World War: Campaign for Besland
Copyright© 2016 by Lazlo Zalezac
The security adviser slipped into the room and President Jubert shouted, “What is it?”
“The Raiders had a bit of fun last night at our expense.”
“The water supply for Berge de la Rivière Rouge is red.”
Berge de la Rivière Rouge was a small town built along one of the major rivers of Franka. It was named that because of the very bright red river bank below the town. It wasn’t a major town, but it was picturesque and pictures of the place often appeared in tourist brochures.
The Secretary of the Navy snorted in amusement. Someone had a sense of humor. He could imagine the jokes the newscasters would make in reporting it. He tried to think of any other cities with a color in its name.
Glaring at the Secretary of the Navy in irritation at the man’s obvious amusement, President Jubert asked, “What happened?”
“Someone dumped fifty gallons of red food coloring into the water supply for Berge de la Rivière Rouge. It’s not toxic, but people are going to be walking around with bright red skin for a few days.”
“They’ll be red?”
“It happened early this morning. A lot of people were caught taking showers,” the security adviser answered.
“How did they do it?”
“Water tower. They opened inlet to it and used the tower to inject the food coloring into the water supply.”
“I want those bastards caught.”
The Secretary of International Affairs said, “The ambassador from Chen suggested that we grant diplomatic credentials to a Black Lord of the Jade Empire.”
The confab room was filled with Jade Warriors. They were watching a televised press conference starring Secretary General of the IFN, Jacques Delacroix. He was announcing how Franka, Espa, Itan, and Romal had resurrected the coalition. Once again he invited countries that had remained neutral to join the effort given the horrendous actions they had taken in Venu.
Sword Miguel said, “Isn’t it amazing how they announce everything they’re planning on doing?”
Sword Andrew said, “I guess they’ve never heard of the word, secrecy.”
Shield Wong said, “It was nice of him to tell us that their navy is on the way here.”
Sword Miguel said, “Of course, we already knew that.”
Sword Andrew said, “We should announce what we are going to do so they know what to expect.”
“Are you crazy?”
Shield Wong said, “Actually, it’s not that bad of an idea. We tell the world what our goals are so that when we achieve them, the world will understand that it wasn’t an accident.”
“No!” Sword Miguel said sternly.
Sword Andrew said, “Think about it. How do you think the Secretary General would react if we told him that we expected Franka and Espa to surrender in less than thirty days?”
“He’d probably blow a fuse.”
Sword Andrew said, “We’ve got to start setting up for the end game. Once Romal surrenders, the IFN is going to have to surrender as well. The IFN has to know that anyone who votes against our terms is going to suffer.”
Jade Empress Jana said, “There’s no need to set up for the end game. The IFN is not going to like what we’re going to demand. It will be unable to stop us because of the terms of surrender that we’ve imposed on all of the countries involved in this war. The outcome of any debate in the IFN is predetermined. We will achieve our real objective.”
Sword Miguel said, “We should remind everyone that we are at war with Franka, Espa, Itan, and Romal. They may have forgotten how many troops they’ve sent against us. They may have forgotten that they still hold citizens of the Jade Empire as prisoners of war.”
“That, I’ll be glad to do.”
“Can you see the ship?” Captain Fontaine asked over the radio to the pilot circling over the ship that was fifteen miles off to the port side.
Fifteen miles was a lot closer than he wanted to be to an unknown vessel. Unfortunately, in these busy waters he didn’t have much choice. The ship traffic from Besland, Ringland, and the Fractured Lands covered this entire region of the ocean.
The pilot, with a bit of disdain in his voice, said, “It’s a freighter, but not much of one.”
“What do you mean?”
“It’s a rust bucket. There’s so much rust on that damned thing that I can’t read the ship’s name.”
“Is it a threat?”
“I’m surprised it’s still afloat. The only danger it represents is dying and becoming a shipping hazard,” the pilot answered.
“The pilot says that it’s an old rusty freighter.”
“There’s a lot more of them on the ocean than you’d think.”
“Why isn’t it in one of the regular shipping lanes?”
Admiral Gosse answered, “It’s not running that far off of the main shipping lane. I know the pilot you sent to give it a once over can see two other ships on the horizon. It’s highly likely that this freighter is just trying to keep from getting run over by the other ships. The commercial traffic in this part of the ocean is pretty high.”
“Return to ship,” the captain said to the pilot. He turned to the Admiral and said, “I think it is safe to say that we can ignore it.”
“Check on its registry anyway,” Admiral Gosse said with a worried frown.
“What’s the matter? We’ve been checking on every ship that gets within missile range.”
Admiral Gosse answered, “I just have a bad feeling. We’re going against some real smart people who keep pulling rabbits out of their hat. I don’t want to be the recipient of one of their rabbits.”
“We’ve got a freighter following their fleet. We know where they are and what they’re doing,” Captain Fontaine said.
“There hasn’t been an aircraft carrier sunk as a result of enemy action in over fifty years. I don’t want to be the first,” Admiral Gosse said.
“We’ve got an escort of five warships. We’re carrying forty jet fighters. There’s nothing that’s going to get close to us.”
“They’ve got an escort of fourteen warships, two submarines, and three supply ships. Their aircraft carrier has over sixty jet fighters,” Admiral Gosse said pointing out that if it came to a gunfight that they were outgunned.
“We’ll be meeting up with the third carrier battle group. That will even the odds.”
“I guess that’s what’s making me so nervous. I don’t trust Jade Force. They’re going to attack before we can meet up.”
“What?” Captain Fontaine asked turning to the man at the radar station.
“We just lost the jet.”
“What do you mean?”
“It just disappeared off the radar,” the seaman answered. He stared at the screen and then said, “Oh, shit.”
Reaching over, the seaman hit ‘the panic button’ as it was affectionately called by the Admiral. Not only did it sound battle stations aboard the carrier, it also sent a call to battle stations automatically to the rest of the carrier battle group. As far as he knew, he was the only Admiral in the world who allowed an enlisted man to make that call. Captain Fontaine didn’t approve of the practice.
The seaman called out, “We’ve got incoming! It looks like 30 missiles. ETA 1.5 minutes.”
While everyone was scrambling to battle stations, the Captain walked over to the radar station to verify the alarm. He could see that the seaman had called it correctly. For once, he agreed that the Admiral might be right about preferring an unscheduled drill due to nervousness on the part of a sonar or radar operator, than to waste an important fifteen seconds when it mattered. A minute and a half was an eternity; at the same time, it was a blink of an eye.
Captain Fontaine asked, “Where did they come from?”
“The old freighter,” the seaman answered.
“Are you sure?”
“It’s a Q-ship,” Admiral Gosse said while rubbing a hand over his forehead, trying to stave off the headache he could feel developing.
Q-ships had been used during the Second Great War to trick submarines into attacking what they thought was a simple merchant ship. Much to their dismay, they would discover they were actually attacking a ship specifically armed to take out a submarine. The mission of Q-ships had broadened a little, but they were still primarily intended as a trap for submarines.
He had to hand it to Jade Force for coming up with the idea of using a Q-ship to get rid of a carrier battle group. It was a brilliant move. He had sailed into prime target range for a warship loaded with anti-ship missiles. With thirty missiles headed right at them, they would be lucky to take out most of the damned things. This attack was survivable, but the carrier battle group was going to get hurt and hurt bad.
Captain Fontaine said, “I want that bastard sunk. Get our planes in the air.”
The communications station reported, “Missile defense systems active on all warships.”
“They just launched more missiles. ETA 1.5 minutes.”
Captain Fontaine turned to look at Admiral Gosse. The equation had just changed significantly. The odds of the fleet surviving sixty anti-ship missiles were nearing zero. Every captain in the fleet knew what was going to happen next.
The older man shook his head and said, “Do what you can.”
“Captain, the remaining jets on patrol were just shot down.”
Two more jets were launched even as the seaman at the radar duty station announced the destruction of the jets that had already been launched. More jets were being prepared for launch.
“Captain, none of the missile are headed towards us.”
“That can’t be.”
While the aircraft carrier was the highest value target, it was obvious none of the missiles were directed at it. The escort warships weren’t so lucky. Each of them was hit with multiple missiles. They were out of the fight and going down quickly. It would be a miracle if anyone survived. Fifteen seconds later, those same ships were hit by more missiles. It was overkill.
“Admiral, a Jade Warrior is on the radio asking for you.”
The Admiral went over to the radio and picked up the handset. “What?”
“I am Sword Anat. I’m asking you to surrender the carrier. If you don’t, it’ll be on the bottom of the ocean right beside your escorts.”
Admiral Gosse took a deep breath considering his options. There were over a thousand men on board the aircraft carrier. If it went down, not many of them would survive. With the escorts gone, the carrier wasn’t going to stand much of a chance of dealing with another barrage of missiles. Then he had a nasty thought. There was probably a submarine lurking under the Q-ship.
“I surrender,” Admiral Gosse said.
Captain Fontaine shouted, “You can’t do that!”
“Captain, there’s a thousand men on this ship. Are you going to tell me that you’re willing to kill all of them, just to take out twenty or thirty of the enemy? If so, I’ll relieve you of command right this minute.”
“Call back the jet fighters. We’ve surrendered.”
The Captain gave the order, despite the fact that it stuck in his craw to do so. The carrier battle group may be the Admiral’s, but this ship was his.
Sword Anat said, “Admiral, you can start rescue missions.”
“Thank you,” Admiral Gosse said, despite knowing that there weren’t going to be many survivors since the ships had really been pounded with missiles.
Turning to Captain Fontaine, he said, “They’ve given us permission to start rescue operations. Send out helicopters to pull men out of the water. I don’t know how many of them survived, but not looking for survivors would be criminal.”
Captain Fontaine said, “Bring us to a full stop.”
“Start search and rescue operations.”
“Jade Force captured one of our aircraft carriers,” the Secretary of the Navy said. He was barely able to get the words out of his mouth.
President Jubert listened to the news unable to believe what he was hearing. The Jade Empire had captured an aircraft carrier. It was inconceivable. Franka had just become the laughingstock of the world.
“You’re fired!” he shouted at the Secretary of the Navy.
“Yes, Mr. President. Do you want me to leave now or stay here so that I can brief my successor on what was discussed?”
The former Secretary of the Navy collected his papers. He rose from his chair and announced, “It’s been an honor and a privilege to serve with you.”
The whole room watched him leave. More than half of them felt that his dismissal was uncalled for. It wasn’t his fault that an aircraft carrier was captured. Of course, President Jubert’s frustration was understandable. They all shared it.
“We’ve got raiders taking apart our infrastructure. They’re even dyeing our people red. We’ve just lost an aircraft carrier. What in the hell is wrong with this picture? This is the nation of Franka, not some third world country!”
The Secretary of Defense said, “We lost more than an aircraft carrier. The rest of the battle group was sunk.”
“What is this going to do to the coalition?”
“We’ve got another carrier battle group committed. Espa has a carrier battle group committed. We should be able to continue the mission.”
“I’ll take your word for that,” President Jubert said. “We need to issue some sort of press release. I’ll inform my Press Secretary to put together some sort of cogent statement.”
“Will we commit our reserve carrier battle group?”
At one time Espa had been a naval superpower. Centuries of naval engagements with Engle, Romal, and Itan had driven it to near bankruptcy. It had spent the past century rebuilding its fleet. Even now, it had only one aircraft carrier, El Toro, and it was one of the smallest of the carriers still afloat. However, it did allow Espa to have a remote presence in any part of the world and Espa was quite proud of it.
Attacking a carrier battle group is one of the toughest naval engagements which one can mount. The carrier has planes that can fly overhead searching out submarines. There is almost always one or more escort ships that are configured specifically for locating and destroying submarines. Other escort ships are configured to engage any surface ships that might want to attack. All of the escort ships had the ability to defend against attacking aircraft.
A carrier battle group has concentric circles of defense taking in long range, medium range, and short range threats. For each circle there are a battery of sensors designed to detect an enemy well before it can mount an effective attack. Getting close enough to attack requires penetrating all of those layers of defenses, something which is not trivial to accomplish.
The greatest vulnerability for a carrier battle group is a submarine laying in wait in shallow water. It blends into the ocean floor where sonar returns are effectively scattered by the rough terrain. To counter this, airplanes with the ability to detect submarines in shallow water typically perform overflights with the intent of locating any enemy assets.