Saturday, June 28, 2008

Sample Chapter: Part Two, Twilight's Last Gleaming

[This chapter is from the middle section of the book, Rocket's Red Glare, concerning the Third World War in 2079. The chapter that appears below is preceded by 5. Defeat at Sea, and followed by 7. The War in the Pacific. Copyright 2008 by Charles Hoffman.]

6. Britain Invaded

The battle for Greenland was just the beginning of a series of reversals for both the British and American navies. The Atlantic Ocean now became a vast hunting ground in which a more modern, numerically superior European fleet pursued, harried, and chipped away at Anglo-American naval forces. The US and the UK were never again able to mount an offensive naval operation against the Islamic Federation of Europe.

From almost the second the United Kingdom first lifted a finger to aid the US, Britain found itself engaged in total war with the IFE. Within hours of Admiral Trowbridge's fleet joining forces with the United States Navy, England was reeling under the first of a series of aerial bombardments. Vital military installations were struck first, with key population centers as secondary targets. IFE bombers rained death and destruction on London, where citizens cowered in shelters as their ancestors had done during the German blitz of the previous World War.

The British counterstrike came immediately on the heels of the first IFE attack. The airplanes, manned and drones, missiles, and cruise missiles of the Royal Air Force streaked across the English Channel, but penetrating European defenses proved no easy task. The RAF was able to strike at some important military and civilian targets in Western Europe, but only at great cost.

Seeking to take its own fight to the enemy, the US Air Force tried to lend a hand. It was severely handicapped in doing so, however. Thanks to satellite intell, the IFE high command was aware of the American military's every move almost in advance. Hypersonic scramjet aircraft capable of striking at Europe from the western side of the Atlantic were dispatched from Air Force bases within the US. Most were intercepted by planes and missiles based in Greenland or launched from the IFE Atlantic Fleet.

The combined Anglo-American air forces did manage to inflict damage on civilian population centers in Muslim Europe, including the capitals of Paris and Berlin. Inhabitants of European cities that came under attack endured the onslaught stoically, having been hardened by their rigorous and demanding faith. This stood in clear contrast to the populations of beleagured cities in England and the US, where angry choruses of panicked citizens demanded that the government "do something."

As single nations went, the United Kingdom was still a fairly formidable military presence by the late 21st Century. But its power paled before that of the vast Islamic Federation. Stretching from Portugul to the Chukchi Peninsula in easternmost Siberia, the IFE was a leviathan that spanned a hemisphere. Great Britain was an island pitted against a continent.

It did not take the European military long to neutralize Britain's ability to wage an effective counteroffensive. Hemmed in and on the defensive, the UK could only attempt to ward off further attacks. Subsequent IFE air strikes were aimed at crippling Britain's infrastructure. Vital resources such as water and power were disrupted in London and other cities. Transportation arteries were severed, preventing foodstuffs from reaching the marketplace. Electromagnetic pulse weapons wrought havoc with computer systems. Cut off from its allies by the IFE Navy, the beleaguered island nation was being softened up for the coup de grace. With its military decimated and its civilian population howling, Britain was ripe for invasion.

The invasion of England, as well as the campaign that paved the way for it, was conceived, planned, and directed by General Andre Desjardineau, arguably the most remarkable figure to emerge from World War III. A Frenchman of the Elder Race, Desjardineau converted to Islam in his early teens to advance the military career he even then aspired to. France was a Muslim-majority nation by then, and to the young Desjardineau life as a civilian was all but unthinkable. Desjardineau's ancestors had served in the French army since the Middle Ages, fighting in virtually every war that France had fought against England. Desjardineau men had shed their blood for France in the Hundred Years War, the War of Spanish Succession, and the War of Austrian Succession. During the Seven Years War, they had served both in Europe and in North America, where the conflict was known as the French and Indian War. A Desjardineau had been with Montcalm when Quebec fell, leading to France's ouster from North America. Another forbear had been with Napoleon at Waterloo.

Scion to an illustrious military family, Andre Desjardineau strove constantly to distinguish himself. As a young officer, he excelled in fencing with the epee and saber, and was for a time the savate champion of the French Army. Tall and powerfully built, Desjardineau was a dynamic, charismatic figure. He rose rapidly through the ranks, commanding the respect of both New Breed and Elder Race Europeans. When war finally appeared to be looming between the IFE and France's ancient rival, Britain, General Desjardineau looked forward to settling an old, old score.

Desjardineau's master plan for the conquest of Britain involved, as we have seen, dismantling the UK's defensive capabilities and then pounding the nation itself until it was dazed and bloody. With these goals achieved, the invasion itself could begin.

London was to be taken first; as London went, so went the nation. The alarm that announced that the invasion was underway came in the form a a cruise missile that smashed into Buckinghiam Palace, exploding inside it. Buckingham Palace had been carefully spared in previous bombings. Now it was gutted by fire and explosion as several more cruise missiles streaked into it. Within minutes only the blackened outer walls remained standing upright, like a giant tombstone for a city and a nation.

The invaders came by sea, entering the mouth of the Thames and moving inexorably upstream. The IFE invasion fleet included light maneuverable hydrofoils designed for river navigation. These came racing up the Thames into the heart of London, escorted by swarms of attack helicopters that darkened the skies above. Another component of the invasion fleet consisted of amphibious assault craft of the sort Admiral Duncan had hoped to land on Greenland, only considerably more advanced. The amphibious craft drove on massive tires along the muddy bottom of the Thames, emerging from beneath the water where river embankments furnished access to the shore. Londoners could only look on in sick horror as the gleaming submersible craft climbed dripping out of the Thames and rolled into the city streets.

From there the amphibious assault craft fanned out into London, broadcasting loud warnings for citizens to get off the streets and indoors immediately. Stragglers were mowed down like ripe grain. With the population driven indoors, the invasion fleet secured bridges and, more importantly, parks and large parking lots to serve as landing fields for the large troop transport helicopters that immediately followed. For the first time since 1066, British soil was trampled by the tread of foreign invaders.

Even as London was being overrun, the European Navy secured the Isle of Wight and the Isle of Man for use as staging areas from which the IFE could complete it conquest of Britain. The seaport city of Liverpool was soon stormed and taken. Elsewhere, IFE hydrofoils and submersibles made their way up rivers like the Trent and the Ouse to stab into the interior of the country and pave the way for the capture of inland cities like Manchester, York, and Birmingham.

IFE troops met with little in the way of resistance, and were even greeted as liberators by some segments of Britain's Muslim minority population. The civilian populace as a whole had long since been disarmed. Moreover, British citizens in public places had been subject to video surveillance since the close of the 20th Century. The IFE military took immediate control of the surveillance cameras, of course, finding in them a convenient and useful tool during the subsequent occupation.

British subjects were not lacking in courage, but improvised weapons such as Molotov cocktails, or even small arms had they been available, would have availed them little. By the late 21st Century, the individual infantryman was so outfitted and equipped as to be a virtual one-man army. For elite outfits, battle armor had evolved into a complete exoskeleton that encased the soldier from head to toe. Helmets were equipped with sophisticated sensors and high-speed computers, as well as filters to screen out airborne toxins. Body armor was designed to augment strength and could therefore be equipped to carry multiple weapons systems. IFE battle armor was the most advanced in the world. A single squad of troopers outfitted in it was sufficient to capture and hold an entire town.

As IFE forces took possession of the nation, government officials were forced to flee into outlying areas. For many, however, flight was not even an option. The King and Queen, who had bravely made their stand in London throughout the aerial bombardments, were killed when Buckingham Palace was struck. Members of Parliament residing in London were compelled to cower indoors along with the rest of the city's population as IFE troopers took control of the streets.

Once the occupation was complete, the Prime Minister had no choice but to accept IFE terms for unconditional surrender. General Desjardineau arrived by helicopter for the signing of the surrender papers, landing before the entrance of 10 Downing Street where the ceremony was to take place. Many cameras were on hand to capture the moment, ensuring that Andre Desjardineau would be enshrined in posterity as "the Muslim Napoleon."

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