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Women of the Waves

Discussion in 'Creative Writing' started by Whitewings, Jul 3, 2019.

  1. Whitewings

    Whitewings Getting some practice in, huh?

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    January 1, 1942. Even, or perhaps especially, when the world is engulfed in the fires of the first truly global armed conflict, the simple joys are still important and meaningful. People gathered in Times Square, or attended midnight mass, or did whatever it was they did to celebrate the New Year, if anything. And a few hours later, as the Earth’s surface turned through local solar noon, priests, magicians, medicine people, and other spiritually sensitive people were struck with an inescapable feeling of profound disturbance. To many, it was inexplicable, but to a few who happened to be in the right place, or by perspective wrong, when it happened, it was far too obvious. Armed Forces chaplains or equivalent, nursing sisters, a monk who happened to be looking out on the Mediterranean at just the right moment, and others over the next twenty four hours. Incredible, impossible, yet clearly and inarguably true. God, or the Heavens, or someone or something had just changed the rules.

    Commandant Marquart looked up from the endless forms that came with the running of the Brooklyn Naval Yard. "Yes?" he asked of his secretary.

    "Sir, there's someone here you need to see. It's about the battleship."

    He groaned. Another bean-counter, or worse, a union rep. "Send him in."

    "He's a she, actually. The chaplain sent her,” and the secretary was clearly trying to nerve himself up to add something more.

    "Then send her in!" the commandant snapped, and the secretary hurried out. The senior officer's eyes opened wide as what he could only presume was a performer sashayed into his office, dressed like a pin-up girl. As a military man of long service, he'd seen plenty of pin-ups, and a fair number of actresses and models dressed in pin-up style, mostly at parties and celebrations. But this woman, despite the sway in her hips, was different in some way he couldn't quite define. As he stared, she came to attention, and saluted, crisp and textbook-perfect.

    "BB-61 USS Iowa reporting for duty, sir!" she said, again textbook-perfect, expression as flat and neutral as he could have wanted.

    That was it. Despite the sashay, she didn't move like an entertainer. None of the usual suggestive postures or seductive looks, no breathy or sultry tones. In fact, she had a distinct Brooklyn accent. In terms of behaviour, she could have been any well-drilled member of the Navy. "Explain yourself, sailor!"

    "Sir, yes sir!" she replied instantly. "Permission to speak freely, sir!"

    "Granted."

    "Thank you, sir! Sir, I am the embodied spirit of the battleship BB-61 USS Iowa. With your permission, I can prove my claim. This will require use of the dry dock or, better, Navy Yard Basin."

    He just sat there for several moments. "Did I hear you correctly, sailor? You're the battleship Iowa, still under construction?"

    "Yes sir, I am the battleship Iowa. No, sir, I am not under construction."

    "That's pretty hard to swallow, sailor."

    "Yes, sir, it is, sir." Her posture hadn't changed; she was even still holding the salute.

    He returned the salute, and she went to normal attention. "At ease, sailor," he told her, and she shifted posture. "You say you can prove your claim on the dry dock or the river. Why not here?"

    "Sir, I would break the floor. The dry dock or the river can take the strain the demonstration will place on them, sir."

    He was still suspicious, but this was probably the quickest way to get rid of the crazy girl, so he granted the permission and accompanied her to the edge of Navy Yard Basin, where she ran at the seawall, jumped, and something happened that just was not possible. A pair of what looked like ski boots appeared on her feet, and a, well, backpack was probably the best term. It looked like a section of ship hull and had a smokestack, and huge extensions to either side that look liked like scaled-down portions of battleship. The crazy woman landed on the water, sank about an inch, and just stood there, then starting sliding over the water.

    "Sir, I don't have ammunition yet, so I can't fire my guns, but is this acceptable?"

    "It will do, sailor. Now get yourself back up here."

    Iowa skated over to the ladder, and her... accessories disappeared. She immediately sank, but quickly scaled the ladder and returned to the commandant. "Will you need further demonstrations, sir?"

    "The one will be sufficient for now, sailor. Go report to the Master of the Yard, tell him you need a billet and some normal clothes."

    She saluted again. "Sir, yes, sir!" and after he returned the salute, she went to report as ordered.

    The commandant returned to his office, wondering how he was going to commission a woman. Or enlist a battleship. He was starting to grow a headache.

    He pressed the intercom switch, and told his secretary to get the chaplain in his office along with anyone else who knew anything bout what had happened, and gratifyingly soon, two security men and the chaplain were in his office. They saluted, he returned. His secretary brought in some coffee and the commandant offered seats.

    “So… I’ve met Iowa. Striking woman, isn’t she?” The three men agreed to that. “So, did any of you actually see what happened?”

    “Yes, sir, I did,” said one of the MPs. “I happened to be looking at the Iowa at just the right moment, and… something happened to it, like heat shimmer, and the hull just… shimmered away and the woman shimmered in. She was wearing… well, you’ve seen her outfit. She had on this backpack contraption, and when I challenged her, claimed to be the Iowa. I ordered her to stay put, and when she started heading toward the ladder, I gave her a warning, then shot her. The bullet didn’t even register. There’s no way I missed a slow-moving target at that range, sir, but she didn’t even seem to notice, just sat down against the side, and told me to get my superior. I decided to get the chaplain. After all, this was an obvious act of God, I figured a man of God should handle it.”

    “Very sensible,” the commandant agreed. “Father, what can you tell me?”

    “Well, the young man was understandably a bit… incoherent, and I’d felt something odd only a few minutes before,” the elderly chaplain said in his deep, smooth voice. “Once he managed to explain things clearly enough, I agreed that this needed investigation, and went down to the dry dock. The young woman caused her contraption, she calls it ‘rigging,’ to disappear, and I spoke with her briefly. I’m not sure what she is, but I’m quite sure she’s not a demon. The Church has a list of signs of demonic presence, and there were none present. So I told her to go to you, and tell your secretary that I had sent her. The rest, I gather you already know.”

    “I do. Thank you, Father. You’re dismissed.” After the three had departed, Commandant Marquart spoke to his secretary. He needed to send some messages.

    In the living quarters of the Brooklyn Naval Yard, Iowa looked herself over in a mirror, and liked what she saw: a busty blonde Amazon with legs up to there, curves like a mountain road and a truly magnificent bust. She didn’t admire herself too long before she put her regular outfit back on, then put on the civilian men’s clothes over it. Not entirely respectable, perhaps, but still utterly heart stopping, especially since she was just slightly on the far side of six feet tall. Now it was time for some chow.

    In the canteen, Iowa was systematically working her way through her eighth serving, her table the centre of an entire crowd of sailors, some of them placing bets on whether she’d finish her current plate, others on how many more she could polish off. Iowa herself didn’t mind the attention, and grinned at the more outrageous bets. It felt great to fill her empty fuel tanks, though the incongruence between the feel of food and the feel of ammunition and fuel oil was a bit disconcerting. She hoped she’d get used to that, but for now, she’d been running on pure spiritual power, and that was just not something she could sustain for long. She she glanced up at a swarthy-looking fellow. “Mind getting a gal another serving?” she said with a grin.

    He shook his head. “Lady, I don’t know where you put all that, but if you want more, you got it,” and he went back into the line, returning just in time for her start on the offered plate. She was halfway through when a rating told her to report to the commandant’s office immediately. With a pained whimper, she pushed her tray away, and followed him.

    In the office, she saluted. “Iowa reporting, sir!” she said as she snapped a salute.

    He returned the salute. “We’re heading to Washington.”

    She straightened up a little more. “Yes, sir!” As they strode off, a realization struck her. “Sir, you need to call Admiral Nimitz. In about three hours, USS Saratoga will become the second US shipgirl.”

    Marquart changed direction, heading for his office. “Are you sure?” he demanded.

    “Certain, sir. I can’t see the future, as such, but I know a few things about it.” Once they were in his office, Marquart picked up the phone and dialled the long-distance operator. She listened to the commandant’s side.

    “Yes, operator. I’m Commander Marquart, Brooklyn Navel Yard. I need to speak to Admiral Chester Nimitz, Honolulu.” He provided some additional information, then there was a pause as the call went through. Iowa listened to the Commandant’s side. “Good… morning, sir. It’s about the battleship Iowa, BB-61. She’s finished, and… yes, sir. I know that’s not reason enough to contact you. But it’s how the completion happened, and, well it’s a little hard to credit. I’ll put her on.”

    Iowa took the handset. “This is BB 61, USS Iowa, sir!”

    The voice on the other end was weak and thin, but at least it was clear. “Explain yourself, what do you mean you’re the battleship Iowa?”

    “Sir, I mean exactly that. I am the incarnate spirit of the battleship Iowa, BB 61, United States Navy. I know it’s difficult to credit, but in roughly three hours, you’ll have proof. The aircraft carrier Saratoga will transform just as I have. She’ll become an actual woman, holding her flight deck like a bazooka. Her crew will appear on the nearest shore.”

    “Do you honestly think I’d buy this? Put the commandant back on!” She passed the handset back.

    “No, sir. It’s not a joke. I’ve personally seen this woman call her weapons out of nothing, and skate on the surface of Navy Yard Basin. An MP witnessed the transformation. Yes sir, I know exactly how insane it sounds. Yes, sir. I understand that perfectly, sir. Yes, sir.”

    He passed the handset to Iowa again. “Sir,” she said.

    “Assuming this fantastic story is true, what can you and Saratoga do?”

    “Well, sir, as the embodied spirits of a battleship and an aircraft carrier, we can do pretty much anything we could do as ships, except carry regular people. We have the same range, speed, power, all of that, except that we’re human-sized and pretty much human-like, which makes us basically impossible to target with any weapon that can actually hurt us. Saratoga can fire cartridges that turn into squadrons of toy-sized aircraft that pack the same punch as the full-sized ones. And she know how to summon more ship-spirits.”

    “So, you’re seriously telling me that you’re a battleship in the shape of a woman, with no loss of power or capability. Lady, you belong in the nuthouse.”

    “Sir, I know how unbelievable this is. But you’ll have proof in three hours, when Saratoga changes. And we’re not going to be the only ones.”

    “If this doesn’t pan out, I will make sure that Commandant Marquart is busted down as far as I can bust him, and you land in the booby hatchery where you belong.”

    “Yes, sir,” Iowa answered. “And rightly so, sir. But this will pan out.”

    “For your sake, it had better,” the Admiral growled. “Now put the Commandant back on.”

    She passed the handset again.

    “Yes, sir. I understand, sir. I’ll tell my secretary to expect your call; I’ll be on my way to Washington.” He hung up, then turned to Iowa. “We’ll hear back from him in about four hours. One way or another. Now go get your coat, we need to get to the train station. You do have a coat, don’t you?”

    She nodded. “Yes, sir. I had to borrow some clothes from the yard dogs until the stores open tomorrow.” He just nodded, and after a stop to pack a bag for himself, led her to the train station, where they picked up a few things for Iowa.

    En route, they both passed the time in reading, he a newspaper and she a novel. He glanced at the odd dust jacket illustration about halfway through the trip. “So, what’s it about?”

    Iowa looked over to him. “It’s about an archaeologist who gets thrown back in time and tries to prevent the fall of Rome. It’s pretty interesting; he starts out by convincing a banker to back him in making a wondrous new drink: brandy.”

    That got a chuckle. “Booze: the great uniter.” Then they settled back to reading. Once they arrived in Washington, he led her off the train and toward a nearby park. “I sent telegrams ahead, so they’ll be expecting us. What can you do without that contraption of yours that might convince them you’re not totally crazy? We’ll need something impressive, something you can do in an office.”

    Iowa thought about it. “Without deploying my rigging, I’m a lot stronger than I look. Like ‘carry a spinet’ strong. So maybe… pick up a couch by myself?”

    He considered. “That could work, for a start. Then you could skate around on the reflecting pool in front of the Lincoln monument. But what would you need for a full demonstration?”

    “Somewhere I can fire my guns,” Iowa answered instantly. “Remember, they’re as powerful and loud as regular battleship guns, and we don’t want people to think Washington’s getting shelled. There’s no point trying to keep a lid on me, not when Saratoga’s changed by now and the Japanese fleet will in a couple more hours. By this time tomorrow, shipgirls will be all over the world.”

    Marquand considered for a time. “Let’s go talk to Admiral King.”

    It did indeed take time, and considerable convincing; Iowa’s feats of strength were only enough to put a small dent in the various VIPs’ skepticism. Still, it was enough that they allowed to stay with them for questioning until time came for dinner. Iowa not being considered a suspicious person, just a very strange one, they took a cab to a nearby steakhouse, where the men ordered a steak, a quarter chicken, and a breaded pork chop, presenting their ration cards when asked. Iowa ordered the largest steak on the menu, a rack of ribs, and a half chicken, all with their sides, then the waitress looked extremely uncomfortable. Marquand spoke first. “We’ll cover it,” he said. He looked to the others, “With you approval, sirs? Iowa hasn’t existed long enough to be issued a card.” The others gave him a very dark look, but when Secretary of the Navy Knox nodded, Ingersoll had to go along. Marquand turned to Iowa, his expression even darker than the others. “You’d better be able to eat all that, sailor,” he warned her, his tone promising an entire career’s worth of peeled potatoes.

    Iowa, to her credit, has the sense to look intimidated. “I need a lot of food, sir,” she said, and the conversation turned to various inconsequential matters. In due course, the orders arrived, and Iowa made good her claim, leaving not a crumb or a drop of edible matter on any of the plates, and next to nothing potable in her glass. She’d even cracked the ribs open for their marrow. The sun was well down by dinner’s end, and after watching Iowa at dinner, the Washington men were willing to concede that yes, she was something other than a normal woman. A walk to the reflecting pool later, Iowa removed her shoes and coat, then jumped out over the pool and drove around the surface. Despite the cold, the pool wasn’t frozen, owing to the weather having been too gusty, so she was able to get up to a good speed on the third-mile length of water. She jumped out of the water, dismissed her rigging in midair, and upon landing, inadvertently revealed a limit on her abilities: her borrowed shirt was irreparably damaged and the shipgirl very glad of her choice to wear her normal outfit under the borrowed civilian clothes.

    By the demonstration’s end, Knox and Ingersoll had managed to accept what they were seeing. “So, those guns of yours, they’re just as powerful as the real thing?” asked Knox.

    “Just as, Mr. Secretary,” Iowa confirmed.

    Knox nodded slowly. “I’ll need to contact Roosevelt, and King. He’s up in Rhode Island right now.” That was no sort of secret, not when his headquarters was the USS Augusta. “We’ll hold the demonstration on Saturday, and make it a public event; you can use tomorrow to buy some proper clothes. I’m sure my wife will me willing to help there. Commandant, you can get back to your yard, we’ll take over from here.”

    Marquart saluted. “Yes, sir.”
     
    Last edited: Jul 4, 2019
  2. Whitewings

    Whitewings Getting some practice in, huh?

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    It was around three in the afternoon that a bored sentry straightened up as something approached the shore from an unexpected direction. There weren’t any ships due in this afternoon from Vancouver, and that wasn’t a profile he recognized. He put his binoculars to his eyes, and nearly dropped them again. It wasn’t possible. He couldn’t have seen it properly. He looked again, and kept looking. The… whatever she was looked like a blonde Princess Elizabeth, gliding across the waves on what looked like a cross between a throne and a battleship. She wore what looked like a miniature of St. Edward’s Crown, held what looked like the Orb of the Sovereign, and carried as a sceptre what looked like a radio mast. He kept watching as she slowed, stood, then started climbing up the breakwater. By the time she was onto the path, he had his bearings enough to have his rifle aimed at her. “Halt and identify yourself,” he ordered.

    The woman sat back down, and said in a fine, cultured mezzo-soprano, “I am HMS Warspite, and wish to speak with Commander Soulsby.”

    The seaman’s expression was eloquent. “I don’t know who you are, lady, but a fancy contraption and some props aren’t enough to back up a claim like that. So either get off this base or I shoot.”

    “I’m not leaving until I speak to the commander,” she said firmly.

    She even sounded like the princess! Whoever she was, she was very dedicated to her craziness. “Then I’ll give you one warning. Leave. Now. I won’t miss at this range.”

    Her stern expression hardened further. “I will not leave.” A crack and a puff of smoke, and she looked down at her corset. “Good. I needn’t readjust my bow. Now, seaman, as you have no ability to stop me, I would like you to escort me to Commander Soulsby.”

    He slung his rifle and without taking his eyes from her, fumbled for the handset in her guard shack. “This is Seaman Hanks, I have a situation here. CPO Rackins, can you get down here?”

    The CPO arrived not too long after. After an explanation from the seaman, he looked over the strange woman. “You know how crazy you sound, right?”

    She nodded. “I understand exactly how mad this sounds, yet it is true, Chief.”

    “Well, that crazy throne thing of yours won’t fit through any doors, so you’ll have to leave it behind.” That oughta get rid of this nut, he thought. The the throne went away. And the crown, orb and sceptre.

    “Shall we proceed, chief?” she asked.

    Rackins gaped, and as the seaman had done, decided to pass the buck upstairs. So he led her to Commander Soulsby.

    As he often did in his spare moments, the Commander was sketching, but set his pencil down at his secretary’s announcing of a visitor. The young woman came to proper attention, and saluted. “HMS Warspite reporting for duty, sir.”

    He returned the salute, then turned to the chief and seaman, who told their stories. Clearly something remarkable was happening, but the idea that this woman actually was a battleship was still a bit out there. “If you’re a battleship, then where is your crew?”

    She kept her expression serious. “My human crew, last I saw, was on the beach at English Bay. They were in no danger, and I needed to report to you.” Then she smiled. “My new crew is right here. Meet my chief,” she said as she reached into a small pocket in her half-skirt, and drew out a tiny… girl? It somehow seemed female, with a hugely oversized head, a bit like Betty Boop actually, in a CPO’s uniform. She snapped a salute and squeaked “Hey!” “Chief Petty Officer Bell, this is Commander Soulsby.”

    The Commander returned the salute without too much hesitation, and Warspite returned the chief to her pocket. “I… see. Well, I have to say, your claim is more credible. So, granting its truth, why are you as you are, and what can you do?” After listening to her explanation and asking a few questions, he decided that this would require the First Lord and Prime Minister’s attention.
     
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  3. Whitewings

    Whitewings Getting some practice in, huh?

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    While Iowa and Commandant Marquart were en route to Washington, a familiar face stepped into Admiral Nimitz’ office, followed by his secretary. “Admiral, you aren’t going to believe this, it’s about the Saratago… she’s… she’s a she!”

    “I’m sorry, sir,” the secretary managed to stammer out. “I didn’t get the chance to announce him.”

    The admiral stared at the man, then spoke firmly, bust softly. “Slow down, Herb. Breath. Then tell me what happened.” A deep fear was starting to grow in his gut.

    Rear Admiral Fletcher did as instructed, and by the time his breath was back, had managed to somewhat compose himself. “I was on the Saratoga’s deck, then suddenly the whole ship… it kind of… it was like seeing something appear out of heat shimmer, but backward. The hull just… shimmered out. And suddenly I was on the beach with the rest of the crew, and this woman shimmered in, carrying this… I don’t know, it looked like a tiny flight deck. She said she needed to talk to you, then just… took off across the water, she wasn’t even moving her legs. I took our fastest ship to get here before her.”

    “Go get the chaplain,” the admiral told his secretary. Once the workman was on his way, Admiral Nimitz headed off for the beach. A fairly short walk later, he saw a crowd of sailors and workmen starting at a toweringly tall strawberry blonde in a sleeveless blue dress, red stockings, and carrying what looked like an unholy fusion of an SMG and a carrier’s flight deck. The moment she saw him, she came to attention and snapped a salute, somehow standing on the ocean’s surface. Admiral Nimitz could still see the wake she’d left. “Sir! CV-3 USS Saratoga reporting in, sir!”

    He returned the salute. “At ease, sailor.” The woman shifted posture to a fairly relaxed stance, not exactly a conventional “at ease,” but a fair approximation given her… weapon. “Explain yourself. What do you mean, you’re the Saratoga?” He didn’t doubt Herb’s honesty, but this was too far outside anyone’s experience to grasp quickly or easily.

    Saratoga didn’t directly answer. “Sir, request permission to come ashore.” The admiral granted permission, and Saratoga somehow jumped two yards high and four yards along, her weapon disappearing as she did, and landed lightly on the sand. “Sir, I am the embodied spirit of the aircraft carrier Saratoga. I can deploy or dismiss my rigging as required, as you’ve just seem. Despite my appearance, with my rigging deployed, I have all the speed, durability and firepower of the warship I was, except that I no longer carry a crew.”

    Nimitz frowned; even if true, this just stuck in his craw. “So… can you change back? Women don’t have a place in a Navy, never mind as the Navy.”

    Saratoga lowered her head. “I know your feelings on the subject, sir. But circumstances don’t leave much option, sir; the Japanese fleet has been, or soon will be, transformed almost entirely into beings like myself. How well do you imagine a conventional warship will fare against an equivalent ship reduced to my size but with the full power of my previous incarnation?”

    Admiral Nimitz fell silent, considering the question. Saratoga was right, a conventional warship just couldn’t hit a human-sized target accurately. “So, assuming you really are a warship somehow turned into a woman, how do we repair you? With a repair slip or a hospital bed?”

    “Neither, sir,” Saratoga replied promptly. “With your permission, the yard workers can prepare a basic repair dock for those like me in an hour or two, maybe less. Beings like myself need only two things to repair ourselves in a timely manner: a great deal of food, and a suitably blessed pool of warm mineral water. Not exactly hard to find here in Hawaii,” she said with a smile. “All the crew needs to do is build, basically, an artificial tide pool. Two or three yards out from the shore and fifteen or twenty yards across will be enough, if the chaplain is willing to perform the blessing.”

    Admiral Nimitz frowned in thought. “So you repair yourself by having a feast and taking a bath in the sea?”

    “More or less, sir. The pool needs to be properly consecrated, the bath is measured in hours or days, and the feast needs to be huge, enough to feed ten or fifteen men. But yes, that’s fairly accurate.”

    “I’ll have to think about this,” he said. This was insane, totally insane. He believed in God and in miracles, but miracles were subtle things these days. But the carrier was gone and the woman was present, and what else could do that but an act of God? Better wait for the chaplain to arrive.

    It wasn’t long before Father McGuire arrived. He’d broken out the full regalia for this, including his Bible and something that looked like a very small mace with holes in it; the workers made way for him. He nodded to the admiral. “Good afternoon,” he said, then nodded to the woman. “Good afternoon. One of the yard workers came to me with a rather fantastic story. You don’t mind if I ask you a few questions, do you?”

    “Of course not, Father,” she answered with a smile.

    “Well, first, I’d like to start with the simplest test, one anyone can understand. I have a quantity of holy water in this sprinkler.”

    “And you want to sprinkle me with it. Go ahead, Father. My clothing can handle a bit of salt water, and so can I.” He did, and she showed no slightest discomfort. The priest returned the sprinkler to his sash, and turned to the admiral.

    Nimitz relaxed at the lack of reaction, releasing a bit of tension he hadn’t realized he’d been under. “With your permission, I’d like to question her further.” The Admiral gave the permission, and the Father turned back to Saratoga. “First, who and what are you?”

    “Well, I’m Saratoga. CV-3 USS Saratoga to use my full name, and I’m the incarnate spirit of that vessel, with all the capabilities of that vessel despite my transmigration.”

    He frowned in concern. “That’s quite a claim. Do you have proof?”

    She smiled. “I certainly do.” She walked out into the ocean, her bizarre weapon appeared along with a sort of “bustle” carrying guns, then she raised her flight deck, and fired along the length of the beach. From the barrel there came a puff of smoke, then a flash of light turned into a half dozen tiny Avengers, which circled around and flew up and down the length of the slip. The oddly proportioned pilots even waved to the onlookers before the squadron converged and in a flash of light merged into a cartridge which Saratoga tucked into a pocket in her skirt.

    “Would you be willing to say a paternoster with me?” the Father asked.

    Saratoga hesitated. “Um… I only know it in English. Will that do?”

    He nodded, and they spoke the prayer in their separate languages, then the priest said to the Admiral, “Whatever she is, she’s absolutely not one of Satan’s minions. I’d call this a probable miracle, though of course a proper investigation will be needed. In the meantime, miss Saratoga, is there anything you need that I can help with?”

    Her face lit up in delight. “There certainly is!” and she told him with she’d told Admiral Nimitz about her requirements for healing. He agreed to give the pool its needed blessing, and asked them to let him know when it was ready. He had a new sermon to write for Sunday.
     
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  4. Whitewings

    Whitewings Getting some practice in, huh?

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    In Yokohama, Admiral Yamamoto was taking lunch in the officer’s mess when a seaman third class, looking very much as if he’d rather be anywhere else, entered, flanked and followed by a pair of teenage girls. Young teenage girls in school uniforms, though with ridiculously short skirts. And the one to the left had white hair. All three saluted properly, and waited. After a decent interval, the admiral rose and returned the salute, then bowed to the correct degree; the three returned the bow, the two girls less deeply that the seaman, who remained bowed. “Sir, request permission to speak with you in private, on a most remarkable matter concerning the women with me,” he said, tone painfully correct and neutral.

    The admiral considered briefly. “Go to the nearest debriefing room and await my arrival.” The three departed with gratifying speed. That seaman clearly needed instruction in proper protocol and security practices.

    Once he was finished with his lunch, Admiral Yamamoto proceeded to the conference room, allowing his irritation to show on his face. “Explain yourself immediately, seaman. Who are these children and why are they on this base at all, and most importantly, why did you feel it necessary to interrupt my lunch to introduce them?”

    The seaman had bowed, and showed no sign of straightening up. The two girls had also bowed, but straightened up. “Permission to speak, Admiral”? asked the one with the white hair.

    He let her sweat for a few moments. “Permission granted.”

    “Thank you, sir. I am Imperial Japanese Naval Destroyer Yamagumo,” said the one with white hair. “My companion is Imperial Japanese Naval Destroyer Mutsuki. We are prepared to prove this remarkable statement. First, though, the seaman’s testimony might be desirable.”

    The admiral nodded. “Explain yourself, seaman.”

    The poor fellow finally managed to straighten up. “Sir, the destroyer Yamagumo was sitting off-shore, and I and a few others were looking in the right direction to see the hull start to… to ripple, like seeing something through the ripples over a hot road. It… it just… went away. And this girl appeared, standing on the ocean. And this other girl burst from the sea and they… skated across the sea, and said they needed to see you. I was told to escort them to you, sir.” He had not looked up at the admiral the entire time, he trembled in every limb, and of the many levels of politeness Japanese allowed, his level was positively obsequious.

    “Truly,” the admiral answered; his tone could could have dried the Inland Sea. The seaman just stayed as still as he could.

    “We can prove our claim, Sir,” said the girl who claimed to be Mutsuki. “Fortunately, this floor is concrete over bedrock.” Neither instantly nor gradually, a bizarre contraption simply appeared on her back. And the floor dented slightly.

    He frowned at the dent. “Do not do that again. But it is sufficient proof that you are at least something remarkable. For now, I will give orders you are to be treated as… naval cadets.”

    Mutsuki had the grace to look shamefaced. “Yes, sir. Thank you sir.” The admiral dismissed them, and the seaman left as quickly as he could manage without entirely losing what little dignity he still retained. Mutsuki dismissed her rigging, and the two girls headed for the one place every shipgirl loved best: the mess hall.

    Admiral Yamato returned to his office, wondering how he was going to write this up, and to whom he would submit the report. Tojo would never believe it; that man thought an order from an officer would make a hen lay an egg. And he hated the Navy. No, he’d need to go straight to the top: Hirohito. Besides, this was a bluntly supernatural event, and the Emperor was the highest religious figure in the country, on par with the Dalai Lama or the gaijin Pope. As he was mentally composing the report, a knock came at his door. He gave permission to enter, and in came several extremely tall women, wearing between them about enough clothing to make one conventional women’s suit, and behind them several more young teens.

    He sighed heavily. “Name yourselves.” The least dressed of the towering women claimed to be the Yamato, and somehow he was not particularly surprised. “Has our entire fleet become women?” he asked rhetorically.

    “Only much of it, sir,” the battleship-woman Nagato told him.

    He sighed. “I must speak with the Emperor on this matter, and it would be well to have at least some of you come along. But your attire is… unsuited to the Imperial Palace. Why do you wear so little, and can you wear more normal clothing?”

    “Our outfits, sir, are symbolic representations of our armour layouts as ships, and we will wear nothing else into combat, simply because wearing normal clothes atop them would be a waste of cloth. But we can and will wear other clothing for appropriate circumstances, sir.”

    “Very well,” he said with understandable reluctance. “I will order that the once-ships be treated as naval cadets, until such time as I decide how best to integrate you into existing command structures. For now, I need some information: what do you eat, do you eat, what else do you need?” And they told him. “I will see that these matters are attended to. In the meantime, you are dismissed. Pass my orders to the other transformed vessels.”

    The former vessels saluted, and Nagato confirmed that they would do so. As they filed out of the office, it was impossible for the admiral not to watch the battleships’ sterns a bit. That could become a problem; he just hoped it wouldn’t be too bad of a problem.

    Earlier that day
    On the beach at Mata Island, a furious commander glared at the little girl standing where his destroyer had been. “You! Child!” he bellowed. “Come here now!”

    The short-skirted schoolgirl slid across the water to the very edge of the rocky beach, then gave a half-hearted salute. “My name, sir, is Akebono,” she didn’t quite sneer. “Akebono, 18th ship of the Imperial Japanese Navy's Fubuki-class destroyers, if you want the full form.”

    His face darkened in fury. “Come here, Akebono!” He would not acknowledge the ridiculous claim that she was his destroyer; it was self-evidently preposterous. The girl, with her ridiculous-looking backpack and accessories, did as told. The stones under her feet cracking down to gravel didn’t even register. “What have you done with my vessel, child?”

    Akebono frowned, eyes narrowed. “Nothing, Commander. I am your vessel. However little you want it to be true, I am Fubuki-class destroyer Akebono.”

    “Nonsense! You are a foolish schoolgirl, not a vessel of war. Now tell me the truth: Where is Akebono?”

    “Right in front of you, sir!” she insisted. Insisted, but did not plead.

    He tapped his swagger stick meaningfully across his palm. “You will tell me the truth immediately.”

    “I have, and I will. That you cannot accept the truth, do not blame me.”

    And he swung his stick hard across the disrespectful, stubborn, foolish, unendurable girl’s face. She didn’t even flinch. There was no welt. “So,” he said. “You have some small measure of courage. It will not be enough, I will have the truth!” And he slapped her across the jaw, then howled in pain.

    Akebono sighed. “Sir, I told you the truth,” she said softly. Then she bellowed for a medic before returning to the sea, staying about a metre from the tide line. The commander’s subordinate, along with the medic, came as quickly as they could across the rocky, pebbled beach. While the medic occupied himself with the commander’s multiply factored hand, the XO turned to Akebono.

    “Young woman, who and what are you?” he asking, tone demanding and harsh.

    She saluted, properly this time. “I am destroyer Akebono. Or, rather, the manifested kami of destroyer Akebono, with all the capability of that vessel. So when the skipper slapped me, well. I’m sorry for his suffering, sir.”

    “I… see,” the XO said slowly. “And how has this come to pass?” His tone now was less harsh, though no less demanding.

    “Sir, I do not know. I do know that we, meaning myself and other components of the fleet, have become as we are for two reasons: to bring this war to a swift conclusion, and more importantly, to prepare for a much greater war to come, a war not for pride or wealth, but for the survival of the human race against youma called Abyssals. They are like us, in that they have the forms of young women and the power of warships, and unlike us in that they seek to drive mankind from the waters, the skies, and ultimately the land.” She moved one hand to indicate she needed to pay attention to something other than him, and a few moments later returned her attention to the XO. “Yamato, Nagato and several other lighter craft are heading to Yokohama to confer with Admiral Yamamoto. Perhaps we should confer again when I receive news from them?”

    The XO considered for several moments. “That will do. Can you come ashore, Akebono?”

    She nodded sharply. “I can, sir,” and slid several metres out to sea, then slid back in, leapt twice her height up and even further along, landing on the rocky strand with rigging dismissed.
     
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  5. Major Major

    Major Major Getting out there.

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    Oh blimey..... London's going to blow a gasket if/when the Hood comes back, along with the Prince of Wales and the Repulse. I hope that doesn't take too long.
     
  6. Whitewings

    Whitewings Getting some practice in, huh?

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    In a repair slip in Leningrad, the battleship Gangut had been undergoing repairs, and providing limited gun support despite her lack of mobility. The yard workers, though, had found it desirable to withdraw indoors, and so only two men were on hand to see the change occur. “Vlad?”

    “Yes?” asked Ilya.

    “Did you just see that?”

    “No. And neither did you. We weren’t here when it happened, we were delayed in our patrol.”

    “Da,” Vlad agreed. Both quietly ignored the white haired young woman walking down to the frozen river and the prominent lack of battleship in the repair slip. The event had been clearly supernatural, belief in the supernatural was counterrevolutionary, therefore, there had been no event. They reported nothing to their superiors even as the transformed battleship shattered the ice of the Neva as she slid along the river, leaving a narrow trail. The NKVD would hear of this in time, but not through them.

    Gangut did not how know she had come to be as she was, yet she remembered what she had been, and the current situation, though she knew not how she knew, and so had chosen to initiate the most important phase of any military operation: Gathering intelligence. Her white hair and white coat made her hard to see against the river's snowy surface, especially when she dismissed her rigging. The cold instantly bit, and she shivered in her light attire, but she could endure. For the people of Leningrad (which she still thought of as St. Petersburg) and all the Russias, she would bend her might to the destruction of the Nazis and their troops. For their sake, she would endure what no other could. And so she began her careful circuit, keeping low, using all the cover she could find as she scouted along the siege line. The bombardment was not as a film would show it, endless, but intermittent, here a dozen shells, there a quarter of that number, no rhyme or reason, all to keep the defenders off balance. Twice she had to deploy her rigging as her limbs became numb from cold, and twice only battleship armour kept her alive long enough to dismiss her rigging and scurry away, further along her circuit. Mighty as she was, she was still only a single combatant, so where could she best apply her power? It needed to be something essential, something only she alone could do, or the NKVD would try to "suppress" her. She considered, and decided she had no choice. She made for the Road of Life, the only source for food, ammunition, medical supplies, and evacuation. If she could knock out even some of the batteries that threatened that road, the city just might have a fighting chance. Memories of the yet to be surfaced, horrid recollections of people dead in the streets of hunger, of children singing morbid rhymes. As she approached the Road, she deployed her rigging, and sent on the Russian frequencies what she hoped was a secure message to the supply train's commander. "Bread-bringers, you are now under the protection of battleship Gangut! I will kill the men who break the Road of Life, and the city shall live!" She shut down her transmitter, and did not risk a second message. She would speak with her guns, in a mighty voice that all would understand.

    The instant she ended her message, Gangut slid along the Neva quick as she could. There would be no subtlety, no glory, only courage, duty and death. She depended on speed and small size to avoid German artillery, firing as she passed then. She hadn’t been designed for direct fire; it was an odd experience, targeting things she could actually see. The Germans, she soon decided, were either very brave or very stupid, surprisingly few fleeing their posts. Or perhaps they just didn’t understand what they faced. Yes, that seemed most likely. As she approached the lake, she found herself slowing down. What was wrong? Why did the ice not shatter under her great weight? Oh no… the ice. Why had she not realized it before? Over a metre of clear lake ice was enough to support even her! She started to run, her shoes leaving behind her prints of ice, snow pressed hard. Battleships did not tire, they only ran out of fuel. She had relatively little fuel, her tanks barely a quarter full, but it would be enough. It had to be enough. The road had to be protected! Yet a fifty kilometre long ice road was a long stretch to protect for just one person, however mighty. Then inspiration struck. She didn’t need to protect the road! The German artillery was on the shore, not the ice, and if she took out the artillery, it would be days or weeks to replace them! Gangut started walking along the ice near the shore, too close for the Germans to depress. This was going to be a slaughter.
     
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  7. Whitewings

    Whitewings Getting some practice in, huh?

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    In the Wadden Sea, just near Hamburg, there lies the tidal island of Neuwerk. Normally home to a population of thirty to thirty-five, its current population was now more than double that, with the new residents extremely confused as they watched a pretty young girl sailing off to the north, singing an old German chanty. Every officer and enlisted man knew the Gestapo was going to kill them. Perhaps literally.

    U511 had no idea how she had come to be as she was: one moment nothing, the next moment she was sliding across the sea. She had feet, and legs, and arms, instead of a sleek hull, and the weirdest part was how weird it didn’t feel. It was perfectly normal and natural, just as natural as receiving a radio signal from… Bismarck!? But she’d been sunk, hadn’t she? The transmission was brief, very brief, just an announcement of name and instruction to change to a different frequency.

    “All Schiffsmädchen, report! Over!” came the voice she somehow knew was Bismarck.

    “U511, reporting in, over!” she answered. Then more, mostly vessels she somehow knew had been sunk: the destroyers Leberecht Maass and Max Schultz, the cruiser Prinz Eugen, and the aircraft carrier Graf Zeppelin, still under construction last anyone had heard.

    “Graf Zeppelin,” she heard Bismark command, “you will proceed to forty nautical miles due north of Bülker Leuchtturm. We will rendezvous with you there. All vessels are to defend themselves as needed, but do not initiate hostilities. Maintain radio silence until rendezvous. Acknowledge, over.” The acknowledgements, including her own, came in very quickly. U511 kept heading north, and crouched low, steering a bit further out to sea. A long, tense, yet boring voyage later, she arrived at the approximate location of the rendezvous, and after some searching finally found the others. A human was a very small thing to find in an ocean, even with patrol aircraft to help and guide. She saluted Graf Zeppelin and Bismarck, and they returned the salute.

    “Now that we can speak normally, we have a mission. We are going to proceed to the Bay of Danzig. We will go up the River Vistula, then the River Bug, and we will destroy Sobibor and Treblinka. Graf Zeppelin and U511 will provide primary anti-air. If spotted by hostile forces, all surface vessels will dismiss rigging and submerge. We will hold hands, and U511 will submerge and tow us. Prinz Eugen and I will take her port side, the rest her starboard, to keep the load reasonably balanced. Any questions?” There were not, and the German girlfleet sped off to prevent an atrocity.
     
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  8. Whitewings

    Whitewings Getting some practice in, huh?

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    Able Seaman Jacob Hand, standing watch at Gibraltar, saw a speck of white apparently near the horizon, and disregarded it. It wasn’t anything worth regarding, just an albatross or similar. He kept up his watch, and noticed the speck getting closer, but still paid it no mind, not until the speck turned into a line. Odd. He raised his field glasses, and saw something that just didn’t make sense. He looked again, and again, and finally started to get what he was seeing. It wasn’t possible, but he was seeing it anyway. He called to the nearest other seaman to fetch Admiral Somerville immediately, and went back to watching the impossible sight.

    HMS Ark Royal didn’t know how she’d come back, but she knew where to go and where she was, so she slid across the ocean at a steady 15 knots, watching and listening for enemy activity. The Krauts had a lot of U-boats in the area, and she didn’t want tangle with them. Oh, they’d only hit her by dumb luck, their torpedoes were good but not that good, but there was always that chance. Less than ten kilometres from Gibraltar, it happened: a Kraut commander with the mental strength to accept the evidence of his own senses. She heard the thrum of the boat’s engines turning to face her, and boosted to full speed ahead even as the Kraut launched a torpedo spread at her, her fairies scrambling to get her up as quickly as possible. While she did that, she pulled an arrow from the quiver at her hip, nocked and drew, and fired. In mid-air, the arrow burst into a half-dozen toy-sized Fairey Barracudas, which promptly flew for the enemy boat. The lead aircraft dropped its torpedo, speeding toward the gigantic target of the Class IX’s hull; at the same time, the rest of the squadron dropped their own torpedoes to explode the U-boat’s spread. Ark Royal saw the explosions, and grinned in satisfaction as the boat turned aside. Gibraltar ho.

    On the shore, Vice-Admiral James Somerville had watched the engagement through powerful field glasses. Incredible, impossible, yet it was clearly real. There was no way to fake anything like that, not on the open ocean. He returned the glasses to the seaman, and strode quickly away to order whoever or whatever that was escorted into harbour and to his office as quickly as possible.

    It was only a short time until the individual in question arrived. He estimated her at 5’10”, with red hair and a most peculiar outfit, including a quiver of arrows at her right hip, and in her left hand what appeared to be bizarre combination of a longbow and a carrier’s flight deck. She snapped a salute, which he returned. “Explain yourself, young lady. Who and what are you, and how did you do what I saw through the field glasses?”

    “Vice-Admiral, I am HMS Ark Royal, pennant number 91, transmigrated into this form. I am what is called a shipgirl, and I was able to do what I did because despite my appearance, I hold the full power of the warship I once was. At least, I do at the moment.” Her weapon, quiver and bustle disappeared, and her shoes, leaving her in what looked like ballet slippers. “The ship-like accoutrements I just dismissed are what are known as my rigging. Without that, I am ‘only’ as strong and tough as three women my size, and ‘merely’ as fast as an Olympian. I, and others like me, have come into being for two purposes: first, to end this war as quickly as possible, and second, to prepare the world, not any single nation, for a far greater and more terrible war, a conflict which will threaten the very survival of the human race.”

    “You say others like you. Who are these others?”

    “The United States battleship Iowa, the United States carrier Saratoga, the majority of the Japanese fleet, the Russian battleship Gangut, several components of the Kreigsmarine, who are probably heading for London now, several Italian Navy ships, the French vessels Richelieu and Commandant Teste, who have sided with the Forces Françaises Libre, and HMS Warspite off Vancouver Island. A number of us know how to bring about the transmigration of other vessels, and we can teach that skill.”

    “Did you say that German… shipgirls are heading toward London?”

    “Yes, sir, they are. But there’s no cause for alarm. They are loyal to Germany, but not to Hitler, and knowing them, they’ve probably already destroyed some very expensive installations.”

    “You know them? How?”

    “I’m not quite sure, sir. But I know a few things that logically I shouldn’t be able to. Just a few, such as the coming war, my purpose, and a general understanding of some of the other shipgirls.”

    The Vice-Admiral frowned in thought. “Find a typewriter. Prepare a report for the Prime Minister and the First Lord of the Admiralty.”

    Ark Royal snapped a second salute. “Yes, sir,” and departed once it was returned.

    The Vice-Admiral had a lot more questions than answers, but the boffins could likely find them best.

    The First Lord of the Admiralty had received the day before a most peculiar telegram from Esquimalt Naval Base, on Vancouver Island. “Unprecedented occurrence. Extremely sensitive. Details to follow.” The details had not yet followed, but that was no great surprise. If the matter was indeed so sensitive, they were doubtless coming by courier, and a continent and an ocean made no quick trip. As he occupied himself with the minutiae of running the war, or at least his portion of it, his secretary buzzed him.

    “There’s a woman to see you, sir. She’s very insistent,” the woman said.

    “Then send her in.” Anyone his secretary couldn’t brush off was almost certainly worth listening to, or at least requiring of a higher ranked brush. He wasn’t sure what sort of person he’d been expected, but a tall young woman apparently dressed for a day at the beach had certainly not been among the possibilities. She carried herself like a military woman, he noticed, and saluted him sharply. He returned the salute. “State your business.”

    She took the large envelope from under her left arm. “A report, sir, very urgent, on behalf of Vice-Admiral Somerville. Concerning myself, sir. Correct, complete and provable, with minimal cooperation on your part, sir.” Educated accent, very crisp.
    Hmm. He started reading the report, then looked up to the woman. “Correct and complete, you say?” The skepticism was very nearly congealing.

    “Yes, sir. I can prove my claim with a minimal amount of cooperation, sir. I require a dry dock, a chunk of bedrock, or ideally a moderately large body of water, such as a duck pond. The initial demonstration will not take above five minutes, plus travel time, sir.” Her posture hadn’t wavered since her arrival; if she was a prankster, as seemed all but certain, she was well-drilled in her role.

    “Very well. But if you do not prove this outrageous claim to my satisfaction… “

    “I’ll be spending the rest of my very long life in a military prison, sir. I know.”

    Well, that did put a different light on the matter. A prankster was one thing; a person who would risk life imprisonment was another. She might be mad, but a little cooperation would go much further toward ridding him of her than any amount of recalcitrance. “Very well, miss. We’ll go to the nearest park, and you will prove your claims or I shall have you committed.”

    “Of course, sir,” she said, and followed him to the nearest of the many little parks that dotted London. It did indeed boast a duck pond, and the woman stepped out into it, then, neither suddenly nor gradually, a quiver appeared at her right hip, an extremely odd contraption like a bustle in back of her, and in her left hand what seemed to be a longbow attempting to mate with a carrier’s flight deck. After sliding out onto the pond, she stood stock-still upon the water’s surface. Facing to his left, in a direction with nobody to hit, he noticed, she raised her weapon, drew an arrow, nocked, fired, and in mid-air, in a burst of flame, the arrow somehow became a flight of fighter planes. Tiny, no larger than large toys, but clearly functional from the way they flew about, demonstrating various formations. One even flew in front of him, and the large-headed pilot waved at him. The little planes landed on her flight deck, now held out horizontally, and in another burst of flames, merged back into an arrow, which she returned to her quiver. Without moving her legs, she slid back to shore, then her strange accoutrements disappeared and she walked back to him. “Is that sufficient for an initial demonstration, sir?”

    He nodded. “It will do for a start,” he said.
     
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  9. Whitewings

    Whitewings Getting some practice in, huh?

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    Later that evening, a young woman strode quickly into the office of the First Lord of the Admiralty. She saluted sharply. “Message for Lord Alexander!”

    The First Lord glanced up to her, and returned the salute. “Proceed.”

    “Lord Alexander, there are a half-dozen shipgirls proceeding up the Thames. They are travelling slowly, approximately five knots, and are broadcasting in German a repeated signal requesting audience to discuss terms of,” and she hesitated. “Sir, they wish to, according the translator, come over to our side until the ousting of the Nazi regime.”

    He leaned back and considered the matter; Ark Royal’s report had include a mention of this. “Have they done anything aggressive, beyond entering our waters?”

    “No, sir. They’ve proceeded quite slowly and very openly; they’ve stated they’re here under flag of truce, and their apparent leader, who identifies herself as Bismarck, is carrying a truce flag.”

    He considered his options, then made a decision. “Very well. Have them directed to St. James Park. Ark Royal will await them there on the pond. They are not to deploy their rigging once they depart the Thames. And get their order of battle. I’ll meet them there; have a pavilion made ready, with a great deal of food prepared. You’ve heard about Ark Royal’s appetite, I’m quite sure.”

    She saluted once more, “Yes, your Lordship,” and after he returned the salute, she departed to see his orders carried out.

    Not long after, the Schiffsmädchen, Lord Alexander, his staff, and a translator were gathered in a large, circular felt tent. A tiny charcoal brazier, its chimney protruding slightly beyond the tent’s peak, warmed the tent surprisingly effectively, and a number of battery powered lamps provided adequate lighting. Not explicitly mentioned, but clear to all, was that Ark Royal, standing on the duck pond, was quite ready to use her power against them, should it be necessary.

    After introductions, the supplying to U511 of a pea-coat and trousers (in which she was swimming), and the start of a much-needed meal for the new visitors, the real business could begin. “First, which of you is your leader?” Lord Alexander asked, and after translations back and forth, Bismarck said she was.

    He acknowledged that. “Now, why should be believe your offer is sincere? After all, you’re major military assets, and Ark Royal tells us you’re loyal to Germany.”

    Bismarck nodded solemnly to that, and through the translator answered. “Our first act after our awakening was to rendezvous; our second act was to destroy two multi-million Reichsmark installations designed for the sole purpose of murdering what Nazi philosophy calls ‘untermenchen.’ Killing them at a rate to shame the busiest slaughterhouse, for year after year. Deaths in the millions, the intended annihilation of entire populations. We are loyal to Germany. That will not change. But we owe no loyalty to the madmen who create such obscene horrors as that.”

    The First Lord paled. “Are you serious? Can you prove this? I need to talk to Winston, if you have evidence it’s not only appalling, it’s the greatest propaganda coup in history. Even the German populace might well abandon the government if they learned about it.”

    Bismarck nodded solemnly. “Graf Zeppelin’s planes took a lot of photos of the camps before we blasted them to rubble, and your own intelligence operatives will doubtless have information on the plan. An operation of this size can only be hidden to a certain degree.” She held out her hand, and Graf Zeppelin reached into a pocket, then paused.

    “First Lord,” Graf said through the translator, “I need to deploy my rigging to access my darkroom.”

    “It will wait,” he answered. “It’s not as if they’re in operation now, after all.”

    The Schiffsmädchen smirked at that. “So… where do we stay tonight?” Bismarck asked.

    “In the female enlisted quarters, until we decide how to incorporate you into the rank structure,” he answered. “On a more difficult note, what guarantees have we of your loyalty, or rather, of your reliability?”

    “Imagine if Ark Royal had turned her power against your newest, most expensive Army training camps. Would she be welcomed back?”

    He considered that. “I see your point. And after the war?”

    She smiled. “After the war, whatever regime replaces the Nazis will greet us as heroes, the saviours of millions and of Germany’s reputation.” At the least, they’d accept them back as they’d need them desperately against the Abyssals.

    “I see,” he said after some consideration. “Would you be willing to take a loyalty oath?”

    “We’d need to check the wording first. If it’s ‘for the duration of hostilities,’ and doesn’t restrict our off-duty behaviour overmuch, yes.”

    “Of course,” he agreed. “Naturally, we have no such documents ready, but they can be prepared fairly quickly. A day or two should be enough; until then you’ll be restricted to base, kept away from any sensitive or dangerous areas, and expected to refrain from deploying your rigging unless the base should come under attack. Oh, and the base personnel will be under orders to speak only English to you. Immersive language learning, and you’ll be enrolled in conventional language classes.”

    Bismarck nodded to that. “Thank you very much, sir; we know we need to learn English.” No matter how mutinous U511 might be looking. A few more matters were brought up and tentatively settled, then Lord Alexander departed. His staff could handle the rest. The translator remained behind, and the Schiffsmädchen continued their much-needed meal.
     
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