They were coming. Now was the time for action! The drums of war had sounded; Darmania had-just as planned-incurred the wrath of the British Empire. Intelligence from agents and infiltrators in London indicated that the claws of the lion were being unsheathed at this very moment. Preparations had to be made, not only to defend against the oncoming armada that Britain was preparing, hoping to deliver righteous justice upon their foes, but also preparations to obtain the Count and as many of his crew as could be kept alive.
"Is it satisfied for now?" The 'Darmanian' asked his own crew and the largest of the men nodded with a grin, clicking something back together on the gun-arm that had replaced his lost right arm.
"Good, and how goes the preparations for our guests?" He smirked as the cage was lifted from the pit in the centre of Carmali, the central city in Darmania. It had gone down full of British Citizens and now was being pulled up completely empty with the bars savaged more and more each time it had been lowered.
Thrashing erupted from the pit which had been thought to be empty at first and the ground shook, several paving stones falling into the pit, widening it by a few feet. Several tiles slid from nearby roofs, smashing on the cobblestones of the street. The 'Darmanian' smirked and turned away from the pit, walking towards the church which he had made his base and his home since his last meeting with the British. He leapt chains and ducked rope, that criss-crossed the perimeter of the gaping chasm, holding the fragile structures that were precariously close to the pit in place. Their numbers having trebled since the last time he had been out here, inspecting the pit. The structure around it was weakening and they had even lost one of the houses into the darkness. It had been this action that had brought to their attention that the pit was no longer uninhabited and had called into question the very nature of the Matter Displacement Ray. Something was wrong, but they had quickly spun it to their own advantage with the regular people of Darmania and then had even managed to further abuse the situation so that they had full backing to begin a war with the British Empire. It was working well thus far, and their forces were on their way, meaning that this would all come to its dramatic conclusion shortly.
"Feed it one more group, then we will wait, it will be less than a day before we have thousands to feed it!" He chuckled, pointing to a nearby holding pen, ringed with barbed wire, which contained several barely clothed, gaunt-faced prisoners. Another laugh escaped his throat as he opened the door to the church, the sword at his hip vibrating slightly; it shifted in its scabbard as if in sympathy with its master's mood. He touched the hilt gently, almost soothingly.
* * * * *
The last of the ammunition had been loaded, the gorgeous interior stripped of anything of value which would be stored with the Captain's personal effects until the end of war. This was almost heartbreaking for him to watch.
A pillar of steam issued forth from the mechanical crane that now moved away from the decks of the HMS Valkyrie and lower its arm to the ground, levers being pulled and a dial turned to move it back into the shadows of the storage area to Louis' left.
Count Louis de Theudubert had not realised until this moment just how unsettling was the thought of going to war. It was just now becoming a reality that they would be travelling into a full battle zone this very day. His crew was on board, primed and ready to go.
Earlier that morning, Admiral Tooley had given each of the vessel commanders a final mission briefing, again reminding them just how dangerous Darmania could be even before it launched any airships. The mysterious nation was surrounded with a wall of black rusting wrought iron. The creaking structure, a magnificent feat of engineering and foreboding edifice in equal measure, was over two miles in height, often higher in places due to continuing construction. It surrounded the country like a suffocating noose, plunging most of its citizens into near-eternal darkness. The walls of this fortress country were said to be garrisoned by tens of thousands of soldiers.
Along the perimeter at one thousand metre intervals huge towers were built, their flanks adorned with occult iconography and festooned with the bones of those caught trying to trespass where outsiders were certainly unwelcome. Atop these bastions sat mysterious weaponry and artillery, speculated to be able to bring down airships from many miles away and lay waste to whole legions of attacking soldiers. Few who encountered these horrifying weapons lived to report back their findings. Several reconnaissance airships, travelling at a height which should have meant they were safe, had been shot down regardless of what physicists said was possible which meant they clearly had weaponry that the Royal Navy would not be prepared for.
All words of encouragement... Louis rolled his eyes. They knew that this would be a difficult mission even in their vast numbers, the largest fleet to ever sail the skies. Louis' heart fluttered and he sighed heavily.
The Captain pulled the Ace of Spades from his pocket, a constant reminder that he was being tracked by the Black Den. It had been strange, he had been sent the card and then, he had not even encountered a single Skypirate from the Den since. There had been no assassin hidden in the shadows, no taste of poison infiltrating his food and none of their less-subtle tactics either. Were they attempting to scare him or lull him into a false sense of security or something...? Louis shook his head, none of his concern for now!
He slid the card back into his pocket and climbed the rope ladder into the ship, breathing heavily in pain as he ascended into his airship. The cold weather was beginning to affect his knee more than usual, which was the worst time possible considering his current circumstances.
"Tabby, report." Louis spoke into a tube that connected to the bridge.
"SKYE reporting in sir. All order carried out and we're ready for the sky! That new transmission...thing is ready an'all. We've already 'ad several contacts from Celeste. She's a bit eager Cap'n!"
A snicker came from an engineer passing Louis and he quickly covered it with a cough. Louis shook his head with a laugh.
"I shall be there momentarily Tabby, get this ship in the air!" Louis let go of the tube but still heard a faint reply as the hum of the engines began. Immediately it felt as though a surge of energy ran through him and he felt strength which reminded him they were leaving the ground.
* * * * *
"I can't believe he is keeping the whole squadron waiting!" Charles Davenport lifted a hand to his face and shook his head in exasperation. He was well aware that the military procedure and protocol was not the Captain's strongpoint but etiquette should have been and this felt like an embarrassment!
"He 'ad a lot to sort out." Skye replied from her place at the controls. Her head snapped around to glare at the woman at the helm."Steady on the wheel, I don't want to 'av to train you from scratch but I bloody well will!"
"Even so, Louis and Celeste are meant to be leading the expedition! Remember what Admiral Tooley said? The Teleforce Cannon is meant to be at the front of the fleet to blow a hole in their walls!" Davenport was almost disgusted. He was conflicted about this, with Louis planning on taking the Valkyrie and deserting the Navy as soon as this battle was done, where would that leave him? He had grown to respect Louis and now he felt himself pulled in the opposite direction from the man he now considered his friend. Circumstances meant that all he had been brought up to believe in were in direct contrast to the direction which Louis wanted to move in and Davenport knew that if he were to follow Louis, he would be declared a deserter... Thank you Louis, thank you very sodding much!
"Damn him!" Davenport knew that this would not be resolved before the end of this war and they had no idea how long this siege could take.
"Damn who?" Louis' voice came from the hatch as the ship manoeuvred into position at the fore of the Squadron.
"You're late, and you kept a squadron, hell, an entire fleet, waiting for you!" Davenport sighed heavily and sank into his seat to the left of Skye while the newly appointed co-pilot sat on her right.
"I sent them a communiqué using the transmitter Commodore Brislan left in my care. They have not long taken off. I would not have them waste the fuel." Louis winked with his left, uncovered eye.
Davenport was silenced but still incensed. This felt wrong! The military was his world, not Louis' and the Captain had no idea how to hold himself in this situation. It had not been the first time that the Valkyrie's Captain had made the Lieutenant nervous about such a situation, but this was wartime, this was serious!
"Tabby, open communications to all ships in our squadron."
Louis caught a dirty glance from Skye and she nodded, standing to turn a dial which had been newly installed at the back of the control panel as Louis walked over to her, taking the handset she handed to him.
"First Squadron of the Fifty-Second Expeditionary Battle Fleet, we are to lead the fleet into battle today. I want our formation kept tight as we approach war with this relatively unknown enemy. We will be first line of defence and in some ways we shall, unfortunately, be guinea pigs to see what kind of weaponry the enemy possesses..."
Davenport slapped his forehead with his white-gloved hand, "Unbelievable..."
"But we also have Britain's most powerful weaponry at the very front of our squadron and I will do all I can to ensure they do not even get the moments they need to open fire. We will tear them to shreds! I have chosen the fastest ships in the Navy to accompany me, those with the greatest manoeuvrability, and that means I want you to do one thing for me...move." Louis paused to wait for a response but he went on regardless. "HMS Valkyrie and all of you are the sharpened tip of the spear. Our job is to break through the enemies' front lines and throw them into disarray, giving the heavier warships in the fleet time to close the distance. I want concentrated fire on both troop movements down below and the forward edges of the enemy fleet as it tries to muster a response. If we fail, our own fleet risks encirclement and annihilation. I expect you all to carry out your duty."
The Valkyrie had begun to move forward through the air and the other ships were falling into formation behind it, the squadron slowly leaving its dispersal hangers, rising above RNAS Ramiles and over London itself, joining the fleet hovering above, slowly fanning out into a triangular pattern. HMS Hermes would be taking command of the left flank, while HMS Excalibur brought up the right, and HMS Mjolnir took the rearmost of the four main squadrons, sitting in the centre as the flagship of the entire fleet. The Mjolnir was one of the Royal Navy's most modern vessels, while not the most heavily armed its heavy armour and superior fire control systems made it more than a match for any vessel of comparative size. This meant it was the perfect ship to attack from the rear where its heavy cannons and those of its squadron could bombard the enemy formations at a distance.
"Until I make contact again or unless it is incredibly important, I would like communication silence. We have no idea what kind of technology the Darmanians have in this field and they may be able to hear what we say." Louis had not considered this point until this very second but thought that it was an important thought to consider.
"Good luck everyone and may I say that I am honoured to fly with you today." Louis gave the sign to close signal and Skye turned it off. "Maintain the course, increase speed and please open channels to the other Squadron leaders."
With a nod and a rearranging of the dials, the static came over the speaker again and Louis heard Celeste's voice.
"T'is about time ya got in bloody contact Louis! I've bin waitin' all mornin' fer ya!"
"I think Commodore Brislan was concerned with your lack of communication Count de Theudubert." Admiral Tooley's voice came over the radio and Louis smirked.
"Can we keep this professional?" Vice Admiral Constance was clearly not happy with being considered on equal footing with these two pirates, but at least he had held his tongue at their meeting the other day.
"Indeed," Louis replied quickly, then with a chuckle continued, "but thank you for your concern Commodore Brislan. The purpose of this communication is primary to ensure that everyone is in position and we are travelling at correct speeds. Also to suggest that after this communication we allow silence in case Darmania can intercept it."
Louis could hear Celeste mumbling gruffly about how he had dismissed her, but after the talk they had shared the night before, Louis knew that at least his emotions were clear with her.
"I think that is a very good idea. We need not give anything away unnecessarily. As for positioning, I am in the air and in position. Constance out." The speaker crackled a little and the voice was replaced.
"Commodore Brislan here, movin' inta position as we speak. Ready when you lot are! Keep yaself alive Louis yeah?"
A smirk crossed the Count's features and he prepared to reply before Admiral Tooley interjected.
"I have taken up position and the flotillas are also moving into formation. We are ready to begin. After you Rear Admiral."
"HA!" Davenport was not well known for his restraint and Louis was thankful that he had not yet opened the channel to report back. His new position in the military was subject to much witticism and while part of him resented the rank, another part was somewhat proud of it.
"Sounds perfect. In that case, I shall end communications and...I guess I shall see you all on the other side. Good luck." Louis let go of the button to end the transmission and placed the receiver back next to the newly installed panel, the dial of which Skye was already changing to turn off the machine's transmitting capabilities.
"So, that's that then? We're on our way to war..." Davenport spoke aloud. It was clear there was some tension building between himself and Louis; even the Captain could feel it.
As Louis was walking back up towards the helm, he paused by the speaking tube and ensured that his crew knew they were to stay at their battle stations as Darmania was difficult to predict. Something felt completely wrong, but he was unable to pinpoint quite what that was. His heart felt like lead in his chest, weight down by concern and his incredible feeling of unease.
"This really...feels wrong." Louis announced to the bridge, looking around to judge their reactions. "Do you not think?"
"I think it's too late to be changing your mind, Captain. You are a member of the military and this is your duty. You have to follow orders and that's probably why this feels strange for you." Davenport stood and turned to face him. "Though I suppose it is nothing short of a miracle that you are here at all!"
Louis was shocked and this clearly showed on his face.
"Davenport! How c-" Skye was silence by a raised hand from Louis.
"I had expected this since I explained that I would be defecting after the war..." Louis' eyes narrowed somewhat but then a smile appeared on his face. "Speak your mind Charles."
"I find it utterly galling that after all the Navy and the Empire has done for you, how can you justify stealing from them and disappearing into the night like a common thief!?" Anger and accusation burned with every venom-tipped word Davenport spoke to his friend and Captain.
The Count could not pretend that the words did not hurt at all, but in reality, he knew that such would be Davenport's reaction.
"I am a pirate Charles, no matter what kind of morals I have, I am still not above taking things which do not necessarily belong in my possession." Louis laughed lightly. "And this ship is something which I feel I now deserve thanks to the work I have put in and the amount of money I have spent adding to it."
"And what of leaving the Navy?" Davenport asked, his fists clenched.
"I was only ever going to be in the Navy until I found my family...I have already lost my sister and if I do not get my parents back during this sortie, they will be lost also!" Louis sighed heavily. "That is supposing that friendly-fire does not kill them in the process. I could have deserted already and attempted to get into Darmania on my own, relying on surprise and secrecy rather than a show of force...or used the attack as a distraction so that I could enter undetected, but here I am instead!"
Louis faced Davenport head-on and lifted his chin in something of defiance. Pulling rank was not something he wanted to do, nor would he, but he knew that the thought would be in Davenport's mind.
"I had thought you would have grown somewhat attached to the institution that kept you out of prison! Or at least the Admiral, the old man who put his own career on the line almost daily to ensure that you stayed out of trouble!" He honestly could not believe that Louis was able to turn-tail so easily!
"Tooley...yes. I have grown somewhat attached to him, but does that mean I can live my life in shackles? No! Tooley knew exactly the purpose which kept me in the Navy and he has yet to mention the fact that my parents are likely in the very country we are about to attack...a country I have been asked to aim the Teleforce Cannon towards! I am possibly about to kill the family that are the very reason for me being here!" Louis took a step towards Davenport, his teeth clenched. "I know you see me as a traitor for wanting to leave after this, especially with your upbringing, but I can see in you the same need for freedom that pulls me away from the Navy, what else brought you on board the Valkyrie when you could have had a successful career with the Scots Guards, you would have had your own company by now, no doubt in my mind!"
Charles Davenport took a step back, stunned. It was true that he wanted to escape his father's shadow, to step away from being "General Davenport's son," but...Louis was perhaps right. There were ways he could have done so without taking the time to specialise in airborne tactics, to request to lead his men on board an airship. It was true that had he opted to stay with his regiment he could have led an illustrious career, flying the flag in all corner of the Empire...but there was more to life! Ultimately he wanted to fight on the front lines, not behind the action on horseback. He had lost men in the sky, but had at least been given the opportunity to serve with them at all.
"I am not asking you to accompany me Charles, there shall be no pressure levied upon you to do so, nor will there be any ill feeling should you choose not to. We all must choose who we are to be and I understand that, but I want it known that I would be more than happy to welcome you and any of your men who wish to accompany us as we leave our ties to Britain behind and TRULY take back the skies." Louis smiled and clapped the taller man on the shoulder, the lack of intimidation surprising considering their size differences and how strong their differing opinions had been only moments before.
Davenport nodded, catching Louis' eye for a second and noticing a slight change in colour in the one which was uncovered, but it must have been a trick of the light, as it vanished as soon as it was seen.
"Louis, in good conscience I cannot let you desert your post, taking a Royal Navy vessel with you. When the war is over, this situation will be resolved one way or another! Maybe I can convince you to stay rather than you convincing me to leave?" Davenport asked with a confident smirk.
"Doubtful, but I always welcome intelligent debate." Louis winked and turned away. "For now, we have a mission to undertake and you are so often telling me about my duties after all..."
"As touchin' as this all is, I reckon you should both shut yer yaps and focus on what we're meanta be doin'...sirs." It was Skye's turn to wink and she even stuck her tongue out before turning back to the controls.
"Especially as the entire ship can hear you both. You are standing far too close to one of the speaking tubes." Doctor Knight's voice came from the tube beside them. "Honestly, a lover's tiff usually occurs on land BEFORE the ship takes off..."
Louis was quite possibly the only person in the entire fleet to laugh so heartily considering their destination...
* * * * *
The entire cathedral-like structure shook, pews and benches knocked over as a chandelier fell into the centre of the room from the ceiling. The 'Darmanian' sighed heavily and sheathed the sword he had been cleaning. The long, curved French Cavalry Sabre dating from the eighteenth century had been well taken care of despite the decades of use it had gotten. The blade had been replaced when it had come into his possession, but the hilt and basket guard were original.
As an afterthought he hooked up the shoulder-strap he had attached to the personal Matter Displacement Ray and slid it over his head as he walked outside. He knew what was happening, but as a man in authority, he would have to show his face at least.
"SIR! The Beast, it is stirring!" The military man spoke in accented English rather than his native Darmanian, trying not to panic the commoners who worked the cage which now hung over the pit.
"I can tell. Something is bothering the creature, sorry, the God." The 'Damanian' chuckled lightly and shook his head, the long braid styled from his neck down to his waist landing on his shoulder.
It was possibly true; after all, what they had seen of the monster did describe one of the Darmanian gods perfectly even if it was incredibly unlikely. Cygaethia, was supposedly some kind of squid creature with one gigantic eye and an infinite number of tentacles covered in smaller eyes which stretched throughout the whole of the planet, giving the god omnipresence and omnipotence. He was simultaneously the god of the Earth and the god of the Underworld, Necros, using his eyes to help the souls of the departed either be reborn or suffer for the rest of eternity. The Damanian military had ensured that their citizens believed that was what the large creature in the pit was and that had been the reason for the need of humans to feed to it as the god was spiritually supposed to eat the flesh of the dead over time. Ah well, it meant they could press forward their war against Britain as suggesting they needed fresh humans now that the god was exposed.
The 'Darmanian' smiled warmly to himself; after all, the kidnap had been impressive even by his standards! Britain had no idea how they had even been and gone so fast and the 'debris' left behind had been planted. Had they wanted, the British Government would still be sitting around, scratching their heads and wondering what the hell had happened and how thousands of their men, women and children had vanished from the face of the Earth overnight!
"Our God tells us that the British are approaching! We must get our fleet ready now at Cygaethia's command!" He bowed his head and those around him did the same. "Go! Inform our men! GO!"
The commoners scattered, taking this message to the radios they possessed in the nearby watchtowers to contact every military airfield in the land.
His "warning from the god" was nothing more than a personal communication he had received less than ten minutes prior warning him that the Royal Navy's fleet had taken off. This would reinforce what the military had told the Darmanian people about the god and keep them under his control for even longer!
His vengeance had been years in the making, but it was time...finally!
* * * * *
"Finally!" Gen smirked as she wiped the sweat from her brow and put down her screwdriver, stepping away from Bjorn Hauptmann. "It took long enough, but I think it's worth it don'tcha think?"
With the whirring of gears and the crunch of metal Swiss stood, walking over to a large brass pipe a little slower than usual to admire his newly upgraded body.
"You have done fantastic." Swiss told her with a grin, seeing his ideas and their combined handiwork brought to life.
"And I made this as well." Gen pulled something out of her toolkit and held it up for Swiss. "it will fit over your replacement eye and actually augment it, improving the vision and allowing you to see heat signatures if you push the button on the side. Plus it has an inbuilt light source."
Swiss took what appeared to be a mask from Gen's hand, admiring the handiwork. The brass-plated face mask had been constructed with a covering for his rather bulky technological eye, so that they would lock together snugly when he put the mask on. In the centre of the forehead was a powerful, but rather small, light-source which appeared to be wired into the connection to his eye that was in place. His boiler would therefore power the mask as well as the other new additions to his suit.
"It is very good! You have captured my style!" Swiss laughed, a deep, booming laugh that echoed throughout the room.
The brass mask had parts of the lower half painted in black so that it appeared to look like a brass skull. That worked perfectly considering virtually his entire body was clad in brass now.
"This will come in handy..." Swiss told her with another laugh.
"ALL HANDS TO BATTLE STATIONS! They were ready for us!" Louis' voice echoed from every speaker tube around the ship, urgency evident in his call. "I want you all moving like cogs because, like in a watch, if one cog does its job wrong, the entire mechanism fails. Bear that in mind!"
No sooner had the voice echoed away, crew scurried about to their designated positions, blast doors being pushed into place and locked while cannons were prepared and rolled out of their gun ports. Deep within the vessels bowels an electronic whine could be heard as the charging of the Teleforce Cannon had begun. Generating the power to fire such a temperamental weapon took time. Around the ship, crew members felt their hair stand on end and received minor shocks when touching metal work as static charge permeated the Valkyrie.
Louis stepped away from the tube and stared out the window at the soul-destroying sight before them. They had just passed through a large cloud bank, knowing that they were approaching Darmania. The voyage had been uneventful thus far, thankfully Greece and Turkey had given them permission to cross their airspace, being as encouraging as they could without actively engaging in the war alongside the British Empire. The majority of nations that bordered Darmania did so uneasily, border skirmishes were frequent albeit one sided. It had become apparent that Darmania could annex most of the bordering countries with ease, but instead chose to remain cloaked in secrecy behind its towering fortifications. The nations surrounding Darmania had shorelines comprised of barren blasted landscape, pitted and scarred by years of conflict, littered with the bones of men who had fallen and the rusting hulks of destroyed war machines. Frequent reports of people going missing and hushed rumours of sightings of dark figures outside villages and towns abducting citizens abounded.
So it was that the fleet received safe passage through many of the nations it had to pass over. Nations too cowed by their belligerent neighbour to take action themselves, they could barely contain their excitement that now their enemy had provoked censure from one of the world's most powerful nations. Each nation provided an escort to the fleet as it crossed their respective airspace, to provide a guide and to make sure the British didn't stray into any restricted skylanes.
As they neared the border, the host nation's escorts peeled away, heading back to their respective bases at full throttle. Louis could not help but envy them. The fleet started to cross the barren shoreline, its surface pot marked with trenches and shell craters. In the distance the sky was dark and foreboding. As they neared the thin expanse of water which separated Darmania from the other countries, the massive iron bulwark came into view, stretching as far as the eye could see in each direction. Even at this distance its sheer size awed him, it seemed nearly too big to comprehend. However, for now, it was not the large walls which worried him.
Now, Louis knew that somehow Darmania had been aware of their coming. Hovering directly above the country was a fleet larger in numbers than the Fifty-Second Expeditionary Battle Fleet of Britain.
"I knew something was wrong, they knew what was happening before we even set off!" Louis dove for the radio and turned the dial himself, contacting the other squadron leaders.
"Are you seeing what I am? Darmania knew exactly what we were doing..." Louis' eyes narrowed as he stared out at the massive fleet, it hovered menacingly just in front of the border wall, organised into clear ranks. Several squadrons of large warships could be seen among this massive formation, while many more flotillas of escorts protected the flanks and advanced out in front of the armada in a protective screen. Both German and Darmanian vessels could be seen, although the smart heraldry and matt grey paintwork of the Prussian vessels stood in marked contrast to the black and crimson of their Darmanian allies, their battle pennants swinging in the wind with trophies and iconography that Louis could not look at for long.
In the centre of the fleet was a large, circular ship, at least as long as the Mjolnir but approximately three times the width and height of a Vengeance Class Battleship, the largest in the British fleet. Louis touched the Telescopic Diagnostician and the lens reacted, focussing until the ship appeared closer. Almost every square inch of the vessel was covered with long cylinders, not cannons...something else entirely. Instead of muzzles, the cylinders ended with a spherical tip wider than the tower itself. As Louis looked on, he could see dozens of gun ports winding open, and several long-range cannons appearing therein in the surface of the ship. What was worse, it did not stay in the air by means of envelope as the rest of the airships on both sides did, not one which was visible at any rate. Something was incredibly unnerving about that ship, looking so alien amidst the fleet of airships. It was certainly Darmanian in design and structure, their black and red colours clearly emblazoned upon it, but the material it was made of had to be German in origin.
"They are in defensive formation; prepared for a strike...they must have infiltrated us at some point..." Vice-Admiral Constance replied.
"Doesn't matter none." Celeste's voice came over the radio, causing Louis to smile. "They've seen us now. What're we gonna do? Head back t'the Isles with our tails 'tween our legs?"
"Commodore Brislan has a point. This truly changes our plans, but we are still to bring the full might of the British Empire down on Darmania this day!" Admiral Tooley's voice was commanding and soothing at the same time.
"The ship at the centre of the fleet...it is equipped with technology I am unfamiliar with. In fact, quite how it is staying aloft is a mystery to me." Louis told the others, fixing the Diagnostician so he saw through it normally once more.
"It also appears to be their flagship, but at the centre of such a fleet and with cannons like that, it is highly likely that it could devastate our own ranks before we could get to it." Constance added. "And yet, we need it removed de Thudubert..."
"You are suggesting that we accelerate the firing of the Teleforce Cannon and aim for the enemy flagship?" Louis asked calmly, despising this idea thoroughly. "If we fire now, the cannon will only be at fifty percent power and will take another hour at least to be able to charge to full capacity once more."
Silence shook Louis for what seemed like an eternity and he scanned the fleet of opposing ships which were coming ever closer. Wait, if they knew that Britain was coming, why would they not engage them over open sea rather than over their own country where people could be hurt? Something was definitely wrong here...
"Do it Rear-Admiral. If that cannon is as powerful as tests indicated, it should tear a hole straight through the centre of their ranks, which will also aid in scattering their ships which will give us the advantage." Tooley was Admiral of the Fleet and someone who Louis could certainly not argue with.
"What about their walls?" Louis responded, clutching at straws.
"I think we need to prioritise, that much is obvious. They will be of little matter if we cannot even reach them without being shot down! If we don't take down that monstrosity then our mission is academic anyway." Constance replied insistently.
Louis threw the mouthpiece away from his face and swore loudly, shocking the crew in the bridge to hear such vulgarity...at least outside of the bedroom considering certain rumours!
"Take orders right Davenport?" Louis glared daggers at the Lieutenant and swore quietly again.
"Sometimes...we have to do what people more experienced think is best, even if we disagree." Davenport responded with a nod, the tone in his voice indicating he was not comfortable with what was being suggested. Clearly he had doubts of his own.
The Captain of the HMS Valkyrie and Rear-Admiral of the Royal Navy leaned in close to the speaker tube and spoke carefully.
"Engineering, prepare the Teleforce Cannon for firing. We do so early." Louis leant away again but was immediately responded to.
"Captain! That would be a complete waste! It would take so long to charge it for a second time that we might as well not have it!" Genevieve til Baudfert did not pull her punches when it came to mechanics...
"I am aware of this and have also told this to our leaders but they have little to no concern for this. However the point stands that if we do not do something soon there will be no Teleforce Cannon or HMS Valkyrie to fire it with. We are to destroy their flagship first and foremost and worry about other details later." Louis told her with a sigh. "And if you and Aurora can get any more power out of it, do so, but do not risk our other systems."
"Aye Captain...Teleforce Cannon preparing to fire."
At the windswept bow of the Valkyrie, the prow of the ship began to open, huge doors swinging out catching wisps of cloud on their edges. With a crank and the grind of heavy machinery, the cylinders of this experimental weapon emerged from the shadows of the vessel's interior, extending with energy already crackling around it. Slowly, it extended to full length, jutting out from the prow like a ram used to sink enemy ocean vessels in the wars in antiquity. The energy began to build up along the barrel, sparking blue charge dancing along the copper and chrome device, charging particles of energy and focussing them at the tip of the barrel.
"Ready when you are Captain..." The less-than-enthusiastic reply came from Genevieve. "We managed to get it up to sixty percent but that is as high as we can without rerouting power from elsewhere."
"Ok then crew, hold on tight..." Louis slid open a panel on the dashboard which contained two dials, allowing careful aiming of the cannon. They were almost exactly straight on, so it would take little adjustment and yet, Louis seemed to take a long time gently adjusting them.
"Teleforce Cannon...FIRE!" Louis called into the speaking tube.
Gen sighed and pulled the two large levers in tandem, activating the cannon.
Nikola Tesla had begun the research on this weapon and was quoted as saying that it was capable of destroying "a fleet of ten thousand enemy vessels at a distance of two hundred and fifty miles..." and even at this limited power, it should still be able to cut through the centre of the Darmanian fleet...
Louis focussed the Telescopic Diagnostician on the Darmanian flagship again and watched intently as movement began to occur around the entirety of the ship at once. What had at first appeared to merely be cylindrical extensions surrounding the ship suddenly crackled with energy that built from the base up to the tip of each tower. Arcs of electricity suddenly leapt from tower to tower, covering the ship in a criss-cross pattern of electrical charge.
"What in the name of..."
Louis' question was cut short as the Valkyrie shuddered violently, the charged particles of the Teleforce Cannon erupting from its barrel, accelerating through the air at incredible speeds. The beam of charged particles had streaked towards Darmanian fleet like a energised lance, cutting through the forward ranks of the fleet like a hot knife through butter, any vessel caught in its path were atomized in clouds of debris and even vessels in close proximity were simply incinerated as the beam caused the flammable gasses that kept them aloft to ignite. Several huge explosions could be seen, followed by flaming debris streaking earthward.
Cutting a swathe of destruction through the enemy fleet and towards its intended target, the beam then hit the enemy flagship and as if deflected had ricocheted off without harming its target, destroying several more enemy vessels on its way. In the distance the sky was smudged with smoke, as flammable gasses erupted and pieces of burning debris plummeted through the clouds towards the ground. Despite this maelstrom of destruction, through the clearing smoke, the gigantic vessel could still be seen, undamaged and seemingly unperturbed. The fallen ships fell from the sky like dying flies, but the swarm remained and the queen stood proud in the centre, the shield of crackling energy dying down around it. The fleet around reformed, filling the gaps left by their fallen comrades, despite the losses they had suffered they still vastly outnumbered the British.
All in all, the firing had been primarily a waste...