Chapter Thirteen- Revolutions

Over the next week, Black took a leading role in the Rheinland revolution.

Through Heinz's skilled leadership and Black's shrewd tactics, the revolutionaries managed to secretly take control of Stuttgart, Frankfurt, and Hamburg. After only a week, they had amassed a fleet of over two hundred fighters of varying type, and a few capital ships that had survived the initial takeover. They had nearly the whole of free Rheinland supporting them, and they had a name: The Rheinland Liberation Army, or the RLA.

They had engaged in many hit and run attacks on Bretonian forces, and their network of spies knew the location of every Bretonian capital ship that was in Rheinland space at any given time. The RLA had successfully taken back the three systems and all bases and planets within them by simply using coordinated surprise attacks to destroy all the Bretonian ships in the system and then let the Rheinland people depose the Bretonian governors.

Now, it was time to attack New Berlin. As of yet, the RLA forces had managed to keep the Bretonian fleet bottled up in the system, because their spies had managed to plant rumors that there were giant fleets guarding the jumpgates, rather than a few squadrons of fighters. The Bretonians were suspicious, but not suspicious enough to do anything yet.

Black had told Heinz that he thought it was time to make the final attack, and Heinz concurred. They set it up that the attack group would be divided into three groups, one attacking from each RLA system. They would push through, destroying Bretonian ships at all the bases they passed, and then they would meet at Planet New Berlin, and make their final assault on the planet and the Ring installation. The planet was expected to fall fairly easily, as the Bretonians had never taken control of the surface, because roaming mobs had already crushed the government in their desperate attempts to survive after the stock market crashed. The entire Rheinland economy had died when the Bretonians took over the outlying Rheinland systems, since they were the source of most of Rheinland's income. The house had collapsed onto itself and the Chancellor and his associates were slaughtered when the mobs stormed the capitol building.

That was why the Ring installation, including the Oder Shipyards, were the RLA's primary objectives in this attack. The Bretonian occupation force had made the Ring their headquarters, and most of the Bretonian leadership was stationed there. Heinz had managed to organize the remains of the Rheinland soldiers and was planning to use them as a landing force to quickly seize the installation and kill the Bretonian leadership.

So, the RLA leaders held a meeting and assigned ships and attack teams. Shockingly, Black was the highest-ranking fleet officer in the RLA, and he was given command of the only battleship that the RLA possessed: the Westfalen.
He was given control of Attack Group 2, the support group. He was to enter from Hamburg with 75 fighters and three gunboats, and go straight to the Ring. Heinz would then arrive with the attack craft, which were modified transports, and land on the Ring. They would attack, and Black was simply supposed to hold off, and destroy if possible, the Bretonian defenders.
Black knew, based on previous experience, that the Bretonians would keep him very busy.

Torpedoes hit the hull of the Westfalen. Black requested a damage report.
"Three torpedoes hit the main fuel line. Minor hull damage. We've switched to the auxiliary line," his aide stated, so nonchalantly that Black wouldn't have been able to guess that they were in the middle of a huge battle just by listening to his voice.

Saying that they were in the middle of a huge battle didn't even describe it. The future of a nation depended on their victory, and the odds were firmly against them. The Westfalen alone was dealing with three Bretonian battleships and dozens of fighters. However, Black had been pleasantly surprised at the ship's durability, for it had held up against punishment that would have left a Liberty Dreadnought in pieces.

Black activated the comm channel that would enable him to talk to his two surviving gunboat escorts.

"Boys, we're running the gauntlet," he told them.

"Running the gauntlet" was a tactic that had been created years ago by a well-known Liberty admiral named Michael Cloudwalker. It was a tactic created for capital ship combat while outnumbered at least two-to-one.

The two gunboats formed up on the Westfalen's left and right, and the three ships accelerated towards a gap between two of the three Bretonian battleships attacking them.

The idea behind the tactic was to slip right between two enemy capital ships. Usually, the enemy would stop firing or fire less because of the high risk of missing and hitting the ship on the other side. It was a risk that few captains would take, so for a few seconds, usually the ship in between would have free reign to fire at close range without being fired on.

The three ships passed through the gauntlet and sure enough, the Bretonians didn't fire. All three of them opened up with everything they had on the Bretonians, and after they passed through, the Bretonian ships were being torn apart by internal explosions. Only one was left.

"Admiral, this is Heinz. A Bretonian battleship has approached the station and is firing on my attack ships!"

Black executed a hundred-eighty degree turn and brought the Westfalen towards the last Bretonian battleship. It was deep within the swarm of Bretonian and RLA fighters that surrounded the Ring. Its batteries were firing on the attack ships going in and out of the installation, ferrying the wounded and prisoners out of harm's way and bringing in fresh men.

Black got within range and fired. Instantly, a squadron of Bretonian fighters attacked him, launching more torpedoes into the Westfalen. The ship held together, and Black fired again. More torpedoes hit, this time near the engines.
"Sir! We've lost life support and power to the stern compartments!" the aide exclaimed, this time showing emotion.

"Try to patch some power into there," Black replied.
The Westfalen fired again. The Bretonian battleship burst into flame and was torn into three pieces.

Then, a huge thump. Alarms went on everywhere.

"Status report!" Black screamed.

"They fired an EMP torpedo up our engine shaft!" the aide was distressed now.

"We've lost the engine! We're drifting."

"Remain clam. Fire the emergency thrusters and get us stopped."

Another thump, this time softer. The emergency thrusters had activated. The
ship stopped, barely in time to not collide with the station.

Black sighed. Another close shave.

TO BE CONTINUED