|Four Leviathan Class battleships of the Kiivar Polar|
Date: 14/10/66940 AA. Time 09:17 hours.
Estimated position: 31.30 degrees N, 103.82 degrees E, some 30 kilometers off Ra'esharn west coast, almost due east of Cape and City of Lezrin, the southern-most point of Omez, some 150km distant;
Course: 180 degrees (due south).
Overcast cloud, and rain showers; strong breeze from the north to north by west, easing, and veering westward.
Barometer rising, weather clearing from the southwest, wind moderating.
Message from RKS Polyphemus received 09:17 hours ...
'Smoke seen to the southwest, sir,' the First Officer of the watch reported to Captain Hai Tee. All eyes but two turned toward the slowly widening sliver of blue, far off the starboard bow. The two apparently incurious eyes belonged to the inscrutable Vice-Admiral Wu Bai, then sipping his rice tea, patiently awaiting developments. A quiet disquiet descended upon the bridge.
'Anything from our own lookouts?' Captain Tee murmured. 'Kindly take a look all directions, at that. We don't need to fixate on our unknown distant arrivals and find ourselves under surprise attack from that murk to larboard or astern.'
It was just the squadron's bad luck to encounter a likely enemy with the Great Southern Ocean almost open before them, and the weather clearing. Why could it not have stayed foul a few hours longer?
|Admiral Mojo's powerful three battleships of the|
The Kiivar Squadron comprised four - and therefore half - of their latest battleships. Exercising in sub-Polar waters off the remote northern coasts of Kiivar, they had received too late the unexpected news of Ra'esharn's declaration of War. The Vice-Admiral had imagined a good six months might elapse for tensions to escalate so far as to put the disputants on a war footing. Now, isolated as they were, he figured upon a dash for home as the best chance to reunite these ships with the rest of the Republic of Kiivar Navy. The worrying part would be the Strait of Omez, the 1000km long stretch no wider than 200km - and where no doubt Ra'esharn hunter groups, surface and submersible, would be lurking in wait. To pass around the Island Empire of Ra'esharn, through the Saabian archipelago, would have added at least 1000 km - probably nearer 2000, to the journey. That way, the margins in terms of food fuel and ammunition were far tighter, and the risk of battle no less.
Commander: Wu Bai, Vice-Admiral of the White
RKS Polyphemus (12)
RKS Argus Panoples (15) Flag
RKS Hyperion (17)
RKS Tethys (18)
All four vessel were battleships of the Leviathan Class: 42,000 tons (Protection 11) and carrying 8 x 15-inch guns (Strike 8)
As luck would have it, a three day storm had accompanied the squadron for almost the entire passage of the Omez Strait. It had been rough going - and only this morning hot food and drink had been served out to the hands and officers, the first for two days and three nights. The Vice-Admiral reminded himself that the unknown and unwelcome smoke might have no hostile import at all, and even if it did, might not have seen his own smoke against the dark eastern horizon. But if it did, he would fight it.
|The rival squadrons on converging courses, Kiivar's due south|
Ra'esharn's roughly SSE.
What was happening aboard that distant ship - or ships? This transpired to be a powerful battle squadron under Admiral Hideki Mojo, himself. He had indeed ordered several hunter groups to patrol the strait in search of the vanished enemy, but the coming of bad weather rather reduced their chances ever of finding even four large ships of war. Taking personal command of a powerful squadron of four Cacodaemon Class battleships, he planned to patrol the southern exit of the Omez Strait, the last line of battle. It was bad luck engine failure had forced IRS Azi Dahaka back into port. His remaining three monster warships would be none too many to take on four enemy capital ships.
It was well along the eastward leg of his back and forth patrol that the lead warship, IRS Akem Manah reported a long line of smoke, just barely visible, fine on the port bow. Whatever was making that smoke was headed due south, making for the vastnesses of the Great Southern Ocean. Aboard his flagship, IRS Aeshma, Admiral Mojo signed to the ship captain to signal a change of course to converge upon that of the unknown smoke. 'Lay us on a 150-degree course,' he said. He knew in his bones he had guessed right. Judging by the reaction on the bridge, his officers were of like mind. It would soon be time to sound the 'beat to quarters'...
|The Kiivar line of battle. Vice-Admiral Wu Bai's|
has hoisted his flag in the second vessel, Argus Panoples.
Hideki Mojo, Admiral of the Blue.
IRS Akem Manah (102)
IRS Aeshma (103) Flag
IRS Agra Mainyu (101)
All three vessels are from the Cacodaemon Class: 65,000 tons (Protection 16); and carrying 9 x 18-inch guns (Strike 12).
As the weather cleared, the wind gradually veered around to the southwest. By this time, both sides had identified the other. Their converging courses led inexorably to battle, for, knowing it would sooner or later come to a fight and mindful of the fuel situation, Vice-Admiral Hai Tee disdained to edge away from his heavier opponents. He resolved to fight.
|The Ra'esharn battle squadron, reduced to three vessels|
with the storm-damaged Azi Dahaka having to
return to port.