World War IV: A Broken Union, страница 1
WWIV: A Broken Union
All rights reserved worldwide 2015. No part of this document may be reproduced or transmitted in any form, by any means without prior written permission, except for brief excerpts in reviews or analysis.
Table of Contents
WWIV: A Broken Union
FREE! Get The Best Selling Prequel WWIV: Aliances
Click Here To Get Your FREE Copy
FREE! Get The Best Selling Prequel WWIV: Aliances
Click Here To Get Your FREE Copy
The blockade stretched for miles across the horizon. Smoke from the cannons that pummeled Sydney’s port with their relentless siege distorted the normally pristine sunrise. Most of the seaside docks had been crumbled to ruin, leaving what few ships the Aussie Navy had left to choke off the advancing enemy at the harbor’s entrance.
The harbor itself was two miles wide, with rocks lining the shore where shipwrecked vessels offered their warnings to captains who might want to test their limits. The entrance to the harbor was a narrow gap of only a few hundred yards, and with the Chinese vastly outnumbering the small Australian fleet, they used the confined space to bottleneck the Chinese, rendering the enemy’s size impotent.
A few of the Chinese vessels had anchored offshore and rowed farther down the coast, allowing their soldiers to engird the city. What artillery the Aussies possessed from a land-based standpoint was focused on blasting the smaller excursion boats out of the water, but the number of armed Chinese taking to land grew every day.
The two surviving docks inside the lines in which the Australian forces barely held their ground were riddled with men sprinting from land to ship, wheeling crates of ammunition, gunpowder, water, and food. The crates were loaded hastily as the cannons in the harbor thundered from both sides of the battle lines. The Australian ships floated back and forth, tagging one another in and out for rest and restocking their provisions.
Sailors stumbled off the ships, limping with the fatigue of battle. Soot and sweat covered their bodies, and blood from either their own wounds or that of a comrade. The dozen ships in the harbor were all that stood between the citizens of Sydney and the Chinese horde looking to pillage and conquer.
The 420-foot hull of the Sani, its iron sides dented and torn, pulled into dock, its battle-worn crew tossing lines to the deckhands below. The ship had sailed into Sydney from the northwest region of the North Americas, a merchant vessel bringing with it goods for trade. However, before the vessel’s occupation as a trade merchant, the ship had a legendary history of warfare. Forty cannons lined its port and starboard sides, guns ranging from forty, sixty-eight, and the heavy 110-pounders. And while the guns had collected dust, covered and unused, the captain of the Sani, who wielded them, had not.
Captain Lance Mars stepped from the helm, his crew fluidly restocking and resupplying without a single command uttered from his lips. The seasoned sailors had warred with Lance before, and just as the cannons that lined the Sani, its crew quickly shrugged off the dust that had settled on them.
For a captain, Lance dressed plainly. His dirtied grey shirt hung loose from his body, the fabric sticking to his chest and shoulders from the heat and sweat. His pants were made from the same material, allowing him to maneuver swiftly across the rocking ship. At his belt were a pistol and his sword. The saber hung in its sheath, sharpened to a fine edge, forged by the best blacksmith in Lance’s country, and he had learned to wield it as deftly as the hands that forged the blade itself.
“Canice!” Lance found his first mate hauling a crate of food up the ramp and stacking the wooden case onto the growing pile. “I need an updated number of the casualties and wounded.”
“Thirty-one dead, sixty-three wounded.” Canice spit the numbers out without hesitation. Just like her captain, she took care of every detail at sea, and no crew member was lost or forgotten.
Lance rubbed the coarse beard that covered his cheek, slick with grime. It’d been three days since they were able to dock and twice as many since he’d been able to bathe, spending every waking hour on the water, his guns battering the clustered Chinese ships at the harbor’s entrance. “See to scouting replacements while we’re docked. The Aussie captains that lost their ships may still have some good men we can use.” He started to turn then stopped himself. “And make sure whoever you bring on board sees the wounded. That should scare off any greenhorns.”
“Aye, Captain.” Canice trotted off, her dirty-blond braid bouncing behind her. When Lance named her first mate there wasn’t a single captain, crewman, or shoreman that didn’t snigger behind his back, but after Canice replaced their smirks with a black eye, the whispers ended.
“Captain!” The ship’s engine supervisor jogged over, a trail of soot following him. “We’re having issues with three of the boilers. It’ll take some time to make sure they don’t blow on us.”
“Time we don’t have. Make it quick.”
“Yes, sir.” The words left the sailor with exhaustion, and he turned, his head down and shoulders sagged. It was a look most of the crew mirrored. Few words were exchanged, and the sailors moved about their duties with as much vigor and urgency as a crew who hadn’t slept for days could.
Lance kept a swift pace down the splintered docks, a few of the boys he passed shuddering with each blow of the cannons, ducking their heads in fear they’d be taken right off. But each explosion that echoed across the waters only beat in time with Lance’s pulse.
The port office had turned from a customs checkpoint to a forward operating base. There were clusters of shipless captains and commanders from the army and militia guarding the city’s rear for any Chinese that may have made landfall either north or south of the city. Sydney’s port officer, Danny Gimley, had become the unofficial hub for any and all military news. He was surrounded by men, all trying to get a glimpse at the most alarming evidence of their enemy’s superior tech in warfare.
Fifty years ago, the piece of tech next to Danny would have been an afterthought, commonplace in the world with more modern equipment. But after the Great War, what technological feats that had allowed civilization to advance in leaps and bounds that existed were blown away. Within minutes, billions were dead, entire cities leveled, once great countries suddenly cast back into the Stone Age.
The fact that the Chinese had radio capabilities gave them a strategic advantage, communicating their war strategies and defenses in real time. They no longer had to wait for the slow pace of horse and ship. And in a war like this, time was just as important as sword and rifle.
“We’ve received word from our scouts that Brisbane has been taken.” The words left Danny’s mouth with a loss of breath, and the commanders and captains around him lowered their dirt-caked faces, the news sinking their shoulders. “We’ve also learned that Perth has been taken in the west.”
Lance kept to the back of the room and cursed under his breath. With Brisbane to the north, Perth in the west, and the blockade to the east, it wouldn’t be long before the Chinese closed in on Sydney. They were surrounded.
One of the commanders spoke up. “It won’t be long before the bulk of the Chinese army marches here.” A large map of the country was posted on the wall next to Danny’s desk, and the commander pressed a dirty, chubby finger against the city of Perth. “We have units stationed here that have been ordered to pull back. Un
“Retreating is an odd form of consolidation.” Every head in the room shifted to the back, where Lance leaned up against the doorframe. His blue eyes examined the mixed faces looking back at him. The variety of emotions ranged from fear to disgust. Not everyone was appreciative of his contributions.
“You’re an experienced naval captain, Lance,” Danny said. “But the commander has just as many years of experience fighting on land. He led our charges on the islands against the Chinese during the Island Wars.” The rest of the room grunted in agreement.
“It’s been three days.” Lance stepped forward, the men in the room keeping their distance. “It’s at least a week’s journey from Lima on the west coast of the South Americas, and your fleet left the day the Chinese had attacked. We’re barely holding the line in the harbor, and even if we don’t lose any more ships or men, we’re running out of ammunition.” Lance pointed out to the battle still waging on. “The Chinese have provision shipments coming from the north, but with the blockade we have nothing. We won’t last another three days if this keeps up, and we need to accept the fact that the Brazilians are working with the Chinese, so the fleet you’re hoping to come and save you may already be destroyed.”
“Preposterous!” The commander slammed his fist into the table, rattling Danny’s desk. “The Brazilians may have money, but they don’t have the power to destroy our fleet. We’re not as weak as you propose, Captain Mars.” Spit dribbled down the commander’s bearded chin. The bits of grey that time had etched in his hair were dirtied with grime. “We know your family helped us in the Island Wars, but we are not some nation of weaklings that require your country’s aid whenever there is conflict.”
“This isn’t just Australia.” Lance thrust his jaw forward, and his cheeks reddened. The stress of war creaked his joints as he inched closer to the commander, parting the sea of men that stood in his way. “The map I stole from the Chinese camp in the islands north of here showed a force that stretched to the Okhotsk Sea. That means the Chinese had men and ships in Russian territory, which tells me they’re working together.”
The room tittered but with a sense of caution. None of them wanted it to be true. If it was more than just the Chinese then there hadn’t been a war of this scale in nearly fifty years. A moment in history soldiers would sooner skip than have repeated.
“Captain Mars.” Danny rested his hand on Lance’s shoulder, his words soft but firm. “Could I have a word?” Danny eased Lance out of the room, the tempers on the verge of bursting the structure in flames. Even out of earshot of the others, Danny kept his voice low. “Lance, look, you know there isn’t a man in that room that doesn’t appreciate what you’ve done to help us, but we’re getting desperate here. The city is in shambles, and we don’t have a lot of options.”
“And you seem content on giving the best options to the Chinese!” Lance attempted to keep his voice down but did a poor job of it. “We need to contain the Chinese on the coasts. You cannot afford to give up ground. Not when the uncertainty of whether the fleet is going to make it here or not is so high.”
Lines of worry imprinted on Danny’s face. “Christ, Lance, if the Brazilians are helping the Chinese, then even if our fleet does show up, I don’t know if we’ll be able to outlast them.”
Lance nodded, his eyes squinting in the rising sun. “The Brazilians have the resources and engineers to build whatever the Chinese need, and it’s no secret President Ruiz has been eyeing your ports with envy. He’s not the type of man to let go of a lust once he’s put his mind to it.” Greed was a powerful motive.
The heat burned Lance’s face and the back of his neck. His skin was more leather than flesh after the years at sea. While his eyes still expressed the exuberance of youth, the aged wrinkles of time were catching up with his hard life of sailing.
“Captain!” Canice sprinted to them, skidding to a halt on the splintered docks and sending up a spray of wood chips. She doubled over, her hands on her knees, trying to catch her breath. She pointed behind her. “The left flank’s broken. We need to plug the hole.”
Danny was screaming something at him as he and Canice made their way back to the Sani, but over the increased thunder in the harbor and the pounding in his chest, Lance couldn’t hear him. The Chinese had drawn blood, and the sharks were on their way to feast.
“Tie off the lines! Man the cannons!” Lance barked the orders, his crew storing what supplies they managed to restock. Canice followed Lance to the helm, where he thrust the engines forward. “Did we get all of the wounded and dead off the ship?”
“Yes, but we weren’t able to finish loading the provisions. I had the men load the ammunition first though. Although if you put enough seasoning on the lead I’m sure we could choke it down.”
The vessel the Chinese sunk was now aflame, sailors jumping from the sinking ship. The enemy advanced on the now gaping hole in their defense, and once they broke through, there wouldn’t be any way to stem the damage. “Load the forward guns, and tell the engine room to stow the coal; we might need the rest of it to get out of here in a hurry.”
With the Sani back in the action, only one ship remained in reserve at the docks to offer relief. The ships were on their last leg. The line wouldn’t hold much longer.
The enemy warships closed in on the open gap as Lance approached and lined up the front cannons. “Fire!” Two sixty-five-pound lead balls exploded from the Sani’s bow, trailed by lines of smoke that wafted over the deck and crew.
The relentless strikes kept the Chinese at bay as Lance maneuvered the Sani into the now sunken vessel’s post. The roar over the water and the constant drum of cannons was deafening. Lance idled the engines, and they slowly slid into place next to the other battled vessels, plugging the leaking hole.
Vibrations rippled through the Sani with every blast of its cannons and every direct hit by the Chinese. Between the cannonade, the shrieks and screams of men could be heard across the dozens of ship decks in the bay.
Even with their bones shattered and snapped against the heavy lead hurled toward them, the men willed themselves forward. Cannons were loaded. Guns were fired. Orders were followed. And the machine of war continued to churn forward.
“Captain!” Canice gestured to three gunner ships skimming the edge of the harbor, using their shipwrecked brethren as their guide out of the shallows.
“Port side strong!” Lance turned the wheel, thrusting the accelerator forward and churning the steam boilers in the engine room below. Puffs of black smoke rose from the columns on board as Lance took chase, leaving a temporary hole in their link of armored ships. The three Chinese vessels were at full steam, cutting through the shallows at dangerous speeds, and continued their assault from their own portside cannons.
Lance measured the distance between the three boats. In an effort to pass quickly the ships had clustered together, less than twenty yards separating the stern of one ship to the bow of the next. All Lance had to do was slow the lead ship, and the rest would buckle.
The Sani’s bow broke through the calm waters, pushing aside the debris of ships and limbs of men from its path. Lance kept the angle on his pursuit, forcing the Chinese vessel to either take the barrage of his cannons or chance running aground and joining his comrades in the rocky shallows. The Chinese ships were built top heavy, the bulk of their armor at the top half of their hulls, making their turns jerky, sporadic.
A cannonball blasted across the Sani’s deck, crunching the wooden boards under the sheer force, taking two legs, an arm, and a head from four separate men along with it. Lance’s arms trembled from the blows. The boilers rattled, and his engine supervisor burst into the wheelhouse, soaked in sweat and black as soot from head to toe, save for the whites of his eyes.
“Captain, the engines aren’t going to hold at this speed.” The coal dust was so thick around his face that when he spoke, puffs of the fine
Lance kept his hand on the throttle. The engines offered a foreboding jolt that reverberated all the way to the ship’s deck. The bulk of their portside cannons were almost in range of the lead Chinese ship. Just a little farther.
“Captain!” The engine supervisor thrust his face in front of Lance’s, blocking the captain’s vision. “She’s not going to last much longer.”
Lance shoulder checked the engine supervisor out of his way. “She’ll hold.” She’d been through worse before. It wasn’t the first time the odds had been stacked against them, and if the Chinese had their way it wouldn’t be the last. “Release the emergency valves; that’ll handle the remaining pressure.”
“Captain, if we do that—”
“That’s an order!” Lance turned on the crewman, and the sailor slowly backed down.
“Yes, sir.” The engine supervisor hurried away, leaving a trail of black prints in his wake. The Sani gave a whine. Lance knew the man was right, but now wasn’t the time to believe it. It wasn’t just the ship that was ready to break down; it was the crew as well. Lance saw it in their eyes.
The lack of supplies, the long hours, the constant noise of cannons and screams, the blood, the lead, the smell, the pain—all of it was reaching a crescendo. The adrenaline of war had subsided and was replaced with the hazy fog of exhaustion.
The cannons fired again, the Sani’s roar shaking the doubts from Lance’s mind. Even though she was tired, she wasn’t dead, and Lance knew their end wasn’t today.
Lance checked the angle of their approach and saw the lead Chinese vessel had slowed in anticipation of his attack, causing the trailing ships to nearly touch. The cannons were in position, and Lance pointed to Canice to echo the orders. “Fire away!”
“Fire!” Canice roared, her voice cut off by the thunder of twenty cannons thrusting hundreds of pounds of lead toward the vanguard Chinese ship. And just as Lance had suspected the ship would react, it maneuvered sharply, cutting too hard and close to the shallows, where it stuttered, and the short space between the two ships in its wake didn’t leave enough time for them to avoid collision.