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The Gateway to the Atlantic


Sarah Tintagyl
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With the crumbling of the Holy American Empire on the South American Continent and the recent Austrian expansions in Africa. A classified proclamation was sent out from Vienna to the Viceroy of Morocco and other Imperial Commanders that the time was imminent to secure the Azores Archipelago along with the island of Madeira for the Empire. Most signs of life from Holy America had vanished in the past months and years and after what appeared to be a devastating civil war, the nation had fallen into an anarchy that it appeared it would never recover from. To have strategically positioned islands in the Atlantic, simply sitting there with no movement was idiotic and given the expansion of the mercenary navy and the potential for Austria to begin building their own national navy, the Empress believed it to be a necessity to control these islands if only for the future potential for a naval base on the open ocean. In her own words, "They are a gateway to the Atlantic and the only way Austria can truly free herself from confines of Europe and depravity."

Immediately, an expedition force was created to secure the Azores Archipelago and the island of Madeira from Holy America. A force of twenty-five thousand soldiers was deployed with fifty thousand stationed as reinforcements in Moroccan ports. The transport fleets were called, as well as the Imperial Mercenary Navy, to begin moving towards the islands in the Atlantic with intentions to secure the territories for Austria.

The ships were told to set up a perimeter in the event that resistance proved to be too strong and it would be necessary to essentially siege the islands and starve them into Imperial submission.

No bombardment would take place, nor would any aircraft be called until it was discovered whether what defense was left on the island would fight against the Austrian invasion. Once the mercenary fleet would arrive, the transport ships would slowly begin to approach the shore and then one by one, unload their precious cargo of men and material onto the sandy beaches and begin to move to secure the islands.

Of course this all mattered if the Holy Americans would deploy, there had been rumors that the Empire would topple without much push, but the Austrian fleet and their allies were prepared for a fight and for ownership of the gateway to the Atlantic, they were well ready for whatever the Holy American came to throw at them.

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UFE Skyhawk C drones deployed out of Portugal would participate in the operation as well. The large wing shaped stealth drones had been configured for electronic warfare and AWAC packages. This gave them a supreme amount of jamming capability from which to support the overall operational structure.

Passive sensors on the forward skyhawks would act to absorb the radar dishes of the HAE's defenses, allowing them to gain a lock onto those positions. The multiple AESAs on each unit would then be focused on these points to overload the receivers and do a directed energy attack to fry the circuitry on each point.

AWACs meanwhile would deploy out in a large formation. Forward looking optical IR scopes would be supplemented by the presence of interlinked AESA radar, forming a wide net. As the shaping of the HAE stealth fighter remain inferior to most other modern designs, location would be somewhat less difficult than the training done against TSI air forces, however, they were still stealth aircraft and careful detection had to be used. To do this, a wide net would be cast looking for anomalies from each of the linked radars, by spreading out the radars over a wide area they would increase the radar cross section of the enemy aircraft.

This would be further complemented by OTH radar assets in Portugal whose low frequency waves could be used to better find the general area of stealth aircraft.

Radar of course would primarily be used to then used the optical scopes to zoom in on and identify enemy aircraft. Thus far F-1 squadrons were ordered to stay back, keeping their sensors turned off, as they loitered to the north, waiting for orders.

The 3rd Amphibious Army's airborne brigade combat teams were gotten ready at Morocco for a jumps onto multiple island locations.

Edited by Triyun
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Radar alerts screamed across the island's command stations. Bunkers hardened for any conventional attack automatically began sealing up, and all manner of countermeasures including flares and chaff spread across every installation even as armored domes and submarine nets secured the harbor from above and below. The island was and always had been a fortress unlike any other, as evidenced by its' continual occupation from beginning to end of the Empire. It was most unfortunate, however, that the only occupants of one of the most advanced military bases in the world were only the dead and soon-to-be. In the waning hours of the Imperial Civil War, when all hope was lost and nearly the entire continent as a whole was slaughtered, a lone missile struck through all the confusion and chaos at ground level. The base as a whole was not very heavily damaged, but every single one of the soldiers and sailors had received a lethal dose of radiation.

Base Commander Martinez, former Consul Martinez was one of the most powerful people in the world at the zenith of the Empire. He had been second in command or close to it for as long as there had been an Empire.[i] Fitting,[/i] he thought, [i]that I am one of the last of the Imperials. It falls to me to deal with this mess.[/i] He stumbled from his sitting position in his bunk and grimaced. Dried chunks of vomit and pus from weeping sores rained down from his chest onto the floor. Like all of his (now dead) comrades, the commander had received a more than lethal dose of radiation from the attack that emasculated the Azores.
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He staggered out of the door and made his way slowly, ever so slowly, through the darkened halls of the base. As he walked through piles of wreckage, metal singing from radiation, and bodies (oh so many bodies) his mind wandered, brought back only by the occasional screams of the other souls unfortunate enough to endure hell so long. Memories floated up to his vision unbidden, almost mocking him with their implications of former glory. From Republic to Empire, crushing the first rebellion, occupying more and more of the Southern latitudes, the annexation of Diberia into the Empire, and finally their downfall.

So weak now, was Commander Martinez. He entered the island chain's command site to find unsurprisingly it was in similar shape to the rest of the base; decrepit and covered in the bodily fluids God wrings from those who play with what should be the domain of Him and Him alone. Martinez walked, in the most generous sense of the term, over to the island's command chair and gently pushed the body of a subordinate from its' position therein. The cadaver fell to the ground with a mushy thump and burst wide open, into mottled brown and all sorts of colors not belonging within the human body.

But the commander had no time for that. His was a suicidal task, for no matter the outcome Martinez would die very soon. He hailed the incoming fleet on an old Imperial frequency, one used amongst allies and one that both fleets should recognize.

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"Commodore Pethö," Said one of the communicators on the bridge. "The Imperial base on the Azores is sending us a signal, an allied frequency. Should we respond? Do you think it's a trick."

Nora Pethö walked to the windows overlooking the island base in front of her and sighed. It looked like a ghost town, even from this distance. Storm clouds had formed during the night and now as dawn approached, a strange and eerie mist glossed over the base, making viability low, but the entire island seemed haunted. "It could be, however, I do believe that the Imperials are some of the last chivalrous people left on this Earth. I have a great respect for Holy America, from what I've learned at the Academy, I do believe we can give them the benefit of the doubt. Herr Fenyves!"

"Commodore?" Said the midshipman.

"I want you to assemble a landing party for me, I'm going ashore."

"Ma'am? Are you sure that's wise?" Said Fenyves getting out of his seat, "It could be a trap, you'd be killed."

"And there are other officers who can replace me, Herr Fenyves, now if you please, there are men on that island who have requested an audience. It would be wrong to keep them waiting."

---

Thirty minutes later, ten Austrian Marines in their gray uniforms along with Commodore Pethö were the first to land on the island and as Nora had assumed, the island showed no signs of life. A horrible shiver ran up her spine as she walked across the sandy beach towards the gates. Her fingers jittery and her eyes darting from side to side. As she walked her brown ponytail lightly bounced from side to side and the soldiers breathed nervously as they approached the main gate to the compound.

There on the threshold, Pethö, cleared her throat and spoke as loud as she could.

"Commodore Nora Pethö, reporting for the Austrian Imperial Navy. You sent us a signal, we've come ashore for an audience if at all possible. Would we be able to talk?"

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The gates remained silent for almost a full minute, as if judging the intruders onto the island. Their baleful flat faces had once been adorned with all manner of Imperial regalia, but that had been sheared off by the wave of fire which had heralded the death of one of the Empire's last bastions of sanity. Finally, gears began to turn. Winches and mechanical components groaned under the unexpected stress, and the doors which had been flash-welded together along several spots shrieked under the stress and tore apart; a microcosm of what had happened to the Empire as a whole. Slowly, ever so slowly the gates swung wide to reveal to those on the beach the gaping maw of the underground installation.

Silence rung in the ears of all those present. At last, footsteps sounded. Rubber boots stepping upon metal stairs from deep within the installation. But there was a distinct wrongness in the gait that could be heard, should one be listening careful enough. The sounds were dragged out, painfully extracted from the one who labored to reach them. From within the base faint shrieks of agony and sorrow made their way out into the dim morning mist. Their sounds were unlike any other, befitting a death unrivaled in sheer horror.

And at last, the footsteps reached the top of the stairs. Out of the base shambled Commander Martinez. His massive form had once been the epitome of an Imperial Soldier; hair shaved close to the scalp, barely shy of 6'6", and muscled just shy of the point where it began to impede mobility. But in the time following the destruction of the Azores base as a viable entity his form had wasted away. He had lost nearly half of his weight, and the skin that hadn't boiled into blisters and pus encrusted wounds sagged heavily everywhere but his face, from which it was easily clear who he once was, and all that Martinez had been.

He leaned heavily against the base door and called across to his Austrian counterpart. "Please, come no closer." The reason as to why should be more than self evident. "Talk is very nearly all I am capable of anymore, Miss Pethö." The syllables of English rolled harshly off of Martinez' tongue. He refused to use Imperial for one simple reason, one that nobody could likely guess.

It was a dead language.

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Nora looked in horror at what had happened to the man in front of her and to her feminine mind, though she wanted to run up and gently lay him down, she knew he was infected. "Commander," she paused with her words, truly not knowing what to say. "I have been given orders, with the civil war occurring throughout Holy America that it is Austria's duty to secure these islands in the Atlantic for the Empire." Her authoritative tone disappeared soon after.

"Though I can't say those words sit well with me, looking at your condition. Commander, if there is anything I can do, to help you. Please, you look like you've come out of Hell itself." And as she looked down into the interior of the complex, she shivered. "Forgive, you have been in Hell."

She bowed her head, along with the solders around her. "I ask humbly for the annexation of the Azores and the surrounding islands."

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The Commander paused, then. He smiled ever so slightly at the woman who represented the final fate of his beloved Empire. "May I call you Nora? I feel as if we're a bit beyond military proprieties at this point in time, what with..." he gestured down at himself, and back into the base. Almost as if on command, a particularly hellish screech echoed forth. Martinez glanced back into the base, trying to put a face to the scream and failing. He sighed and turned his full attention back to the Europeans.

"I'm afraid there isn't anything you can do for me now, Nora. Before all the medical corps in the base died, we knew that each and every one of us had received a fatal dose of radiation." His smile grew infinitely sadder somehow at her acknowledgement of what he had been through. "Do you know how many people were in this base? Several thousand. Those screams we hear even now? There might be a dozen people left as horridly afflicted as myself. This is what war does, Nora, it consigns people to hell, on earth or otherwise." Martinez' voice was interrupted by a horrid coughing fit. Blood streamed from his nose and mouth carrying chunks of some unidentified substance.

[i]She bowed her head, along with the solders around her. "I ask humbly for the annexation of the Azores and the surrounding islands." [/i]

His smile disappeared slowly from his face. "You look to be a smart woman, Commodore. Have you studied your history? Did you know that only one Imperial has ever surrendered in the face of the enemy?" His stern gaze did not waver for an instant as shudders wracked his tortured form. "It is a good thing that we are not enemies, yes? Very good that you came after being hailed on an allied frequency." He reached into a breast pocket with shaking hands and withdrew an ancient coin.

"This is a coin from the Republic of Daorim. Somehow, people from that time a hundred years ago still live. Take this," he flicked it to the Commodore, "and prosper." A last burst of strength let the Commander regain the full authority his voice once held.

"I am Base Commander David Martinez. I am of sound mind and not of body. Without authority from others, I claim my former title of Consul to perpetuate the Imperial chain of command. It has come to my attention that the Azores are no longer safe under the Empire's wing. I relinquish their control to Austria, to do with which what they may." His voice dropped finally, to barely above a whisper.

"Go now, take this mantle of Imperial Might. Carve your empire and take what you can." And with that, the Consul who had lived over a hundred years gave his last breath and fell to the bloodstained sand. A final memory came unbidden to him; the Imperial family smiling together in a photograph taken by surprise. He smiled one last time in his long, long life.

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Nora looked at the coin in her hand as Martinez dropped lifelessly to the ground. She and her soldiers bowed their heads, crossing themselves at the display from the Imperial Commander. Placing the coin in her pocket, Nora slowly pulled out her rapier and stuck it into the ground. "Radio back to the fleet. Tell them that the Holy American Empire has relinquished control of the Azores and Madeira to Her Majesty's Empire. Begin to conduct landing operations on each of the islands and to bring radioactive suits and gear with them. If what Commander Martinez said was true and I believe it is, we have cleanup operations ahead of us before these bases are operational."

"Right away Commodore." One of the Marines saluted and began walking towards the shore to signal the ships to come forward.

Turning her head back to the base, Nora breathed a long sigh listened to the sorrowful screams uttering up from the hellish gate. "We have our work cut out for us men. When we get the proper equipment, we'll be removing what skeletons there are left in the Holy American closet." She looked over at Martinez body and shot a sharp salute. "Your Empire will be remembered, Councilor." Nora said touching the coin in her body. "And an Imperial Empire will be preserved."

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Combat Brigade Teams were ordered to be reconfigured so as to dispatch NBC and Medical companies in greater numbers, supported by medium and light infantry for piece keeping, rather than heavier artillery fire teams, and armored units. The forces would rapidly be deployed to support Austria's overall stabilization efforts.

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Sigrún had been watching the news about the happenings in Korea. It had not been hard to miss, practically every news channel spoke of 'unconfirmed reports' of gunfire and showed the same shaky montage of images from the many columns of smoke rising from the city that was once Incheon. One need not be experienced in warfare to recognize a battlefield when they saw one, but Incheon was definitely seeing a fair share of combat again. Just then, she received a classified reports stating her orders. It made3 sense to her that they would order her to Korea now, with the UFE itself -- or part of it at least -- being in turmoil, the risk of spreading to other regions was simply too great to not stomp this out as fast as possible. An example would have to be made, after all. When she opened the letter and decoded its contents however, her eyebrows rose up in surprise before a grin started to appear on her face.

- "The Azores eh? Never been there, should be interesting."

The trip took a few days, and the three ships under her command were quick to join up with the rest of the fleet that was sent out. The former Zargathian battleships had always been intended as the first step of the Zargathian Fleet that would never follow it, and as such they were built to have a supporting role compared to its larger counterparts. While the components were fairly new, they had been intended to support larger ships, relying on computer guided anti-air batteries to keep both themselves and the larger ships they were escorting safe. While it did have cannons, and was certainly capable of performing a coastal bombardment, to say that they excelled at it would be an euphemism.

Adopting this role, the ships would remain close to the larger ones, intending to assist with shooting down enemy aircraft and missiles should the situation present itself. Sigrún was by far the most experienced in naval combat within Zargathia, and the Naval Academies had fallen under her leadership, but this would be the first active engagement in decades and though she didn't know what the troopsw that had landed were doing she was looking forward to some action again.

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