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Author Topic: Diplomacy 404  (Read 1182 times)

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Offline Lord Palatine

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Diplomacy 404
« on: March 04, 2010, 10:39:41 PM »
Jack let his book settle onto his chest and listened carefully.  Was that a gun?  Who in their right minds would fire on a Caledonian vessel?  Especially one flying the national ensign, indicating that the head of state was aboard.  He glanced over at the status board and saw that all was normal, and no lights indicating loaded guns.  Wait, there went the klaxon for general quarters and he observed that the smaller caliber guns indicated loaded and ready, then the torpedo tubes.  But the main gun lights were still dark.  Makes sense, unloading them was time consuming and could be dangerous.  Another gun; well, that was damned odd.  He set aside his book and rose from the sofa and rang for his steward, who appeared and reached first for his gun belt and then his coat.  That told him something, that and the coat he’d grabbed was the one with his rank on the cuffs.

On the bridge he glanced over to see a British cruiser off the port side of the NCNS Indomitable, flagship of his navy and the president’s transport.  “What the hell do they want?”

“They want us to heave to and receive an inspection party,” Captain Singh reported.  “They’ve popped once to get our attention and just put one across our bow.”

“The fired a warning shot at me?”

“They did, Sir,” Singh confirmed. 

“Load main guns,” Jack replied sourly.  “Turrets One and Five load one high explosive and one armor piercing, Two and Four armor piercing only.”

Singh smiled and relayed the order, nodding at Jack a pair of minutes later. 

“Train turrets one, two, four and five to port.  Turrets two and four to train guns to kill, but they are to remain locked on safe until my specific order.  Turrets one and five, I want warning shots forward and aft of that ship, one hundred yards either way from that impudent wash tub.”

“One and Five report ready, Two and Four are safe,” Singh reported.

“Fire high explosive shells only as previously ordered,” Jack drawled lazily.  There was a gratifying report from the main guns and huge geysers of water leaped more than a hundred yards into the air.  “Signal by lights and wireless, you have weapons trained upon a vessel bearing a head of state.  Cease belligerent activities or you will be sunk.  Heave to and direct all weapons safely away from NCNS Indomitable and send your captain aboard to answer to President Turnbull.”

A few minutes later there were both light and wireless signals in return.  “Their guns are pointed safely away,” Singh reported, “and they are slowing quickly.”

“Return turrets to sailing positions, but do not secure from general quarters, prepare to receive guests, but if anyone less than their captain is in that boat, deny them permission to board.”

“You’re in a mood, Jack,” Captain Singh said in a quiet voice after relaying the orders by phone.

“If Edward VII was aboard a ship we’d fired a warning shot across, how would the Royal Navy react?”

“I see your point,” Singh replied.  “You are no less of a person than their King, at least to us, and what matters to us is what matters.”

“Exactly,” he nodded.  “That’s one of Jackie Fischer’s Battle Cruisers, is it not?”

“It is,” Singh nodded.  “Smaller than us, but they have 12” guns similar to ours.”

“I see,” Jack pondered that for a moment.  “They had to make tradeoffs to carry that much metal, if I order it sunk start with a torpedo, then hammer her at the waterline with all eight guns that can bear, the smaller guns will take out their bridge and fire control positions.”

“At this range we’ll destroy them,” Singh smiled, a tiger-like grin for all its fierceness.

“That is the plan,” Jack nodded.  “I don’t send small messages.”

“Boat is in the water and coming fast,” an officer reported.  “But the most rank we can see is a pink-faced lieutenant.”

“Loud hail them,” Jack ordered.  “Captain or nothing.”

A few moments later the boat was still coming.  “Place the guns back on target,” Jack ordered.

When the turrets swung the guns back out the boat slowed and turned back to its mother-ship.  The boat put back out a few minutes later with a new officer aboard.  “A captain aboard,” the observer reported.

Jack looked to the captain of his flagship and nodded.  “Man the side,” Singh ordered.

“I’ll be in my cabin, send for coffee,” Jack grinned.  “Mustn’t be bad hosts.”

Jack returned to his cabin, two of the officers accompanied him and were standing behind him when he stepped sat in a large comfortable chair facing the door, as he sat he removed a heavy pistol from the small of his back and sat it on a small table beside him, close at hand.  Singh stepped through the door a short time later.  “Captain Sir Daniel Ferry of His Britannic Majesty’s Ship Manchester.” 

The unfamiliar officer stepped into the room and Jack appraised him carefully.  “It is a shame to see that his Britannic Majesty is in such dire straits that he can no longer afford to provide dress uniform for his officers,” Jack said critically.  “But I expect he didn’t anticipate you meeting a head of state.  Now, Captain, what is the meaning of all of this?”

“Sir,” Ferry began, but was interrupted.

“Your Excellency,” Singh corrected.

“Your Excellency,” Captain Ferry started over.  “First I must protest the actions of your vessel in this matter, we have conducted ourselves in accordance with the rules for stopping a ship on the high seas, I represent his Majesty in these waters…”

Jack raised his hand imperiously.  “And I speak for myself, and your ship is not in international waters, Nova Caledonian waters extend the range of the guns of my flagship.  You are in Caledonian waters, and you fired across the bow of the Flagship of the President and Grand Admiral of a sovereign nation.   The only reason that you aren’t choking on seawater is my own sense of restraint and my friendship for your King.  Now, why did you see fit to offend an entire nation?  Speak plainly, man.  The relations of our two nations may hinge on how you handle yourself this day.”

“Your Excellency,” Ferry began again.  “I am here to search for an escaped felon.”

“A felon, you accuse a member of my crew of felonious conduct?  You had better have damned convincing evidence or I’ll be personally explaining the impudence of his officers to your King at my earliest convenience.”

“Your Excellency,” he began yet again as Jack motioned one of his aides for a cup of coffee.  “I am here to investigate reports that Sergeant Barstan Lowe has been secreted upon your vessel, he was convicted in Hong Kong by court-martial and sentenced to death by hanging.  Perhaps you are familiar with the case?”

Jack sipped his coffee and nodded his approval.  “If memory serves I read of the incident in the papers when I returned from being entertained by the Emperor of China,” Jack replied.  “Sergeant Lowe was a Sergeant of Marines, as I recall.  His wife and young daughters were savaged and murdered by crewmen from a Russian destroyer, who ran back to their ship.  When the Russian Captain wouldn’t surrender the men for questioning and your port admiral was making no steps to stop the ship he stole a motor torpedo boat and single-handedly put four into the destroyer and then swept the decks with a deck gun until the ship settled almost flush with the surface of the water , then he rammed the boat into the side and when it came to rest on the deck he machine-gunned everything that moved on deck.  Some say he killed hundreds before he was badly wounded and swam away in a lifebelt.  You do realize, Captain, that you sentenced the largest pair of ballocks in the British Empire to death, do you not?”

“He committed an act of war, Your Excellency.” Ferry replied.  “You would have to take similar action against such a perpetrator.”

Jack set his coffee cup on the saucer next to the pistol.  “Captain, had that have been my man, he wouldn’t have been alone when it came time to sink that ship.  Perhaps that’s the benefit of not being an imperial nation, we haven’t sacrificed our principles.  Cause harm to one of us and you may expect the rest of us, including myself, to stand with the wronged one.”  He shook his head with a disgusted expression.  “So what makes you think your fleeing felon as secreted himself upon the Indomitable?”

Ferry passed for a moment to phrase what he needed to say next carefully.  “The men that perpetrated the escape were Indians, and the only Indians in port were members of your crew.”

“There are no Indians in my crew,” Jack replied coldly.  “Only Caledonians.”

Ferry glanced at Captain Singh.  “I am third generation Caledonian, Captain,” Singh advised him in an icy voice.

“Then should I say, men of Indian descent?”

Jack rolled his eyes.  “Captain, did your officers and chiefs make the sweep of the ship to make sure the crew wasn’t smuggling human souvenirs?”

“Certainly, Your Excellency,” Singh reported.  “It is among the standing orders and regulations.  We found a pair of cats and a small dog, but no people.  We’re keeping the cats and the puppy though, the gun room is very fond of them.”

“Captain’s discretion,” Jack shrugged.  “So, Captain, there are no foreigners aboard except you, and there are certainly no felons aboard, we don’t allow our judges to sentence men to the army or navy, like some I could name.  So, it appears that you’ve wasted both of our time, especially mine.  I believe that our business is concluded, Captain Singh will show you back to your boat.  You are dismissed.”

Ferry attempted to speak by was firmly shown out, a marine stepped in front of the door in the corridor and pulled it closed.  Jack lifted the phone, “when the Brit is back in his boat put us back on course and speed, maintain general quarters for now.”  He paused to hear the order repeated and set returned the handset to its cradle.  He grinned and pointed to a second door, he rose and placed a second chair across from his own and shook the hand of the tall man that entered.  The man was pale and still wore a bandage over a ruined eye.

“How are you acclimating, Chief?” he asked the newest Chief Petty officer in the Caledonian Navy.

“Still under surgeon’s orders, Sir,” Chief Petty Officer Lowe reported.  “I’m a mile of bandage under this tunic.”

“You shouldn’t have bothered to dress,” Jack shrugged and poured whiskeys for the two of them and the officers in the room.  “I’m not that formal, at least among us, its when the outsiders come in that I have to put on airs.”

“I’m grateful, Sir,” Lowe raised his glass to them all.  “It was more than I deserve.”

“Bullshit,” Jack tossed down his shot.  “You did what any man worth his piss would have, and you did it to Russians.  How could I leave you to do a string dance?”  He saw the lights change and the gauges for the screws climb upward.  “My compliments to Captain Singh,” he addressed an officer.  “He may return to normal stations when he deems it wise.”  Then he returned his attention to Lowe.  “You’re a good man, Stan,” he said seriously.  “And I’m told that Master Chief Kalidasa would like for you to join them in the Marine Mess, when you’re up to it,  They have saved up five rations of whiskey apiece to celebrate with you, enjoy your new life, Chief.”
« Last Edit: March 14, 2014, 11:58:40 PM by Lord Palatine »

 

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