Harry & Ginny
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Marquis Black - The Dark Wars: Empire's Rebirth
Chapter 9 - Chapter IX: Battle of Salt Lake City
AN: Please note that the following battle, by the start of the chapter, has been going on for a good while-thus explaining the losses on either side. Also, as many of you will see, the chapter is focused on two things: Jeremy Hawke's actions as Imperial Admiral, and those of the American Admiral, who I shan't name just yet.
Also, please note that not -all- of the Imperial Fleet is at Salt Lake City. Much of it has had to stay behind and fight off pursuing elements of the US Air Fleet from the push into the heartlands. Thus, only a fraction of it (albeit a powerful fraction) actually fights in this battle.
Lastly, as a note to any reviewers and readers I have from Utah, let me explicitly state that the Mormons have had -nothing- to do with the POW prison outside of SLC. They are, in fact, among the most adamant resistance fighters against the Collaborator government.
"Gold Five, I'm hit!"
"Iris Two, I can't shake him!"
"Fire Four, I got him, Lead!"
"Alpha Six, bank left, Seven!"
"Opus Nine, eject, Two, you can't take much more damage!"
Hawke scowled as another Lambda icon went dark on his monitor. How the hell had the enemy known to attack here? Who had betrayed the Imperials' secret? How much did they know?
Hawke cursed as the ship shook once more, signalling another hit.
"We just took a blow to the bow! Third deck reports fires and decompression!"
"Seal off the damaged portions!" snapped Hawke as he watched two more Lambda fighters disappear from his monitor. "Send a medical squad to heal the wounded on the double!"
"Aye, aye, sir!"
"Concentrate maximum firepower!" he ordered the weapons crewman. "Target the closest battleship's shields."
"Concentrating firepower," announced the technician. "Targeting the USS Defender…"
"Fire at will!" shouted Hawke as another shot made the ship reverberate.
"Enemy shields down to fifteen percent!"
The ship shook again. "We've been hit! Deck two, sector five reports hull breach!"
"Seal it off!" ordered Hawke. He cursed as another three Lambda fighters went down.
"Redemption, this is Alpha Lead! We need help out here! We're dropping like flies!"
"Alpha Lead, this is Admiral Hawke. We're sorry, but you're not the only ones in trouble!"
"Where are our reinforcements?" screamed a voice through the comm channel just before it was cut off by static. Another Lambda sign disappeared.
Hawke looked despondently at the speaker on his console. He hadn't the heart to tell his pilots that there were no reinforcements.
Hawke angrily slammed his fist onto the console. The fleet had no choice if it was to survive. A retreat had to be ordered. The sandy-haired admiral cursed again as he slammed his fist once more, angry tears running down his cheeks. With this failure, it was certain that the Death Eaters would kill the heir.
In Hawke's mind, a vicious debate was raging. What was more worth it? Retreating and losing the one chance to free the Empire's only hope, or go down fighting, preferring death to a life of causeless war?
A voice suddenly broke into his thoughts. "Sir, the Duke calls for you."
"Patch it through," ordered the admiral despondently.
"I am here, Your Grace."
"Is your situation akin to the one we're facing?"
"I'm afraid so, Your Grace."
Silence met that statement.
"Admiral, I don't think I need to tell you that I will not return to a life of piracy."
Hawke allowed a small smile to grace his rugged features. "Of course not, Your Grace. The men and I refuse to do so as well."
"Good. In that case, Admiral, order your group to blitz the enemy formation. I want your ships up and close. If a ship goes critical, make sure it takes out one of the bastards."
Hawke grinned at that. That was something he could do. "Aye, aye, Your Grace."
"Good. Retaliation, out."
As the speaker emitted static, Hawke turned to his men, all of whom seemed torn between excitement, determination, and fear.
"Men, there is little worse than becoming a pirate," he told his men solemnly. "But what is worse it to be a pirate using a cause that has long died as an excuse. That was what we were. But now, we are able to atone for that sin. Now, we either die as British soldiers, or live under a new sovereign, but we will not return to a baseless life of sin and wanton pillaging."
The men on the command deck nodded firmly at their Admiral's words.
"I want you all to think on this carefully. Think about what it means to be British, and make that your reason to fight. Fight for yourselves, your lives, and the Empire," he told them.
Silence ensued after Hawke's impromptu speech, but one by one, the men on the command deck began saluting him rigidly, until everyone was standing at attention. Grateful for the support, Hawke returned the rigid salute before shooting out an arm towards the crewman in charge of the ship's speed.
"Accelerate to double-attack speed."
"BRACE FOR IMPACT!"
Hawke swore as he was jolted off his feet as the whole room shook from the multiple impacts on the hull.
"Fires in sector seven!"
"Send a fire fighter detail!"
"First deck reports multiple breaches near the hangar!"
"Seal those areas!"
"Shields are failing, Admiral!"
Hawke cursed angrily as he slammed his fists on the console. He was losing his ship, and had so far only taken down three ships in return.
"Sir, we cannot sustain anymore damage," warned a nearby crewman. "Hull integrity is down to fifty four percent."
Hawke clamped his hands together in front of him, desperate to think up of some way to turn the tide. Around him, crewmen shouted reports and containment orders, as fighter after fighter sped past the reinforced glass windows of the command deck. Hawke watched numbly as one sped by and exploded mid-flight as two American fighters sped right through its debris.
The Redemption had already lost 96 per cent of its fighter complement, as well as much of its battery capacity. Only four fighters of Knight Squadron, two from Alpha Squadron, and one from both Iris and Fire Squadrons remained. Gold and Opus Squadrons had both been completely annihilated. Out of the Redemption's 200 cannons, only 15 or so were operational.
In essence, the Redemption was lost.
Already, he could hear the alarms blaring as another shot impacted the hull, causing one of the turbines keeping them in the air to fail. Two more of those, and the Redemption would crash into the ground over 200 meters below.
Knowing his luck, the Redemption's crash site would be the detainment camp, thus doing the Death Eaters' job for them.
Gritting his teeth in fury, Hawke decided he wouldn't allow such a thing to pass. Even if the Redemption fell, then he would make damn sure that it would take down a couple of enemy ships with it.
With that in mind, he punched the comm button, relaying his message to all sectors of his ship. "This is Admiral Hawke, all personnel are to abandon ship," he ordered.
The crewmen on the command deck turned to look at their Admiral with shocked looks. Hawke merely met their looks with a grim face.
"I want all of you to leave this ship," stated Hawke. "Live to fight another day."
"What about you, sir?" asked a crewman.
Hawke's jaw set. "The captain of the ship goes down with the ship."
The deeper meaning of that statement hit the crew almost unanimously. Most of the men slowly began leaving the deck under the careful watch of the Admiral, until only he was left.
Hawke turned his attention to the glass window that showed the front of the ship and sighed. So this was how it was going to end for him. On a dying ship over a thrice-be-damned piece of land, with his body never to be found.
A forgotten grave for a forgotten soldier.
Still, the thought did not dissuade him. Setting his jaw, Hawke moved towards the controls, ready to pull off his last manoeuvre as a soldier of the Empire. So consumed by the tunnel vision, he was surprised then, when someone beat him to the controls, calmly and quietly getting into the control seat and tapping the appropriate buttons.
"What the?" nearly shouted Hawke. "What are you doing here, sailor? I ordered you off this ship!"
The pilot, a lieutenant long under Hawke's command, merely turned a smirked at his superior. "With all due respect, sir, you don't know how to fly this thing. I do," remarked the pilot. "Now tell me, sir, where to?"
"We're standing by, Admiral," came another voice, and Hawke turned to see about seven more men manning the controls of the ship. They all had the same determined look he'd had minutes ago.
Not knowing what to say, Hawke merely settled for a grateful smile and a nod, which they all returned. Hawke now turned and, with a determined look, pointed at an American ship in the dead centre of the American position.
"That's our target, gentlemen!" he told the crewmen. "Redirect all weapons system power to the engines and get us as close as possible to that bastard!"
"Aye, aye, sir!"
Hawke felt the ship tremble slightly as the ship's engines suddenly received an enormous boost in power. One that it hadn't been built to endure for long. In fact, Hawke was counting on that particular defect.
"Sir, engine output is at two hundred percent!" reported a crewman.
Hawke nodded. "What about our generators?"
"Generators are giving off output at one-fifty, sir!" reported another. "Core overload will begin in two minutes if we continue at this rate."
Two minutes…good. More than enough.
"Pilot, you heard the crewman. You have two minutes to get us as close to that ship as possible."
"Aye, aye, sir!" replied the pilot with a grin as he pushed on the controls, steeping the ship into a direct course towards the central American ship.
"Sir!" called out a crewman. "His Grace is on the link, sir! He wants to speak to you!"
"Patch it through."
"Admiral, I'd sure like to know what the hell you're doing…"
"Your Grace," replied Hawke with a sad smile as the Duke's face came up on the holo-projector. "I'm just doing my duty, sir."
"Hawke, you can still pull out."
Hawke chuckled grimly as he shook his head. "No, sir, I cannot. Not in good conscience."
"Sir, I will not retreat," cut off Hawke determinedly. "I'll not allow the Death Eaters to win. To take our Sovereign away. I will not give them that satisfaction."
Harry's image seemed about to protest this idea, but one look at Hawke's determined face quieted him.
"You're a good soldier, Jeremy," said Harry finally as he saluted the man. "It's been an honour to fight alongside you."
Hawke nodded grimly as he stiffened at attention and saluted back. Every crewman on the deck followed suit. "We are honoured to die for the Empire, Your Grace. May our sacrifice grant you victory."
The Duke seemed about to say something more before Hawke pre-emptively cut off the feed and turned towards his remaining men.
"It's been an honour, men," he told them. "May the Lord Saviour forgive us for our sins."
The crew silently nodded before returning their attention to their consoles. Hawke, too, turned his attention back to the main viewscreen. He watched as the American ship grew and grew in size. Finally, the red alarms blared as the Redemption's core began to go through meltdown procedure.
Hawke watched as the Americans desperately tried to bring down theRedemption, with shots coursing through the entire length of the ship as chunks of the ship rained down onto the other ships and ground below. He saw the remaining personnel from the Redemption flee in the escape shuttles, blasting towards the ground, where they'd be—hopefully—safe.
Silently, the Admiral opened his breast pocket and took out a picture. On it was the only memory he had of better times, when the Imperial flag still flew over London. He looked down at the piece of paper on which lay the portraits of his now-deceased wife and two children, all laughing joyfully as they waved at the camera.
Hawke was still watching the picture when the bow of the Redemption rammed into the side of the American Comm Ship's hull. Explosions began to tear apart the length of the Redemption as the British Assault Ship pierced its way through the Comm Ship, just as its core underwent total meltdown.
Hawke finally lifted his eyes to see the explosions come nearer to the command deck.
As the fires lit up his eyes, Hawke whispered his last words before the explosions consumed the command deck and fuelled the meltdown explosion of the ME Generators.
"Call up every ship in the Redemption's sector!" shouted Harry as he paced through the room. "Tell them to get as much distance as possible between them and the Redemption and to maximize shields!"
Harry stopped his pacing behind the pilot's chair, putting his right hand on the header. "Pilot, you've got less than two minute to get us as far as possible as well."
"Aye, aye, sir!" replied Hawthorne as he banked the controls as hard left as he could.
Harry felt the ship tilt slightly as the engines responded to Hawthorne's urgings and turned towards the shield technician.
"Full power to shields! Brace for impact!" he shouted.
Harry turned to look at the crewman who'd called him when theRedemption finally made contact with the enemy Comm Ship. Harry's eyes widened as he saw explosions run along the length of the Assault Ship.
"Hawke…" whispered Harry as he watched the last explosion tear through the command tower. He was about to say something else, however, when he noticed a bright light begin to shine from the stern of the ship. Harry's eyes bulged at the implications.
"ME meltdown!" yelled Harry. "All power to shields!"
The bright light suddenly went out, but Harry wasn't fooled. He grabbed onto the nearest thing he could hard just as a massive shockwave erupted from the Redemption's stern. The shockwave blasted both fire and metal away as it tore through dozen of American ships, both large and small, and even a few British ships that couldn't escape the shockwave fast enough and suffered horrendous hull damage as a result. The only reason those didn't explode was that their shields had been maximized immediately after Harry had ordered it, but still the ships would be unsalvageable.
The Retaliation shook from bow to stern as the shockwave hit its shields. Distance and power degradation, however, saved the ship's hull, though the shields failed almost immediately after. Several fires erupted throughout the ship as well, due to massive short-circuits.
While most of the crew cheered as the Redemption took out a decent chunk of the Americans with it, Harry wasn't fooled. The shockwave was but the initial horror.
"Full power to the engines!" he screamed. "The show's not over yet, lads!"
Prophetically, the Retaliation dashed forward just as the shockwave's epicentre suddenly exploded in a cloud of flame and smoke.
"All ships, dive!" ordered Harry, prompting Hawthorne to push down on the controls, sending the Retaliation into a steep dive.
Harry watched as many an American ship that survived the shockwave was subsequently consumed by the massive explosion. Even a few British ships became caught in the fiery blast.
"Sir, we've just lost contact with most of Sector Four and Five!"
Harry barely even listened to the reply as he kept his focus on the expanding explosion to the Retaliation's right.
"Increase speed!" he shouted. "Re-direct any remaining power to the starboard shields!"
Harry watched as the raging maelstrom of fire consumed everything in its path. He watched as both American and British ships suddenly vanished in huge plumes of fire as the explosion tore apart their hulls like a hot knife through butter.
Were Harry not so much in danger of losing his life, he might've thought the explosion a magnificent and beautiful show of destructive power, but the fact that thousands of British soldiers were losing their lives outdid his awe.
Harry felt sweat drip from his forehead as the blast came ever closer to his ship, devouring anything its path. Only a few more seconds and the Retaliation would have dived low enough to escape the blast radius.
Only when the ship was declared clear of the blast did Harry let out a breath he didn't know he'd kept. Wiping his forehead clear of sweat with his personal kerchief, the young Duke turned towards his communications technician.
"Find out who else survived the blast," he ordered, before turning to the sensors area. "I need an update on all remaining enemy ships."
"Your Grace, the sensors detect at least four New York-Class ships in the air, accompanied by a dozen or more Jersey-Class ships. Fighter readouts indicate approximately seven squadrons in the air," reported the technician.
Harry nodded. "What about our forces?"
The comm technician frowned as he penned one last item on his notepad before looking up at Harry. "Your Grace, sound off indicates that all ships within sectors three, four, and five are gone," he dutifully reported. "We still have the Assaye, Ark Royal,Fury, and Royal Hammer on active duty, as well as two dozen of the Order-Class Interceptor Ships. Fighter sound off indicates that we still possess approximately eleven fighter squadrons."
Harry felt himself give a feral grin at the news. With the additional loss of the American's Comm Ship, the Americans were sure to be in disarray. Shooting out his arm towards the comm technician, Harry gave the crew a triumphant look as he ordered, "Call up the fleet. All ships are to move directly against the enemy's centre!"
Amidst acknowledgements, Harry continued, "We will end this battle here! With one swift stroke!"
Seeing his men's spirit rise, after having been horribly dampened by the horrific losses the battle had bestowed upon them, Harry pushed one last time.
"This is it, lads! This is when the throne is restored, where foul deeds are paid back in kind!" he exhorted. "Remember those who have fallen in the line of duty! Remember our brothers and sisters! Remember the Redemption, and the brave soldiers who died upon it!"
Finally, to Harry's joy, the battered and weary crew of theRetaliation cheered.
Advancing ominously and filled with a desire for revenge, the Imperial Fleet moved in on the equally battered Americans, who were still reeling from the Redemption's devastating explosion.
From below, the League's Air Fleet had taken advantage of theRedemption's explosive end to push back at the Americans and were now sailing upwards to engage the remaining American ships.
The American admiral, however, was no fool, unlike many of his predecessors. Watching the Imperials advance from below and in front, he had his fleet's strength gauged before making that decision he determined was wisest.
He knew he'd get reprimanded back at headquarters, but continuing this battle would merely destroy all that remained in the American 3rd Homeland Fleet, or 3-HF.
Of course, if he'd wanted to, he could have probably taken quite a large chunk of the enemy down with him. For, unknown to the Imperials, the Americans had brought with them a second Comm Ship, named the Invisible Hand, which was the true coordinator for the battle, while the decimated Jefferson was merely a screen.
Still, he was more concerned for the lives of his men than defending a single prison from a well-trained and vengeance-bound enemy. Therefore, he calmly and professionally ordered the fleet to retreat.
It wasn't like he much cared for his superiors' superiors. The Death Eaters, as far as the Admiral was concerned, were simply totalitarian bastards whom the US needed as an ally, lest it be consumed in the Imperials' war of revenge against the world. Still, the Admiral had given an oath to defend his country, and that was as far as he would go for the magic-wielding weirdoes.
Thus, in calm and professional formation, the American fleet disengaged as their Death Eater allies began moving forward to engage the enemy.