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 Black Gold

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Bautizar

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Posts : 26
Join date : 2010-10-22
Location : South Carolina, USA

PostSubject: Black Gold   Fri Dec 24, 2010 11:44 am

Wyvern Castle, Near Port Allansberry

The yeoman standing by the door stomped his spear on the floor. It was an old ritual, like many things both here and elsewhere in the Kingdom, but it was intensely symbolic and thus commanded instant attention. "His Majesty the Sovereign, Protector of the Bautizan People, King Thomas Redding the Ninth." Finished with his introduction, the spear came up flush against his chest where it pointed ramrod-straight at the ceiling tiles with their inlaid gold etching.

In response the court grew so silent that one could hear a pin drop. It had actually been known to happen before. About a decade ago a foreign ambassador, newly-arrived and set to present his credentials, had become so nervous that a pen had slipped from his breast pocket and rapped loudly on the floor. Although His Majesty hadn't thought anything of it, it had been considered scandalous in the intensely-conservative court that prided itself on tradition and heritage.

As the King swept through the room, four guardsmen trailing behind and ready to gun down any would-be assassin, the assembled guests bowed or curtsied depending on their sex. Inwardly, and quite to the contrary of what one would expect, he felt irritation at the action. The king was a modernist and prided himself on continued economic and political reformations that sometimes shook up Bautizan civil society. In fact he seemed to occasionally delight in prodding at the conservative upper classes, and he was loved by the people. But right now it was one of the more tedious aspects of his day.

He seated himself in the throne, sweeping the flowing cape to the side so his feet didn't tangle in the heavy fabric. It had happened before, exactly once, and his father had lectured him for two hours afterwards. The lesson had taken. He sat there and tried to look a little less-frustrated as the Arch-Bishop stepped forward and stopped the regulation two feet from the bottom-most step. Now that's one man who enjoys his job too much, the king thought as the religious man raised his scepter.

"We thank thee, our Lords and Ladies of the ships, for your continued wisdom and guidance for this Kingdom. We ask for your blessings upon our sovereign and monarch …" the speech began to drone on. It didn't help that the Arch-Bishop had a terrible monotone. Rumor from within the Church of the Three Masts, the official national religion of the Kingdom, said that priests had a systematic habit of 'de-inviting' themselves from official conferences where his name was on the speaker's list. If true it would be terribly amusing.

The King tuned back into the speech in time for his cue. The Arch-Bishop brought his scepter down to the floor, tipping it slightly towards the monarch, who raised his hands and began to speak. "Let all present bear witness to our continued glory and faith in this Royal Kingdom of Bautizar, and may we continued to be blessed and led by those in which we place our trust for guidance and leadership. On this day we so swear. Amen."

"Amen," the crowd rumbled in response. Most of those present began to filter out as the court commenced for the day: they would wait outside until called. Because today was Tuesday, the agenda for the day would be dominated by petitions and requests, primarily from the upper classes. Bautizar may have been modernized, but it still had a unwieldy and often-bickering system of various nobles and ladies who all clamored for some of the King's time.

With the official ceremony over, the king stood and began to unfast his cape. One of his personal guards immediately dodged in to collect the fabric as it slid off his shoulders. "Now that's one ceremony that needs to end, Andrew."

"Aye sir."

The king glanced at the man as he settled back in the chair again. "Still agreeing with everything I say?"

"Of course, your majesty."

"All right then," he said, glancing at the page. Outwardly his amusement was evident. The other guardsmen had learned that the king sometimes appreciated advice and commentary from his men-at-arms, but Andrew Forsythe was made of sterner stuff. Not once in 37 years had he ever contradicted one thing the monarch had said to him. "Send in the first one."

The yeoman stamped his spear immediately, startling the page. "The Lord High Admiral, Sir Philip Rushmore." Was it him or did the yeoman have a distinctive smirk on his face, and the page looked irritated. Oh, right, the king thought to himself as he suddenly recalled what he'd learned only last week. The two had an on-again/off-again rivalry over who could remember the day's agenda list the best.

"Admiral!" he called in greetings, standing up and descending the three steps to the floor. The guardsmen remained where they were as the two men shook hands and the king gestured him to seats near the reinforced-bulletproof glass window. "So what can I do for the Navy today? Not often we see you in these chambers on a petition day."

"No sir. This matter crossed my desk only this morning and I resolved to bring it here as soon as possible." They took seats under the window as the page and yeomen withdrew from the chambers, after a subtle wave and nod from the king. "May I presume to say that you're aware of the tensions in the south?"

"You mean the wars being fought between the Eastern Union and Great Western Alliance, and others? Quite aware."

The admiral extracted a sheet from his folder and passed it to the King. "A significant portion of our oil comes from the warzones," he summarized as the sheet was read. "This is exposing us to the possibility of a significant negative impact to our military operations, in the opinion of the Imperial Military Staff. As you're aware over half the Navy relies on oil imports to operate; we've only introduced nuclear power into the largest combatants. It's even worse when it comes to the Army and Air Force." It was a very grim report and he didn't relish having to deliver it.

The King glanced out the window, then looked back at the naval officer with that shrewd look in his eyes. The one that meant he was thinking of something. "I saw the economic reports yesterday: large stocks were laid in for this winter, six month's worth at least and that assumes an embargo ..... Is that why this has not arisen as an issue of concern before?"

The man shrugged. "Quite possibly. We've always relied on large reserves to get us through the winter, and we stock up when the sea lanes are less dangerous to travel in the summer. And as you're aware, much of civilian industry relies on the nuclear sector to provide its power and energy, whereas oil is used more by the military. But now the scale of the conflict has escalated into areas with large and extensive oil deposits, and that threatens to diminish the amount available for purchase next year."

"To alleviate this potential crisis," he continued as the King looked thoughtful, "the Imperial Military Staff proposes to send out six survey ships, maybe nine if we can scrounge up three more, and commence survey operations off the north coast." He removed another sheet, this one a naval map of the coast and offshore waters with depth annotations. "The area has been extensively surveyed before but never by ships equipped to seek out oil deposits. And our hydrologists and in-house experts suspect there may be extensive deposits offshore."

"I take it they'll be escorted?" the king inquired. In response he received a nod. "Good. In that case I have no objections to this plan. Please congratulate the Military Staff on their foresight, and I would appreciate regular updates on the progress of this expedition." Although the latter was delivered as an informal request, both knew it would be honored. The King was an excellent terms with his leading generals and military officers, and liked to be kept in-the-loop on developing affairs. There was no need, reason, or logic to deny him this request.
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Bautizar

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Posts : 26
Join date : 2010-10-22
Location : South Carolina, USA

PostSubject: Re: Black Gold   Sun Dec 26, 2010 5:00 pm

His Majesty's Royal Navy Base Port Allansberry

Ten days after the conversation between the King and the Lord High Admiral, the survey ships left the port. They filed out one-by-one through the channel that was wide enough for three ships, icebreakers scouting ahead to brush aside errant pack ice that littered the seas at this time of year. A trio of helicopters flew overhead in a loose security cordon, not seriously expecting a security threat but nevertheless vigilant for intruders or errant fishing vessels. And behind the survey ships came the Navy.

A cruiser and destroyer were standing vigil inside the harbor basin, observing the activity as a carrier was eased away from its pier by a combination of propellers and tugboats. The frigid cold in the harbor and recent spell of bad weather had limited the turnout in support of the ship's departure: where there would have normally been a throng of well-wishers there were instead only a diehard few families and wives there to see the ship off. HMS King Rodger (CVN-12) would have to make do with a limited turnout.

Twelve ships had been assigned in support of the prospecting/survey mission: the carrier King Rodger as flagship, accompanied by the Dreadnaught-class cruisers Orion and Thunderer, the Black Prince-class Agamemnon, and destroyers Nike, Indomitable, Illustrious, Hamilton, and Rodney. A pair of frigates had sailed the day before to sniff the ocean outside the port in hopes of finding an errant submarine. The last ship to sail would be the fast resupply ship Cumberland, which would leave later in the day.

But the heart and soul of the expedition was the eight survey ships that were being sent. Six of them were operated by the Navy, and two more had been chartered from one of the plethora of small companies that made their livelihoods by constantly surveying and updating the nautical charts of the Kingdom's dangerous coast. The acoustic noise they made was horrible, a fact commented on by more than one sonar operator on the escorting ships. It sounded like a gravel truck at 70mph on an unpaved country road. These ships had been built for utility, not naval operations, and drowned out everything within a few miles. Submarines, the bane of any surface-warfare vessel, would be a real bitch to detect. But with all the fighting in the south who had time to send a submarine north? They were all likely involved in the war.

"Acknowledged," the executive officer of the King Rodger was commenting on a sound-powered telephone as the captain stepped in off the bridge wing. He brushed some stray snowflakes off his shoulder lapel, looking outside in time to see another spray of snow erupt off the flight deck. There was a line of men shoveling it all over the side into the harbor. "Sir, the admiral's staff reports the airwing will begin to fly on immediately after we clear the harbor."

The captain nodded. It was customary procedure to wait for a ship of the RBN to leave port before receiving its fixed-wing aircraft. Driving disassembled aircraft to the ship on a flatbed truck, the only way to transship aircraft when docked in port, made no sense so most squadrons were flown to the nearest airfield to wait there. And as usual, it'd be a busy day.

"Clearing the pier now sir," the helmsman reported. The commanding officer glanced forward to see the bow swinging around as the ship was turned clear. He checked his watch as he ran some mental calculations. Thirty minutes to the outer channel buoy, ten more to the sea buoy? That sounded about right. Combat-ready jets would be landing on the flight deck within the hour. A whine on the opposite side of the flight deck began to turn into a roar as a helicopter's rotor blades picked up speed. Soon it would become one more escort to screen the formation.
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