Chapter 5:

Chapter 5 "Gunboat Diplomacy Remastered"

America Stranded In A Fantasy World

 “Gunboat Diplomacy Remastered”

June 24th, 2040: Approximately 20 nautical miles outside an unknown city

Task Force: Pioneer

Turning to the stock market, the Dow Jones has finally closed with a positive of two hundred points, though it still needs to make up the more than fifteen thousand it lost because of the ‘transfer’ as it is being dubbed online.” The news anchor turned to a map of the continental US.

“Looking at the states, the National Guard has been deployed with martial law being declared in the following states, Texas, California, Illinois, Washington DC and New York. Riots in San Francisco have reached day five with the looting of grocery stores and pharmacies being the most common targets; Although we should state that some militias in the city have taken it upon themselves to defend these businesses as the local law enforcement is already struggling to maintain order.” On the screen a video of some men and women holding a wide variety of firearms with some having military surplus gear. Behind them was a store that just the night before had its front glass smashed but the steel shutters saved it from being ransacked. The scene changed again to a picture of the White House and President John giving a speech he had prepared a few days prior.

“President Dresden's call to arms as it is being coined has had some success with the Democrats and Republicans passing ‘The Technology Failsafe Act’ and ‘The National Production Bill’ passed with little to no opposition along with many on both sides publicly announcing their willingness to work with the opposing side. The last time we saw this kind of unity was during the nine-eleven attack, and that was over thirty-nine years ago.” Growing bored of the news from home as it was much the same, Aaron turned it off.

Sitting inside his temporary office onboard the USS Gerald R. Ford, ambassador Aaron swiped through a collection of photos of the city they were approaching. The USS Florida had chosen to stay outside the port and return home with the fleet. During that time they had built quite the report on the city. One key feature they marked in red lettering was this city has multiple races of humanoids living together, with humans making up the majority. Aaron was taken out of his trance with a knock on his office door with a junior officer giving a shallow nod.

“Fleet Admiral Wilkins had requested you on the bridge.” Returning the nod, Aaron stacked and placed the photos into a safe in the corner.

Stepping out of his office, Aaron started the claustrophobic journey to the bridge, noticing there being more people about than usual. “I guess we are getting close now.” Aaron pulled down on his suit jacket. Climbing up the staircases to the bridge another officer directed him to a room where Jameson along with other admirals and captains were looking over a top-down image of the city; taken from a satellite that had flown over a couple of days ago.

“Aaron, glad you made it. We were just discussing our approach plan and we wanted your opinion.” Jameson gestured to the image on the table. Aaron placed both hands on the table before gesturing with his right.

“I suggest we park here and send either a destroyer or patrol boat to dock. I don’t think their port is deep enough for anything larger.” Aaron gave a smirk at Jameson who returned it with pleasure.

“Want me to send up some fighter squadrons?” Jameson asked.

“No. We don’t want to spook them into thinking we are invading them. I’m already having second thoughts about bringing the fleet this close, but the show of force may play into our favor. Seeing us as a superior power should allow my requests to be met with little trouble.” Aaron fixed his gaze back into the image. “Chances are though, if I am to meet with their ruler, we will need to travel to their capitol. Have a helicopter on standby for me if I need to travel along with a protection detail.” Aaron flicked up his right wrist to reveal a gem-encrusted watch. “I suppose I should get myself ready. We'll be making history here soon.” Aaron left the room to retrieve his briefcase from his office.

Triple checking everything was in order, Aaron made his way to the lookout point above the bridge. In the distance a black line began to appear and using the bridge binoculars confirmed that it was indeed land. With the fleet plowing towards the unknown city.

Aaron continued to watch through the binoculars, his curiosity for seeing how the native populace would react to them clouded his mind. At first, no one noticed the black dots on the horizon. But as the fleet got closer, a few people stopped to see what it was. Eventually, Aaron had to pry himself away to have himself placed on a nearby destroyer, but he took one quick glance before leaving; but the sight he saw made his heart sink a little. A crowd had built up but most had a concerned look on their face. The cities guard looked to be already deployed at the port with some desperately trying to get their own vessels out to meet theirs.

Aaron made his way to the deck and boarded a waiting helicopter to take him to the destroyer. Upon arriving on the destroyer, the fleet was given the command to maintain position a little over a mile out with the expectation of Aaron’s destroyer who continued ahead. Inside the bridge, the captain looked at the three sailing vessels that made it out of the port. A simple wooden hull with two masts holding a few sails.

“Give them a warning helmsman.” The captain ordered, not taking his eyes off the incoming ships.

“Aye sir.” The helmsman looked up and pulled the foghorn lever, the deep noise echoed around the city. However, the vessels maintained their course.

“Alright, let's try something more direct.” Aaron walked over to the comms panel and grabbed the radio.

“This is ambassador Aaron onboard USS Gridley. On behalf of the United States of America, we wish to conduct diplomacy with your ruler. However, any act of hostility against this fleet will be considered an act of war against the United States. Turn your vessels around immediately or your actions will be considered hostile!”

That seemed to get the message across, but only two of the three ships changed course with the lead ship still maintaining its course for them. “Goddammit.” Aaron muttered under his breath.

“Change course immediately or you will be sunk! This ship is made of steel, you have no hope of damaging us!” Aaron looked out the bridge hoping the vessel would turn but it stubbornly refused.

“Captain, I assume you can place a precise shot to knock out their masts?” Aaron looked over to the captain who now had a wicked grin forming on his face.

“Can do sir! Target the masts, I want that vessel dead in the water!” Aaron watched the five-inch gun quickly swivel to the opposing vessel.

“On target!” The weapons officer shouted.

“Shoot!” The captain ordered, with a heavy thud the gun fired. The shell cleaved right through the main mast on the vessel with it collapsing forward and landing on the front mast, making it also collapse under the extra weight and both masts slammed into the water. With one shot the vessel was disabled.

“Cease Fire!” The captain looked through his binoculars at the damage. The hull seemed okay apart from the mass of broken wood and rigging now scattered across it. Aaron reached for the radio again.

“Take this as an act of kindness and don’t do anything else stupid.” Aaron placed the radio back into its slot before grabbing his briefcase and walking out the bridge.

With the other vessels returning to port and seeing one of their own ships get its masts blown off in mere seconds, many of the people started backing away from the port as the destroyer grew closer. Placing itself next to the biggest wharf it released the massive anchor at the front. Marines and sailors aboard threw a climbing net as it was a good five-foot drop to the wharf. Aaron made his way down with eight other marines. Polishing up his suit Aaron walked along the wharf, many of the onlookers now fixed their gazes on him. At the start of the wharf an older man dressed in what looked to be an eighteenth-century captain uniform.

“For a simple messenger, you bring your entire war fleet?” The old man questioned, the city guards around him had their spears drawn and ready, with the marines raising their rifles.

“Shit, I need to de-escalate this.” Aaron stepped forward.

“On behalf of my government I sincerely apologize about this situation, it was not our intent to cause this much distress when conducting first contact. One could say we have started on the wrong foot.” Aaron smiled, leaving the old man confused by his choice of words.

“I am ambassador Aaron. I speak on behalf of President John Dresden of the United States of America.” Aaron gave a shallow bow to the old man who chuckled in response.

“What manners! I am Ferdinand von Kurth, harbormaster and captain of the city watch. Welcome to Händluf City.” Ferdinand returned the bow. Aarons marines lowered their rifles with the guardsmen going into a more relaxed state.

“I wish I could have a tour of your city but I must request that I meet with your ruler as soon as possible, preferably today.” Aaron watched Ferdinand chuckle again at his words.

“Well unless you have a wyvern it will be two days by cart.” The old man replied but grew cautious as Aaron gave a smirk.

“I think we have something of similar speed to a wyvern. All we need is a guide, would it be possible to hire someone?” Aaron watched the stunned Ferdinand try and process what he had just heard.

“Well, I can certainly find someone for you. But first, may I send a message to my counterpart in our capital? If you try to pull what you did here over there then it would end a lot worse.” The two laughed, any tension left was now gone with only the civilian crowd still gawking at the destroyer.

“Perhaps I will wander around your city while I wait, if you don’t mind of course.” Aaron gestured to the buildings behind the old man.

“I would be honored if you did, sir Aaron. We are a small trading city, usually used as a leaping point for the surrounding villages to get their goods to larger markets. May I recommend the central plaza? It’s just down the street behind me.” Ferdinand pointed down the dirt street, wooden buildings about two or three stories tall flanking it.

Taking Ferdinands offer, Aaron along with his security detail walked to the plaza, along the way Aaron made sure to take mental notes of the city and what it needed that America could offer in spades at a competitive price. Reaching the plaza, the market was buzzing with more activity than Aaron expected and to his shock, the mingling of races was even more prominent than what the report led him to believe. What caught his attention the most was the few anthropomorphic animals either roaming around or managing their stall.

“Ah! You must be the ones from the metal ships!” Aaron snapped out of his trance when a fox humanoid grabbed his attention from inside their stall.

“That we are sir, hailing from the United States of America. May I ask what you are selling?” Aaron stepped closer to the stall, inside the crates looked to be plants of some assortment.

“These are herbs and other plant life used in a plethora of professions; usually selling to alchemists or cooks, here.” The fox held up a white flower. “This one is used in stamina potions or if combined with certain spices can create a magnificent topping.”

“Fascinating. Tell me, is there anything here that could be used to create a healing potion or something similar?” The fox shook its head, leaving Aaron both relieved and saddened. At least this was one thing his government didn't have to worry about.

“I’m afraid not, though I’ve heard the priests in the Puroiya Church can use healing magic.” The fox replied but Aaron pressed further on the topic.

“Oh? And where is this church located?” Aaron reached into his suit and pulled out a notepad and pen.

“They are an extension of the Autoriario Empire. They have places of worship across this land but most of their larger monasteries are in the heartland of the empire. I must warn you though.” The fox leaned towards Aaron who mirrored the action. “They don’t take too kindly to us beastmen or demi-humans, you however should be fine as long as you don’t provoke them.” Aaron raised a curious eyebrow.

“Could you go into a bit more detail?” The fox looked around before answering.

“They see themselves as superior beings because of their connection to their god. Even amongst other pure humans they dislike the unfaithful. As for us, we are seen as mere beasts that were either put on this world to be used as slaves or to be hunted.” The fox stated.

Aaron along with some of the marines stared wide-eyed at the fox, trying to process what they had just said. This was racism on a whole different level to them. Sure Earth had its dark moments but those days were long gone. But that darkness still infested this world; Aaron could feel it gnawing at his heels.

“Sounds like we need to put these bastards in their place.” One marine spoke up, getting approving head nodes from some of the other marines.

“While I admire your way of thinking, no kingdom has been able to stand against them.” The fox sighed, but looking at the marine he was puzzled to see him smiling.

“Oh yeah? Well they haven't met the Marine Corp yet.” Another Marine chimed.

“Home of the brave, land of the free. There's a reason why this is our country's motto. Sitting idly by while crimes against humanity occur goes against everything we stand for.” The staff sergeant in the group added with a smug look.

That last sentence brought attention to the group. Many of those in the plaza stopped to stare at them, Aaron saw this as an opportunity to tell America's ideals, and for word to spread about them.

“The United States prides itself on freedom of the individual, freedom of speech, freedom of movement, to practice any religion, right to bear arms and many more rights and freedoms.” Aaron started wandering in circles with more people coming closer to hear about this supposed nation. “America is the bastion of freedom; the shining city on top of the hill. We have never backed down from a fight against a foe that has suppressed another race for any reason. I can guarantee that once my government hears about this supposed empire. We will make them change their ways.”

To Aaron's surprise, there were a few cheers from the crowd, it seems the fleet had inclined a few to believe that they might be able to go toe to toe with the Autoriario Empire.

“What about all the slaves inside the Autoriario Empire?” A young dog demi-human stepped forward, Aaron shifted his gaze towards her.

“I cannot say definitively what will happen to them but chances are they will either be sent back to their homeland or if my government agrees to it, a citizenship program might be opened to those who wish to become American citizens.”

That got people's attention, with many more cheering now. Aaron turned to his protection detail, all of which were smiling proudly.

“This is too easy.” Aaron thought. Sure he had been sent here to secure diplomatic ties with this kingdom to start the process of understanding the continent more but his second mission was made out to be more difficult, but that couldn't be further from the truth.

“Win the hearts and minds of the people”