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  • 2 weeks later...
  • 1 month later...

Operation Harpoon (Part 1 of 1)

Context

 

15 June, 2022 | 2000 Quest (Quebec) Time

Keelpijp Passage

 

On the morning of the 16th of June, 2-Fleet Command issued an urgent Operations Order to Task Force Melville, composed of ships from the no. 17 Minewarfare Group and the no. 18 Submarine Group. TF Melville* was to immediately cease its assigned patrol duties near the northwestern mouth of the Keelpijp and divert to interdict the Suverine cargo ship, MV Midia, also known as Target Epsilon. Originally a patrol and mine warfare contingency group*, Melville was composed of 2 Verde Sea class multirole frigates loaded for mine warfare and mine countermeasure ops. The frigates were supported by a Tiburón class diesel-electric submarine and 2 Andalé class corvettes.

*The Armada would occasionally express its interest in various authors of nautical literary genres by naming callsigns after them. In this case, finding the Lysian-Aurelian author of prolific whaling fantasies as an appropriate choice.

*Minewarfare ships in the Armada are often deployed around the Mediargic as leverage that Iverica can and will mine the waters of actors threatening shipping lanes and Iverican interests. In contrast, the multirole ships also serve as countermeasure ships to remove mines should any opposing force get similar ideas.

 

Epsilon/Midia was believed to be carrying ICBM parts to Koudiland in violation of a post-war treaty. Anglian Destroyer, DDG-090 "INS Lord Harrowe" was sent to escort Suverine Cargo ships after the boarding and impounding of the MV Rezina by the Iverican Armada during Operation Whaler. Alongside the Lord Harrowe, Anglia has taken on Azanian Armed Merchantmen on contract to act as escorts. The Lord Harrowe was a guided missile destroyer capable of a wide variety of roles; from surface warfare to air defence and anti-submarine warfare. The first of the Lord Harrowe-Class Destroyers fresh from her refit at Plumuth yards, she would be a formidable opponent in any engagement. The 3 armed escorts were Yienite private contractors or privateers in this regard. Their vessels were a mish-mash of repurposed hulls; from naval dry cargo surplus to commercial whaling. They were armed with a variety of weapons, including light 76mm deck guns, 25mm chain guns, and a brace of retrofitted 324mm torpedo tubes. One of them even had commercial radar recalibrated for air search to cue a dated but still serviceable Rapier SAM launcher.

 

Target Epsilon itself was MV Midia, a container ship measuring 300 metres from bow to stern. TF Melville's flag officer knew that caution and craftiness would have to be employed to take her. Fleet Command's orders were to board and capture Midia, not sink her. They needed proof of the ICBM parts if they were to justify a military operation in the Keelpijp. TF Melville had little time to prepare.

 

Quickly, a plan was devised. The Task Force put itself right at the mouth of the Keelpijp, where the passage narrowed between 2 headlands in the northwest. This was one of the most congested segments of the passage and might grant Melville the opening it needed. Head-on, with a destroyer and 3 heavily armed privateers, chances were dicey... but if they were cut off- Melville's officers surmised that there might be a chance at taking the prize intact. 

OpHarpoon_Map.png

Melville knew that civilian traffic in the AO they chose was high- and it would serve their purpose. A nearby harbour control had a queuing system for high-density periods and often, large groups passing through could be separated in the chaos of transit. Persuaded with sufficient cause, the local channel authorities were coerced into complying with Melville's plan. Adding a further advantage; the Anglians, however ambitious, were not outright villains. The presence of civilian ships would give them pause from the immediate use of their superior firepower against Melville's few ships. 

 

The execution was decided. Preparations were made.

 

At 2018 Quest time, corvettes VRI Celer (FS-35, Swift) and VRI Ferox (FS-36, Fierce) hauled alongside 2 Iverican merchantmen pressed into compliance. At passive emissions and shrouded by their radar-absorbent, low cross-section hulls, the pair of corvettes waited for their opening and swiftly descend upon the target cargo ship at flank speed. With the glare of the setting sun behind them and a modular RF jammer blocking the Midia's comms, their gas turbines flared sharp white wakes behind them.

 

To prosecute the Visit, Board, Search, and Seizure (VBSS) Operation, Special Operations Command had flown in a team from Special Weapons Security Team-1 (SWS-1), a tier-1 special forces unit that was trained to handle WMD-related materials. The moment the corvettes began their interdiction, the NH-90's parked on the corvettes' aft deck lifted off, making to fast-rope their SWS teams onto the Midia. The jammer on one of the corvettes was used to buy the VBSS teams as much time as possible before the escorts were to be alerted.

 

Quickly executing the VBSS, the teams worked through the container ship quickly while the twin corvettes surrounded the Midia and formed an orbiting perimeter. Their Rules of Engagement were to give a single warning shot at any approaching vessel with their 57mm autocannons before releasing batteries with the intent to kill. 

 

Simultaneously, VRI Mare Verde (FFG-200, Verde Sea) and VRI Strecho Sant Francisco (FFG-215, Saint Francis Strait) were both lying in wait, with their radars on passive and their lights darkened. The moment channel control radar reported the Lord Harrowe's position as 25-clicks away from the frigates, both ships went active radar. They hailed DDG-090, INS Lord Harrowe, issuing a warning that their ships awaiting the suspected commercial vessel to conduct a lawful search; in compliance with ANCLOS and with probable cause. 

 

A moment later, the Lord Harrowe responded. Both frigates received lock-on warnings from their radar warning receivers, indicating that Lord Harrowe had acquired a firing solution on them. The Harrowe's commanding officer then proceeded to issue FFG-200 and FFG-215 with their own warning, claiming that the task force was using conjecture to unlawfully harass and endanger the lives of Suverine merchantmen. The commanding officers of both Iverican frigates considered the lock-on and message as threats to their mission and their ships and proceeded to acquire fire-control radar solutions on the Lord Harrowe.

 

For a moment, it appeared that the frigates were successful in locking up the Anglian destroyer. That was, until the privateer escort alerted the Lord Harrowe that they were under fire.

 

Cut off from their principal charge, the Armed Merchantmen made to close with the Midia, heedless of channel transit protocols. They soon made visual contact with both the Celer and the Ferox. The Ferox quickly fired a warning shot over the bow of Armed Merchantman, track 1296. The privateers interpreted this immediately as hostile intent and warned their lead ship, the Lord Harrowe. Still, 5-clicks away from the Midia, the trio of ships were outside of the corvettes' jammer range. Lord Harrowe responded immediately, modulating its frequency and boosting its powerful search radar output. Cleaning its returns, it found both corvettes not long after and changed its heading to bear down on the Midia and her assailants.

 

VRI Escull (SS-190, Reef Shark) had been on radio silence the entire time, hiding at periscope depth and listening in. Escull had been posted as a contingency with orders to sink the surface combatants with its 533mm heavy torpedoes if hostilities were engaged. It watched as Lord Harrowe charged towards the corvettes, the Iverican frigates following closely in its wake. The Escull's commanding officer watched as the Lord Harrowe closed into guns range and opened fire, landing a glancing hit on Celer and missing Ferox by a scant few metres with its 127mm main gun. FFG-200 and FFG-215 opened fire with their own guns- all surface ships unwilling or unable to use missiles given the extremely close quarters and the presence of a dozen vulnerable civilian ships. At that moment, the Escull's CO made a choice. The frigates' smaller 76mm guns would not be able to kill the Lord Harrowe in time, they were at the very edge of their engagement range. In contrast, the Lord Harrowe was closing with the corvettes at blistering speed. Its next few salvos would sink the unarmoured corvettes.

 

Escull's CO weighed the situation. Hydrophones reported that no civilian ships were in the immediate line of fire. The decision was to hold and let 2 crews die or fire and possibly start a war.

 

The Escull broke radio silence, reporting its intent to open fire. 3x TSU-48 Arpon heavy torpedoes were launched at shallow depths. There was little time to dive further and fire from a greater depth. Escull's Arpons were wire-guided in the initial stage of launch and locked onto a designated wake signature from a target's screws. 

 

Knowing full well the retribution it could beget, Escull fired from three of its forward tubes and initiated an emergency dive. Given their range, the torpedoes would take less than 5 minutes to reach their target.

 

Tearing out of the tubes in a fizzing shroud of vapour, the torpedoes' were initially steered by weapons control officers on the Iverican submarine. Halfway to target, they immediately transitioned to midcourse guidance, locking onto the Lord Harrowe's wake, a markedly distinct signature going flank speed and using variable pitch screws. Nary a minute passed when the Anglian ship's hull sonar picked up 3 subsurface contacts. The submarine warfare stations immediately cued several acoustic decoys and launched 6 light interceptor torpedoes in the direction of the ping.

 

1 of the Arpons was successfully intercepted by an Anglian defensive torpedo. Another Anglian torpedo detonated alongside 1 of the remaining 2 Iverican Arpons but was unable to destroy it. The 2 Arpons found their way under the Anglian destroyer, their wake-homing guidance far too discriminatory to fall for acoustic decoys. The pair of Arpons ignored all countermeasures and slipped right behind the column of white water thrown up by the Harrowe's screws. They detonated right below the keel. 

 

The pocket of water created was enough to lift the destroyer several feet higher than its nominal waterline. Then, the brief void of air collapsed on itself, bringing the damned ship crashing back down. The Harrowe's keel, hull panels, and several athwartship bulkheads immediately buckled under the sudden stress. Lower compartments flooded quickly. The ship's spine was broken. The INS Lord Harrowe sank in under 20 minutes. 

 

---

 

In the chaos that followed, the Iverican corvette Celer was sunk by the trio of armed merchantmen before all three were engaged and destroyed by combined gun and torpedo fire from Celer's sister corvette and the approaching Iverican frigates. The SWS-1 team fought a quick and surprisingly low-intensity VBSS operation. However, the results of their search or lack thereof bode ill for the tensing situation in the Mediargic.

 

There were no warheads on Midia.

 

Nor were there any ICBM parts. Despite all intelligence indicating the contrary, the Anglians and Suverines had somehow baited the Ivericans into becoming the aggressor in a potential act of war. According to still classified sources, the cargo had been swapped and instead, had come by air freight. The entire escalation had been bait. Very expensive but very, very believable bait. Analyst Joaquin Reyes' thesis had been correct.

 

In its official statement post-incident, the Iverican Ministry of Foreign Affairs released all documentation of the previously seized MV Rezina, showing clear proof of rocket parts typically used in the construction of ICBMs. The Anglian Office of Empire declared that the story and evidence were maliciously misconstrued, insisting that the parts were to help develop the Koudish space program, an alibi that was corroborated by several Koudish government sources. International media opinion, which had initially been understanding of Iverican interventionism in the Mediargic was now hesitant to continue painting the Republic's actions in a positive light. Overnight, the court of public appeal around Argis and Alharu -and most importantly- in Koudiland, seemed divided when it was once firmly on the Iverican narrative.

 

Less than a day following the sinking of the Lord Harrowe, the Anglians issued a formal protest demanding that the Iverican Foreign Ministry and Armada answer for the sinking of an INS ship and the "illegal" seizure of a civilian merchantman. Within the week, the Anglians had dispatched a small surface and submarine taskforce to the Mediargic; apparently, at invitation from the Koudish.

 

The Iverican public, media, and Ministry departments were outraged at the response and promptly released all records on the incident- but it was too late. Half the Koudish public was incensed. The other half was uncertain. A civil war was brewing in Koudiland between the pro-Anglian Nationalist Party and the pro-Iberic Coalition. Despite the sensitivity of the situation, official directives from Intreimor were clear- match the Anglians in force. Giving up the presence in the Mediargic- out of the question.

 

Tensions in the Mediargic were at a boiling point. Come July, they would burst.

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  • 3 months later...

A Grand War Short: Classénalia (Part 1 of 2)

 

21 JAN, 2023 | 2001 Iverican Standard Time

The City of Manille, Iverica

 

“If my lord's neighbour should be confronted, he must be crippled. If a middling blow is dealt, he may yet have the strength to retaliate;

But if such a blow is struck that his constitution is left ruined, your lordship should expect security thereafter.

Thusly, your excellency must deliver an injury so grievous that your adversary¬†is utterly unable to retaliate‚ÄĒso terrible that vengeance cannot be feared.‚ÄĚ

-Nicolás Malclavello (1532). L’Princeps. Translated by J. Dei Valparaiso for the "Encylopediae Adaptonna: Great Books of the Occidental Wurld"; University of Intreimor Press.

 

 

On the 15th of June, 2022, the INS Lord Harrowe was sunk in the Keelpijp Passage after a rapid escalation of tensions in the Mediargic. With tenuous evidence that the Anglians were helping the Koudish government breach the missile-building restrictions of the Goodwill Accords, the Armada Iverica torpedoed the Anglian destroyer during a boarding operation of a Suverine ship under the Harrowe's protection. Outraged by the incident, the Anglians only increased their presence in the Mediargic. After relations continued to deteriorate, the Armada launched a large-scale missile strike on a Koudish military harbour controlled by the country's nationalist faction. An Anglian Admiral ignored the Iverican warning to evacuate the harbour and was subsequently killed by the missile strike.

In the months that followed, Great Anglia effectively severed its ties to the Iberic Federated Commonwealth, beginning a period of tense silence.

On the 21st of January, the silence was broken.

 

 

---

 

 

Carlo Garcia, Freshman

University of Sant'Erasmo

 

Carlo panted as he took the worn stone steps up two at a time, his phone clutched in his sweaty palms, his backpack slamming against the back of his drenched hoodie with every leaping step.

 

"Hey Carlo, come on! The new carriers are coming up", his friend called out from atop the stairs.

 

Gasping for breath as he bounded the last steps, he heard a loud cheer erupt from the assembled students and faculty of the University of Sant'Erasmo. Flashes of firework light lit up the darkness of the promenade, flitting through the silhouettes of the crush of bodies gathered at the railing. Half the student body had gathered on the university's hill promenade. The crowd congregated along the stretch of railed platform mounted on the crown of a hill overlooking the famous Manille Bay. It was the best view in the whole city and open only to students and university staff.

 

The gathered throng milled about. Many among the rear ranks were trying to get their phones overhead for photos. Others either tried to push through the press of bodies or slip through gaps for any stretch of the open railing. Still panting, Carlo ran down the promenade after his friend. Miraculously, they found an opening further down the lane. Carlo wiped his palms on his jeans and hurried to start his stream‚ÄĒand not a second too soon.

 

The whole city had turned out into the Roxas Boulevard over yonder to the left, little specs below them. The rest who couldn't get to the already crowded boulevard or the piers, jetties, wharves, and quays packed themselves into whatever side street or rooftop with a view of the bay.

 

This was¬†Class√©nalia‚ÄĒthis was¬†Fleet Week.

 

It was the biggest celebration of Manille's shipbuilding industry and Naval might in Argis. Only once every three years did the Republic and now, the Federated Commonwealth, gather their newest ships and aircraft. Lead by the crème of the Manille Naval Academy, the ships were paraded through Manille's vast expanse of bay and hilly headlands and coast in an aero-naval display that, ton-for-ton and pyrotechnic-for-pyrotechnic, was one of the most raucous and impressive in the wurld. Lavish street parties ensued, with floats and marching bands showing off the top graduates from naval programmes around the FedCom, dressed in full white regalia. Food and drink were free-flowing as festivities would go on for three nights. Tonight was the very first of three, and it promised something special. It promised the first full-sized aircraft carriers built in the Federation in over 30 years.

 

The Federation class.

 

Just as viewers began to hop on, the big event started. Majestically parting the still black night waters, emerging from behind the lighthouse hills at the edge of the bay‚ÄĒthere she was. All 52,000 tonnes. Fresh from the Manille Yards.

 

Vessel of the Republic of Iverica, CV-34, Federation Class. L'Peninsula Iverio. Named for the very region of Argis the Iberic diaspora chose to seat their new realm. She was massive, more than 280 metres in length. She was also slim and mean, her form like the head of a lance, cleaving through the waters with ease and belying a preternatural grace unexpected for a ship that size.

 

There was a stunned silence as she revealed herself, lit into chiaroscuro by bright spotlights on a squadron of tenders, gathered around the mighty steel lady-like handmaidens, doing nothing but drape her rays of light and shadow. A silence had taken the crowd at the promenade as they gaped in awe. A score more viewers had joined the steam but Carlo was too engrossed with the carrier's debut to notice.

 

Just then, puffs of smoke and tongues of fire erupted from her decks. Hidden behind black sheets, a battery of saluting guns revealed itself. 20 cm guns went off one after the other, in perfect sync, muzzles aimed high into the sky, saluting the port and people of Manille with pyrotechnic rounds arcing through the night sky and trailing bright smoke in the blue, white, and gold of the Federated Commonwealth.

 

The crowd's cheering had risen to a fever pitch at that. Though the din from the boulevard resonated all the way uphill, it was nothing to the ear-splitting roar from the students watching around Carlo.

 

As the drumbeat of guns began to die, L'Peninsula sounded her horn, a deep baritone note that echoed around the bay. The energy coming from the entire city of Manille was palpable. To feel a city of millions project this much excitement and pride was entrancing. Swept up in it, Carlo looked on, ignorant of the flurry of reactions his stream was getting from his rare perch.

 

The eyes of the masses now turned skyward, waiting for the F-4 Thunders pledged to make their debut.

 

 

---

 

 

Alberto Garcia, Audante - Surveillance Radar Operator

310th Monitor Group, No. 043 Sector Air Defence Operations Centre

 

The slightly plump monitor group NCO sat with his booted feet on the console. His back reclined over his chair with his phone propped onto his belly. He scratched the sides of his rumpled navy blue duty uniform and yawned as he watched his nephew's stream of the Classénalia. He took a fistful of pistachios from the open bag on his console and munched noisily.

 

His viewing was interrupted just as the L'Peninsula came into view. A chirp came on his headset. Great, an aerial contact. Again.

 

Miscellaneous aerial contacts were quite common‚ÄĒespecially near civilian airspace. On a regular day, the scope registered dozens of helicopters, airliners, cargo craft, and whatever else. But tonight? One came and interrupted him every couple of minutes. Consequently, the backlog of reported flight plans grew longer as the night went on. Civil Air Control usually kept the list tidy but with the sudden amount of civilian flight requests, their updates became infrequent and messy.

 

Grunting, he put his phone down and sat up to log the contact. As the operator on watch, Alberto had to log every registered contact and pass it through Sector ADO Command, which would back-check it with Civil. The process would ordinarily take a few seconds. Tonight, however, every facility ran on a skeleton crew. Most personnel were either taking leaves to watch the festivities or going on break and never returning‚ÄĒlike his station's supposed Watchstanding Officer. By the time Alberto's shift started 2 hours ago, the updates were taking minutes to come in and often did so faulty.¬†

 

 In Alberto's eight years in the surveillance theatre, he had only once had a red contact. It was a drug-smuggling single-engine prop that had lost its way. That was three years ago. In his line of work, 99.99% of contacts were innocent civilian or friendly military aircraft with the correct IFF return. Tonight, the constant air traffic from all the civilian flights trying to get a view of the show made his work a ton of useless reporting on a spreadsheet a klick long.

 

Grabbing another fistful of pistachios, Alberto grunted and logged the new contact‚ÄĒwhich had failed to return positive IFF. The monitor group's dated systems often mismatched the more modern Armada IFF. This problem became exacerbated by the chaotic RF environment of Class√©nalia night.

 

He typed it in:

 

Contact. 0-4-7 true, 3-1-6 klicks, speed point-8-0-0.

 

He consulted his secondary terminal, which contained a list of approved flight plans. Alberto snorted. The contact checked out. It was flying in the same grid, bearing, and altitude of an Armada Air flight plan in the system. It appeared that the newly purchased F-4 Thunders were coming in slightly early. 

 

However, Alberto felt a twinge of confusion.

 

He quickly glanced at the radar scope again. There were supposed to be more. Odd. He modulated his radar frequency and cleaned the return. The rest popped up a moment later. Alberto shrugged mentally. It must just be that new radar-absorbing stuff. The rest of the contacts following the first were coming in spaced up and in a staggered formation. Though they appeared to be closing fast, the speed still matched the flight plan. They'd do a boom-and-zoom over the bay with pyrotechnics before rounding back for slower passes and aerobatics.

 

The contacts were well inside Manille Airspace now. Were they... Speeding up? The number of returns on screen was fucking with his old terminal. Well, he'd try to contact ADO Command for clarification. This was a clusterfuck of comms probably.

 

As Alberto took his headset off and rolled his chair to the RTO's console, the radar's scope flashed with several new contacts bearing down on No. 043 Sector Air Defence Operations Centre. Alberto's attention had already gone to the radio by then.

 

 

---

 

 

Maria Vives-Deibassols, Contra-Almirante - Armada Intelligence

Naval Intelligence Attaché Office, Sotavento- Manille Maritime Command

 

Admiral Vives walked passed the drunken officers revelling in the open square of Plassa Sotavento. Though she'd just entered her 50's, the Rear-Admiral kept a trim form and a strong stride on the uphill cobbled roads. The old district, Anglish for "Leeward Plaza", was the Armada's home. The plaza district consisted of a cluster of neo-classical Aromanesque revival architecture built at the height of Iverican colonial power in the early 1800s. Its grand parks and fountained squares were bustling with officers, junior and senior, who were heading to and from various parties around the plaza. Many had a decent view of the Manille bay from various rooftop gardens, balconies, and overlook platforms on Sotavento's hill.

 

While the entire Almirantasgo had been focused purely on organising private clique parties for the Classénalia, Maria herself was one of the few that kept in mind the FedCom's proximity to open war. Just last July, things in the Sakspati had reached a boiling point, culminating in the Armada crossing the point of no return. With Koudiland divided into 2 factions, the Armada had elected to lay the entire pro-Anglish side of the Koudish Navy to waste. Following an embargo and a 2-hour warning given to Koudish naval personnel, the full force of an Armada Capital Task Group laid waste to 14 warships and more than 50 military structures.

 

Unfortunately, there was collateral damage. An Anglian Admiral and a few of his staff had defied the warnings and remained in the kill zone. Lord Admiral Grimston had been a casualty of an Iverican cruise missile.

 

Needless to say, the Anglians had been apoplectic with rage and despite the sinking of their destroyer in the Keelpijp in June, decided to send an entire task force to reinforce their Koudish allies. They called it a criminal act and had summarily enacted every sanction and denunciation imaginable short of a declaration of war. For the past 8 months, the Mediargic waited with bated breath. It was Anglia's move.

 

Vives, lost in thought, narrowly dodged a gaggle of bottle-carrying junior officers as she made her way down the cobbled streets to her office in the Almirante Narro building in Block D. The boom of fireworks going off was deafening as Sotavento put up a grand show of pyrotechnics between every ship's turn around the bay.

 

With her cloaked form backlit by explosions of azure and gold light, she dusted her feet before the oak doors and slipped in as a Tercio NCO trying hard not to look drunk admitted her.

 

"Almirante!", her aide stood and snapped a sharp salute. Subteniente Rico Fonss-Carrillo stood from his desk in her office antechamber, ramrod straight and in his crisp duty uniform. Rico appeared entirely sober, which was a rarity tonight. He had his laptop and a stack of dot-matrix papers a foot high.

 

"At ease, Subteniente. I got your message".

 

"Yes Almirante- err- I apologise if I interrupted the festivities for you", the young officer began.

 

"No matter, I've seen 8 of these in my career, I hate crowds, and I've got far too much to do", said the Almirante, ungloving and de-cloaking. In truth, she hadn't been working. Maria had been at the hospital, visiting her niece, who'd come back from Estaria broken. The girl was hardly in her 20s and was already on a long road of rehab and recovery. She poured herself a glass of spiced wine from the decanter at the end of the antechamber and took a slow sip.

 

"Now then. You said the collections team reported an anomaly?"

 

"Aye-aye and it wouldn't be your problem ma'am‚ÄĒbut I followed up with them, then their section lead... then their division CO... they're not responding. Based on what I've seen, our feeds for Western Argis are backlogged now. We've got all these naval intel reports coming in and sifted by AI but the rate of human verification is a trickle. It's just me and like 6 others from Intelligence Command looking these over‚ÄĒand I'm not even supposed to be handling this anymore!"

 

Maria snorted and leaned over to the kid's laptop. Rico was a hard worker, unlike many of the pampered Hidalgo brat officers. He was excitable and jittery but a good aide who kept one ear to the ground at all times. His role wasn't supposed to be keeping tabs on Armada Intelligence's hundred different feeds but he applied his Zoomer multitasking ADD well and was constantly scanning channels on his secure phone, tablet, or laptop like a NEET checked social media and anime streaming sites. Maria had little use for an aide, she preferred to do appointments and scheduling herself but when Rico came along, she found that he was perfect for doing every else. He kept her fed with updates that she didn't have the time to look after and filed most of her reports for her while she busied herself at meetings or handled new projects for her department; Data Processing & Analysis, Home Shore Collections, Armada Intelligence.

 

Looking at the AI-cleaned report now, she could see why Rico had been alarmed. His had been misfiled on normal priority but was destined for Peninsular Fleet Southern Command, Mediargic Operations. It was related to a sensitive situation regarding Anglian presence in Koudiland.

 

It looks like an unvetted asset had reported submarine sightings and snapped pictures, showing submarines in a Koudish port one day and gone the next. Vanished, about 36 hours ago. The report should have gone straight to the SSO and Southern Command the moment a human operator verified the AI-spotted mismatch between Armada Intelligence SATINT and the photos... clearly, someone in collections was behind the curve.

 

"Collections reported the mismatch of info 8 hours ago, Admiral. So not entirely their fault. It's just that we're getting flooded with unvetted reports from the Mediargic and half the processing staff are on leave. So I've only just gotten to this."

 

Maria paused. Missing submarines. Where would they... wait. Would the Anglians be so bold? Then she recalled Lord Admiral Grimston. The late Lord Admiral Grimston. Splattered into an even smear by a land-attack cruise missile. Shit.

 

By the time Maria and Rico had alerted Home Shore Air Command, the very same contacts on Surveillance Radar Operator Alberto's scope picked up were already well within Manille's airspace.

 

 

---

 

 

Santino Mondragon-Palou, Subcabinero - Cadet Midshipman

VRI L'Peninsula Iverio, currently on shore liberty - Roxas Boulevard

 

 

The Roxas Boulevard street party was a crush of merry-marking. Everywhere, streamers, flags, and pennants fluttered in their bright Armada colours. There were sparklers, strobe lights, and live bands playing Armada shanties and ballads. Across the boulevard, the crush of bodies‚ÄĒcarefree and wildly exuberant.

 

The young Cadet-Midshipman Santino, or "Santi", had his tiny 13-year-old frame pressed between his fellow fresh-grads and civilian revellers. Strangers in the crowd handed them food and (mostly) non-alcoholic beverages. Every so often a group of older Mids or civilian youngsters would yank him from his cluster of mates and snap a few selfies with what they were calling, "the youngest Mid in over 2-decades".

 

Being one of the youngest ever to secure a cadet's study post on an¬†aircraft carrier¬†had earned Santino something of a minor celebrity status among the gathered public and junior officers. Especially after the Armada-periodical¬†Ca√Īamasso √©t Ca√Ī√≥n¬†had run a cover on him. Unused to the attention, Santi found his brain overloaded. It felt good, in a way. But it was mostly unexpected and quite frankly, scarier than the live¬†Damage Control- Fire, practical segment of their exam.

 

Said exam, of course, had been the Subcabinero Exam. The cause of countless sleepless nights, minor anxiety attacks, and endless fretting over textbooks. Most high schoolers failed it- and yet, the challenge had not found him wanting. With hard work, precocious discipline, and the right amount of mentoring, he'd somehow aced it. The relief at finally conquering the object of his night terrors and the locus of this time since age 11, was palpable. While he was just relieved for the most part, his parents had looked to be brimming with pride as they watched their son and the top 5 of his cadet class march along the procession of top graduates from other Armada programmes.

 

Out of all of the classes, the Subcabineros were the most junior and out of them, Santi was easily the littlest. The next youngest was at least 2 years his senior. He supposed the public found it endearing to see his small frame in an Armada uniform- a point that he despised and one which his mates never failed to remind him of as they playfully jeered and ribbed him about it. Though the fact remained- none of them scored high enough to land the carrier posting. Santino had topped the minimum by a margin of over 10%.

 

During the procession just minutes before, Santi's eyes had anxiously scanned the horizon, searching for his ship to be, the carrier L'Peninsula, which had yet to take its turn around the bay. The study posting, while a short one lasting only for the duration of L'Peninsula's shakedown voyage, was a posting only given to the most promising cadets. Having been aboard her for the first time that morning, he'd found his thoughts orbiting the memory of her. That morning, he'd also met several of the junior officers who would be his mentors for the next 3 months. Much to Santi's surprise and relief, they treated him like an adult, seemingly blind to the fact that his head only came up to their breast pockets and that his voice cracked on occasion. They gave him a tour of the ship, never once sounding condescending and fully expectant of his competencies as a Mid, cadet though he might be. Perhaps he'd see them when the ship had her turn.

 

The parade's festive procession of floats, marches, and bands had quickly given way to the street party. The crowds closed in again, curtaining Santi's view of the bay. The wild riot of street dancers, performers, costumed reenactors, and free-flowing food and drink quickly wrapped around him. A skewer of assorted grilled meat and vegetables was thrust into Santi's hand followed by a wrap of some sort and then followed by a paper cup of Cortovino which his class's petty officer chaperone snatched away from Santi's confused grasp with a smirk.

 

Not particularly fond of alcohol (yet), Santi was quietly relieved. Until of course, he realised why the crowd had suddenly opened up and why there were two columns of dress-uniformed officers afore the fresh graduates. Composed mostly of their Armada instructors, the gauntlet had bottles of sparkling Cava in hand. Massive, 2-litre bottles were being uncorked.

 

Too late, Santi realised this was a "wet-down". In other navies, the new commissions might just be hosed down with water. That was boring. In the Armada, the hosing was done with copious amounts of alcohol. Given their age, Subcabineros were often not given anything to drink. Instead, they were simply hosed in it- technically, no adult ever offered the minors alcohol.

 

Should the youngsters ingest any, that would be a mere misfortune of happenstance.

 

While older officers often had to pay for their wetting-down, Mids with little to no pay would find themselves covered by their immediate seniors but totally at the mercy of said senior's choice of drink. In this case, Cava, a highly carbonated wine would be applied similarly to a hose spraying off a dirty deck; i.e. liberally, with great force and gusto.

 

Santi tried to backpedal the moment he saw the bottles. He was too slow.

 

Someone, likely a classmate, pushed him forward first. He got it full in the face. Then, everywhere else. The crowd of officers, rankers, rates, and revellers cheered.

 

Santi sputtered as he was pressed forward by the surge of his fellow Cadet-Mids. It had gone up his nose, in his eyes, and he'd been forced to down quite an amount. His fine midnight blue and white dress uniform was thoroughly drenched. While everyone got hosed, it seemed like his instructors were singling him out for a right dousing- and it was probably going to end up online.

 

Eventually, at the end of the gauntlet, someone pulled Santi up by the shoulder and raised his arm in some congratulatory gesture. He forced a thin smile half out of expectation and half because the giddy haze of alcohol was hitting his unaccustomed bloodstream hard. He was slipped more food and given back to his mates who steered him by the shoulders to enjoy the distractions of the boulevard.

 

Time seemed to spin out of control shortly thereafter. There was food. Santi tossed some of it up after that, eliciting laughter and cheers from his mates when he sprayed it on a nearby officer. They had to run after that. Santi wasn't sure how long had passed but pretty soon the small group of 5 Cadet-Mids found themselves dangling their legs over the edge of the boulevard's promenade. Santi wasn't sure when the¬†L'Peninsula¬†had come out‚ÄĒperhaps he'd spaced out? But it was there now, completing its turn around the bay, passing harrowingly close to them. At this range, her decks loomed like a titanic wall above them, spotlights illuminating her sheer bulk against the night black. Saluting guns parked on her flight deck firing harmless pyrotechnic rounds high into the sky. The young officers he had met earlier were now assembled on the promenade rails, waving at the crowd. He'd be among them soon. That was a nice thought.

 

"Hey! Look, on the horizon there, it's the F-4's!", one of his mates shouted.

 

The Gallambrian F-4 Thunders, newly acquired by the Armada, were the best and newest fighters the wurld had to offer. A flight of them were scheduled to make a short teaser flyby before their main show the next morning. At night, they'd scarcely be visible but would likely be trailing some kind of illumination for a spectacle.

 

Santi's eyes were unfocused but he could sort of make out a glow in the distance. He wasn't sure he imagined it but it seemed to suddenly grow brighter before darting into a streaking line toward the north side of the coast.

 

A flash followed. The crowd was silent. Then, a thunderclap as the sound waves caught up. There was clear confusion among the crowd‚ÄĒlike they were waiting for the spectacular part of the act.

 

The boy was still blinking and processing what had happened when a pressure wave shook his teeth and made him deaf. The wall of force that crashed into him slammed the boy savagely backwards from the bay. In the milliseconds that passed, the young cadet-mid caught a glimpse of his new ship's fate. Listing from the impact, the ship twisted violently toward the boulevard, looking briefly like it would squash the reeling and stunned masses before it. A storm of shrapnel had burst bulkheads and hatches and swept the promenade decks of the carrier L'Peninsula where just moments before, her proud officers had stood.

 

 

---

 

 

OOC: The draft for this has been sitting around for months. Still follows the timeline in the original timeline post up there^. This one's going to be quite brutal. 

Some notes:

Classenalia - "Fleet Festival" is celebrated every 3 years or so. Generally, the biggest street party in Iverica that celebrates a massive congregation of the Armada's might. The whole city is virtually on holiday. Lots of civilian flights are in the air- news helos, political officials flying in, pleasure craft trying to get a nicer view. Everyone turns on on the boulevard and roof tops to watch.

Cadet-Midshipman - or Subcabinero as mentioned. Yes, they sometimes are minors with parental consent. It's not the majority of young midshipmen but the few that are usually end up getting posted on vessels doing routes close to home and generally far from a hot combat theatre. They're also closely chaperoned by a rating or NCO from the Naval Academy.

The Federation Class Carriers - as written on iiwiki

The Monitor Groups and the Home Shore Command - the event of a surprise attack like this is quite unlikely all told. It's more likely that a force as significant as was mustered by the Anglians would have run into 2nd Fleet elements like the no 18 Submarine Group. After that there are also sonar surveillance cables south of Greater Galicia and lastly, other radar stations in the Iverican Integrated Air Defence System would have likely been able to respond and fire interceptors. However, the scenario is not entirely implausible. Something I'll discuss in later notes.

There's probably a bunch of notes I've forgotten to add but will edit in later.

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