I'm switching to 2k chapters because it's much easier to read through, edit and upload than the 4k ones. Also I've decided to do a little thing with the story. Shouldn't change it too much but after a particularly emotional night with a bottle of cider and a particularly good movie about the Second World War I got patriotic and saluted our main rivals and closest friends. Historically speaking. Anyways enjoy.
British Grand Fleet, Malaya Starbase
If one would select a particular overtone for the enormous fleet bearing down on Beatty's formation, the average crewmen would likely probably pick a marching tune. Dambusters, Ride of the Valkyries, maybe something more folk-style like Colonel Bogey March. Beatty however, as he stared at the massive hull of the HMS Illustrious, Admiral Cumminghams flagship for the Mediterranean fleet, he would probably go for something imposing. The enormous spacecraft carrier was slightly smaller than the average british battleship (Or super dreadnought for the average person, even though the term dreadnought itself wasn't actually a classification) and carried a massive wing of aircraft specifically designed. The Fairey Swordfish was somewhat outdated by now, and the Fleet Air Wing of the navy really needed resources, but only so much could go to the spaceplane development companies, and much of that had been redirected to shoring up colonial outposts and developing humanities colonies, determined not to have another Independence war like that of the failed revolution of the 13 colonies.
The most modern aircraft the fleet air arm had at it's disposal where a few Hawker Sea Hurricanes. The only true, fully carrier based spaceplanes designed purely for carrier operations where the Gloster Gladiator IIs. Unlike the Hurricane, they where completely designed for carrier operations and to manage the tough and short winded landings along with easy repair and quick turn-around times. The only company to have something remotely on the drawing board was Supermarine, who where presently too busy raking in government cash for the Spitfire program.
Besides the Illustrious, several capital ships where escorting it along with its standard cruiser and destroyer complements. The carriers weren't really designed for front-line combat. Their armour was similar to that of a battlecruiser, it took a hit, but you wouldn't bet your life on it preventing a shell. It had a massive flak and anti-aircraft laser array. The thing could easily take out a whole wing of aircraft.
"Sir the shuttle is ready to take you to the Illustrious".
He nodded to Captain Chatfield before leaving, "Alert the Sea Lord I'll be onboard in 2 hours. In the meantime call what's left of Admiral Hoods fleet into our group and start taking count of the casualties. Admiral Jellicoe will want a full report".
"Aye Aye Vice Admiral". He saluted, before turning and speaking to his XO.
Beatty drew in a quick breathe before navigating to the small hangar bay deep below decks. The underside of a ship was it's toughest part. While one might line all the decks of a ship with guns to prevent the enemy from gaining an advantage, the british naval doctrine called for as many possible guns as possible pointed at the enemy. This meant having one area of the ship where every single large calibre gun could fire at the same time. To take advantage of this, the guns where all on the upper side. Connected to ammunition storage bunkers deep within the ship.
Several armored titanium doors between the turret and the battery protected the antimatter charges from explosions on the upper deck. The underside of a ship was solid armor, designed to protect its most vulnerable components. British doctrine was all-or-nothing. Either the entire ships vital components where protected and all the guns pointed at the enemy, or it wasn't a battleship. Cruisers followed the same doctrine, destroyers had even followed this. After all, the speed a ship could rotate nullified the effect of having guns on all sides. Usually the only weapons present where laser nodes for AA guns. The only hangar bays present on large ships where for small shuttle transfers. These where normally stored externally, but the heavy titanium plates on the underside occasionally hid transport spacecraft for inter-atmospheric journeys, or speedy FTL transfers of high profile targets.
The Illustrious was different. The massive vessel was heavily armoured underneath, more so than any other ship because of it's vulnerability to stealth destroyer attacks, a price paid in blood during the martian wars. Commonly called flattops, the vessels housed dozens of magnetic catapults which accelerated aircraft into action speed in seconds. All-in-all the Illustrious could deploy 24 spacecraft every 2 minutes. If it was desperate, it could have everything it had in the air in just 2 hours from detection to launch. The craft also had a set of magnetic landing pads and had a few dozen lifts to carry aircraft to the more heavily armored spacecraft deck. 400 aircraft could challenge any fleet, it's primary choice was the Swordfish and Gladiator IIs with a smattering of more advanced Barracuda's.
As Beatty proceeded deeper into the depths of the Lion, the damage became less and less apparent. On the upper decks, one could look in any direction and see dents, or scars on the ship. On the underdecks there was no such damage. At one point, he passed the entrance to the main battery. A direct connection to the most vulnerable part of the ship. A single reinforced elevator shaft, Two doors in the shaft, one on the battery and one on the storage. What he saw angered him to no end. Both elevator doors where open. The elevator could traverse the shaft quicker with the shells, but it rendered the explosion-proof and heavily fortified bulkhead doors useless. Antimatter igniters had been piled next to the elevator and the doors was currently open, with crewmen loading the shells back into the storage.
The scene began to play out to him. The first shell struck the battery and shot straight through it, likely killing the crewmen there. When backup crew arrived, they'd have to quickly rush to get the gun back in order, to do that meant quickly pulling shells from the elevator. In that period it was common practice to leave the doors open. It wasn't uncommon, as usually either the guns where completely destroyed or only lightly damaged and would still be operable. In this case the crewmen may well have left the doors open. The explosion from the antimatter would have filled the shaft with fire, and as the explosion travelled down, the massive stocks of antimatter stores would render the flashlight doors irrelevant. He would bet his rank that was how they had lost the Indefatigable, Invincible and Queen Mary.
Approximately 2 hours and 12 minutes later
Dressed in his uniform. Nervously awaiting in the out-of-place meeting room onboard the Illustrious. Beatty didn't let any of his emotion show on his face when the doors finally opened revealing Prime Minister David Lloyd George, first lord of the admiralty Winston Churchill, Admiral Jellicoe, Admiral Cunningham (of the Mediterranean) and Admiral John Fisher (who controlled the Far East Fleets). He saluted them one by one, before taking a seat at the table.
"Admiral Beatty. We have received your reports of the skirmish. I understand you have some concerns about the design and function of capital ships", started Jellicoe.
He nods, before nervously preparing the blueprints of the battlecruisers gun turrets. "During the battle, I'm sure you're aware we lost three of our most modern battlecruisers".
Churchill nodded, turning a page of the report. "Yes, the HMS Indefatigable, Queen Mary and Invincible".
"The design of the turret features a single lift which carries the antimatter cartridges and shell payloads directly from the battery to the turret using a chain".
Jellicoe nodded, "Yes to increase security and ensure if the shells explode there's always at least one flash-tight door between the charges and the battery. To prevent an ammunition flashover".
"Yes, but we never enforced rules. As I proceeded to leave my own ship, the Lion, the crewmen had left the doors to the battery and the lift open, assuming that the main elevator door would protect them if the turret was to take a hit".
"What actually happened, was the main turret was completely destroyed when hit several times by cannon fire. The resulting detonation ignited the charges on the lift. Normally just one flash-tight door can withstand a 2 kiloton explosion at such close range, and is designed to collapse downward to slow the explosion, however in this case, the shockwaves passed through the still-closing door and propagated in the hull below. All it took was the following wave of heat to ignite the current stack of explosive charges on the turret floor, which destroyed the battery".
The Admiral of the fleet leant back in shock, placing both hands on his head. Churchill flinched slightly before removing the cigar in his mouth and looking through the pages. The Prime Minister sighed, "How long would it take to introduce new policies about keeping magazine doors closed during battle".
"Informally we can send out a bulletin now calling for at least two doors to be closed between the batteries. To formally add it to regulations we need to pass it through the Admiralty. Probably take a few days at least".
"Do it. And push back the refits to the Illustrious for the design of a new method of getting the shells and charges to the turret which completely eliminates this".
Churchill looked towards Cunningham, who's flagship was the Illustrious.
"The new refits are important for the AA grid, we will need them eventually or I'll need more light cruisers to keep the fleet defended".
"I'll have the Comus and Cordelia assigned. They've just ran out of the shipyards. In the meantime, Prime Minister we need to begin preparations for war. We are still missing dozens from Singapore, that tells us these guys brought POWs. Which in theory means they're at least more civilized than the last lot unless...".
"Not technologically advanced to have eezo transmitters and receivers, but enough to have working barriers on their ships? What's with that".
"No information on that yet, but we've sent the most intact model of their ships to Bletchley Station. The boffins will hopefully figure it out".
"Keep me informed. In the meantime First Lord Churchill will be overseeing preparations for a full scale invasion into these guys. Starting with scouting and probing attacks. We need to strike before they can react. I'll convene Parliament and write up a declaration of war, as well as preparations to send in the red cross for the POWs".
He then stood. "Pleasure to meet you Beatty. Jellicoe". And with that he left the room leaving the heads of the navy to First Lord Churchill. "Right Lads. Bring the grand fleet to Hong Kong. We'll finish repairs and begin planning for an assault. I've already informed the SIS and Submarine Force from Dover to scout these people out. The Radio Interception Group are already sending gunboats into their space to try and enter their internet".
"Then you have your duties gentlemen. I will be convening Parliament for an emergency meeting, and calling in the Dominions".
In the corridor, David Lloyd George stood, and wandered to a heavily protected bulkhead office with lead lined walls and electro-isolating currents running through to prevent anyone from trying to listen in or hack any devices in the room. He went into a pocket, and drew out a small black device. Staring at the shades on it for several moments.
This was big, first contact and it was hostile. Almost exactly like last time. Perhaps it was time to call in assistance from the only other civilizations which had pushed through the falloff humanity. The only other nation of people who had possessed the knowledge, capability and oddly enough, both their greatest rivals and best friends.
He pressed the big button, and held it to his ear. There was a slight beep, before it finally connect. A gravelly voice on the other side. A voice he hadn't heard in far too long. "Bonjour Monsieur David?".
"Mister Deschanel? It's been too long. You remember our little agreement?".
"Oui Prime Minister? Please tell me this isn't what I think it is?".
"It's time. The Versailles Armistice has been activated".
"Merde. I will contact Marshall Petain, and prepare for war. Shall we meet again?".
"It would be prudent to do so wouldn't it? Same place?".
"Oui, I will see you there Prime Minister. Au Revoir".
Encyclopedia: Page 145: Status of Old Earth Nations
Russian Empire: Wiped out early in the invasion. Cold tundra aided martian fighting machines which had been used to training on the slopes of Olympus Mons, as a result the empire fell before the rest of the world realised it had been invaded.
United States of America: Survived initial invasion from the martians. Led an attack 10 years after the defeat which failed, and resulted in the US bunkers being blasted with poisonous gas from 'black smoke' chemical weapons.
German Empire: Was marked as the second most primary target, and their empire found itself particularly vulnerable from an opportunist Austro-Hungarian empire which crippled both empires and resulted in their defeat.
Italian and Austro-Hungarian Empire: Both attacked Germany when several ships where destroyed by supposed german dreadnoughts, as a result they quickly fell to the Martian invasion and did not have sufficient time nor infrastructure to keep their people alive.
Iberian Peninsula: Cut off from mainland, was kept as a 'farm' for the Martian's bloodthirst, and was eventually exhausted from all humans and killed. Few Portuguese escaped to the United Kingdom. Some Spanish escaped to France before the invasion.
United Kingdom: Crippled by invasion, where first to successfully colonize underground and the primary attackers in the continuation war. Handled interplanetary combat and constructed many warships for the combat. Secured the Versailles Agreement between France and themselves.
French Republic: Crippled by invasion. Many fled to the overseas colonies but the French army had been primarily focused on the German-French border and where cut down by Black Smoke. Remainders where able to utilize extensive drain network and build underground cities. Provided military support and construction work for the continuation attack. Fled to unknown space following the defeat of the Martians.