December 21st, 112PA - English Channel

      It was another dark night on the sea for the crew of the I.K.N. 13 Shogun, the world's only 'ghost battleship'. Admiral Nataka stood outside of the bridge on the observation walk forward of the bridge windows, squinting out over the choppy seas of the Atlantic. One of the Mini-Subs had recently broadcasted a short code via an ultrasonic communications device, informing him of a small fleet of vessels heading down the coast of Europe, making a B-Line for New Camelot's port. He quietly read off the report again from his photographic memory... "Two ES, six EB, and six F, E40, S20... Not a bad catch for a night like this." Stepping back into the command deck he snapped a series of orders. "Captain Fushina, order the Surikami and it's escorts to remain here behind this island. Have three freighters ready for word. We will key OLG on the ultrasonic communications device when ready," when through issuing his orders he nodded at Captain Fushina. "Lieutenant Kurisamo - have the radar set to run periodic scans, at uneven intervals - NO Mistakes," he barked at an underling. He didn't care much for Kurisamo, he had proven himself to be unreliable some time back when he revealed the Shogun's position to an NGR Carrier group, which nearly saw the vessel destroyed several weeks prior. The middle aged Japanese Admiral looked out the forward bridge windows and gritted his teeth - his blood always ran hot prior to a fight, no matter the odds. Reaching down, he grasped in his hand the cool plastic of a red colored phone receiver, raising it to his lips, he cleared his throat and spoke. "Grand master Tamatasu, I request the services of your' unit. Make my vessel unseen to all this night." A quiet, almost inaudible "Hai," came back to his ear in response. He nodded as though Tamatasu could see him, and hung up the phone as the hair stood on the back of his neck. The old magic user always managed to rattle him, and although he outranked the simple rank of Lieutenant, Tamatasu truly held, he always had a feeling that Tamatasu was something more - as though he were not quite human, but somehow divine. A few moments later he barked the course and speed change, and off they went into the night to meet their destiny.


*****


      Captain Erich Krosenburg sat calmly in his seat, holding onto the arms watching out the windows of "HIS" bridge, to the freighters ahead. As the vessel pitched and rolled, he couldn't help but think to himself... this was HIS bridge! He'd wanted a command for so long, and now he finally had it - and of a new XS-400 Escort Battleship no less, the most powerful escort vessel ever devised in his opinion. He called up a holographic projection of his vital settings for the vessel, adjusted the cabin temperature with a brief jab at the appropriate part of the hologram, and smiled at the effect - he instantly felt the blowers begin blowing more warm air into the calm, clean, and office-like bridge. He thought back to his early times fighting just to make his position as a Lieutenant on board of THE NGR Poseidon, the first Aircraft Carrier ever employed by Germany. "This is glorious," he spoke his thought out loud. "What did you say, Captain?", his second asked as he walked onto the deck of the bridge. "Oh nothing... did you get that sonar report I asked for?" "Yes I did, but they're inconclusive. On one scan the object was there, and the next six it wouldn't be. I don't know what it is, if anything. If it was anything, it was small... maybe 20' long. Nothing that could threaten the column," he said, handing over the still warm copies run out of the sonar operator's readout. "Maybe a submarine?", the Captain offered. "Possibly, but what would a small submarine like that be out in weather like this for?", seemingly for emphasis, the vessel rolled a bit heavier than it had been, and sent waves crashing between the missile launcher turret and the heavily raised bow of the vessel. "True... have the sonar operator keep me informed if there are any further developments." Although not actually worried, Captain Krosenburg was enjoying his new duties, and wanted to follow them by the letter. An object of that size in the water could be anything from a piece of debris, to a small armored Devil Fish - which never mess with vessels of this size in any instance. Captain Krosenburg stood and walked to the window, looking at the lit silhouettes of the freighters ahead they were escorting. He sighed, shortly before putting on a pair of ear plug phones, and turning on a disk playing a rendition of Mozart, his son had recorded a mere week before.


*****


      Admiral Nataka grinned at the windows of the bridge. The foolish germans were acting as though they were on a simple joy ride in pleasure craft - they were completely unaware that worse things lurked this night than waves and gusts of wind. The mini-sub that had informed the Shogun of this fleet's presence had been picked up a few miles back, and was now safely stowed away in the belly of the Shogun - the Germans only clue that anything bad was going to happen. They passed the column, within a few miles - giving the Admiral more than enough time to surmise the opposition. Indeed there were two Escort Ships, at least a few Escort Boats of some type, and six freighters! This would indeed be a good catch this time. They had no idea what was about to come upon them. He had the course readjusted slowly so as to not disturb the water too unnaturally, and then began to close on the column. "Helm! Line the Shogun up, on their starboard side five miles out!" "Sensor Operators, vector information to the gun crews, and prioritize the western most Escort Ship as first priority, the eastern most Escort Ship as second priority, with the escort boats as last priority." At his orders, the bridge began to buzz with adrenaline surging orders, and mobilizations. The two massive turrets forward of the bridge, although invisible to even the men in the bridge, began to whir to life, focusing on the XS-400 at the head of the German column. He waited another several moments before giving orders to fire - allowing the Shogun to come right up next to the head XS-400. "At my mark....FIRE!" All 12 452 mm Naval Cannons roared as jets of flame shot 160' into the moist night air, signaling that the massive shells moving at 6,000 feet per second - a muzzle velocity of over Mach 6, had left the ship. All 16 155 mm cannons had also blurted their shells combining in the successive roar of shell fire. Despite the flashes at five miles distance, with the swells in the waters, no one on the first vessel stood a chance. The 452 mm shells moving at the speeds they were slammed into the hull of the Escort Battleship first. Three of the 452 mm cannon's compliment struck the forward part of the hull of the XS-400, The smooth composite armor plating of the vessel, never designed to accept such punishing impacts, yielded like a tin can would to a freight train. The massive explosion ripped a hole the size of a yacht in the side of the bow. Simultaniously, the payload of the other nine main cannons ripped into the hull, just above the waterline at the vessel's side, each ripping sections of the armor away and launching it dozens to hundreds of feet into the air. One shell, ripped through the armored skin of the vessel and detonated within the ships hangar deck - destroying many of it's compliment of vehicles and the entire platoon of men that were on ready alert in their pilot's lounge. Even while the explosive effects of the 452 mm cannon shells was still expanding, 16 155 mm cannon shells ripped into the hull and superstructure of the vessel. The command deck received the brunt of one 155 mm cannon turret, one shell exploding on the armor outside, and the other detonating directly on the radar operator's console. The remaining turrets shells ripped into the hull of the vessel, several landing just below the water line - as a result of the vessel being rocked back so far by the previous impacts. The damage was severe, and undeniably fatal. Not a single robot vehicle escaped, and only a handful of power armor units occupied on watch were able to escape in any shape to fly. Admiral Nataka peered through his binoculars again at the flaming wreckage of the escort ship his men had just destroyed. He looked out the bridge window, to this time see the glistening black turrets of his ship, smoke still rising from the barrels, now readjusting to point at the other escort ship.


*****


      Captain Krosenburg leaped from his nap in his Captains chair at the sounds of the explosions - audible even over the 2 hour disk he was listening to. "General Quarters! My God, what was that?!" Suddenly his second, came running onto the deck, screaming madly as he went, "Captain, There's something big out there!! Get us out of here!" "Lieutenant, calm yourself!", Captain Krosenburg cooly replied, as he squints out the starboard side windows, searching the choppy, windy seas of that dark night looking for anything. "REO, what do we have, and where?", the Captain requested. "Um Sir, it's something really big - at least twice as large as our vessel, if not bigger - and uh.... it's at five miles sir.", his voice cracking as he makes his last comment. Captain Krosenburg blinks his eyes, and swallows before ordering a missile strike - nine tactical nukes, lock on the target at five miles, and obliterate it... He knew very well that nine tactical nukes would not destroy something that large - but the super nukes had a blast radius that would be close to five miles, which was too close to risk. The Captain closes his eyes as the missiles leap from the missile launcher forward of the bridge with a sizzling scream into the nights air.


*****


      "Admiral! 9 missiles en route!" The admiral drew in a breath, and said calmly, "Active defenses." At that, the sensors operators vectored location, course, and heading to four gunners and target designators in a back office of the main tower, each set to defend the vessel against missile attacks. "You heard the man," Sergeant Otaka replied with a sadistic grin. His target designator was not as anxious to see those missiles popping up on the view screen in a few moments. Once they pop up, Sgt Otaka glances at the screen - "Oh, is that it? Sheesh, and I figured we'd at least get cruise missiles - what're these guys, nuts?! I feel insulted." He grasped the worn handles of his gunnery station, lowered the visor of his optical helmet, and swiveled around to his designated target - and opened fire. Sixty slugs screamed from the small rail gun turret on the aft tower of the Shogun, salting the air with white hot flying metal slugs. In a few moments, sparks flew from the lead missile as strikes were made, and it disappeared along with the other eight missiles in a massive fire ball. Admiral Nataka sighed an unconscious sigh of relief, as the sensors operator reported the missiles as being destroyed. "Good, now destroy that other vessel before it gets another chance to fire! Helm 12 degrees to port!" As he gave these next orders, the turrets made final adjustments, range finders, and cannon elevations were adjusted, and lined up on the other Escort Ship. "...on my mark..."


*****


      "Captain! they have some kind of active defense system! It destroyed our missile volley as soon as it got within two miles of that mammoth! What do we do now, sir?!" Captain Krosenburg could not respond to his Lieutenant though. His eyes were fixed. For only a moment, in the sky lit by a settlement on the English shore, he saw a slight silhouette of a black vessel, one he had only heard rumors and stories about. Just then, he saw another flash of flames jet from it's cursed cannons. He dropped his audio disk player, and spoke through dry lips as only a dead man might... "Shit."


*****


      FIRE! The Shogun lurched in the water again as all 28 massive cannons fired in unison at the lone Escort Ship which was now more or less at a 50 degree angle to the Shogun. Two main turrets payloads tore into the bridge of the enemy vessel with all of the others striking the bow portion. The effect of the shells barrage was shattering, blasting off nearly the entire forward portion of the bridge, exposing corridors to the open winds. Two of the massive shells entered through the lower bridge layer of windows and blew up killing or mauling the entire communications staff, and disabling all electronics in the superstructure. The remaining shells struck the forward bow destroying everything above the waterline - launching one of the anchors into a freighter 300' away, killing two deck hands! "Admiral, the Escort Ship is still afloat - should we fire again?" The admiral surmised the scene through the binoculars. He could see that very little of the forward portions of the vessel were remaining. Nothing would dare to attack from this vessel, except perhaps if it contained a power armor compliment... "Fire another volley," the admiral breathed to Captain Fushina. The cannons roared to life again, devastating the second XS-400. "Captain, send the signal to the freighters. OLG," the Admiral smirked. "Oh yes, Target Designators, alleviate those freighters of their escort boats at your' leisure." "Helm, 12 degrees to starboard." The cannon fire dies down as the last of the six XS-120 Interceptors disappears in the massive overkill of the main weapons. "I believe the Surikami and her escorts can handle overpowering these armed freighters..." Admiral Nataka commented to no one in particular as he walked to the windows overlooking the forward black turrets, and set his hand down on the cool plastic of a red telephone receiver....




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