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Jilderen

The Imperial Navy sets sail

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22:00h
Bainbridge Islands

Captain Elandez was coming up on three months in captivity.

Every couple of days he and his crewmates were moved to another location.

It seemed as if the pirates were trading them as a commodity, albeit a risky one, to whoever thought they could profit the most.

It was during one of these transports that Elandez happened to glimpse a look at an extremely old but surprisingly functional television set.

Some farmers were watching the news in the corner of a kitchen.

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First, an image of the imperial Orioni palace, followed by the councillor of defence Toren Nabérrie stepping out in front of cameras and reporters to condemn the hostage-taking by pirates.

"These pirate activities put people's lives in danger", he said,"threaten our national security and undermine our efforts to work with other countries."

Elandez's gaze was fixed on the television set.

"Releasing them is our highest priority," the councillor noted, adding, "We are taking aggressive steps to hold responsible those who abduct or threaten our fellow citizens."

A guard who had noticed the captain peeking inside through the kitchen window prodded him forward with the barrel of his gun.

The prisoners were driven to another smelly shack, sparsely decorated with old furniture and rugs.

Minutes later, the roar of a military jet sounded sharply overhead. Elandez looked around the room and could see every other prisoner thinking the same thing, but no one wanted to say it. Surely not. Surely?

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The Imperial Orioni Navy has not yet liberated captain Elandez and his crew, but they are coming ever closer.

 

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Eleven months had passed since the hijacking of the Orioni-owned cargo vessel Amalas. They were coming up on a year -- not a good anniversary to celebrate. With the date approaching, the news cycle was once again focussed on the tragedy of captain Elandez and his crew. The media could not directly attack defence councillor Prince Toren because of his royal status, so instead, they aimed their attacks at Sir Andrew Pipkin, the councillor of foreign affairs. Especially the Medani Monitor, as an unofficial mouthpiece of the conservative right, was not pulling any punches. Their description of Pipkin ranged from at least incompetently clueless to at worst, quote, "being a ringleader for the conversion and subjugation of Orioni to the brutal Order of Violet."

Since the abduction of captain Elandez and his crew, there had been little contact with the captors or captives. Sure, at first, the intelligence agency was still having talks about releasing the hostages in return for a large sum of money. The ransom was set at Φ1.000.000 for each of the 24 crew members, and another Φ24.000.000 for the cargo vessel itself. However, these negotiations turned out to be rather pointless once the Orioni Navy began their anti-piracy operation Ocean guard. The navy had shown successes in preventing further hijackings and captured a decent number of suspected pirates.

Unfortunately, this made the pirate leadership more radical. Earlier tribal leaders were pushed out and replaced by more fanatical members. These were still interested in money, but also demanded the release of prisoners held by Orioni and other EOS members. And so the anti-piracy operation was of little help to bring home the captain and his crew.


14:56h
Northern Meteorolas
Onboard the HMS Tornado

"You're absolutely sure about that, seaman?" asked Lieutenant Commander Belizón.

"Yes, Sir. The SIGINT data from CENTCOM confirms our own analyses: the fishing vessel we've been tracking these past months is one of only a handful that's being used to relay messages between tribal pirate leaders."

The intelligence officer was hunched forward, looking at his computer monitor. His screen displayed the real-time video feed coming off a UAV drone 20 km south of their position, off the northern coast of Bainbridge Islands. Belizón, who had been standing behind him, was now watching over his shoulder. Both kept staring at the black-and-white image of a small boat. 

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"And if I zoom out, Sir, you will see it's heading for this small bay. In the past, we've always brushed over this particular area. But in recent weeks we've detected traces of an improvised landing strip being developed."

The seaman used his computer mouse to circle around an area in the top left corner of his screen. Yes, the lines in the send did look like something where you could land a small aircraft.

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Belizón stroked his stubble. He'd been on this mission for too many months. Now it looked like he may finally be getting a chance to find the hostages and return back home with a success.

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03:00 aboard HMS Tornado
Southwestern Azure Sea

The back and forth rocking of the ship was enough to put Lieutenant Commander Belizón to sleep. He was exhausted from another long day commanding the HMS Tornado. During the weekend they had protected a convoy of merchant ships going from Niederoestereich to Miiros. Suddenly, a metallic sound. Someone was outside his cabin, banging on the door. Belizón woke up immediately. He still felt tired. But he remained professional as ever. From the chair, he grabbed his uniform jacket it on and opened his cabin door. Standing right there was warrant officer Mikaelis, part of the night crew. "Sir, apologises for the disturbance, but we have an urgent emergency."

"You can explain it on the way, Mikhaelis." Belizón walked straight past Mikaelis, right towards the ship's bridge. The hallways were filled with a dim red glow. Surface ships change lighting during "darken ship" or after sunset and after sunrise. It makes them more difficult to detect from afar.

"Sir, we've received a distress signal from a @Sa Haran oil tanker. The SV Khabastan. They report at least 4 small vessels on approach. Possibly more. The ship rejected our navy's proposal to convoy towards their port of final destination in @Ide Jima."

"Those reckless idiots," Belizón grumbled. By now they had reached the ship's bridge. The bridge used blue-tinged light. To facilitate easier viewing of various monitors, charts, and general reading.

Captain in deck."

"At ease. Sitrep?"

"Sir, six pirate vessels confirmed. The oil tanker is 80 km away SSW. Our ship might not get there on time. But the helos can. Our commandos are preparing for departure."

 

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