It had taken a week of furious work before the Warspite could return active duties, the British dockworkers as well as those colonials worked furiously day and night to put the damages done back right. The reason for the haste was that the initial elements of the Southern Fleet were arriving from their long journey from New Zealand, and higher command were anxious to resume engagements against the Japanese in the Coral Sea theatre.
Meanwhile, Cooper had received a commendation for his actions amongst the Archipelago (now unofficially renamed Aria Atoll) as well as a new posting as First Mate aboard the H.M.S. Achillies, a brand new Ruler Class Battleship, equipped with the latest in offensive and defensive capabilities, technology which Cooper had not a single chance in comprehending. All he knew was that the Captain was legendary amongst the men, and had led several highly successful engagements against the Krauts, but was yet to combat the Japanese, which Cooper assumed was his purpose in being there.
The plan was simple, activate a battlegroup and sail north as a bait for the Japanese. Cooper predicted that they would again attack in the same fashion, attempting to use their fiery rockets at extreme range, before attempting to close and maneouvre for broadside gunnery attacks. The smaller ships then would act as the hounds, chasing, baiting and goading the Japanese, before the capital ships as the hunters steam in to a bugles call to deliver the killing blow.
It was again off the coast of the atoll that the Japanese sprung their attack. Long range rocket fire rippled through the sky, igniting the foredecks on the newly refitted cruiser H.M.S. Colossus. Return fire was swift and vengeful, the enemy aircraft were quickly targeted by the frigates, with one critically damaged quickly and the second damaged also. Further fire rippled from the enemy vessels, plumes of water gushed up around the Colossus. Cooper observing from his post on the Achillies could only watch in horror as from behind the haze an enemy battleship erupted forth, spewing rocket fire as well as spitting death from it’s main turrets. It only took one rocket to seal the fate of the Colossus, a single rocket plunged straight into its boilers, causing a catastrophic explosion leaving nothing left of the ship to sink. The remaining fire from the enemy battleship crashed into the beloved Vanguard, causing what appeared to be crippling damage.
However the Vanguard was made of sterner stuff, steaming forth at full speed, placing herself in a position to fire all of her guns simultaneously in a gallant act of fury. Her fore and aft turrets spat fire at some nearby frigates, her torpedoes rippled out of her hull in all directions, as her Ack-Ack crews attempted to bring down the lone enemy bomber from the sky. It did not take long for the Japanese to realize the threat this vessel posed, as the bomber and multiple frigates fell to this fullsalide, and it took the battleship mere seconds to turn and acquire the target. Cooper could only watch in horror as the Vanguard like the Colossus before her had simply erupted into a fireball of green flame, the tell tale sign of a reactor explosion, meaning any chance of survivors was lost.
It was now that Her Majesties’ Royal Flying Corps joined the engagement, two Doncaster bombers swooped down from high in the clouds firstly directing torpedo salvoes onto the enemy battleship, followed by a crippling bombing raid. Cheers rang forth from the crew of the Achillies and efforts were redoubled in an attempt to pour more explosives onto the enemy battleship.
Unbeknownst to all but Higher Command, a secret weapon had been dispatched with the battlegroup. Once the enemy battleship had been damaged, it was elected that the time was right to unleash a coup de grace onto it. The captain of the Achillies simply said the codeword “Overlord” into the wireless, and pointed to the starboard side of the ship. Emerging from the water were two grey, animalistic vessels, bristling with firepower. Torpedoes raced forth from their jagged snouts, erupting in catastrophic explosions on the enemy battleship, until finally she broke apart from the stern, and began to list violently to the port side.
It had been a successful engagement for the Kingdom of Brittania, but at high cost. There was nothing left of the two cruisers, but the Achillies had performed admirably for her first engagement, claiming two confirmed enemy capital ship kills, as well as smaller vessels and an aircraft.
Time was now taken to refit, receive further reinforcements from the oncoming Southern Fleet, as well as to allow time for Cooper to grieve the loss of his beloved Vanguard. Sadly, it was not to be, as the look out from the lighthouse confirmed dark shapes looming on the horizon……