Unfortunately for the Astro-Hungarians, the town of Sydney had long been in the employ of Brittania, the port being used for the black market goods sales throughout Australasia, naturally all supposedly against Brittania, but in actuality, entirely run by Brittania herself, ensuring total control over trade.
When the Austro-Hungarians made landfall, demanding supplies, ammunition fuel and resources, Brittania knew about it. The same day as they arrived, Melchett was handed an exact list of the vessels, their tonnage, their armaments, their numbers of crew. Melchett was even aware of their commanding officer, an aristocratic Admiral Horthy who was aboard the Szent Istvan.
|SMS Szent Istvan, photo taken by Reconnaissance Sopwith|
With all of this knowledge, it was simple for the orders to be given for saboteurs to be sent aboard the vessels, while Melchett's fleet pursued the enemy fleet, catching it in open waters.
|Melchett's fleet, tracking the enemy fleet|
As shells fell about the Szent Istvan, Admiral Horthy was forced to fully commit his reserve to allow the Szent to escape.
Melchett stared fixated at the dark shape in the distance, watching each explosion, each wave of torpedoes ripple forth from the bow of his vessel, each gun firing in harmonious synchronisation at the shape in the distance.
It was only when an explosions rippled forth from the HMS Conqueror, the newly commissioned Battleship supporting the Thunderchild that Melchett realised what had happened, Horthy had thrown his last dice, his final gamble.
From the dark clouds above the Conqueror, lightning issued forth, causing fires, destroying Ack-Ack batteries and electrocuting crew. Melchett ordered all Ack-Ack batteries to fire, to engage the clouds!
But it was too late, the element of surprise was too great, Hungarian flying raiders emerged from the clouds, rapidly descending on the damaged Conqueror. Melchett was forced to engage this new threat, to save his men. Once the Dreadnought's fire began erupting in the clouds, almost instantly a burning zepplin came tumbling out of the dark mass, a falling iron skeleton, the light metal skin evaporated by the high explosives.
Melchett sent his elite Royal Marines from the Thunderchild over to the Conqueror, in the hope of rescuing the situation, or at least rescuing the vessel.
The Royal Marines were successful in preventing the enemy boarders from detonating their demolition charges rigged to the Sturginum Generators of the vessel, but were unable to save the ship's Captain nor any crew. All hands had been lost, but the vessel remained.
By this time, the enemy flagship had withdrawn, despite being harried by Melchett's foxhounds was able to make her escape while badly damaged. It would be weeks before the Dreadnought would be able to be fully fit again to operate in naval engagements.
Melchett set a course immediately for the harbor at Sydney, it was time for Brittania to end the charade and claim Sydney as what was rightfully hers.
Once in port, message was received of a large Japanese victory in the Coral Sea over Sheridan- word was that Sheridan himself had another ship sunk out from under him! A Japanese presence in the Coral Sea would be problematic, placing them within striking distance of the air base at Feejee.
Melchett ordered his ships to put to sea, to head directly for the Coral Sea, in the full knowledge that the broken fleet of the FSA would be another week before it was ready to put to sea once again. Melchett knew of the vast industrial power that the FSA represented, it was capable of producing Battleships at an alarming rate, Far outstripping the losses they took in the Coral Sea.
The Brittanian strike had to be now, and would have to succeed. Feejee must not fall.