We set up the terrain using the new streamlined version of the d10 terrain setup system we found on the Spartan Games forums (apologies to the originator, whose name I forget), which resulted in a ridiculously tight cluster of 2 very large and one medium Amera islands right in the middle of the board, creating a series of treacherous straights and channels.
Jeremy's Prussian fleet: 3 squadrons of 4 Frigates, 1 Squadron of 3 airships, 1 Squadron of 2 cruisers, 1 BB, 2 Squadrons of 5 Dive Bombers
Craig's FSA fleet: 2 Squadrons of 4 Frigates, 1 Squadron of 2 airships, 1 Squadron of 2 cruisers, 2 BB, 1 Squadron of Fighters, 1 Squadron of Torpedo Bombers
And now . . . the rest of the story . . .
Directly ahead of Task Force Righteous Fury sat a large island, gentle grassy slopes rising away from the rocky shores to a distant mountain peak. Off the starboard bow, however, was an enormous shield wall mountain rising straight up out of the sea and completely blocking what lay beyond.
Between the two islands was a narrow channel leading to another, smaller island. Huddled around this island, slowly steaming into the channel was the object of his task force’s hunt. He squinted into the machine and worked the handles, trying to bring the distant objects into sharper focus.
“Herr Flottenadmiral Turner has done it again. He’s got a wall of those damned frigates of his steaming directly into the channel. Looks like 12.”
The seaman at the Sturginium Scanner Array readout confirmed. “Yes, sir. We have 12 small returns entering the channel now, accompanying a much larger, single return.”
“That’s got to be the Eisenrichter . She’s behind that central island at the moment. Do you have any other readings, or is this my lucky day?”
Off to starboard the rest of Task Force Righteous Fury stretched away towards the channel that formed the central feature of the island chain the Prussians, who claimed these waters, called Die drei Hexen. First, just astern of the New Hampshire was his flagship’s sister, FSS Massachusetts. Then the Third and Sixth Escort Squadrons, each of four Augusta-class frigates, were sailing directly for the channel ahead while the two Lexington Class cruisers of the First Cruiser Squadron hugged the shield wall island, ready to spring around the headland if Prussian battleship could be persuaded to enter the channel. Floating sedately over the escort squadrons were the two Lee Class airships of Scout Squadron Seven. Snow snarled a little as he stared up at their armored bulk. This far out on the Federal supply line he’d only been able to secure the two new airships. Rumor had it that four more were in the pipeline to him, but they would be of no help on this day.
The buzz of his own escort fighters brought him back to the moment as they zipped back and forth overhead, guarding against the thrice-damned dive bombers Flottenadmiral Turner preferred over any other auxiliary aeroplanes. The Commodore extracted his head from the farsight contraption and turned back to his command chair. “Sailor, what readings?” he repeated the command, and the young man working the Scanner Tech jumped.
“Yes, sir. Looks like three medium sized airborne contacts and two surface vessels are behind the mountain, sir.”
“Ah, he does love his airships, the lucky bastard. And two cruisers, most like. He’ll use those to sweep around this big witch here to try to take us in the flank as we spring our trap. Signal the torpedo bombers over to that approach; give him something to think about, anyway. All other ships make best speed for the channel. The senator wants that ship dead, and we do aim to please.”
The ships of Task Force Righteous Fury sent plumes of green-tinged steam into the clear blue sky as they surged towards the channel between the three islands. The frigates went in first, trying to establish a screen against the rush tactic favored by the smaller Prussian vessels. Those same Prussian frigates, their boxy shapes low-slung and throwing clouds of exhaust, surged ahead to meet the Federated ships, and the battle was engaged as they exchanged rattling turret fire that sounded small and harmless in the distance. This appearance was belayed, however, as first one, and then a second Prussian frigate fell out of formation, their exhaust joined by billowing black clouds lit from within by the green fires of Sturginium reactor overloads.
Snow’s cruisers continued to hug the mountainous island, using the massive bulk to mask their presence from detectors on the Prussian flagship. The huge turrets tracked towards the enemy frigates but the smaller ships proved hard targets to the maneuvering capital ships. Overhead the Lee Class scout ships sailed higher into the sky, scanning ahead for further threats to the Federated command.
“Sir, a squadron of their frigates has broken off and is coming around the island directly ahead. They’ll be emerging on our left flank.” The calm tones of the Scanner Tech fit perfectly into the business-like hum of the bridge crew going about their duties.
“Got it, son. They’ll try a pincer movement coordinated with those cruisers, assuming we’ll hold our battlewagons back to shell the damned Eisenrichter from a distance . . . And they’ll be right, too.” A grin escaped the commodore’s self-control. “Of course, we won’t exactly be alone. And for now, we won’t have to worry about those frigates, or the cruisers. Where are the airships?”
“Moving towards us behind the mountain, sir. They’ll soon be able to come around.”
“Warn the Boston and the Concord that they’re enroute. Three of those airships could wreak havoc on those cruisers if they’re not careful.”
The signalman saluted. “Aye, aye, sir,” he turned to his own station to send the messages.
“The big girl’s coming!” The bridge officer’s voice was muffled by the farsight machine. The attention of the bridge crew shifted back to starboard as the low, sleek shape of a Prussian battleship slid from around the smallest island. Even from this distance they could see her turrets traversing, trying to track the small Federated frigates steaming into the channel. Attenuated by distance the booming of the turrets, coming perceptible moments after the flash and billowing clouds of their firing, echoed off the superstructure of the New Hampshire. Around the Federal frigates plumes of white water, tiny in the distance but towering over the small ships, bracketed the vessels but did no apparent damage.
The bridge crew of the New Hampshire let out a raucous shout of victory, but it died as a lookout cried out “enemy frigate squadron’s broken our escort cordon! They’re coming straight for us!”
Snow recognized the pattern of the attack. The fast, agile Prussian ships had veered through the defensive deployment of his own frigates, ignoring them completely, and were slicing towards the two battleships. They’re course was not taking them directly towards one ship or the other, however, but seemingly aimed at the empty waters between the two larger vessels.
“Signal the Massachusetts. Tell them to prepare to repel borders and lower the elevation on their AA. Sound general quarters and brace for impact.” Snow’s voice was calm as he widened his stance and rested his hands behind the small of his back. His signals division moved to comply.
Sure enough, the small turrets on the frigates unleashed a salvo upon the flagship while the white trails of jump marines soared off their decks and converged, not upon the Massachusetts, but upon the Charlestown and the Lincoln, frigates of his Sixth Escort Squadron. Lines of lethal tracer fire rose from all four F.S. frigates, intersecting with the jump marines.
The deck underneath the commodore’s feet shook as if a giant’s warhammer had descended upon the flagship somewhere aft of the bridge. Warning claxons began to sound and damage reports flooded into the duty officer’s station. “Sir, rudder’s damaged, and we have several fires aft of the drive wheels.”
Snow nodded, but his attention was fixed out the viewports, down and to starboard where two of his ships were fighting for their lives.
Caught in the intersecting sprays of AA fire, many of the assaulters’ contrails stopped abruptly, or dropped into the sea, or veered suddenly off course and into the distance. But many more landed upon the decks of the Charlestown and the Lincoln, where they were met by the marine contingents aboard each ship. The action was soon over on the Lincoln, where massed rifle fire had stopped most of the boarders before they were even able to bring their weapons to bear. However, the battle raging on the decks of the Charlestown was far more violent. Tracer fire zipped off the ship in every direction and minor explosions rose from several locations. The frigate began to fall out of station with her sisters.
“Sir, Lincoln reports all boarders dealt with, no survivors. But they say things aren’t looking good for the Charlestown.” The signalman reported with an even tone.
“Looks like a massacre, sir.” The officer on the farsight reported in a muffled voice. “No marines in either uniform seem upright, and only a skeleton crew seems to be fighting the fires.”
Snow nodded. “Dispatch damage repair parties to the drive house, prepare to bring us about twelve degrees to port.”
“Aye, aye, sir.” The helmsman responded. “Twelve degrees to port.”
“Bring down the Armistead and the Butler. Have them focus on the two frigate squadrons in the channel.”
Signals confirmed, and soon the two Lee Class scout ships were descending majestically, sweeping down in front of the two F.S. battleships and between the two Prussian frigate squadrons. The weapons along the flanks of both airships opened fire with thunderous volleys that plunged down upon the small gray ships. Plumes of water rose up all around, staggering the farther ships and riddling the closer ones with smaller shells. Marine sharpshooters firing from positions along the ships’ baskets concentrated on the farthest frigate, the fire falling with impunity upon the assault divisions still lined up on the ship’s deck. The AA guns arrayed along the centerline of the lead ship began to spit glowing death forward, out over the island ahead.
“Sir, the Armistead signals dive bombers sighted over the western island ahead.”
“Flanking units continue to maneuver wide, sir. The three airships are coming up on the eastern island.”
Snow nodded as he contemplated the scene stretched out before him. “OK, bring Sixth Escort Squadron back around to address these surviving frigates, the fighters, and prepare to repel the flanking unit. Send Third Squadron forward at the Eisenrichter, as well as the Boston and the Concord. I’m not keen on staying longer than necessary. Signal the Massachusetts she can fire as soon as she bears.”
“Casualty reports?” The captain had noticed several of his ships struck by enemy fire as the fleets closed, but in the swirling smoke and spray it was hard to keep track.
“Sir, we’ve lost the Mont Vernon from Sixth Squadron, and the Brighton from Third. Also, we’ve finally got a report from the Charlestown. They’re out. The Armistead is reporting minor damage from enemy flak, but nothing serious.”
Before the report was complete, however, the Eisenrichter came about and unleashed its full fury upon the Federal fleet. Devastating salvoes ripped into the Armistead and the frigate squadrons as well as the cruiser squadron. Ripples seemed to float across the airship’s surface as she took damage, and the Revere from Third Squadron suddenly ceased to exist, erased by an enormous column of water and debris that erupted into the sky.