. I speak on behalf of my crew as well when I say that we'll be glad if the pirates are off our ship."

The former cruise ship would not be within the flying range of the helicopters for another 2 days. As a result, the Rear Admiral was forced to stop the active capturing of pirates and try to deter any others with a show of force. On a few occasions they fired back with an RPG or the likes, but luckily no-one got hurt on the Jilder side so far. The casualties among the pirates, 8 deaths and 9 injured, were all qualified as 'in the defence of ourselves or others'.

"What about our submarines... Have they picked up that odd signal again? "

"They haven't in a few days, sir, but we are not actively chasing it."

"Next time it shows up, please do. I'm curious as who is keeping tabs."

"Yes, Rear Admiral."

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"By Darwin," the Rear Admiral said cursingly. "How many?"

"Two of his fellow inmates."

"How many hurt?"

"One inmate and two of our sailors, sir," the lieutenant replied. "The prisoner is currently out by heavy sedation, but it only hints at the bigger problem."

"We need more room, I know. One more day, Lieutenant, one more day. In fact, weather permitting, we could send our most troublesome prisoners over tonight in a first chopper flight. It'll be a long flight, but very much worth it. This prisoner will, however, not be part of that transfer. Pick the best behaving ones and prepare them. Reward good behaviour, it's not that hard."

Nodding and saluting, the lieutenant turned around and walked off. The Read Admiral shook his head and turned towards the tablet he held in one hand. An outburst from one of the caught pirates cost lives and that was utterly unacceptable. Still, despite not capturing any more pirates, the question was when it would happen, not if.

"Thank the doctor for our supply of opiates on board of this ship. Those'll keep him calm for now," he smiled after logging his short report.

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"The plan seems solid, but what if they refuse?" the High Admiral asked worriedly. "We are transferring the captives to the Prison Ship as we speak, so we have the time to negotiate. Still, I'd rather we take action than wait for the whole diplomatic circus."

"I do agree with you, but being part of the world at large means one simply can not and must not do as one pleases. Imagine them barging in here just because they please so. The nation of [plot 0.42] might be what we'd call a dictatorship, it still is a sovereign nation. Let me deal with politics, you deal with the pirates, admiral."

"As you wish, Your Royal & Imperial Highness."

 

🔒 ENCRYPTED MESSAGE

TO: the Great Queendom of Suverina
FROM: the Archduchy of Jilderen

Trusted ally, dear friend,

After receiving word from the Imperial Counsellor it came to Our attention that you are fully aware of the Jilder anti-piracy mission. We can assure you that the mission is executed with full respects to international custom, though sadly some lives have been lost in defense of others'.

The number of captured pirates is, however, growing fast. Our intention is to judge them in fair trial, but the Ducal Chamber is proving to be unwilling to harbour them on our own territory. Communication with [plot 0.42] is proving to be very difficult, as the local ruler stated - and We quote -: "Stay out of my f****ing lands." It is via this communication that We wish to seek the Great Queendom's support in finding a solution to this matter.

Our intent is to come to a peaceful solution and trial the pirates in their homeland, but the Ducal Council is open to every option. Forcefully adding a new nation to the Jilder fold is an option, but not preferred.

Awaiting your response,

Signed,

Archduke Xallander

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With the last of the prisoners transferred to the Prison Ship, which was never let out of sight by at least three of the navy vessels, the Battle Group resumed active hunting of the pirates. Their impact on the activity in this region was still small, plenty of sightings were still reported, but there was a change in their pattern and range.

"Sir, we've got a cargo vessel that is not responding to our calls," the radio officer aboard one of the frigates said after attempting to establish communications several times.

Her superior looked at the officer and said: "Are they following the regular shipping lanes?"

"Just barely."

"What's her size?"

"Small, nothing out of the ordinary. She most likely came from the Byzantine Sea, sir, and her course suggests she's heading for [plot 0.42]."

"Can we intercept her?"

"Sir? You fear something is wrong?"

"We know that there is plenty of trafficking of illegal goods going on here and it is highly unusual they do not respond to a simple call."

After running a few numbers, the radio officer nodded. "Given her current speed, we can catch up with her by morning, Sir, still in international waters."

The order was quickly given to the helmsman. At full speed, the nuclear-powered frigate started to plough her way north. Little explanation was required by the Rear Admiral, as the northern sector of the Konstatinopoli Sea too knew pirate activity and a vessel up there would be welcome.

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:pic: Satellite view of a storm front approaching the Konstantinopoli Sea from the south-east.
(Click for larger view.)

Analyst: "Sir, should we inform them?"

Officer: "Since they are no member of EOS, they won't receive the additional information MIDAS provides. But high command hasn't prohibited the sharing of weather-related information, so yes: we warn them. They may have access to basic weather information, but their system most certainly lacks the predictive weather modelling we have so carefully crafted this past decade. We have an obligation to inform any and all vessels of approaching risks, maritime or other. It's not just the Jilders Navy out there."

Analyst: "Affirmative sir. I will issue a public alert for extreme weather in the south-east Konstantinopoli Sea. The northern coastline looks alright, but there is no saying if this storm will continue eastward or drift off to the north."

Officer: "Speaking of the Konstantinopoli Sea. The last report I read mentioned a buoy being out of place. Status?"

Analyst: "Yes sir. We received an alert when the automated system reported it was diverging from its predicted course at a speed that was abnormal compared to its previous course. At some point, it even went against the dominant stream. You will have read that we added it to the maintenance roster."

(OOC: Still working on finishing this full satellite map view. It's slow and meticulous work, and at the same time a real treat to see it progress.)

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"Read Admiral," the communications officer onboard the carrier said as she saluted her superior, "we received a message from Orioni. They are issuing an alert for Extreme Weather in the south-eastern section of this sea we're in, sir."

A raised eyebrow was the Rear Admiral's first reaction. "Are they seriously suggesting that we were unaware of that? We have eyes up there," he said as he pointed towards the nightly skies. "Still, it's nice to see they finally acknowledge our existence here. Keep an eye on that storm and bring the old lady closer to shore. If this storm indeed decides to head up here, she's best off in a harbour. She might have seen her fair share of storms, but I'm not risking anything."

"I'll relay the message, sir. Any particular destination in mind?"

"[Plot 0.42] is closest, so that's our best pick. Make sure all vessels keep an eye out for ships in trouble and not to risk any of our aerial division."

"Aye-aye, sir."

With the officer out of his quarters, the Rear Admiral returned his attention to the screen in front of him. Via a highly encrypted connection with the chief of the Ducal Navy, he was receiving further details about this mission. Wresting control of the seas was one goal, not in the extent of gaining dominance over the nations here and their coastal waters, but making sure the international waters would be safe to traverse. There were several significant sources of pirate activity here, but the island nation just east of the Battle Group was one of the major ones.

[Plot 0.42] was this nation, one that was once known for its vibrant and joyful nature, but ever since the De Clerque family seized control in a violent coup d'état several decades ago things had taken a turn for the worse. The 'Konstanti Pearl', as she was once nicknamed, turned into a corrupt nation with violence and poverty running amok. In the Jilder language, the island was known as Belderen, though that name was banned by the De Clerque family. The Archduke was adamant as not to directly harm their sovereignty - in fact, plenty of foreign aid had been sent over in the past years - but it did not mean he would mind if something changed there.

For now, the orders of the Rear Admiral were clear: deal with the pirates and stay clear of national waters unless circumstances force otherwise.

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:pic: During the storm

Coming in hard, the storm hit the prepared Battle Group head on. Most sailors were quite excited, though none the less prepared for any emergencies that might present themselves. The junior sailors, some of which experienced a storm like this for the first time, hoped that this would pass as soon as possible. The naval ships were quite well suited for this storm and thus had little worries.

The Old Lady, as the Prison Ship was dubbed, took the storm's brute force. She creaked, was pushed around by the sea as wave after wave washed across the decks. The captain kept on shouting orders to align the ship properly to prepare for the next wave during the entire length of the storm. This captain, a stereotype in many ways with his white beard and captain's hat firmly fixed on his head, did not leave his post for even one moment.

The prisoners aboard were frequently checked on. Most held on for their dear life to whatever they could, but there were two who laid in bed as if the ship was in quiet waters. The motions, the sounds, it did not bother them in the slightest. One of them was even reading a book.

"Look at him," a sailor said as he looked through the glass of the cabin, "not fazed one bit."

"An experienced pirate, I bet," another one said.

"Or one a captain of a great ship like this, forced into piracy by poverty and a cruel government," the man said as he looked at the two sailors peeking in.

Quite surprised the sailor asked: "You speak Jilders?"

"Don't be so surprised," the man laughed. "We might be part of the Jilder diaspora from an age long ago, but we have not forgotten our background."

"Whatever the reason, piracy is wrong."

"Depends on your perspective. Still, this is not the time or place to go into those details. I'm doing fine and you needn't worry about me. I'll behave."

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With the storm passed, there were no real damage done to the ships. Most pirates were fine, only one broke a wrist due to an unfortunate fall, and several sailors had their egos bruised as the wild waters forced them a resampling of a meal eaten earlier. Other ships, however, were not so fortunate. Calls of freighters that lost (part of) their cargo were abundant. Though most were prepared for severe weather, they had not anticipated something of this magnitude. So, instead of hunting for pirates, this day would mostly consist of the Jilder Navy helping out wherever they could.

That particular cargo ship that came under suspicion not that long ago was in trouble too. From what came in via the radio, it lost half of the containers it carried about and the engine room was partially flooded. Thankfully the frigate was already close and, as soon as the weather permitted, a helicopter took to the sky and headed over carrying two mechanics with equipment as well as some armed sailors.

user posted image

:pic: The JH-17, main helicopter of the Jilder Armed Forces. The JH-17k shown.

From the air the extent of the damage was obvious. Floating not all that far from the cargo vessel were several containers, the ship itself drifted aimlessly amongst them. On the deck, two of the crewmen waved at the incoming helicopter and the captain thanked them via the radio. The chopper hovered close to the deck as the Jilder sailors jumped out and onto the freighter. Though not expecting any resistance of any kind, the guns were held at the ready as they were greeted.

"Thank the gods!" one of the crewmen shouted. "I'll take you to the captain."

The sailors nodded. "We understood there was some trouble in the engine room."

"Indeed. Damned place filled knee-deep with water and our pumps are not doing their job effectively."

"Sounds like a job for our mechanics. Can your colleague take them down there? Best to get started and fix the problem now, before this ship has a close encounter with one of the containers you lost."

The man could not agree more. So, the two mechanics and two sailors headed towards the engine room and the other four sailors were brought up to the captain. This man, surprisingly young to hold this position, smiled broadly as he saw the Jilders walk in. Quickly he explained what happened, almost as if he forgot that they too had encountered the storm, and that over half of his precious cargo was overboard. As long as they stayed afloat, the GPS-tags they carried could allow some containers to be recovered, but the goods inside would most likely be ruined.

"Just exactly what are you carrying?" the sailor, clearly in charge of the others, asked the captain.

He shrugged. "Just some containers. We're not paid enough to really care what's inside. Cars, furniture, foodstuffs... Who knows. Who cares. Me and my men ship it from A to B."

"Mind if I look at your Bill of Lading?"

"...why?" the captain asked, not expecting this question. "What do you what with it?"

"Just to get an idea of what you were carrying and what you've lost to the seas."

Glaring at the guns the sailors carried the captain grudgingly agreed to share his Bill of Lading. After looking through a dozen drawers, the list was finally produced. One of the other sailors took the list and quickly browsed it. From what he could tell, the shipment was mostly from the manufacturing industry and nothing special. There were a few irregularities, however. A signature on one page was obviously a bad copy of one a few pages earlier and the stamp that went along with it did not match it. It was reason enough to see if this particular container was still present and, if it was, to take a peek inside.

"Do you really want to do that?" the captain asked, nervous and a bit aggressive.

"Sir, either you will let us do so or we will return to our ship with the message that you refused our help."

"Bah, women... Always wanting something in return. Sure, go ahead, see if that damned thing is still here."

Ignoring this statement, the sailors headed down and onto the deck. Matching numbers with the forms was a lengthy task. Ticking off the containers present, it was a container placed somewhere in the middle that carried the numbers there were looking for. On the outside it read the name of some vague transportation company, the doors were locked tight. Tighter than all the others. Nothing a pair of bolt cutters couldn't handle though

With a loud clunk, the steel lock was broken and the doors opened. Inside were, as the papers indeed described, various sofa's and chairs stacked together. Due to the harsh weather, however, some had shifted, others damaged and one actually broken in half. From within, no padding but packets of unusual sustenance were visible.

"Well, that's convenient," the sailor smiled.

Obviously faking his response, the captain said: "Honestly, I did not know that was in here!"

One of the sailors took a small testing kit from his pockets, took samples from the broken sofa as well as from other pieces of furniture after taking a look inside with his knife. In the meanwhile, the captain came up with dozens of excuses - one even worse than the other - but he got no responses. After several minutes, the sailor looked to his superior.

"Ma'am, we're dealing with a large supply of opiates and at least four different kinds of chemical drugs."

"Well, isn't this a pleasant surprise. What do you have to say about this, Captain?"

"I... We... This is..." he stammered.

"Oh, stop the lying. First of all, you're really bad at it and, secondly, this stuff is mostly legal in Jilderen. So, who is supposed to be getting all this?"

Cocking his head slightly tot he right, the captain frowned: "So you won't take us in for drug smuggling?"

"You want us to? This is still international waters and when in doubt, we like to stick to our own laws. In this case, you're better off too. I'm sure you know who's supposed to receive all this, right?"

The captain nodded, relieved that this shipment fitted within Jilder law. "That's for... that's for the Blue Dawn."

The sailor raised an eyebrow, nodded and smiled carefully. "There are worse groups."

"You know of them?"

The sailor did not answer this question, instead, she closed the door again and secured it. Continuing with the list, they marked off all the containers still on the ship. Afterwards, they headed down to the engine room. There the mechanics managed to get one of the pumps going again and, as the water level dropped, only a few repairs were needed on the actual engine to get it going again. Three hours later it roared again, propelling the ship forwards and steering it safely through the containers that drifted in the seas.

As the helicopter once again showed up, the sailors left the freighter behind to head for harbour and unload the goods she still carried. Plenty of opportunistic companies would undoubtedly claim these containers before any large company could. That was not all that uncommon and the Jilder Navy did not really mind. What was more important was the fact that a significant amount of narcotics had been found. Sure, within Jilderen those might be tolerated, but most countries did not. So, a simple, encoded report went out to the Rear Admiral.

Narcotics spotted. Blue Dawn.

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"You do realise, High Admiral, that we have currently detained a few dozen pirates without any form of trial? This is a situation that needs to be resolved. Soon."

She nodded gently. "I do, sire, I do. However, the fact remains that this is something that needs to be handled in politics and I trust the Archduke knows how slow that goes."

"I know that all too well," Archduke Xallander nodded, "but we need to find an answer to this problem as soon as possible. If there is no solution soon, I will take action myself."

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Bogdan Zamfir was sitting on a blanket next to a magnificent teak tree, beside him was a picnic basket. The sun was shining and several people were in the park to enjoy the beautiful weather. Bogdan Zamfir wasn't however in this park in Laggarport to enjoy himself, he was there for an important meeting. He looked at his wrist watch, there were only a couple of minutes left until one o'clock, so he started to empty his basket. A few minutes later a man approached him:

 

"Zamfir." He said and nodded.

"Hello Rogers. You know you're not supposed to use my real name when we meet."

"You're a public person, you work at the Suverin embassy, does it matter?"

"Officially, yes. But I'm not here on official business, if I was I wouldn't be meeting you. Go ahead and sit down." He said and gestured "Rogers" to sit down.

Rogers, whose real name Bogdan Zamfir didn't know, was a Jilders intelligence officer. Zamfir, who worked at the Suverin embassy was not a regular staff member, he also worked for the Suverin Intelligence Agency, had requested an informal meeting.

"So, a picnic? That's our cover this time?" He said and sat down on the blanket.

"To be specific, it's a picnic date. So if you'd look a bit more cheerful than your regular gloomy self that'd help. I mean, if someone like you scored a date with someone like me, they'd like pretty darn excited."

Rogers sighed.

"It never hurts to laugh a little you know. One can have fun and do business as well." Zamfir took a wine glass out of his basket and handed it to Rogers, then he took a bottle and poured into the glass. He had already poured one for himself. Rogers looked sceptical.

"Oh lighten up! It needs to look authentic, besides there's barely any alcohol in it. I know you're worried you'll get tipsy and spill your guts on all the latest top-secret intel." He said, cheerfully.

Rogers took a sip from his glass.

"Actually tastes pretty decent. I'm not very impressed by your beer, but I have to hand it to you, Suverin liquor and wine is often most excellent, except for the cheap stuff of course."

"So you do have interests outside of work, I had you pinned as a fellow completely dedicated to your job." Zamfir opened the lid on a box containing a variety of different appetizers.

"Go ahead and help yourself."

Rogers took a couple of appetizers.

"So, what's the reason you scheduled a meeting?"

"I have some informal information from Her Majesty's government. First of all it's this pirate thing you've gotten yourself involved with."

"What about it? Is there a problem with it?"

"Well, yes and no. You seem to have a problem and we have a possible solution to that problem. It seems as you went all gung-ho and didn't really plan beforehand what to do with all the captured pirates. It has come to the bureau's attention that this is a problem for you. Our solution is simple. As you are aware, Suverina has a very large prison facility on our military base here in Jilderen. While regarded as Suverin sovereign territory, it's non-Suverin soil, so it's outside of regular Suverin jurisdiction, the perfect place to detain people of special interest and/or concern. As you know the vast majority of the facility is unused..."

"So, you're suggesting that we detain the pirates at the Suverin military base?"

"No, no. I haven't suggested anything. But now that you've suggested it, I do believe we'd be inclined to accept such a request should you make it."

"I'll make sure to forward it."

"Do so." He replied and took a sip of wine.

Rogers ate another appetizer.

"What else did you want to discuss?"

"Oh, I didn't realize you were in a hurry. The embassy kitchen staff has provided us with a most excellent picnic and the sun is shining, why not enjoy it while you have the chance? The weather forecast said it might rain later, I'm sure your work can wait until then. And besides, there is no wife and kids waiting for you to get home anyway, right." Zamfir curiously looked into Rogers' eyes to see if he'd react about his comment about Rogers family, Zamfir was curious to know more about this Rogers fellow with whom he had had many meetings but knew nothing about. But Rogers didn't seem to react to it.

"Since we didn't know what you wanted to discuss I've made sure we have as much time as we need. But I am a busy person and my time could be better used doing proper work instead of sipping wine and eating appetizers, even if they very delicious."

"All work and no play doesn't make Rogers a dull boy?"

Rogers started to look frustrated.

"So, what else do you have on the agenda?"

"Fine. I want to talk about Belderen."

Rogers looked intrigued.

"We recently found out that one of our 'sources' there also provides you lot with information. This source said that you have increased your intelligence efforts there. Not extraordinary, but still interesting. But what's more interesting is the current political situation in Belderen. Our sources tell us the opposition against the government is growing. And there seem to be indications that the opposition is looking for foreign support. While some of these groups just want to topple the government, others feel as if perhaps a union between Jilderen and Belderen would be the best way to guarantee the stability and prosperity of the nation. I'm sure you lot probably knows that. The Suverin government think you should take the presented opportunity and establish formal bonds with the opposition, the ones that are pro-Jilders that is, and supply them with whatever they need. Funds, intel, training, weapons. Everything they want and need. Making Belderen a part of Jilderen would be very strategic. Suverina would be willing to support you in this effort."

"Exactly how much support could we expect, should we want it?"

"We're prepared to offer you a carte blanche. Anything you need and we'll provide it. It's a sound investment, we believe the odds are in your favour should you wish to help the opposition to seize power in Belderen. As you know the Jilders-Suverin investment bank is basically a slush fund, funds would be allocated through there. Should you need weapons we'll provide you with funding and 'sell' it to you."

"Carte blanche? Are those your words or your superiors?"

"The exact same words Chisinau used."

"Hm. Well. I'll make sure to let my people know about this and then we'll get back to you."

 

They talked for a little while longer, then Rogers got up and left. Zamfir didn't have anywhere he needed to be, so he laid down to enjoy the beautiful weather.

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The Imperial Councellor smiled. Knowing for sure that Suverina was more than willing to support their cause was most welcome. Sure, there was no official communication on this matter just yet, but this was not the first time things were orchestrated behind the scenes before made public. So, with a final look at the message on his tabled, he pressed the send button.

🔒 Encrypted message

TO: the Great Queendom of Suverina
FROM: the Archduchy of Jilderen

Trusted ally, dearest friend,

As you are aware, our operations in the Konstantinopoli Sea have resulted in a significant number of prisoners. This number far exceeds our expected amount and thus we face a challenge: where to house them?

Our political structure is proving to be unwilling to house these numbers in our own territory, but there is an alternative that allows us to put them on trial in a fair an honest way. For this we require the aid of our closest ally: you.

On behalf of the Archduke, I hereby request official permission to detain the captured pirates in the Suverin Special Territory here within the Archduchy for as long as is required. This with full respects to their human rights and an open and fair trial according to Jilder law.

Signed,

The Imperial Counsellor

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🔒 Encrypted message

TO: the Archduchy of Jilderen
FROM: the Great Queendom of Suverina

Most esteemed ally and loyal friend,

Her Majesty's government accepts your request. Our prison facilities on our base have great capacity and it's only housing a few prisoners of ours. We have contacted our embassy and given them authority to negotiate directly with you regarding the details of logistics, finance and such about the whole arrangement. The base has been alerted and have begun preparing to recieve the prisoners as soon as the details have been agreed upon.

On behalf of Her Majesty's government,

Ana Codrianu
Minister of Foreign Affairs

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Chapter 2: the Northern Meteorolas

It had been over twelve months since the Navy of Jilderen showed their intent to kerb the pirate menace in the Konstantinopoli Sea. Although concrete reports about their military actions proved scarce, their continued effort has proven to produce noticeable results. Pirate warnings and actions had decreased significantly. Intelligence analysts reported seeing a continued decline of attempts to capture merchant's vessels. Shipping routes proved safer than they were in previous years. And for this, the Orioni military was grateful. At least at first.

user posted image

:pic: Areas of the Konstantinopoli Sea and Northern Meteorolas

The Jilders military presence proved to be such a great deterrent that the pirate leaders decided to re-organise their entire operations. Instead of focussing on capturing vessels sailing between Miiros and Jilderen, they shifted their focus towards the east. For in the east, a much more lucrative prize was to be had. A significant portion of Europan maritime trade moved between the economic powerhouses of Miiros and Orioni. While assaulting shipping routes in the Azure Sea would prove too risky even for the most experienced pirates, there was, however, another area where they could set up shop: the Northern Meteorolas.


14:00
Naval Department
Imperial Command Centre

O'polis

user posted image

  • Secretary: "Good afternoon, Sir. How are you today?"
  • Toren Nabérrie (prince of Orioni, councillor of Defense): "Fine, thank you very much. I hope things are going well here at the Admiralty. Say, darling, is the old man in?"
  • The secretary answered, blushing: "Yes, Sir. Admiral Ramius returned from his lunch about thirty minutes ago. But his agenda is..."
  • Toren: "I'm sure he won't mind."
  • Secretary: "But... Sir...!"

*knock knock*

  • Mario Ramius (Grand Admiral of the fleet): "Yes, who is it? Ah, it's you, Toren! Do come in. How have you been? How are things at the Imperial Council?"
  • Toren: "Oh, can't complain. As you've probably read in the newspaper, Chairlady Pristo is mainly concerned with balancing the budget and creating more jobs. The usual politicking, you know. But I wanted to have a brief chat with you about a different matter if that's alright."
  • Ramius: "Of course. Please, do sit down."
  • Toren: "Thank you. As you know, we have been following the Jilders Naval activity in the West. They have done a bang-up job getting rid of those pirates. In fact, they did such a good job that the pirates actually dismantled their entire operation and left."
  • Ramius: "Well that's wonderful news, isn't it?"
  • Toren: "Well, it was, at first. You see: the pirates who previously operated in the Konstantinopoli Sea, have since shifted their operations to the Northern Meteorolas. In many coastal towns of the Bainbridge Islands, there is no government presence. So you can do whatever you want. Pirates and criminal gangs now have space."
  • Ramius: "Blimey! That's horrible!"
  • Toren: "Oh it gets worse. This morning a Orioni-owned cargo vessel carrying food was hijacked off the coast of Bainbridge Islands. I have discussed this matter with Supreme Commander Bruiser and he agrees: Orioni must take swift action. I'll have a set of background papers delivered to you later, so you can study them. The council expects the first draft by the end of next week, and a complete plan by the end of this month."
  • Ramius answered with a frown: "Yes, Sir. I'll get my best men working on it right away."

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10:00
Imperial Summer Palace
Zuidhaven

It was Sunday, and Chairlady Pristo was at the Imperial Palace for her weekly audience with the Empress. The two of them always went through the affairs of the past week, in order the prepare priorities for the next one.

  • "This is completely unacceptable!" shouted the Empress, while crushing a paper note into a ball and throwing it into the far corner of this sunny room. "How can it be that this piracy story has been in the news for over a week, and our military geniuses still haven't put forward a workable solution?"
  • "I understand your frustrations, your highness," answered Chairlady Pristo, acknowledging the monarchs sudden temper. "While it may seem as if our government is not acting, please rest assured we have the best people working on this."
  • Empress: "Our best people? More like 'our slowest people'. Who did you say was leading this charge?"
  • Pristo: "Your brother, your highness, in cooperation with Admiral Ramius."
  • Empress: "Toren better comes up with something, fast, because I still haven't forgiven him for what happened last year when he tried to seduce whatshername, the Suverin minister of foreign affairs."

The Empress stormed out of the room, fuming with anger.

user posted image

 


10:45
Imperial Command Centre

O'polis

Defence councillor Toren was standing at the dark wooden desk in his office, clearly shouting at the person on the other end of this telephone call.

  • Toren: "You don't understand, Ramius. I needed this plan today! I was under the impression when we spoke last Thursday that you understood this."
  • Ramius: "Yes, Sir. My staff did work out a plan to get back our ship. We even ended up tracking down the presumed pirates. Surveillance indicated, at least at first, that they were holed up near Lahaina. But then another of our sources claimed the crew had been split up and spread out across multiple factions. This makes it much more difficult for us to track down each individual."
  • Toren: "I hear that. But it's been a week. What course of action are you proposing to firstly get back our ship, and secondly prevent further piracy? We need to have something to say because the press is going bonkers and they want me to go on television."

user posted image

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22:00
Imperial Command Center

O'polis

Nearly a month had passed since the hijacking of the Orioni-owned cargo vessel Amalas. This was the first commercial pirate attack in the Northern Meteorola Sea. It came as a complete surprise to the global shipping industry as patrols by the Jilderen Navy, as well as Orioni, had suppressed pirate hijackings in the nearby Konstantinopoli Sea for over a year.

Prince Toren was re-reading the plan put forward by his Navy specialists. He had presented it to the council during last week's meeting, right before Chairlady Pristo and Sir Pipkin had left for Magnaeus.

Shipping companies were in an uproar. Insurance premiums had skyrocketed. Although some councillors had reservations about possible backlash, everyone agreed this serious risk to the huge Orionii shipping industry this could not be tolerated.

**TOP SECRET**

CHAPTER 1: THREAT ASSESSMENT

SITUATION
The ship was anchored Thursday off the town of Alula, said a local elder. "The ship is on the coast now and more armed men boarded the ship," he told our operatives.

HOSTILE ELEMENTS
We believe the situation was fragile and that the pirates possess the intent and capability to launch even more attacks. One expert said some in the region had let down their guard as the situation calmed.

PACKAGE
Twenty-one crew members were aboard and are being held captive. Armed men are demanding a ransom for their release. A local from Bainbridge Island who said he was in touch with the armed men aboard the ship said the amount of ransom to demand had not yet been decided. The armed men have locked most of the crew in one room and cut off communication lines. "Their main concern now is a possible rescue attempt, so that?s why all communications were cut off in the afternoon," he said.
This description of the threat had not changed much. Toren already knew most of the story by heart. This week he had been on TV enough to remember the words. What excited him more was the how Ramius' plan continued. Toren smiled and turned the page.
**TOP SECRET**

CHAPTER 2: OPERATION OCEAN GUARD
 

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Afternoon
Near the northern coast
Bainbridge Islands

Two months into his captivity, in a dirty shack close to shore, captain Elandez sat up on his mattress and noticed that his guard had left the room. The guard's AK-47 rifle lay on a mat. Elandez considered grabbing it.

The pirates were holding him in Lahaina, a regional city in the north of Bainbridge Islands. They told him it was Alula, near the coast, but he knew Alula had no commercial airport, and at first, the pirates would giggle every time they heard passenger planes take off and land.

Elandez had seen the dull and dusty buildings of Lahaina's airport as a free man, and now the aircraft noise inspired vague dreams of freedom: fantasies ranging from a quiet release on the tarmac to a clandestine gathering of OSRU commandos in the dead of night.

user posted image

:pic: A group of pirate ride a pickup truck in Lahaina.

His guard, Bosa, came in and noticed the gun. He picked up the AK-47 by its muzzle, rapidly, and sat down with a brilliant smile.

"Problem!" he said, pointing his finger at the unattended firearm.

Bosa rested it behind him and sipped from his bottle of euphoria, the mixed powder that acts as a stimulant. His eyes were fervid.

Elandez had just been wondering how many of the guards he could shoot before they shot him. He smiled. He was, or at least had been, a peaceful man. He didn't want to kill him, or anyone. But he was going crazy in this cell.

"Machel," Bosa said with good humour. "If the Orionii navy comes, you will be killed."

"I know."

"Why no money?" he asked, referring to the ransom the pirates had demanded.

Captain Elandez shrugged.

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