Disclaimer: The characters and situations of the Domination of the Draka universe are the property of S.M. Stirling and are used here without permission. No money is being made, and if requested I will remove this story from the web. So don't sue me. I don't have any money anyway. Mmmk?
A/N: Yeah, yeah, I know it's been done...but this is an idea that's been in my head literally for years, ever since I first read Marching Through Georgia and got to the part where the Draka forced the Pyrenees with nuclear weapons. A little voice told me, what if, just when they were stuck in nice and tight there, someone on the Good Guy side was smart, brave, and stone cold crazy enough to really go for broke? Of course, they didn't, because this is the Drakaverse and only evil slaver bisexual S&M supervillains have those kind of stones. But the idea stayed with me, and its finally coming out.
Proof Through the Night: Chapter One
March 22, 1945, 0745 Hours
T-40 Hours and Counting
Seventh Draka Army Headquarters, near Toulouse, France
Arch-Strategos Eric von Shrakenberg closed his eyes and raised his face to the weakly shining morning sun. Even here in the south of France there was still more than a hint of winter in the air, the air thick and dark with the smoke from the Eurasian War. Cities had burned under the bombs of British and American bombers, then burned again when the Draka marched through to break them to the Yoke. The latest reports from the Conservation Directorate said it would take years for the growing season to return to normal. And still, it's not enough for us. Not as long as there's anything left on the table. And Gods help me, I have to finish it off.
"Eric?" He turned to see Decurion-Tech Sophie Nixon standing behind him. A childhood spent in the Draka agoge and years on the sharp end of the war had made him a hard man to sneak up on, but Sophie had always been able to manage when she wanted to. Perhaps because she's the one person I never mind feeling vulnerable to. She was wrapped in an old motted green-and-brown field jacket, which still bore the sleeve flash of the First Airborne Legion and a long scorch mark down the side from a German bomb near Pyatigorsk. Her snub-nosed face was uncharacteristically grave as she held a steaming mug of coffee out towards him. "It's time."
Eric shut his eyes and lifted his face to the sun for a last moment, then turned and gratefully accepted the china mug. The coffee was scalding hot, naked of sugar or milk, but it had the rich smell of ground bean from the Draka Police Zone, not roasted-wheat ersatz. He'd need it today. Sophie rose up on tiptoes to kiss him lightly, then fell in one step behind him as he walked back towards the Seventh Army's command bunker. He let the silence drag out comfortably before asking,
"All of our distinguished guests assembled?"
Sophie nodded. "Corps commanders were in before dawn. General Staff liason, Navy men, even the representative from our friends the Headhunters." Eric pressed his lips together. There was absolutely no love lost between him and the Domination's Security Directorate, but so far his family connections, the corona aurea he'd won at Pyatigorsk, and the Archon's firm insistence that none of her toys were to be broken without her permission had kept him alive. "Group Captain Caudell just got in an hour ago. They had problems with the concealment at one of his dispersal fields and he was up all night fixin' the Freya-damned thing." Eric grunted in unconscious approval. True, Caudell had subordinates for that sort of thing, but the small group of Mamba jet bombers he commanded were the keystone of Operation Herakles. They had to be ready. Almost as important, the rag-tag mix of Spaniards, Portuguese, German Army remnants, and assorted refugees from all over Europe that awaited them on the other side of the Pyrenees Mountains could not be allowed to find them.
"Eric?" He stopped just short of the door and turned to face her as she took a step towards him, voice lowering as she leaned closer. After a moment's hesitation, he reached up and drew an arm around her shoulders, selfishly enjoying a few more moments with her before he walked into the bunker. However informal the Citizen Force might be about relationships within its ranks, once they stepped through that door there could only be room for the Arch-Strategos and his personal aide. He and Sophie had accepted that when she'd chosen to follow him up the ladder of promotion, but this morning he just let her lean on him for a long minute. When they broke, all she asked was,
"Do you think this'll work?" He nodded.
"It will, Sophie." A pause. "It has to."
March 22, 1945, 0600 Hours
T-36 Hours and Counting
The White House, Washington, DC
"Mister President? Sir?"
Franklin Delano Roosevelt struggled awake, blinking his eyes for a few moments in the dark before he felt able to respond to the voice coming from his bedroom door. Even lying in his sickbed he felt short of breath, and he could feel his hands shaking underneath the linen covers. It was a moment before he felt strong enough to respond with,
"Yes?" The door opened, and Roosevelt raised his arm to shield against the light as Colonel Harrison, his military aide, leaned in through the door. "What is it?"
"Sorry to wake you, Mister President, but Admiral Stark just called from the Navy Department. He says it's time, Sir."
"Time?" Roosevelt shook his head, and cursed the cobwebs that still slid across his mind. "Are we sure?"
"Yes, Sir. The last photo birds from Gibralter and Grand Canary showed Draka forces mobilizing across southern France, and our snooper teams in Spain have picked up a four-fold increase in Draka radio traffic over the past four hours. If they're not going for it today or tomorrow, Sir, they're doing a damn good impression of it."
"I see." Roosevelt fell back into his pillow for a moment, feeling an odd sense of peace wash over him. "Are we ready?"
"Yessir. Reprisal transited the Straits of Gibraltar yesterday morning and is on schedule. United States and her group had to fake engine trouble to keep the Snakes from getting suspicious, but they're just around the Cape of Good Hope now." Harrison hesitated, then went on in a flat tone. "The Combined Chiefs of Staff also agree with our conclusions. The Japanese even had a ready-made message to hand over. Their Prime Minister says Godspeed."
"Now, now, Harry." Roosevelt fell back into bed with a chuckle. "Be nice. If Yamamoto hadn't convinced the Emperor to throw in the towel when we bombed their fleet at Truk, we might still be tied up over there and the Snakes would be merrily taking over the world. I never thought I'd be glad the old bastard's so hard to kill."
Roosevelt coughed once, twice, a dry rattle that shook his throat, then struggled to a sitting position. "Okay, Harry. You may inform Admiral Stark that he has the green light for MONGOOSE. As you go out, would you please ask Stamper to lay out clothes and call a car? I'll await developments at the Navy Department." Harrison paused as he turned to go.
"Sir, shouldn't you be-" Roosevelt cut him off.
"Harry, if this doesn't go off right it won't matter how much longer I live. I appreciate your concern, but there's nowhere else I'd want to be right now." Harrison nodded, and carefully brought his right arm up in a crisp salute.
"Yes, Mister President."
March 22, 1945, 1900 Hours
T-29 Hours and Counting
Hangar Deck Two, USS Reprisal (CVA-56)
South of Sicily
Lieutenant Commander Julius Rosemont ran his hand over the deep blue nose of his mount and smiled at the words painted there. Spirit of Rio, the same name as the modified mail plane he'd flown from that city to Cape Town in 1929, earning himself the twenty thousand auric prize offered by the Domination of the Draka's Transportation Directorate and his first measure of fame. The original Spirit was long gone, picked over by souvenir hunters and then finally torched last year after the armistice with Japan, when Americans started taking a look around and realizing just what they'd allied themselves with.
Rosemont felt a deep, black pit in his stomach as he thought of that, a weltering spring of shame that he sometimes felt would never run dry. The first pictures had started coming out of Draka-occupied Europe since then, the refugees with their stories of Janissary rape gangs, millions of men, women, and children penned up like cattle, the nerve gas grenades tossed into packed basements and hundreds impaled on stakes when anyone dared raise their hands against the Draka. Words like serf, debt-bondage, and pacification had seemed so simple and reasonable when they were spoken about peoples that had spent centuries under the Yoke, or about Afghan tribesman that had resisted every other attempt to bring civilization from the Persians to the British.
The system Rosemont had seen in his tours of the Draka Police Zone had seemed so peaceful, orderly, with the serfs well provided for by the Draka masters who benevolently oversaw their welfare. Certainly preferable to the patchwork of tribal kingdoms that had been there before the Draka, both in Africa and across much of Asia, with millions of subjects living nasty, brutish, and short lives. He'd returned to America, spoken of what he'd seen across the land, told people that the Draka were simply fulfilling a self-imposed duty to guide and protect the lesser peoples of the Earth. He'd helped a reporter named Dreisier get permission from the notoriously suspicious War Directorate to accompany Draka airborne forces as a war correspondent, and been glad when the resulting articles helped raise a wave of pro-Draka sentiment across the country.
He'd done all that, been crucial in aligning his nation with the masters of Africa and Turkey…and he'd never once considered that he might have been lead along a primrose path all along. He'd never thought about what might lie behind the cool-sounding words his Draka hosts had used talking about Afghanistan and Persia. He'd never wondered why he'd seen so little of the industrial Combine camps, or any of the territories taken after the Great War. He'd not considered for an instant what his Draka hosts had really meant when they spoke of rescuing Europe from the twin perils of Nazism and Communism. He had, in short, been the blindest damn fool ever born, and helped lead his country into an alliance with monsters.
Well, that was all right. He might have a big debt to settle with the Snakes, but last time paid for all. And the new Spirit could write quite a big check. Rosemont's lips curled up as he looked the craft over. She was massive, half again as large as the Avenger torpedo bombers he'd flown over the Pacific and easily the heaviest thing anyone had ever flown of an aircraft carrier- but she almost looked lighter, balanced on her tricycle gear and chocked down. Where the Avenger had been a solid, beefy battleaxe of a plane that looked like it was carved from a solid block of steel, the new Spirit was all flush lines and fine metal. Her nose was smooth glass over the bombardier's station, extending back into a long, slim fuselage that tapered into a point near the tail like a wasp stinger. Gently swept-back wings held the twin Allison turboprop engines, which promised to offer the power of the new reaction jets with some of the fuel economy of piston designs. A sleek bubble canopy mounted the top of the fuselage, long enough for both pilot and the gunner who would work the twin cannons of the remote tail turret.
Painted in the deep blue of U.S. Navy night aircraft camouflage, she resembled nothing so much as a malign ghost. Personally, Rosemont thought that the Bureau of Aeronautics had done a good day's work when they named the Ryan AR-1 carrier attack bomber the Revenant.
He turned from his reverie as a welter of sound spilled into the hangar deck, puzzled for a moment. Officially Reprisal was sailing to help evacuate British troops from India via the Suez Canal, now that the Japanese had finally agreed to respect Indian independence. As far as the Snakes had been told Hangar Deck Two was empty, and the men and planes of Heavy Attack Squadron One had been grounded for the cruise out lest they break open the deception. Now one of the ordnance lifts had begun to whine, rising up from the armory buried deep in the heart of the ship. Rosemont took a few steps away from his bird for a look, and felt his stomach tighten at what he saw.
A dozen brawny sailors in dungarees were wrestling an ordnance cart off of the lift and wheeling it towards one of the squadron's Revenants tied down on the hangar deck. On the cart was a single bomb, a jet-black spheroid with the simplest of box fins mounted in the rear. It would fill the plane's bomb bay and make it strain to get off the ship even with the new steam catapults, but it could also explode with more destructive power than a sky full of conventional bombers.
The Ryan AR-1 Revenant, the United States class attack carriers, and the Mark 4 nuclear bomb had all been designed as part of the same system. Now the waiting was over, and it was time for that system to fulfill its purpose