❯ The Colours of War: The Old Salts – Part 1 of the Cadarian Sea Conflict ( Chapter 1 )

[ T - Teen: Not suitable for readers under 13 ]
The Old Salts
Part 1 of the Cadarian Sea Conflict
All that could be was the heard deep thrum of The Sea Hawk’s twin diesel/gas turbines and the mournful creaking of the cabin slowly tilting from left to right. What a bunch of misfits, Alexi Kolmya thought to himself as he surveyed the ships officers before him. Captain Kolmya slowly gazed at each one in turn. He started with Lieutenant Valmir, the weapons department commander. Despite the fact that he was standing rigidly to attention, he seemed poised to leap into action.
“So, Mr Valmir, you are the Weapons Officer.” Kolmya said as a statement, not a question.
“Yes I am sir. Weapons Officer of The Sea Hawk, sir.” Valmir spoke quickly and nervously.
“Then tell me Mr Valmir… what is the purpose of our XHK guided torpedoes?” Kolmya already knew the answer he would receive.
“They are our primary anti submarine weapon sir.”
“Thank you Mr Valmir.”
Kolmya turned his gaze on the next officer.
“Lieutenant Beric, Supply Officer. Is that correct?”
“Indeed, sir.” Beric bobbed his bespeckled head nervously as he spoke.
“But this is your first time on a combat vessel.”
“Yessir. I used to work in the stores at Fleet HQ.” More head bobbing.
Kolmya had heard enough.
“Midshipman Kastyalma.” Kolmya didn’t need to ask if it was his first posting. The lad looked about 18 and had a green tinge that suggested he still hadn’t found his sea legs.
“Sir yes sir!” Kastyalma shouted. Kolmya leaned back slightly.
“Take it easy son. Look and listen and don’t be afraid to ask questions.” Kolmya tried to speak kindly.
“Yes sir!”
Finally, Kolmya slowly turned his ice-cold gaze upon the last Officer who, unlike the others, returned it with his own steady look.
“Why aren’t you in uniform, commander?” Commander Torin, the Engineering Officer, was the only officer who wasn’t in full uniform. Instead he wore an old grimy boiler suit. Without his peaked cap, Kolmya would have mistaken him for a non-commissioned rating.
“You can take your uniform and jump over board with it, sir.” Kolmya’s expression was unchanged. He drew out the silence until the tension was unbearable before he spoke again.
“How long how you been in service?”
“27 years, sir.” Another silence so thick with tension it could be cut with a bayonet. Kolmya spoke again.
“Good. Serve me well or I will have you arrested.”
Torin’s face split into a grin.
“Very well, sir. I wont fail you.” The look in Torin’s eyes spoke volumes, mostly about the state of The Hawk’s other officers. Kolmya had been promoted to an officer from a rating, unlike normal Blue Moon officers and Torin had probably worked out that Kolmya was once a rating as well.
“Gentlemen, I am sure that you are aware of our orders, so I will no longer detain you this early in the morning. Dismissed.” The Officers of The Sea Hawk saluted and filed out. Kolmya leaned back and blew out a long breath. Our orders, he thought. Possibly even worse than the officers. C.O Olaf had always been proud and aloof, but he had more than made up for this with his solid tactical sense. But this time? It simply didn’t add up. The actual reason for Olaf’s invasion of Alara was unclear to all those in the Blue Moon army without top-secret clearance levels and all everybody else got was shadowy propaganda. There was nothing worse, Kolmya thought, than risking one’s life for no purpose, which is exactly what I am doing. The sun had not yet risen and Kolmya was already dog tired, what with the chaos of setting sail from port and stocking supplies and testing the weapons. Perhaps every thing will have calmed down in the by the end of the day. He snorted to himself. Perhaps Orange Star will have surrendered. He looked out of his cabin’s porthole. Still damn fog.
The radio bleeped. He snatched up the receiver. “This is Kolmya. What’s the situation?”
“Sorry to disturb you, sir. Trackrad has just picked up an unidentified vessel.” Above the voice of the speaker, Kolmya could detect a note of urgency to the bridge’s normal background noise.
“Very well. I will be there shortly.” Kolmya dropped the receiver and took the three flights of stairs to the Hawk’s bridge. Streams of ghostly fog were blowing past the large windows. “Officer on deck!” Kastyalma called. What a surprise, mused Kolmya as the assembled crew jumped to their feet.
“As you were, men. Kastyalma, this better be good.” Kolmya strode over to the radar station. Kastyalma licked his lips nervously. “Are you aware of the certain magnet- ”
Kolmya cut him off. “Yes, yes I know about the radar disturbances in the Cadarian Sea. Get to the point lad.” Kolmya wasn’t in the mood for scientific crap about the rocks underneath this stretch of water that erratically disrupted radar signals.
Kastyalma continued. “ Well sir, we detected this three minutes ago.” He indicated the radar scan on his console. About 45 kilometres away was a large vessel, roughly twice the size of the Hawk.
Kolmya however was making some very fast calculations. We don’t have any ships that size this far out and if we do then they would have hailed us. Assuming they are enemy, they are 45 kilometres away, but that was three minutes ago, so-
“All Crew! Battle stations!” Kolmya barked, startling those nearby.
“Helmsman! Evasive manoeuvre! Hard to starboard! Now!” Kolmya’s mind had gone into automatic. Forget about the difficult officers, the formalities and the problems with the ship, this is what he had been doing all his adult life. He grabbed the radio speaker.
“Rouse the crew, Arm the torpedoes, cycle up the AA cannon! There is an enemy vessel out there, gentlemen!” A siren began to wail. The thrumming of the Sea Hawk’s mighty twin turbines began to cycle up to battle speed. Her slim prow knifed into the waves as the fog drifted past. Ratings scrambled up to their stations, some pulling on cold weather jackets as they did so. As Kolmya looked out onto his ship, the prow antiaircraft gun began to cycle and whir.
The silence was split by the seismic clanging noise of 5 16-inch shells being fired, followed by the horrible, terrible shriek that told you that the largest navel weapon in an enemy’s arsenal was being fired at you.
“All hands! Brace for impact!”
There was a colossal explosion and the Sea Hawk was lifted out of the air by a massive detonation. Kolmya felt the deck buckle beneath his feet. In the space that the Hawk would have been occupying if Kolmya had stayed on his course, five gigantic plumes of water and spray rose up 15 meters into the grey sky.
“Kastyalma, how long until we get another good Trackrad fix?” said Kolmya to the pale Midshipman manning the radar station.
The man did some calculations. “21 kilometres, sir.”
Kolmya paced. Can I slip past before they ping me? Its 21 kilometres from me, but they could fire again in a few minutes…. He turned to the bridge crew. His bridge crew, who were all staring at him. Their lives hung in his hands. It was his duty to get out alive, to cut and run with what he could. He longed to turn the Sea Hawk and steam for harbour. To run. The thought of fleeing was spinning around and around in his head. Get out get out getoutgetoutget-
He fought down that impulse. He simply could not run. His ship would be torn apart before he got out of range. He had to fight.
“Valmir?” Kolmya turned to the Lieutenant.
“Order 59. Break out the small arms.”
Valmir slowly gazed at his captain, his face a picture of confusion. “O…order 59, sir?”
“Now, Lieutenant.”
“Yes sir!” Valmir picked up the intercom receiver.
Kolmya took a deep breath.
“Helmsmen, 10 points to port!” That order didn’t make sense. “Valmir, prepare the AA gun and the torpedoes for activation! I don’t want them on, I want them ready to go the second I say.” Valmir nodded to him and turned to his console. Kolmya picked up the radio receiver. He hesitated.
“All hands! This is the Captain! Order 59! I repeat! Order 59! Arm yourselves! We are preparing to ram the enemy.” Kolmya could almost fell every seaman gasp in shock. “I then I want everybody in position to board.”
For a few seconds, he was afraid that the crew would refuse, or mutiny. But after a few seconds, first one by one, then in pairs, or groups, they moved. The ship became a bustle of activity again. And amidst it, was Captain Kolmya, barking orders.
“Working party! I want all spare steel plating that we have in the hold moved to the prow storage bay! Lock it in tight! Move! I want a man behind that bulkhead! You! Tighten that rope! Man the point defence guns gentlemen!”
The fog was beginning to burn off now and the sky was turning from dawn white to pale morning blue. The buzz of activity began to fade as the crew of the Sea Hawk got in position. Every non-essential seaman not manning the weapons or on the bridge were huddled down behind bulkheads holding ropes and tommy guns. Kolmya returned to the bridge, the gaze of the crew drilling into his back. He could barley believe that he was doing this. He was going to ram an enemy. It hadn’t been done for hundreds of years.
“Excuse me, sir. You may need this.”
Kolmya turned round and there stood Torin, holding out a machine gun and a flak jacket out for him.
“You should be in the engine room.” Said Kolmya, grabbing the weapon. He clicked in a long a magazine and slung it over his shoulder.
“Aye, perhaps. But my boys will manage.” Torin held a Rossberg 500 shotgun and his presence greatly reassured Kolmya.
Suddenly, a shape could be discerned through the fog. The enemy.
“Lieutenant Valmir! Activate the Torpedoes!” Kolmya took a breath. His timing had to be perfect. Too slow and he might get caught in the blast. Too fast and there would be no effect.
“Sir, the torpedoes, sir?” Valmir’s face was perplexed. You poor fool, thought Kolmya. No, Lieutenant, we are not going to fire anti-sub torpedoes at a battleship because it says in manual 56832.555 chapter XX sections (ii) that the weapon is only too be used on submarines. Think outside the box, Damnit!
“Yes, Valmir, the torpedoes. Now line it up on their water line, please. Then wait for my signal. Got that?”
“Yes, sir. ” Valmir busied himself with the weapons console.
“Alright, sir… im lined up. Ready to fire.”
Kolmya turned to Torin. “I want you on the deck, commander. When we hit, head for the bridge.” Torin saluted and then left. The enemy ship was quite clear now. About 5 clicks away, Kolmya guessed. He dearly wanted to take over helm control, but he knew he had to trust the rating at the controls. Instead he grabbed a pair of binoculars and focused on the enemy ship. They were less than a kilometre away now, and he could see its huge looming hull, like some monster of lore, its bridge topped with a mass of communication dishes and arrays. Kolmya could see the name on the side now and it read The Kraken. The front of the ship was tipped with an awesome armament of 5 16inch barrels, all of which, he realised with horror, were turning to face the Hawk. Kolmya reached for the radio.
“Valmir?” The cannons had now stopped turning and were starting to depress.
“Yes sir.” All Kolmya could see was the five barrels. They were pointed directly at him.
“Fire!” Then Kolmya’s world exploded as the Kraken and the Sea Hawk fired at exactly the same time. The big guns disappeared and all the crew of the Hawk could see was a pall of smoke. Kolmya realised that he was still breathing. He looked around. He was alive. The Kraken’s guns were at maximum depression and the rounds had gone straight over him. Unlike the Hawk’s missiles. Through the smoke, Kolmya could see a brief explosion. True, the anti-sub weapons wouldn’t do much damage, but they would hopefully have destroyed some of the Kraken’s armour and stun its crew. However, he had to move. The Sea Hawk was closing fast and they were only a hundred meters away now. On the Kraken and Kolmya had to move. He strode down the steps to the deck as he swung his weapon off his shoulder. He raised his voice. “Men Blue Moon! Now is our time! Prepare to fight! Lets give these bastards hell! All hands, open fire!!!!!!!!” They collided, Sea Hawk’s, gunners spitting streams of metal into the enemy, drove its slim prow driving into the Kraken’s side like a blade. 30 centimetres of armoured plating of the Hawk’s deck buckled like paper. The metal groaned, as it was put under stresses it was never designed for. Kolmya was thrown off his feet, crashing onto the deck. The dust cleared. There was silence. As Kolmya got to his feet, practically every seaman aboard the Hawk was on the ground. They rose slowly, looking dazed to see that they were still alive. They looked at Kolmya. “Lets go! CHARGE!!!!!!” He was gone, sprinting forward, jumping fallen men and firing from the shoulder. As the sound came back he realised that he was not alone. Other men were doing the same, throwing hand grenades and grapnels, running with him. A huge cheer was rising. Kolmya paused at the end of the Hawk’s prow, threw his weapon onto the enemy’s ship and clambered over, quickly scooping up his machine gun. A scene of chaos met his eyes. Practically all the crew of the Kraken were sprawled on the decks. Out of the corner of his eye, Kolmya saw a man raising with a pistol in his hand. He turned and let rip. The man was thrown backwards. Blue Moon Ratings were climbing aboard now, so Kolmya stuffed the pistol in his belt and headed through a door that he hoped lead to the armoury. Inside the belly of the beast, everything was suffused with dim red light, and there was barley enough space on the metal stairs for two men to pass. Over the yells and snaps of gunfire, Kolmya thought that he couldn’t be making all that noise on the stairs. He looked behind to see that two other seamen were behind him. Then the Orange Star sailor coming around the corner knocked him flying. As Kolmya’s machine gun went spinning off the man collapsed on top of him, blood gushing from the holes the Blue Moon machine guns had drilled in him. Slightly shakily, Kolmya got to his feet and peered round the corner. A Bullet sparked off the metal next to him and he jumped back, pulling the man behind him into cover.
“What’s your name, sailor?” Kolmya shouted over the sporadic spray of bullets
“Petty Officer Miaka sir!” The man yelled back.
“Miaka! I then when I run, I want you to fire over my head! Nice long burst!” Kolmya unhooked a grenade from his belt and pulled the pin. As he lobbed it around the corner, he drew his pistol. He nodded to Miaka. Boom!
Kolmya didn’t think. He just ran forward, half crouched, his pistol thrust in front of him, his men’s gunfire flying over his head, charging through the smoke. He jumped the small door into the armoury and swung his weapon round.
The one supply officer cowered on the ground, his weapon discarded, shielding himself from the monsters who had come from the mist like the raiders of lore. Kolmya hauled him to his feet.
“Where are the others?!” he demanded.
“I…I’m the only one…” The man could barely speak for the fear. Kolmya slumped against a wall as Miaka and two other seamen came through the door. Kolmya drew himself to his feet. There was work to do.
“You ratings… secure the armoury.” Kolmya pushed past them and ignored their questions. He met Torin half way up the steps. “Congratulations, sir.”
“Eh?” Kolmya’s brain was too far gone for an accurate response.
“You just took out a battleship, sir.” Slowly Torin’s words got through to Kolmya. “We won?”
“Aye, sir. We did. I captured the bridge; they didn’t put up a fight. Valmirs got a load held prisoner in their cargo hold, and you took the armoury. We won, sir.” As they spoke, or rather, Torin spoke to Kolmya, they came on deck. Kolmya looked up to see that the fog had finally gone and the weather was fantastic. Clear blue sky, no wind or waves whatsoever. It was only then that it dawned on him that he had done it. He had beaten the Kraken, a battleship, taken its crew prisoner, won and survived. And he would go on fighting, as long as he could bring himself to.