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Enter the Empress: A LoST Tale
« on: February 05, 2010, 08:15:47 AM »
This is a story set in the LoST world (Land of Shattered Time,) a world based off of a combination of Fantasy and Steampunk elements.




If there was anything better than being Whiskey Jack Turnbull he didn’t know what it was, and wasn’t greedy or self-indulgent enough to go and look for it anyway.  He owned brothels, breweries, distilleries, casinos, foundries, plantations and shipping lines, all of which made him rich beyond the dreams of avarice, and that took some doing.  He didn’t amass this fortune by sitting idle, he was nothing short of a predator, this made men want to kill him and kept him alive when he ultimately turned the table on his enemies.  Whiskey Jack was unusual for a business man though, when he pissed people off it tended to be whole governments with armies and navies, and so he’d build his own.  Smaller, to be sure, but far deadlier.

Even now his ships covered the oceans, his armed freighters, and just as importantly his war ships, plied the seas in an increasingly dangerous trade of moving and protecting cargoes of great wealth, and just as importantly, taking the cargoes of his enemies when the opportunity arose.  The game was always shifting though, currently the Revenge and her sister ship Rampage ruled the seas, but the last ship built of this class, Reaver, was destroyed by Gemeland with little apparent trouble, from the air.  So, Whiskey Jack being who he was begged, borrowed and stole the best engineers that he could and set them to work on a project that excited their creative and destructive talents for something far greater than had been previously imagined: the Empress.

He watched from a distance as it was slowly brought from the largest building yet built, and called quite humbly Turnbull’s Airship Works.  800 feet long and 135 tall, shaped like a cigar with fins at one end.  He studied the engines, four to provide fore and aft thrust and four more for additional lift or down draft.  They were beyond anything he’d ever seen in his life, each within its own pod of transfer gears and hydraulic controls could provide up to 1,200 horsepower of thrust or lift to maneuver the long gas-filled body through the air.  He could understand the concept of a propeller easily enough, all of his ships had water screws, also called props, but these could vary the pitch of each blade to give it a deeper bite of air, reducing the need to push the engines to higher speeds.

The engines themselves were inside the ‘hull’ of the airship, each a simple steam engine fed by centralized boilers that produced superheated steam at high pressure to drive the steam turbines that in-turn spun shafts that transferred power to the engine nacelles.  They’d lightened drastically when they found they could vary the pitch of the props and replace the planned steam pistons with turbines because the props could be reversed and not the operation of the engines themselves.  The lift engines would operate less than the pushing engines, more than seven million cubic feet of helium, heated or cooled as necessary would provide all the lift the ship would need, with an extra 150 tons of equipment and payload to boot.

He studied the lines of the sleek-looking airship as it fully emerged from the ‘hangar,’ a stupid name for such a grand building in his opinion, but he humored the engineers, they’d earned it.  All that displeased his sense of aesthetics were the gantries that emerged outboard to support the vertical thrust props, but even that didn’t diminish his overall sense of triumph.  He waited patiently for the tenders to roll forward, large wheeled tanks with piston-style pumps that pushed the gas to fire the boilers to top off its internal tanks.  Another stroke of genius, Gemeland’s airships were coal powered and that played hell with their ballast, range and payload.  The gas weighed about as much as air and thus made it easier to compensate, and the ingenious pressure burner systems of the boilers and enclosed steam systems made for great economy and range.

Finally the Empress was alone and tethered to the huge anchoring points set deep into the ground, Jack walked to the ship slowly and waved to the gathered crowd of engineers and their families before ne stepped aboard and climbed the stairs to the lower deck.  It wasn’t his first trip aloft in her, work began on the Empress five years before he’d sent Aerion Blackblood to sea with the Rampage, and the first maiden voyage hadn’t been impressive, to say the least.  The man he’d chosen to captain her was something of a genius that pioneered much of the work that had gone into airship travel, but he had a horrible habit of not listening to others.  But, Jack had a way of making his wishes become reality, and their first fight set the tone for many that would follow.  He won a few and lost a few but having an auxiliary control station in the lower fin had saved the whole project during the maiden voyage.

Jack stationed himself in the aft control station for the whole flight, he could watch and evaluate everything from here and be out of the way, in fact that’s where he would spend this flight as well, in the beginning at least.  The first flight was uneventful enough, at first, then Captain Horgan decided to fire the bloody main gun he’d fought hammer and tongs to include in the design.  It was a fixed 10” gun that fired hundred pound projectiles and a huge waste of the limited weight capacity of the Empress, in Jack’s opinion.  In the end, he was correct, on the third shot the gun was ripped free of her truck and destroyed nearly everything forward, two gasbags, all of the forward fittings and the control gondola.  At least Horgan had the decency to die with the crewmen he’d killed, and save Jack the trouble of blowing his brains out, which was his first inclination when his airship was a drifing cripple until they’d regained control.

They limped her home and the repairs and refit started, Jack named a new first officer and made it perfectly and abundantly clear that he’d appoint no more damned captains until he was good and ready.  Then the ideas flowed, he discovered that Horgan had also rejected the use of turbines and the improved engines, as well as the gas fuel as ‘unproven kickshaws’ and proceeded with more traditional paths.  Jack was fine with tradition until it buggered up his dreams, then he’d toss it aside and see what else the world had to offer.

He passed through the Empress aft through the keel corridor passing the hydraulic and generator rooms, the various storage tanks and cargo areas and the defensive emplacements and took the ladders down to his station.  There was a full crew aft with him, a navigator, the elevator and rudder wheels were manned, and observers studied the gas and ballast boards, and the second officer stood at the windscreen next to the engine telegraphs.  Jack looked to the operator at the telephone and wireless boards.

“Tell Mister Kielley, up ship when he’s ready,” Jack said, leaving his own telephone handset on its perch and lifting a listening piece to his ear to monitor the control gondola.  He heard the various commands to increase steam pressure, and finally heard the order to stand by on lift engines and cast off all moorings.  Jack approved of this, it would give them a chance to see how buoyant she was under gas alone.  He watched the ground slowly drop away then heard the order to warm the helium and stepped forward to watch the engineering boards, trailing wire behind him from the ear piece.  By judiciously playing heat or cooling air over the gas bags they could alter gas buoyancy, the heat increased the rate of ascent.  He checked the pressure altimeter and found the sensation was accurate, then heard the order to engage the lift engines, steam pipes rattled briefly and then the lift propellers took hold and the Empress leapt upward and when the drive engines engaged he felt her moving forward.

“Sixty knots and climbing, Sir,” Second Officer Wheeler reported, “when the engineer makes his inspection we’ll apply full steam.”

“Very well,” Jack nodded and returned to the rear of the compartment to his own station to monitor and enjoy the ride in private.  After a few hours at full speed he set aside his ear piece and attracted Wheeler’s attention, waving that he was going forward.

He paused to watch the second engineer and his crew crawling over the after boilers and engines then seeing their contentment he passed forward and took another ladder up and walked the avail corridor that passed stem to stern through the center of the fuselage, the riggers swarmed the bags and checked the various relief valves and adjusted the steel cables and netting.  He took the forward ladder down and stopped at the captain’s suite, his own for now, and stretched luxuriously on the bunk in the small sleeping berth off his personal salon.  He’d sleep for as long as he could stand it and then see if the ship was ready for what he’d been hoping for years now.
« Last Edit: March 15, 2014, 12:39:01 AM by Lord Palatine »

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Re: Enter the Empress: A LoST Tale
« Reply #1 on: February 05, 2010, 09:29:19 PM »
“You’re sure you picked out a signal?” Jack asked his chief radio operator several hours later.

“Clear as a bell,” she replied.  “Its repeating every quarter of an hour, I’ve tracked a bearing over the past few hours and its staying roughly steady, if I had to guess I’d say its circling.”

He contemplated this for a few seconds.  “So someone is loitering at a rendezvous?”

“That would be my guess,” she nodded.  “And it’s a Gemelandian frequency.”

“Hold that bearing tight,” Jack ordered and dropped down the ladder to the control gondola.  “Mister  Kielly, are we ready for combat?”

The first officer looked at Jack with some surprise, then composed himself and considered his options.  He looked to the status boards, all indicators were green.  “I’d like more gunnery practice, and we haven’t dropped a single bomb in anger yet, but I don’t think that any test we could invent would surpass the real thing.”

Jack nodded and looked back up the ladder to the radio compartment.  “Give your numbers to the navigator, and continue your plot, I’d like to triangulate range to that signal.”  He heard the phone jingle at the navigation station and smacked himself on the forehead with an open palm.  “Have Mister Cole meet me at the bomb racks, I want to talk to him about aiming those damned things.”

“It involves a lot of mathematics I understand,” Kielley shrugged.  “I’m more comfortable with windage and elevation.”

“That’s why I want to see this for myself,” Jack said sourly as he climbed the ladder upward.  “Remind me why we didn’t put elevators in this bloody thing?”

“To save weight, Sir,” Kielly called after him, ignoring his employer and captain’s hand gesture.

“Its not that difficult,” Cole said for the dozenth time.  “I spin this wheel to our altitude, this one to speed, then I spin these two to estimated drift and pitch and they position the crosshairs and that tells me when to release.”

“And then you blast the hell out of whatever you’re aiming at?”

“In theory,” Cole shrugged, again.

“It’s the theory that makes my balls ache,” Jack growled.  “So what can we do to make sure that we definitely hit?”

“Pick huge targets, stay at low altitudes and very low speed, and only attack on windless days.”

“That’s not helpful,” Jack sighed.  “Low speed and low altitude in something this big is just begging to be laid wide open from counterfire.”

Cole nodded and glanced at the indicators and dialed in his adjustments and watched how they affected his sights.  “It would help if we attack along the length of the keel for ships, and I’d recommend at least two bombs at a time.”
“We only carry a few dozen of those things, they’re ridiculously heavy.”

“We have the guns as well, especially the one and two inch gatlings, they can chew up a boat fairly well.”

Jack nodded again thoughtfully.  “At least we can chew on their weather decks a while, and that’ll suppress any open guns, and we have the six inchers to pound on anything covered.  What is the highest you’d want to be and hope to hit a target?”

Cole contemplated this carefully before answering.  “Optimum would be about twenty-five hundred feet against an armed opponent, half that for unarmed, but that doesn’t mean we’d be out of range for an armed opponent.”

“Range is my problem,” Jack replied.  “You just worry about hitting what I tell you to.”

“Yes, sir,” he acknowledged the unspoken order.

Jack nodded once and returned forward to the officer’s mess for coffee and contemplation.  Kielley was a good subordinate, but he needed a helluva lot of seasoning before he could hope to effectively command.  Wheeler wasn’t any better, and Cole made him cringe.  Voorse, the engineer was the best of the lot, he and Twill the wireless operator actually, were the best of his small officer pool.  So, Kielley over operations and navigation, Voorse over engineers, Wheeler over the riggers, and heaven help him Cole over gunnery.  He needed a captain, and he needed one in the worst way imaginable.  He knew who he needed, but she was happy in the Rampage.  Blackblood was the one he needed to guide this boatload of rambunctious and inexperienced children.  He wasn’t a naval or flying officer, whichever description would fit in this situation, and he wasn’t happy to be leading a fresh ship with a load of combat virgins to crew her.  Some of the oldsters among the crew gave him some hope, he had a few damned good chiefs, all experienced naval veterans.

He lifted the phone and flicked the communications officer’s button.  “Have the chiefs meet me in the officer’s mess,” he told Twill when she answered, and within ten minutes he was looking at the only grizzled experience on this shiny ship.  The steward set coffee before them all then vanished, Jack dropped a handful of cigars on the table and lit one for himself.  Chief Fleer, the gunner, cut a third from it and packed it into his cheek and chewed until it was softened and packed it into his cheek.  He’d spent his life around explosives and didn’t plan to blow himself to bloody rags this late in the game.  Chief Gambion, engineer, lit his with relish and blue a thin stream of blue smoke toward the ceiling, as did Chief Horek, the rigger.  All had at least twenty years of blue water experience before he’d convinced them to try life in the sky.

“We need to school this boat load of babes in the woods into a fighting crew,” Jack said with little preamble.  “I’m counting on you old farts to do what it takes to turn them into a fighting crew, officers and all.  You three have the best berths, the best booze and the best smokes and I did that for a reason.”

“No fear, Cap’n,” Fleer assured him.  “We been makin’ crew out o’ crap for longer than most of these infants have been off the tit, ain’t nothin’ new here.”
“We sailin’ into harm’s way?” Horek asked.

“Any time we drop moorings you can assume we’re looking for a fight,” Jack assured him.

“That’s the kind o’ talk I like t’hear,” Horek grinned.

“We need some time at high altitude,” Gambion reported.  “Check the safeties and make the final adjustments on the burner settings.”

“How high?”

“All of it,” Gambion replied.  “Twenty-one thousand.  That’ll mean putting the crew in masks, to be safe.”

“Do me good too,” Horek agreed, “we can check the safeties and make final rig for expansion.”

“After lunch then,” Jack agreed.

The three chiefs nodded together as one, their sage expressions telling him that he’d said something right.  “Always feed ‘em before you work them hard,” Fleer agreed.
« Last Edit: March 15, 2014, 12:39:29 AM by Lord Palatine »

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Re: Enter the Empress: A LoST Tale
« Reply #2 on: February 06, 2010, 07:18:18 AM »
People just don’t respond well to being above about 8,000 above sea level, bodies just don’t respond to thin air very well, higher altitudes cause the body to dehydrate, and the cold wears the body down as well.  Those with a choice in the matter take a few days to reach their target altitude, something learned from mountain climbers, but those on an airship of war don’t have this luxury.  The Empress cruised between 3,000-5,000 feet, depending on winds and terrain, but a rapid climb to their service ceiling would test the crew and airship alike.  Their procedure were learned through hard lessons, and those that had learned the hard way often died from either fluid in the lungs or brain swelling.

From his post in the tail Jack lifted his phone and flicked the emergency switch.  “All crew into breathing gear, control, maximum climb to ceiling.”

“Maximum climb to ceiling, aye!” Kielley called from the control gondola and the lift engines spun up to power and the gas temperatures rose on his status board as he and the aft control crew slipped into breathing gear, a vest with two air bottles that connected to a breathing mask.  All plugged their hoses into the pressurized air pipes that ran throughout the ship, this provided air to breathe and serviced the bottles for those that needed to go off the main air supply.  Jack watched the gauges and lifted the phone and flicked the surgeon’s switch.

“Doctor, monitor the crew for altitude illness and report,” he directed.

“Monitor for illness, aye sir!” The surgeon replied with far too much cheerfulness for his tastes, reinforcing his suspicion of blondes, he clicked off and watched the pressure altimeter. 

“Stop heating the envelope,” Jack ordered into the phone a few minutes later, prepare to cool the bags if pressure gets close to the yellow, he heard the rigger acknowledge and called the engineer next.  “Try and maintain pressure at ten thousand feet, notify me if pressure drops below that.”

He looked down at the list on his desk, he hated relying on lists but he’s have the clerk type the damned things up anyway, they needed procedures to drill to.  He answered the phone, the chief rigger reported status.  “We’ve cooled the bags but number six vale opened low, we’ve closed it and are adjusting the valve now.”

“Understood, we’re watching,” he looked forward to the man at the gas board.  “Keep a close eye on number six.”

“Number six, aye!”

“Twenty thousand feet,” Wheeler reported as the phone rang and Kielley reported the same. 

Jack flicked emergency again.  “Full check, we’re at altitude.”  The wait for everything to be checked over seemed eternal, endless, blasted annoying, but it was necessary.  They needed to know they could rely on the Empress, and he needed to know his crew could handle the strain.  So far all he’d noticed was an abundance of flatulence as the bodies of aft control tried to equalize pressure with their surroundings.  The surgeon reported a few cases of acute abdominal distress but otherwise all was well.  Finally, after an hour he ordered a gradual descent back to cruising altitude.

Finally they secured from breathing gear, with admonitions from the chiefs and officers to charge their vests before they removed them.  Jack raised the phone again.  “Good drill,” Jack congratulated Kielley.  “collect all reports and forward them to me when its convienent.”

“Aye-aye, sir,” Kielley reported.  “Wireless has more on your signal.

“I’m coming forward,” Jack replied and waved to Wheeler that he was leaving. 

“Two signals now, sir,” Twill reported.  “The navigator and I have worked out course and bearing on both.  The first is still circling, just about six hundred miles out, the second is on this bearing,” she showed him on a chart.  “Just over a thousand miles out, at close to eighty knots.”

“Good work to you, my compliments to Mister Pardee,” he congratulated her.  “And my compliments to Mister Kielley, and ask if he’d join me in my day cabin.”  The surgeon chased him down the corridor and caught him at the door to his day cabin, in actuality an office and refuge for the captain during the day, as opposed to his sleeping berth, keeping work and rest separate.

“Doctor?”

“The sick cases are back on their feet, I think diet is their problem, not enough roughage.”

“So, they were too bound up to break wind?” Jack grimaced.

“A good fart can do a body good,” Doctor Valley agreed in her endlessly cheerful tone.  “But I think if we can arrange a pressurized section to treat those suffering altitude sickness would help, and it could be useful for treating those that have inhaled too much helium or coal gas.”

“Speak with Mister Voorse, I’m sure he can design something for you, though it’ll need an air lock of some sort.  It’s a good thought, put it as close to the surgery as you can.”

“Thank you, Sir!” She said with a smile and a little bounce that seemed to poke her chest out at him.

“Yes,” he saw Kielley coming aft.  “Um, carry on.”  He waved Kielley into his office and at his desk flicked two switches on his steward’s panel, one for food and the other for coffee.”

“I want to engage the first target that Twill tracked, I believe it is a ship, and I believe the second is an airship coming out to meet it.  That means the ship is a tender.  Gemeland’s airships have short legs and  if we cut off its tender we’ll leave it in dire straits.”

“That’ll mean flank speed for close to five hours,” Kielley replied, then paused as sandwiches and coffee were placed before them, then after the steward left he continued.  “We’ve run the engines that hard for days at a time in tests, so I don’t see trouble, but I’ll have a quiet word with Voorse.”

“Very good,” Jack chose half a roast beef sandwich, at his invitation Kielley chose ham.  “This will be a damned good test, and it’ll rid us of a few problems, that airship is prowling along shipping lanes, and that’s never a good thing.”

Kielley nodded his agreement as he finished his half sandwich.  “I’ll meet with Voorse and Pardee and we’ll plot the course and figure best speed.  I want plenty of time to finish the ship for dinner, and then we can concentrate on the airship for afters.”

“I’ll leave you to it,” Jack nodded, he smiled when Kielley topped his coffee and swiped the other half of the roast beef and took them with him.  “There’s hope for this one, at least.”

He ate quietly then put his feet up on his desk and lit a cigar, puffing idly and sipping coffee.  Tight on the timing, but there was risk in everything, and Jack wasn’t one to avoid a risk.  You don’t become the richest man in the world by playing it safe.  Well, among the richest anyway, he wasn’t quite sure if richest applied, and he really didn’t care that much about such things.  Money was his way of keeping score and he was an excellent gamesman.

Gemeland’s reach was getting too long, Rampage and Revenge were now operating deep inside of their sphere of influence now, and nothing good could come of that.  They were far from assistance and supply, but at least they didn’t have to worry much about accidentally blasting a friend.  Small comfort there.  He wanted to pull his warships back, refit them and give the crews a bit of a rest, and he wanted them to be in place to push Gemeland’s navy back, he wanted to use airships to pound away at the navy closer to their own home waters, and beat hell on their own ports while they were at it.  It was too easy to pin down a ship on the sea, but much harder to do the same for something that moved up to ten times as fast, and didn’t have to worry about reefs and shoal waters.

He answered the phone on the first ring and listened to the proposed plan from Kielley.  “Very good,” he approved.  “Make sure the crew gets a chance to eat and rest in shifts, I want us ready for battle stations an hour out.”
« Last Edit: March 15, 2014, 12:39:58 AM by Lord Palatine »

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Re: Enter the Empress: A LoST Tale
« Reply #3 on: February 06, 2010, 09:31:46 AM »
“Ten miles out,” Wheeler reported as he adjusted the dial on the rangefinder, “and closing fast.  We’re going to pass right along their keel.”

Jack nodded and fought the quick lurch of his stomach as the lift engines reversed and he watched the gas temperature dropping as cold air was pumped through the envelope.  If they timed it right they’d cross the bow at 2,000 feet.  He watched the ocean rise up toward them and heard Wheeler call out the changes in altitude.  At three miles out he lifted the phone.  “Engage with forward main gun.”  The first shot rang out before he returned the phone to its cradle. 

“Wide to port and long,” Wheeler reported.  Jack grimaced and came forward to observe the next shot himself.  “Hit in the bow,” Wheeler’s voice tightened as he spoke.  The crew was making good time on its reloads now and the third shot slammed into the superstructure.  The phone rang and Jack snatched it up.

“Cole is sighting now,” Kielley reported.

“Very well,” Jack replied.  “Hold.”

“Release,” Kielley reported.  “Missed, five hundred feet to starboard and short.”

“Shit fire fuck and damnation!” Jack growled.  “Stern gun engage, next pass let go with everything, line us up fast for a stern run.”

“They’re firing,” Wheeler reported.  “It looks like eight and ten inch guns.”

“Some tender they have there,” Jack grimaced, then swore and came forward as the airship heeled and rose violently.

“Explosive shell,” Wheeler reported.  “We were hit by fragments.”

Jack scooped up the telephone as it rang.   “Airburst close amidships, we’ve got some holes and a few men down, the bomb aiming suite is damaged and Cole is dead.”

“Hold,” he flicked a switch and Chief Fleer answered.  “Chief, can you get the aiming system back in order?”

“It’ll take a few minutes, skipper,” Fleer reported.  “I have to replace the compensator, but we have a spare.”

“Chief, if it isn’t done in time for the next pass, engage without it,” Jack directed.  “Use the old fashioned mark one eyeball.”

“Aye-aye, skipper,” Fleer replied.  “Whatever it takes.”

Jack flipped the switch to cut out Fleer.  “Mister Kieley, continue the attack, and give us another thousand feet.”

The Empress reversed port engines which nearly spun the huge ship, Kieley was careful not to strain the frame but he disn’t leave much room for error on that.  The forward gun engaged again, hammering away, and a few moments later the forward two inch gatling gun pounded it’s rapid-fire staccato bursts.  Jack could see the impacts on the desks, showing a feral grin as a deck gun and its chew were wiped off the deck.  Then the one inch gatlings opened up, they fired at a higher rate and chewed up the superstructure, if Jack guessed correctly the aiming station for the heavy guns was close to where the rounds fell.  A six inch round tore into the superstructure and the ship suddenly heeled hard to starboard.  “I think we hit the bridge,” Jack commented.  Then they passed over the ship, and a few seconds later there was a loud concussion aft.  Jack swore and lifted the phone.  “How bad?”

“Chief Fleer laid two into the deck forward of the superstructure,” Kielley reported.

“Tell Mister Voorse I want some way to see aft,” Jack griped and hung up and strained to see as the Empress started a wider turn.  Finally he could see, and smiled broadly.  The first bomb had apparently smashed the deck, the second passed through and detonated on the keel.  “That tub is dying,” Jack observed.

“Fleer would like to lay in two more,” Kielley said.

Then the phone rang, the emergency tone.  “Airship, off the port quarter our turn will put it aft of us,” an observer in the top rear gunnery position reported.”

“Don’t take your eyes off it, continue to call out positions,” Kielley ordered, then Jack heard the order to reverse the turn.  “Battle stations, airship!” the first officer ordered, and Jack smiled.  He was growing up nicely.

Gemeland’s airship was turning and climbing, trying to position itself above and behind the Empress, but Kielley was marching the turn and surpassing the climb, Jack was relieved to see that they both leveled off below the breathing gear range, but all hands donned the vests and had the masks ready, just in case.  “They don’t know what to make of us,” Jack speculated as they circled each other and took up the phone.  “Hard left rudder and fire as the main gun bears, hold your distance.”

Jack saw the engine telegraphs change their settings as his orders were obeyed.  “We hit it, port quarter forward.  No fire.”

“Damn!” Jack snapped.  “You think they finally got smart and switched from hydrogen?”

“Or the shell passed through and exploded on the far side,” Wheeler thought aloud.

“Advance and engage,” Jack ordered into the phone and hung up again.

He felt the engines power up and rocked back slightly as they closed, the bow batteries opening fire as they came into range, but Jack could see muzzle flashes of return fire.  It was as close to ship[-to-ship as Jack could remember, two vessels hammering away at each other until damage and death put one out of the fight.  But, Jack ordered a slight turn that unmasked the ‘broadside’ of the Empress, he saw the engine housings on the enemy’s side shred and one engine exploded, it blazed away and slowly melted away the treated canvass skin of the envelope, then they shredded the tail fins, including the elevators and rudders, then they turned hard and fired the six inch main gun at point blank range into the stern, the shell fore through duralloy structure and gas cells before detonating deep inside the airship.  Kielley ordered an emergency climb and turned away, soon unmasking the stern battery which punched a round through the envelope and a second that exploded inside a coal bunker.

“Halt the climb,” Jack ordered into the phone, “give me a slow circle and let her down easy, keep the crews at the port batteries, all other gunner and marines report to assist the damage control parties.”

“Mister Wheeler, I’m going forward, keep a close eye on things.”  Jack didn’t wait for a reply, he had a long climb and a terrible need to see the damage to his prized possession.  He could see a lot of holes in the skin as he ran forward, thankfully most of them were small, but a small hole still cost them gas if it hit the helium cells.  Fleer was watching the burning airship drop slowly toward the blue water below through the shredded bomb doors.

“They’re trying to lighten ship,” Fleer reported, “but they’re hulled, holed and aflame, no chance it’ll stay aloft.

“The tender?”

“Listing hard at the bow, might have broke her back, but they’re trailing the airship, reckon they’re going to try and get survivors.”

“Let them,” Jack decided.  “Report.”

“Got the bomb table back in order, I think I can save the old sight while I’m at it,” I’ve got a few gunners down and my officer is spread all over,” he indicated blood and tissue spread across the deck and overhead beams.

“Get a crew together and close and repair those doors,” he pointed at the bay doors.  “And rig safety lines.

“Aye-aye, skipper,” Fleer turned to work.  The engines were no trouble, that left Horek and the cells. 

“About fifty holes,” the rigger replied.  “We’re slap patching for now, but I’ll have them sewn and gummed quick enough.  We’re venting, but its slow.  I’ll equalize when we get things doped up.”

“Carry on,” Jack nodded and went forward to find the Doctor elbows deep in blood, he’d look for a report from her later, but for now it looked like three dead, counting Cole, six severely wounded and a dozen lighter wounds.  He continued forward and dropped down into the control car.  “How bad?”

“I estimate we’ll be down about one percent of our helium, the long wave antenna was shot away.  A ballast cell stopped a heavy shell, but we’re trimming that out, and the forward backup generator was knocked off its stand, they cut the steam to it, but one man was scalded to death and a few mildly burned.”

The coldly calculating side of Jack’s nature took over.  “Take us down to five hundred feet, that’ll slow the gas loss.  We could have fared worse, and done better.  Send the man that spotted the airship to me, he’s due for whiskey and a cigar.”

The butcher’s bill is still coming due,” Kielley reminded him.  “Three dead, we’ll lose at least three more.  A half dozen out of action for a while and the same on light duty.  That’s a guess from what I saw, but it won’t be far off.”  He saw the look on Kielley’s face.  He was a good sailor and adapted to changing tactics well enough, but he didn’t have the killer instinct, and couldn’t understand that his job was to order men, and women, to their deaths.  He needed a cold bitch.
« Last Edit: March 15, 2014, 12:40:27 AM by Lord Palatine »

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Re: Enter the Empress: A LoST Tale
« Reply #4 on: February 13, 2010, 11:57:59 AM »
The story I wrote here helped me flesh out an article for the Red Zone, basically about this very airship, so I deleted my last input on this story and will replace it with the following, its a rundown on the ship plus some rough tech specs.




A Guide to New Crewmen to the AS Empress
Compiled by Commander Oren Voorse, Ship's Engineer

The Airship Empress is 804 feet in length and 135' in diameter at its largest point, containing in excess of 7,200,000 cubic feet of lifting gas (helium.)  Since 1,000 cubic feet of helium can raise 60 pounds of weight, the gas aboard can lift 432,000 lbs.  This is only 95% of total gas capacity; the remainder is kept as an allowance for expansion due to temperature and altitude.

The airship is powered by three boilers, one to provide steam for the aft lift and thrust engines, one for the forward lift and thrust engines and one to power the pumps and generators, any of these three engines can be slaves to provide steam to replace either other boiler is out of service.

Engines are shaft drive steam turbines, a high efficiency system that reduces wasted steam and produce 1,200 horsepower to drive each prop assembly or various pumps and generators.  The boilers and drive engines are between station 92 and 107 for the aft drive, and 140 and 156.5 for the forward.  These details are not included in technical specifications and many other items are omitted for secrecy.

The Prop drives are a gearbox assembly that increases shaft speed and horsepower to drive 4-bladed props up to high rates, the power output can be increased by changing the pitch of the propeller blades to more efficient angles, reducing fuel consumption over earlier models.  The engines can drive the Empress at a maximum speed of 120 knots, with 90 knots being standard cruising speed.  The drive props are located at station 92 and 140, the lift props at station 107 and 156.5.

Fuel is a derivative of coal gas easily procured nearly anywhere in the world for gas lighting, if is delivered under pressure to a burner jet assembly that heats water to steam then superheats steam for maximum power output.  The Empress carries over 26,000 'gallons' of fuel and averages 2 gallons per mile, a vast improvement in efficiency over cola plants and since the gas weighs the same as air there are no ballast troubles as the fuel is depleted.  The boilers can be modified for coal, wood or kerosene but with a decrease in overall efficiency and payload.

The structural members of the Empress are a tough but light Duraluminum alloy, as are defensive plates found throughout the ship.  Additional structural support comes from steel cables of various diameters.  The gas bags are treated silk and the outer envelope is treated canvass.

Weight is always a carefully considered factor which leads to many considerations that aren't always appreciated by the crew.  Showers must be limited to prevent consumption of water, grey water must be maintained for ballast until clean fresh or salt water replaces washing water.  Grey water can be recycled to a degree, being pumped back through a filter but this causes wash water to be used only for that purpose as it cannot easily me made potable.  With a crew of 100 and a requirement of four pints of water a day (400 pounds of water daily for drinking alone) this calls for 48,000 pounds of water bunkered for a maximum ship's endurance.  Shipboard shower baths are restricted to 3 gallons per crewmember, which allows for a 2 minute shower (wet down, water off, lather up, rinse off) A shower day costs the ship 300 gallons of water (the same as 5 10-minute landsman's showers) or 2,400 pounds of water.

With weight in mind many things taken for granted on surface ships are curtailed on the Empress.  We have a single wringing washing machine and air dryer.  Only 11 support personnel are included in the ship’s compliment: The ship carries one steward for the captain (who is also the captain’s clerk, secretary and valet;)  4 cooks, 4 medical personnel (2 hospitalman and barbers and 2 dental hospitalmen;) and finally 3 wireless operators.  Tailoring is performed by the ships riggers, armorer is part of the gunroom duties, kitchen help is provided by the crew at large and all on board are expected to maintain a competency at basic ships repairs and emergency procedures.

The airship’s nine officers consist of: The Captain, commanding officer of the ship who’s duties are largely supervisory over the operation of the entire airship and crew, the captain has no set watch.  The First Officer attends to day-to-day operational matters involving navigation and insuring that all on board is in proper operating condition.  The Second and Third Officers stand watches sequentially after the first officer and maintain continuity of command.  The Second Officer’s station in combat is the auxiliary control gondola located in the aft fin.  In combat the Third Officer damage control officer.  The Fourth officer is the Ship’s Engineer (not to be confused with the chief engineer) who directs the ship’s engineering department.  The Ship’s fifth Officer is the Ship’s Gunner, who likewise oversees the gunnery department.  The Seventh officer is the Ship’s Wireless Officer who in addition to directing the 2 wireless operators, maintains the ships wireless transmitters and receiver, telephone system and echo altimeter and plays musical recordings through a special circuit throughout the ship.  The final officer is the Ship’s Surgeon, who has no command function aboard the ship.

Crew: 100 (20 gunners, 20 engineers, 30 riggers, 10 marines, 9 officers, 11 support.)
There are four Chief’s in the ship’s compliment, Chief of the Airship (or Master-at-Arms,) the Chief Engineer, Chief Gunner and Chief Rigger, they are the Chief Petty Officers of the Ship.

The Master Chief is also the Master-at-Arms and is in charge of the marine compliment and oversees all discipline on the ship and directly serves the captain to insure that duties aboard ship are carried out in a proper and efficient manner, this position was promoted over the others to end ‘turf’ wars between the departments.  As an interesting side note, the Master Chief is also in charge of the ships movies and alcohol.  The nine marines under his charge supplement the gunner department in combat and are highly trained to carry out combat off ship.  A Marine is always on guard at the captain’s door.

The Chief Engineer (ChEng) oversees 20 engineers, a mixed compliment to maintain and operate boilers, engines, propeller drives, electrical and hydraulic systems over three shifts.

The Chief Gunner (Guns) oversees 20 gunners that operate and maintain the cannons and guns as well as the bombs and racks, and aiming systems for all of these, plus personal weapons maintained on ship.

The Chief Rigger (Rigger) oversees 30 riggers that maintain the frame, miles of cables, air bags, valves and envelopes.


A huge reduction in weight that allowed for armoring of key sections of the ship involved modifying the weapons carried on the airship.  Originally we carried 12 .50 caliber Gatling Guns, each weighing 450 lbs with additional requirements for hydraulics, we replaced these with standard model .50 water cooled machine guns, this decreased our rate of fire to approximately 420 rounds per minute from 600, but 7 rounds per second isn’t an appreciable difference from 10.  Each of these guns weighs in at 90 lbs and so we managed to reduce weight from 5,400 lbs to 1,080 lbs or a savings of 4,320 lbs or over two tons.  The Empress carries 3 grades of ammunition, standard ball, incendiary and armor piercing rounds, each weighs approximately 35 lbs per 100, and with a load out of 2,000 rounds per gun we carry 8,400 lbs of .50 ammunition.

Further reductions came with the replacement of fore and aft mounted 6” naval rifles (rifled naval guns) with a single 3.4” (88mm) artillery piece capable of penetrating 8” of armor plate at nearly a mile of range.  The gun weighs in at 7 tons compared to 15 tons of weapon and requisite reinforcing for the earlier model, which is a net gain of 23 tons of payload to be put to better use.  The gun can fire nearly straight down from its position in the fuselage, at the observation platform and can angle up level with the centerline.  This run fires a high velocity shell in a relatively flat arc and is dangerous out to approximately eight miles.  It is aimed with a computational sight that compensates for speed, altitude, winds and range by dialing in the requisite factors.  The gun is also equipped with recoil pistons to dampen its effects on the reinforced structure that supports it.  The current load out for this weapon is 500 self-contained shells, each weighing approximately 40 lbs, 200 fragmentation (air-fuzed), 150 armor piercing and 150 high explosive (impact-fuzed) ammunition weight is 10 tons, with is a reduction in weight by five tons for double the capacity.

Next came a hard decision, the Empress carried 6 1” and 4 2” hydraulic Gatling guns, while the holes both make are impressive the design and command panels agree that this was excessive and actually counterproductive as it added weapons but cut the overall ammunition load-out, so the 2” models were removed, which removed over four tons in weight and we were able to increase the ammunition load for the 1” models, each gun has 1,000 rounds for a total of 6,000 rounds at a total weight of weight of 4,200 lbs.

Ranges for the weaponry looks as follows:

The main gun (3.4”) has a muzzle velocity of 3,600 fps with a 20 lb projectile, it can penetrate 8” of armor at 1,000 meters, and has an effective range of 8 miles and can be fired up to 20 times per minute with a trained crew.

The 1” Gatling mounts have a muzzle velocity of 3,100 fps with a 1,600 grain round that can penetrate 2” of armor at 100 yards and 1” at 500 yards and has an effective range of 1.5+ miles and a firing rate of 120 rounds per minute and fires the same ammunition types as the .50.

The .50 machine gun has a muzzle velocity of 3,000 fps with a 700 grain round that can penetrate .875” of armor at 100 yards and .75” at 500 yards and has an effective range of 1+ miles and a firing rate of 420 rounds per minute, this can be altered by the armorer up to 850rpm.

Finally, the load-out for rack bombs has remained the same, 36 100lb high explosive bombs and 20 20lb incendiary bombs, but an addition of two vertical tubes allows the armorer to fit a steel penetrating cone to a 100lb bomb which will then in turn be launched by a release of high pressure air to the device downward at high velocity allowing it to penetrate some armored or hardened targets before detonating.

The Empress has two gundecks, one along each side of the crew accommodations between stations 173 and 188, with 3 stations to each side, the forward and aft positions each have 1 1” mount and 1 .50 mount, the center station has 2 .50 mounts, a total of 2 1” and 4 .50 per side. 

There is a 1” mount forward at the mooring platform and aft at the end of the central walkway at the tailcone.

Downward firing .50 mounts are found just forward of station 188 and below the walkway through the chief’s quarters between stations 62 and 77.

Upper .50 mounts are found at the helium vents at station 92 and station 188.

The Bomb racks are located just fore and aft of station 123.5, the center of the ship.

Of Concern to the Crew:

Normally the Empress cruises at around 6,000’, on paper our maximum altitude is 21,000’ but we’ve gone to nearly 27,000’, a word of advice, altitude means cold, dress accordingly and never have your clothes far from reach if you find a need to be out of them.  Altitude also means thin air, anything above 8,000’ and crewmen must be in breathing harness.

For crew safety there are breathing air couplings located throughout the airship and each crewmember has ten minutes of breathing air in two small bottles attached to their battle gear, this replenishes anytime the crewmember connects to an air coupling, it will not drain if connected to a broken or depressurized pipe.  Crew combat gear has evolved to face the hazards of aerial combat; essentially these are cold, suffocation, fire, explosions, scalding and fragments or bullets.  Battle gear consists of lined leather boots with shin guards, lined leather trousers with knee, thigh and groin protection, lined leather jacket with elbow, shoulder, chest and kidney protection, a lined gorget to protect neck and throat and a lined leather helmet with skull plates, goggles and snaps for a breathing mask and lined removable lined gloves work over thinly lined work gloves.

Standard practice is to discontinue pressurization during combat to eliminate the hazard of explosive decompression at high altitudes where air can be lethally thin and cold and this garb will offer significantly more comfort than shirt sleeves.

Cabins are assigned 3 crewmen to a room, arranged so that 1 man will be on watch, one off watch and one sleeping at any given time.  There rooms are not designed for luxury, you have been warned, off duty time is normally spent in the common areas just inboard of the gun decks, you’ll find space to exercise, read, or watch an occasional moving picture.  Officers and Chiefs are one to a room, which doubles as their office when not on watch.

Meals are served at the 12s and 6s, meaning noon, midnight, and six each of the morning and evening.  Meals are a mix of fresh and tinned foods and fresh baked goods and crewmen are entitled to three filling meals a day, our cooks do try for flavor as well.  If you enjoy fresh milk and eggs, get them early in any cruise, they deplete quickly.  Alcohol is prohibited on ship unless issued by the captain’s order, but we have a fine selection of tea, coffee and at the beginning of a cruise, flavored soda water.

Our fuel and expendables will last us approximately one hundred and fifty days or twelve thousand miles, but we have options to replenish from ocean tenders or at land stops, you are advised to have enough personal necessities to carry you through at least this amount of time, but each member of the crew is allowed to bring aboard only twenty pounds of sundries aboard, aside from uniforms which are provided.
« Last Edit: March 15, 2014, 12:40:53 AM by Lord Palatine »

 

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