Proof Through The Night

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Proof Through The Night

Post by ChaserGrey » 2010-10-17 11:15pm

Disclaimer: The characters and situations of the Domination of the Draka universe are the property of S.M. Stirling and are used here without permission. No money is being made, and if requested I will remove this story from the web. So don't sue me. I don't have any money anyway. Mmmk?

A/N: Yeah, yeah, I know it's been done...but this is an idea that's been in my head literally for years, ever since I first read Marching Through Georgia and got to the part where the Draka forced the Pyrenees with nuclear weapons. A little voice told me, what if, just when they were stuck in nice and tight there, someone on the Good Guy side was smart, brave, and stone cold crazy enough to really go for broke? Of course, they didn't, because this is the Drakaverse and only evil slaver bisexual S&M supervillains have those kind of stones. But the idea stayed with me, and its finally coming out.

Proof Through the Night: Chapter One

March 22, 1945, 0745 Hours
T-40 Hours and Counting
Seventh Draka Army Headquarters, near Toulouse, France

Arch-Strategos Eric von Shrakenberg closed his eyes and raised his face to the weakly shining morning sun. Even here in the south of France there was still more than a hint of winter in the air, the air thick and dark with the smoke from the Eurasian War. Cities had burned under the bombs of British and American bombers, then burned again when the Draka marched through to break them to the Yoke. The latest reports from the Conservation Directorate said it would take years for the growing season to return to normal. And still, it’s not enough for us. Not as long as there’s anything left on the table. And Gods help me, I have to finish it off.

“Eric?” He turned to see Decurion-Tech Sophie Nixon standing behind him. A childhood spent in the Draka agoge and years on the sharp end of the war had made him a hard man to sneak up on, but Sophie had always been able to manage when she wanted to. Perhaps because she’s the one person I never mind feeling vulnerable to. She was wrapped in an old motted green-and-brown field jacket, which still bore the sleeve flash of the First Airborne Legion and a long scorch mark down the side from a German bomb near Pyatigorsk. Her snub-nosed face was uncharacteristically grave as she held a steaming mug of coffee out towards him. “It’s time.”

Eric shut his eyes and lifted his face to the sun for a last moment, then turned and gratefully accepted the china mug. The coffee was scalding hot, naked of sugar or milk, but it had the rich smell of ground bean from the Draka Police Zone, not roasted-wheat ersatz. He’d need it today. Sophie rose up on tiptoes to kiss him lightly, then fell in one step behind him as he walked back towards the Seventh Army’s command bunker. He let the silence drag out comfortably before asking,

“All of our distinguished guests assembled?”

Sophie nodded. “Corps commanders were in before dawn. General Staff liason, Navy men, even the representative from our friends the Headhunters.” Eric pressed his lips together. There was absolutely no love lost between him and the Domination’s Security Directorate, but so far his family connections, the corona aurea he’d won at Pyatigorsk, and the Archon’s firm insistence that none of her toys were to be broken without her permission had kept him alive. “Group Captain Caudell just got in an hour ago. They had problems with the concealment at one of his dispersal fields and he was up all night fixin’ the Freya-damned thing.” Eric grunted in unconscious approval. True, Caudell had subordinates for that sort of thing, but the small group of Mamba jet bombers he commanded were the keystone of Operation Herakles. They had to be ready. Almost as important, the rag-tag mix of Spaniards, Portuguese, German Army remnants, and assorted refugees from all over Europe that awaited them on the other side of the Pyrenees Mountains could not be allowed to find them.

“Eric?” He stopped just short of the door and turned to face her as she took a step towards him, voice lowering as she leaned closer. After a moment’s hesitation, he reached up and drew an arm around her shoulders, selfishly enjoying a few more moments with her before he walked into the bunker. However informal the Citizen Force might be about relationships within its ranks, once they stepped through that door there could only be room for the Arch-Strategos and his personal aide. He and Sophie had accepted that when she’d chosen to follow him up the ladder of promotion, but this morning he just let her lean on him for a long minute. When they broke, all she asked was,

“Do you think this’ll work?” He nodded.

“It will, Sophie.” A pause. “It has to.”

March 22, 1945, 0600 Hours
T-36 Hours and Counting
The White House, Washington, DC

“Mister President? Sir?”

Franklin Delano Roosevelt struggled awake, blinking his eyes for a few moments in the dark before he felt able to respond to the voice coming from his bedroom door. Even lying in his sickbed he felt short of breath, and he could feel his hands shaking underneath the linen covers. It was a moment before he felt strong enough to respond with,

“Yes?” The door opened, and Roosevelt raised his arm to shield against the light as Colonel Harrison, his military aide, leaned in through the door. “What is it?”

“Sorry to wake you, Mister President, but Admiral Stark just called from the Navy Department. He says it’s time, Sir.”

“Time?” Roosevelt shook his head, and cursed the cobwebs that still slid across his mind. “Are we sure?”

“Yes, Sir. The last photo birds from Gibralter and Grand Canary showed Draka forces mobilizing across southern France, and our snooper teams in Spain have picked up a four-fold increase in Draka radio traffic over the past four hours. If they’re not going for it today or tomorrow, Sir, they’re doing a damn good impression of it.”

“I see.” Roosevelt fell back into his pillow for a moment, feeling an odd sense of peace wash over him. “Are we ready?”

“Yessir. Reprisal transited the Straits of Gibraltar yesterday morning and is on schedule. United States and her group had to fake engine trouble to keep the Snakes from getting suspicious, but they’re just around the Cape of Good Hope now.” Harrison hesitated, then went on in a flat tone. “The Combined Chiefs of Staff also agree with our conclusions. The Japanese even had a ready-made message to hand over. Their Prime Minister says Godspeed.”

“Now, now, Harry.” Roosevelt fell back into bed with a chuckle. “Be nice. If Yamamoto hadn’t convinced the Emperor to throw in the towel when we bombed their fleet at Truk, we might still be tied up over there and the Snakes would be merrily taking over the world. I never thought I’d be glad the old bastard's so hard to kill.”

Roosevelt coughed once, twice, a dry rattle that shook his throat, then struggled to a sitting position. “Okay, Harry. You may inform Admiral Stark that he has the green light for MONGOOSE. As you go out, would you please ask Stamper to lay out clothes and call a car? I’ll await developments at the Navy Department.” Harrison paused as he turned to go.

“Sir, shouldn’t you be-“ Roosevelt cut him off.

“Harry, if this doesn’t go off right it won’t matter how much longer I live. I appreciate your concern, but there’s nowhere else I’d want to be right now." Harrison nodded, and carefully brought his right arm up in a crisp salute.

“Yes, Mister President.”

March 22, 1945, 1900 Hours
T-29 Hours and Counting
Hangar Deck Two, USS
Reprisal (CVA-56)
South of Sicily

Lieutenant Commander Julius Rosemont ran his hand over the deep blue nose of his mount and smiled at the words painted there. Spirit of Rio, the same name as the modified mail plane he’d flown from that city to Cape Town in 1929, earning himself the twenty thousand auric prize offered by the Domination of the Draka’s Transportation Directorate and his first measure of fame. The original Spirit was long gone, picked over by souvenir hunters and then finally torched last year after the armistice with Japan, when Americans started taking a look around and realizing just what they’d allied themselves with.

Rosemont felt a deep, black pit in his stomach as he thought of that, a weltering spring of shame that he sometimes felt would never run dry. The first pictures had started coming out of Draka-occupied Europe since then, the refugees with their stories of Janissary rape gangs, millions of men, women, and children penned up like cattle, the nerve gas grenades tossed into packed basements and hundreds impaled on stakes when anyone dared raise their hands against the Draka. Words like serf, debt-bondage, and pacification had seemed so simple and reasonable when they were spoken about peoples that had spent centuries under the Yoke, or about Afghan tribesman that had resisted every other attempt to bring civilization from the Persians to the British.

The system Rosemont had seen in his tours of the Draka Police Zone had seemed so peaceful, orderly, with the serfs well provided for by the Draka masters who benevolently oversaw their welfare. Certainly preferable to the patchwork of tribal kingdoms that had been there before the Draka, both in Africa and across much of Asia, with millions of subjects living nasty, brutish, and short lives. He’d returned to America, spoken of what he’d seen across the land, told people that the Draka were simply fulfilling a self-imposed duty to guide and protect the lesser peoples of the Earth. He’d helped a reporter named Dreisier get permission from the notoriously suspicious War Directorate to accompany Draka airborne forces as a war correspondent, and been glad when the resulting articles helped raise a wave of pro-Draka sentiment across the country.

He’d done all that, been crucial in aligning his nation with the masters of Africa and Turkey…and he’d never once considered that he might have been lead along a primrose path all along. He’d never thought about what might lie behind the cool-sounding words his Draka hosts had used talking about Afghanistan and Persia. He’d never wondered why he’d seen so little of the industrial Combine camps, or any of the territories taken after the Great War. He’d not considered for an instant what his Draka hosts had really meant when they spoke of rescuing Europe from the twin perils of Nazism and Communism. He had, in short, been the blindest damn fool ever born, and helped lead his country into an alliance with monsters.

Well, that was all right. He might have a big debt to settle with the Snakes, but last time paid for all. And the new Spirit could write quite a big check. Rosemont’s lips curled up as he looked the craft over. She was massive, half again as large as the Avenger torpedo bombers he’d flown over the Pacific and easily the heaviest thing anyone had ever flown of an aircraft carrier- but she almost looked lighter, balanced on her tricycle gear and chocked down. Where the Avenger had been a solid, beefy battleaxe of a plane that looked like it was carved from a solid block of steel, the new Spirit was all flush lines and fine metal. Her nose was smooth glass over the bombardier’s station, extending back into a long, slim fuselage that tapered into a point near the tail like a wasp stinger. Gently swept-back wings held the twin Allison turboprop engines, which promised to offer the power of the new reaction jets with some of the fuel economy of piston designs. A sleek bubble canopy mounted the top of the fuselage, long enough for both pilot and the gunner who would work the twin cannons of the remote tail turret.

Painted in the deep blue of U.S. Navy night aircraft camouflage, she resembled nothing so much as a malign ghost. Personally, Rosemont thought that the Bureau of Aeronautics had done a good day’s work when they named the Ryan AR-1 carrier attack bomber the Revenant.

He turned from his reverie as a welter of sound spilled into the hangar deck, puzzled for a moment. Officially Reprisal was sailing to help evacuate British troops from India via the Suez Canal, now that the Japanese had finally agreed to respect Indian independence. As far as the Snakes had been told Hangar Deck Two was empty, and the men and planes of Heavy Attack Squadron One had been grounded for the cruise out lest they break open the deception. Now one of the ordnance lifts had begun to whine, rising up from the armory buried deep in the heart of the ship. Rosemont took a few steps away from his bird for a look, and felt his stomach tighten at what he saw.

A dozen brawny sailors in dungarees were wrestling an ordnance cart off of the lift and wheeling it towards one of the squadron’s Revenants tied down on the hangar deck. On the cart was a single bomb, a jet-black spheroid with the simplest of box fins mounted in the rear. It would fill the plane’s bomb bay and make it strain to get off the ship even with the new steam catapults, but it could also explode with more destructive power than a sky full of conventional bombers.

The Ryan AR-1 Revenant, the United States class attack carriers, and the Mark 4 nuclear bomb had all been designed as part of the same system. Now the waiting was over, and it was time for that system to fulfill its purpose.
Last edited by ChaserGrey on 2010-12-25 11:24pm, edited 4 times in total.
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Re: Proof Through The Night: Yet Another Kill-The-Draka Fic

Post by ChaserGrey » 2010-10-18 09:21pm

March 23 1945, 0700 Hours
T-17 Hours and Counting
Seventh Draka Army Field Headquarters, 20 miles from the Franco-Spanish border

Someone had dumped a load of hot sand behind Eric von Shrakenberg’s eyelids. He rubbed at them for a moment before taking another sip of coffee and looking down at the map in front of him, conscious of the eyes on them. Outside his massed artillery thundered across the foothills of the Pyrenees Mountains, putting in support for the attack that had begun four hours before. Already more smoke was rising out of the mountain passes to the west as the Draka infantry went in. Eric allowed himself one more moment of silence, then spoke.

“My apologies, y’all. Strategos Thunorssen, please continue.”

“Yes, sir.” The hatchet-faced commander of his II Corps didn’t even look tired, damn it. Young for her rank, with the falconer’s-glove emblem of the Janissaries on her sleeve and eyes that had only seemed to get brighter since they jumped off. “My lead elements are about halfway through the mountains right now. Minimal resistance, most of it from company sized units or smaller. They’re holding us up in places, but no sign of any counterattacks and no reinforcements.” She turned towards Caudell, the Air Force Johnny, with a broad smile. “I think most of their big formations and headquarters got it from your bombers, Group Captain.”

“Well they should.” Caudell grinned slightly. “Twelve bombs ought to ruin anybody’s day. They’ll still be wondering which end goes upwards when we reach Madrid.” There was a burst of laughter around the table, and even Eric chuckled. His nightmare had been failure of that crucial first step, the Draka armies bled white through the mountains and then smashed by counterattacks if they got through. That worry, it seemed, was over. Thunorssen continued.

“Yes, well. Anyway, we’re going through all four passes like a knife through a throat. Main thing delayin’ us is getting new assault units to the front when the old ones are expended and the security measures. “ She slid her eyes over to the green-tabbed representative of the Security Directorate. “Strategos Vashon, are you sure you can’t move more of yo’ people up towards the front lines? All the security in the world won’t save us if those people somehow find their asses before we’re through the mountains.” Vashon bristled, and Eric held up his hand. A boss Headhunter wasn’t likely to make his Yule card list in this lifetime, but Loki knew the last thing he needed right now were arguments among his command staff.

“That was discussed during the plannin’ step, Angelica. If we do get held up in there we’re going to need an uninterrupted line of communication to our troops to get our momentum going again. Expendin’ the population within ten miles of the line of march is extreme, but we don’t have time to be elegant. I’m sure Strategos Vashon will assist as much as possible, and if things get too bad I may release some of our airmobile reserve to speed the job up. But this isn’t the time.” Thunorssen looked like she’d just bitten into a lemon, and the damned Headhunter looked entirely too smug for Eric’s taste. Time to nip this in the bud now.

“Brothers and sisters of the Race.” They all looked up at his changed tone. “We-“

March 23, 1945, 0100 Hours
T-17 Hours and Counting
Navy Department Offices, Washington, DC.

“Are we sure this is it?” Captain James Weatherly bit down on his tongue at the question. Normally his response would have been something along the lines of “of course it is, you idiot!”, but that wasn’t a very politic option when your interrogator was the Commander in Chief of the Army and Navy, with his cabinet and the chief of your service sitting right next to him. After a moment, he managed a calm tone.

“Yes, Mister President. The Draka opened their attack with twelve fission bombs, aimed at major Euro-Spanish force concentrations and headquarters. General Groves at the Taos Project advises they can have no more than one or two bombs still in their stockpile, and very likely none at all. They’ve thrown all their chips on the table.

"We haven’t been able to get a plane anywhere near the Pyrenees Mountains, but our intercept teams say the radio bands are full of commanders all up and down the range yelling for help. The Snakes seem to be sending at least three separate Corps of Janissaries, which is damn near all we’ve identified in the area. No Citizen Force units yet, but we think that’s only because they haven’t scored a breakthrough for them to exploit.”

“No?” From his seat next to President Roosevelt, Vice President Truman looked skeptical. “All that firepower and no breakthrough?”

“No, Sir. For there to be a breakthrough you need a line of defense first, and so far the Spanish haven’t managed one. If anyone’s running the show at more than a regimental level over there, we haven’t seen any signs of it. The Janissaries are advancing along all four of the passes they’ve attacked, and it’s not even noon local time over there yet. Best guess is that since things are going so well, the Snakes will wait until they actually have a path through the mountains, then send in the Citizens. We estimate that will happen by local nightfall at the latest.” Roosevelt nodded from his wheelchair.

“Admiral King. Your opinion please.” Fleet Admiral Ernest King looked across at the wasted form of his Commander in Chief and shrugged.

“Sir, Reprisal and her group have to keep moving towards the Suez Canal at a decent rate, or the Snakes will get suspicious. In another day, she’ll be far east enough that some of the primary targets will be marginal at best. I know we contemplated the entire Draka field force on the wrong side of those mountains before MONGOOSE kicked off, but I think tonight will offer the best chance of success. We need a decision now, Sir.”

Roosevelt nodded, his drawn face looking around the room. “Gentlemen-“

Seventh Draka Army Field Headquarters

“I’m not here to preach to y’all about the glorious destiny of the Race. My father’s already said that if I do that again he’ll clap me for breach of copyright.” A chuckle around the table- at the joke, and at the idea of an Old Domination stalwart like Karl von Shrakenberg soiling his hands with something so bourgeois as a lawsuit. Eric leaned forward over the table. “I will remind y'all, however, of the long-term picture here. The Yankees and their tame allies have been at peace with the Japanese for a year, which means they been getting’ bolder and bolder about supporting our enemies. Which is a move not even a Yankee could miss forever.” Another chuckle, a bit graver this time. Good.

“If we miss this chance, we could be left with a modern, industrial state on the Domination’s borders. If the Yankees don’t make us stop, biology will- we have a good percentage of the Race still under arms, even more of those of childbearin’ age and if we don’t get to demobilizing soon we are going to be well and truly fucked in about twenty years.” Which was rather more of a planning window than most professional soldiers talked about in the middle of operations, but for the Draka everything they did served the ultimate goals of the Dragon Race. “This has got to work, and it’s got to work the first time. If we get a case of victory disease, even this late in the game, we can still lose it all. Anybody forget that, I will blow them a new asshole befo’ I ship them back to the Police Zone.” He drew his eyes between Thunorssen and Vashon. They looked like they’d gotten the message. Good.

“Now. Unless we hit a major snag, I want to be able to send the Citizen Force through in the afternoon and have them laagered on the far side by nightfall. And there had better not be any snags. Clear?” Nods all around the table. “Service to the State.”

“Glory to the Race.” A ragged chorus, then a rustle of uniforms and paperwork as the Domination’s field commanders returned to the business of conquest.

The Navy Department

“We all agreed when we launched Operation MONGOOSE that the Domination of the Draka posed the greatest long-term threat to the United States of any nation today, perhaps any nation ever. This country has not made a habit, to date, of attacking without warning or provocation. We have before us a unique opportunity, however, to deal our enemy a serious blow without the chance of retaliation.”

Roosevelt’s hands shook and his face was now drawn with pain, but his eyes were still bright and intense as they swept the room. “The decision is mine. The order is mine. The responsibility is mine. But if any of you have objections to launching MONGOOSE now, tonight, then now is the time.”

The room went silent. Most of the men in it met their President’s gaze. Some dropped their eyes. Some looked away entirely. But not a man said anything. Roosevelt nodded.

“Admiral King.”

“Sir.” King’s voice was perfectly smooth, as though he was merely delivering lines already rehearsed.

“Send our messages to both carrier task forces. This ends tonight.”

March 23, 1945, 1700 Hours
T-7 Hours and Counting
Ready Room One, USS
Southwest of Sicily

Julius Rosemont settled back into his leather-padded chair and listened to the polyglot of accents as the flight crews of Heavy Attack Squadron One settled in. The long years of the Eurasian War had let tides of refugees sweep over the Western world- Frenchmen and Poles fleeing from the Germans, later Russians fleeing from the Germans and Australians fleeing the Japanese, and still later a mix of Germans, Austrians, Czechs, Dutch, and Scandanavians fleeing from a Draka Yoke that would have harnessed them all with equal indifference. When the Navy had begun to form VAH-1 in secret a year ago, they had sought out the best airmen from all those nations, taught them the arts of carrier operations and radar bombing, and reminded them of one truth- no matter who they were, they hated the Draka that had murdered their nations much more than they hated each other.

The trainers back at their Stateside base, out in the deserted Nevada desert near a Godforsaken one-street town named Las Vegas, said it was for secrecy, so no one would wonder where experienced USN aviators were disappearing to, and so that afterwards the world would have struck the blow against the Snakes, not just the U.S. Privately, Rosemont had noted the larger proportion of “foreign” crews assigned to VAH-1 than their sister squadron aboard United States, and figured there was another reason for the policy. The Navy didn’t expect to get too many of them back when this party was over.

They were a fearsome bunch, though- eyes with permanent squints from searching the sun for enemies, faces and hands battered by landing accidents, not a few bullet scars. One of the pilots, a tall German named Dortmunder, had the left side of his face cracked and split open from bailing out of a flaming Ju-88 over Vienna. Walker, Rosemont’s British-born ECM man, still had a baby face along with a few of the other men, but even they bore lines and a strange stare that looked odd on men who should just be graduating high school or working their first job.

The same genius who named their plane must have been the one who named the squadron, Rosemont thought. The AR-1 was the Revenant, the avenging ghost…and the men who would fly it were the Myrmidons, men who couldn’t conceive of an “after the war” and so would continue to fight until an enemy finally caught up with them. Young men who had been fighting since adolescence, men without countries to go home to-

-and old men who cared more about getting revenge on the Draka or atoning for their past than they did about surviving the process. Can’t forget those, can we, Rosemont?

Commander Quentin Flannery, the squadron CO, strode to his lectern in the front of the room, near a cloth-covered chalkboard. He was a colorless man with pasty skin that refused to bronze under any sun, light brown hair, and pale grey eyes. Flannery had been in the Navy since the lean years after the Great War, had seen his entire world shattered at Pearl Harbor and then been a cog in the great machine that had broken the Japanese war effort in the battles around the Solomon Sea and New Guinea. His friends were long gone, his family only whispered of, and he would fly Navy Attack until someone sent him on to join them all.

“All right, people.” Flannery’s voice was crisp, waspish, all business. “The word just came in from Washington. We’re going tonight.” He dropped the cloth from the blackboard, revealing a map of the Mediterranean and a chalked-in flight schedule. Rosemont leaned forward, his spine turning to water. This was it. Tonight.

“We’ll be hitting eight targets, gentlemen. Together they compose the major supply centers for the Draka Expeditionary Force in Europe…” Flannery’s voice trailed off as Rosemont scanned the flight schedule. He’d read up on all that. Part of his research had been the major ports the Draka were using to receive supplies from their homeland. Far and away the most important was Marseilles, which sat practically in the rear of the Draka army rather hundreds of miles across blasted Europe and the Alps. As befitted its importance, Marseilles was heavily defended, and the need to hit targets in Africa and Turkey meant it was also near the end of the Revenant’s fuel range.

And there it was on the flight schedule. Warhammer 03, target Marseilles. Crew was Walker, Gunner/ECM Operator, Fujita, Bombardier/Navigator, and Rosemont, Pilot.

It was going to be one of those nights.
Last edited by ChaserGrey on 2010-12-27 01:06am, edited 3 times in total.
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Re: Proof Through The Night: Yet Another Kill-The-Draka Fic

Post by ChaserGrey » 2010-10-19 09:07pm

March 23, 1945 1815 Hours
T- 6 Hours, 45 Minutes and Counting
Navigation Bridge, DWS
Southeast of Sicily

“Cap’n.” Captain Rudolf ten Brincken turned to face the Janissary Specialist who stood on his cruiser’s open bridge wing, a pair of heavy binoculars clapped to his eyes. “Somethin’ goin’ on.” ten Brincken lifted his own field glasses and trained them on the Alliance task force he and his two destroyer consorts had been “observing” ever since they passed the Straits of Gibralter days ago. Sure enough, there were men swarming all over the ships, watertight doors slamming shut behind them, guns training out and elevating at the sky- all of them, he noted, carefully pointed away from his ship. Same old.

“I see it, lookout. No cause for alarm. Yankees always go to battle stations at sunset, and this is right on their schedule.” There was no hint in his voice of the frustration and envy he felt when he looked at the Alliance ships. High Command might have stuck him with a uniquely pointless and annoying task, but damned if he was going to take that out on a serf seaman whose only offense was being nearby.

Besides, the Navy was a family tradition for him- which meant that when he’d chosen to enter it as an officer cadet nearly twenty-five years ago he’d been fully aware of just where the Domination’s War Ships stood in relation to the other major naval powers of the world. The Navy had always been the poor relation among the Domination’s armed services, with the sharply limited mission of securing the Draka homeland's coast from intruders and exercising sea control in the Mediterranean. Since the demise of Austria-Hungary as a naval power in 1918, Castle Tarleton had been content to rely largely on submarines and shore-based aircraft for the task, with a few powerful heavy cruisers and fast torpedo-firing destroyers to complement them.

All of which meant that his people would never have been able to assemble the collection of ships steaming 10,000 yards off his starboard side. Leading them all was the old battlecruiser Renown, flanked by a new heavy command cruiser, a British heavy, and one of the Yankees’ antiaircraft cruisers. Almost a dozen destroyers and destroyer escorts flanked the task force, flying both the Union Jack and the Stars and Stripes.

The centerpiece of the group, though, was beyond a doubt the massive new aircraft carrier Reprisal, and ten Brincken’s heart clenched hardest when he looked her over. She was massive, longer than Renown and displacing over half again as much as she cut through the water at an insolently comfortable 22 knots. She deserved the traditional nickname of “flat-top” more than most- her smoke stacks were trunked over the side, leaving long white clouds in her wake, and her island was little more than a vestigial bump holding up a collection of masts and antennas, balanced precariously out on a sponson over the water. All to hold the new generation of carrier aircraft the Yankees were supposed to be building, turning their fleet into nuclear strike platforms from the sea.

He smirked. Of course, according to the greenskin back at Nova Cartago Reprisal was currently serving as the world’s most expensive transport ship, steaming obligingly on to clear India of troops that might oppose the Draka’s plans for the region. Maybe a little more charity was in order, considering the circumstances.

“Suh.” This time the voice came from the darkened room behind the bridge, young and still high-pitched. Sublieutenant Moreau stepped out, with Chief Specialist Nkambe in his wake. That would be unusual in the Army, a Janissary reporting along with his Citizen officer, but the Navy’s traditions had been heavily shaped by the Rationalist Party and in any case technical qualifications often mattered more than rank aboard a warship. Nkambe knew his place, but he would also be ready to- respectfully- correct any errors his officer made. “New emissions from the Yankee task force.”

ten Brincken raised an eyebrow and fought down impatience. “They did just go to battle stations, Mister Moreau. Do you mean different emissions than usual?” This time he let the sarcasm drip into his voice. Typical junior officers- to them, every irregularity was the world about to erupt in fire.

To his credit, Moreau didn’t back down. “Yassuh. Millimeter-wave radar bands, unknown type, or anyway not previously recorded. They sweepin’ their whole forward arc, which means they paintin’ us too.” ten Brincken narrowed his brow, and began to lever himself out of the bridge chair. Might as well take a-

“Cap’n!” This time the lookout’s voice was distorted in pure horror. By the time ten Brincken had spun around, there was a deep resounding boom across the water as gouts of smoke erupted from Renown’s guns. For a moment the entire bridge watch was frozen in horror and disbelief, until a set of splashes erupted just ahead of their bow.

ten Brincken’s lips moved for a moment before he could make sound come out. “Helm, hard to port! Engines ahead emergency!” The cruiser heeled over into her turn as Renown’s guns slammed out another salvo. “Radio, get on the horn to Nova Cartago. Tell them-“

Exactly what Ferguson’s message would have been, the world would never know. Guided by her new Type 2704 gun-director radar, three 15-inch shells from Renown’s second salvo found their mark. The range was short enough that they were firing high explosive, not armor piercing shells. The resulting detonations snapped the unlucky cruiser’s keel, splitting her in two and sending the back half almost instantly to the bottom. Lighter and not directly hit, the bow plowed on for a final few frantic seconds, as Captain ten Brincken and everyone else on the bridge scrabbled frantically for some sort of handhold. Then her split-open compartments filled with the sea, tilting her bow crazily back just before she sank forever into the Mediterranean depths.

1820 Hours
Flag Bridge, HMS

Admiral Sir John Amos lowered his binoculars with a cold smile, watching the wreck of the Draka cruiser slide below the surface. One of her consorts was already sinking, courtesy of an 8” shell from HMS Devonshire, and the other was fleeing with the command cruiser Traverse City in pursuit, her antennas squealing electronic noise to block any transmissions to shore. The destroyer had speed, but the new American cruisers were also bloody fast, and Amos very much doubted whether the Draka would be able to open the range enough before Traverse City scored a hit. Her 8” rapid-fire guns would demolish a destroyer just as thoroughly as a few hits from Renown would a treaty cruiser.

His yeoman of signals leaned in from the battlecruiser’s bridge window. “From Traverse City, Sir.” The force’s true flagship, though until now the Snakes had not been allowed to know that. “Begins: Well shot, Renown. Strike Force taking departure now. Proceed as planned. Ends.” Amos nodded. While the carrier headed into strike position, his force would continue on their announced route, with Devonshire and two modified destroyer escorts broadcasting on their new model of deception jammers. It wouldn’t hold forever, but hopefully they could confuse Snake radar as to which of the two groups was the real striking force.

Amos had no illusions about his mission. At his personal order, before sailing the ships under his command had landed absolutely everyone they could, with priority being given to men with families and new recruits. They would create as much of a diversion as they could, and then they would be sunk deep in a Draka ocean far from any help.

Well, perhaps it would suffice as partial payment on the Empire’s mistakes, for letting the damned Draka get so big in the first place. And by God, his ship had scored one last good hit today.

“Yeoman, make to Flag-“

Flag Plot, USS Traverse City

“Message from Renown, Sir.” Admiral George Connors turned to his signalman just as a gout of flame erupted from the last Draka destroyer, his flagship’s 8” autocannon finally scoring a hit. “Your message acknowledged. Stop. Hit them a good one for us. Stop. Best of British.”

Connors turned his eyes towards the Royal Navy ships, still steaming doggedly eastward as the ships of his own force peeled away smoothly to the north, taking their guide from Traverse City. Their upperworks were lit by the blood-red rays of the setting sun, dappled red against grey as they sailed off. They looked so serene that it was nearly impossible to imagine anything disturbing their progress.

Connors knew better, of course. Even with all the hell they planned to raise among the Draka he put it at four to one against any of his ships seeing Gibraltar again, which was a little long even for a man who liked to make book every now and then. And if the odds were long for them, they were impossible for the Brits. Connors very much doubted any of those ships would see another sunset, and for a moment he swallowed past a lump in his throat.

“Make reply to Renown, please. Wish them Godspeed.”

1915 Hours
T-4 Hours, 45 Minutes and Counting
Flight Deck, USS

“Flight quarters, flight quarters. All nonessential crew clear the flight deck. Open all circle Zebra fittings between Ready Room One and the flight deck. The smoking lamp is out throughout the ship. Now all pilots man your planes for the 2000 launch. Repeat, all pilots man your planes for the 2000 launch. Flight quarters, flight quarters.”

Commander Julius Rosemont lead his crew out through the bulkhead door and up the exposed metal-grating stairs to the flight deck. In most ships they’d have come out from the island, but the United States class carriers’ islands were not much more than open cockpits and a collection of masts to leave as much space as possible for the Revenants' wings. Even so, Rosemont still had to duck underneath the extended wingtip of Warhammer 02 as he reached the top of the stairs and began striding along the teak-covered deck under the harsh blue-white glare of the arc lights. The five Revenants scheduled for the first launch were staggered all down the flight deck, parked nose-to-tail with their wings spreading the entire width of the deck. At the rear of the line, deck gang members with fuel hoses were still working alongside Warhammer 05.

Spirit of Rio waited in the number-three position, lined up with the left-hand catapult and pointing across the ship’s bow into the inky black. Rosemont had always done his own preflights, and tonight was no exception. He left the nose with its radar and sensor gear to Fujita, and busied himself making sure that the metal control surfaces all traveled over their full range of motion without sticking and that no drops of oil fell out of the engines when he removed the inspection plates from their cowlings. The nacelles were of necessity tight over the engines, slim and streamlined like the bomber itself, cutting down on drag- and incidentally on airflow over the engines, meaning that the Revenant suffered more than its fair share of engine fires unless everyone involved was very careful. Satisfied, he hopped up onto the wing and walked casually back over the top of the fuselage, feeling his way along in the dark so that he could check the tail surfaces. Barely visible out in the blackness, he could see Walker doing a final check on the tail turret. All clean. It was time.

Rosemont retraced his steps over the top of the bomber, pausing over the wing to reach down and give Fujita a hand up onto the plane. The bombardier’s hachimaki headband with its red rising sun and Japanese script looked damned odd underneath a USN issue crash helmet, but that had always been one of the things that Rosemont had first liked about the man back when the squadron was forming, when most of the pilots didn’t want to fly with a “damned Jap” no matter how good he was or what Washington said. Once Fujita had made up his mind about something, he was going to go through with it and to hell with what anyone else thought. Now he clapped his commander on the arm and smiled, as Walker came up on the wing next to them.

“Time for me to go down the Hole.” Once he was in the bombardier’s position in Warhammer 03’s nose, Fujita’s only contact with the rest of the crew would be over the intercom. “So just in case we don’t see each other again, gentlemen-“ He reached into his flying jacket, khaki Imperial Navy issue with a defiantly large Rising Sun flag on the left sleeve, and drew out three shot glasses and a thick glass bottle. He handed one to Rosemont and one to Walker with a rakish grin, pouring a generous dollop into each. “-will you have a drink with me? For luck.” Rosemont grinned, lifting the glass up to his nose. It had the raw smell of brewed sake.

“To the Warhammers.”

Rosemont tilted his head back and drank it down. The alcohol was still hot, but cut with water so it didn’t do more than burn on its way down his throat and light a fire in his stomach. He could see the ship’s Air Boss on the flight deck behind him, glaring at the flagrant use of alcohol aboard a U.S. Navy vessel.

“Look out, boys. We might all be at Captain’s Mast when we get back.” Walker grinned, his face looking young for an instant.

“Hope so, Sir. It’ll beat the alternative.” Fujita and Rosemont both laughed at that, then the Japanese aviator tucked his bottle away again and tossed them a jaunty salute before disappearing down the tunnel between pilot and gunners’ seats to worm his way to the bombardier’s position in the nose. Walker went next, dropping into his rear-facing seat and starting to run his hands over the black boxes and scopes that surrounded his remote-control gunsight. That left Rosemont to drop into his ejection seat, buckling in tight before running his eyes over the instruments. Go and green. A hand stuck itself across his vision, and he looked up.

“Sir?” It was the plane captain, crouching on the wing and sticking a paw out. “She’s all set.” Rosemont nodded and shook firmly.

“Thanks, Chief. For everything.”

“Give ‘em Hell, Sir. From all of us.” The chief took a step back, then pulled the Revenant’s bubble canopy from where it was hinged to one side, pushing it down until it locked with a solid click. Rosemont turned back to his checklist, methodically running up the bomber’s systems. He barely noticed when engines began to start around the flight deck, intent on his own indicators as the twin Allisons sprang to life and power meters began to rise off the stops. He didn’t look up when the slamming of a steam catapult sent Warhammer 01 into the night sky. Warhammer 02 was still in the way, hooked up to the longer right-hand catapult, blocking his way forward. It wasn’t until the ship shook with the second launch that Rosemont looked up to catch the taxi director’s eye. He carefully eased off the brakes and taxied past the right-hand catapult, stopping short at the left-hand station and placing his hands on his head while ground crewmen connected him up.

The next few minutes were a ritual ballet, the catapult shooter’s hands and his moving in a sympathetic counterpoint. The split hands of check rudder, and his feet moved on the pedals. Flaps down, and he instinctively moved the lever down into the “Takeoff” detent. The log-rolling motion of “Run ‘em up”, and the turboprops squalled with power, their temperature gauges climbing. Finally the thumbs up, and the wait.

“Pilot ready.”
“BN, ready.”
“Gunner, ready.”

Rosemont took a deep breath. Closed his eyes for a moment. Opened them, and very carefully saluted the cat officer.

With an almighty SLAM the catapult fired and Warhammer 03 raced down its track, Rosemont’s body flattening out in his seat as he felt her ride down, then the jerk of the catapult bridle falling away and launching the bomber into the sky. For a brief, terrifying moment he could feel them fall, then he felt the lift come up to meet them.


The flaps came up, and Warhammer 03 turned west, ascending into the night sky at its best climb speed of 150 knots. Ahead of it, there was no friend.

A/N: Few things-

1) I know the Draka use fake-Roman ranks for just about everything, including Navy and Space Navy in Under the Yoke and The Stone Dogs. On the other hand, we have Pilot Officer (IIRC) Johanna von Shrakenberg in Marching Through Georgia. I decided to square the circle by using regular Navy ranks and saying that there was some kind of "rationalization" movement between 1945 and the time of Under the Yoke three years later to bring the rank structure more in line across services.

2) There isn't much in canon about the Draka Navy, but I think what I have here is reasonable. Hell, even the Draka have to make choices somewhere, and as long as they can dominate the Med and secure the African coastline itself I don't think they have any other big naval missions. In particular, I can't imagine anyplace they need the sea-based power projection that led the British, Americans, and Japanese to develop aircraft carriers.

3) Yep, an IJN naval aviator in the US Navy. What can I say? There's a truce on, and I've always admired the IJN Naval Air Arm. Fujita is not really Cmdr. Mitsuo Fuchida, but is based on him- just like Rosemont is based on Charles Lindbergh.

4) Yes, autoloading 8" guns. They featured on the Des Moines class heavy cruisers in our time line, which missed the end of WWII by about *that* much.
Last edited by ChaserGrey on 2010-12-26 12:07am, edited 2 times in total.
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Re: Proof Through The Night: Yet Another Kill-The-Draka Fic

Post by ChaserGrey » 2010-10-21 07:43pm

2020 Hours
T- 3 Hours, 40 Minutes and Counting
Spirit of Rio

Julius Rosemont had always loved night flying the best. It had been a deadly love when he’d first started flying in the wake of the Great War, when flying on instruments was only a dream, cockpit lights an undreamt-of luxury and the sky full of weather fronts and mountain tops ready to dash your fragile kite to pieces. His first outfit of Airmail pilots had lost more men than his squadron had even in the worst of the Pacific fighting, and most of them had gone down on night flights with nothing but the strewn-about wreckage of their planes to say why. He’d survived, though, and found beauty there like there was at no other time and place.

Now it was with him again, as his Revenant skimmed over the tops of dirty-grey overcast at its cruising altitude of 15,000 feet. The waning moonlight was just strong enough to dance along his plane’s darkened metal skin and give a hint of silver to the very tops of the clouds. There were no holes in the clouds, letting him forget for a moment the world below that they would all unleash hellfire on before the sun rose. Once that would have worried him, with no way to check for landmarks, but not tonight. The stars were clear up here, and Fujita had a good eye with the sextant. Rosemont’s eyes flicked over the instruments, drinking in the information there with the practiced ease of a quarter-century in the air before coming up to scan through the windscreen again.

“Pilot, right three degrees.” Rosemont heard Fujita’s calm call-out and twitched the Spirit’s control yoke, blipping her into a turn. “Should have some of Sicily on the scope. Can I do a sweep to check it?” Rosemont weighed that in his mind. Any radar emissions could alert the Draka defenses, but the navigator knew his business. He wouldn’t have asked if he didn’t think the fix would help.

“Walker, got anything?”

“Clear, Skipper.” The boy’s voice was casual, but Rosemont would lay his last month’s pay that he hadn’t looked up from the crowd of meters and oscilloscopes in his rear cockpit since they lifted off over an hour before. Walker’s jammers were shut down to keep them electronically quiet, but his sensitive receivers would probably be the first warning they got of any hostiles. “If anybody’s watching the sky they’re doing it with bloody binos.”

Rosemont nodded. “Okay, Nav. Couple sweeps, then shut down.”

“Roger.” A pause, then Fujita came back. “Looks good, Skip. The island’s right where we left it.” And more to the point, Warhammer 03 was where he thought it was. Given that their next good radar target would be Sardinia and Corsica over two hours further on, it paid to make certain. Rosemont relaxed and swept his eyes over the skies again. Looked like some thunderheads off to the north. Hope nobody has to fly through that.

2045 Hours
T-3 Hours, 15 Minutes and Counting
Night Terrors, callsign Warhammer 08
North of Sicily

Lieutenant Walter Applebaum cursed under his breath and forced his eyes to maintain their instrument scan. Five thousand feet over his assigned cruise altitude, and still no end to this bloody damned soup he was in! They’d all wanted bad visibility on The Night, for God’s sake, but this was weather as bad as any he’d ever seen- and considering he’d learned to fly at the airport near his hometown in Nebraska, that was saying something. At this rate, by the time he saw anything like a landmark on the ground he’d be somewhere over London.

He could feel the bone-chilling cold of the stratosphere trying to leach in around his heavy leather flying gloves and the fur cuffs of his jacket as he sucked stale bottled oxygen in through his mask. Scan. Altimeter, airspeed indicator, compass, variometer. Keep climbing, try to get above this stuff- but not too much, or you’ll use too much gas on the climb and not have enough left for the cruise. Don’t look outside, or you’ll get vertigo. Don’t think about Bayreaux down there in the nose, marking his chart with pencil and compass and steering us over Draka-occupied Europe by dead reckoning. Don’t think about the payload, or the Snake radar beams out there in the night.

“We still clear, Al?” Allright, maybe that last bit hadn’t gone as well as he’d have liked. There was a sigh over the intercom.

Alles klar, Herr Leutenant.” Damn it, the man spoke perfectly good English. On the other hand, he was also a Sudeten German who had been kicked out of three countries by various armies at last count and very sticky about what pride he had left. And he hated being called Al.

“Sorry, Albrecht. Just a little nervous in all this crap.” Applebaum ran his eyes over the instruments again, trying to keep his breathing even. “Wish we could just get a-“

Warhammer 08 bucked in midair, and Applebaum felt her slide off to the left as the power seemed to drain away, making the yoke shake as the airplane juddered on the brink of a stall. He pushed the yoke forward and tried to get his speed back up, feeling his heart stop in his chest as a flash of orange light caught his eye from the wing. His eyes jumped to the engine temperature gauges- the left one was off-the-scale high, tapping against the peg at the end of the meter.

Fire! Applebaum reacted instantly, yanking the number one engine’s yellow striped fire handle and pulling it back towards him as he pushed Night Terrors over into a steep dive. Had to get it out before something else caught, like the fuel line.

“Pilot, what the hell’s going on?” Beayreaux sounded more pissed off than frightened, but Applebaum knew he had to answer. If the fire was spreading, they needed to get out now. If it wasn’t, he needed to make sure his crew didn’t eject, because it was going to take all of them to get back to the ship. He risked another look out the window, then thumbed the intercom button on the control yoke.

“Fire in number one engine. Looks like I got it out, but the engine’s toast.” Now that the immediate emergency was past, Applebaum cursed himself mentally. He’d been so damned fixated on the weather that he’d forgotten to look at the engine instruments in his scan. He could have opened the cooling flaps or pulled power back from the climb, but he’d been too busy worrying about where they were going to pay attention to the bird. Now they were in some serious shit. “Get me a course back to the ship, pronto. Albrecht, check your gauges, we’re going to have to dump some fuel here in a minute.” The gunner had a backup set of gauges to help the pilot during delicate situations like this. “Before you do, get on the horn to the ship. Tell them we’re aborting.”

“Are you certain, Lieutenant?” Wallenstein’s English was picture-perfect now, taut with tension. “If we break radio silence-“

“If we don’t, the ship won’t know to launch a backup for another hour and a half. That’ll put whoever it is coming back near dawn. You want to hand someone else that deal?” There was a moment of silence over the intercom, and when Wallenstein spoke again it wasn’t to anyone on the plane.

“Vendetta, Vendetta, this is Warhammer 08. Punchout. Say again, Punchout-“

Bayreaux waited until the transmission was over before he tried to get the pilot’s attention. Applebaum had to keep her in a dive now with their power cut in half, but they were high enough that it wasn’t a crisis yet. “Shall I dump the bomb, Sir?”

Applebaum thought. “Can we dump fuel instead?”

“We could, but it won’t leave us much margin-“

“Never mind that.” Applebaum reefed the Revenant around into a turn, spiraling down and heading back for Reprisal. “We’ve got exactly two spare bombs for this thing, and we just called for one of ‘em. We miss a target, you all know what could happen. We’re getting this bomb back aboard or we’re going in the drink with it.” Silence. He wondered if the Frenchman would just dump the bomb into the drink anyway, but all Bayreaux said after a moment was,

“Course back to Vendetta 150 magnetic, Pilot.” Applebaum nodded.

“Thank you, Nav.”

2300 Hours
T- One Hour and Counting
Spirit of Rio

“Heads up, Skipper.” Walker’s voice was tight now, alert. “Starting to get some signals breaking out of the background.” A pause, and Rosemont could almost see him adjusting one of the knobs in his rear cockpit. “Sweeping azimuth only, it’s a pretty broad beam. This it it, lads. Snake Watchtower-type surveillance radar, probably the one Intel picked up on Corsica.”

“They get us yet, Jimmie?” Rosemont’s fingers tightened on the yoke.

“Don’t think so, Skip. They’re getting something but we oughtn’t to look like more than another ghost up here. Give them a minute to get it sorted.” The pilot snorted and felt his lips curling up into a smile behind his oxygen mask.

“How about we don’t. Prepare for descent, crew.” He carefully trimmed the engines back to make sure they didn’t overspeed, then nosed the Spirit over into a dive, watching the altimeter unwind on his instrument panel. Without prompting, Fujita started calling out the altitude as they passed ten thousand feet, first every thousand and then every five hundred. His radar could see through the overcast and down to the dark ocean below them, more accurate than the pilot’s altimeter at a time when a slight error could kill them all before they knew it. Rosemont started to pull level when his radar man called three thousand, making sure he was level at 1500 feet above the waves before telling Fujita to kill the set. He would have liked to be lower, losing himself in the wave return as they’d practiced off the lonely Newfoundland coast, but even with Fujita on the radar there were limits to the risks he’d run on a night like this. Flying too low was an invitation to run into something solid in an abrupt and fatal manner, and the fact that they wouldn’t appear on Draka radar screens while doing so wouldn’t be much comfort. That done, he shifted a bit in his seat.

“Right on time, crew. We are one hour to target.”

Fujita spoke for them all. “I hope the rest of the squadron is doing as well.”

2400 Hours
T-One Hour and Counting
Tannhauser, Callsign Warhammer 01
Over Greece

Dieter Dortmunder took another deep breath and smiled to himself. It hurt, of course, just as every breath had since he’d woken up after the Battle of Vienna to find he owed his life to a retreating band of Polish partisans who would have shot him out of hand months before. Instead, they’d taken him with them in the nightmare retreat across Germany to Denmark, a ship to England, and now a chance at revenge fighting with the Americans. He would say this for the Draka: they had done more than all the treaties and diplomats in the world to bring nations together.

He smiled because although it hurt, it hurt a good deal less than usual. Part of that was because he was flying. Part of it, he thought, was the mask- he’d managed to salvage a helmet meant for high-altitude night fighter pilots, with a full faceplate and hose rather than the usual rubber mask, and having his burns bathed in pure oxygen seemed to help.

And part of it was because he was home.

He’d never been here before, but ever since he’d first read a translation of the Odyssey as a boy in school he’d dreamed of this place. Now his plane had just shot out between Mounts Ossa and Pelion and he was guiding it down over the wine-dark Aegean Odysseus had sailed with islands already passing beneath his wings. Only a dim and diffuse moon lit the scene, but Dieter had seen them a thousand times in his mind and needed only the briefest visual cues to fill in the details.

For a moment, he allowed himself a fantasy that after they dropped the bomb, he and his comrades could abandon their airplane, paddling their life raft around the wine-dark sea for twenty years while the world shook itself to pieces around them. He shook his head. He remembered too well what it had been like standing out in the summer heat at Nuremberg, cheering along with the rest of the crowds as the Party banner went past. His countrymen had been seduced into trying to become the Draka- he had been seduced into thinking it was the right thing to do. Now that bill had to be paid in full, and Dieter knew what would be required of him. His crewmates were Schmitt, another German, and a Latvian named Palcikas, none of them with homes to return to. Reprisal would be moving west now, further away from them, in an effort to reach Spain before the Draka could sink her, and Tannhauser still had miles to go.

At least he had gotten to see this place once. And as he turned his Revenant towards its target, another thought occurred to him.

At least the Draka had restored Istanbul’s name to Constantinople. It was fitting, that the city should die with the same name it had been born with.

2400 Hours
T- One Hour and Counting
Miss Unlucky, Callsign Scythe 01
300 Miles South of Archona, South African Province

Commander Ben Inness sucked in a breath as white combers passed beneath his wings. Scythe 01 was already as low as he dared, but his hands kept trying to push her even lower. Instead, he keyed the intercom to his crew.

“Feet dry, gentlemen. One hour to Archona.”

2310 Hours
T- 50 Minutes and Counting
Somewhere near Corsica

Flight Officer Alicia Venners banked her Night Owl fighter into a lazy turn, trying to keep her eyes from glazing over. She didn’t mind her assignment, usually- most of the rest of her class in pilot training had gone straight into Rhinos, hanging onto a pair of big radial engines down in the dirt where everybody and his bedwench could bang at you with anything they could find to shoot. Being a night fighter pilot wasn’t a glamorous job, but these days it was at least a safe one. None of the Draka’s likely foes flew much by night, and Alicia for one was just fine with that. Her plans included finding some strapping young man after demobilization, making a pile of money selling to planters in the New Territories, doing her duty to the Race and enjoying the fruits of conquest. She was a warrior born, but no sense in overdoing it.

Of course, sometimes it was just Wotan-damned dull.

“Black Buck three-two, this is Manorhouse.” The intercept controller sounded just as bored as she was. Alicia keyed her mic.

“Go, Manorhouse.”

“Black Buck, we’ve got somethin’ on our scopes, bearin’ about two hundred, range about thirty miles from yo’ position. Nothing solid, but it’s headed for Argos, so we’d like yo’ to check it out. Unless yo’ too busy, that is.” Alicia pursed her lips and contemplated a sarcastic reply, but the man was just trying to liven up his shift. Couldn’t fault even a serf for that. Besides, anything headed for Marseilles did deserve to be checked out.

“Roger, Manorhouse. Black Buck’s on it.” She turned out of her orbit and settled down on a new course.

“Weiss.” No answer. “Weiss!

“Guh?” There was a sleepy sound from the back of the cockpit. “Whassamatter?” Alicia rolled her eyes.

“Mother Freya, Weiss. How yo’ made it through aircrew trainin’, I will never know. We got a job.” Her radar officer cleared his throat, then responded.

“Yo’ mean we do something besides bore holes in the sky for the whole night, then go back to hear the Rhino boys piss and moan about how easy we have it? Loki bless, it’s a miracle.” Alicia snorted.

“Well, look alive. Just might be somethin’ out there.” They both laughed at that, as the twin-engined fighter surged forward against the angry grey sky.

2430 Hours
T-30 Minutes and Counting
Spirit of Rio

"That's it, Skipper." Walker sounded a bit regretful, as though the horse he'd bet his last five-pound note on had just dropped into second or tea would be late half an hour. Certainly no more than that. "Definitely a Draka Night Eyes set. Can't lock it down for sure, but it's somewhere off to our starboard side and heading this way. They may still miss us." Unspoken, of course, was that they probably wouldn't.

"Thanks, Gunner." Rosemont bent the throttles forward a bit, keeping one eye on the engine indicators as he did so. Wouldn't do to have a fire now, oh no. "Bag of tricks ready?"

"We'll dazzle them, Skip. Any better and we'd have to charge admission."

"Just do your best to keep him off us for a little bit." Fujita's voice was light over the intercom, and Rosemont could tell the bastard was grinning to himself. "Then leave it to me, please. I have something to really dazzle him."

Rosemont pulled his straps tighter across the chest. "Okay, knock it off, boys. We're headed downtown, and it looks like the Snakes just got serious."
Last edited by ChaserGrey on 2010-12-26 12:19am, edited 2 times in total.
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Re: Proof Through The Night: Yet Another Kill-The-Draka Fic

Post by ChaserGrey » 2010-10-25 12:57am

2340 Hours
T-20 Minutes and Counting
Aboard Black Buck 32

“Definitely somethin’.” Fredrich Weiss turned the gain down on his scope and watched the flickering shadows on the phosphor screen. He’d grown up hunting on the veldt that his family kept wild as a hunting ground in the Dominion’s Abyssianian province, and this wasn’t so very different when you got down to it. Radar beams traced across the sky like a ripple of wind through the high grass, and you looked for sign that something was out of the ordinary. “It’s way the hell low, almost in the wave return, but it’s there and it’s fast. Range gate doesn’t show mo’ than fifty knots closure.” And the Night Owl was running flat-out as they came up on the bogey from behind, the airspeed needle wavering as it touched 350 knots. “Bettah call it in.”

Venners nodded and keyed her mic. “Manorhouse, this is Black Buck 32. Confirming yo’ contact, right where it’s supposed to be. No ID yet, we’re closing for a visual in a few more minutes. Recommend you scramble Peregrines.” The new reaction jet fighters didn’t have the endurance for more than about half an hour in the air, so doctrine was to patrol with Night Owls and hold the fast movers on runway alert until something was actually detected.

“Roger, Black Buck. Yo’ cleared in.” Venners nodded and bent her throttles forward. Time to go hunting.

“Give me a steer, Weiss.”

Aboard Spirit of Rio

“Coming up on the turn…mark!” Fujita called the waypoint, and Rosemont carefully banked right, keeping his eyes fixed on the artificial horizon and not the clouds and water outside. The quickest way to their target was straight in over the water, but that route also left them almost totally exposed- nothing to block radar but the wave return, and no visual obstructions at all. When Walker had called out the Draka night fighter heading their way, the crew had switched to their alternate attack plan. Now they would make landfall on the French coast before jagging over the lobbing their bomb down onto Marseilles harbor.

“Bandit changing course with us.” Walker’s voice was starting to rise in pitch, and Rosemont could feel him vibrating a bit with tension through the back of his ejection seat. “They’ve got us for sure, Skipper. I’m switching on the tail-warning radar and charging guns.” Rosemont clicked his mic. Another emission, but it was the gunner’s call to make. A moment, while the scope warmed up, then another call. “There she is. Coming straight in at six high, ten thousand yards and a fifty knot closure. We’ll have to see them off in a moment, I think. Keep level, we want them to think we’re fat dumb and happy.”

“What do you need?” The turn done, Rosemont could afford to ask that question. He felt the back of his neck itch. It was strange, knowing someone was on your tail and not taking evasive action. Stranger still to be getting reports about it from someone who wanted you to keep going straight in. Radar combat was looking to be a different school than he’d learned.

Walker thought about it. “Throttle back a bit…just a bit. Not so much that he’ll notice, but maybe we can make him overshoot.”

2345 Hours
T- 15 Minutes and Counting
Aboard Black Buck 32

“Okay, Weiss.” They had their range under four thousand yards now, and Venners’ hand was resting on her trigger. “Hit the light at three thousand. We going to take one shot at identifying this sumbitch, then we kill him. Still no sign he knows we here?

“Nope. Turned a couple minutes ago, but gradual like. Definitely not evasive.”

“Klim-bim.” Venners keyed her radio. “Manorhouse, this is Black Buck 32. Eyes on target in thirty seconds.”

Aboard Spirit of Rio

“Okay.” Walker’s voice almost sounded strangled now, and Rosemont really hoped his gunner wasn’t going to have a coronary in the middle of this engagement. Could be awkward. “Looks like they’re coming for a visual pass. When they hit us with the light go evasive. I’ll try to slap their wrists a bit for peeking.”

Aboard Black Buck 32

Alicia Venners had a brief second to take in a dagger-slim, twin-engined black silhouette in her searchlight beam before it snap-rolled to the right, yanking into a climb. It was already closer than she’d expected it to be, and the Night Owl shot past as she tried to bring it back up and around. Orange tracer fire shot past her cockpit as she cursed under her breath.

“Black Buck, report. Identify the target.” Alicia snarled and keyed her mic.

“Wotan damn it, I don’t know what it is, Manorhouse. Two engines, slim fuselage, slightly swept wing, no markings, and a hell of a stinger in the tail. That’s all I have, and next time I’m shootin’, not lookin’”

“Black Buck, we need identi-“

“Gods curse you, Manorhouse, does yo’ want me to pull out Janes’ Fuckin’ All The World’s Aircraft up here and go lookin’ this thing over? I say again, target unknown but it has fired on us. I’m blowin’ it out of the sky and we can sort this out at the debrief.” She snapped the Night Owl up into a climbing turn of its own, spotting the intruder and pulling up onto its tail. Her first burst of tracers went wild, then a spraying fountain of tracers that seemed to reach right for her. A whistling sound. A dim bang. Heat, pain, a scream from Weiss’ side of the cockpit.


Aboard Spirit of Rio

James Walker drew in a deep breath as the Draka interceptor fell away in flames, instinctively tracking it with his ring sight until it splashed into the dark ocean below. Fujita laughed exultantly into the intercom.

“Way to go, Gunner! Should have known they’d never stop us.” Walker let that go for a minute, letting his breathing return to normal. He’d flown combat for five years now, ever since France when he’d been a turret gunner for the ill-fated Bouton-Paul Defiant, and every kill was still like this. Always the slamming realization that there were one or two very dedicated, motivated, and highly trained people focused solely on killing him, unless he could stop them.

Some men he knew had gotten used to it, worn their hardening like a badge of honor. Walker had noticed that those men made up a disproportionate number of his proverbial absent friends, and so he carefully preserved his combat nerves. Fear kept him careful, and being careful kept him alive.

“Not so fast, Fuji.” Now that he had his breath, Walker keyed the mic. “That Watchtower set’s still got us for sure, and the Snakes will be scrambling jets. It’ll be a near run thing.”

“Keep an eye out.” The Skipper’s voice was calm, but clearly intended to cut off this line of discussion as they skimmed low over the beach. “Fifteen miles inland, then we start the run. Walker, light ‘em up.” Walker swallowed again, then started moving his hands across the jammer panels in front of him. By the third switch he flipped, his hands were as steady as a marble statue’s.

2349 Hours
T- Eleven Minutes and Counting
Air Defense Operations Room, Marseilles Area Command

“Thor God of Thunder!” Squadron Leader Robert Douglas blinked his eyes once, twice to clear the purple and green blotches from them. He’d been watching over a serf operator’s shoulder as the man tried to keep a track on Black Buck 32 and the target she was tracking. The scope’s gain had been turned almost all the way up, which meant that the strobes which had suddenly erupted all over the plot position indicator had been eye-hurtingly bright. The Janissary was hunched over his controls, switching on filters even as he blinked his own eyes, and Douglas watched some of the clutter fade away from the scope- into a nightmare of false targets and odd blobs. Whatever was out there, it was putting out a lot of juice.

“Suh.” Pilot Officer Anson turned from the adjacent console. “No contact with Black Buck 32.”

“P.O., I don’t imagine we’ll be hearing from Black Buck 32 this side of Valhalla. Get over here and start vectoring the jets in, order them to shoot that sumbitch down.” The Peregrine jet fighters were built for pure speed, and had only a short-range radar set. He spun around to another seated figure. “Einarsson, get on the party line to all the gun emplacements. Tell ‘em barrage fire, right now, low altitude burst in their assigned sectors until we say otherwise. Anyone stops shootin’ before that, it better be because they rounds are cooking off in the chambers, because I do not want any other excuses. Clear?” The Tech Warrant nodded and reached for her field phone.

Douglas felt his lips peeling back into a feral snarl. An air raid on Marseilles was what he’d do if he was in the Euros’ position, but he wasn’t sure whether or not they’d have the balls to do it. One question answered at least.

“All right, you bastards, let’s see how well you fly through lead.”

Aboard Spirit of Rio

Lieutenant Kenichi Fujita bent over his radar scope and peered into the radar scope with all the concentration of a fortune teller reading out palm lines. He’d spent hours before the flight in Reprisal’s intelligence center, studying maps of Marseilles and sketching predictions of what the radar approach might look like from almost every angle. His job would have been easier coming in over the water, of course, with almost nothing to block his radar beam between them and the harbor. Now there was clutter all over the scope- from the ground, buildings, even bits of chaff and jamming from Spirit of Rio’s own defensive measures, no matter how carefully Walker tried to leave an electronic window for the bombardier to work through.

Fujita didn’t complain. That would have been useless, and unworthy of him. Instead he kept his eyes fixed on the bright phosphor traces until one pattern of reflections caught his eye. There. It had to be the steeple of the Abbaye St. Victor, built when the Roman Empire was still in living memory. Fujita centered the bright cursor over it with his tracking handle and squeezed the trigger, grunting in satisfaction when a red light confirmed that the track radar was working and locked on the target. He looked up from his scope, and took in a world on fire.

Spirit of Rio was winging towards Marseilles now, and the sky was filled with bright yellow tracers ahead of them. Fat, slow heavy shells reaching up for higher altitudes, and brilliant fountain-sprays of machine gun fire whipped up at them, seeming to bend past them as the Revenant sped on towards its target. If one didn’t…well. Fujita shrugged. If it didn’t, then it didn’t, and there was no good thinking about it. Service in the Imperial Japanese Navy did not produce men who worried excessively about their own mortality.

Working deliberately, Fujita sorted through a horizontal rack of flat black metal rectangles, using his penlight to read the kanji labels attached to each. The Revenant’s bombing system was state of the art, and these objects were the very latest thing to come out of the Alliance for Democracy’s research labs- prerecorded compinsets, allowing a program to actually be loaded into the bombing system’s control brain without having to be manually entered step by step. Fujita found the one for their approach path and slid it into the slot next to the radar scope, seating it firmly with the heel of his hand before flipping the read lever. An amber light went on, and Fujita used the small keypad next to the instruction slot to type in the code number for the offset point he’d used. A short pause, and then the amber light winked a lethal, friendly green as a mechanical timer automatically set itself. Fujita let a feral grin settle over his face as he bent over his other scope, this one linked to the optical bombsight. The tracers were hellishly close through its magnification, but below Fujita could see the cluster of buildings he was looking for. One hand keyed his intercom, the other reaching over to start the timer.

“Pilot, initial point in sight. Track radar- working! Bombcomp- working! Ikouze!

Up in the cockpit, Rosemont was alive. It was cliché to say that in moments like this he was one with his aircraft, but in decades of flying he hadn’t found a better way to describe it either. He could feel the vibration of the turboprops as they snarled with power. He could see concentrations of flak up ahead, and his hands and feet guided Spirit of Rio around them as though she was responding to his thoughts.

“Initial point.” He heard himself echoing Fujita’s words, then reached down to onto his panel without looking away from his flying. He flipped a metal guard out of the way, then threw the switch underneath. The pilot’s nuclear consent switch, making sure at least two crewmen had to agree to drop the bomb. “You’re hot, Bombs.”

“Watch it, Skip. I’m picking up Crosshair-type radars. Draka jets coming in.” Walker’s voice was going up again, but he sounded like he was keeping it together. Rosemont hauled the Spirit around onto her bomb run and fixed his eye on the plane’s artificial horizon. When the bombcomp cut in, two hair-fine needles had snapped out, one showing the desired heading and the other the desired G-force for the toss-bombing run. Keep those centered, and the Mark Four would go right over Marseilles harbor before bursting- screw it up, and they might not do all the damage they needed to. Still, he managed to get out,

“How close, Guns?”

“Not sure, Skip, I-“ The rest of Walker’s sentence was drowned out as a pair of orange streaks shot past them at an impossibly fast speed, howling like Banshees as they passed overhead. In the rear cockpit, Walker watched the reaction jet fighters swing around, coming in to overtake the Spirit from behind.

“Ah, pretty close Sir. Coming up on our tail now.”

“Keep ‘em off the tail, then.” They could try to duck and run, but that was a losing proposition against the jets. No. Better to finish it now. “Bombs, we stay on the run.”

Hai!” Japanese was a wonderfully deep language. Tone and context made a word that movie subtitles would have rendered as “Yes” serve as a wonderful blend of Yessir, All right!, and Let’s stick it to the bastards! Rosemont weaved a bit as the miles wore down to the release point, but mostly he concentrated on keeping the needle centered. Walker would keep the Snakes off, or he wouldn’t.

In the nose, Fujita was bent over his scope, searching for one last visual reference to lock the system down and tell him to start the pullup. He hadn’t worked with a sight like this in years- in fact, he realized, the last for-real horizontal bombing run he’d done had been on a December day four years ago, searching for the outline of an American battleship through the smoke shrouding Pearl Harbor. His scope came down on the outline of an apartment building, memorized from countless hours spent studying photographs of the target. Fujita mashed his thumb down on the trigger, looked over to watch the timer count down the last ten seconds. Without looking, he slapped the open button for the bomb doors.


The two Draka fighters blazed in from behind Spirit of Rio, their tracers reaching out towards Walker across the night. They were too fast for him to hold the ring sight onto- instead he held the triggers down and swept it like a garden hose, hoping to at least make them abort their run. He felt a dull wham as a Draka shell struck home, and a hornet-sharp whine as other shells hit near their aircraft and perforated the metal skin. The Snake jets shot past, and Walker could almost see them coming around in neat hammerhead turns. Coming to finish the job.

“Go!” Rosemont saw the g-needle shoot upward even as Fujita yelled the cue. He yanked the yoke back, watching the needle slide downwards even as a heavy boulder rolled onto his chest, the Allisons shrieking protest as Spirit of Rio looped upwards into the night sky. His thumb hit the wheel-mounted button for the fuel boost, then his hands pulled back even further as he felt the surge of power come on. He could feel their airspeed falling away, even as he gritted his teeth and forced himself to breathe. Any second now…needles centered….come on…

Fujita held onto the manual release handle like a lifeline as the Spirit swept in her arc across the sky like a bow over violin strings. Just as he decided the bombcomp had packed it in and jerked the manual handle, he felt the distinctive bang-jump, as though the plane had run over a speed bump in midair. The release mechanism, and Kenichi Fujita realized that to the end of his life, he would never know whether or not he’d actually pulled the trigger on an atomic bomb.


Rosemont had felt the lurch of release, and the surge of acceleration as his craft suddenly shed four tons of weight. He pulled over to the top of the loop, hanging suspended from his straps for a moment at the top of it, flying inverted and looking down at the doomed city below. Then he snap-rolled upright and pushed the yoke forward, willing the airspeed indicator to spiral upwards.

2358 Hours
T- Two Minutes and Counting
Air Defense Operations Room, Marseilles Area Command

"That's odd." Pilot Officer Anson leaned forward and wiped his sleeve over the screen. "Horizontal velocity went to almost zero, vertical off the charts, and now the range is increasin'. Suh, malfunction?"

Douglas frowned as he walked over to stare at the scope. It was hard to see anything at first, but then that Freya-damned jamming started to clear. The contact looked good. But what- alarms started to sound in his head, bits from a doctrine paper that had been circulating around the Forces in the past weeks. Twin-engined aircraft. Looping up, then away. Bomb delivery, but what-" Douglas spun around.

"Duty Officer! Get on the horn to GHQ. Tell them we are under attack by atomic-"

Douglas never finished that sentence.

Aboard Spirit of Rio

The Revenant charged onward, her engines screaming as her pilot pushed them to their limits. In the rear cockpit, Walker had pulled the flash shield down across his canopy and was frantically pulling circuit breakers from his panel, trying to isolate his electronics. Before he snapped off the radar receivers, he could see the impulses of the Crosshairs coming in again. He laughed, a bit of hysteria underpinning it. Shot down right after they dropped off a nuke…that would be a hell of a way to go.

Somewhere fifteen miles behind them, a black metal object fell through 5,000 feet. Its onboard radar altimeter and backup pressure unit both agreed on this, and sent signals to the simple-minded control unit on board. Thousands of a second later, precisely machined explosive charges went off inside the atom bomb, squeezing together a sphere of plutonium in its heart.

Then a brilliant, deadly flash bloomed over Marseilles, and a wind like the hammer of God rushed out to spend its fury on the righteous and unrighteous alike.
Last edited by ChaserGrey on 2010-12-26 12:34am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Proof Through The Night: Yet Another Kill-The-Draka Fic

Post by ChaserGrey » 2010-10-31 12:13am

A/N: I concede the anachronism of quoting Downtown in a fic set in 1945, but I've loved the image of a crew flying away from the target singing ever since I saw Flight of the Intruder as an adolescent and it doesn't seem like such a "rock" song that it couldn't have been written earlier, for Ella Fitzgerald and the like. Call it another example of cool being placed over accuracy.

0010 Hours
T+10 Minutes and Counting
East of Marseilles, France

The light’s so much brighter there
You can forget all your troubles
Forget all your cares and go Downtown!
Things’ll be great when you’re Downtown!
No finer place for sure, Downtown!
You’re gonna be all right now…

Julius Rosemont was laughing as the three of them finished the song in a ragged chorus, gasping it out past chests that were still heaving as they tried to gulp oxygen faster than their masks would deliver it. Fujita was anchoring them with a heavy bass voice, incongruous from the tiny man he knew, and Walker was just gasping out what he could past what could have been weak chuckles or very carefully muffled sobs. The intercom dissolved as they finally all fell silent, dizzy with relief and the edge of hyperventilation. They’d done it. They’d bombed Marseilles. Done tonight’s flying for Uncle Sam, and now all they had to do was fly for themselves. Rosemont released his oxygen masks and took two careful breaths of thin, cold air before he fastened it back and managed to speak.

“C-Course back to Vendetta, Fuji? If the Glee Club is done its recital, that is.” That set off another round of strangled-sounding laughter from Walker, but Fujita managed a response.

“Call it…155 magnetic, Skipper. We’ll probably have to do a box.” In theory they knew where Reprisal would be just before dawn when they overlapped her track. In practice, if the carrier had actually managed to steer her precise, expected course all night- well, it would be the first time Rosemont had ever heard about it. They’d get as close as they could, and hope to either raise the ship on radio or find her with radar.

“Mother of God.” Walker’s voice was an obscenely reverent whisper, and Rosemont looked up to his rear-view mirror. He immediately wished he hadn’t.

Walker had thrown back the flash shield from his canopy, giving him a view of the city behind them that showed up terribly well. A black-orange mushroom-shaped cloud loomed over the city like a dark, elemental thing- Rosemont thought of the Titans of Greek myth, or Jorgmunder the world serpent looming over an entire city as he opened his maw. The cloud was lit by fire, great licking sheets of it that swept across Marseilles itself like capering wind-spirits from the Arabian Nights, burning away everything they touched. There were no fires in the harbor, but only because there was nothing left there that would burn. The docks, the ships, the tenements and warehouses that had sprouted up around them and served them through the centuries- all that they could see of them was cleaned, blackened earth like a burnt-out campfire.
Singing. My God, we were singing after we- But even the horrible beauty of the firestorm couldn’t entirely erase the relief he felt. Or his concern for the Draka radars that would be looking for them on the way back. “Walker.” No response. ”Walker, goddammit! It was a long moment before the gunner came back.


“Keep your eyes open back there. There are still plenty of Snakes between here and the ship, and something tells me they’re going to be just a little bit pissed off. You can stare at your stateroom wall all you like after we get back, got it?”

A pause that almost went on too long, then Walker came back with another “Yessir”. This one sounded a little better, and Rosemont didn’t think he should push his luck.

The Revenant droned on through the night, leaving the fires of Hell behind it.

0136 Hours
T+1 Hour, 36 Minutes and Counting
Seventh Draka Army Headquarters


Eric von Shrakenberg had always been a light sleeper. Any Draka boys who weren’t by nature learned during boarding school, when the lights were out and gangs of older boys came roaming the halls looking for recruits and victims both. He hadn’t always had the reflexes that half-rolled him out of bed at the first sound of a voice, grabbing for the sidearm that rested on the camp chair next to his bed and pointing it at the door. The figure there raised its hands.

“Tetrarch Smythe, Strategos. Merarch Norton’s compliments, and yo’ are required in the command center immediately.” Eric swiped an arm across his face, blinking as he tried to bring his mind up to full consciousness.

“What’s going on?”

The boy- he wasn’t much more than one, OCS was turning them out pretty fast these days- took a deep breath and swallowed. “Sir, I- that is, you’d best see for yourself, Sir.” Eric’s features darkened, but then he took in how the young Draka was almost swaying on his feet, obviously holding himself in check only through an outstanding effort of will. Terrifying him further would serve no purpose. He consciously throttled his voice down and just said,

“All right, son. Yo’ tell the Strategos I’ll be there directly.” When the door closed, Eric swung his feet onto the floor, feeling a rustling next to him in bed as Sophie hauled herself up to her feet. Even in the Citizen Force an aide sharing his bed was looked on as…unusual, but Eric was the supreme commander here and the rest of his staff had collectively decided to look the other way. Now, as he pulled on the boots he’d taken off last night before falling into bed with his clothes on, he felt her grab a uniform blouse and pull it over her head. By the time he’d stood up and headed for the door of their room, she was already a step behind him, fully dressed and cradling her Tolgren machine pistol. Eric grinned.

“Yo’ do realize yo’ don’t have to follow me everywhere, Decurion? Even we Strategoi are fully capable of walkin’ down a headquarters hallway and listening to reports without we get ambushed by a dozen angry bushmen.”

His voice was light, but there was no humor in her reply as she yanked a pack of cigarettes out of her blouse pocket, clenching one in her teeth and lighting it. “Hell you say, Eric, Sir. I heard that kid’s voice. Whatever’s goin’ down, I’d lay my next six months’ stipend it’s serious bad. Yo’ not goin’ anywhere without me, Centurion.” She only called him that when she was playing the role of an RTO reining in a headstrong junior officer, the way she’d done in Village One. Eric knew there was no use in arguing with her when she was in that mood.

The command center was silent as Eric walked in. Thunorssen was the only ranking officer there, with an assorted scatter of radio operators, map plotters, and the Merarch who held the night duty. Eric walked up to the main map table and put his hands on his hips.

“Allright, y’all. I’m here. What’s the commotion?” For a long moment, nobody spoke. Merarch Norton was standing at attention, his eyes seemingly focused off at nothing. Thunorssen looked up from the map and licked her lips.

“Ah, Strategos, that is-“

“Right.” Eric put both his hands on the table and leaned forward. This was absurd- a junior officer fresh from the agoge was one thing, but these were supposed to be the men and women leading the Race across Europe. “People, I don’ get much sleep these days. Last time I remember havin’ a good night’s rest was sometime in 1941. Now, if someone don’t start explaining why I am here at zero-one-hundred, I’m goin’ to start getting fuckin’ angry. Anyone want that?”

“Suh.” Unexpectedly, it was Merarch Norton who spoke. His eyes didn’t move from the wall of the room, and his voice was flat as scoured earth. “Suh, beg to report.”

“By all means, Merarch.” Better than nothing.

“Suh. At approximately six minutes past midnight, we began losin’ contact with bases around the Mediterranean. Fragmentary transmissions indicated they were under attack with atomic munitions, followed by a complete loss of communications. Currently we are out of contact with Constantinople, Alexandria, Nova Cyrinica, and Nova Cartago in the Police Zone, and Naples, Sofia, and Marseilles in the New Territories.” Eric stared at him for a moment.


“Suh, more.” Norton’s eyes shone, and Eric was shocked to see that the man was holding back tears. “We have also received an all-forces message from Castle Tarleton. Max emergency, highest priority. They reported the Southern Police Zone under attack as well. Cape Town, Virconium, Diskarapur, and Shahnapur have all been hit.” Norton shut his eyes and finished. “The message repeated twice, Suh. In the middle of the third repetition it…abruptly terminated. We have been unable to reestablish contact with them or any station in Archona. Neither has anyone we can raise. It seems-“ The man’s voice cut off, and Eric waved his hand. Absently, behind the glass wall of shock, he knew that no training could prepare anyone for this. Better to spare the man shame.

“Thank yo’, Merarch. You may go.” The man saluted, fist to breast, and left the room. Eric collapsed into a field chair and stared at the map, taking it in. Except for Genoa and Palermo, every port that supplied his expeditionary force was marked with an ugly blot of red marker. He swept his eyes over Europe, thick with the remains of barely defeated armies and a people not broken to the Yoke. Looked at the southern edge of the map, and thought of a Police Zone stripped to the danger point to support the war, then with all the centralized places of order and authority wiped away in nuclear fire.

“Orders, Sir?” Thunorssen was looking down at him, and Sophie, and all the Draka and serf auxillaries in the room. “Sir, we need orders.”

Eric von Shrakenberg opened his mouth, and found there was only one order to give. One that had never been given before, in the history of the State and Race.


0325 Hours
T+ 3 Hours, 25 Minutes and Counting
Over the Western Mediterranean

“Got something, Skipper.” Walker broke the silence over Spirit of Rio’s intercom, silence that had lasted almost uninterrupted since they had dropped their bomb on Marseilles. “Airborne radar, nine o’clock and closing. I’d say whatever it is, ‘s got us .“

“What is it, Walker?” Rosemont started a turn off to the left, putting whatever-it-was into a stern chase position on them. Even if he couldn’t avoid it, he could complicate its intercept and suck it into the firing cone of the tail guns…and it wasn’t as though they were having any luck finding the ship anyway. If they still hadn’t in another half hour or so, things were going to get really interesting.

“D-dunno, Sir.” Walker was silent for a moment. “Could be a Draka Night Eyes set, but the frequency isn’t quite- Son of a bitch!”

“What is it?”

“APS-6 set, Skip!” For just a minute, Walker’s old energy was back in his voice. “A big, beautiful, U.S. Navy model APS-6 radar set. It’s one of Reprisal’s night fighters! They found us!”

0350 Hours
USS Reprisal

Rosemont was still a bit incredulous when he saw the ship’s running lights, dimmed down for war cruising but otherwise looking just as they had when he’d taken off a lifetime ago. The Revenant passed over the deck, and Rosemont got a glimpse of planes packed forward on the deck. Walker whistled.

“Whew. They’ve got a bunch of Avengers, some Corsairs, and it looks like two of our birds up there as well. Something big has to be going on.” Rosemont grunted absently, more concerned with flying a tight racetrack around Reprisal as he dumped speed. He slapped the flaps down as they went into the final turn, feeling the controls turn to mush in his hands. Then his eyes were straining ahead, picking up first the wake, then the outline of the ship, then the dimly lit paddles the ship’s LSO held up. His hands twitched with long years of experience, ignoring the deck once his sink rate was established and concentrating on the paddles’ cues. Left. Too low- power. Power. Just a bit right. Hold it- cut!

Rosemont’s hands slapped the throttles off at the same instant as Spirit of Rio slammed down on the carrier deck, her arresting hook grabbing one of the wires strung across the deck and stopping her short of the parked planes forward. A deckhand ran up and popped the canopy, reaching a hand in.

“Welcome back, Sir!” Rosemont shook it, a little dazed and wearing what he suspected was a pretty dopey grin. “We’re spotting for a dawn strike, so we have to get you below lickity-split. Need you all to stay aboard and start folding the wings." Mechanically, Rosemont brought the ground hydraulic pump online, watching numbly as the Revenant’s wings retracted at his command. Home. They were home. Safe. Part of his mind knew that wasn’t true, that even this apparent refuge would soon be under threat, but a larger part of him didn’t care. What the hell, they’d made it this far- they’d nuked the Snakes down into their holes and lived to tell about it! He could feel the elation rushing back, bubbling out past his lips in a laugh.

He got another numbing shock when the elevator bearing Spirit of Rio reached Hangar Deck Two, though. There were two other Revenants there- one apparently undamaged, but the other with one engine nacelle opened and streaked with black soot. Counting the two planes up on deck and the Spirit, that made five.

VAH-1 had boasted a strength of ten AR-1 Revenants at eight o’clock the night before. Whatever they’d accomplished, it was clear their friends had paid a terrible price for it.

When he swung himself out of the cockpit and dropped down to the deck, Rosemont found Commander Flannery waiting for him. He shook hands with his squadron commander, and gratefully accepted the cup of scalding-hot Navy coffee Flannery handed him.

“Good to see you back, Rosie. We’d about given it up on you.” Flannery clapped him on the back and started walking. Rosemont followed, unable to keep from asking,

“Good to see you too, Quint. This all that got back?” Flannery shrugged.

“We’re not sure yet. We got word that Blackie and his crew got down as planned in Gibraltar after they hit Nova Cartago. Only ones to hit the target and get back to the ship are Saint-Laurence in 07, me, and now you. Ritter and his crew in 06 radioed that they were under attack before they hit Genoa, and we haven’t heard anything about a detonation there. Figure they didn’t make it. Applebaum in 08 caught an engine fire after takeoff and 09 blew its radar when they tried to launch it as a backup, so they sent 10 after Naples instead. Intel says there was an explosion there about an hour ago, no word from the crew yet. The rest- well.” Rosemont nodded. The rest of the squadron’s bombers would have run out of fuel by now. If they hadn’t made it back to Reprisal, they wouldn’t be coming.

“What about that action up on deck?” Rosemont sipped his coffee and tried to keep his mind working. If he stopped and thought about everything that had happened since the sun set on this impossibly long night- well. The only one he’d see do that even a bit was Walker, and Walker didn’t seem to be doing so hot with it.

Flannery shrugged. “They’re going to try to hit the Snake base at Palermo before dawn. They figure they’ll be lined up for a visual search at first light, so we might put a monkey wrench in it if we can hit them early enough. The Corsairs are dropping flares, then the bombers go in. Basic visual run, so I’m sending 07 and 09.” Rosemont raised his eyebrows.

“If we stop their search, can we keep them from finding us?” Flannery snorted, then chuckled.

“Not a chance. You didn’t think we had a night fighter up just to look for you, didja? They’ve been playing hide and seek with Snake radar planes all night. The wizards over in Traverse City say they didn’t paint us, but it doesn’t matter. They know where we were at sundown, they know how fast we can go, and even if they lost their rulers and copies of Janes they can just plot where they’ve been losing search planes all night. Nope, once it gets light out they’ll send up anything with two wings and a radio, and that’ll be that. We can’t shoot them all down. We hit Palermo, might buy us a couple hours after daybreak before they can organize a strike. Worth a try. After that…well, that’ll be your worry.”

Rosemont’s eyebrows went up. “Sir?”

Flannery turned, his almost-colorless eyes focusing on Rosemont. “Rosie, we missed Genoa. All these targets have got to be hit, so I’m taking my crew in 04 to try for it again and land in Switzerland.” Rosemont curled his hands into fists, still wide-eyed with shock.

“Quint, it’ll be daylight by the time you get up there, and if the Snakes didn’t know what an AR-1 was last night they sure as hell know now! You’ll never make it!”

Flannery shrugged. “Maybe not. Hell, probably not. But somebody’s got to try it.”

“The hell you say! Quint, Sir- look. We can only go at night. Daylight’s suicide!”

Flannery’s voice went flat. “In case it’s escaped your attention, Mister Rosemont, there is a very significant chance that this ship will either be sunk or incapable of launching a strike before tomorrow night.” Hearing it put in bald terms like that chilled Rosemont to the bone. “It’s got to be tried, right now, before the Snakes get a chance to cripple Reprisal. My plane has the least damage of any, so it’s going to be me. Blackie’s the squadron XO, and he’s in Gibraltar. Ritter was the Ops officer, and he’s dead. That means you’re in charge after I go.” Dully, Rosemont noticed the skipper had said that instead of until I get back. Well, the man had never been one to hold illusions.

“Now. Applebaum did get his bomb back aboard, so after I take off you’ll have one left. Your priorities will be delivering that last weapon somewhere useful, and if possible getting some of the squadron’s planes to Gibraltar. Roll with the punches, get in a good lick, and then save what you can. Got it?” Rosemont nodded, and Flannery reached forward to clasp his arm.

“I knew I could count on you, Rosie. You know I never bought into any of that DrakSymp crap they tried to tag you with. It was good flying with you again.”

Rosemont felt his old, familiar shame well up again, with a sudden warmth for this man. They’d never been friends, but they’d been part of each other’s world- the lazy Navy between the wars and the Pacific fighting, the same carrier ready rooms and training fields. All gone, now. “Quint, listen, I-“

“Don’t start that now.” Flannery smiled, an expression that looked almost foreign on his ghost-white face. “You’ll get me goin’ too, and then we’ll have the whole ship think we’re a couple sorry has-beens. Just wish me luck, and I’ll send you a postcard while I’m in a hot tub at one of those Swiss ski resorts.” Rosemont laughed, then laughed harder, until he had an excuse to wipe a hand across his eyes.

“Good luck, then.”

“Thanks, Rosie. Oh, there’s a bottle of scotch in my lower right-hand desk drawer. Help yourself.” They shook hands one more time.

“Thanks, Quint.”

“Make sure the job gets done, Rosie. Then we’ll call it even.”
Last edited by ChaserGrey on 2010-12-26 12:43am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Proof Through The Night: Yet Another Kill-The-Draka Fic

Post by ChaserGrey » 2010-11-07 02:32pm

0530 Hours
T+ 5 Hours, 30 Minutes and Counting
Seventh Draka Army Field Headquarters

“All right.”  Eric rubbed his eyes and looked across the conference table at the collection of faces that appeared to constitute what was left of the Draka State’s leadership in Europe.  They all looked washed out, pale except for bags under their eyes and the men’s faces starting to sprout an overnight growth of beard.  Well, he probably didn’t look much better.  “The good news is that there doesn’t appear to be any organized pursuit of our front-line formations as they disengage.  The Euros are probably the only army on the planet right now in worse shape than we are.”  Grim chuckles at that.  “And we’ll be back over the mountains in-“

“A day or two, Sir.”  Thunorssen shrugged.  “That’s a best estimate, though.  There’ve already been reports of guerilla activity steppin’ up, and I’m not sure it’s just native bushmen, either.  Some of them been pretty well armed for goat herders.  If we could continue our liquidation-“

“Absolutely not.”  Eric glared at her- she’d just sat through the same logistics briefing as he had, for Loki’s sake!  Probably that was more frustration than anything else talking, but she should still know better than to ask.  “We don’t have the fuel or spare ammunition to go around looking for every cottage within ten miles.  Hell, we may not even have the manpower.”  One of the Draka nightmare scenarios had always been a mass mutiny of Janissary forces.  It had never happened, but nothing like this situation had ever happened either, and every Citizen in the army was looking over their shoulder for the first sign of trouble.

“Strategic situation.”

“Bad.”  Admiral Roundbush, their Naval man, spoke up.  “We lost everything but Genoa round here, and that Yankee carrier is still somewhere off the coast of Italy.  They hit Palermo this mornin’ and screwed up our airbase pretty badly, but we still expect to localize ‘em sometime today.  When we do, we’ll hit ‘em with all we got.  

“With what they sailed in with we can probably wipe ‘em out.  For all the good it’ll do.”  Eric sighed and nodded.  Generations of Draka had dismissed the country they’d left behind, saying over and over that the Americans were weak, soft, and unable to sacrifice what was needed to truly ensure victory.  They had been wrong, as witness the newest ships in the American navy sailing to certain destruction.  

The Admiral continued.  “From what we’re hearin’ out of the Police Zone, the other Gods-damned one is headin’ up the east coast of Africa.  She’ll be in range of Abyssinia Province province inside 36 hours.”  Which had three more of the Draka’s precious few remaining cities, Ithaca Nova at what had been known as Nairobi, Smithville at Addis Abbaba, and Easthaven at what had once been called Dar Es Salaam.

“Chances of stoppin’ em.”

“Fuck all.”  The Navy man’s voice was flat.  “We don’t have much to start with, and the Yankees sent one of their fleet carriers with that one.  What we’ve got down there can’t get near it, and yo’ know what the air defenses are like down there.”  The Draka could not be strong everywhere, and until now there had never been a serious air threat to the African heartland.  “Radio says they trying to implement evacuation plans, but there’s not enough time.  When she gets in strike range, I’d lay my life and soul we lose all three of those cities.”  Murmurs all around, a barely suppressed groan.  Better move on before that sunk in too deeply.

“Strategos Vashon, yo’ report.”

The Security man cleared his throat.  “So far no major incidents, but we’re already seeing increased partisan activity, at least on the part of the better organized groups.  Ambushes, train tracks blown up, that sort of thing.  Our people in Paris, Vienna, and Munich already say they’re overloaded responding to calls for help from rear-area units and some of the camp follower types.”  Wherever Draka armies went, loot-buyers and slavers followed, and there were always some willing to gamble with a not entirely pacified territory in order to get first pick of the spoils.  This time, Eric thought grimly, it was going to cost them.  “Italian occupied zone’s not much better.  Lid’s on for now, but we’ve already had to disperse a riot in Milan with nerve gas.  That kind of measure won’t last.”  Eric sighed.

“Good news travels fast, hey?”  Vashon looked uncomfortable.

“Ah, sir…for the last six months or so, Security has been trackin’ fairly intensive efforts by the Yankees to smuggle some of their new transistor radio sets into Europe.  We think they’re in the hands of the better-organized partisan groups and military remnants.”  

Eric stared for a moment, then just leaned forward and let his head come down on the table with a fairly loud thump.  With arms around his head, he still managed to make himself clearly heard.  “Wotan All-Father have mercy on us.  Strategos Vashon, yo’ didn’t think this was perhaps worth mentioning to the rest of us?”  Judging from the sounds he was hearing, Eric wasn’t the only one asking that.  Vashon cleared his throat again, nervously.

“Ah, Sir…the Yankees been smugglin’ all kinds of things in since the armistice last year.  We thought it would just be an internal Security matter, regardin’ pacification of newly conquered territories.”

“Well.  Fucked that one right up, didn’t yo’?”  Eric looked up, his eyes an absolutely frozen blue.  “Strategos Vashon, I really hope yo’ realize now is the time to come to Jesus.”  A murmur around the table- as Christianity had grown more and more taboo over the past few generations, profanity related to it had gotten stronger and stronger.  The heir of an Old Domination family would never have allowed such to pass his lips normally.  “If there are any other internal Security matters goin’ on among the several million bushmen, some of which are still in battalion-sized holdout groups and have access to military weapons because we didn’t have time to secure our Gods-damned rear areas, whose countries we have invaded and whose culture we have declared to be broken beneath our Yoke, and who are now between us and home, I really fuckin’ hope yo’ don’t wait to surprise us next time.  Clear?”

Vashon looked vaguely ill.  Well, he’s always wanted to do that to a Headhunter.  “Clear, Sir.  Ah, I do have the other figures yo’ requested.”  It was plain he wanted to change the subject, and part of Eric was sorely tempted to chew the man out a little more.  Making him a target for a night’s built-up terror and frustration wouldn’t help, though, and he really did want this data.


“Sir.”  Vashon took out a packet of papers and started handing them around.  “At the start of hostilities, the Citizen population was approximately 39 million, about two-thirds of breedin’ age.  Since then, we’ve taken just shy of 400,000 Citizen casualties, mostly from that group.”  Unspoken was the fact that no babies were being born to speak of either, since two-thirds the Draka of child-bearing age were in the army and the rest doing essential war work.  “Leaves about twenty-five and a half million Draka of child-bearin’ age.  Most of those in the Army, bout three-quarters of those deployed, but still about 8 million of ‘em at home, along with those too old and young to fight.

“Now, we about a third urban population.”  Which was about as low as you could go and still have a modern industrialized state.   “Unless we catch a miracle and stop that Yankee carrier, we’re lookin’ at about seven million direct casualties from the bombings.  Figure we’ll have breakdown of services, uprisings in the compounds, maybe even on the plantations.”  Born-serfs were usually meek, but any hint of trouble this vast and all bets were off.  “So we can about double that from secondary effects.  Leaves about 25 million Draka, 20 million of which can breed.”  A couple gasps came from the back of the room.  The Race was definitely going to lose at least a third of its population.  “Most of them are here in Europe, in Italy and the newly occupied territories.  Rest watchin' the Japanese make faces at us, and wonder how long that will last.  We’re spread out over half the globe, and our industrial base is gone.”

Those few sentences brought utter quiet to the room.  The Draka were not a numerous people, as they often reminded themselves, and nobody loved them.  Now they were even fewer, and the factories that had put the sword of death and slave-chain of mastery into their hands were gone.

Eric drew out a cigarette, lit it, watched the smoke climb up to the ceiling.  Fuck-all chance of quitting he had now.  “Any good news?”

“Some.”  Vashon shrugged.  “The railways back home are mostly intact, and we’re tryin’ to evacuate as many as we can to somewhere safe.  Right now that looks like the Syrian and Araby provinces, with that Yankee carrier runnin’ for Gibraltar, but a lot of those rail lines went through Alexandria.  Ditto the line of communication forces in Europe and Russia.  Might be able to hold Italy, might not.  Wherever we can hold, though, they going to need us.”

Eric looked down at the conference.  “We are the largest coherent Domination field force left within range of either of those possible refuge areas.  I therefore regard it essential to the future of the State and Race that we reach one of those as soon as possible.  Disagreement?”  He didn’t wait.  “So.  We pull back for Genoa, roll up our supply lines as we go.   Last port we still have.  Air Marshal Vorhees, yo’ will put everythin’ yo’ have into defending that city.  Admiral, coordinate with what’s left of the Navy, start makin’ plans.  Strategos Thunorssen, contact as many friendly forces as yo’ can.  Try to get them to join with us.”  Eric pushed back from the table.  Thunorssen was the only one to ask.

“What about you, Sir?”

“Me?”  Eric chuckled with absolutely no humor.  “I’m going to buy us time.  I’m going to go see what that insolent, back-stabbin bourgeois pig-fucker of a Yankee has to say.  I’m going to talk to Roosevelt.”

March 24, 1945
1030 Hours
T+ 10 Hours, 30 Minutes and Counting
Navigation Bridge, USS

“Confirmed, Sir.”  The young bluejacket’s voice was tight with tension as he stepped forward from the radio shack.  “The Watchman patrol has eight contacts coming in, more developing, all headed right for us.”  From his chair on the right side of the bridge, Captain Gavin Bledsoe nodded and raised the binoculars around his neck to his eyes.  Pointless, of course, since most of Reprisal’s defenses would have shot their bolt by the time the Draka ever got into visual range, but it made him feel better.  It was how he’d learned to do it as a junior officer on Langley twenty-five years before, and it still felt comforting.

“Surprised it took them this long.”  

Commander Guitierrez, his exec, shrugged his shoulders across the bridge. “We did muck them up pretty good with that dawn strike, Skipper.  They didn’t get a good sighting on us until a couple hours ago, and the nearest base they’ve got left is about that far away by air.  They must have had these guys waiting on the runway.”  Guitierrez laughed.  “If I didn’t know better, I’d say they were mad at us.  How many do you think there are?”

Bledsoe shrugged.  “Dunno, Jaime.”  He thought a moment.  “Snakes like fours in the air, two pairs to watch each others’ tails.  Their wings usually run about forty planes, and I think they’d send whatever they can scrape up.  I’m going to say 35 bombers or so.”  

Guitierrez whistled.  “Gonna be hot before noon.”

“Yeah.”  Bledsoe raised his glasses again, watching the antiaircraft cruiser Altoona cut across his ship’s to the side threatened by the Draka bombers.  The Task Force was in a ring formation, six Fletcher class destroyers with Traverse City ahead and just to right of the centerline.  Altoona was Reprisal’s designated close-in protection, which required some deft shiphandling from her skipper to stay between the carrier and the current threat.  “I think so too.”  He nodded slightly to the officer of the deck.

Throughout the huge carrier the klaxon sounded, sending her officers and men to General Quarters.  

Ready Room One

The siren caught Julius Rosemont just as he was sorting through aerial navigation charts of northern Italy and trying not to think about the events since dawn.  Warhammer 10, which had been only slightly overdue when he had landed, hadn’t come back after dropping her bomb on Naples- which had sent Applebaum, whose place she had taken in the strike lineup, into a quiet but thorough funk.  Half an hour before he’d talked the ship’s Communications Officer into sending a message to the signals crew on Traverse City, and gotten a dispiriting reply.  No indication from Draka channels of any unusual activity around Genoa, or anywhere else.  It looked like Flannery hadn’t made it either.

Rosemont had seen it before, in three different squadrons as they fought their way back across the Pacific.  After a while, you realized that the really dangerous cases weren’t the men who had nervous breakdowns and wouldn’t leave their bunks, or ran amok until the medics sedated them.  The dangerous ones were the men who stayed sane, but became so used to danger and death that they couldn’t distinguish between the ordinary risks of war and truly foolish chances.  They would mount solo patrols further and further out from base, press their attacks home even against the most withering flak fire, and eventually get themselves and their crews killed.  

Flannery had been in it since Pearl Harbor, and the longest break he’d gotten from combat in that time had been the nine months they spent training up with VAH-1.  If there'd been more time Rosemont could have talked him out of it or gone to the Captain, but there hadn’t.  Now the severely reduced VAH-1 was his responsibility.

The pilots and other aircrew tumbled in through the ready room door as the siren sounded.  Fujita still had his headband on and gave Rosemont a thumbs-up as he settled into his padded chair, and Walker gave his commander a shaky grin.  He had been looking better since they landed, but there was something still unsure about his manner.  Applebaum’s crew was already there, sitting around trying to figure out something to say to their pilot.  Pablo Saint-Laurence, the improbable product of a marriage between a Quebecois father and the daughter of one of Mexico’s old aristocratic families, settled into the back of the room with his crew and yawned with elaborate indifference.  Granted, they’d been up all night bombing Nova Cyrinica and then Palermo at dawn, but Rosemont still doubted anyone could be tired enough to sleep just now.  Yarrow, Warhammer 09’s pilot, settled into his chair and looked around the room with the defensive look of a wounded bulldog.  Nobody had suggested that he was at fault for a radar failure when called on to back up 08, but he seemed to expect the first accusation any moment.  A few of the spare aircrew loitered around the back of the room, not saying much.

The air was tense.  The mood was ugly.  Usually it made sense to have pilots in their ready rooms at battlestations- it kept them safe and ready to respond to any emerging threats.  The problem was, the Revenants didn’t have a tactical role.  All that these men could do in the upcoming battle was to be targets for the wrath they had called down on their own heads.


“Here they come!”  Captain Bledsoe swung his binoculars around, catching a hint of silvery wings glinting against the sun.  Reprisal’s fighters had done their best, but she had only one squadron each of day and night fighters and the Corsairs had been used hard already.  They had shot down a good third of the Snake attack force, but that still left twenty-odd bombers making their way in towards the battle group.  

“Evil Eye type radio emissions, Sir!  Traverse City advises they’re responding.”  Bledsoe grunted.  The latest intelligence said the Snakes were starting to use radio-guided bombs against what was left of the Spanish Navy, and he wasn’t surprised to see them making an appearance here.  Ahead of his ship, Traverse City was forging ahead at high speed, and Bledsoe could see antennas in her upperworks stop spinning and point off in one direction.  The whole point of the Texarkana class cruisers was to carry all the flag, communications, and electronic self-protection gear that carriers normally carried but wouldn’t fit on the cramped United States class design.  Now they were about to find out if her designers had wrought well.  Overhead, he could see a shimmering up high as the Draka bombers released their loads, still arrowing in to guide their projectiles home.  Any moment now.

“Radar warning!”  The young talker’s voice had gone up several octaves since his last announcement.  One of the bombers up there had broken through the jamming and painted Reprisal.  Now there was a slim black bomb silently dropping through the air somewhere above them, its fins swiveling in response to corrections from its launching aircraft, getting precise range data from the radar.

“Hard a-starboard!”  The helmsman pushed his wheel over, and Reprisal heeled over into her turn, the island tilting crazily towards the sea as its sponson dipped towards the water.  Bledsoe knew that Guitierrez would be watching the inclinometer carefully- his ship’s designers had done their best to balance the weight of the island, but if they heeled too far over they still might bend the rudder post or warp a shaft getting her back up.  That would be certain death for the ship, and most if not all of the men aboard her.  “Chaff and smoke, full pattern!”  Around the carrier, her escorts were doing the same, and for a moment the sky criss-crossed with a crazy web of white vapor trails as hundreds of unguided rockets shot up from the task force’s decks.  Then the warheads burst, burying the task force in a layer of overcast mixed with fluttering metal strips.  The message canceling the radar warning had barely reached the bridge when there was a massive explosion of spray off Reprisal’s port bow.  The carrier’s hull shuddered, but there were no other near misses.  

Bledsoe let out a breath.  “Allright, looks like we got through the first one.  Helm, start bringing her back up, slowly.”  The ship began to ease back to an even keel, and he looked over at Guitierrez.  “That wasn’t so b-“

The last four bombs the Draka Vulture bombers had released were an experimental type, delivered to a few units by Technical Section but not yet cleared for field service.  The wing commander hadn’t cared when the word came down about what had happened the night before, though, and ordered every piece of guided ordnance they could fit loaded onboard the first strike against the Yankee carrier.  Two of them failed to function, the delicate electronics of their seekers wrecked.  The other two worked perfectly, finding the biggest source of electronic “noise” their seekers could acquire and dropping down on it.  One was still off, dropping just off Traverse City’s stern, but the other struck true.  It impacted just forward of the command cruiser’s bridge, pierced her armored deck, and then the one-ton warhead detonated just outside the number two turret barbette.

There was a yellow flash, then an ear-splitting roar on Reprisal’s bridge as Traverse City vanished in a massive white fireball, a curling mushroom cloud pushing up to the heavens for an instant.  The junior lieutenant who had the deck had been watching her through binoculars, and dropped to his knees, hands over his eyes.  When the flash cleared, there was only a bit of wreckage still visible, already slipping under the sea.

“My God.”  Bledsoe just stared for a moment, frozen.  Next to him, Guitierrez crossed himself in response.  After a moment, he knelt down next to the young lieutenant.

“Sir?”  The boy’s voice was high, quivering.  “Sir, I can’t-“

“I know, son.  Don’t worry about it.”  Bledsoe motioned a seaman messenger over to take the boy to sickbay.  No need to call a replacement.  He somehow doubted he would leave Reprisal’s bridge soon.  Perhaps not ever.

“The Captain has the deck.”

1100 Hours Local Time
T+ 12 Hours and Counting
The White House, Washington, DC

“We’re ready, Mister President.”  The young Army officer gave a thumbs-up from his post in the corner, and Franklin Delano Roosevelt picked up the phone.  Various arrangements technical and diplomatic had taken up all the hours since dawn, but now everything was ready- including the wired-in speaker that would allow the rest of the cabinet gathered around him to hear and the tape recorder that had automatically cut in when he picked up the phone.  They were through taking chances with the Snakes.

“Mister President?”  The voice on the other hand was a strange sort of clipped drawl that was still alien to his ears after a life in public service.  “Can yo’ hear me?”

“Arch-Strategos von Shrakenberg.”  Roosevelt allowed himself a smile as he settled into his chair.  “Strategos, knowing as I do what the Draka think of diplomatic niceties, I suggest we skip over the usual forms and get straight to the point.”  He paused for a moment, with malice aforethought.  “Of course, should you wish to protest our completely unprovoked and outrageous act of aggression against the Domination of the Draka, our ally, I am prepared to listen.  But no more than sixty seconds, please, we have a great deal to do.”   Secretary of State Cordell Hull choked back a laugh from his seat on the divan, and General Arnold grinned as he held a light to his cigar.  He’d been sulking on and off for months ever since the carriers had been chosen to carry out MONGOOSE instead of the 8th Air Force, but this moment was too sweet not to savor.  

The other end of the line was silent for a moment, and when von Shrakenberg responded he was almost spitting out the words.  “No, Mister President, that suits me just fine.  I’ll certainly admit that yo’ caught us on our backs.  But then, it’s not our national mythos that teaches that the white hats never shoot first, is it?”  Roosevelt smiled.

“Temper, Strategos.  To desire an end is to desire the means necessary to that end- you know who invented that one”  Roosevelt searched his memory for a deliberately crude Draka aphorism.  “All looks different to the man on the stake, doesn't it?”  A muttered curse on the other hand, and Roosevelt’s grin got wider.  Anyone who wanted to make politics his profession learned to suppress their emotions as a matter of course, but there was no denying that after years of having to make nice with that arrogant harpy of an Archon while she looked down her very prominent nose at him this was deeply satisfying.  Almost as satisfying as the knowledge that the said harpy was probably dead in the ruins of bombed-out Archona.

After a moment, von Shrakenberg mastered himself.  “Very good, Mister President.  Business, then.  What do yo’ want?”

“You.  Gone.”  Roosevelt’s voice was completely devoid of humor.  “The Draka are a cancer, Arch-Strategos.  We took a long time to realize that while the tumor got bigger and bigger.  Almost too long.  We’re not going to give you the chance to grow back in another generation or so.”

1200 Hours Local Time
T+ 12 Hours and Counting
Draka Seventh Army Field Headquarters

Eric’s grip tightened on the radio microphone.  He hadn’t expected anything else, really, but it was still a great deal to take in.  “Why set this up at all then, Mister President?  If’n that’s the case, we’re all dead anyway.  Or did the lessons yo’ took from our ‘playbook’, as you Yanks say, include the stress-relievin’ powers of gloating?”

Roosevelt chuckled.  “Not quite.  You see, Strategos, we may have had to become a bit like you in order to defeat you, but that doesn’t mean that we want to be you.  We don’t actually want to kill every Draka Citizen man, woman and child.”  Which left unsaid whether or not they would do it, if they thought they had to.  “We are prepared to offer you terms.”

“Which are?”

“Unconditional surrender.  Draka forces are to evacuate Europe immediately- we’ll help you with that, since I understand your logistics situation is currently a bit difficult.”  Eric could feel his face going deep-red.  The man really was sparing no effort to twist the knife.  “Likewise the former Russian territories you’ve taken, and Turkey- we still have the son of the last legitimate Sultan around, and there are enough people there who remember self-government.  We understand that things may take longer in the territories further into your Police Zone, but we still have a detailed blueprint for independent states based on tribal groupings inside a decade.  The Draka are to disarm, completely.  In return, we let you relocate to Madagascar- properly supervised, of course, no atomics or other nasty toys.  No serfs, of course, and no activity anywhere off the island.  We'll also have a list of individuals we want for crimes against humanity."  

“Ah.”  Eric bit his words out.  “So yo’ really do want us dead, and just don’t want the deed on yo’ own hands.”  Goddamn Yankee cowards.  “Yo’ want us to give up all we have and go into exile near an Africa that’ll be turned over to our own ex-serfs.  Do I need to point out that once they’re freed those people will not be in a gentle mood?  Or what happened the last time yo’ tried to get rid of our ancestors by exile?”

“Strategos, I’m offering you a choice.  If your former serfs don’t exactly love you, that’s hardly our fault.  And you will not be allowed to expand again- rest assured that we will be watching you very, very carefully to make sure of that.  We learned our lessons from Hitler as well, and at the first sign you’re rearming- well.”  Roosevelt cleared his throat.  “You know, Strategos, I’ve read your book- the one you couldn’t publish in the Domination without getting a bullet to the head from your own Security people.  You said in it the Draka had to conquer or die.  The first option is now closed to you.  I’m offering you a third- you can change.  By the time you’re done, your children won’t be Draka anymore.   But you will get to have them.  

“Of course, if you don’t like that choice…the second is always open to you.”  Roosevelt’s voice was cool again, without the barest hint of the olive brach he’d just offered.  “If you think you can regroup your Race in Italy, Syria, or on the dark side of the Moon, you’re welcome to try.  Personally, I think you’ve lost a third of your number already and you’d be very, very lucky not to lose another third by the time you secured some piece of territory and got your serfs under control.  You wouldn’t have the population base to rebuild your beloved plantations and factories before we came for you.

“And make no mistake, Arch-Strategos von Shrakenberg.  If you don’t take my offer, we will come for you.”

Eric’s hand was white on the telephone.  “I think you’re optimistic, Mister President.  You missed one of our ports.  I can move my army as I need to, in order to rally the Race, and your precious carriers have to be running out of atomic bombs.  You can hurt us, but I don’t think you have the strength to kill us off.  Much as you might want to.”

Another chuckle, but this one a bit weaker, with a cough at the end.  “Strategos, my offer stands.  It’ll be open for the next forty-eight hours.  After that I suggest you ask Odin, or the Will to Power, or Almighty God to have mercy on your people, for we will have none.  And if you doubt me…you haven’t even begun to see what we can do.”

Bridge, USS Spiderfish
In the Bay of Biscay

Commander Eduardo de la Playa scanned the sky carefully with his binoculars.  He’d never thought to be here when the bombs fell on Pearl- the Submarine Force’s war was in the Pacific against the Japanese.  Now, they were ready to practice the trade they’d learned in another place entirely.  Their boats were new Balao and Tench class designs, with a couple improvements suggested by German refugees and a good leavening of experienced submariners who had made it out of Germany.

The diving alarm sounded, and de la Playa stood aside to let his men scramble off the bridge and down the hatch.  A few moments later, nothing remained above the waves to show Spiderfish had ever been there, and a full minute later a Draka observation bomber swept impotently overhead.  They had been chasing phantoms all day, and the word back at their French base was that nobody knew when the next shipment of fuel was coming in.  Try as they might, they wouldn’t be able to stop the stream of submarines making their way from English ports towards the Straits of Gibraltar.

Any Draka forces that tried to move over the Mediterranean without permission were going to find that task very difficult in a day or so.

Aboard B-29B 42-6034 “Father Abraham”
Over the English Channel

Colonel Israel Washington rocked his control yoke to wiggle his wings, looking back to see the groups forming up around him for their run on the rail yards at Vienna.  They’d flown a couple missions against targets in Germany before they were overrun a few months back- moving rubble around already burnt-out cities for practice, and whenever possible “accidentally” letting a few bombs hit something they knew the Draka wanted intact.  Not much, but enough to get his Wing up to speed.  

Now they had a chance to take this fight to the real enemy.  Washington grinned fiercely behind his oxygen mask.  To him, the Draka were the washed-up refuse of the Confederacy, with a lot of like-minded sons of bitches tagging along.  Every one in the wing had an account to settle with them.

As he watched the bombers fall in, Washington smiled for another reason.  They’d had to fight to keep their color scheme after 8th Air Force Command had said that all paint had to be stripped off to save weight.  He’d had to go all the way to General LeMay and argue that removing their colors would adversely effect the men’s morale for no reason, but he'd won.  Every B-29 in his sight was finished in bare metal, except for the bright red stripe on their tails.

Behind him, Washington saw the signal that meant Draka Soup and Emancipator, the tail-end ships for his two groups, had joined up.  He rocked his wings one more time, then turned his nose towards the European coast.  The 32nd Bomb Wing, the Bomber Boys from Tuskegee, were finally going to war.
Last edited by ChaserGrey on 2010-12-26 01:06am, edited 4 times in total.
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Re: Proof Through The Night: Yet Another Kill-The-Draka Fic

Post by ChaserGrey » 2010-11-10 10:35pm

1530 Hours, Local Time
T+ 15 Hours, 30 Minutes and Counting
Navigation Bridge, USS

“Here we go again!”

Captain Bledsoe pulled his steel combat helmet down over his ears and hunched down. They’d all expected the second Draka attack to come earlier, but once their circling Watchman airborne radar planes started to make contact they could see why it had taken so long to organize. The previous raid had shown up as a number of discreet blips, each one a small group of aircraft. This one was almost a fog on the cathode ray screens, a gaggle of everything the Draka had that could make it out to the Reprisal group and carry ordnance. The Watchman patrol had been driven off station by long-range Eagle fighters, and the ship’s Corsairs had reported Eagles, Falcon single-engine fighter-bombers, Vultures, and even Rhino close-support aircraft among the forces coming in. Most of the pilots would have little training for maritime strike, but that wasn’t what the Draka were going for. They were going for sheer weight of numbers to overwhelm the group’s air defenses, and then sheer weight of metal to score hits.

It had all the elegance of a jackhammer, but the damnable thing was that jackhammers were very effective if you didn't care about them getting banged up in the process.

Bledsoe listened with half an ear as the bridge squawk box began to blare, the tinny voices of pilots and fighter directors going back and forth as the ship’s Corsairs moved in for their attack runs seventy miles from the carrier. The chatter was terse, clipped, with none of the wild excitement and furious chatter that he remembered from his own battles against the Japanese. Bledsoe’s hands scanned his binoculars back and forth as he let his mind form an image from the words.

Sixty miles now. Two minutes gone, the distance between his ship and her enemies melting away like a lump of sugar under a stream of hot water. He could hear the fighter jocks’ voices, strained now as they fought for position and struggled to evade the Draka escorts. Bledsoe winced as one of the voices trailed off into a scream, a frantic barrage of words like fire, help, burning that trailed off into a final silent epitaph. The Draka escorts were fighting hard- they couldn’t be saving much for the trip back home, if anything. Well, they’d been backed into a corner. They were overwhelming Reprisal’s handful of fighters, though, as the distance wound down to fifty miles. There were fewer voices now coming through into Bledsoe’s awareness, and his mind counted off bright points one by one as voices fell silent.

“Pull them back. Call CAG, pull them back.” He wasn’t aware for a moment that he had spoken aloud, but when he heard the message repeated by a phone talker he relaxed. It was the right call. The Corsairs were too few to get through those escorts. Better to pull them back and use them to augment the point defense, hope that the escort fighters wouldn’t follow their charges into the teeth of the task force’s flak. And if they did…at least the fighter pilots could bail out near friendly decks. It was all he could give them, now.

“Switch on the Zed Baker set.” Another order repeated, and a low pulse of Morse code over the fighter frequency before Bledsoe reached up to snap the speaker off. The Draka could home in on the beacon, of course, but their radar would already have told them where Reprisal was. Better to make sure that the fighters could find their way home. The bridge was quiet with the speaker off, and for a moment he wished that Guitierrez was there to talk to. With Traverse City gone, though, someone had to coordinate the task force’s defenses, so Guitierrez was down in the carrier’s primitive Combat Information Center working at a job he’d described as “trying to play Bach with a mariachi band”.

“Captain.” Bledsoe turned his head as Lieutenant Simons, the assistant communications officer, stuck his head onto the bridge from the radio shack. “We’re picking up another Zed Baker beacon, sir! Not quite the same frequency as ours, and a different code so it won’t confuse our boys, but it’s drawing some of the Snakes away to a point east of us.” The young officer hesitated, his eyebrows drawing up. “Sir, is there someone else out there, maybe? Another carrier coming to help us?” For a moment Bledsoe almost nodded, because he wanted to believe it so, so very badly, just as Simons clearly wanted to. That had to be it! United States and her group had stolen a march on the Snakes, shooting their way through Suez, or the Brits had sent one of their armored-deck jobs through Gibraltar last night and now she was here to help them out. All they had to do was-

A terrible thought struck him. “Simons…what was the code on that beacon?”

“Sir?” Simons looked down at the message form in his hand. “WRNW, sir.”

Bledsoe shook his head slowly. “That’s not a carrier, Mister Simons. It’s Renown. She had a decoy Zed Baker set installed for this operation. She must still be floating…and decided to draw some of the Snakes off.”

Thirty miles now, and the bridge was completely silent. Half of it was disappointment, because they had all wanted to believe that another carrier had somehow come to save them in the nick of time. Half of it was mourning for the ships and men that were fulfilling their last duty as decoys for Reprisal and her group. After a long moment, Bledsoe looked over and just said,

“That’ll be all, Mister Simons.” The communications officer left, shoulders slumped, and chatter picked up on the bridge again. All of them were trying not to think of what would be happening to Renown soon, what would all too likely be happening to them soon after that.

Twenty miles now. Fifteen. Ten. Bledsoe heard a loud, stuttering crash as Altoona opened up, over a dozen 6” rifles firing proximity-fused shells, filling the sky with shrapnel as the Snakes started in. He was just swinging his binoculars around for a look when the lookout on the other bridge wing let out with,

“Son of a bitch!”

“What is it?” Tension made Bledsoe’s voice sharp.

“Sorry, Sir. It’s Worley. She’s, well…look Sir!”

Bledsoe walked over to the bridge wing and gritted his teeth, tearing his helmet off and almost throwing it to the deck in frustration. The destroyer USS Worley was breaking out of formation, turning to port until she was headed due East for Gibraltar and pouring on the knots. Behind her squadronmate Hammond tried to speed up and cover the gap she’d left, but it was no good. Bledsoe turned his head and snapped,

“Signals, tell Worley to get back into position, now!” The man on the lamp, a Mexican bluejacket named Sanchez, shook his head.

“No good, Sir. I already signaled, she doesn’t answer.” All the anger drained out of Bledsoe in that instant, and he just took his helmet off, running his hand through his hair for a moment. All he felt for the fleeing destroyer was a mix of pity and contempt.

“Damn fool. He’ll never make it to Gibraltar.”

“Sure he will, Skipper.” Sanchez’s voice was rich with the same vein of emotion. “The Snakes, they’ll leave her be. Professional courtesy.” Bledsoe grunted unwilling laughter as he watched his escort head for the horizon, turning about.

“Well, never mind it, Sanchez. We’ve got bigger problems just now.” Just as he said that the first raven-black dots appeared overhead, and Reprisal’s own 5” antiaircraft guns obliterated further noise and thought.

The next minutes, stretched out into Bledsoe’s memory, flowed with the same thick smoothness as an unusually vivid nightmare. Draka planes came from all points of the compass, fire licking up at them from the ships’ antiaircraft guns as they dove in. Bombs dropped away from them, and Bledsoe vaguely heard himself giving orders to the helm as he watched their trajectories, trying to separate the ones he had to dodge from the ones that were close enough to threaten his ship. Reprisal careened crazily through the task force’s formation, now heading straight for one of her own escorting destroyers, now heeling over to the other tack hard enough that Bledsoe could almost hear the rudder post screech in protest and his eyes were locked on the inclinometer for a precious few seconds to see if she would finally go over. Then his eyes were back on the bridge windows, and for few brief minutes Bledsoe could see everything.

He saw Corsairs follow Draka planes into the teeth of their own anti-aircraft fire, and more than once watched one go down in flames right behind its quarry. He saw a TBM Avenger from the anti-shipping patrol come winging in like an oversized fighter, fastening onto the tail of an even slower Draka Rhino and peppering its heavily armored body with .50 caliber rounds until one of the great radials burst into flame and the Draka fell into the sea. Saw a Draka Falcon fighter drop down and duel the Avengert’s rear gunner, the big Martin bursting into flames just seconds before the Draka caught a 5” shell burst and exploded into a cloud of metal slivers. He saw the destroyer Evans stagger as she took a sheaf of armor-piercing rockets, then saw a stick of bombs hit the unlucky Hammond until she exploded in a yellow-white flash that left only flotsam in her wake. Saw the grin on Sanchezs’ face as he ducked in from the flag bridge yelling that Worley was back, her skipper placed under arrest, and that the ship’s Exec wanted orders.

Bledsoe saw a Rhino run its way down the length of Reprisal’s flight deck, cannon flaming and sparking off the metal armored deck until it burst into flames just past the fantail and fell into the carrier’s churning wake. Saw the columns of white spray from near misses, and the ugly belch of black smoke as Altoona took a bomb meant for the ship she was escorting. Saw a wing of Draka torpedo bombers drop their deadly missiles, a wide spread that the carrier couldn’t hope to dodge, until the just-returned Worley wiped the stain on her honor clear by charging into the torpedoes and vanishing in a fountain of spray, leaving a gap Reprisal could just turn through. The fires of Hell itself played around his ship, and through it all she was untouched.

It couldn’t last, of course.

And when it all ended, it was with a flaming Draka Vulture diving straight for the carrier’s island, the antiaircraft rounds that tore at it only making it dive in steeper as the last of its bombs fell away.

Bright yellow flare of light, and an instant of pain.

Then nothing at all.

Ready Room One

The impact knocked them all out of their chairs and down to the deck sprawling. Julius Rosemont’s chin caught on the edge of Flannery’s desk on the way down, and he saw green and purple stars for a long moment before he could shake it off and get back up to his hands and knees. For a moment, he was so loopy that all he could think was that he must be getting old, because he sure couldn’t take a punch the way he used to.

Smoke! Smoke! Thick billowing black clouds of the stuff poured out of the ready room’s ventilation duct, sending Rosemont into a coughing fit as he struggled to pull air back into his bruised chest. He drew a breath, hacked it out, then forced another one down to yell,

“Out! Out! Everybody out and to the fallback station!” The thick black smoke had already cut visibility in the ready room down to just a foot or two, but Rosemont could hear enough heavy scrambling and cursing that the knew his orders were being obeyed, that the men were crawling out on their hands and knees the way they’d all been taught at basic damage control school back in the States. After a moment Rosemont started crawling himself, heading for the door, then paused as he heard muffled cries coming from the back of the ready room. He hesitated, remembering what they’d told him about smoke inhalation back in school- then damned himself for a fool even as his arms and legs carried him further back into the smoke-darkened room.

It was Bayreaux, Applebaum's navigator. One of the parachutes stored on the ready room’s ceiling had dropped down and somehow come open from the concussion, wrapping the man in thick layers of silk he couldn’t get out of in the zero visibility. It was hopeless trying to get it off, so Rosemont grabbed one of the shroud lines and tried dragging the other man out. Heavy. So damned heavy, and his vision was getting even darker, fighting for air. Then the burden seemed to get lighter, as another pair of hands grabbed another set of lines and helped him haul Bayreaux out of the ready room and into the corridor. Rosemont looked over into Fujita’s red, wheezing face.

“Went back in there?” Rosemont nodded, and the Japanese officer raised an eyebrow. “Crazy. You’re a crazy man, Skipper.” He broke into a grin. “You need a job after the war, come fly for our Navy. Might just be crazy enough to fly with us.” Rosemont broke into laughter for a moment, coughing as he cleared the smoke from his lungs, then grabbed out his utility knife and cut Bayreaux out of the chute. The Frenchman was dazed and only half-conscious, and they made quite a trio stumbling down the corridor- tall American, slight Japanese, Frenchman in the middle and looking for all the world like they were coming off a 48 hour pass in Frisco. They made it that way down to the fallback station, where the rest of the squadron was waiting along with a few harried damage control personnel. A corpsman striker looked Bayreaux over briefly.

“Smoke inhalation?” Rosemont nodded. “Okay, get him up to the flight deck. The all clear’s just sounded, so we’re moving the minor cases up there. Somebody’ll take a look at him, or he’ll just get better once he has some air.”

“What about sickbay?” Somewhere deep down inside himself Rosemont knew, but he had to ask. The corpsman looked surprised.

“Sickbay? Ain’t you heard, Mac? The island took a hit and another Snake bomb got us near the waterline. Nobody’s getting into sickbay right now unless they’re pretty bad hit. Take your buddy topside, and be glad he ain't goin' to sickbay!” Rosemont nodded, and he and Fujita took Bayreaux up to the topside stairs- the same ones, he noted absently, they’d used to man their planes for the strike the night before. There they had to wait while a gang of sailors in dungarees stained black with soot and fuel oil ran a fire-fighting hose down from the flight deck, then they moved up in their turn.

Rosemont’s first thought when he got up to the flight deck was that it didn’t look so bad. There were a couple of crashed and burnt-out planes, but they seemed under control and aviation botswain’s mates were already starting to push one of them over the side. Thankfully, the heavy weight of the planes they’d been built for meant that the United States class carriers had been designed with the flight deck as their strength deck, rather than a superstructure deck as on previous US carriers. There were a few holes in it that would need patching before they could resume flight operations, but nothing like the burning mess he remembered when the old Enterprise took a hit like that over the Solomons.

Then they had to turn around, to haul Bayreaux towards the mass of injured men lying in a clear area of the flight deck, and Rosemont groaned in near despair. Reprisal’s island was a flaming mass of wreckage, the sponson it hung off of bent and twisted from the impacts that had destroyed it. Firefighting crews were spraying water and foam over the twisted metal, but it was evident that they were fighting to contain the blaze rather than extinguish it. It looked as though almost all of the carrier’s command and control gear was shot.

The second Draka strike had hurt Reprisal to the quick. Nightfall was still several hours off.

1600 Hours Local Time
T+ 16 Hours and Counting
Somewhere in the Western Mediterranean, South of Sicily

Admiral Sir John Amos leaned back in the rubber dinghy and combed a hand wearily through his hair. He didn’t regret for a moment using the decoy transmitter to divert as many Draka aircraft as he could- his force’s entire job description had been to act as a diversion and give Reprisal the best chance possible to complete her mission. That didn’t mean, however, that he was even close to happy with his current circumstances.

Renown had lasted about as long under the bombs and torpedoes of the Draka Air Corps as her sister Repulse had against the Japanese in 1941. The whole British task force had given it their best shot and downed not a few Draka aircraft, but from the moment the Draka decided to attack rather than break off and renew their search for the carrier force the outcome of the engagement had never really been in doubt. Less than half an hour had passed between the orders “Commence Firing” and “Abandon Ship”, and Amos had very little hope that any of the three destroyers that had been left when they abandoned Renown would make it anywhere. His last order, flashed just before evacuating the flag bridge, had been for them to scatter and keep going rather than come back for the survivors. The idea that the Draka might respect a rescue ship was good only as a grisly joke, and Amos saw no point in wasting any more lives than necessary today.

Sweet, merciful God knew there had already been far, far too many.

So he lay, under the merciless hot sun, the remaining hours and days of his life describing themselves in his mind’s eye with the same remorseless logic as a timer winding down to zero.

“Ship! Ship!” The call roused him, made him half-stand and pull his cap back on to shield his eyes from the sun. There she was. A destroyer, right enough, and for a moment relief warred with anger in Amos’ mind. Damn it, he’d given specific orders…

Then the destroyer turned, and his heart sank. The profile was that of a Domination Predator class destroyer, not any ship that had ever responded to his orders. And she wasn’t stopping. She was turning again and running straight for the cluster of survivors, crews scrambling aft to her depth charges in a manner that made their intent all too plain. Amos felt a wash of fear, then a sort of weary disgust. So this was it.

A young petty officer broke the silence in a cracked, hoarse voice.

“Come cheer up me lads 'tis to glory we steer
To add something more to this wonderful year”

His voice gave out, but someone else picked it up. They all knew it. And somehow, with their deaths bearing down on them at thirty-plus knots, it was exactly the message every British sailor wanted to send. Amos stood, not minding the way it made the raft pitch, and joined in.

“To honor we call you, not press you like slaves
For who are so free as the sons of the waves?”

The Draka warship was closer now. He could see the sailors at their stations, see the Dragon standard flapping at her mast.

“Heart of oak are our ships, hearts of oak are our men
We always are ready- steady, boys, steady.”

The depth charges tumbled off their racks and into the water beneath the survivors with a white splash. Amos’ last thought was a warm one- that they might be about to die, but at least they hadn’t lost.

“We’ll fight and we’ll conquer again and again!”

1700 Hours
Docking Bridge, USS

“Here's the situation.” Commander Guitierrez, now Captain Guitierrez, swept his eyes over Reprisal’s remaining senior officers. “We can make maybe twenty knots, if we’re lucky. Communications are down to signal flags and blinker lights, although Altoona and the destroyers still have working radio sets for the time being. Holes in the deck are going to be patched shortly, but it’ll take a miracle to get any fighters in the air and it’s too far to fly the group off to Gibraltar. We’re low on every kind of anti-aircraft ammo, and we can expect another Draka strike before sundown. If that doesn't happen and we’re still floating come the dawn, we can expect another strike then to finish us off.” He swept his eyes around the table. All the faces were grim.

“Now. I do have some good news.” A slightly dubious stir. “SubRon 51 is transiting the Straits tonight, and they should be on station sometime tomorrow.” Another ripple of murmurs, slightly more hopeful. SubRon 51 was made up of large troop-carrier submarines built for Pacific island raiding, along with a few even larger Japanese boats originally built to carry floatplanes. “So if we can keep her afloat long enough, they should be able to help take our survivors off.”

“Sir.” Guitierrez looked up. It was an older man, tall and lanky, with quiet eyes. He searched his memory- right, the Heavy Attack guy, the former DrakSymp now left in command of his squadron after everyone else bought it against the Snakes. Rosemont, that was the man’s name. “Sir, what about Genoa?”

“Genoa?” Guitierrez didn’t bother keeping the incredulity out of his voice. “Have you lost your mind? Even if we could launch you boys, what makes you think you’d have any better luck than the last two crews to try it? Forget Genoa, we need to concentrate on surviving out here.” Rosemont held up a hand.

“Sir, our mission is to cut off the Draka Expeditionary Force in Europe from their supply lines. If we don’t finish that job, this- all this- might end up being for nothing.” Guitierrez nodded, but the hostility in his eyes didn’t diminish. Rosemont took a breath, went on doggedly. “I know the ship’s beat up, Sir, and that the catapult isn’t a hundred percent. That doesn’t matter. All I need is one shot from it to get a three-quarters loaded Revenant off the catapult. That’ll let us carry a bomb and enough gas to get there.”

“Where you planning on landing? We may be a little indisposed by the time you’re done.”

“Switzerland.” Groans of disbelief. “No, it’s possible. We’ve got coordinates and approach plates for the Zurich and Berne airports, and Genoa’s not that far from the Alps as the crow flies. After we drop the bomb, we can keep going and make it there. Even if we have to bail out it beats the alternatives.”

“Okay.” Guitierrez crossed his arms over his chest. “Let’s say you really can do all this. And you’re right, we can’t ignore the chance to get the job done, if there really is one. What makes you think you’ll do any better than the last guys to make the trip?” Rosemont grinned tightly.

“I won’t be going alone.”

1715 Local Time
T+ 17 Hours, 15 Minutes and Counting
Ready Room One

“So that’s it.” Rosemont finished his delivery. “They can give us enough steam pressure for one cat shot, then twenty knots or so for the rest of you. That ought to be enough for you to get off the deck with enough fuel to make Switzerland, plus a few of those chaff bombs we’ve still got. We all go in at the same time, from different points of the compass, and hope to overwhelm the Snake defenses. Then you all bug out.”

“'You'?” Applebaum, in the back, levered himself up in his battered, soot-streaked leather chair. The ready room had only recently been cleared by the fire crews, but the Myrmidons had still chosen to have their last squadron briefing in their familiar sanctum. Rosemont nodded.

“You. My crew and I will take the bomb.” He held up his hands. “No arguments. We’ve got the best crew and probably the best bird of any we have left.” Hangar Two hadn't been hit in the Draka swarm, so all four of the squadron’s Revenants were still intact- but it was still less than half what their strength had been twenty four hours ago. “We’ll be taking the cat shot, but the rest of you will be going into Snake country unarmed, doing your best to impersonate a nuclear bomber.” He paused. “If anyone doesn’t want in on this mission, now’s the time to say so. You can always stay here and take your chances aboard the ship.” There was a pause, as all the crewmembers looked at each other. The spares, in the back of the room, looked half hopeful and half terrified as they waited to see whether any of the prime crewmen would back out. Nobody said anything.

“All right.” Rosemont walked over to the map board and pulled up his first sheet. "These are our routes. Everyone take ten minutes to look them over, grab a head break or some water, then be back here and we’ll go over them.” All of them were pretty ragged, but that’s not why Rosemont had called the break. He managed to get Walker aside before they reconvened.

“Walker, I know things were rough on you back near the end of our flight. You tell me straight, now. Can you drop another one of those things? If you can’t, now’s the time to tell me. I’ll take a backup gunner along, and as far as anyone else is concerned you got a bad cough from all that smoke and weren’t fit to fly. Now how about it?” The Englishman’s face was grey, now, soot over a bad pallor, but he shook his head. His eyes were red-rimmed from the smoke, making him look all of thirteen or fourteen, but his voice was steady.

“No, Skipper. Come too far now.” Walker swept his arms, taking in the ready room, the men in it, Reprisal, all the ships that had been around her the day before and weren’t now, the Med, the Domination, the whole damned war. “Let’s finish this job.”
Last edited by ChaserGrey on 2010-12-26 01:21am, edited 2 times in total.
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Proof Through The Night: Updated for Real 11/21/10

Post by ChaserGrey » 2010-11-21 05:09pm

1845 Hours
T + 18 Hours, 45 Minutes and Counting
Flight Deck, USS

There was something eerie about preflighting Spirit of Rio just as he’d done nearly 24 hours before, his hands and eyes tracing over the same curves and control surfaces as he moved automatically through the task of making sure his mount was ready to fly. The task was one that had grown familiar over the past year of training, but the setting was like an odd sort of nightmare- Reprisal’s flight deck still showed signs of being hastily patched with steel matting, her island was a smoking ruin of twisted, blackened steel, and the sea around them looked empty with a bare four escorts surrounding the carrier. Crippled Evans had given up the ghost shortly after the last Draka attack, but Altoona still steamed gamely along with the other three destroyers.

The fact that he’d only managed to snatch a few disconnected catnaps in the past thirty or so hours probably wasn’t helping matters either.

As he came around the Spirit’s nose to check the portside wing, Rosemont stopped in his tracks, lifting an eyebrow. The bomb bay doors were open, and there was a suspiciously large number of feet protruding from beneath them. For a minute his heart pounded as he crossed the deck and dropped down, swinging under the doors. The bomb was supposed to have been prepped and loaded belowdecks- was something wrong? Was there somehow, incredibly, a Draka saboteur onboard the ship?

Rosemont’s mind stopped whirring as he stood up inside the bay- there was just enough room to do that, with the doors open and the high-up shackles used to carry an atomic bomb. He took in the sheepishly grinning faces of his squadron, jammed shoulder to shoulder next to each other along both sides of the bomb bay, squeezed between the doors and the bulbous black shape of the bomb casing. He cleared his throat.

“I assume there’s some kind of explanation for this? Other than a sudden mass fascination with nuclear materials, perhaps?” Predictably enough, it was Fujita who held up a hand. There was a ground-down nub of chalk in it, and his deep olive skin was caked with white dust.

“Well, sir…we all figured that since this'll be the last nuke from the old Reprisal, we ought to make it a little special. We’ve all been writing some sweet nothings on her for the Snakes.” Now that his eyes were adapting to the dimness inside the bomb bay, Rosemont could see the messages chalked onto the bomb, and he grinned. “Take that, Lex Luthor!”- that would be from Saint-Lawrence and his crew, funnybook readers to a man whose plane was named Truth, Justice, and the American Way. “Complements from Renown” sounded like Walker, and Fujita had contributed a scrawl of Japanese characters that could have been anything from a prayer commending the Draka’s souls to the Almighty to an obscene limerick for all Rosemont knew. Others were less distinctive- “Made in the U.S.A.”, a hand holding up a hammer labeled “Serf’s Up”, and a line near the radar fuze that simply read “Yoke This”, along with a scrawled mass of signatures that must have included everyone from the fuse technicians on up. Fujita was handing his bit of chalk over the top of the bomb casing.

“Would the Commander care to add his sentiments?” Rosemont grinned and took the chalk, digging in his pocket until he found a bit of cord and a satiny ribbon.

“I would. In fact, I planned on doing this anyway. Delighted to have you all as witnesses.” He drew the Domination Flying Medal he’d received back in ’29 from the pocket of his flight jacket, a brass flying dragon with spread wings, its neck craned down to look over the earth below. There was a moment of silence from his squadronmates as he tied it onto the bomb casing with the strong twine, then carefully wrote next to it so they all could see, “Return to Sender. Refused. J.R.” There was a wave of laughter, and a bit of tension that had always been there between all of them dissolved. Rosemont had never denied his past, but they’d all ignored the subject by mutual agreement. Now he’d made his declaration, and he felt cleaner than he had in years.

Rosemont dug into his pocket and pulled out a glass quart bottle, nodding to Fujita as the navigator passed around glasses- anything they could scrounge in the hour or so before takeoff, from china coffee mugs to waxed paper Coke cups from the mess of the ship’s wardroom. Silently, Rosemont passed the whiskey bottle he’d taken from Flannery’s desk around, watching as each man poured a measure of the dead man’s bourbon into his glass. When the bottle came back to him he tucked it away, then raised his up.

“Gentlemen.” He looked around the circle of faces. “I think I have something we can all drink to. To the Draka.” He paused. “May they get everything they deserve.”

He tossed down the whiskey, and handed the glass back to Fujita. All the Myrmidons were smiling at him around the bulk of the A-bomb, and to Rosemont their grins looked very much like Death beckoning new souls down to Hell. Much the same as his own.

“Thank you, gentlemen. Man your planes.”

1810 Hours

Rosemont stared into the rapidly darkening sky ahead as Reprisal swung her bow around into the wind. Behind them in the west the sun was dipping below the horizon, and the ship forged forward into the night, her speed slowly picking up as her engineers sweated and strained to force every knot they could from her battered hull. No Draka on her radar screens yet, but unless the Snakes had suddenly converted to the ways of love and peace that wouldn’t be long in coming. Time.

With a snarling roar, Spirit of Rio’s left engine caught, spooling up to full power as Rosemont carefully pushed the cooling flaps open. The catapult shooter’s hands moved almost faster than he could respond now, and in a blink the man’s hands were already moving through run-‘em-up. The night seemed to yawn ahead of them as Rosemont keyed the intercom.

“Pilot ready.”
“BN ready”
“Gunner, ready.” Walker’s voice was perfectly calm now.

Rosemont brought his hand up in a careful, crisp salute, and then the merciless press of the catapult came down on them. He had just enough time to wonder if they would get a cold-shot and go into the sea before he felt the Spirit’s wings lift and she soared up into the dark. Rosemont carefully tilted the yoke off to one side and started a spiraling left-hand climb. He’d let the rest of the squadron take off behind him, then form them all up for the first part of the flight.

As he pulled Spirit off into the gloom, though, Rosemont allowed himself to relax- not much, but a fraction of tension sliding out of his spine. The tough part of the takeoff was over, at least.

1812 Hours
Control Room, DWS

“Got the bastard!” Lieutenant Commander Edward Delapore centered the massive ship in his periscope, lining it up carefully in the crosshairs. That was it, right enough- even with her island knocked askew, the long straight-decked silhouette was unmistakably a damnyank United States class attack carrier, the one that was murdering his people and his blood. As he watched, a black fly-shape flew off her deck- very possibly one of their damned hell-bombers on another mission to rain destruction down on the Race. Well. They’d see about that.

“Bearing, mark! Range, mark!” Delapore barely heard the soft accents counting off his marks and the whirring sounds of the electromechanical torpedo brain as it fed gyro angles into his torpedoes. His crew was good- hunter submarines were the elite of the Navy, like the Army’s Airborne legions manned entirely by Citizen volunteers. “Set run depth, two-zero feet. Open outer doors.” A dot near the back of the carrier began to move- looked like they were flying off some planes conventionally as well. “Fire one! Fire two! Fire three! Fire four!” Delapore slapped his periscope handles up, turning to the communications officer. “Make a signal to squadron in Genoa, sighting report, brevity code only. Now!”

“Suh?” The boy’s mouth hung open. Doctrine said that after you shot you dove deep, ran as far as you could, and hoped they didn’t find you. Putting anything out over the radio right now would be like leaving a trail of blood in a shark tank.

“Do it! Now!” He’d gotten his shots off at the carrier, might stop it from launching more nuclear bombers. Next priority was warning the last real port the Race had left in Europe that there might be bombers already on the way. His own survival and that of his boat came a very distant third.

By the time the six-group message was in the air, Delapore could already hear the pounding screws of a Yankee destroyer coming for them. He leaned against the periscope rail as his boat finally angled down for the depths, casually wondering if this one was going to come out his way.

On the whole, he rather thought not.

1814 Hours
Warhammer 09

Lieutenant Dan Yarrow had just released the brakes on Snake Eater and was watching the airspeed indicator start to lift off its bottom peg when all hell broke loose. Reprisal shuddered, enough that he could actually feel the deck pitch under his wheels and his Revenant took a half-foot hop into the air before coming back down to thunder along the deck. As she howled past the island, Yarrow felt the deck tilt away under him as whatever-it-was made Reprisal pitch sideways and over into a list. Suddenly he wasn’t just heading for the bow- he was also slipping sideways towards the side of the flight deck, and the sea below.

Yarrow jammed the throttles forward against their stops, willing them to somehow pull out a few more horsepower. He heard his bombardier scream over the intercom as the nose slewed towards the ocean. Slammed the flaps down to the full setting as their nosewheel slipped off, praying that somehow they’d have enough speed to claw into the air.

The nosewheel dipped off, diagonal to the bow. The rest of the Revenant followed. Yarrow hauled back desperately on the yoke. Come on. Come on. Not like this! We’re finally on the mission! Not like this!

“Come on, you bitch!” The ocean filled his windscreen. “Come on, fly!”

The wings caught.

Snake Eater’s nose came up, and Yarrow barely managed to reach over and wrench the gear up in time. Otherwise the tires might well have caught a wave and swamped the plane.

The AR-1 climbed away into the sky, with three utterly astonished men aboard as it rose to join its fellows. Yarrow took a long breath.

“Everyone allright?” The gunner spoke for all of them in his broad Texas drawl.

“All right? Good Lord, Skipper, how’s about we-all just fly all the way to Genoa just for the hell of it? After that takeoff I don’t think even flyin’ into an atomic bomb blast could scare me.” Yarrow laughed as he soared up to join the other three Revenants, feeling weak with relief.

The radio crackled. “Warhammer 09, this is 03. You good to go?” Yarrow grinned and keyed his mic.

“03, this is 09. Snakes just took their best shot at us, and it didn’t work. We’re mission-ready.”

1814 Hours
Docking Bridge, USS

If Warhammer 09’s takeoff was thrilling from the cockpit, it was hardly less so from the docking bridge. Built to allow harbor pilots and a secondary conning team better visibility in close quarters then her rather anemic island allowed, it stretched across the front of the ship just below the level of the flight deck. When the Draka torpedoes slammed into the side of the ship just behind the bow and near the stern, it knocked everyone but the helmsman off their feet. They had barely gotten back up when a Revenant screamed off the deck, right in front of them, dropping down for the ocean in full view of the bridge windows. Captain Guitierrez barely had time to shout orders to push the rudder over to port when the plane somehow stopped its dive for the sea and pulled up, crossing in front of them and quickly climbing out of sight. Guitierrez slumped in his chair, one hand over his chest. That had been close.

The bridge phone rang, and Guitierrez grabbed it off its clips.

“Docking Bridge, Captain.”

“Skipper, we’ve got to slow down!” Reprisal had already started to lose way since the torpedo hit, but that didn’t seem to make Commander Calvin down with the black gang any less worried. “Two torpedo hits, flooding near the bow and stern, and that patch my men put on the last bomb hit is gone too. If we don’t stop the water’s going to keep forcing in and she’ll flip!”

“Do it.” Guitierrez glanced over at the sailor on the lee helm and jerked his thumb, watching the man pull the telegraph back to “dead slow”. “Can you give me a few knots? We might still have a Snake sub out there.” Calvin sounded a bit dubious.

“We’ll try, Skipper. There’s still one set of boilers working, and two of the screws. Probably won’t be much more than steerage way, though, and when that goes we’ll lose power throughout the ship too.” Guitierrez winced. When that went down they’d lose most of their firefighting and damage control capability as well.

“Do your best, Eng.” Guitierrez hung up the phone, then turned to the OOD.

“Anything from the screen?”

“Yessir. Snake sub, running silent. Damn fool stopped to send off a contact report before he dove for it. Riviera and Wickett whipsawed him with a depth charge pattern and report debris, oil, and bodies floating to the surface. Looks like we got him, Sir.” Guitierrez grunted.

“Maybe not such a damn fool. Get a message off on the VAH-1 common frequency. Warn the Warhammers that they might have a reception prepared for them.”

“Aye aye.” A messenger sprinted for the ladder up to the radio room. “Anything else, Sir?”

“Yes.” Guitierrez stared at the sea ahead. They were reduced to a crawl, but at least it looked like they had the night to prepare for what had to come. “Order all nonessential personnel topside to the flight deck. Have the surgeon prepare to move all sickbay cases to the boat deck, and tell the First Lieutenant to call up crews and handling details for all small craft. Order all three destroyers to prepare to lie alongside and ask them to ready any small craft they have to help transfer the wounded. Have the communications officer start destroying his cipher machines and papers.” Which included the manuals left aboard for VAH-1’s nuclear bombs. Guitierrez closed his eyes, and gave the final order that Naval tradition demanded at a time like this.

“Prepare to abandon ship.”
Last edited by ChaserGrey on 2010-12-26 01:30am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Proof Through The Night: Yet Another Kill-The-Draka Fic

Post by ChaserGrey » 2010-11-29 07:41pm

1845 Hours
Air Defense Operations Room, Genoa Area Command

Air Marshall Andrew Vorhees leaned back in his chair and lit another cigarette. The ashtray in front of him was already full enough to serve as a small sandbox, with a dozen and more white cigarette butts sticking out of it like ill-hewn tombstones.

He’d been on the go since the dawn conference, first getting as many planes, men, and guns moving as he could from Toulon and then catching one of the precious few transport flights down here to organize things. Now he was staring at the glass situation map of Genoa, watching serf auxiliaries mark patrol areas and draw circles on it in greasepaint while a Citizen officer watched much more closely than normal.

“Sir.” Vorhees turned to the young Pilot Officer who was handing him a message form. “From the Navy. A hunter sub sighted a United States class attack carrier south of Corsica half an hour ago. She appeared to be launchin’ aircraft at that time. Navy says the transmission cut off abruptly.” Vorhees leaned forward in his seat, automatically scanning the message form.

“Analysis, Mister?” He’d always loved the mentoring part of being a senior officer, and even a crisis as mortal as this one was no reason to stop teaching his junior officers. Made it more important than ever, in his opinion. The young Citizen shrugged.

“Could have been combat air patrol or a scouting mission, Sir, but we have to assume the worst.” The worst being very specifically defined under these circumstances- AR-1 Revenant attack bombers in the air with live atomics. “And if it is that, there’s only one place they could be headed. Only major logistics center we got left.” The boy looked upwards at the ceiling of the command center, and Vorhees grinned.

“Full marks. Now get on the horn to the fighter fields.” Vorhees raised his voice, letting it carry across the whole command center. “Listen up, people! We probably got some damnyanks on the way to pay us a visit in a couple-three hours. Kick everythin’ up to Force Condition Five, scramble the reserve Night Owls, move the Peregrines up to cockpit alert. I want everything we’ve got radiating and every gun locked and loaded. Remember, either we get this one or everybody dies. Let’s do this people, let’s go!”

Phones came off their clips, and a dozen voices began to talk urgently all at once. Vorhees looked as the sighting report was entered onto his status board, and smiled tightly.

“The game’s afoot.”

1914 Hours
Docking Bridge, USS

“Here they come.” There was none of the high, desperate excitement in the lookout’s voice that there might have been a few days or hours before. Altoona’s radar had picked up the Snake strike flight thirty miles out, but it hadn’t mattered. Reprisal’s last fighters had gone into the sea hours ago, and with her speed reduced to a crawl the big carrier couldn’t get enough wind over her deck to launch more without the catapult. Commander Guitierrez knew that their AA crews would do the best they could. He also knew that it wouldn’t be enough.

As he watched, Altoona peeled out of formation with the damaged carrier and began working up to full speed. When the raid warning came through Guitierrez had ordered his escorts to break off and maneuver independently through it. All the close screen in the world couldn’t save a ship that moved like a crippled whale, and right now he needed those ships intact for rescue work more than he needed to reduce the hits Reprisal might take. If they made enough sea miles during the night, they might even be under Gibraltar’s air umbrella not too long after daybreak.

Yeah, that was it.

The Draka formation that came in was noticeably smaller and more homogenous than the one before, more in line with their first attack. Guitierrez felt his lips pulling back into a rictus grin over that. Altoona’s intercept gear was nowhere near as good as what had been aboard Traverse City, but even they had picked up a panicked cacophony of air support requests from across the continent, along with increasingly stern directives to conserve as much aviation fuel as possible. How the Snakes expected to square that circle he wasn’t sure, but it did seem to limit the number of planes they were willing to send after Reprisal.

Unfortunately, they’d have to be a whole lot worse off before they’d consider letting her go. Even ignoring the threat they posed, two of the few values the Draka recognized were pride and payback. Reprisal qualified in spades under both those categories.

Guitierrez heard a crashing din start to build up as the task force’s 5” mounts opened fire, followed with disturbing speed by the chatter of the close-in Bofors mounts. Down here on Reprisal's bow he could hardly see any of the battle- the ship was being conned from an antiaircraft sighting station just forward of where the island had been, with orders relayed by phone down to the rudder compartment. It was a damned bad system, but at least up there they could see what was coming. Guitierrez stared out the forward windows and waited for the bombs to fall.

The Draka Vulture bombers released their loads a mile or two out, keeping their bombsights fixed on their targets in the twilight gloom as their munitions homed in on their targets. Guitierrez heard the phone talker emotionlessly call ofd the rounds that went ballistic as proximity fused 5” shells shredded their mother craft with enormous midair shotguns, but it wasn’t enough. He could feel the deck tremble under him as the ship shuddered, and heard the phone talker call them out. “Near miss, port quarter. Near miss, port quarter. Near miss, starboard quarter.”

Then a huge, shuddering roar as Reprisal was hit, another, and another. His ship took deep, gaping wounds, the alarms sounded and the speakers shouted of fire, fire on the flight deck, and suddenly Guitierrez had had enough.

“You have the bridge, Mister Brown.” With that, he strapped his helmet on and left the bridge, vaulting the ladder up to topside. Looking at the damage wouldn’t make it go away, but at least he could get some idea of what was happening to his ship and how he could stop it. He sure wasn’t doing anyone any good staring out the windows on the docking bridge.

The Flight Deck

Guitierrez mounted up to a world of twisted, burning horror. The Bofors guns had fallen silent, and the 5” mounts were crashing only occasionally as they took parting shots at the retreating Draka bombers. The after part of the flight deck, though, was a roaring inferno, flames licking over the twisted metal that had once been the landing area as smoke billowed up into the darkening sky. Guitierrez could see gangs of seamen unrolling hoses and playing water over the worst of it, and he could see casualties who had been brought to the flight deck instead of sickbay trying desperately to crawl away from the fires. He raced in, hardly knowing where he was going or what he was going to do, until he saw a group of officers in khaki standing near the edge. Calvin was there, directing a gang of men trying to switch around water pressure.

“How bad is it, Chief?” Calvin looked over his shoulder and shook his head.

“Bad, Skipper. I just took the last prop shafts offline, which means we’re dead in the water. Because I did that we’ve got pumps and fire mains, for now, and we can keep these damn fires from eating up the whole ship. That’ll last until something else falls apart in Engineering or the Snakes hit us again, and then we’ll have nothing.” Calvin paused. He knew what he had to say, but Navy tradition dictated he be very careful about how he said it.

“Sir, I don’t think we can control this conflagration. I have to recommend that we abandon ship while rescue operations are still possible.” Guitierrez closed his eyes. There it was. He nodded.

“All right, Chief. I’ll have the escorts move in. Pass the word for all hands to abandon ship.”

2023 Hours
Spirit of Rio

“Show time!” Fujita’s voice over the intercom broke into Rosemont’s consciousness as he guided Spirit northwards, his three companions hanging off his wings. They’d been in the air for just over an hour, spiraling up and away from Reprisal and sticking together for the first part of the flight. What they were about to try called for some very, very tricky timing, and the longer they could all stay together, the better. On the other hand, if the Snakes caught them on radar before they separated, the whole thing would be worse than useless.

Rosemont blipped his navigation lights once, then twice more in quick succession. He looked over his left shoulder at Applebaum in Night Terrors, barely catching sight of the other man in his dim cockpit lights. Rosemont brought his hand up to his oxygen mask, then pushed it out with splayed fingers, the classic “kiss-off” signal he’d learned to use instead of “goodbye” during his formation training at Pensacola. Applebaum nodded, then peeled smoothly off into a turn. Within seconds his Revenant had melted away into the night, and Rosemont pushed his yoke forward, diving Spirit down towards the dark sea below. Again, Fujita brought his radar up, counting off the altitude until they pulled up less than a thousand feet from the sea below. Rosemont checked over his shoulder, finding Yarrow’s dim formation indicators tucked in on his right wing, exactly where they were supposed to be.

“No radar emissions, Skipper. We’re clear.” Walker sounded a lot better than he had when they’d talked in the ready room- actually strapping in and taking off seemed to have sealed his determination. Rosemont nodded, and permitted himself a tight smile. They’d done it. Flying high without the weight of their bombs, Applebaum and Saint-Laurence would be faster than Spirit, giving them enough time to curve out onto oblique courses towards the target. With any luck they’d all hit the Snake radar net at more or less the same time and confuse the Draka. In the meantime, Snake Eater could support Spirit with jammers, chaff bombers, and serve as a decoy to draw off Snake fighters if it came to that. Rosemont would have much preferred to be the one coming in at an angle, since when push came to shove the Snakes would probably figure it was the atomic bomber taking the direct route, but he didn’t have a lot of choice either. His plane was four tons heavier than the others, and none of them had enough gas to poke around all night.

Rosemont trimmed his nose out, and took in the shimmer of moonlight on the water beneath his nose. The interphones hummed softly in his ears, and Spirit responded to his touch so effortlessly that moving her rudder seemed to take no more mental effort than flexing his foot or making a fist. He let his eyes fall into the familiar flicker of the gauge scan, dipping upwards to find Yarrow’s formation lights and then checking the water in front of them for obstacles. He was night flying again, and for the next hour or so he could be content with that.

2050 Hours
Night Terrors

“Turn point.” Polinyn, the new guy, sounded nervous. Bayreaux had still been only semi-conscious when the briefing began back aboard Reprisal, so Applebaum had picked one of the backup BNs to fill out his crew. The backups had been through the same training that they had- Flannery had only made the choice as to which crews would fly the strikes the night before. Still, it was the young Russian’s first time flying combat in the AR-1, and he was palpably nervous.

Whereas I am a seasoned veteran, with one whole abort under my belt. Applebaum had done his share of flying, in Helldivers and the last of the old SBD Dauntlesses, but comparing that to the Revenant was like comparing a Model T to a new Chevrolet. Never mind all the new gadgets, the thing was just so damned big.

Applebaum eased his yoke over into a right turn, settling onto a new course. Somewhere just off his nose, Saint-Laurence should be doing the same right about now, just as Rosemont and Yarrow punched their way through the same imaginary circle around Genoa. At least it was clear tonight. He’d damn well had enough of trying to fly this thing through the rain.

“Signals.” Wallenstein’s voice was calm, perfectly clear as he enunciated his words. “Draka Watchtower types. There appear to be multiple point sources emanating from the area around Genoa, all with similar or identical signatures. Our intelligence only showed one in place.”

Applebaum laughed humorlessly. “Well, looks like there’ve been some busy little Snakes over there the last few hours, Albrecht. Been getting a reception together for us.”

“Yes.” If Wallenstein appreciated the joke, he was uncommonly good at keeping any hint of it out of his voice. “Signal strength is increasing, pilot. Recommend we begin our descent.”

“Roger.” Applebaum pushed the yoke forward. After a couple seconds, he figured out what was wrong, and keyed his mic.

“Altitude, Sergey?” Polinyn started reading the numbers off, sounding a bit abashed. Well, the kid didn’t have to drop any bombs tonight. As long as they were heading for the general area of Genoa they should be all right. Night Terrors screamed on just above the waves, riding the night like a hungry ghost.

2053 Hours
Air Defense Operations Room, Genoa Area Command

“Contact!” Vorhees wheeled around in his chair at that, watching as the serf auxiliary carefully drew a new greasepaint trace on the medium-range status board. “Bearing bullseye 205, range one-fifty miles.” Vorhees fairly jumped out of his chair and strode over to the talker who had reported the contact.

“What do we have? How firm? Come on!” The serf talker handed him a penciled contact slip.

“Western Area Radar, sir. They been gettin’ make and break contacts for a bit on the edge of their scopes, but now they got somethin’ for definite. Intermittent, but pretty strong when it there.” Vorhees shut his eyes for a moment, then looked over at the fighter patrol areas penciled in on the plot. Committing fighters over there would stretch his remaining resources even thinner, but there was nothing to be done for it.

“Send Black Buck one-seven flight over to investigate. And get a pair of Peregrines movin’. Just in case.”

Aboard Black Buck 17
Approx. 120 miles south-southwest of Genoa

“Black Buck 17 acknowledges.” Flight Officer Ilsa Tromp pulled her Night Owl into sharp, raking turn, peeling off her assigned station and heading for the intruder’s track like a hawk moving in on its prey. She reached over and jammed her throttles against the firewalls, making sure they were stuck. Night fighter duty had been cushy until exactly twenty-one hours ago, when those damned fools Venner and Weiss had managed to let a Yankee expend them and fry Marseilles- and still worse, get themselves recorded doing it. Now the whole night fighter command was under a gods-damned microscope, with the sound of bush knives being sharpened already sounding in a thousand officer’s messes. The Draka might frown on infighting, but they were no more immune to the psychology of disaster than any other human beings- including the time-honored pursuit of hunting the wild scapegoat.

“Recommend course 010 magnetic.” Maggie Miller’s voice was devoid of its usual cheer as she buried her face in the radar scope’s black rubber hood, searching out the blip that was trying to kill their last link home. Tromp glanced in her rear-view mirror, making sure Riksdottir’s lights were still lined up with the targets scribed there. Flying formation wasn’t usually something night fighters did, which was making her even more testy, but no matter. The intercepts had also told them of the precious time that had been lost after Venners and Weiss inherited the plantation, while the Peregrines searched with only ground control to guide them. There had to be someone left to act as a seeing eye for the rest of the system, as much as she itched to bring this bastard down herself.

Ilsa grinned behind her oxygen mask. Of course, she was the flight lead. And if they managed to bring this leopard down before the rest of the hunting party came up, wasn’t that the more honor to them?

2054 Hours
Night Terrors

“Night Eyes set for sure, Walter.” Wallenstein’s voice was dolefully precise. “And it seems our friends have learned from last night’s festivities. I’d say there are at least two signals out there.”

“Wonderful.” Applebaum forced himself to keep up his scan, while his mind built a carefully compassed model of the planes heading in for them. “Do they have us?”

“They are heading right for us, on a perfect course to intercept our path. Either they have us, Walter, or we should begin to seriously consider Loki worship.” Son of a bitch. He did have a sense of humor. Applebaum heard himself laughing.

“Allright. I’m taking it up to three, might need some room to maneuver here in a minute.” Even as he spoke, Applebaum eased the yoke back and thumbed the button for the fuel boost pumps. “We’ll do the same thing Spirit’s crew did. Play dumb until he finds us, then light ‘em all off and hope we can shoot our way out.” Of course, last night the Draka hadn’t known they were at war with the Alliance yet. Life was full of little challenges like that. “Sergey, give ‘em a chaff bomb. Let’s muddy the waters a bit.”

“Roger, pilot.” In Night Terrors’ nose, Polinyn ran his hands over the conventional bomb panel. Single release, time fuze for five seconds- just long enough to clear the Revenant before it burst. He slapped the doors open.

“Away!” Night Terrors jerked as the chaff bomb dropped away into the slipstream.

Aboard Black Buck 17

“That’s funny.” Miller adjusted her scope with a frown, while Ilsa looked over worriedly. Draka Forces legend had it that was one of the three most common last things a pilot heard from her radar operator, right up there with “Oops” and “Oh, zebra shit!”.

“What is it, Maggie?” She kept her eyes determinedly forward, straining even though she knew it was vanishingly unlikely she could pick the contact out in time for them to do anything about it. Or avoid a midair collision. If Maggie’s radar had just packed it up, she needed to hand the lead off to Riksdottir right now.

“Bloom on the scope.” Miller’s fingers twisted the gain down, leaning forward even harder into her hood. “Could be a decoy, but I thought I saw it movin’ right before it dropped off. Those Yankee planes like to duck in and out of low altitudes…could be nothing, could be another contact. I’m calling it in.” Tromp blinked- their training had taught them to check and double-check a contact before reporting it, but going by the book didn’t seem to have worked so well lately. And if Maggie thought it was solid-

“Do it.”

“Doin’ it.” Miller keyed her radio mic. “Manorhouse, this is Black Buck 17. Be advised we may have multiple contacts out here…”

2057 Hours
Night Terrors

Albrecht Wallenstein hunched over his tail-warning scope and watched the twin blips drop towards the bottom of the range indicator. It was hard to watch them boring in towards him when he had a weapon in his hands, but he knew he had to wait, just as you had to wait for the wolf to get close in the woods before you took your shot. He could open up on radar, but his chances of scoring a hit would be much better on visual. Just a few more seconds-

Night Terrors jumped in midair as shells ripped into her left wing, and Wallenstein looked up from his scope to see a Draka Night Owl fighter swooping up and away from them. He’d been suckered! The Draka had dove in from above, closing the range at the last minute. He wheeled the sight around, catching a hint of a wing glinting in moonlight. The Draka wingman was coming in right on his leader’s tail. Good to know he wasn’t the only one making mistakes tonight.

Wallenstein squeezed his butterfly trigger grips, and a hammering stream of 20mm cannon shells poured into Black Buck 18. Riksdottir and her radar operator died without knowing why.

Aboard Black Buck 17

“Gods curse it!” Ilsa Tromp pulled her Night Owl into a tight, banking turn, her eyes riveted on the slim black form that was already trying to disappear into the night. “How many Freya-damned times did I tell yo’ not to ride my tail, yo’ little moron!” Already there was no trace left of her wing, the hulk dipping invisibly towards the sea below with a shattered cockpit. She keyed her mic.

“Manorhouse, Black Buck 17. Black Buck 18 is down, repeat, Black Buck 18 is down. We have visual confirm on a Yankee AR-1 Revenant bomber, tracking on radar now.”

“Copy, Black Buck.” A short pause, then the controller came back. “Black Buck, disengage an’ maintain radar contact with the target. Tercel 03 flight is inbound to engage.” Tromp bared her teeth. The right call, but these damned Yankees were cutting a swath through her squadron. Her heart called out for her to take their heart's blood, not let the glory boys in their Peregrines have the kill. But all she said was,

“Black Buck acknowledges.” Needs must, after all.

2059 Hours
Spirit of Rio

“Cross Hair sets, pilot. They are not wasting time.”

“Just give me the cue, Gunner.” Applebaum had abandoned his scan again, eyes flicking back and forth across the sky in front of him in search of the Draka Peregrines. If he could just-

“Now!” Applebaum wrenched the yoke over to the side, standing Night Terrors on her left wing and yanking until the engines screamed in protest. He didn’t realize his mistake until too late.

The reefing turn had snatched Night Terrors out from under the first Peregrine’s gunsights, but it had also killed their forward speed, leaving them a sitting duck for the wingman. The Draka pilot kicked his rudder, watched the Revenant’s belly slide under his sights, and squeezed the trigger on his twin 30mm cannons.

Night Terrors’ cockpit filled with red light and warning buzzers as one engine caught fire, the plane sliding sideways and threatening to drop into the ocean. Applebaum pushed the wing down, teeth gritted as he tried to will her to start flying again. The Peregrines looped around for another pass, aiming for the bright orange flare of their burning engine.

In the glassed-in nose, Sergey Polinyn hung on to his seat by the handles, face white. He could see the engine flares coming around for them, and there was nothing he could do but either hang on or reach for the ejection handle between his legs. A frantic voice in the back of his mind was chanting confuse the radar, confuse the radar. As the Peregrines came in again he slapped the bomb bay doors open, jammed the selector over to the “salvo all” position, and yanked the release handle.

All nine remaining chaff bombs in Night Terrors’ bomb bay blew off the racks at once, their ejection charges blowing them out sideways until they almost stood still in the air. Five seconds later, their fuzes burst, forming a cloud of fine metal strips hundreds of feet wide.

Fifteen seconds after that, both Draka Peregrines plowed through the cloud, their hungry turbojet engines gobbling up the air and sucking the chaff strips into their first-stage compressors. The turbine blades fouled, then shattered, sending hot chunks of metal into the fighters’ fuel tanks. As Tromp and Miller watched in stupefied horror, both jet fighters turned into hot orange fireballs in midair.

At the same instant, the structural members supporting Night Terrors’ bomb bay doors, already holed by cannon shots, gave way under the high-speed slipstream. As the doors ripped away the stress took the main wing spar with it, folding the wings up like a sheet of paper creased in the middle.

The shattered hulk of Night Terrors fell like a dropped stone into the Mediterranean. Applebaum, Polinyn, and Wallenstein died instantly.
Last edited by ChaserGrey on 2010-12-26 01:47am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Proof Through The Night: Yet Another Kill-The-Draka Fic

Post by ChaserGrey » 2010-12-19 10:11pm

2210 Hours
Spirit of Rio

“Sidelobes dropping off, Skipper.” Walker’s voice was soft, regretful. “Remaining Night Eyes set is heading for home, and there’s nothing else radiating over there.”

Commander Rosemont kept his eyes fixed on the artificial horizon, altimeter, airspeed indicator in an evenly flicking scan, barely blinking. There was no room for spare action two hundred feet over the nighted Mediterranean and little room for spare thought, but he still managed a muffed “Goddammit” over the intercom as the implications of that sunk in. Walker’s receivers had been picking up a scattered mess of radar emissions from over by Night Terrors’ flight path for the past ten minutes or so, and if they’d all shut off there was really only one explanation.

“Twenty minutes to IP.” There was no particular need to for him to know that, but after a year of training together Fujita could read his silences as well as his words. He’d needed something to distract him from thinking about Applebaum and his crew, and that had been enough to refocus his thoughts onto flying and the mission.

“Anything up ahead, Jimmie?” Walker could probably use something similar.

“Wait one, Skipper.” Rosemont could almost see the boy bending over his scopes as Spirit thundered through the night, eating up the miles between them and Genoa. After a long half-minute Walker came back on the intercom.

“Watchtower and Night Eyes sets up ahead, Skipper. The real fun ought to be kicking off in a couple minutes.”

2215 Hours
Air Defense Operations Room, Genoa Area Command

Air Marshall Vorhees was not a happy man.

They’d shot down one damnyank nuclear bomber, but for all the crowing that had been going on in the ops room when the news came in the victory tasted sour in his mouth. Three planes lost and four Citizens dead to stop one of the Wotan-damned things? At that rate the Race would find itself in considerable shit before long.

What was worse was the current threat board, and what it showed. Which was, other than the penciled-in patrol stations and etched locations of radar sets and airfields, precisely fuck-all.

The singleton they’d had coming in just after sunrise had been one thing- that had smacked off desperation, a hasty attacked launched because doing it half-assed was better than not getting the chance to do it at all. Not this time. The strike Graiae had seen had launched over twelve hours later, and the Yankees would have known it would be their last shot. They were too good not to have gotten all their shit in one sock.

All of which meant there were more bombers out there, reaching for the center of that plot like claws reaching through the night. Reaching for him, and the last chance for the Draka Race. And he couldn’t find the damned bastards!

“Contact!” Vorhees started up and watched as a new trace was grease-pencilled onto the plot, coming in at an oblique angle towards Genoa the way the other one had. He opened his mouth to snap out an order, but the young duty officer was already in motion, lifting the direct line to the Peregrine fields even as he snapped his fingers and pointed at the director officer patched into the Night Owls for that sector. Good man. Vorhees let his eyes wander back to the plot and frowned. Something about it…yes.

“Oh, you are a clever Yankee, aren’t you?” Vorhees wasn’t aware he was speaking aloud until he saw the phone talkers turning to look at him, staring at the chart as he spoke to his absent American adversary. “Such a very clever Yankee…but you shouldn’t have made the hole that obvious.” He motioned the duty officer over.

“Sir?” The Pilot Officer’s face was carefully neutral. Even in the relatively informal Citizen Force, it didn’t generally pay to look at your C.O. like he was a complete raving lunatic. Even if his behavior seemed to warrant that assessment. Vorhees grinned and pointed at the plot.

“What do you see, Pilot Officer?” To his credit, the boy didn’t treat the question as rhetorical, turning and furrowing his brow at the plot. After a moment he shrugged.

“I don’t know, Sir.”

“I think you do. Plotter.” The serf NCO looked up from his place. “Add in the first and last positions of that last Yankee we splashed, line between them.” The Janissary’s eyebrows rose, but he kept his face perfectly impassive as he paged through his logbook and went to work with grease pencil and straightedge. Vorhees turned to the duty officer.

“Do you see it now, son?”

“Yassuh.” The boy was smiling too, the glow of excitement and pride at seeing what his superior did washing over his face. “Ninety degrees apart. Which means if they doin’ a standard Yankee multi-axis attack pattern, and assumin’ they can’t fly too far over the ocean, would put the last part of the attack force right about…there.” He pointed his stick at an area due south of the port, on a more or less straight line between them and the position Graiae had given in her report. Vorhees nodded.

“Full marks, Eyes.” The young man grinned even wider at the traditional nickname for a Domination fighter controller. “Now get your reserve Night Owls moving down there and kick the Peregrines up to airborne alert.” That would wear the squadrons down in a hurry as planes constantly rotated to relieve CAP birds low on fuel, but it would save precious minutes when they mattered. Besides, Vorhees expected they wouldn’t have to keep it up for very long, one way or the other.

“We get lucky, we might just catch us a poacher sneaking in the back gate. And give him what he deserves.” The grins in the center were even sharper at that. Draka law still allowed a landowner to hang other Citizens caught poaching on his land, and for feral serfs like these-

Well, it would be a very satisfying experience indeed.

2220 Hours
Spirit of Rio

“Here they come.” Walker grabbed a square of Navy-issue toilet paper from one pocket of his flight suit and cleaned off one of his scopes for a last look. “If they’re not onto us now, Skipper, they will be soon. I say we do it.”

“Agreed. When you’re ready, Jimmie.” Walker took in a deep breath and blew it out. He’d done this once. They’d all done this once. They could do it again.

“Roger that.” He reached over and flicked power onto his jamming boards, counting off a long minute to make sure the tubes were warmed up. He carefully dialed the electromechanical leads for his main jamming transmitter onto the frequency for the Draka Night Eyes fighter radar and switched it to audio, setting the secondary for noise-mode against the more powerful Watchtower set. As the jammer started up, Walker was peripherally aware of Snake Eater climbing up and out of formation behind them to release her first salvo of chaff bombs. He could see the electronic noise of her jammers coming onto his other scopes, locking onto other frequencies and blotting them out, and the more distant signatures of Truth, Justice, and the American Way’s transmitters. All of that faded away as he concentrated on the incoming pulses on his primary scope, and the beeping in his headphones as he rocked his finger on the transmit button, sending carefully distorted pulses back at the Draka fighters.

Had to get it right.

2222 Hours
Air Defense Operations Room, Genoa Area Command

“Gods curse it!” Air Marshall Vorhees watched as the screen for their primary search radar dissolved, snow and false returns filling the screen even as the contacts, both the old one and the new one that had cropped up right where he’d thought it would be, disappeared into blobs of jamming. From intel reports and what distant stations had seen during last night’s attacks he'd expected the Revenant to have good jamming systems, but he hadn’t thought they’d be that good. “Eyes, tell the Night Owls they goin’ to have to take over. Ask them for the locations on their contacts.”

“Suh.” The young Pilot Officer’s face slowly drained of blood as he listened into the fighter frequency. “They report that their contacts-“

“Out with it, man! I need position and speed on their contacts!”

“Suh…Black Buck 41 to the south has eight of them. Four for 11 to the east.”

“Damnation!” They were fuckin’ blind back here, and now the Yankees had some other trick up their sleeves that was making their night fighters see double. “Order them to close, work through the targets. Launch all Peregrines. Get the Eagles and Falcons up, close perimeter, now! Max illumination pattern, all guns, now!” A few carefully controlled looks of fear at that- the Draka Eagle and Falcon fighters had only secondary night-fighting capability, and the close-perimeter tactic was widely regarded as a last-ditch move. Put as many planes as you could into the air, pray that somebody was close enough to vector in when your radar saw something, pray that not too many of them blundered into each other in the pitch blackness, and pray that somebody got a lucky visual sighting. It was all Vorhees could think of, until the Yankees got close enough for their radars to burn through the jamming.

There was a pit in his chest, though, where a hunter’s confidence had once been. Something that told him that the Draka had spent too long pissing off too many gods for their prayers to carry much weight now.

2223 Hours
Spirit of Rio

”Yokatta!” As Fujita watched out the glassed nose from his position, the entire arc in front of their nose seemed to explode with brilliant light. Hair-thin tracer streams scored across the night like glowing live wires, while immense flare shells burst thousands of feet over the ground and cast cold yellow-white circles brighter than moonlight on the ground below.

“Yeah, don’t see that every day.” Commander Rosemont sounded calm as ever as he steered Spirit towards the center of the storm. Fujita grinned.

“Yes. I’d say it’s a very good sign!”

“How the fuck does that go?” Walker sounded more amused than pissed off. “The Snakes are throwing everything but my Gran’s bloody washtub into the sky, and that’s a good thing?”

Hai.” Fujita grinned wider. “If they’re shooting this much, they must be afraid of us. Wouldn’t you say that’s a good thing?”

“Mind on the job, people.” Fujita could hear the smile in their pilot’s voice despite his words. “Scared of us or not, there are still a lot of Snakes out there that really, really want us dead.”

“Copy, pilot.” Walker sounded a bit calmer, at least. “I have what looks like a Night Owl fighter in my tail warning arc, can I engage?”


“No, crossing the arc, left to right.”

“Hold your fire, then. If that idiot hasn’t figured out what inning it is yet, don’t point him at the scoreboard yet.”

“Got it. If he turns towards us?”

“Smoke him with my blessings. How we doing on the bomb run, Fuji?”

“Four minutes. Standby…” Fujita bent over his scope and worked the tracking handle, sliding his cursor over the green phosphor screen and carefully matching the radar presentation against the one unspooling in his mind. He was just starting to get enough reflections off the land to figure out what was what, there was the harbor, which meant that right there-

Fujita squeezed the tracking trigger. Then squeezed it again, then frantically clawed at his circuit breakers and reset switches before he squeezed again. He stared at the bomb system console in disbelief, then swore violently into the intercom.

Kuso! Pilot, tracking radar’s packed it up. We can’t toss bomb!”

2229 Hours
Air Defense Operations Room, Genoa Area Command

“Trackin’, trackin’…yes!” The serf radar operator had a bandanna tied around his head to keep the sweat from his forehead and shaved scalp from running down into his eyes. Now, as Vorhees and the duty officer stared over his shoulder, he finessed the radar picture down onto a pair of returns. “Two blips, movin’ too fast to be chaff clouds. Jammin’ on the other side is headin’ north and away from the city now. Got to be them!”

“Good man!” Vorhees slapped him on the back. Beside him, the Pilot Officer was already starting to talk Peregrines and Falcons towards the contacts. Vorhees stared at the screen, his experession feral.

“Gotcha, Yank.”

2230 Hours
Spirit of Rio

Rosemont’s mind raced. This was falling apart in a hurry. Without a track radar or toss bombing computer, they’d have to overfly their target and lay the bomb down with a parachute. Saint-Laurence and his crew would be expecting them to stay on the toss-bombing run, and he didn’t dare try to radio them- they’d have dumped their remaining chaff bombs and headed for Switzerland by now.

Well, he still had Yarrow on his wing. And there was nothing left but to try for it.

“Allright, high-altitude laydown it is. Set it up, Fuji.” He thumbed on the boost pumps, pushing the Allisons past their safety lines as he yanked Spirit up into a climb.

In the nose, Fujita let out a breath, then turned carefully to his bomb panel. The Draka were closing in, they had no time, but he would not make a mistake by panicking like a yokaren cadet on his first day. Master delivery switch from TOSS to LEVEL. Release control from BRAIN+MANUAL to MANUAL ONLY. Fusing from AUTO to 2K’- that was about as low as the bomb could go and still give them a good airburst. Parachute package- ARM. Sure. They might have to worry about getting away.

Then there was nothing more to do, except watch his radar scope for the contacts that would tell him he was approaching the target. Presently he switched his eyes over to the other eyepiece, linked to the Revenant’s Norden bombsight, and stared patiently down at the city below, and the streams of fire reaching up from it.

It was, he noted in abstract, very beautiful.

2234 Hours
Snake Eater

“That’s not right.” Dan Yarrow watched his leader keep on into his climb, matching it automatically. At first he’d thought Rosemont was just climbing a bit before he started his toss, but Warhammer 03 was still climbing, with no sign of pulling up into the high-g release. That didn’t make any sense, unless-

“Cross Hairs!” His gunner barely had time to yell the warning out before Snake Eater’s cockpit filled with the hammering of the 20mm guns. Yarrow could see Spirit’s tail cannon joining in as well. The Snakes were here, and Rosemont had some kind of problem. Couldn’t toss bomb. He needed time, had none. Have to buy him some.

Yarrow yanked the control yoke back, standing his Revenant on her tail and pulling her back into an arc across the sky, zoom-climbing for Heaven as the airspeed indicator unwound.

“Boss, what the hell are we doing?” Yarrow keyed his intercom as he craned his neck backwards to look at the world below them.

“Toss bombing!”

“We ain’t got a nuke!” Yarrow laughed.

“Yeah, but the Snakes don’t know that.” As he watched, two sparks beneath them broke away from the Spirit and screamed up after them. He laughed again.

“That’s right, you bastards. Watch the birdie…”

2235 Hours
Air Defense Operations Room, Genoa Area Command

“Separation!” The serf operator’s warning was unnecessary as the two blips on the close-in radar split apart. Vorhees watched, his lips pursed. This was it. The moment of decision. What were the Yanks doing? Both climbing, one fast, horizontal rate almost to zero-

Almighty Thor. Vorhees grabbed the phone from the duty officer and yelled into it.

“All fighters, all fighters, this is Manorhouse Actual. Hit the trailer! Repeat, hit the trailer! Hit that bloody damn Yank with everything we’ve got, now, before he drops!”

2236 Hours
Spirit of Rio

“They’re off us, Skipper!” Walker watched as the two Peregrines pulled away, shaking his head. “Yarrow’s got ‘em fooled!” Up front, Rosemont closed his eyes. He knew all too well what that was likely to mean for Yarrow and his crew. Briefly, he wondered if the man was trying to make up for missing takeoff the first time, or if he’d have done the same thing regardless. It hardly mattered. What mattered was that they had the extra minute or two they’d need to seal this deal.

The engine temperature gauges were well above the redlines, but he ignored them. One of his instructors at Pensacola had had a saying that seemed apropos at the moment.

Red-line limits, Mister Rosemont, are only valid if you wish to fly that specific aircraft again. If subsequent flights do not appear likely, then there are no limits.

2238 Hours
Air Defense Operations room, Genoa Area Command

“Got the bastard!” The Peregrine pilot’s howl of victory was tinny in Vorhees’ headset, but he still reached over to slap palms with the Duty Officer. One down, one to go.

“Target altitude 21,000 and climbing.” The serf operator stayed fixed on the blip. “All units vector for intercept.”

2239 Hours
Spirit of Rio

Spirit of Rio burst out of the thin, scattered clouds that had covered her for most of her flight. Looking up for an instant, Rosemont could see the stars, gleaming clear and bright above him, with the yellow-white fires of Draka antiaircraft guns reaching up from below.

“Now, Skipper!” Automatically, Rosemont pushed the nose over, leveling off by the artificial horizon. The Book said they needed more altitude, but they were out of time. Have to hope it was enough.

Down in the nose, Kenichi Fujita watched the outline of the Genoa docks slide beneath the reticle of his bombsight. He slapped the doors open, then jerked the release handle.

“Bomb away!”

The Spirit jerked with the sudden weight loss, seeming to surge forward as the power of her engines caught the lightened plane and pushed it forward through the air. Below her, the bomb’s built in accelerometers sensed its release. Radar and pressure altimeters flicked on, pyrotechnics snapped, and a drogue chute blossomed from the tail in a long, flapping ribbon for a few seconds before the main parachute blossomed On the bomb’s casing, a silver Dragon medal fluttered in the airstream from the twine that held it on, falling down towards the city below. Inside, its brain patiently watched the altimeter inputs unspool.

2239 Hours
Air Defense Operations Room, Genoa Area Command

“Speed shift!” The operator frowned as he looked up from his scope, where he had been coaching Peregrine fighters onto the remaining contact. “Suh, she just stopped climbing and picked up a hell of a lot of speed.” Vorhees frowned. Extra speed. That meant-

The bottom dropped out of his stomach, and he turned to the young Pilot Officer beside him. The man was a subordinate, but he was also the closest member of the Dragon Race. The future he’d hoped to nurture.

“I’m sorry.”

The fates were not kind to Air Marshall Andrew Vorhees. He had just enough time to watch the dawning comprehension and horror on the young man’s face before the nuclear fireball bloomed over him, leaving only bits of ash and bone that no man would know or care had once belonged to a member of the Master Race.

2255 Hours
Draka Seventh Army Field Headquarters

“Strategos.” For just a moment, Eric von Shrakenberg thought he was having a nightmare of the last time he’d been awakened this way. Then he heard Sophie’s feet hit the floor next to him, and he knew it wasn’t. For just another moment, he wished that it had been. Eric turned to the Tetrarch in the door and asked the only question that mattered.


The boy nodded. Eric ran his hand over his face and sat up in bed, waving the messenger away. His mind was working in smooth arcs, like the looted Turkish automaton his father had once owned back on Oakenwald when he was a child. Dancers had whirled around and liveried servants served a miniature ball, but all powered by cold, precise mechanical movement behind the scenes. Possibilities, options, consequences, and futures all unspooled in his mind, and he found himself thinking about what Roosevelt had said yesterday.

Rule, die, or change.

He knew that whatever he chose, some of the Race wouldn’t follow him. They would try to rule, because they didn’t know how to do anything else. And most likely they’d die. Once he’d have thought Yankees too idealistic to really finish the job, too ready to believe that the villain can see the error of his ways and change, but the last two days had shown that was far, far from the truth. Any Draka that stood where they were would die.

And that left him. Eric von Shrakenberg, commander of the last Draka field army. Scion of an old Draka family that was now reduced to one, or two if Johanna had been lucky over the last twenty four nightmare hours. Not the only one in a position to make that choice for a significant number of Draka, but one of damn few.

“Sophie?” She looked up from fastening her boots at his tone, and slid in next to him. Her hand was warm over his chest.

“Yeah?” Her voice was soft. She knew he didn’t need to talk to an NCO right now.

“Yo’ remember Dale Smythe-Thompson? Ran the armored cars back at Pyatigorsk, took us all to dinner in Alexandra after?” She nodded mutely against his chest. Unspoken between them was the fact that Dale and his trademark hunting horn were now miles behind them, trying to hold a rearguard and perimeter against vengeful Europeans as the Draka fell back towards a haven that no longer existed, and that the manor house he’d dined them all in was leveled with the rest of the city. “Remember the family motto that was carved into the mantelpiece?”

She nodded. “’Death before dishonor’. Always thought it was a silly notion myself.”

“Oh?” Answered the question before I asked. I love you, Sophie.

Sophie nodded again. “Just a track-foreman’s daughter, Eric, not a big-time planter. But, well, dyin’ don’t necessarily prevent dishonor, do it? An’ if yo’ dead, nothin’ yo’ can do about that, ever. No chance to make things right, or at least make ‘em better. Hell, yo’ and I both know sometimes dyin’s the easy way out. Ends everything, no more responsibilities. Seems to me the harder thing…the nobler thing, sometimes…is to accept dishonor, so that our children can live.” Eric smiled at that.

“Our children, Decurion?”

“Speakin’ metaphorically, Strategos.” She looked up at him with a small smile. “Of course, I’m still plannin’ on yo’ makin’ it non-metaphorical soon. Or I will have to hurt yo’.”

“Can’t have that.” Eric straightened and pulled his uniform blouse on. “Let’s go then, Decurion. It seems we have an appointment to keep with dishonor and inglory.”

2357 Hours
Spirit of Rio

Julius Rosemont finally felt safe enough to take one shaking hand off the control yoke and wipe blood out of his eyes. Spirit of Rio hadn’t had nearly enough time to get away from their bomb before detonation, and he still wasn’t sure how they hadn’t been flipped over or dashed to the ground by the blast. As it was, he’d had to fight like a demon to get her back under control before they smacked in, and his head was still oozing blood from where it had smashed against the instrument panel. But they were still alive.

For the moment, at least. As he swept his eyes over the instrument panel, Rosemont’s face drew tighter. Engine one seemed to be leaking oil, and both of them were overheated. Even with the auxiliary fuel injection off and the cowl flaps all the way open, he didn’t know how long they’d last. The plane was out of trim, wobbling from side to side and nosing up every time he eased off the yoke, indicating that something in the airframe had bent. He keyed the intercom, wondering if that was out too.

“Everyone alive?”

“I hope so.” Fujita’s voice was dry as ever. “If my spirit is in Yasukuni Shrine, I’m putting in a complaint about the quarters. Nav radar’s gone, my sextant’s smashed. We’re down to compass and chart navigation. I suggest north.” Rosemont laughed. North was Switzerland. Anywhere else was Draka territory.

“Yeah.” Walker sounded pretty shaky, but they probably all did. “Half my scopes are blown out and I’m really glad I had my flash shield down, but I’m here. Got tail radar and the guns, not much else.”

“Okay.” Rosemont took a shaky breath. “We’re not in such hot shape, but it’s less than half an hour to the Swiss border. We can make it.”

“Maybe not, Skipper.” Walker’s voice was tight. “I’ve got something on the tail radar. Draka fighters…and they're probably just a bit unhappy with us."
Last edited by ChaserGrey on 2010-12-27 12:39am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Proof Through The Night: Yet Another Kill-The-Draka Fic

Post by ChaserGrey » 2010-12-23 12:30am

2300 Hours
Seventh Draka Army Field Headquarters

The situation room was quiet when they walked in, all the senior commanders staring at him- less Vorhees, but he somehow doubted Vorhees would be making any more staff meetings. Eric swept his eyes over the room.


Thunorssen was the only one to break the silence. “Sir…we are preparing flareships and a photo recon flight to look the Genoa port over as soon as possible. But realistically…”

“We have to assume a total loss, yes.” Eric seated himself carefully at the head of the table. “Any more wonderful news I should know about?”

“Easthaven.” In the nightmare world they’d entered, Thunorssen just had to say the name of the city. “From the other carrier. They’d evacuated some, but not enough- ‘nother few thousand Citizens gone. The other cities in Abyssinia Province are pretty far north, so the Yanks might still have bombers en route. Or they might be plannin’ to hit them tomorrow night. Not much we can do either way. Full-scale uprisings in some of the Combine areas, those that are left, and not enough troops to put them down.” Eric put his hands on the table, willing himself to calm.

“Suggestions?” Vashon, the Security man, cleared his throat.

“Suh…we continue our retreat. In another day, two at most, we’ll be inside Italy. We can link up with the Draka there, get a critical mass together and put the serfs down in at least part of the peninsula. Get as many as we can out of the Police Zone, either prop up Syria and Araby or evacuate as best we can, and hunker down. Preserve the State, Suh.”

“Is that yo’ recommendation, Strategos?”

“It is, Suh.”

“And a good one, too.” Eric kept his voice quiet, but didn’t bother to hide the venom. “Except fo’ the part where’s it’s fuckin’ idiotic! Strategos Vashon, yo’ were in the room when I talked to Roosevelt, at your own insistence. You heard what he said. Do we go to Italy, do we go to Syria, do we go to fuckin’ Siberia, it don’t matter. The Yankees will be back just as soon as they can reload their carriers with mo’ bombs, and they’ll finish us. Hell’s bells, as it is we’ll be lucky to keep the locals around here and our own Janissaries from slittin’ our throats! They hit us with another round of nukes, and we are fuckin’ gone!”

“Suh.” Vashon stared into the distance. “Regarding the Janissaries, we do have nerve agent-“

“And they have no protective suits. Which is grand, but we are in close quarters with them, and they outnumber us four to one. Even if we have enough agent to kill them all- and please, yo’ and I both know that those numbers about needing a drop or two to kill are under perfect lab conditions only- it would take time to disperse it. Time during which the ones not getting’ gassed could still do too much damage. It would cost them, probably wipe them out, but we’d be just as dead.”

“Only one thing left, then.” Vashon paused. “Fenris.”

Eric laughed humorlessly. “Grand idea. Laager up, kill as many human beins’ as we can out of pure spite, save the last bullet for ourselves. Security’s perfect little plan, ends with everyone dead so nobody can tell anyone anythin’. No thank yo’, I believe I’ll pass.”

Vashon’s eyes darkened. He took a step towards Eric, Thunorssen and some of the other staff types falling in behind him. The rest of the Draka in the room kept their seats, either staring at Vashon’s group with the fixed look of a combat veteran about to take on an enemy or nervously flicking their eyes back and forth between the two.

“May I ask what yo’ plan is then, Arch-Strategos?” Eric nodded, reaching into his battledress tunic with elaborate casualness. Drawing out a pack of cigarettes, he selected one and let it, taking a puff before answering in the same tone of wary formality.

“Yo’ may, Strategos. I plan to take the only option open to us. I will contact President Roosevelt, and arrange to surrender the Seventh Draka Army on his stated terms.”

“Yo what?” Vashon took a step forward, his confederates behind him. “May I remind yo’, von Shrakenberg, that you are speaking treason against the State and Race. The Race does not surrender. It dies, but it does not surrender.” Eric pushed himself to his feet and glared at the older man, taking a step forward. He saw Vashon tense, and kept his hands carefully at his sides.

“That’s been our way, hasn’t it, Vashon?” His words were quiet, barely above a whisper. “It’s how the Draka have always been. Nothing matters but ourselves, our will, and to Hell with the rest of the world, hey? We use the past as a weapon and the future, pfft-“ he snapped his fingers. “We say we do what we do fo’ the future, the destiny of the Race, but it’s all horseshit. We do it because we want to see the world truckle under and play pony for us, and to hell what it does to them. Or us. Or our children. Well, that’s goin’ to have to stop. The rest of the world’s just served notice that it’s goin’ to have to stop, one way or the other, and they givin’ us a chance to stop it ourselves before they wipe us out. Which is a hell of a lot more than we’d do, were we in their position.” He paused. “Do you know I have a daughter, Vashon?”

“It’s in your krypteia file, von Shrakenberg.” The Security man was purple-faced now, and snarling. “Not that it matters. Yo’ve said enough in the last thirty seconds to put a whole magazine worth of bullets in yo’ head.”

“Ah, good. Then I can save myself the tedious task of tellin’ the tale again. What matters, Vashon, is that when I had to choose between what was good for her and what was good for me- I chose her. I always will choose her, and the children I haven’t had yet. I choose life, Vashon. Choose it over my own pride, my own honor, and who I am. I choose that rather than death, the last dishonor from which there is no recovery.” He locked eyes with the Headhunter. “Do enough join me, and do we somehow keep the world from killin’ us all off…well, then we’ll have to see what futures we can make.”

“Yo’ not makin’ anything, von Shrakenberg.” Vashon’s hand was at his sidearm, ready to snap it up and fire in one motion. “Yo’ can’t outdraw me.”

“No.” Eric took a drag on his cigarette, then carefully blew smoke into the other man’s face. “Then again, I don’t have to.”

There was a muffled thumping from behind Vashon, and the Security man’s eyes bulged with surprise and hydrostatic shock as his chest jerked with the impact of low-velocity bullets. Behind him, Thunorssen and the other conspirators stumbled, and fell. Eric took another drag on his cigarette when all the bodies had hit the floor, then looked over at Sophie, who had shifted to cover the rest of the room with her Tolgren machine pistol. He looked over at her, and was rewarded with a small smile. Eric cleared his throat.

“Anyone else?” A pause. “Good. Somebody get a long-range radio and start callin’ on Roosevelt’s frequency. I want to see all the Master Sergeants of the Janissary regiments in here soonest, and a complete report of what supplies we got out of Genoa before it went. Inform anyone who's still answerin' the radio of what we doin’, and offer to let them join us. Then we-“

The room broke into activity around the corpses of the Draka on the floor. The only ones to take notice of them were the flies, which had already landed and begun to lay their eggs in the dead flesh.
Last edited by ChaserGrey on 2010-12-27 12:44am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Proof Through The Night: Yet Another Kill-The-Draka Fic

Post by ChaserGrey » 2010-12-23 06:28pm

2315 Hours
Spirit of Rio

“Here they come!” Walker’s voice was tight with tension over the intercom. Rosemont barely paid attention, his eyes fixed on the instruments, the airspeed indicator that was wavering past 300 knots and the altimeter hovering somewhere around 500 feet barometric as they shot through the foothills of the Alps. He was in the zone now, a place he hadn’t been since he lead his squadron back to their carrier over a pitch-dark Bismarck Sea, and before that off the African coast on his way to Cape Town. The charts he’d looked at before takeoff were bright in his mind, and with the radar out only the instincts and reflexes of a seasoned mail pilot kept him from spreading Spirit of Rio across the side of a mountain.

“What do we have, Guns?” It was almost like listening to someone else speaking in his voice, as he banked the plane around a hilltop and shot across the valley below.

“Two fighters, Skipper, coming in fast and high! Unknown type, something we haven’t seen before. Too fast for Night Owls, too slow for Peregrines. My guess is some kind of day fighter working off a ground controller, but I dunno how they’re getting us on radar.”

“I do.” Fujita laughed darkly. “The Snakes wanted to make sure the Swiss didn’t make trouble while they Yoked Spain, so there are Watchtower sets all up along the Alps. Closer we get to the border, the better return they’re going to have on us.”

“Bloody marvelous. Were you going to tell us about this then, Fuji?”

“Only if it came up. It’s not as if we can do anything about it.”

“Point.” Rosemont nudged the Spirit’s control yoke to the left, dipping the wing and curving them neatly around a mountain peak jutting up out of the dark Earth. “How long, Walker?”

“Starting their runs now. Any fancy pilot tricks, Skipper?”

“Sorry, Jimmie.” Rosemont pulled them up and along an upward slope, narrowly dodging the snow-capped crest. “I think missing the ground is about all I can manage right now.”

“Ah well. Cheers.” As Walker scanned the sky through the back of the Spirit’s canopy, he saw a pair of brilliant white lights snap on above them, then swoop down in deep power dives like angry ghosts. He pushed down on the butterfly grip and tried to center the leader in his ring sight, sqeezing grips and sending a stream of 20mm shells into the night. The Draka fighter showed no response, and he cursed under his breath. Both tried to pull into position behind the Spirit, but there was something wrong with the leader’s controls- while the wingman pulled out without a problem he only managed to pull from a deep dive into a shallow one. There was no time to react or compensate at the altitudes the Spirit was flying at, and the Draka Falcon fighter disintegrated into a fiery mess as it plowed into the Italian countryside at nearly four hundred knots.

Jimmie Walker stared at the sight- only for a moment, but it was a moment he and his crew no longer had. Before he could slew the sight around to aim the turret at the other Snake it was already closing for the attack, malevolent orange light winking from its guns.

In the cockpit, Rosemont felt the Spirit shudder under the impacts, felt the yoke go mushy in his hands and the pedals go slack as his elevators and rudder were shot away. The Spirit shot out over an ancient pine forest and into the clear, moonlight reflecting off the vast expanse of water that was suddenly below them. Even as he mentally cursed the lack of cover Rosemont recognized its long, winding shape from the maps he’d studied in Reprisal’s intelligence center what seemed a lifetime ago. Lago Maggiore, nestled among the Alps and running north into Switzerland.

The Draka Falcon came in again, its tracers lashing in Rosemont’s peripheral vision and stitching across their right wing. Spirit of Rio staggered, airspeed indicator dipping as the engine nacelle disintegrated into a pile of whirling metal fragments. Instinct slammed the throttle for the other engine forward until it screamed protest, fighting to hold the crippled plane in the air as Rosemont pulled up into a climb. Maybe, just maybe he could get enough altitude to glide them to the other shore. The Falcon shot past, crossing in front of the nose and looping easily up and over for another firing run. This time it was head on, the Falcon’s prop coming straight at him out of the darkness. Brilliant white sparks danced across the nose in front of Rosemont’s eyes, a machine gun bullet starring the glass in front of his eyes and whizzing past his shoulder.

He could see the northern shoreline now- visible mainly as a black void without any reflected moonlight to mark its surface. It rushed closer as the Spirit forged forwards, air rushing in through the bullet hole in the canopy with a mad, piping whistle that seemed to merge with the strained scream of the last Allison. Safety was achingly near, almost close enough to vanish under the nose and sweep under them, but the Draka Falcon was bending around again, coming in for what would surely be the final pass. No orange sparks reaching back in the rearview mirrors- Walker wasn’t firing. The Spirit shuddered as tracers began to strike home.

The eye saw. The hands and feet reacted, before the mind could form the intent. With her last bit of power the Spirit of Rio snapped up into a half barrel roll, inverting and barely clearing the crest of the ridge that had appeared out of the night. The Falcon tried to follow, but all the agoge trained reflexes in the world didn’t match a veteran’s pilot touch, the feeling in his spine for just how much his mount could take. The pursuing machine slammed into the hilltop, scattering itself across the landscape in a smoking ruin. There was no fire. No explosion. No marker for what was perhaps the ultimate grave of the Draka.

There was no time to celebrate for Julius Rosemont. The last strain had sent the temperature gauges of his last remaining engine far past their red lines, and already he could see the red glow of fire starting to lick from the outside of the nacelle. He shoved the yoke over, using the last power he could wring from the faithful Spirit to get her right side up. He mashed the button down and screamed into the intercom, hoping it wasn’t shot away or blanked out by the mad piping that filled his cockpit.

“Eject, eject, eject!” An eternal moment, and then the glass nose in front of him shattered, a bright yellow flash, and a pair of steel rails were sticking up in his vision. Fujita’s, guiding his seat up and clear of the Revenant’s high tail.

The nose began to dip, and Rosemont could feel the Spirit edging towards a stall from which she would never recover. He yanked his oxygen hose and interphone cords clear, straightened his spine, and pulled the yellow-striped handle between his legs.

There was an almighty bang, and a giant slapped him open-palmed across the face. When he opened his eyes again it was because he had fallen out of his seat, and his parachute had jerked him from a terminal-velocity fall to a gentle, floating descent. Below him he could see the yellow-orange streamer of flame from the Spirit of Rio’s left engine, falling away into the blackness until it struck the ground and sent a last fireball up into the night.

Rosemont fell through the blackness, unable to see anything but a few vague shapes by the light of the moon and the burning wreck of his plane. When he did see the ground it was almost too late, but he managed a decent tuck-and-roll the way he’d learned a lifetime ago in survival school. His parachute caught the wind and threatened to drag him against a tree at the edge of the clearing where he’d come down, until his fingers found the Koch fittings on his chest and released them. Freed, the parachute’s white sheet climbed away into the night sky, circling once in the wind before it was gone.

Rosemont laid on his back and groaned out loud. His whole body ached, his spine felt like it had been played like an accordion, and somebody inside his skull was pounding on it with a sledgehammer. It was a long minute before he managed to draw a decent deep breath, and another before he sat up. A twig snapped in the woods, then another, and Rosemont wheeled around, stumbling to his feet as he fumbled for his revolver. Just as he got it out and managed to raise it in one shaking hand, he could see a human figure at the edge of the treeline, holding a pistol on him. Rosemont’s eyes were wide, his heart pounding. In the haze of adrenaline and pain pounding through his head, nothing seemed impossible. An ex-SS partisan band. Draka deep reconnaissance patrol.

The figure took a step forward limping a bit on one leg, and Rosemont looked into Kenichi Fujita’s face. For a moment they just stood there, gaping, holding their pistols on each other. Then Fujita started laughing, and Rosemont started too, and before they knew it they were embracing and laughing together, because they were alive, whole, back on solid ground, the task they’d set for themselves accomplished. When they moved on from that place, Rosemont’s arm around Fujita’s shoulder to help the man limp through the woods, they were still laughing- every time they trailed off, it seemed one of them would start again and get the other going. They crashed through the forest, heading for the firelight.

Spirit of Rio’s wreck was only burning in a few places by the time they reached it. It lay in the middle of a newly made clearing, the trees around the edges fire-blackened and split from the explosion. One of the wings stuck out of the ground at a crazy angle, but other than that the only recognizable piece of the plane was the rear fuselage. And it was there that they found Jimmie Walker, eyes open and staring up at the sky, his throat ripped away in a bloody mess by a Draka machine gun bullet.

Rosemont stared down at Walker through a glassy pane of shock, a familiar black bile rising in his throat. This wasn’t right. It had been his sin they were blotting out. Walker had never supported an alliance with the Draka, had never done all the other thousand things Rosemont hated himself so viciously for. It shouldn’t be him lying there dead.

“It should have been me.” He wasn’t aware he had spoken aloud until Fujita said,

“But it wasn’t. What now?” After a long moment, Rosemont knelt down and reached through the twisted remnants of the canopy frame. He took one of Walker’s dog tags from around his neck, leaving the other one in place to identify the body. Reached up, and gently closed Walker’s eyes. Some hidden impulse from childhood told him he should say something. He tried to recite the 23rd Psalm, but it wouldn’t come out right- his head was still pounding and stuffed with cotton, and he kept mixing the phrases up after the bit about laying down in green pastures. After a while he gave up and just said,

“Goodbye, Jimmie. Thank you.” Next to him, Fujita knelt down and reached into his flight suit, drawing out a still miraculously unbroken bottle- the sake they’d all shared the first night. He reached down and left it by Walker’s side in the ejection seat, saying quietly,

“See you in Valhalla, Jimmie.” Rosemont glanced over, and somehow Fujita managed a wan grin. “I’m sure they’ll let me visit.”

They were halfway down the mountain, two hours later, when a Swiss militia patrol found them.
Last edited by ChaserGrey on 2010-12-27 12:59am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Proof Through The Night: Yet Another Kill-The-Draka Fic

Post by ChaserGrey » 2010-12-25 01:18am

A/N: Well, here it is. The Epilogue, as a Christmas present to SDN. Hope you all enjoy. And thank you, once again, for coming on this weird and wild trip with me. I'd never have finished if it weren't for the constant encouragement, challenge, debate and throwing of brickbats.

As is the way of most epilogues, this one is about endings. And beginnings.

Eternal Father, strong to save
Whose arm hath bound the restless wave
Who bids the mighty Ocean deep
Its own appointed limits keep
Oh hear us when we cry to thee
For those in peril on the sea

Lord guard and guide the men who fly
Through Thy great kingdom in the sky
Be with them always in the air
In darkn’ing storms or sunlight fair
Oh hear us when we lift our prayer
For those in peril in the air
- Navy Hymn

March 25, 1945 0645 Hours
Aboard USS
Northeast of Sicily

USS Reprisal was going. The red rising sun dappled her haze-grey flanks as it rose above the horizon, lighting the crippled carrier. Smoke still poured from her wreck, in the places where Calvin and his engineering gang hadn’t been able to get the fires out before the last vestiges of power and water failed. The great ship was settling onto her side, the outrigger island almost dipped down to the water edge as weakened bulkheads progressively gave in and vented their compartments to the sea. As water rushed in air roared out of the ship in immense gasps, like the dying breaths of a giant.

From the conning tower of the transport submarine Leviathan, Commander Guitierrez watched his ship bleakly. She hadn’t moved since Calvin had cut her power nearly twelve hours before, save to drift with the currents and movements of the tide. They had fought to save her, but in his heart Guitierrez knew that they had all given up hope when her great propellers came to a stop. She had stopped being a ship, then, and become a slowly dying friend whose end could be eased but not averted.

His only consolation was that none of his men were going with her. The wounded had gone onto Riviera, Wickett, and Rolfe by boat, then as many of their comrades as could slide down the ropes and onto their decks. The destroyers had left for Gibraltar along with the crippled Altoona hours before. The rest of his crew had gone onto Leviathan, her sisters Kraken and Sea Serpent, and the converted Japanese floatplane carrier subs I-401, I-402. and I-403. Guitierrez had been the last one to leave her decks, twenty minutes before, and now Kraken and I-402 were hurriedly pulling the last of the swimmers out of the water. The message they’d gotten from Washington a few hours before said the Snakes in this area had thrown in the towel, but nobody wanted to be the one to test that.

As Guitierrez watched, the Kraken’s crew hauled the last man aboard and the massive submarine swung around, heading west with the equally large Japanese boat in tow. Their crews hustled the last rescued men below and hurried below, ready to submerge at the first sign of an enemy plane.

“It’s time.” Leviathan’s Captain lowered his binoculars and looked over at Guitierrez, who slumped forward against the bridge rail. The last of his men were aboard, the day was coming with the threat of Draka bombers. And Guitierrez, who had been Reprisal’s captain for fifteen hours, had one last duty to do by her. He picked up the bridge phone, already set for the control room, and spoke in a flat voice.

“Fire one.” He paused. “Fire two. Fire three. Fire four.” With each number, Leviathan shook as she fired a Mark 14 torpedo at the doomed carrier. An eternal three minutes later, four white geysers of water sprouted along her flank, carving a new rent in her side. The red rays of the morning sun traced up along Reprisal’s side as she rolled over, and then with a final loud rush of air disappeared beneath the sun-washed waves.

Commander Guitierrez came to attention and saluted as the last of his ship disappeared. A moment later Leviathan’s captain helped him below, holding his elbow and steadying him as he would an old man who had just watched a dear friend pass away.

Men make history, and not the other way around.
– Harry S Truman

March 25, 1945. 0700 Hours Local Time
The White House, Washington, D.C.

“The situation looks like it’s firming up, Sir.” Captain Weatherly’s voice was raw and cracked, but he wouldn’t have missed delivering this briefing for the world. “The Draka forces in Europe look like they’re either trying to break through to von Shrakenberg’s enclave and join the capitulation, or they’ve decided to fight and die where they stand. They’re spread-out enough that we think the surviving European resistance bands can oblige them. Africa’s a mess, but it looks like most of the Citizen population is trying to withdraw back into Abyssinia Province. We project that the Draka will be able to hold a big enough perimeter there to keep their serfs from lynching them all before they can evacuate. The rest of the continent is sliding into chaos, Sir. We’re going to need massive food and reconstruction aid for both Africa and Europe if we’re going to avoid mass death by famine, never mind getting some kind of actual society working there. The Draka don’t look like they’re leaving much behind.”

“As we anticipated.” Franklin Roosevelt’s voice was weak, but clear. “The aid convoys?”

“First ones have already sailed under escort, Sir. But it’s going to take more than a few care packages. We’re talking about a major sustained effort here.”

“A major sustained giveaway.” Congressman Carl Vinson grimaced from his place in the corner. “Billion of dollars, if not trillions, to get these places on their feet. Are you sure some sort of loan-“

“Loans only work with people who have money to pay them back.” Vice President Truman’s voice was dry. “The people in those places aren’t going to have any in the forseeable future. Besides, it’s not about money.” Vinson opened his mouth, but Truman held up a hand. “It’s about making sure those places don’t fall into chaos. If we don’t start fixing it now, they’ll be spawning new problems for us in fifty years. Or the Japanese will step in and help them.”

“So? They’re our allies.”

“Against the Draka, Congressman. The Draka are gone.” Truman almost snapped that last, but quelled when Roosevelt held up a hand.

“Carl, Harry's right. The Draka are taken care of, or will be once we finish staking their Snake hearts out in the sun. But we have to start thinking about what comes next.” He leaned back in his chair, taking a deep, shaky breath. “We have to start thinking about the rest of this century. Now, about those holdouts.”

“Yessir.” Weatherly looked down at his notes, glad to be back on solid ground again. "A couple cities in the Draka Police Zone have announced continued resistance, but with massive uprisings and no help coming from the outside we project they'll be unable to hold. The situation in Asia Minor is more worrying. The leading figure there seems to be a high-ranking Security officer named Louise Gayner. She has denounced von Shrakenberg as a traitor to the State and Race and called on Draka forces to rally to her in Syria Province. Turned their chemical weapons loose on any serfs that even looked at them crossways, and they appear to be planning a massive civil defense program. They mean business, Mister President.”

Roosevelt shrugged, and coughed. “We always knew there’d be irreconcilables. Admiral King?” Ernest King nodded.

“My preference would be to hit them as soon as possible, Mister President. We could look at land-based bombers, but that’s a stretch even if we can talk the Swiss into letting us station some B-29s from their territory. Setting up The Taos Project is moving to series production, but it’ll be a while before we have any more atomic weapons.

“I’d say we wait six months. Harass them in the meantime, launch carrier raids, take care of the other Draka to make sure nobody else gets any bright ideas, and gather our forces. By September or October, Kearsarge should be through her trials. Then we’ll load both United States and Kearsarge up, send in the regular carriers after them, and land Marines or Army troops to finish the job.”

“Make it so.” Out of the corner of his eye, he could see Truman nodding as well. Roosevelt leaned back and closed his eyes. “Anything else, Captain?”

“Uh, yessir. One item.” Weatherly flipped his papers over and brought up a message slip. “This came in from the Japanese embassy just now. Prime Minister Yamamoto sends his congratulations, and a suggestion for your speech announcing the events of the past couple days.” Weatherly cleared his throat and read, keeping an absolutely straight face.

“Yesterday, March 23rd, 1945, a date which will live in history, the Domination of the Draka was suddenly and deliberately attacked by air and naval forces belonging to the United States of America…” Roosevelt’s chuckle cut him off.

“Very good. Captain, please convey my compliments back to the Prime Minister, and remind him that no one likes a smartass.”

Weatherly grinned. “Can do, Sir.”

“Thank you.” Roosevelt tilted his head back back. “Gentlemen, if there’s nothing else I must ask you to excuse me. I find that I am very, very tired.” After they had gone, he remained in the office, looking out the window at Washington. It was spring, and soon the cherry trees would be in bloom.

“So very tired,” he repeated. “The job done at last, the danger all passed, and I am so very, very tired…”

That was how they found him, an hour later, slumped over in his wheelchair. There was shock, of course, and dismay, but not so much as there might have been. One of the White House staff went to fetch the President’s doctor. Another for his wife Eleanor. Another called Vice President Truman, and then the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court.

My father and I had been separated by a great dark river, ever since he cast me on its waters as a child in the hope that there would be a better place for me on the other side. As an adult, I had sought to know him as best I could from the other bank, peering out into the gloom for a hint of something that would let me fill out the bare sketches of memory I had.

Then that river vanished in nuclear fire. The Domination that regarded me as an escaped serf was gone. And in the terrible bright light of that new day, I found that I could walk across the blasted, dry riverbed and look my fill. I could look into his eyes, touch him, examine in the minutest detail what I had fought for so long to glimpse. And though the way was long and dangerous, I also knew that, perhaps for the first time in his life, he might need me.

So it was that I came to my father’s house.”

- From “Daughter to Darkness: A Life” by Anna von Shrakenberg

June 3rd, 1945 1200 Hours
Draka Citizen Force Enclave, La Spezia, Italy

Eric von Shrakenberg stood at the bottom of the gangway and faced the trio of hard men who had come to see him off. Two of them had skin black as eggplants, shaved heads and the expressions of wary lion-dogs, while the third had the swarthy skin and black hair of a Turk but the same expression. Serf number tattoos stood out on all their necks. Their names were Mboya, Kuntu, and Assad. Ten weeks ago each had been a Janissary Master Sergeant, the senior subject-race man in a division. Now they were the ruling junta of the mass of ex-Janissaries encamped around La Spezia, waiting their turn for the evacuation ships. Eric nodded to them, receiving no gesture in return.

“Gentlemen.” He swept his eyes over them warily. “As yo’ are all aware, this is the last Citizen Force evacuation ship. With my departure here, the La Spezia enclave will be yours for whatever purpose you see fit.” He grinned ferally. “Thank yo’ for helping me keep our little powder keg from exploding for the past months.”

“Save it, von Shrakenberg,” rumbled Master Sergant Mboya in a voice deep and rumbling enough to be an earthquake. “If you’d had a little less of that nerve agent, of if we’d had any suits, we’d have marched right in here and stuck poles up all your asses. Let yo’ Masters-“ he loaded that word with more contempt than Eric had ever heard, enough to scorch the air- “see what it’s like to get Abdul the Turk’s lovin’.” Sergeant Assad grinned at that. Eric felt his own smile widen.

“Well, that is why we didn’t give yo’ any in the first place. In any case, missed yo’ chance, hey?”

“You think so?” Master Sergeant Kuntu had a slightly more singsong voice, that spoke of a childhood spent speaking mainly Swahili. “You’re not going far, von Shrakenberg. Just to Madagascar, right next door to our new homes.”

Master Sergeant Assad took up the thread. “You are safe for now, Snake. The Americans have spared you, and now we must get our own houses in order with their aid. But make no mistake. You Draka have written out a long, long account for yourselves these past two centuries. In five years, in ten, in twenty or in fifty- we will be here. And we will come to collect. From you, and the traitors you take with you.”

“Well.” Eric shrugged. “I can’t help it if some of yo’ people decided to take my offer of Metic Citizenship to stay with the men and women they felt a bond to. And in five years, or ten, or twenty…I’ll worry about it then. Maybe the horse will learn to sing.” The Master Sergeants had no answer to that, and he thought he saw a flicker of respect- however grudging- on their faces. Best to leave before they thought of some way to even the score.

“Good day, gentlemen.” With that, he turned and trotted up the gangway. The Odysseus had been a passenger liner before the war, plying the Mediterranean and Atlantic under the Draka commercial flag. Now, along with anything else left floating under Draka colors and a good number of ships on loan from the Americans, she was taking Draka from the remaining enclaves in Italy to their exile on Madagascar. Other ships were shuttling between ports on the east coast of Africa and Madagascar, making much quicker trips but moving so, so many more people. Even after all those killed in the nuclear bombings, in the riots and uprisings and breakdown of transport and industry after, there were still enough Draka left that they’d be hard pressed to make Madagascar feed them.

Well, they’d have to.

He stayed on deck to watch the undocking, then took a commander’s privilege to commandeer the observation platform above the navigation bridge to watch Italy and his people’s shattered dreams of conquest and rulership vanish into the distance. That was where Sophie found him, a bottle in hand.

“Eric.” She sat down next to him, wrapped her arms around him. “What’re yo’ doin’ up here?”

“Drinkin’.” His voice was only minimally slurred. “Toastin’ the end of the Domination. Whatever we make where we goin…it won’t be the Domination. Can’t be.” He lifted the bottle. “Drink wit’ me? Last of a good vintage.” It was, too- Oakenwald Kijaffa, 1944, the last there would ever be. This year’s crop of cherries had died from the fallout off the Archona bomb, and Oakenwald had burned to the ground.

Sophie shook her head. “Love to. Can’t.”

“Can’t?” Eric looked over at her, one blond eyebrow arched. “We off duty til we get to Madagascar, Decurion. Even were the Yankees inclined to let me command anyone or anything, we not set up fo’ it here. Once we land on Madagascar they talkin’ about dragooning me into running the whole show, and that oughta be two full time jobs fo’ the rest of our days.” He pushed the bottle under her nose. “C’mon. Drink wit’ me to the end of Empire.”

“Thor God of Thunder.” Sophie batted the bottle away, her eyes blazing with that familiar annoyance as she stood, hands on hips, looking down at him. “Eric, I swear that sometimes yo’ are the densest, most oblivious human bein’ on the planet. How yo’ made it through childhood without you stepped on a black mamba snake lookin’ up at the clouds is a mystery to me.” When he still looked puzzled, she leaned down. “I can’t drink, Eric.” Further. “Been throwin’ up in the mornings, Eric.”

Now his face probably looked like he’d been hit between the eyes with a baseball bat. “Yo’ mean you-“ Sophie giggled.

“Well, it does happen, Strategos, when two people do what we been doin’ these past four years. Hope I don’ have to explain that part to yo' too.” Eric goggled for a minute, then did the only thing that came to mind. He stumbled up to one knee and looked up at her.

“Sophie, will you marry me?”

She looked up Heavenward. “Mother Freya, now he asks. I thought I was goin’ to have to thump him over the head, drag him to the altar, an’ make it a Holbars wedding.” Then she looked down at him and smiled, warm and genuine before they tumbled down together in a comfortable heap. “Of course I will, Eric.”

He raised the bottle and took down the last swallow of brandy from his father’s plantation. The other drinks had been to the past. This one was to the future, as Odysseus sailed into it.

For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity above and beyond the call of duty while assigned to Heavy Attack Squadron One, United States Navy on March 23rd-24th, 1945. On the first night of the war Commander Rosemont’s dynamic and inspiring leadership was instrumental in allowing his crew to destroy a heavily defended enemy target crucial to the success of the overall strike effort. After returning to his ship and finding himself the senior officer among his squadron’s survivors, Cmdr Rosemont unhesitatingly assumed command and lead his men through the day of enemy air attacks that followed. That night, he devised an attack plan to penetrate enemy air defenses and then personally lead his squadron on a mission that resulted in the destruction of the last enemy-held port in Europe. Commander Rosemont’s skill, courage, and outstanding combat leadership were in the highest traditions of the Naval Service.
-Citation accompanying award of Medal of Honor to Commander Julius Rosemont, USN.

August 9th, 1948
Philadelphia Naval Shipyard, United States

Commander Julius Rosemont stood at attention on the review stand, under the great grey bulk of the ship that he knew would be his home for the next several years. Around him, dressed like him in their frost-white tropical uniforms, were the men of the reconstituted VAH-1. Saint-Laurence and his crew were still there, and one or two of the replacement crews had moved up to the regulars and could still talk about those terrifying days in the Mediterranean aboard the old Reprisal. The rest were new. Some had flown with the Harbingers of VAH-2 in MONGOOSE or against Gayner’s holdouts in ’46, but most of them were new recruits or transfers from other branches of the service. One or two foreign volunteers here and there, but those that had survived MONGOOSE had mostly been quietly encouraged to leave the Service in the months afterwards.

For a moment, the sight made his vision waver. Applebaum. Dortmunder. Yarrow. Quint Flannery. They all deserved to be here more than he did. Where were they?

Gone. He knew that. And the only thing one Julius Rosemont could do about it was to soldier on and make that fact worth something.

He relaxed slightly, letting his weight onto his heels at parade rest. The ceremony was almost over, and he caught Kenichi Fujita’s eye among the black-suited Japanese Navy officers in attendance. Ever irrepressible, Fuji winked and gave his old pilot a grin. Rosemont stifled an answering smile, and just nodded his head. Relations between the U.S. and Japan might be worsening every time you opened a newspaper or read an intel bulletin, but tonight none of that would matter. Tonight they’d go out, paint the town, and just remember.

The new commander of VAH-1 turned his attention back to the speaker. He didn’t want to miss this part. Mrs. Maura Applebaum was speaking to the crowd. She gave the crowd a smile, and Rosemont smiled to himself. She really was doing better. He’d made sure of it, before allowing her to accept this. Applebaum had been one of his, and VAH-1 looked after its own. He’d made it a point to let all the new men know that.

“…and so I am pleased to launch this new ship, to take up the work my husband began. I know that he would have been proud to serve on her, the first of a new type of aircraft carrier able to perform every mission. A larger carrier. A super carrier.

“But I know you didn’t all come here to let me talk, so let me get on with it.”

The ship’s sponsor lifted her bottle of champagne and swung it in a wide arc. The glass shattered on the supercarrier’s grey steel bow, and over the roar of the crowd Rosemont could barely hear her voice as its immense hull slid into the river.

“I christen thee Reprisal!”


It is rarely given to we mere mortals to know when a great age in our history has passed, and a new one begun. Usually history is a slow process, like the upthrusting and wearing away of mountains, and we can only see its ebb and flow from the safe distance of decades or centuries.

The passing of the Domination of the Draka was not one of those times. In two nights and one day, an empire that had spread itself over more than a third of the planet and promised to seize much more died. We all know what came after- the Hard Years, the chaos and famines, the pointless wars as new nations carved themselves out of the corpse of the Domination. But I believe we think too little about those two nights, and the dozen or so airplanes, that levered the world onto a different course.

Oh, we sentimentalize, and wrap it in Hollywood glamour, but we don’t think. We don’t think about an entire continent crushed under a boot, and the promise of more to follow. And we don’t think of a people- my people- caught in a web of terrible choices and crimes that had forced them on a never ending cycle of conquest, oppression, and human misery. We don’t think of all the human beings wasting their potential as slaves or slavemasters, and of the few dozen men who woke them from two centuries of nightmare and gave them the one thing they thought they would never have. Choices.

They must have made a mighty roar, those Allison turboprops, thundering over the Mediterranean and the African veldt that night. They must have, for their echoes have yet to vanish from this Earth.”

-Yolande Ingolfsson, Nobel Prize in Literature Lecture, 1984
Last edited by ChaserGrey on 2010-12-27 01:25am, edited 1 time in total.
Lt. Brown, Mr. Grey, and Comrade Syeriy on Let's Play BARIS

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