The Covenant’s 5th Fleet – The Night Watch

With my Covenant fleet painted over a 15 day period and finished (for now) here’s the full background for them, as promised, and complete with shiny pictures.

Commissioned in 1860, the 5th Fleet was charged with patrolling the dark waters surrounding the Covenant’s domain. Initially little more than a task force made up of cruisers and frigates, coordinated by the battleship CSS Stalwart, the fleet was forced to spend prolonged periods of time isolated from one another as they plied the vast stretches of waters surrounding the ice floes for raiders or other threats to the Covenant’s sovereignty.

Before the renowned Commodore Aldus Stone took command, the 5th saw little action beyond clashes with the Kingdom of Britannia’s Falklands units that strayed too close to the Covenant’s borders, but these were little more than pot shots. Stone changed all that. A dour man hailing from the home counties of England he made a living as a game keeper in the employ of the Earl of Wessex. A tracker of superlative skill, a master of the silent kill and lethal with an elephant gun. Working for the Earl man and boy it was believed he was destined for great things. However fate had other ideas when the Earl’s eldest son drunk and in a rage with his father accidentally shot and killed Stone’s wife, the Earl’s housekeeper. Were this great tragedy not enough but the Earl utilising his significant influence had the entire matter swept under the carpet. Stone, realising his true place in Britannian society, was a broken man. Tired with toiling for a man whose sole interest was growing fat on the blood and sweat of the people, Stone made the long and dangerous journey South to the Covenant of Antarctica looking for a life with purpose.

Stone was not idle for long, being drafted into the Covenant armed forces in 1862. To his surprise, Stone was assigned to the navy and the 5th fleet rather than the army. His self-sufficiency and innate ability for the silent kill made him perfect for the dangers of patrolling the Covenant’s waters. Initially assigned to the frigate Too Quiet Stone impressed his superiors with his hit and run defence of the Western ice floes against a FSA raiding party. Although his ship was crippled, and eventually sunk, he delayed the FSA long enough that the rest of the 5th fleet was able to surround the FSA and destroy them utterly.

It didn’t take long for Stone to ascend the ranks and find himself at the head of the 5th fleet off the back of a string of daring actions keeping the Covenant’s borders safe. He achieved the rank of Commodore after he led the 5th fleet into the heart of Port Stanley, the Falkland Islands, on an unauthorised but successful rescue of Covenant POWs without a shot being fired in 1867. His first order was to have the fleet painted raven black to reflect the Night Watch moniker the fleet had earned in their many night sorties and defensive actions.

Although a lonely man with a solitary and single-minded command style that sat ill with the Covenant hierarchy, there was no denying that the 5th was clearly wasted as a patrol force and was pressed into front line service as the Covenant’s warmachine took the fight to the rest of the world in 1869. Under Stone’s command the 5th fleet won a score of victories against the great powers of the world,with more and more assets being assigned to the fleet to extent that Stone’s flag now resides aboard the dreadnought CSS History’s Judgement.

Despite the 5th Fleet’s many victories, Stone’s naturally cold nature combined with his unflinching belief in the Covenant’s cause, has seen several instances of excessive force by the vessels under Stone’s command. There have even been reports of executions of enemy sailors stranded at sea. However the fleet seem to reserve their worst brand of violence for the vessels of the Britannic navy. No one knows why this is, not even the crew of the Night Watch itself, but all sailors of the Kingdom of Britannia know that if they spy a black ship on the horizon they should beware. The condemnation of his superiors is never far behind the 5th Fleet but if Commodore Stone cares he gives no sign.

However, Stone’s popularity at home and infamy abroad has made it difficult for any meaningful sanction to be levelled against him or the captains beneath his command. Indeed there are many within the fleet that believe themselves untouchable, and even above the rest of the fleet. To many Stone is a hero. Others see Stone and the 5th as a rogue element that sooner or later will either turn on their own or be brought to task. Which ever the answer be, none can deny that Stone and his fleet of raven black ships are a powerful force both at home and abroad.

The battleships of the 5th fleet share a rivalry that borders on the reckless. The Sword of Truth has a long and illustrious history formerly at the hands of Commodore Stone and now with the firm hand of Captain Jacob Harris. The Shield of Reason however had only just been commissioned 2 years previously. Captain Oscar Ashwind, a native to the Polar South, is determined to see his vessel recorded in the annals of history no matter the cost.

The Sword of Truth was once known as the Stalwart, the flagship of the 5th Fleet prior to the commissioning of the CSS History’s Judgement. A proud ship with an illustrious and bloody history. It was the Stalwart, under Stone’s command, had sailed into Port Stanley during the daring raid to rescue Covenant POWs. When command passed to Captain Jacob Harris there was much pomp and ceremony as few ships in the Covenant navy had seen as much combat as the Stalwart. Captain Harris was one of Stone’s prodigies and was almost as angry and bitter with the world having come up through the ranks listening to Stone’s rhetoric.

Although Harris had every right to be bitter. Hailing from Boston in the FSA and raised Irish Catholic he had a successful fishing business, a well-regarded family and was betrothed to a lady of good standing and better breeding. And all at the age of twenty-two. Harris was a keen boxer and had a weakness for cards although a sixth sense kept him from losing either that often. But his real weakness was the comfort he found in his fiancée. Both were raised as devout Catholics and knew the risks of indulging in carnal desires but neither cared. Until his betrothed fell pregnant.

Buckling under the weight of responsibility, despite the mutual familial support, he fled to the ocean on-board one of his fishing steamers. It didn’t take long for him to realise his cowardice and brought the boat about. However fate intervened and a storm crippled the vessel before it could make port. Set adrift it took a month for Harris to coax the boat home. In his absence his assets had been seized by his fiancée’s family to support her as she was now all but outcast. Ostracised and destitute Harris stole one his former vessels and headed South.

Assigned to the 5th Fleet as a rating his seamanship skills were quickly noticed and quickly ascended the ranks. He saw Stone has a kindred spirit and proof, if any were needed, that a broken man need not stay broken and his could visit his vengeance on those wronged him. Harris was far better at concealing his anger at the world and his promotion to Captain was quickly affirmed. He wasted no time renaming the Stalwart as much to symbolise the passing of a torch as to represent the righteous history the ship had. Her hull black as night, she was a true predator of the oceans and had the kill count to suit.

To list its successes under Stone would take time but arguably longer under Harris’ command. Volunteering the Sword of Truth for any and all covert or surgical strike missions to test the mettle of his ship and crew. The Sword made headlines world-wide for infiltrating and laying waste to the naval yards at both Boston and New York city before slipping off into the night. The attack was condemned by the FSA and her allies for the loss of civilian life and although the Covenant didn’t agree with Harris’ methods, like much of the 5th Fleet, they couldn’t argue with the results.

The Sword of Truth would continue its reign of terror in the Atlantic Ocean both as part of wider fleet actions and on its own attacking supply ships and patrols with impunity, each attack more ruthless than the last as Harris and his crew became every more proficient at their craft until fate once again intervened. The FSA, frustrated with the constant loss of their supply ships laid a trap, arming the supply ships with turrets and concealing torpedo bombers where possible. As the Sword of Truth sailed silently amongst the supply ships all but submerged, it took its first ranging shot. However instead of scattering vessels, the ocean lit up with explosions as turrets responded all around the noble battleship.

In the same moment bombers took to the skies, the air filling with whizzing tracers and the howl of prop engines. Harris, furious at the FSA’s deception ordered all weapons to fire as the battleship fought free of the supply ships that were slowing encircling it. As explosions blossomed in the night sky the bombers dropped their payloads, torpedoes surging towards the Sword, ripping gaping wounds in the ship’s hull. Fires broke out across the Sword as she fought with all her worth to break out. Harris realised he stood at the edge of his undoing and was ready to give the evacuation order when explosions tore through a vessel on the Sword’s port side. A moment later another supply ship blew apart, its hull snapping in two and dropping beneath the waves. In the half-light of burning fuel Harris and his crew could make out the forms of jet black Covenant frigates as they dipped beneath the waves to unleash deadly torpedo salvos.

Seeing his opportunity Harris ordered the Sword to surface and make a break for it however a heavy transport blocked her path, a 36inch cannon mounted on her prow slowly rotating for a killing shot. Harris did not hesitate, ordering the use of the particle cannon. The force of the shot destroyed the transport utterly but the strain on the Sword was almost too much, blowing out systems and relays and all but crippled the ship.

It took 2 months for the frigates to tow the dying ship back to friendly waters, once again giving Harris plenty of time to consider his actions. That was twice his compulsive nature had almost gotten him killed and resolved to do better. Stone saw the change in him and knew he had become the officer that the Covenant needed him to be. It took a further 6 weeks for the Sword of Truth to be fully repaired. Once again a part of the 5th Fleet she has been restored to a position of fear in the hearts of her enemies and pride in those of her allies.

The Shield of Reason although visually identical to the Sword of Truth is the superior ship. All but brand new the Shield has the most sophisticated technology available to it including the type 2 range finders for faster target resolutions as well as the latest IFF device that allows the Covenant to identify its ships in the tumult of battle.

Captain Oscar Ashwind is as new a senior officer as his ship has rolled off the production line. Brought to Antarctica as a child by his South African parents amongst the first wave of travellers seeking a new life, Ashwind is as close to first generation Antarctican as can be. Growing up with his three brothers they were schooled in the discoveries that were being made on almost daily basis. All three excelled at their studies and all were destined for a life at the forefront of Covenant science. That was until the Covenant mobilised for war. Of the three, Oscar was the only one who felt an obligation to serve his adopted people in the coming dark days. Ever the idealist he joined the navy and bade his brothers farewell for what would prove to be the last time.

During his basic training Oscar received word that his two brothers had been killed aboard a science ship that was heading for a small chain of islands South East of the isle of South Georgia by whalers who mistook them for a military vessel. Distraught Ashwind threw himself into his career determined to make his brothers proud despite their misgivings about the armed forces. Oscar Ashwind was bright and eager and his scientific knowledge saw him spend much of his early career in engine rooms or in the R&D division. Ashwind’s potential, however, came to the fore when serving about the Stargazer, a Plato Class cruiser of the 9th fleet, as chief engineer.

Whilst on routine patrol the Stargazer was ambushed by a French flotilla. The initial volley struck just below the bridge, killing the senior staff and sowing disarray through the ship. Realising he was the most senior office on board, Ashwind took command of the vessel. He ordered a general distress call to be sent and then sent the Stargazer all ahead into battle. Through a series of daring scissor actions and hit and run attacks the Stargazer crippled two of its attackers and sunk a third all the while leading the French on a merry chase around the South Atlantic. Ashwind understood the odds all too well but was determined to reap a heavy toll for the craven acts of the French. Ashwind never got his chance as just as the French surrounded the battered Cruiser ready to deliver the killing blow the remainder of the 9th arrived and tore the French to pieces.

Upon his return home he was hailed as a hero and promoted. His actions against the French caught the eye of Commodore Stone and offered him the bridge of the Shield of Reason. The decision rankled his other officers, none more so than Harris of the Sword of Truth. But Stone cared little for their opinions and enjoyed sparking healthy competition as they strove to earn his notice. Stone had chosen Ashwind for his guile and determination under pressure. Not to mention it made an undeniable amount of sense for the most advanced vessel in his fleet to be commanded by a former chief engineer.

Between Harris and Ashwind relations are cordial. Harris loathes the young upstart for his meteoric rise through the ranks and the fame its brought him, not to mention a string of successful naval engagements that will only help his chances of further advancement. Ashwind looks up to Harris and takes his ship into the heart of the fight in the hope of winning his fellow battleship commander’s approval, unknowing that every victory and act of valour drives a great wedge between them.

In contrast the Olympia is one of the oldest ships in the Covenant armada. Of course in reality the Olympia has had just about every component and deck plank replaced for one reason or another by the ships soul remains pure. Before the war broke out the Olympia and all carriers were designed to be exploration vessels, the drones to be used to map vast areas of land, rather than instruments of war. Needless to say the fate of the Olympia took a different path.  The Olympia has been attached to, at one time or another, four different fleets. Prior becoming the only carrier of the 5th fleet it belonged to the 1st fleet. Revered by every serving member of the Covenant military and civilians alike the 1st fleet were at the spear tip of the Covenant warmachine and the Olympia was a grand a proud part of that.

Covenant carriers are tough by the standards of most battleships and the Olympia was no exception. Often found where the fighting was thickest, its drones flinging themselves into the hulls of enemy ships, she had as fearsome reputation as any warship in the warring world. However, one fateful day, during a prolonged and bloody engagement with the Prussians in the mid Atlantic the Olympia was surrounded and set upon by a unit of frigates. With little crew to defend itself the Olympia quickly fell with little crew to defender her.

Beset on all sides the 1st fleet were in danger of being destroyed. Only the timely intervention of a relief force consisting of elements from the 2nd, 5th, 8th and 9th fleets, including the 5th fleet frigate squadron The Coppertails prevented a complete disaster. Lieutenant Sampson Earl of the frigate Clever Girl spotted the Olympia running Prussian colours. Moving the rest of his squadron in position using the rough seas to cover their advance the crews attacked en masse. The Prussians lacked the numbers to make a concerted defence and within minutes the Olympia was once again in Covenant hands.

With the Prussians driven off the 1st fleet was escorted back to Antarctica for refit and repair. The Olympia’s fate however now rested with the 5th as it was Lieutenant Earl that rescued the carrier and was his to command. Being granted a promotion to full Commander, Earl is the most junior officer in Covenant history to command a carrier, but does so with great skill, putting the carriers fearsome weaponry to as great a use as its drones.

The Olympia is not the only ship to have been absorbed into the 5th fleet. Indeed the Titan, Deimos and Phobos were survivors of the Midway disaster in which elements of the 2nd, 7th and 10th fleets were ambushed by the FSA. Surrounded on all sides the Covenant fought valiantly against a vastly superior force.

The squadron of armoured cruisers moved as one, their co-ordination going far beyond the IFF that the Covenant have blessed their ships of war with. Hunting as a pack they punched holes in the FSA formations allowing their comrades to break out. Ultimately it was for nought and few made it beyond the range of the FSA’s guns. Only the Titan, Deimos and Phobos made it home.

Although officially still attached to the 7th, Stone recognised in their captains and crew the same thirst for revenge that burned in his heart and he gave them that chance. Leaving the Antarctic, Stone took the 5th fleet along the pacific coast of the Americas and, under the cover of darkness destroyed the FSA flotilla at anchor in Pearl Harbour. The destruction wrought by the armoured cruisers’ particle cannons was the stuff of nightmares. Such was the destruction the base was crippled for a full year and even now cannot hold a full battle group within its waters. Branded an act of cowardice by the FSA they placed a bounty on the heads of the captains of the Titan, Deimos and Phobos much to the amusement of them and their newly adopted fleet, earning them the nickname The Wanted.

So fearsome are the ships and crew of the squadron they are rarely found far from History’s Judgement when deployed, lending their strength to hers and leaving nothing but destruction on their wake.

The cruisers of the 5th fleet are its solid, immovable, core. Of all the changes experienced by the fleet, the cruisers of Orion Fornax squadrons have endured them all. Before Stone’s ascension to command the cruisers were the mainstay of the 5th fleet. Indeed when it was first commissioned the fleet was commanded by the cruiser  Galileo of Orion squadron. Superlative sailors to a man, the crews plied the icy waves with the ease of men and women born to it.

It was these mighty cruisers that rescued Stone and his crippled frigate from the clutches of the FSA, the cruisers utterly surrounding the American forces to catch them in a deadly cross fire of turret fire and broadsides. Ever since then the Galileo, Pegasus, Constellation, Ganymede, Griffin & Cassiopeia  have been at the heart of every action the 5th fleet has been apart of, both officially and unofficially.

The captains of these fine warships were at first resentful of Stone’s rise to command. Most of Captain Hendrik Boettcher, the junior of the 6. When Stone was given overall command, prior to the commissioning of the Relentless (Sword of Truth), he was given command of the Constellation, forcing him to take overall command of the frigates. In truth it was the best thing Captain Boettcher could have done. So use to fighting on his own against small raiding parties or single ships it reminded him of the importance and benefits of coordinated attacks at a time when the 5th fleet was beginning fleet sized actions.

After the Relentless had joined the fleet and Stone had moved his flag aboard, Boettcher once again took command of the Constellation, bringing with him a wealth of ideas of how the mainstay of the 5th fleet should operate and although Captain Theodore Bern has overall command, Boettcher’s insight into squadron tactics are invaluable.

Bern is a tough man to impress. Formerly of the Britannic navy and an instructor at the Portsmouth naval academy, Bern resigned his commission in protest over a suicide mission into Russian waters to steal the Whit Navy’s experimental glacia generator technology. His firm hand natural teaching ability has made him the ideal candidate to temper the wilder impulses of commanding officers that have graduated from the Coppertails. Those that don’t heed his lessons either find themselves demoted or killed.

Despite his British noble and naval background Stone respects and trusts Bern completely having proved himself time and time again both defending the Antarctic coast and in the open waters in the thick of the fighting. Indeed since taking command of the 5th, Stone has relied n Bern’s council and has become one of his most valuable and trusted advisors and has been granted the honorary title of master of the armoury. An outmoded idea but a sign of respect between the two men, both of whom were native to England. Bern is a master tactician. Indeed having a defector in your midst can certainly provide advantageous tactics and fleet deployments.

Although not as powerful as the larger capitol ships in the fleet they make up for it in adaptability and possessing shield generators makes them a very tough nut to crack, something that the captains take full advantage of. Indeed it is not uncommon for the vessels of Orion Fornax squadrons to sail into the heart of enemy formations, shields flaring, to unleash the full potential of their broadsides and turrets.

Both squads have served Stone with distinction since he took command taking part in the raid on the Falklands Islands, the Olympia rescue, Auckland schism and battle of the West Sturgeon Straights. They wear their black livery with pride acknowledging the achievements of Stone and the 5th fleet as a whole. Going from coastal patrols to full pitched battles in the open ocean was a gear shift that some of the crew struggled to make.

Up until recently the cohesion within the cruiser squadrons has been second to none. However, after Ashwind’s promotion and assignment to command the Shield of Reason tensions have grown between the senior staff as each captain fancies themselves in with a chance at commanding that mighty battleship. All the Cruiser captains covet the Shield and Sword equally and have begun to keep tallies of their kills and their after action reports submitted to Stone have become increasingly florid.

Fortunately for Stone, when in combat the crews of the Galileo, Pegasus, Constellation, Ganymede, Griffin & Cassiopeia conduct themselves with the utmost discipline. They save the bragging for after.

However few are more blohard than the Coppertails. 

Officially designated 109 squadron, the ‘Coppertails’ represent the light element of the 5th fleet under Commodore Aldous Stone. Made up of 12 Diogenes Class frigates it is rare for a Covenant fleet to favour a particular class of support vessel over others so overwhelmingly. However, the composition of a fleet has as much to do with the commanding officer as it does the Covenants ministry of war and Stone’s history with the vessel makes it a staple choice.

Painted black like all other vessels of the 5th Fleet, the Coppertails earned their moniker because of the copper plating encasing the rear or the ships. This was as much an aesthetic choice on the part of Commodore Stone as to improve the signal broadcast by the Covenant’s rudimentary IFF transmitter. The technology still in its early stages, the 5th fleet rely heavily on it due to their preference for night operations as it allows them to co-ordinate their attacks with unerring accuracy.

The crews of the Coppertails squadron are renowned in the Covenant armed services for their cavalier and bragging behaviour, prone to outrageous boasts and wagers amongst themselves and other personnel. This devil-may-care attitude has been carefully encouraged by Commodore Stone recognising the benefit of war hungry crews on board such small ships. Their bravado is born of those that have a considerably shorter life expectancy than almost any other element of the 5th fleet.

In the water the commanding officers of the Coppertails band together in three flights of 4, operating as a pack and isolating much larger vessels and harrying them to destruction with withering torpedo attacks. And boasting rights to the captain delivering the killing blow. Their boisterous and arrogant nature isolates them from their fellow officers, especially those in the 5th fleet who look upon them with mild shame as all officers in the 5th fleet start their lives as officers in the Coppertails and all were as insufferable as their junior fellow officers.

Commodore Stone started his career aboard a frigate and won much fame stood on its bridge. As well as some hard lessons. He sees to it that every newly commissioned officer assigned to his fleet serves with the renowned Coppertails. Some see it as a punishment, others as a test. In reality it’s both and about learning some valuable lessons. The crews of the Coppertails are exceptional having survived life aboard a frigate and in the hands of unproven and arrogant officers. The good officers will listen and learn, the bad ones will get themselves killed one way or another.

Despite this Stone does all he can to stir up competition between the officers of the squadron, offering rewards and plum assignments for valour and confirmed kills. But this too is a lesson; to help them understand the difference between arrogance and confidence and command and leadership. Those that fail to learn these lessons either end up dead, along with the men under their command, or spend their careers as boorish sea dogs taking ever greater risks to win glory and their Commodore’s praise although neither are forthcoming. Stone will never put these poor souls out of their misery as he recognises that a driven and reckless officer has its uses.

These disparate personalities can sometimes mean that the squadron lacks cohesion and will often follow their own objectives but this too has its benefits, quickly highlighting to Stone which are able to bring their flight or the squadron under control for the greater good.

This would normally sow confusion amongst the rest of the fleet but Stone’s will is absolute and his officers know to trust his command. And Stone is quite happy for his Coppertails to engage the enemy on their own terms as this only further benefits his plans. If anything their apparently haphazard approach to war can be a boon, their aggression and speed saved the lives of the Sword of Truth following a FSA trap.

The newest element of the 5th fleet is escort groups Skyshield and Sentinel. How they came to be attached to the 5th fleet is most unconventional and speaks of Stone’s strength of will and influence within the Covenant and the wider world.

Following the attack on Pearl Harbour and the bounties placed on the heads of The Wanted Aldus Stone began to receive death threats that indicated an assassin was within the Covenant. The admiralty immediately assigned bodyguards to keep Stone safe however the man was a cult of personality and as such refused to be seen so weak.

The six men charged with his protection were some of the finest marines ever produced by the Covenant but even they struggled to keep track of Stone. They even found themselves left behind after Stone had managed to slip aboard the Judgement and mobilise the fleet without telling a soul.

In a heated exchange with the admiralty he continually refused to acknowledge the need for protection but his superiors would not be dissuaded. In a fit of frustration he was recorded to have bellowed ‘If you want them to watch my arse, give them some escorts and put them to some real use.’ So they did. Each marine was prompted to Commander and charged with the protection of Commodore Stone. Although now a part of his fleet Stone still doesn’t make it easy on his protectors, choosing to assign them to his battleships rather than be chased around the waves by guard dogs.

This isn’t to say the escorts aren’t put to good use. Indeed the crews have flourished under the command of such hardened soldiers, drilling them to peak efficiency. Working seamlessly as squadrons these plucky escorts go after any threat without a second thought, filling the air with walls of lead or harrying ships much bigger than their own with weapons fire. How they have survived every without loss or serious damage after all this time is miraculous.

The final element of the 5th fleet is the 82nd bomber squadron the Night Furies. In truth Stone dislikes the use of aerial elements but can’t deny their effectiveness in battle. Especially with their extraordinary manoeuvrability allows them to strike and then withdraw with almost supernatural speed.

The 5th fleet’s penchant for night operations combined with their black colour scheme not only gives the Night Furies a tremendous advantage not only when making their attack runs but also their survivability quite at odds with the average life expectancy of similar squadrons in both the covenant and the wider world.

Despite this fact Stone generally prefers to leave the Night Furies in reserve seeing them as a liability due to their relatively limited range. One he commits to the hunt he is relentless and having to hold on station and await refuel for his bombers rankled him and has left them behind on more than one occasion.

For all their kills and valour in combat they remain an all but unused element of the 5th fleet but even Stone admits this must change with his foes relying on air elements more and more and has even requested a Daedalus class to be permanently attached to the fleet to bolster his air arm for when he inevitably needs it.

Advertisements

One thought on “The Covenant’s 5th Fleet – The Night Watch

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s