A Line in the Sand (CLOSED: Ajax Only)

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-The Kingdom of Arcadia-
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Founded: Feb 28, 2019

A Line in the Sand (CLOSED: Ajax Only)

Postby -The Kingdom of Arcadia- » Tue May 07, 2019 1:31 pm

His Majesty The King
Highever Palace, Highever
Duchy of Starminster, Kingdom of Arcadia

The new King of Arcadia returned to the capital under a literal cloud as dark as the cloud of grief that hung over him. Rain fell upon the ancient city, giving the entire place a sullen look as the King’s Motorcade made its way from the Great Gate at the southern-most extreme of the wide circular city walls to Highever Palace. The Kingsway ran directly from the Great Gate up the only gently sloping side of the hill at the centre of Highever, the capital of the Kingdom of Arcadia, to the very doors of the palace. Highever had, a very long time ago, been a formidable fortress; first a simple hill fort and later a fully-fledged castle, however over the centuries the castle town had grown into a vast, bustling city. The Palace’s heritage as Castle Highever could still be seen in the central building, which although renovated, still battlements and other hints towards a past that had seen the citadel besieged on more than one occasion, however it had never been taken by storm. The great iron gates were opened by Royal Guardsmen and the motorcade swept onto the forecourt of the Palace as onlookers watched in numb silence.

Alexander Thomas William, or King Alexander II as he was now known, stepped out of the Royal limousine and looked up at the imposing yet graceful architecture of Highever Palace. He had seen this building many times of course, and yet this was the first time he looked upon it as King, and the first time that he noticed that, being raised upon a flagpole upon the Palace’s highest tower, the King’s Tower, was the Royal Standard. And yet, although it looked similar to the Royal Standard that had flown over buildings when his father had visited them it was undeniably different; for there was a new King in Arcadia. Alexander sighed heavily but slowly, and with deliberate movements, settled his peaked cap onto his head, for he had been pulled straight from his ship by the Admiralty as soon as his parent’s assassination had been confirmed and he had barely had time to pull his uniform greatcoat on over his No.1C service uniform before he had been hurried into a Lynx and flown ashore. Had he been in a more jovial mood he would have found it amusing that the public would see him in such a ‘simple’ uniform, for, as a member of the Royal Family, he was far more often seen in far more elaborate frock coat, epaulettes and cocked hat of any of the Royal Arcadian Navy’s three orders of ceremonial dress.

The King turned his attention to the small crowd of people at the top of the steps leading into the Palace. At their head was his Uncle Thomas, known to the public as His Royal Highness The Duke of Windamere, and his Uncle William, known to the public as His Royal Highness The Duke of Wintershold, the two oldest members of the Royal Family now that their brother was gone. Both were career military officers, and much like the young King had been pulled from their assignments, temporarily at least for them, for both security considerations and to greet their nephew; as a result the Duke of Windamere wore the Army’s equivalent to Alexander’s uniform whilst the Duke of Wintershold wore the Air Force’s. Beside the two older men were two younger women; his sisters. The elder of the two, dressed in black civilian mourning clothes, was HRH The Princess Elizabeth. The younger woman, still a girl really, was his nineteen year old ‘baby’ sister, HRH The Princess Jessica, who would have looked, tears streaming down her face, like she was playing dress-up in her father’s naval uniform, had Alexander not seen her in happier times looking very and smart and proper in the ceremonial dress uniform of the Royal Arcadian Navy on her passing-out parade from the Royal Arcadian Naval Academy.

The King’s two sisters stepped down towards him and he embraced them both fiercely; the image of the young King comforting his sisters was caught by news cameras outside the fence and would soon become iconic.

After a few moments Alexander gave his two sisters a squeeze and released them, stepping past them to clasp arms with each of his uncles in turn. He could see the grief in their eyes, but he could also see from their expressions that they were keeping control of it; for him if nothing else. They made have lost their brother, and indeed even his sisters might have lost their father, but the weight of the word was squarely upon Alexander’s shoulders and his alone. He was the one that was gong to have to take up the Crown from his father.

“The Lord Constable is here,” The Duke of Windamere said in his baritone rumble, then added. “Your Majesty.”

Alexander nodded jerkily as he stepped past his family and into the Palace. The Lord Constable was the head of the Royal Arcadian Constabulary, the national law enforcement agency of the Kingdom, which was responsible for policing not handled by a municipal or regional constabulary, and the custodian of various national policing capabilities. As a result, the Lord Constable was also the senior police officer in the Kingdom, was the lead law enforcement advisor to the Crown and Government, and held authority over those national policing capabilities. One of those responsibilities was the protection of the Royal Family… a role that the RAC had singularly failed in.

The King found the Lord Constable, William Fitzpatrick, a career police officer who had been raised to the peerage in recognition of his ascent to the pinnacle of his profession as Baron Fitzpatrick, in the Red Drawing Room. The Lord Constable, dressed in the formal uniform of the RAC, bowed formally as his new King entered the room.

“Your Majesty,” Lord Fitzpatrick said stiffly. “You have my condolences for your loss.”

“Your condolences, Sir!” Alexander snapped. “It was on your watch that it happened, and you offer my condolences!”

Fitzpatrick flinched at the vehemence in the young King’s tone, and because he knew that he was right; the Highever Police had failed in their duty to protect their King and Queen from those that would wish them harm. It was the first failing in the history of the HPS protecting members of the Royal Family or the Government, but there could literally have been no worse failing than losing their King and Queen.

Alexander scowled then shook his head.

“Alright Lord Constable, I have only two questions,” He said, more calmly. “What happened and who was behind it?”

“The Royal Motorcade was travelling down Highway 6, returning from a commissioning ceremony at the Stormholme Naval Base, when they were attacked by well-armed, well-organised assailants,” Lord Fitzpatrick replied uncomfortably, Alexander remembered numbly that Fitzpatrick had likely lost dozens of officers. “The lead vehicle was taken out by some form of rocket propelled grenade, this caused the second vehicle to crash straight into the back of it, with the rest of the motorcade doing the same to various degrees.”

“My god,” Alexander breathed. “There was no warning?”

“None, one moment they were doing just fine and the next they were in a multi-car pile up and being attacked from all sides by automatic gunfire… my people tried to secure a perimeter, but there were too many, and the motorcade was already in a shambles,” Lord Fitzpatrick sighed. “We’re not sure what had happened after that, as there were no survivors, but it does not appear that there was an attempt to take the King and Queen alive, as they were found near their ruined limousine, both had been shot execution-style.”

“My god,” Alexander repeated as he sank onto a seat.

Alexander’s mind raced as he considered the implications of what Lord Fitzpatrick had just said. Such a deliberate murder of his parents, in such force and with such obvious planning, not to mention clearly compromised security around the movements of the two senior members of the Royal Family, had the awful stench of treason. At the very least it was obvious that someone within Lord Fitzpatrick’s ranks was a traitor, or had been compromised by those that wanted the King and Queen dead, not to mention other moles in various other government bodies or law enforcement agencies. To have the resources to accomplish something like this, however, meant either a foreign state-sponsored attack, or a very wealthy, very well-connected individual, or group of individuals, within the Kingdom itself. There was no other explanation; the security around the King of Arcadia was as tight as any other head of state, with the sheer scale of the attack itself a testament to that… this was high treason, and murder most foul.

“Who did this?” The King asked eventually.

“We don’t know for sure, the sheer size and scale of the attack limits the potential suspects significantly, and we can’t rule out a state-actor, however there also individuals, or certainly groups of individuals, who could finance sufficient mercenaries and arms to carry out a similar attack, if they really wanted to,” Lord Fitzpatrick shook his head grimly. “However, although we were significantly outnumbered and outgunned, to be able to pull off the attack also required a significant amount of inside information, suggesting a breath at a very high level… this also helps decrease the suspect pool, however we don’t have any firm leads, much less evidence.”

Lord Fitzpatrick paused and hesitated.

“If I may speak freely, Your Majesty?”

“Always,” Alexander nodded. “Especially when it regards national security.”

“His Late Majesty had made no secret of his intention to act to reclaim much of the authority that had been granted to Parliament, in order to combat the corruption that is rampant within the legislature, even if I’ve not been able to prove it with the lack of access that Acts of Parliament enforced upon the RAC,” Lord Fitzpatrick replied bluntly. “Now, I have no evidence for this whatsoever, this is just my gut feeling, but if there is one group of people that would stand to lose the most if your father had achieved his goals it would be the corrupt politicians and their corporate paymasters… and those same backers would have the funds, and the contacts needed too.”

Alexander leant back in his chair and considered what the Lord Constable had just said. Although it was true that he had absolutely no evidence, the theory certainly made sense and, truth be told, Alexander knew that there was very little motivation for anyone else to have launched such a brutal and callous attack on his parents, beloved as they had been with the common people. Moreover, if the wrong people were compromised that would explain the intelligence and security leaks as well.

“Let’s say you’re right… and if I’m being honest I believe you are,” Alexander said slowly. “How do we prove it?”

“Get me funding and give me the authority to investigate the people we need to investigate and I’ll handle that,” Lord Fitzpatrick said simply. “Most of these people have survived simply because we’ve not had the authority to investigate Members of Parliament, remove that protection and we’ll have success.”

“Consider it done, although this will kick off one hell of a constitutional crisis, but I don’t think we have any choice at this point,” Alexander said decisively. “And I’ll make sure you get the funding, even if it has to come from the Privy Purse, this ends, now.”

“As you command, Your Majesty,” Lord Fitzpatrick said formally. “The Royal Arcadian Constabulary is with you, Sire.”

Alexander smiled ruefully.

“Don’t make it sound like a civil war just yet,” Alexander commented dryly.

“Just wanted you to know where we stand, Sire.”

Alexander shook his head wryly.

“That being said, find the Lord High Marshal, and tell him, personally and discretely, that I would like a word…”

Field Marshal The Lord Hammond
Highever Palace, Highever
Duchy of Starminster, Kingdom of Arcadia

The Lord High Marshal, Field Marshal Andrew Hammond, Lord Hammond, strode from the staff car which had ferried him from the Ministry of Defence and up the steps into Highever Palace, adorned in the distinctive blood red No.1A dress uniforms of the Royal Army, only one step down from the Full Ceremonial Dress that was worn on state occasions. Lord Hammond, as the Lord High Marshal, was a career military officer and was the professional head of the Royal Arcadian Military (the title became Lord High Admiral, if held by a naval officer), and exercised full command and control over the military in the name of the Crown. Although Parliament had asserted its own authority over the RAM, principally through control of the military budget and thereby had effectively been delegated control over the Military by the Crown, legally speaking the RAM answered to the King. It was, Lord Hammond suspected, this legal technically that had prompted his summons to Highever Palace; after all, it was not the norm of the Lord Constable, another Great Officer of State (and thereby a Royal servant) to discretely pass on messages from the Monarch.

At least it would be an interesting audience, to say the least!

Lord Hammond was met before the Great Stairs by two footmen, who respectfully greeted him and escorted him through the Palace until they reached the Red Drawing Room where he found the King. He bowed deeply, not wearing his peaked cap due to being inside otherwise he would have saluted, and waited for his Monarch to acknowledge him and permit him to rise, which the younger man did with a hint of unease. This was understandable, although he had been the Crown Prince, his King had also been a naval officer of significantly lower rank than Lord Hammond, so the sudden change was likely unsettling to the younger man.

“You summoned me, Your Majesty?”

“I did, my lord,” The King nodded. “Please, have a seat.”

Lord Hammond did as distracted and settled into a seat as directed.

“I had an interesting discussion with the Lord Constable about an hour ago; he was briefing me on the attack… on the attack that killed my parents, and he was of the opinion that such an attack would only be possible by a well-funded, well-connected group,” The King explained. “The Lord Constable was also of the opinion that the most likely group behind the attack, is a conspiracy of corrupt politicians and corporate leadership, who stood to lose the most if my father was able to reassert Royal authority… or if I do so.”

The King paused and leant back in his chair, after a few moments it was obvious the younger man was inviting Lord Hammond’s thoughts on what he had said.

“Not an unreasonable assessment, given the circumstances, Sire,” Lord Hammond commented quietly. “It stinks to high heaven.”

“I’m glad you agree; I’ve been thinking about this for the last hour and, truth be told, I can’t think of anyone else that would want to kill my parents in such a callous way, not to mention to expend such effort, in both blood and treasure to pull it off,” The King shook his head grimly. “You should know that I have ordered the Lord Constable to investigate this matter to the full extent of the law, and that I am rescinding Parliamentary protection for individual Members of Parliament, and that I will personally fund the investigation if Parliament tries to shut it down.”

Lord Hammond leant back in his chair, taken aback to say the least.

“Your Majesty…”

“Speak freely, my Lord,” The King said evenly. 

“What you are proposing would be in violation of numerous Acts of Parliament,” Lord Hammond commented with a slight frown as he considered his King. “Not to mention cause constitutional upheaval and be borderline illegal, depending on your interpretation of the law.”

“What you say is true, my Lord, although the powers that were granted to Parliament were done with the consent of the Crown, and according to the written letter of the laws, that power still stems from the Monarch to Parliament, rather than being innately theirs,” The King argued firmly. “Indeed, it was the fact that the King of the day, my great grandfather, was so on-board with democratic ideals that allowed it to happen so quickly, rather than legislate the authority of Parliament was granted by Royal Decree, which can be revoked.”

Lord Hammond opened his mouth to reply, but was stopped by a raised hand from his King.

“Don’t get me wrong, my Lord, I have no intentions of ruling as a despot; but the current situation can no longer be allowed to continue; how often do you and your people struggle with old equipment or unnecessary support contracts, due fatten the pockets of corporations and their pocket MPs?” The King continued, his passion evident in his voice. “I will bring about a system in which there are restraints upon my power as much as upon those elected members; but the Crown will ensure oversight in the elected process, and I will ensure that we have the final say in what happens… the Crown and the Commons; checks and balances, for the Realm…”

“You are asking me to support a Coup, Sire.”

“I am asking you to honour your oath of allegiance to the Crown… and to the Realm… you know that enough is enough, my father died for this fight, just for taking a stand, we cannot allow his sacrifice to go unanswered or to be in vain,” The King said firmly, standing and walking to the window. “Look, I know that we have popular support for what I am proposing; the commoners are as fed up as anyone about the corruption, thanks to social media exposing their bullshit, and the Lords have been chafing against this for decades.”

The King paused again.

“This is not a situation that ends in military confrontation; either you support me and we change the way things are run, or you don’t and I am deposed and the monarchy abolished,” He continued simply. “We’re not talking about a civil war here, but you are the lynchpin and I literally can’t do it without you, which is why I need to make sure you’re on board so that we can even start.”

Lord Hammond did not speak for a few moments as he considered his position and knew that his next words would be all important to what happened. He knew that the King was right; that it would be military support that would determine the outcome, without military support there would be no way for those under investigation to try and oppose the Royal re-assumption of executive power, if the RAC was already supporting the King.

“I won’t but troops on the street, Sire,” Lord Hammond said firmly.

“You won’t need to; without RAM or RAC support, Parliament has no means to stop what I intend to do; and they don’t have the kind of support needed to bring riotous crowds out in their defence, like I said, this is not a situation that ends with blood on the streets,” The King nodded. “However, this Kingdom has been in decline for many years at the hands of corrupt politicians, but my family has a certain appeal to people both low and high, where I lead, the people will follow… will you follow me too, Field Marshal?”

“How would this happen?” Lord Hammond frowned.

“The Royal Arcadian Constabulary has a great number of suspects of corruption, both in the political sphere and in the corporate world, but what they are decisively lacking in his hard proof of any wrong doing to pin these bastards to the wall,” The King replied promptly. “On my orders, the RAC will conduct a wave of raids tomorrow morning, targeting corrupt politicians and corporate headquarters… if we find the evidence we need, then we’ll proceed, if not… well, we best find what we need, so I won’t ask you to declare yourself until after the raids.”

The King paused and looked Lord Hammond squarely in the eye.

“So are you with me, my Lord?”

“Of course, Sire,” Lord Hammond said decisively. “God Save the King.”

“God save all of us, my friend.”

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-The Kingdom of Arcadia-
Civil Servant
Posts: 7
Founded: Feb 28, 2019

Postby -The Kingdom of Arcadia- » Sun May 12, 2019 5:26 am

Lord William Fitzpatrick, Lord Constable of Arcadia
1 Portcullis Street, Highever
Duchy of Starminster, Kingdom of Arcadia

“Armed Police! Get down! Stay down!”

Lord Fitzpatrick watched with a professional eye as several Royal Arcadian Constabulary tactical teams stormed into the lobby of 1 Portcullis Street, a purpose-built office building across from Parliament House to provide office space for Members of Parliament and their staff. It was shortly after nine in the morning, deemed the ideal time to catch as many MPs in the same area as possible, and the lobby, which led into a wide atrium, was bustling with activity as members and their aides, and some guests, turned to look in amazement as fully-armed police officers stormed into the building, followed by dozens of other unarmed (most police officers in Arcadia were not armed with firearms, equipped instead with tasers, an extendable baton and CS spray) officers. It was not the first time something like this had happened, the RAC had run a counter-terrorism drill simulating an active shooter situation within the Parliamentary Estate, but unlike that drill anyone who didn’t comply was roughly manhandled to the floor by the advancing armed police officers. Shouts and exclamations of surprise began to fill the wide space, conflicting with the shouted warnings of the police officers, but soon enough everyone in the atrium was on the floor.

As the armed officers moved to sweep the rest of the building, splitting into four-man teams to do so, the unarmed officers moved forwards and began to pick through the MPs and their staff; checking for the targets of the raid and arresting those that they found, causing distress to some and relief to others as they were passed by. Lord Fitzpatrick was totally unarmed, not even possessing personal protection equipment, rather he was decked out in his full dress uniform, including a distinctive night cloak, and he simply watched the process take place. Indeed, for those with nothing to fear his presence was comforting; for if the Lord Constable was involved then this wasn’t some form of rogue action; and maybe half a dozen members had been read-in to the operation shortly before it had begun.

Lord Fitzpatrick’s head snapped round as he heard a commotion from one of the corridors and saw a middle-aged man accompanied by a man in a distinctive uniform, a drawn pistol in his hand and raised towards the RAC officers, which had prompted the tactical team that had remained in the atrium for just this sort of situation to converge on the pair and shout their warnings. Neither side appeared willing to back down, and had the man been anyone else it was likely that the armed police officers would have shot them; you didn’t ignore a warning by armed police officers and live to tell the tale; any hesitation could be fatal to the officers. Lord Fitzpatrick strode forward as he identified the man, Kevin Greenwood, the Speaker of the House, which made the armed man the Serjeant-at-Arms of the House of Commons, Sir Thomas Rivers, a former Major in the Royal Army.

“Lord Constable!” Speaker Greenwood spluttered as he spotted the Kingdom’s senior police officer. “What is the meaning of this?”

Lord Fitzpatrick glanced at Greenwood for a moment before focusing his attention on Rivers.

“I need you to stand down, Sir Thomas,” Lord Fitzpatrick said firmly.

“On whose authority are you here, Sir,” Rivers asked quietly, his weapon still raised.

“The highest,” Lord Fitzpatrick replied.

Rivers considered the situation for a moment; there was only one person that could have authorised such an audacious road, theoretically speaking, and that there was only one that would be referred to as ‘the highest authority’. Of course the man he was protecting would likely argue that point, but Rivers knew the law exceptionally well and if the Kingdom’s law enforcement was enforcing that law, then it wasn’t River’s place to stand in the way. Besides, like many former military officers, Rivers was a royalist deep down. He lowered his weapon and nodded to Fitzpatrick.

“You’ll hang for this!” Speaker Greenwood exploded.

“No, Sir, I won’t,” Rivers said simply, stepping across to stand beside the Lord Constable, who gestured two officers forwards, one with handcuffs.

“Kevin Greenwood, I am arresting you on suspicion of corruption in a public office; you do not have to say anything, but it may harm your defence if you do not mention, when questioned, something which you later rely on in court; anything you do say ma be given in evidence.”

Greenwood looked murderous as he was taken into custody by the two uniformed officers that Lord Fitzpatrick had gestured forwards to arrest him. If the long-standing suspicions of the Anti-Corruption Division of the RAC were anything to go by, Greenwood had been at the centre of the corruption, as had every previous speaker. The reason for this was simple enough; the Speaker of the Commons was responsible for enforcing ethics standards and combating corruption, or rather the Speaker was responsible for waving Parliamentary Privilege to allow the RAC to investigate violations. With successive speakers refusing to wave that privilege it had been impossible for the RAC, or indeed for the press, to gain much needed evidence, and without that the RAC could not prosecute anyone and the press couldn’t print unsubstantiated allegations; and the Commons Legal Counsel was notorious for vigorously pursuing slander suits against the press when they had tried to do so. It had only been the rise of social media that had gotten the word out, and revealed the scope of the corruption to the masses… even if the majority of it was still, technically, unsubstantiated. However, that was precisely what this raid was designed to achieve; to gather the evidence of collusion and corruption between politicians and the corporate actors also implicated in the scandal.

As Greenwood was led away, Fitzpatrick turned as he spotted the Inspector commanding the combined tactical teams approaching.

“We’re all clear, my Lord,” The Inspector reported.

“Good… find Chief Superintendent Hastings and get the uniformed officers to complete their own sweep of the building, I want to make sure we get everyone we want here as quickly as possible; I rather doubt that our raid will remain a secret for too long,” Lord Fitzpatrick commented wryly. “With that in mind, regroup your people and head over to the secondary staging area; we need to start hitting our corporate targets before news of this breaks; and even with the single-jammer its only a matter of time before someone outside tweets about the increased police activity and someone starts putting two-and-two together.”

The Inspector nodded, and moved away to follow the instructions he had been given. With the armed sweep complete, Lord Fitzpatrick gave the order for the frightened MPs and their staffs to be allowed to return to their feet and encouraged them all to congregate around the tables in the atrium to allow his officers to do their work. It was only ten minutes or so before one man emerged from a group of MPs that had put their heads together in hurried conversation and made his way over. Fitzpatrick raised en eyebrow; the man was not on the arrest list, and indeed from what he knew of the man there were no corruption concerns around him at all; not even a hint of one.

“David Sinclair,” The politician identified himself. “Member of Parliament for Lorechester.”

“How can I help you, Mister Sinclair?” Lord Fitzpatrick replied evenly.

“I’ve been authorised by my colleagues speak on their behalf, so you can tell me what the hell is going on here,” Sinclair said firmly. “I can’t say I’m sorry to see the people who went go, as individuals, but as MPs I must know the reason you’re detaining them.”

“Following the assassination of the King and Queen yesterday, the new King ordered me to begin an investigation into political corruption and any potential links to the assassination itself, and used his own personal authority to remove Parliamentary Privilege,” Lord Fitzpatrick replied. “You know as well as I do, Mr Sinclair, that many of your colleagues are on the take by various corporate leadership, but have been hiding behind Parliamentary Privilege for decades to avoid facing the force of the law for their actions.”

“That’s an interesting interpretation of the law, Lord Constable,” Sinclair commented dryly. “Some would argue the Crown lacks the authority to remove Parliamentary Privilege.”

“The Royal Arcadian Constabulary disagrees.”

“So I can see,” Sinclair scoffed. “You probably don’t know, but I started life as a lawyer… has this been through the courts?”

“Not yet, however His Majesty met with the Lord Chief Justice last night to discuss this very matter, and get his legal opinion on the legality of the Crown re-asserting its constitutional authority and his power to resident Parliamentary Sovereignty,” Lord Fitzpatrick replied, having been present for the meeting. “The Lord Chief Justice was of the opinion that, as the Arcadian Parliament was established by Royal decree, and that no one bothered to codify that in legislation, that the King is within his prerogatives to rescind Parliamentary Privilege, indeed legally speaking he would be within his power to dissolve Parliament entirely, although I cannot speak for whether he could do so politically.”

Sinclair nodded and looked thoughtful for a few moments. Indeed, it was clear that the King was playing this entire affair very smartly; not an easy thing to do when he was likely grief-stricken. By simply rescinding Parliamentary Privilege’s protection of Members against criminal investigation, the King was, really, just doing what the Speaker of the Commons should have done in holding members to account for their actions. Although the King could have dissolved Parliament completely and started from scratch, it also signalled that he was willing to compromise and if he wasn’t happy with the current political settlement it certainly suggested that he was prepared to negotiate a new, different one. Moreover, after setting aside his outrage over this violation of Parliament’s dignity, he easily conceded that something, dramatic and decisive, had to be done in order to cleanse the Arcadian political system of corruption once and for all.

“I’ll want to speak to the King,” Sinclair commented. “After I’ve spoken to my colleagues, of course.”

“Of course, I’m sure that can be arranged,” Lord Fitzpatrick nodded. “Indeed, I know that the King was intending to extend and invitation to a Parliamentary delegation.”

“Good,” Sinclair nodded in return, then glanced around. “Alright, what happens next?”

“Unfortunately I can’t go into too much detail, at least until you’ve met with the King,” Lord Fitzpatrick replied, almost apologetically know that Sinclair had calmed down. “What I can tell you, in the strictest confidence, is that we’ve sorted one half of this mess, so we need to sort the other.”

“The Corporations,” Sinclair nodded his understanding.

Broadly speaking, the political corruption within the Kingdom of Aracadia was as a result of politicians who were paid off by the half dozen or so super-corporations that dominated Arcadia’s economic landscape (outside of the financial sector, which was heavily self-regulated and generally above reproach). Through these corrupt politicians, the corporations were able to evade tax, bend legislation to their will at the expense of the consumer and, perhaps more damagingly, were able to ensure that key government contracts, such as those for the military and civil service, were granted to them at rock-bottom prices. All of the things that the corporations did were, nominally, legal, courtesy of their pocket MPs, as anti-competition laws and a wide range of other regulatory laws were non-existent or generally toothless. The RAC, and other law enforcement agencies, tried to enforce them where possible, but there was so little to go off and the regulatory bodies were, deliberately, toothless as well. It was well ‘known’ that particular politicians were in the pockets of these corporations, but there had never been any proof, and it was this that would be there downfall, should that proof come to life as it still remained illegal to bribe a Member of Parliament, or the Civil Service, and it was illegal for them to receive such bribes, meaning that if the RAC’s investigation uncovered the evidence both the corrupt politicians, and the corporations, would be in big trouble.

“Are you expecting pushback?” Sinclair frowned. “HD might prove problematic…”

Lord Fitzpatrick grimaced. Henderson Dynamics, or HD, was the largest, most wealthy and most powerful corporation in the Kingdom, with many fingers in many pies to say the least. As far as the RAC was concerned, however, Henderson Dynamics was also the most corrupt corporation in the Kingdom as well, and there were unconfirmed (for the moment) links between HD and dozens of Members of Parliament and other officials. Over the past six decades John Henderson, and his father Andrew, had steadily expanded their influence across the Kingdom by whatever means necessary, to the extent that HD was the only corporation in the Kingdom which had been authorised (through an obscene amount of bribery of course) to operate a private military division (Henderson Security Solutions), essentially giving it a private army… and it was doubtless this that Sinclair was referring to; for although HSS was not large (not even corrupt politicians were stupid enough to let that happen) its people were well-equipped, well-trained and very well paid.

“Perhaps, although we’re hoping they’ll see the writing on the wall and flee the country, rather than try anything rash,” Lord Fitzpatrick replied with a sigh. “They might be able to give my boys a hard time, but the King has the Lord High Marshal’s support and HSS can’t stand off against the RAM.”

Sinclair smiled wryly as Fitzpatrick revealed the fact that the King had attained military support for his actions, and Fitzpatrick grimaced again.

“Well played, Sir,” The Lord Constable conceded wryly. “Right, well as I’m sure you can imagine I’ve got a great deal to get done, I’ll make sure the Palace reaches out for you with regards to that meeting with the King.”

“Yes, please do,” Sinclair nodded. “We need to start discussion on the future, rather than getting caught up in a rapidly disappearing past.”

His Majesty The King
Highever Palace, Highever
Duchy of Starminster, Kingdom of Arcadia
Later That Day

Alexander sat quietly in his private study, sat in a comfortable chair as he reviewed the reports generated by the Lord Constable’s office on the days activities, including the spate of arrests that had taken place first thing in the morning at 1 Portcullis. By and large the operation to arrest the corrupt politicians had gone extremely well, with a few exceptions all of the suspected corrupt members and their staff had been caught at work and had been detained without too many difficulties. The handful of targets that were not present had been quickly rounded up in short order by the RAC, and if the early indications coming out of the RAC’s crime scene division were anything to go by they had started to find the kind of evidence they needed; as had the financial crime division which was now able to thoroughly investigate politicians financial dealings. The Kingdom’s financial sector, a bastion of trustworthy and self-regulation, had been more than happy to help and RAC investigators were able to uncover dozens of suspect transfers and holdings, including direct transfers between corporate accounts and Members of Parliament which, under formal (but previously under-enforced) anti-bribery and corruption laws, was strictly prohibited and constituted slam-dunk prosecutions for both sides.

Outside of these payments, which implicated the corporations directly, the investigation of the corporate side of the corruption was proceeding less successfully as the corporations were putting up every legal road-block they could do frustrate the RAC investigators, necessitating the RAC to go to court which gave their suspects time to, potentially, destroy valuable evidence. They would get them eventually, Alexander was confident, especially once they started flipping disgraced politicians in exchange for lenience when it came to sentencing, but it was frustrating to say the least. Moreover, they were no closer to uncovering which specific corporations or politicians were involved in the assassination of his parents; right now they were throwing a dragnet widely, it would take a far more focused approach to uncover the specifics. If he trusted his gut, and the Lord Constable had been at pains to inform him that they couldn’t just trust his gut, even if he was the King, he would have pointed the finger at Henderson Dynamics; as the biggest super corporation they had the most to lose, and there was significant animosity between the Henderson family and the Crown, as both Henderson’s had lobbied to be raised to the peerage. However, their corruption already suspected, both the late Andrew Henderson and his son had been firmly rebuffed by the Royal Household at every attempt.

Of course, the fact that Henderson Dynamics possessed the Kingdom’s only private ‘army’ didn’t help the King’s concern either.

Overall, however, the RAC investigation and the obvious support that the King was throwing behind it (not to mention the re-assumption of Royal authority that was being made clear whenever anyone questioned what was going on), was going down very well with the general population of the Kingdom. Over the past decade or so the rise of social media had begun to increase knowledge of what was going on, as although the official media could not report their suspicions (due to both Parliamentary Privilege and libel laws) the same could not be said for individual private citizens and citizen journalists. Not to mention the fact that it had been obvious the everyone that the Kingdom had been in a decline, and although the corporations were consistently reporting profits and huge returns for the shareholders, very little of the was making it back to the Kingdom in the form of corporate taxes; that was easy enough to prove through official government figures, and the fact that they were legally able to get away with it was a matter of legislation. It did not take a genius, or a legal scholar, to draw the connection.

Alexander glanced up at a gentle knock on his door and smiled as he saw personal steward, Michael Barnaby, a younger son of a prominent noble and the new King’s trusted aide for several years now.

“The Member for Lorechester, Your Majesty,” Barnaby said simply.

“Excellent, send him in please, Mike,” Alexander nodded and placed the report down on a side table. “Ah, David, thank you for coming.”

“Of course, Your Majesty,” David Sinclair replied, slightly thrown by his King’s use of his first given name. “Given the circumstances…”

“Given the circumstances indeed, please have a seat… can my steward get you anything? Tea, coffee… something stronger?” Alexander queried, raising a glass of whiskey. “After today I think we need it, don’t worry about standing on ceremony tonight.”

Sinclair considered his response before smiling slightly and nodded to the King, who in turn nodded to Barnaby who poured the drink and handed it to the MP.

“I gather from my conversation with the Lord Constable, earlier today, that you are the closest thing that I have right now to a clean-as-a-whistle MP who can command support from, or at least speak on behalf of, all parties within the Parliament,” Alexander commented with a wry smile. “Now, I don’t pretend to think that we can rely on this new found spirit of political consensus to survive for too long, especially once I start making the changes I intend to, but can I at least rely upon you to speak on behalf of Parliament?”

“You can, Sire, indeed I’ve been authorised to do so,” Sinclair replied with a nod, then frowned. “You mentioned changes?”

“I did, but don’t look so alarmed! As you no doubt noticed this morning it was on my orders that the RAC arrested many of your more corrupt colleagues, and in order to do so Parliamentary Privilege had to be revoked… which I did by Royal Decree, reasserting the Crown’s historic authority, a decision which I am confident would survive the courts if it came down to that,” Alexander explained, leaning back in his chair. “However, I have no intention of returning to a system of ruling-by-decree with Parliament has a rubber-stamp, as it was before my great grandfather empowered Parliament by Royal Decree… however, I do not intend to allow the opposite to be true; the Crown will not simply be a rubber stamp for Parliament’s excesses… especially after what some of your colleagues have been up to.”

Sinclair considered what the King had said and he found himself unable to disagree with anything that the younger man had said; it was obvious that an autocratic absolute monarch would no more be the right solution than it would be for Parliament to retain its absolute power over the Kingdom. As much as he hated to admit it, Parliament had squandered the public trust that had been placed in them, both in allowing the corruption to take root and in failing in their duty to root it out and oppose it. Indeed, although Sinclair had not been involved in any ‘dodgy dealings’ he knew that he had failed in his own responsibility to oppose it openly.

“What did you have in mind, Sire?”

“A division of responsibilities, combined with a degree of oversight; the Crown will principally concern itself with foreign affairs, diplomacy and things of that nature, whilst Parliament will be responsible for domestic affairs, as is right as elected representatives,” Alexander replied. “However, rather than my ruling by decree, and you being constrained solely to legislation, the Crown and Parliament will come together in a body to be known as the High Council, and it is through the High Council that all executive, and legislative, power is to be exercised, even if I, at least, could rule independently.”

“That has potential, Sire,” Sinclair commented after a moments thought. “So, all legislation would need to be approved by this High Council, and yourself as the Monarch?”

“I think, for the sake of simplicity, given that I would preside over the High Council, that if the legislation is approved by the High Council that it can be taken as a given that I have given my consent to it, we can specifically include that provision if you wish,” Alexander nodded. “Moreover, although I would reserve the right to exercise executive power on my own accord, for the vast majority of cases any exercise of executive power would, formally, be carried out by ‘the High Council in the Name of the King’, and I would be open to dissenting opinions internally, as I anticipate by successors would be.”

Sinclair opened his mouth to speak but Alexander held his hand up.

“Moreover, the High Council would be strictly non-political in nature; you can play whatever political games you want when you’re in Parliament that non-political nature will be enforced by the Crown, and in the case of approving legislation it shall be expected that opposition, and Royal appointees, vote to respect the result in Parliament as the elected representatives of the people,” Alexander continued firmly. “Which brings us onto composition; we would have the Monarch, of course, the Lord High Steward, the principle Secretaries of State, but we would also have the Leader of the Opposition, as well as various royal appointees like the Lord Constable… I want the High Council to be capable of rapid, decisive and cross-party decision makings, and would in effect be a combination of a privy council, cabinet and national security council.”

Sinclair nodded thoughtfully; it was certainly an unusual way to structure a government but he could see the benefits of it, especially in regards to providing a central body capable of leading the nation and would, hopefully, significantly streamline the entire process to say the least, especially with the inclusion of the Official Opposition to ensure there was a widespread consensus and support for the High Council, regardless of who formed the Government, would also help the institution develop and establish itself within the Kingdom’s constitutional framework.

“Alright, Your Majesty, you have my support,” Sinclair nodded. “I’ll have to talk it over with my colleagues, but I will endorse it.”

“Excellent, we can hammer out the specifics down the road, but I am glad that you support the overview of what I have in mind,” Alexander smiled. “Now, we need to start putting the pieces back together… so David Sinclair, I would name you the Lord High Steward… will you accept?”

Sinclair was stunned for a moment; the Lord High Steward was the Kingdom’s head of government, controlling ‘His Majesty’s Government’ in the name of the King, although it was obvious that the Crown’s involvement would now increase it would still be the highest officeholder in the land. Sinclair had always been a faithful, and uncorrupted, backbencher and had never expected to ascend to the lofty heights of government. Never the less, the King had been right when he had said that Sinclair could command a majority, for the moment at least, for he was widely respected in the House of Commons, and known to the House of Lords.

“It would be my honour, Your Majesty.”

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Postby -The Kingdom of Arcadia- » Tue May 21, 2019 5:22 am

Detective Chief Inspector George Hamilton, RAC
Henderson Dynamics, Highever
Duchy of Starminster, Kingdom of Arcadia
12th May 2016, 0900hrs Local Time

“Got a coffee for you, Guv.”

DCI Hamilton looked up from his laptop, perched upon the dashboard of his unmarked RAC Cruiser, and smiled gratefully at the young detective who passed him a takeaway cup full of steaming hot coffee from a nearby coffee shop. DCI Hamilton, his investigative team, a tactical team and several dozen uniformed officers from the RAC and Highever Police, had been camped outside the corporate headquarters of Henderson Dynamics for at least twenty-four hours now. Unlike Parliament, whose protections the Crown could overturn due to their ‘positions of public trust’, private citizens and organisations had significant protections against unwarranted search and seizures. DCI Hamilton and his team had been ordered to raid Hamilton Dynamics to further the investigation, however, they had been stopped by armed Henderson Security Services contractors who had refused entry on the grounds of a lack of a warrant and by all accounts had been prepared to back up their refusal with force. So whilst Henderson lawyers had filed every injunction and legal maneuverer they could think off, DCI Hamilton and his team had satisfied themselves with forming a cordon around the building and preventing any removal of critical evidence or personnel, searching all employees on their way out of the building.

Never the less, it was irritating to say the least. DCI Hamilton, and every other police officer manning the cordon, knew that, even as they waited, Henderson Dynamics was likely destroying vital evidence. There was, essentially, a race taking place between how quickly Henderson Dynamics could destroy the evidence and how long it took the RAC to uncover evidence on the political side that implicated HD. Indeed, DCI Hamilton rather suspected that, the court decision would be less to allow the RAC to execute their raid against the corporate headquarters and more to allow them to arrest John Henderson himself, for if they had enough to overturn legal roadblocks HD’s lawyers were putting into place then they would likely have enough to link Henderson directly. In addition to the wealth of evidence being gathered at 1 Portcullis, and the homes of the arrested politicians, several were already spilling their guts to RAC detectives in an effort to keep themselves out of prison and, given that the King’s priority was unveiling the conspiracy that had killed his father, anyone not directly involved in the assassination would likely be allowed to turn King’s Evidence.

All it took, after all, was one recorded conversation, or one direct contact with John Henderson and, for all their corruption, the majority of politicians were smart men and women, and those who valued their self-interest the most were very good at protecting themselves for just such an eventuality as this.

Growing irritated with the paperwork he had been trying to keep up on, whilst camping out here waiting for the courts to get their act together, DCI Hamilton placed the coffee on the roof of his cruiser and stepped out, picking the drink back up again and beginning to walk towards the front of the corporate headquarters were one of his tactical teams was having a staring match with the HSS detail guarding the entrance. DCI Hamilton himself wore a shirt and trousers, now a day old as he had not wanted to leave the scene overnight, with a ballistic vest strapped over the top of the shirt with the legend ‘RAC’ in prominent positions on the front and back of the vest. Unlike the various territorial and municipal police forces and constabularies, the RAC operated with the majority of its officers and detectives serving as Authorised Firearms Officers, that is police officers trained and empowered to carry a firearm whilst on-duty, and as such DCI was armed with a 9mm pistol as a sidearm.

“Any luck on getting that warrant, Guv?” Sergeant Heywood, the leader of the tactical team, asked as he turned to face Hamilton.

“Not so far, but we’re hopeful,” DCI Hamilton replied.

“You really think a piece of paper is going to shift that lot?” Sergeant Heywood cleared, gesturing at the line of HSS contractors that were forming a line in front of the main entrance into the HD Corporate Headquarters. “It’s gonna get messy when this happens.”

“I hope so, I really do,’ DCI Hamilton shook his head. “But if they don’t, you give them one warning and then you put them down.”

‘Yes, Sir,” Sergeant Heywood nodded.

Nodding in return, DCI Hamilton turned away from the tactical team and began to make his way towards the open-backed RAC SUVs that were serving as a makeshift command post and the specialists were working their way through everyone and everything that had passed through the cordon to make sure that they hadn’t missed anything. DCI Hamilton had been part of the Anti-Corruption Division of the National Investigations Branch of the RAC, and it had been his work, and dozens of others like him, that had put together the vast quantity of intelligence surrounding corruption within the Kingdom. Up until now, however, the vast majority had bee un-actionable, thanks to Parliamentary Privilege, and the ACD had been forced to content itself with going after the corrupt officials they identified that weren’t protected, and they had descended upon those targets like a tonne of bricks. Fortunately, the vigour with which the RAC, and the Crown Prosecutors, had gone after what corruption they could had set a precedent, and a firm foundation of public support, for harsh sentences to be applied now and it was largely that fear that was prompting some, not all by any means but certainly more than a few, of the detained politicians to start talking in an effort to save their own skins.

And about damn time, DCI Hamilton thought bitterly as he glared up at the HD Headquarters. He was a career police officer, joining straight out of University and climbing rapidly through the ranks of the RAC, acing the Detective’s Exam before earning a reputation as a dogged investigator on Major Crimes. When he had announced to his family, friends and colleagues that he was transferring to the Anti-Corruption Division they had all assumed that he must be a glutton for punishment, and there had certainly been more than a few disappointments and a hell of a lot of frustrations. But now, with their hands finally untied and the kid-gloves removed, DCI Hamilton could not be happier about his decision as he was at the forefront of cleaning up the Kingdom once and for all.

“Detective Chief Inspector Hamilton?”

DCI Hamilton turned to look at the female voice calling his name and saw an attractive young woman in a professional suit with another woman and two men in her wake.

“That’s what it says on my office door,” He replied wryly. “How can I help you, Miss?”

“Stephanie Adams, Crown Prosecutor,” The woman replied confidently, holding out a manila envelope. “I’ve got your warrant.”

DCI Hamilton took the envelope and opened it, flicking through the documents inside and, sure enough, there were warrants for both the RAC’s entry and full search and seizure of all evidence within the corporate headquarters and for the arrest of John Henderson himself on charges of high treason and facilitating public corruption, amongst other charges. He smiled widely and nodded his thanks before walking quickly back towards Sergeant Heywood and his tactical team, acquiring a loudhailer on the way. After a whispered conference with Heywood he stepped forwards a few paces and held up the envelope even as the tactical team began to spread out and the HSS contractors began to react to this change in the police deployment.

“I have a warrant giving me the authority to enter this building to conduct a search and seizure under Section 14 of the Criminal Justice Act of 2005, and to issue a revocation order under Section 40 of the Private Security Act of 2010,” DCI Hamilton said clearly, formally revoking Henderson Security Solution’s permission to bear arms, all of this for the array of news cameras watching. “You are hereby ordered to put your weapons on the ground, take five steps back and lie face down on the ground, you have ten seconds.”

DCI Hamilton lowered the loudhailer and handed it, and the envelope, to a uniformed RAC officer before slowly, and deliberately, lowering his hand to grip his pistol and slide it out of its holster. Shouts of ‘Armed Police’ from the tactical team reinforced the message and the HSS contractors glanced at each other nervously, they were outnumbered and weren’t paid enough to give up their lives in the defence of ‘the company’ in the face of a legal order by the police to surrender. The ten seconds seemed to pass in slow motion before the leader of the HSS detail lowered his rifle and, after lifting the sling over his head, place the weapon on the floor and stepped back before lying face down on the ground as instructed. As the rest of his men followed suit the tactical officers moved forwards and began to make their way into the building even as other uniformed RAC officers moved to secure the contractors with handcuffs.

DCI Hamilton himself followed the tactical team inside, as did dozens of other RAC detectives and officers, spreading out into the building to secure key sites of potential evidence, such as the mainframe and executive floor. It would take them days, if not weeks, to sort through all the evidence they were about to collect; much of it would not be relevant, but what was would be damning, to say the least. Keeping his weapon gripped in two hands, but held at a low-ready stance rather than raised; DCI Hamilton followed in the wake of the main tactical team which was heading for the executive floor and the office of John Henderson.

“He’s flown the coop, Guv,” Sergeant Heywood commented a short time later, as the two men stood in Henderson’s expansive office on the executive floor, totally devoid of life and clearly ransacked for any evidence that might have incriminated him.

“How? We had the entire building cordoned off and we know that he was in the building at the time… how in the hell did he manage to slip through our fingers?” DCI Hamilton exclaimed as he paced over to the window and looked out over the city. “Everything we seize here today will be worth nothing if we lose Henderson himself… if anyone was involved in the King’s Assassination it was him!”

Sergeant Heywood opened his mouth to reply before putting his finger to his earpiece and listened intently to whatever was being said before glancing back at DCI Hamilton.

“Team Three just breached into the basement, there’s an entire network of corridors down there and from the look of it they go far beyond the confines of just this building,” Sergeant Heywood explained grimly. “I think we found how Henderson managed to get out of the building without having to pass through the cordon… but this means he could have been gone for as many as sixteen hours.”

“Damnit,” DCI Hamilton cursed, then turned to one of his Detective Inspectors who had just entered the room. “Rip this place apart.”

The RAC detectives, scene of crime officers and other uniformed officers took to their task with a relish; they had all been frustrated with the amount of time they had spent outside, in the spring cold, waiting for the go-ahead to enter the building and they were determined to make sure that, for all their efforts, Henderson Dynamics was not successful in destroying or removing all the evidence of their crimes and their links to political corruption. The RAC, as the Kingdom’s national law enforcement agency, had a wide range of specialist capabilities and now tuned all of these on Henderson Dynamics, its employees and its computer systems.

It was late afternoon by the time anything of use was located, but it proved to be a good first catch.

“So the bastard had three escape plans,” DCI Hamilton commented as he looked down at the partially-scrubbed computer file.

“Looks like it, Guv, the first was to escape by helicopter before we could lock down the airspace, but we moved too quickly and caught him by surprise,” DI Richardson from Cyber Crimes replied, his team having covered the file. “The second and third entail escaping through those tunnels, then travelling to either HD’s corporate retreat in the southern mountains or one of their oil rigs.”

“And then what?” DCI Hamilton frowned. “They have to know we’d be after them?”

“If the went to the mountains, it stands to reason they’ve got a means to get across into Belfras or Skaldafen, then god only knows where after that, but they’d likely have their contacts to assist them once they get to the other side,” DI Richardson replied with a shrug. “As for the oil rig; once they’re already offshore it would be all the easier for them to board a ship and disappear.”

“Do we know which option they went for?”

“Unfortunately, not, Sir, both plans start by escaping through the tunnels, but after that, we have no way of knowing where they went.”

“Then we’ll need to hit both,” DCI Hamilton commented, putting his phone to his hear. “This is Detective Chief Inspector Hamilton, get me the Lord Constable, now.”

Lieutenant Preston Shepherd, RAMC
HD Corporate Retreat, Wintershold Mountains
Duchy of Westmarch, Kingdom of Arcadia
12th May 2016, 2200hrs Local Time

The Wintershold Mountains, an offshoot of the range that had arms in both Skaldafen and Belfras, stretched from the southern edge of Lake Windamere all the way down to the tri-border area and had, for centuries, proven an effective natural barrier against threats from the west. In more peacetime times it was also a popular destination for snow sports and tourism played a significant role in the economy of the three Duchies the mountains stretched through. It was also a popular location for corporate retreats, much for the same reason, and Henderson Retreat was nestled on a high plateau near to some very well regarded slopes. However, the unique challenge of operating in the mountains, combined with the likelihood of a violent defence of the property, the RAC had, after discussions between the Lord Constable and the King, formally requested the assistance of the Royal Arcadian Military. Although Military Aid to the Civil Authorities Act of 1982 provided for the deployment of military forces to assist government departments, the civil power and the civil communities, it was avoided wherever possible in order to keep the military out of civil governance wherever possible. Never the less, the King and the new Lord High Chancellor had agreed it was necessary and appropriate in this case.

Considering the environment it had been an easy decision to call upon the Royal Arcadian Marine Corps.

The RAMC was a small but elite branch of the Royal Arcadian Military, responsible for conducting both amphibious warfare and providing a wide range of specialist capabilities, it was not for nought that the majority of Marines held the title ‘Commando’. One of those specialist capabilities was mountain warfare; provided by B Company of 09 Commando, Environmental Warfare Group, Royal Arcadian Marines. During major operations, these specialist units would be shared amongst other Commandos and battalions to serve as guides and advisors, but during small-scale operations, there were none better. When the order had come down from the Ministry of Defence it had ended up in the hands of Lieutenant Preston Shepherd, Officer Commanding of 4 Troop. Lieutenant Shepherd was a no-nonsense officer who had committed his life for the past decade to becoming a Royal Arcadian Marines Commando and the years since his commissioning had been worth all that hard work but this was his first operational deployment and, for all his stern exterior, on the inside he was more than a little excited. After his promotion to Lieutenant, he had volunteered for cold weather training and had thoroughly enjoyed the experience, and like many of his men who had trained in this area he knew the Wintershold Mountains like the back of his hand.

Which as fortunate, as a snowstorm had descended on the range shortly before nightfall and the Royal Arcadian Marines were fighting against the elements as they advanced on their target, tabbing (or rather yomping as it should be known in the RAMC) in from their landing point some kilometres away.

Lieutenant Shepherd had twenty-seven men under his command, a command element consisting of his senior NCO, troop signaller and troop medic and three close combat sections of eight men each, each of which was led by an experienced Corporal with a Lance Corporal as their second-in-command. In a line Commando, the close combat companies were mainly armed with individual weapons, leaving crew-served fire support to the stand-off companies, although in the three specialist Commandos of 3 Commando Brigade all of the companies were close-combat, if for no other reason than that none of them tended to operate together as a coherent unit and the roles they were employed intended to lend themselves to close combat over heavy firepower. The same was true here; they weren’t going to win a firefight in this weather and this terrain by bringing the biggest ‘bang’, but rather with their individual skill and training; a role the Royal Arcadian Marines were ideally suited for.

“Mike Whiskey One, this is Mike Whiskey Three.”

“Mike Whiskey Three, this is One, send message.” Lieutenant Shepherd replied, communicating via personal role-radio with the section leader of the section at the front of the troop’s line of advance.

“One, Three; got a visual on the target building, approximately five hundred meters, no sign of external sentries.” Whisky Mike Three replied promptly. “Looks like some mounted weapons on the upper balcony, but currently unmanned.”

Lieutenant Shepherd shook his head; clearly, the defenders were not expecting anyone to attack them during the snowstorm and had let their guard down as a result. The Henderson Security Solutions contractors were well-trained and well-armed, but they weren’t used to operating in a ‘war-like’ manner; in war you didn’t let adverse conditions stop you if you could still carry out your objectives, and the Royal Arcadian Marines had a reputation for treating everything in a war-like manner to ensure they were ready for everything.

“All Whisky Mike callsigns, this is Whisky Mike One, spread out and prepare for a troop attack; Three down the middle, Four on the left flank, Five on the right,” Lieutenant Shepherd ordered, setting his Marines in motion like a well-oiled machine. “You are weapons free on all targets inside the retreat, we have no intelligence suggesting civilians, all individuals who do not surrender are fair game.”

Over the next ten minutes 4 Troop spread out as ordered and moved into positions to begin a troop attack against the target building; one section would advance up the middle and, in the event of any resistance would do their best to try and keep the attention of their foes, whilst the other two sections would move in on either side to outflank the enemy. In this case, with no resistance visible on the outside, the three sections would merely enter the building from three sides, keeping in close contact to ensure no friendly fire accident. Shepherd and his command element would remain a little back, keeping an eye on the progress of the attack and coordinating the entire affair.

“In position, Sir,” Sergeant Jack Flynn, his Troop Sergeant, reported crisply after receiving confirmation from the three sections.

“Very good, Sergeant,” Lieutenant Shepherd nodded. “Carry on the attack.”

“Aye, Sir,” Flynn nodded in return. “All sections, this is Whisky Mike Two; commence the attack.”

The three sections moved in, crossing the open area around the retreat as quickly as possible; this was standard operating procedure given that, in normal circumstances, they would be under fire and being out in the open would be fatal. Of course, given that there were no sentries they did not advance by bounding overwatch, with one fireteam providing covering fire whilst the other advanced, as any gunfire at this point would merely alert the enemy to the impending assault. The sections reached the building at different times, but stacked up on the doors as they arrived and waited for the rest of the troop to be in position before breaching; the exterior doors were locked so they had to force them and, given that this was not exactly quiet, time was no longer on their side as it would not be long before they encountered hostiles.

Sure enough, it was less than sixty seconds later that the first fireteam encountered a pair of armed HSS contractors who, caught totally by surprise, reacted on instinct and raised their weapons towards the Royal Arcadian Marines. This proved to be a fatal mistake, as all four Commandos had their weapons, L21 assault rifles, raised and targeted at the two contractors and a storm of 5.56mm rounds cut them down without hesitation. With gunshots ringing out over the retreat the HSS contractors sprung into action and the Commandos encountered more and more resistance as they pushed through the building; some surrendered as soon as they saw the fully kitted-out Marines but some, through fear, arrogance, or god-only-knows-what, tried to fight and were quickly put down. After a time as the section leaders reported that, based on the building plans they had studied on their flight out here, they had secured something approaching a perimeter inside the building, Lieutenant Shepherd and his command element moved up into the building themselves. A troop command element, consisting of four men, regularly trained in small-unit tactics as a fireteam in order to ensure that they were able to advance quickly and safely, even if they were not supposed to engage in direct combat.

All things considered, it did not take long for the Royal Arcadian Marines to fully secure the building, having gone room-by-room in a quick but efficient manner in order to ensure that they didn’t miss anything or anyone. Intelligence had been broadly correct; there had been no civilian presence from the retreat itself, although there were several civilians captured in a makeshift command centre who identified themselves as Henderson Dynamics employees, these surrendered without a fight. 4 Troop had come through the attack with barely a scratch; only two minor injuries already being treated by their medic, and gathered in the main concourse to discuss their findings, which included a not insignificant amount of documentation and hard-drives that would need to be handed over to the Royal Arcadian Constabulary as soon as possible.

What they didn’t find was John Henderson.

This was not the outcome they had all been hoping for, although based on the intelligence gathered by the RAC it had been a very real possibility that they had been prepared for, but it was obvious from the expressions of all the Commandos that they were disappointed not to be the ones to bring Henderson to justice. Although the Crown had yet to present direct evidence publicly, due to national security concerns, it had been disseminated across the Kingdom’s intelligence, security and military apparatus that John Henderson was the lead suspect as the ringleader of the conspiracy that had killed the late King and Queen. According to the RAC, and backed up by the Royal Intelligence Agency, Henderson Dynamics was at the centre of a vast web of corruption and intrigue and, as such, had the most to lose by any attempt to clear up the Kingdom’s political system. As it turned out they had underestimated the new King and the speed and decisiveness that the young man would move to secure his position and the future political structure of the Kingdom.

“Get me NAVCOM,” Lieutenant Shepherd ordered his signaller grimly. “They’ll need to hit the rig before that bastard can escape.”

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Postby -The Kingdom of Arcadia- » Sun May 26, 2019 2:51 pm

Her Royal Highness The Princess Jessica (Ensign Jessica Warner, RAN)
HMS Vindicator DDG-42
Off the Coast of Arcadia, North Thalassan Ocean
13th May 2016, 0515hrs Local Time

“Officer of the Watch, Sunrise.”

Ensign Jessica Warner, as she was known in the Navy, or Her Royal Highness The Princess Jessica, as she was known outside of the military, glanced up from the chart she was working on and smiled slightly as she saw that, as the Quartermaster of the Watch had just said, the sun had begun to creep above the horizon.

“Very good, make a note in the log, PO.”

Jessica watched for a moment as the Petty Officer moved over to the logbook and noted the time of sunrise, in pencil rather than ink as this would allow the logbook to survive intact in the event that the ship was sunk, after all; the logbook was a legal document and every course correction, every encounter, everything that happened to the ship was recorded the old-fashioned way. She smiled slightly as she leant forward on her elbows and looked out at the sunrise; it had only been three days since the death of her parents but she had wanted to get back to sea as soon as possible. To Jessica, the Princess, it was a much-needed escape from the pressures and expectation of Royal life, where she could just be another junior officer learning her trade and not having to worry about anything else. As the third child, Jessica had always felt less than useless as a Royal; she had not been the heir, nor had she been the spare, and she had always felt in the shadow of her older siblings. She had worshipped the ground that her brother, Alexander, had walked on, but her older sister, the society darling, had always been aloof and superior in pretty much everything she did. Jessica had known that she wouldn’t ever be able to be anything more than ‘just another Royal’, if she stayed at home and lived the easy life, so she had followed in the steps of her parents, uncles and brother and joined the military; to no one’s surprise following her brother into the Royal Arcadian Navy.

Shortly after graduating from the University of Riverside she had reported to the Royal Arcadian Naval Academy for the nine-month Initial Officer Course in September of 2014, commissioning as an Ensign in June 2015. Wanting to spend as much time at sea, away from the expectations of royal life, she had chosen to specialise as a Warfare Officer and had reported to HMS Traveller’s Point, the Royal Arcadian Navy’s Warfare Training Centre, where she had spent three months learning the basics of navigation and warfare, followed by Basic Fleet Time, four months aboard the ageing Aircraft Carrier HMS Intrepid. Jessica had returned to Traveller’s Point in February for two months of specialisation navigational training which had resulted in her current posting to the Vindicator for the next nine months and had made a rare achievement by earning her bridge watchkeeping certificate in the first month. This was the first time that she had truly achieved something on her own merits; no officer in the fleet would qualify a bridge watch-keeper, even a Princess, if they did not meet the requirements; something which the Royal Family was as firm on as much as the Admiralty.

As the second-in-line to inherit the throne, or indeed third-in-line as it soon would be once her brother’s wife, the very-pregnant new Queen, gave birth, the odds were very slim that she would ever inherit the throne, and as such she would be afforded as a full a naval career as possible. She would, of course, have to take part in Royal duties, but if historical precedent was anything to go by this could easily be slotted into her naval duties; either ashore or at sea.

Of course the Royal Arcadian Navy, like the other service branches, had suffered at the hands of budget cuts and questionable procurement decisions by corrupt politicians and wasn’t what it had once been. The bulk of the RAN’s surface force was made up by the Justice-Class Destroyer; a legend in the fleet whose basic hull form can be traced back decades, with numerous modernisations taking place over the years to keep the class relevant in the modern naval environment. With no new-build replacements forthcoming, the Arcadian Admiralty was compelled to make do with what they had and responded with ambitious and audacious modernisation programmes in order to keep the Justice-Class alive, and in sufficient numbers. Originally built in large numbers as an all-gun destroyer in the heyday of the Royal Arcadian Navy in the first half of the 20th Century, the Justice-Class was modernised first in the 1950s and 1960s, and then again in the 1990s. The sheer scope of the modernisation, including to the superstructure and internal structure of the ship, means that in many respects the 90s modernisation essentially rebuilt the ship from the inside out, however this was sufficient to fool political opponents and give sufficient work to ‘key government contractors’ in any event, and as such the Royal Arcadian Navy has been able to maintain a sizeable, capable, if ageing and somewhat flawed escort fleet despite the economic downturn.

Moreover, the Admiralty’s Advanced Warship Design Board (AWDB) had made a point of developing new designs on a regular basis, and investing what discretionary funds were available in research and development, to the extent that, should extra funding be forthcoming, the RAN would be able to start churning out modern new-build replacement ships in short order. Truth be told, Jessica had a fondness for these old ships, even if she knew the need for new ships was real and substantial, but for all their regular technical difficulties the ships of the Justice-Class were full of character and history, not to mention surprisingly resilient and adaptable.

“Officer of the Watch; got an odd contact on the navigational radar, bearing zero nine six, range twelve nautical miles,” Petty Officer Coulson, the Quartermaster of the Watch, reported. “CIC has dismissed it as surface clutter, but it's been damn consistent and is CBDR.”

Constant Bearing, Decreasing Range, the young Princess thought to herself, in other words; a collision course. Moreover, the main radar systems of the Vindicator, like all other ships of the Justice-Class, were Mark-I versions of the Archangel and Stalking Horse air and surface search radars, which whilst still capable were lagging behind the newer versions developed by the Admiralty (which would be installed aboard any new ships, but could not be refitted into the far-too-small Justice-Class), and that meant that they were nowhere near as accurate a modern system would be. Not to mention that once CIC had dismissed a contact they tended not to take a second look, instead focusing on other targets. Looking down at the Radar repeater screen Jessica frowned; the contact was moving damn fast, no doubt why the CIC had dismissed it as surface clutter, given that the return was awfully weak and barely showing on the navigational radar at all, but the track was rock solid and heading straight for them.

She stepped forwards towards the bridge windows and lifted the powerful binoculars up from around her neck and peered out into the dawn gloom towards the vector the unknown contact was coming at them from; the fact that it was coming from the Arcadian coastline rather than the open ocean only increased her concern, especially with everything that was happening at the moment. She could not see anything definitively in the darkness, but she knew that she had to make a decision; although CIC did not consider the contact a threat, the safety of the ship was her responsibility as the Officer of the Watch.

“Sound the general alarm, PO,” Jessica said after another moment, reaching down to pick-up the ship-wide pipe. “All Hands, this is the Officer of the Watch; Quickdraw, Quickdraw, Quickdraw; surface warning red; the threat is small fast-moving contact; Quickdraw, Quickdraw, Quickdraw.”

With the sounding of the general alarm and her terse but clear pipe, Jessica had set into motion a process that was designed to protect the ship from non-conventional attacks (otherwise she would have piped action stations), such as those conducted by fast-moving boats or light aircraft. Parts of the ship's company would sprint to their stations from their bunks to man the ship’s defensive weapons; principally by mounting .50 calibre machine guns, arming the ship’s two close-in-weapons-systems (CIWS) and the ship’s main gun, as well as mustering the damage control parties and standing-to the Royal Arcadian Marine detachment to repel boarders if necessary. Unlike action stations, which would prepare the ship for combat, the Quickdraw drill was designed to focus the preparations on a specific type of attack, which required a fast, but different, response.

It was not long before status reports were flooding into the bridge to confirm that Quickdraw stations were being manned, and Jessica felt her heartbeat speed up again as she turned to watch as an older, but handsome, man, strode confidentially onto the bridge.

“This is the Captain; I have the ship, Ensign Warner retains the Conn,” Commander William Blake, RAN, said clearly. “Officer of the Watch, what have we got?”

“Unknown contact coming at us on radar; CIC dismissed it as clutter but it looks too consistent to not be something, Sir,” Jessica replied as confidently as she could, in the RAN a Captain would much prefer that their officers acted in this situation, and remained confident in their judgement, rather than not act out of fear of being wrong. “All Quickdraw stations are manned, the ship is on course one eight zero at eighteen knots.”

“Any sign of that contact, Ensign?”

“None so far, Sir,”

“Very well,” Commander Blake nodded. “Fire star shell; let’s see what we’ve got, shall we?”

“Aye, Sir,” Jessica nodded in return and picked up the pipe again. “Main battery; this is the officer of the watch, fire star shell.”

A few moments passed before the ship’s five-inch naval gun elevated its barrel to the maximum and fired a single illumination shell into the sky which, after a moment, began to glow brightly and lit up the entire area around the ship. Sure enough, maybe four miles off the destroyer’s starboard beam, a low profile speedboat was blasting towards them.

“Go straight to warning five, Quartermaster,” Commander Blake ordered. “Ensign, get onto CIC; prepare to light them up.”

As Jessica spoke quickly to the Duty Warfare Officer in the CIC, PO Coulson picked up the ship’s communications handset and broadcast on the international safety frequency, VHF Channel Sixteen, the last of a series of five warnings that could be given to an approaching ship.

“Unknown vessel; this is Arcadian Warship Vindicator; you are standing into danger, turn away immediately or I will take action against you in self-defence.”

A few moments passed with no response over the VHF; more than enough to respond.

“Engage,” Commander Blake ordered crisply.

“Engage, Engage, Engage,” Jessica repeated to the CIC.

The early morning quiet around the ship, save for the general alarm and the pounding of boots on deck plates, was ripped apart by the distinctive buzz of two 20mm CIWS, both of which had been tracking the target boat for the last few seconds, as they opened fire on the target. This sound was drowned out moments later as an explosion ripped apart the target boat short of the Vindicator. Whether the ships defensive fire had caused the explosion or the boat had detonated itself, the size of the blast made clear that it had been packed with explosives. The Vindicator heaved as the force of the explosion hit them, but quickly stabilised.

“All decks make damage reports to the XO in CIC,” Commander Blake ordered crisply, all too aware of the concerns surrounding the age of the Justice-Class and its ability to take punishment and not willing to take any chances. “Casualty reports to the OOW on the bridge.”

The next hour was full of activity as the Vindicator and her ship’s company got a handle on the situation and tried to determine if there were any other threats. The destroyer itself remained mobile; not wanting to be a sitting duck in the event of another attack, but she deployed her sea-boats to investigate the wreckage for any survivors, or anything of interest that might have survived the explosion, but expectations were low on both counts. Commander Blake spent most of the time on the secure line to the Admiralty, and the scale of the situation became clear. Initially, there had been thoughts that it had been Jessica herself that had been the target, for all her protestations otherwise she was a senior Royal and killing her, aside from the emotional damage it would do her brother, would be yet another body-blow to a stunned nation.

However, reports of similar attacks were soon received at the Admiralty and relayed to Commander Blake and a relieved Ensign Jessica Warner. The Royal Arcadian Navy maintained several destroyers in home waters, to back up lighter patrol vessels, all of them had moved southwards towards the Henderson Dynamics oil rig once news that the RAMC raid on the Henderson Retreat had failed to capture Jon Henderson, and all of them had been attacked in a similar way to the Vindicator over the course of the last hour. None of the attacks had been successful; for all Navy’s ageing ships none could fault the capability and professionalism of her officers and ratings, but it would be an understatement to say that all three ships had been distracted by the attacks, and all had been out of position on their patrol routes as a result.

In response to the evidence of a concerted attack to distract the Royal Arcadian Navy’s warships from the area around the Henderson Dynamic’s rig, Naval Command (NAVCOM) had put a maritime patrol aircraft in the air with orders to scope out the area around the oil rig and, sure enough, this decision reaped dividends. The MPA had arrived just in time to watch as a small, fast-moving boat, similar to those that had attacked the destroyers, approached the rig and unloaded passengers and equipment.

The writing was on the wall; in yet another display of misdirection, John Henderson had managed to elude the Arcadian authorities that were coming for him. Doubtless, he knew that he could not ‘fight’ the Kingdom with any hope of winning, but rather he was doing everything within his power to escape and his ingenuity was paying off in that respect. Of course, it raised the question of what Henderson was hoping to accomplish on the oil rig; escape to a neutral ship in international waters clearly, but he had to know that the Royal Arcadian Navy would realise what had happened in short order and would proceed to blockade the rig. Clearly, the traitor had something in mind, but until they worked out what that was all the RAN could do was go through the motions and make sure they were ready when that ‘something’ happened.

Sure enough, shortly before eight, the Vindicator received orders to rendezvous with the destroyers Valiant and Fidelity at the HD-owned oil rig Henderson Deepwater with orders to detain John Henderson and any others sharing in his crimes. The Vindicator was the closest to the platform, and as such proceeded eastwards at a much slower speed to allow the other destroyers to catch-up so they could arrive together in a show of force. Shortly after getting underway, Jessica’s watch was officially over, as the Morning Watch became the Forenoon Watch at 8 am, and she handed over her duties to Lieutenant (JG) Hugh Anderson. Never the less, although she had been up since half-past three she had no intention of getting rack time, after all, she had turned in the previous night shortly after dinner to ensure that she was fully rested for the Morning Watch. Instead, she, PO Coulson and the other two ratings that had made up her team, watched from the midships decks, near the VLS launch cells, as the two other destroyers joined up with the Vindicator over the course of the next hour and the three ships proceeded in company towards Henderson Deepwater.

Despite everything, it was a stirring sight to see the three ships operating together as, especially as Commander Blake, the senior of the three commanding officers, ordered battle ensigns to be flown from all three ships in an uncommon but traditional display that looked absolutely fantastic.

It was just gone ten by the time Henderson Deepwater first appeared on the horizon and steadily grew as the three destroyers sped towards them, operating now at flak speed in a tactical fashion. All three ships had cleared for action a short time previously and for a Young Officer (that is, an officer still in training and without a warfare specialisation) that meant reporting to the bridge to be on hand if required and ready to lead a damage control party if required. Fortunately for Jessica, that meant that she would get a front-row view of the action as it unfolded; standing towards the front of the bridge with binoculars and watching the oil rig intently.

“Try them again, Lieutenant,” Commander Blake ordered crisply, their first attempt at contacting the rig had gone unanswered.

“Aye, Sir,” Lieutenant (JG) Anderson nodded and lifted the handset to his mouth again. “Attention Henderson Dynamics, this is Imperial Warship, respond immediately.”

“I don’t think they intend to respond, Skipper,” Jessica commented wryly, turning as her CO stepped up beside her.

“Why is that, Ensign?” Commander Blake frowned, his expression darkening as a plume of water suddenly rose well short of the Vindicator, but undeniably aimed at them and intending to send a message. “Naval Artillery, I’m sure that’s the international greeting when communications are down.”

Jessica glanced up at her Captain’s wry expression, Commander Blake was not known for making jokes.

“I think it’s the international greeting when you don’t like someone, Sir,” Jessica replied, utterly deadpan.

“Indeed,” Commander Blake shook his head. “Officer of the Watch; take evasive action, signal to all ships; manoeuvre independently.”

Jessica held onto the bulkhead in front of her with one hand as the ship began to manoeuvre sharply, but kept her binoculars fixed on the oil rig. 

“I’m seeing four emplacements, Sir; they don’t look tremendously big, which is probably why that shot of theirs fell so far short of us, but they could probably still sink us,” Jessica commented as she continued to scrutinise the rig. “I’d say those are old five-inch guns, the old dual turrets from ships like us that they were supposed to be disposing of; that gives them what, eight guns to our three?”

“Aye, but if your theory is correct, Ensign, they’re older weapons will have a shorter range than our own, which gives us the advantage if we want to shell the platform,” Commander Blake commented, gathering his officers around him. “However, ladies and gentlemen, the Admiralty wants to avoid doing anything of the sort, if at all possible; we’d prefer to keep the oil rig intact, and we want to take Henderson alive in any case.”
Commander Blake shook his head.

“I’m going to talk with the Admiralty again, as the situation has changed now that we know that our foes have heavy weaponry they were meant to be disposing of, and god knows what else they might have on that platform to give us a bad day,” He continued bitterly with a scowl. “So we’ll position ourselves out of range of their guns; but we need to blockade the rig and make sure that nothing and no one is able to get off the rig; we’re close to the maritime border as well, so we’ll need to keep an eye on any curious interlopers as well.”

Commander Blake turned to look directly at Jessica.

“Ensign, I want you to take all available hands onto the upper decks with as many binoculars and other optical equipment as you can find and see if any of you can pick out any more weapons emplacements, or anything that looks out of place,” He ordered, to which Jessica nodded her understanding. “We have to assume that they’ve attempted to fortify the rig as much as they could, knowing the economic impact destroying the rig would have and that we’d try to avoid doing so… which gives them more time to effect their escape.”

After a few more questions the gathering dispersed and got about their assigned duties. Jessica mustered all the hands that she could find, and who were not otherwise engaged in their own duties, on the upper decks and issued various equipment to them with orders to scrutinise the rig to see if they could see anything out of the ordinary. She positioned on the fo’c’s’le with a clipboard and binoculars of her own and began to put a list together of things identified by the lookouts. In addition to the naval guns they were able to identify what looked like anti-aircraft artillery and potentially some autocannon emplacements; all of which fit in with Jessica’s theory that all this military equipment, which HD really ought not to have, was old equipment that the corporation had been contracted to dispose off and had, with or without the permission of their pocket politicians, decided to keep hold of for just such an occasion. At the back of her head, she mused that this development would likely help the Royal Arcadian Constabulary and Crown Prosecutors with their efforts to encourage various arrested politicians to turn King’s Evidence, as they would now have a solid chance of prosecuting them under the Treason Act for ‘arming an enemy of the crown’.

For Jessica, however, the frustration was only growing. John Henderson, the man likely behind the death of her parents, was almost within their grasp but they couldn’t quite reach out and grab him, and every moment he was free increased the chances that he would manage to escape the RAN blockade and avoid justice.

“What’s the deal, Ensign?” Commander Blake asked as he stepped up beside her and looked out at the oil rig in the distance.

“They’ve turned that place into a fortress, Sir,” Jessica replied with a shake of her head. “They’ve got enough weapons to make air or small-boat attack suicidal, and those naval guns might be old but they’ll give us trouble.”

“Well, it’s not our problem any more; our orders are to maintain the blockade and to distract the HSS contractors on the rig for as long as possible, in as big a way as possible,” Commander Blake explained with a grim expression. “In the meantime, NAVSPECWAR will be deploying a Special Operations team to board the rig and try and bring this mess to an end, our job is to keep their attention on us.”
Last edited by -The Kingdom of Arcadia- on Sun May 26, 2019 2:52 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Postby -The Kingdom of Arcadia- » Mon Jun 03, 2019 6:22 am

Lieutenant Edward Prentice, RAN
Henderson Deepwater Oil Rig
Exclusive Economic Zone of the Kingdom of Arcadia, North Thalassan Ocean
14th May 2016, 0100hrs Local Time

“At periscope depth now, Sir.”

Lieutenant Edward Prentice, Officer Commanding Naval Special Warfare Troop 124, watched with professional interest as Commander Phillip Ballantine, Commanding Officer of His Majesty’s Submarine Surprise, nodded his acceptance of the Officer of the Watch’s report and stepped forwards towards the periscope. Really what was still, by tradition, called a periscope was actually a non-hull penetrating photonics mast that offered substantial advantages; not the least of which was the fact that it could complete one sweep of the immediate area, taking video and pictures for later analysis, minimising the time the submarine had to remain in a vulnerable position. In this situation, however, there were no enemy anti-submarine assets so Commander Ballantine elected to view the footage in real-time (the old-fashioned way). Courtesy of the night-vision optics built into the mast he was able to see the immediate area around him in full detail. The most obvious feature was the oil rig, Henderson Deepwater, the ultimate target of their mission here, but he could also see all three of the RAN destroyers that were in the area, occasionally firing star-shells into the sky to distract the defenders on the rig. Not that the HSS contractors could have done anything to the Surprise, but the longer they were in the dark, literally and figuratively, about the Kingdom’s intentions here, the better.

The Surprise was under orders to approach the oil-rig and deploy a Naval Special Warfare team who would board the rig and, at the very least, locate and detain John Henderson. The Surprise had been chosen for this mission for two reasons; the first was that, as a submarine operating at night she was all but invisible to any foe that did not possess sonar (and even then the odds of inexperienced sonar operators picking up the minute sounds she made against the background noise of the ocean were slim), but also because she was equipped with the Special Forces Payload Bay (SFPB), a dry deck shelter to facilitate the deployment of special operations personnel from the submarine safely and efficiently. Observations suggested a medium to large defending force, and if they were HSS contractors they were sufficiently well-trained to not be underestimated, which meant that the element of surprise was essential for the success of the NSW team.

The Surprise also had orders to keep tabs on any and all non-Arcadian vessels within range of the oil rig, to make sure that, if the attack went wrong and John Henderson somehow managed to escape from the rig, that they would be able to pursue him as far as was necessary.

“How is it looking, Commander?” Lieutenant Prentice queried as he stepped up beside Ballantine.

“We’ve got three Royal destroyers tossing star shells like they’re going out of style, but other than that it looks pretty quiet; no indication that the rig is aware of our presence,” Commander Ballantine replied. “We’re at periscope depth and ready to deploy your team as soon as you are ready… you should know, we’ve received updated intelligence which suggests there may be civilians still aboard the rig.”

“Damnit,” Prentice scowled. “Who are they?"

“HD employees, the former oil rig workers, but they’re classified as civilians none the less, so you need to watch your fire,” Commander Ballantine shook his head. “I’m sorry to complicate your mission, but those are Arcadian subjects over there.”

“Good thing we didn’t shell the place then,” Prentice commented wryly.

“Indeed; not we don’t know if they’re being held as hostages, hunkering down and hoping to ride out the storm or whether they’ve been actively armed to try and defend the rig,” Commander Ballantine replied. “Your rules are engagements have been adjusted, but are simple enough; anyone with a weapon that doesn’t proactively surrender is fair game, hopefully the civvies will have the sense to keep their heads down.”

“We can hope, Sir,” Prentice agreed with feeling. “Permission to insert, Sir?”

“Granted, Lieutenant,” Commander Ballantine nodded. “Good hunting.”

Prentice nodded and took his leave from the command centre and made his way forwards towards the compartment, right beneath the dry-deck shelter, that his troop had taken over. Under normal circumstances they would have deployed a dozen miles or more away from their target, if they were concerned about mines or other defences, however given that even Henderson Dynamics lacked that kind of heavy hardware, and given that it was night, the decision had been made to simply move the Surprise to within five hundred meters of the rig. Once deployed, the NSW operators would swim to the rig under their own power and board the structure whilst the submarine would withdraw to a safe range. This decision had been partially prompted by the fact that, if they had wanted to deploy a full sixteen-man NSW troop from further away, using Swimmer Delivery Vehicles (SDVs) they would have required three dry dock-equipped submarines and that wasn’t practical, so the Surprise would take a small risk and deploy the swimmers manually.

Once Prentice returned to the compartment the operators went through their final checks, using the buddy system to ensure that their weapons were secure and their scuba gear was working. Due to both the confined nature of the oil rig, and the fact that they would have to swim to get there, each of the operators was equipped with an L21A5, the 5.56mm subcompact carbine variant of the ubiquitous L21 weapons system that equipped the Royal Arcadian Military. In addition, they were equipped with backup weapons in the form of the sidearms which, unlike the L21s, were not suppressed meaning that they were strictly for emergencies. The success of NSW 124 would depend on secrecy and the speed at which they could move through the structure, whilst maintaining that secrecy, taking out hostiles as they came across them.

Once all the checks were completed the troops ascended into the SDV and waited patiently as the chamber was flooded and the pressure equalised. It took a few minutes for all the safety checks to be completed, both for the safety of the troop and to ensure that the submarine would not be accidentally flooded. The internal light changed from red to green and the hatch opened, allowing the operators to exit the chamber and began their swim across to the rigs lower constructions; surveillance images from the destroyers had confirmed the presence of a lowered platform to facilitate boat transfers, and it was this platform that they would make their insertion. Moving slowly and carefully, to avoid any chance of giving their position away as they approached the platform, the first of the operators broke the surface and quickly identified four guards on the platform. The operators moved into position, being careful to remain outside of the pool of illumination from the lights above the platform before, in absolute silence, lifting their weapons above the water, clearing the internal workings of water, and lining up kill shots on each of the hostiles.

With a squelch of their comm headsets Lieutenant Prentice gave the order and four surpassed shots were fired, dropping all four guards to the deck. The operators remained totally still for a moment as they waited to see if the thump of the guards hitting the metal deck plating had been heard, but when no other sound broke the night they began to climb out of the water and secure the platform and the stairs leading up towards the platform proper. The background noise of the rigs heavy machinery would be of particular help to the NSW operators as they began to slowly advance up the stairs towards the main part of the platform, but it would not protect them from being physically spotted so the operators moved from shadow to shadow, cover to cover and they swept through the lower levels of the platform like ghosts.

Once they reached the main level the troop split up into two eight-man squads, one led by Lieutenant Prentice and the other by his second-in-command, Lieutenant (Junior Grade) Kieran Harper, each split down into two four-man fireteams, with a Chief Petty Officer leading each fireteam not already led by one of the troop’s two officers. Although the troop was the most often deployed sub-unit of the Naval Special Warfare Teams, each of the troop’s two squads consisted of a full range of specialities meaning that each could operate independently of the other over a far wider range than would be the case during this mission. It was partially the reason why each squad was led by an officer to ensure leadership and co-ordination was maintained.

Lieutenant (JG) Harper’s squad would make their way towards the top of the platform as quickly as possible in order to secure the helicopter landing platform and to take out any HSS contractors manning the weapons systems, and to spike them as much as was possible. This would allow the RAN destroyers to close and potentially deploy their Marine complement aboard the rig to assist the NSW operators in their sweep (the Royal Arcadian Marine Commandos were, after all, highly trained and well-respected in the Special Forces community, even if they were a small step down). Moreover, it would prevent John Henderson from trying to flee the rig aboard helicopter, even if he would have had to run the gauntlet of the surface-to-air missiles carried by the three destroyers to do so.

Prentice’s squad had the far more difficult task of going room-to-room throughout the living and working areas of the rig in order to eliminate all hostiles, free and secure any hostages being held against they will and, perhaps most importantly, to locate and detain John Henderson. Lieutenant Prentice was one of a handful of officers who knew that the Ministry of Defence and the Lord High Marshal had issued a kill order on Henderson; in the event that they were not able to bring the traitor in alive the NSW operators were authorised to terminate him in order to avoid his fleeing justice. It was the first time in decades that a kill order had been issued on an Arcadian citizen, and Prentice rather doubted that any of the other suspects in this mess would be slapped with a similar order, but evidence uncovered at both HD Headquarters and from arrested politicians trying to save their own necks, had firmly identified John Henderson as the mastermind of the entire conspiracy. In short, no one within the Arcadian Establishment, from the King down, was prepared to allow the bastard to escape with his life.

Although the room-to-room was arduous, the NSW operators had the advantage of breaching, which tended to disorient an enemy by the simple fact that an explosive charge had just suddenly detonated, and the liberal use of flash-bang grenades to further disorient their foes as they stormed into the room. Moreover, room-clearing like this was the bread-and-butter of Special Forces, it was one of the skills that they practised the most and was something that was carried out with a precision and slickness that few defenders, even the well-trained, could hope to resist.

They reached the fiercest residence when they reached a wide open area around the main drill and the location that the HSS contractors had seemingly chosen to make their final stand against the operators. Prentice and his squad came under fire almost as soon as they entered the open area, taking shelter behind what cover was available and returning fire as and when they could. Risking a glance out of cover Prentice quickly took stock of the situation; their foes had the advantage of higher ground (on a series of catwalks and higher levels of the workspace) not to mention prepared positions. It was obvious that staying put was not an option, so with a series of quick, snapped orders one fireteam opened up with every weapon at their disposal whilst the other fireteam pushed forwards, before providing the same covering fire to their comrades in a classic example of a bounding overwatch. The overwatch was largely successful in keeping the contractors heads down; they were not used to being suppressed by concentrated, well-aimed suppressive fire, in the same way that professional soldiers (or operators) would be, but at least one NSW Operator went down bleeding profusely from an upper arm wound.

Two other operators dragged their wounded comrade into cover and began to apply combat first aid even as the rest of the squad continued to exchange fire with the enemy. Pinned down by the need to treat their wounded comrade things were looking increasingly worrisome for Prentice and his squad, at least until the HSS contractors suddenly found themselves under flanking fire as Lieutenant (JG) Harper’s squad appeared from a door leading to the upper decks of the oil rig. In a few moments it was all over; caught exposed from their flank the HSS contractors were cut down with ruthless efficiency.

“124, regroup on me,” Prentice ordered crisply.

It only took a minute for Naval Special Warfare Troop 124 to assemble on their Officer Commanding, taking up a close defensive formation so that they could hear anything that was said whilst ensuring that they were facing outwards and ready to take on anyone that might attack them.

“Harper, give me a report.”

“Upper deck secured, all weapons systems spiked; Marines deploying from the warships are moving to secure the rig,” Lieutenant (JG) Harper reported crisply. “Still no sign of Target One, although we believe there are some hostiles holed-up in the operations centre.”

“Then that’s where we’re heading then, lads,” Prentice said simply. “Fireteam four, your man is down so get him to the helipad and extract, everyone else with me.”

The troop signalled their assent and as fireteam four remained their their wounded man and began the process to get him safely evacuated to the helipad where he could be ferried to one of the destroyers, or even the mainland given the proximity, the other three followed their Lieutenant deeper into the structure. Sure enough, as Lieutenant (JG) Harper had said, the doors to the operations room were heavily secured and, through the reinforced glass windows, they could all see their main target; John Henderson, pacing like a caged animal.

Prentice banged on the window with the stock of his L21 to get Henderson’s attention.

“John Henderson, we are His Majesty’s Navy,” Prentice said simply. “Surrender yourself, or we’ll come in there and take you.”

Henderson snarled at the gathered group of Naval Special Warfare operators as he considered his options. It was obvious that the last thing that the man wanted to do was surrender to anyone from the Kingdom, as he had to know that he was going to be returning to Arcadia to face the ultimate price for his crimes. However, faced with the prospect of likely being killed if the NSW operators had to breach the room, and take down his immediate bodyguards, and the (small) possibility that he would be able to (somehow) escape with his life, he really had no choice and nodded to his men who lowered their weapons and unlocked the doors. The naval operators swarmed into the room and disarmed the HSS contractors as Prentice stepped up to Henderson.

“Under the Special Measures Act of 2000, I am detaining you on behalf of His Majesty’s Government.”

Field Marshal The Lord Hammond, GCS DSO RA
Ministry of Defence, Highever
Duchy of Starminster, Kingdom of Arcadia
14th May 2016, 0200hrs Local Time

“We’ve got him!”

The MOD Central Operations Room, in a bunker beneath the Ministry of Defence Building in Highever, erupted into cheers as Lieutenant General Sir Michael Dawson, the Director Special Forces, relayed the message that they had just received from the Naval Special Warfare Troop that had been deployed onto Henderson Deepwater. After twenty-four hours of frustration the Royal Arcadian Military had finally accomplished their task of bringing the ringleader of the conspiracy that had killed their King and Queen to justice. It would take more time for the remaining regicides to be located and detained, as the focus had been on Henderson it had allowed other top conspirators to avoid the efforts of the Royal Arcadian Constabulary, and later the Royal Arcadian Military, to capture them and bring them to trial. However, capturing Henderson was a big win for all of them and would do wonders towards ensuring that the Kingdom’s reputation and international standing survived this disaster. Moreover, it would allow the King’s fight against corruption to proceed unhindered and would ensure that the Kingdom would reverse the decline it had been sinking into since the turn of the century. Henderson, more so than even the corrupt politicians, represented the old era and his capture marked the turning of the tide.

The King, a relatively rare fixture within Central Operations (although if the rumours were anything to go by this was likely to change), was stood in thoughtful silence by the main situation display table which showed a top-down image of the Kingdom, with various layers available. The man stood with the confidence and composure of a naval officer, for although the insignia of Admiral of the Fleet that he now wore was new, he had up until a few days previously worn the rank insignia of a Lieutenant Commander in his own right. If the private comments of his former ‘superiors’ in the Admiralty were anything to go by, his early assumption of the throne had cut short a very promising naval career. The young man was obviously deeply in thought, and Lord Hammond could see obvious pain in his expression, his eyes closed. But then this was, perhaps, the first time that Alexander could, truly, accept the fact that his parents were dead and truly mourn for them. Until now the King had, gallantly, thrown himself into the task of cleansing the Kingdom and bringing to justice those that had wronged his family; revenge and purpose were powerful emotions after all, but now that was fading away, leaving just the grief.

“We can handle the mop-up, Your Majesty,” Lord Hammond said quietly, stepping up beside his King.

“Yes, I think that would be for the best,” The King replied after a moment. “Get me the name of the NSW Troop Leader, I shall want to induct him into the Royal Edwardian Order… and the name of the wounded operator, I want to ring his parents in the morning.”

“Of course, Your Majesty,” Lord Hammond nodded.

The Royal Edwardian Order was the principle order of chivalry under the sole discretion of the Monarch, intended to reward service to the Crown directly, rather than the Kingdom as a whole. It was also larger than the Most Noble Order of the Golden Rose, the Kingdom’s highest order of chivalry to which admittance was also the Monarch’s sole prerogative but whose number was more strictly controlled. He could understand the King’s desire; after all the Troop Leader, Lieutenant Prentice, had been the man directly responsible for bringing the mastermind behind the death of his father to justice, and appointment to the order, even as a Member, would be a very high honour indeed. Of course, the details would remain highly classified of course, at least whilst Lieutenant Prentice was on active-duty within the Special Forces Directorate, but it would do wonders for the man’s career in either case, as the Real Edwardian Order was a very clear indication of the Crown’s pleasure.

“Very good,” The King nodded. “I’ll leave you to it then… goodnight, Lord High Marshal.”

“Goodnight, Your Majesty,” Lord Hammond replied, bowing formally.

As the King departed Central Operations, with the gathered officers and enlisted personnel standing to attention respectfully as he did, Lord Hammond turned his attention back to the matter at hand. The Naval Special Warfare Troop would be responsible for the safety and security of John Henderson until they handed him to the Royal Arcadian Constabulary. As per the original plan, the NSW Troop would be taken off the rig by helicopter and would fly directly to HM Dockyard Summerswind, where they would meet with Detective Chief Inspector George Hamilton of the Royal Arcadian Constabulary who would take Henderson into custody; a heavily-armed RAC prisoner convoy would then transport the prisoner to a nearby Royal Prison to await trial. At least one of the RAN destroyers would remain near Henderson Deepwater to oversee the operation to remove the weapons installed by Henderson Dynamics on the oil-rig; the risk of them falling into the wrong hands was too high. Although the RAMC would station a garrison aboard the rig until the process was complete the decision had been made to keep a warship nearby, just in case, as although the naval guns probably wouldn’t interest anyone the surface-to-air missiles, whilst obsolete, would be deadly in the hands of terrorists.

All things considered, however, the Royal Arcadian Military could begin to stand-down from the increased readiness posture it had assumed. Although there were still many unanswered questions surrounding the political future of the Kingdom that was distinctly not the realm in which the RAM ought to be involving itself, and Lord Hammond in particular was more than happy to leave that discussion to the King and Parliament.

User avatar
-The Kingdom of Arcadia-
Civil Servant
Posts: 7
Founded: Feb 28, 2019

Postby -The Kingdom of Arcadia- » Sat Jun 08, 2019 3:12 pm

His Majesty The King
The Royal Parade, Highever
Duchy of Starminster, Kingdom of Arcadia
Saturday 8th June 2019

Several weeks had passed since the Raid on Henderson Deepwater, the capture of John Henderson and the end of the crisis that had begun with the assassination of the King and Queen. With the crisis over, things had returned to normal within the Kingdom, or at least what ‘normal’ now consisted of, given that King Alexander had re-asserted Royal authority and was reforming the political system to one more of his liking. Reforms which proved to be broadly popular with the general populous of the Kingdom; the Monarchy had always enjoyed a comfortable majority of support and few could argue with the motivations behind the King’s reforms of the political system, especially as he didn’t then monopolise power for himself. The Crown and the Parliament had therefore spent most of the last three weeks in negotiations on the new constitutional framework, broadly similar to what Alexander and David Sinclair had discussed at the height of the crisis, and were beginning to put this framework into legislation. Of course, for the moment, it was something of a rump parliament but there was sufficient representation to give the acts legitimacy, and there would be a general election in due course to return Parliament to the proper functioning under non-corrupt Members.

The mood in the Arcadian Capital of Highever was, therefore, as bright as the weather on a warm Saturday morning in mid-June, as crowds flocked to line the streets for the pageantry event of the year; the King’s Birthday Parade. Although Alexander’s actual birthday was earlier in the year, the King’s Official Birthday fell on the second Saturday in June and it was on this day that public celebrations took place, allowing the Monarch to enjoy his actual birthday in relative peace.

The bulk of the attention was around the Royal Parade; a large parade ground in central Highever, immediately in front of the Ministry of Defence’s main building; a large, majestic and regal building that looked like it was designed to be at the centre of a public display (which of course it was). Seats around the Royal Parade were highly sought after; with the majority being handed out to government officials, visiting dignitaries and ambassadors with the remainders being sold to the public, many of which were taken up by the great and the good, but there were regularly more than a few commoners who saved up to afford the tickets, donned their ‘Sunday best’ to enjoy the day. The first action of the day was when a detail of Royal Guardsmen, looking resplendent in their distinctive red uniforms and black bearskins, marched onto the Royal Parade to mark the positions that the rest of the Guards, the six companies of foot guards that would soon follow.

A few moments later the (relative) quiet of Highever was ripped asunder by the music of the Massed Band of the Household Division as they led the way onto the parade square. The Massed Band was followed by six companies of foot guards, each comprising three officers and seventy-one other ranks, referred to as No.1 to No.6 Guards depending on their position in the marching order. No.1 Guard, also known as the Escort for the Colour, was provided, on this occasion, by a company of the 2nd Battalion, Royal Guards, led the way onto the Royal Parade, followed by three companies provided by 1st Battalion, Royal Guards, a second company from the 2nd Battalion and a single company from the 3rd Battalion, Royal Guards. The 1st Battalion provided the bulk of the troops for the parade as they were the designated battalion for Public Duties in the Capital, with the 2nd Battalion having the honour to provide the escort to the regimental colour, meaning that the 3rd Battalion only had one company on parade this year. Although chosen months ago, the fact that the 2nd Battalion was providing the Escort for the Colour was particularly appropriate as the 2nd Battalion, Royal Guards, was the Royal Army’s quick response force and had deployed operationally during the crisis following the assassination.

The first five Guards formed up in two ranks on the west side of the Royal Parade, just off of the Kingsway, whilst No.6 Guard formed up perpendicular to them on the north side, proceeding an L-shaped formation, whiles the Massed Band took position on the south side of the parade ground. Troops from the 2nd and 3rd Battalions which weren’t on parade, lined the stretch of the Kingsway which ran from Highever Palace to the Royal Parade, roughly half the distance from the Palace to the King’s Gate, providing security to the Royal Family, even if they were also in their red uniforms to add to the splendour of the occasion.

Once the guards were in place the first procession made its way down from Highever Palace, made up of those members of the Royal Family who were in attendance but would not be taking part in the parade arriving via open-top carraige. Royals in this first procession included the Queen, the King’s consort, Princess Elizabeth, the King’s sister, Princess Jessica, the King’s other sister in naval unfiorm, and the young son and heir apparent, The Princess of Highever, in the first carriage. The second carriage held The Duchess of Windamere, The Princess James of Windamere (her elder son’s wife, Catherine), The Princess Arthur of Windamere (her younger son’s wife, Rebecca) and the eldest of her grandchildren, the Earl of Lakeside. The third carriage carried the Duchess of Wintershold, the wife of the King’s other uncle, and her two children, Prince Thomas of Wintershold, who was in naval uniform but not taking part in the parade as he was not a Royal Colonel, and Princess Sarah of Wintershold. As this procession approached, turning at the Royal War Memorial, immediately across the Kingsway from the Royal Parade, the No.3 Guard opened ranks to allow the carriages to pass.

No more than ten minutes passed, by which time the Royals had assembled on a balcony of the Ministry of Defence, before the King’s procession approached. Immediately proceeded by the Sovereign’s Escort, mounted troops in full ceremonial uniform and armour, provided by the 1st Life Guards, the King rode on horseback, himself in a distinctive uniform as Captain-General of the Royal Army, accompanied by his uncles the Duke of Windamere, Royal Colonel of the Life Guards, and the Duke of Wintershold, the Royal Colonel of the Royal Guard, also on horseback, followed by other officers of the Household Division and the Royal Household all mounted, including the Master of the Horse, the Major-General Commanding the Household Division, his Chief of Staff, Aide-de-Camp as well as the Regimental Adjutants of the Life Guards and the Royal Guards. As soon as the King arrived at the Royal Parade the Royal Standard was unfurled atop the Ministry of Defence, as the parade ground was counted a part of the building for ceremonial purposes. The King, and the Royal Colonels and senior officers, formed a line stretching across the eastern side of the Royal Parade, in front of the Ministry of Defence, with the King ad the very centre.

The Field Officer in Brigade Waiting, in this case the Commanding Officer of 2nd Battalion, Royal Guards, who was in command of the Parade, assumed his position on horseback in the very centre of the Royal Parade.

“Guards! Royal Salute!” The Field Officer ordered crisply, his voice easily audible across the entire parade ground. “Present… Arms!”

The gathered foot guards snapped from their position to present arms and a moment later the Massed Band began to play the Royal Anthem, God Save the King, as the officers out of formation saluted, as did anyone in the crowds or nearby. As soon as the anthem finished and the foot guards had shouldered their arms once again, the King rode forwards, just the two Royal Colonels accompanying him, and made his way slowly before and behind the long line of Guardsmen, the Massed Band playing music as he did so. The last time Alexander had been on the King’s Birthday Parade it had been as the Royal Colonel of the Royal Guard, and despite his age (and his naval calling) he inspected the Guardsmen with a keen eye, and was not left wanting by what he saw. After passing the end of the line of Guardsmen for the second time the King made his way past the assembled Sovereign’s Escort from the Life Guards, as well as the King’s Troop, Royal Artillery, which had been drawn up on the Kingsway before returning to his original position in front of the Ministry of Defence.

“Troop!” The Field Officer ordered once the King was back in position and nodded his readiness.

Signalled by three strikes on a bass drum the Massed Band began its march across the Royal Parade, with the foot guards changing arms after standing to attention. The Massed Band marched, and then countermarched, across the Royal Parade in slow and quick time, whilst a lone drummer broke away from the Massed Band and assumed a position two paces to the right of No.1 Guard. It was only once the Massed Band had assumed its passion that the lone drummer performed the ‘Drummer’s Call’, signalling the Captain of No.1 Guard to cede his command to his subaltern, before returning to the Massed Band. Whilst No.1 Guard sloped arms, the Field Officer ordered the other companies to change arms and stand at ease, at which point an orderly took the pace stick from the Regimental Sergeant-Major positioned behind the Escort for the Colour allowing him to draw his sword (the only time a Royal Army infantry warrant officer would do so on parade). After being ordered into close order by the subaltern, the No.1 Guard quick marched into the centre of the parade ground to the tune of ‘The Arcadian Grenadiers’.

Fifteen steps from the Colour Party the music halted and four paces later the Escort for the Colour halted in place, before being ordered to open ranks and dressed. The foot guards are then called to attention, ordered to change and slope arms under the direction of the Field Officer whilst the Regimental Sergeant Major marched to the front of the escort and, followed by the Ensign, approached the Colour Party. After saluting the Regimental Colour with his sword the Regimental Search Major took the colour from the Colour Sergeant, who changed and then sloped arms, before marching back to the Ensign and presenting the colour to him. The Ensign, a junior officer, saluted the colour in turn with his own sword before sheathing it without taking his eyes off the colour and taking possession of it, at which point the Escort for the Colour became the Escort to the Colour.

To the first six bars of the Royal Anthem the Escort to the Colour presented arms, turning outward at an angle of forty-five degrees whilst the NCOs on the four corners ported arms in a symbolic gesture of maximum protection fo the Colour. As the Escort to the Colour sloped arms, repositioned with the Colour Party which joined the Escort, the Subaltern ordered the Escort to slow-march down the field towards No.6 Guard to begin the trooping of the colour itself. Whilst this was taking place the Massed Bands performed a rare and very difficult manoeuvre known as the ‘spinwheel’ all the whilst playing the slow march ‘Escort to the Colour’ in which the Massed Band of over four hundred men pivoted on its own centre in a movement so complex that it defies description and is often known as an ‘art form’ more than d rill movement. By the time the Massed Band completed its pinwheel the Escort to the Colour had reached the edge of the No.6 Guard, at which pointed the music stopped and the Field Officer ordered the entire parade, except the Escort, to present arms as the trooping began in earnest.

To the strains of the Royal Guards Slow March the Escort to the Colour trooped its colour down the long line of Guards, all the whilst the Guards themselves remained at ‘present arms’, by no means an easy achievement on a hot summers day. This action was a throw-back to the times of line warfare in which the colours of every regiment would be regularly displayed, or trooped, to the troops so that they would recognise it during the confusion of battle and know to rally to it. Once the Escort to the Colour returned to its original position as No.1 Guard its Captain resumed command of the Escort by ordering them to present arms, bringing the Escort to the Colour back into the same state as the rest of the Guards, at which point the Field Officer ordered the entire parade to slope arms.

“Officers, take post!” The Field Officer ordered.

As the officers took their posts the No.1 to 5 Guard retired by about turning and right-forming into review formation, about turning again as the Corps of Drums began to play with as all six Guards were moved into close-order and positioned ready for the march-past, at which point the Field Officer saluted the King and informed him that the foot guards were ready to perform their march past.

“Guards will march past in slow and quick time,” The Field Officer ordered. “Slow… March!”

Over the next ten minutes or so the Escort to the Colour lead the other guards through two circuits of the Royal Parade, saluting the King as they passed, each corner turned by a complex left form movement. The Regimental Colour was dipped in respect to the King, however the King saluted in return to the Colour out of respect for the battle honours it represented. The first circuit was completed at slow time, to the tune once more of the Slow March of the Royal Guards, whilst the second circuit was completed at quick time, to the tune of the Arcadian Grenadiers. Once the Guards were back in position the Field Officer rode forwards, saluted the King with his sword and informed him that His Majesty’s Guards had completed their march past. It was then turn of the Life Guards to complete their own ride-pasts, first at the walk then at the trot, followed at last by the Kin’s Troop, although compared to the ‘main event’ of the foot guards this was much less of a performance and took much less time.

With the King’s Birthday Parade effectively finished the gathered troops manoeuvred themselves into position for the march-off, with the King positioning himself at the head of his foot guards. The parade, consisting of over a thousand soldiers and four hundred musicians was led up the Kingsway by the Massed Band, immediately followed by the King (with the Sovereign’s Escort in front and behind) and the foot guards. As the parade marched towards Highever Palace the King’s Troop, which had positioned itself in King’s Edward’s Park, began to fie a sixty-two gun salute which was timed to finish by the time that the King would have arrived back at the Palace. Although not formally a part of the procession, but very much a part of the tradition, was the veritable throng of men, women and children of the general public that followed the parade up the Kingsway, kept in order by a line of policemen, with thousands of loyal citizens looking forward to an appearance on Highever Palace’s southern balcony. Almost immediately upon returning to Highever Palace the King, and the rest of the Royal Family, jumped down from those horses or disembarked their carriages and made their way into the Palace and up to the balcony.

Alexander and Stephanie, his Queen, remained inside the Southern Gallery whilst the rest of the Royal Family went out on the balcony ahead of them, allowing the King to turn to the Field Officer in Brigade Waiting, Lieutenant Colonel Edward Templeton, with a warm smile.

“A very well done parade, Lieutenant Colonel,” Alexander said shaking the man’s hand. “You’ve made my first parade as King a memorable one.”

“Thank You, Your Majesty,” Lt. Colonel Templeton replied, beaming with pride as, given how much the Royals spent around the military, and how many King’s Birthday Parade’s they attended, any King knew his stuff when it came to things like this. “It was my pleasure.”

Lieutenant Colonel Templeton stepped away, leaving the King and Queen alone in the Southern Gallery as Queen Stephanie stepped closer to her husband.

“It’s good to see you smile again, my love,” Stephanie said softly as she embraced him.

“It is good to be smiling,” Alexander replied. “Although, I can’t help but think of him today… of both of them.”

“I know, especially with how much your father loved this day,” Stephanie agreed. “But for that reason, he’d want you to enjoy it.”

“You are right, as always,” Alexander smiled. “Well, we had best enjoy the rest of this day… we’ll have a lot of hard days coming up.”

Stephanie nodded; although the crisis was over the task of rebuilding the Kingdom would take far longer and would be a great deal of hard work from many across the Kingdom’s government and civil service. Moreover, the Kingdom had suffered in many areas from years of mismanagement and neglect and that would have to be rectified, not the least of which was the Royal Arcadian Military, particularly the Royal Arcadian Navy and the Royal Arcadian Air Force. It was not for nought that the Summerswind Aerodyne prototype for the advanced, fifth-generation Fury stealth fighter had been quickly handed over to the Royal Arcadian Air Force to take part in the King’s Birthday Flyover that was about to take place, as the shape of things to come now that the defence budget, and others, would receive the attention and share it deserved. The Kingdom was perhaps fortunate that the defence industry had continued to develop its own prototypes and technology, even if the corrupt politicians would never have allowed an order to be made, for it saved the Kingdom from its own short-sightedness.

Stephanie looked like she was going to say something, but simply smiled as she heard the chants of ‘we want the King’ from the crowd outside.

“They are calling for you, my love,” She said simply.

Alexander smiled broadly and kissing her gently on the lips he turned towards the open doors onto the South Balcony and stepped out into the sunlight, to the adoring cheers of his people.

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