In The Dark -- A Red Sands: Space 1889 Campaign
Bespoke Royal Naval Frigate
(Based on the Full Light Full Steam Frigate class of ship)
The frigate class of vessel has traditionally been based on a half warship, half freighter role. However, there is a lot of diversity in the classification of frigate, and even a common vessel may have a rich history or unique features.
In preparation for King William IV’s 70th birthday, the shipyards of Britain conceived of a ‘holiday vessel’ for the Sailor-King, a marvelous gift in the form of a ship small enough to be discreet but large enough to serve a King’s household, and well enough armed and armoured to protect royalty but swift enough to escape ambushers or marauders, yet still well-appointed enough to receive dignitaries or to serve as a mobile holiday home.
The space usually reserved in a frigate for freight and cargo is reduced, as is weapons load. The resulting space is used to expand the cabins making them merely small rather than cramped. The galley is also surprisingly spacious. The shared stateroom area has also been expanded, with an ingenious hideaway dining table suitable for state dinners. A large segmented-glass dome adorns the front of the vessel, with a staircase down to the stateroom. When atmospheric conditions permit, the dome can fold open, offering unparalleled views, and access to the combination fishing and shooting deck at the front of the vessel.
Beneath the upper decks, the engineering and crew sections fill the lower hull, and the majority of systems are common to other British frigates. To maximise space available, and again as homage to the Sailor-King this is one of the last vessels fitted with a water-landing hull. The armoury is also halved in size, due to the reduction in mounted weapons. This space is given over to luggage and freight, with a small refrigerated section.
Construction proceeded reasonably smoothly for the majority of the vessel, but the amount of customisation and luxury materials used in the upper hull led to cost overruns that almost ruined the sponsor of the project. This was all the more scandalous due to the secret nature of the work, as it was being performed under wraps. Despite somewhat rushed work on some of the adornment and velvet glove trimmings, she was delivered on schedule, christened the Roi de la Mer and presented to the King as a gift in 1835 – coincidentally the year of Tobias Bradwell’s birth.
The King was by all accounts delighted with the vessel, but did not find much time to sail on her, managing only two exo-atmosphere trips and one trip to the Caribbean before he died in 1837. The Roi stayed in the royal fleet but was not assigned a Captain or a day-to-day duty, instead being trotted out for pomp and ceremony events. Despite the lack of wear on the vessel, the velvet trimmings required a significant amount of maintenance and in 1847 several of the more ostentatious adornments were removed – notably replacing flooring with hardwood and carpet in place of wall to wall thick carpet, reducing the chandelier by 3 tiers, and fixing several other elements that were not well finished during the rushed completion, mostly by removing them.
Documentation is sketchy for the vessel’s movements between 1848 and 1855. The distinctive glass bulb on the forecastle makes her recognisable, and eyewitness accounts unexpectedly place her at several significant events. An Italian news-sheet from 1851 describes her warning an asteroid colony of a pirate attack, and a recovered german dreadnought Captain’s logbook suggests that at the same time as a diplomatic overture from the Captain of the Roi someone slipped aboard his vessel and stole secret documents and an unknown experimental weapon. Speculation suggests that she may have been assigned to the rumoured Victoria’s Special Fleet and have been performing secret missions.
In 1856 she was spotted landing at the shipyards of her construction with significant battle damage to the rear of the vessel, but repairs were performed under wraps and when she exited dry-dock she was returned to her pomp and circumstance role.
In 1859, no longer seeing a requirement for the vessel and finding the water-landing hull obsolete and the glass dome awkward and vulnerable, Queen Victoria had all Empire badging and heraldry removed, repainted her, renamed her an unfortunate Lovitznyan name that, strictly speaking, translated to “Friendship Anchor” and gifted her to the retiring Lovitznyan Ambassador, Leopold (Ana’s father, see: Sands of Revolution ).
Uncertain what to do with her, and having no need for a frigate himself, he parked her in a Lovitznyan harbour berth and opened her to the public for tours and essentially washed his hands of her. In 1875, at the age of 40, she was formally mothballed, although she was operational at this time and flew from her tour berth to her storage lake before being wound down.
In 1885, following a tangle with a treacherous Governor and a martian mystery (see: Beneath the Martian Sands), Captain Tobias Bradwell retired from the Navy. Seeing a certain parallel to his own retirement, and concerned for his assets in the turbulent political climate, and with a sly intention to offload the now 50-year-old vessel back onto a representative of the nation that had given him the “Friendship Anchor” in the first place Tobias’ Father-in-law recommissioned the vessel and gifted it to Tobias.
Whatever his intention, Tobias fell in love with the vessel and its flaws, renaming her the Hyperion Ascendant and returning her to British registration. Freed of the shackles of Naval orders, and instead weighed down with the responsibility of being Master of his own vessel, Tobias crammed a lot of action into the next 4 years. As well as Flight From Shadow and Fate of the Empire he had his own engagements and contracts.
Perhaps his best known exploit was proving once and for all that the often-speculated but never-dared concept of grounding a water-landing hull vessel in the Martian sands. When asked how he did it, he replied, “Well, we were going to be landing no matter what anyway, and the sand on the left was too soft, and the sand on the right wasn’t soft enough, so I landed right where I did and we sank almost to the waterline and stopped. And by my oath, if we didn’t lift out of there smooth as any puddle launch once we finished repairs.”
Captain Tobias Bradwell – Also Engineer
Pilot: Observant & Deceitful, Ace
-Russian cargo pilot, learned his trade in the civilian sector.
-Family in every port, sometimes leading to good deals, sometimes leading to trouble.
Navigator/Cook: Sarcastic, Logical & Obsessively attached
-Veteran navy man, late 60s
-Retired from the navy to stay with the boat
-Applied for the crew off his own bat
Engineer: Lazy & Expressive
-“always tries it on”
-Everything is hard and what he’s doing is amazing and he isn’t afraid to tell you that
-Never seems to actually be working much
Martian Engineer: Unnerving & wise
-Met on the sands of Mars
-Unexpected skill at engineering
-Pragmatic and unexpected approach
-Cause of some of the bad press
Plus two Able Bodied Seamen,
Harry Jones and Peter Duncan.