The Submerged Threat Part 2
Pulling into the port of Folkestone the Harekaze is helped to the repair docks by a tug boat, by now the fire is out, and only smoke raises from the new hole blown into the destroyers body. Its rear turret is completely gone, and it was a miracle no one was hurt, a few girls received cuts and bruises but nothing more serious than that. The three levels of safety measures that protect the Harekaze’s crew did its job, thanks to Yoshika’s help by using her healing magic everyone is quickly healed, and it’s soon like they were never hurt at all.
Standing in the sick bay Misaki and everyone else present are mesmerized by the animal ears and tail that grew on Yoshika’s body, they all have seen them before watching the witches fly but never up close like this. Misaki can barely keep her hands at her side, the temptation to pet Yoshika like a dog, feel her tail and ears to see if they felt like the real thing. But she restrains herself, by clenching the hem of her shirt she keeps her hands from wandering over to the Fuso witch.
“All done,” Yoshika says as she finishes healing the few crew members that were injured. “Is there anything else I can do to help?”
“No, thanks to you everyone is fine,” Misaki replies smiling. “You’ve done enough already, thank you I don’t know how I could repay you for all you have done for use.”
“You don’t have to repay me,” Yoshika tells her. “I want to help everyone I can; I never expected anything in return.”
“Yoshika has always been like this,” Lynne says smiling proudly at her Friend from Fuso. “She was surprised that she was getting paid to fight the Neuroi.”
“No one told me I was going to get paid,” Yoshika says with a smile that warms the captain’s heart as she rubs the back of her head. “I was surprised when Minna gave me my first months’ pay, is the ship ok?”
“The Harekaze took some serious damage, and it will take a while to repair all the damage we took but,” Misaki answers looking down in disappointment. “But our ship will make it.”
“About that,” Koko says stepping forward as all eyes fall onto her. “The dock workers just told me it would take a month to repair the damage to the Harekaze, but they can’t start the work right now. They said they don’t have the right parts to make the repairs so it will be a few days before we can even begin to make the repairs we need.” Koko pauses a minute to hand her captain a piece of paper. “They said they need you to sign this so they can carry out the work they require done.”
“Ok,” Misaki replies taking the form and signing it.
“I’ll take this to them,” Koko says as she takes back the form.
“Thankyou,” Misaki tells her as she watches her friend walk out of the room.
When Minna and Mio finally arrive at the port of Folkestone most of the Harekaze’s crew was already on deck inspecting the new massive still smoldering hole the Neuroi drone gave their ship, it was a merical the ship didn’t sink as if it went a few millimeters deeper it would have destroyed the engine room.
The warship Minna had hoped to return to its world only this morning is now in a sorry state, her fears and worries only increase as she fly’s down seeing the damage to the Harekaze first hand before landing on the docks beside the ship. They quickly dismount and join the girls of the Harekaze’s crew on the deck of the ship, Minna quickly makes her way towards where she sees the ship’s captain while Mio runs off to see the two witches Minna temporary assigned to the crew.
Mio reaches the two witches first who are like most of the girls staring down into the massive hole where the Harekaze’s rear turret once stood. The two witches see their squad’s second in command coming and quickly straighten up and turn to face her like many of the other girls do at the sight of Mio approaching.
“Are you two alright?” Mio asks the two witches.
“We both fine ma’am,” Lynne replies shyly.
“I’m tired from healing, but I’m okay,” Yoshika also replies only not as shyly or formal as her Britannian friend. “Everyone is fine; it’s lucky no one has been severely injured.”
“Good now get ready to return to base, Shirley is coming with a truck and should be here soon,” Mio tells them.
“Yes ma’am,” Both girls reply.
Minna walks over to the Harekaze’s Captain Misaki Akeno who is currently stood looking over the side of the ship watching two submarines enter the port with her second in command Shiro; they don’t even see Minna approaching until she stops a few steps behind them. She clears her throat quietly before she speaks, her sudden unexpected voice makes both girls jump, and Shiro would have fallen overboard if it wasn’t for the quick reactions of Misaki. The Harekaze’s Captain barely grabs Shiro’s arm in time to stop her falling over the side of the ship; all three girls breathe a sigh of relief as the turn to face each other.
“Commander Minna,” Misaki says as she sees who it is that nearly sent Shiro into the water of the port.
“Sorry I didn’t mean to scare you,” Minna replied as she watches’ Misaki let her deputy captains arm go. “How’s the crew doing?”
“Everyone’s fine,” Misaki answers smiling. “We only had a few minor injuries but thanks to Yoshika they are all healed.”
“That’s good to hear,” Minna replies feeling relief flood through her body like a dam has broken somewhere deep inside her. “How’s the ship?”
“Not good,” Misaki says as her smile disappears.
“We lost a turret and nearly our engines,” Minna is visibly shocked as she listens to Shiro tell her about the damage the ship took from a single Neuroi beam. “It will take a month to repair, but work can’t start until some spare parts needed arrives. We can’t replace that turret because our crew isn’t large enough to have a turret on board which isn’t automated so it is going to be a flat area until we can return to our world to replace the gun.”
“It’s that bad?” Minna ask hoping the level of how worried she is, and scared doesn’t come out in her throat, but Minna fails miserably at that, the concerned looks on the two commanders from the destroyer tells her that.
“Very little was left of the turret, the fire severely damaged the only pieces we found,” Misaki replies thinking back to the chard, and twisted wires and metal the ship’s damage control team showed her. “There’s nothing we can do to replace it unless we expand the ship’s crew but that wouldn’t work ever; we only have enough beds for one more person.”
“Can you and your girls stay on the ship during repairs?” Minna asks as she sees Shirley pull up in the truck out of the corner of her eyes.
“Only until the repairs start in a few days,” Misaki answers. “We will have to leave then until repairs are complete.”
“You can stay at our base, one of our trucks just arrived that can take us there,” Minna says as she looks at the truck watching Shirley jump out of the driver’s seat. “We have plenty of room, but we will have to make several trips to take you there.”
“We have enough boats to take us to the base, if we could put our bags on the truck, it could save you a lot of trips,” Shiro suggests.
“Ok have your girls pack what they need, and we will leave as soon as you are ready,” Minna replies nodding in agreement of the plan.
It is nearly dinner time by the time the boats and trucks arrive at the base, every one of the crew is hungry, and their stomachs are growling almost as loud as the engines roar. The two Skippers lead the way gracefully jumping the waves and guiding the other boats, the power boats following behind packed with starving girls can’t match the way the Skippers take one the waves and the girls on board feel the rocking motion every wave the encounter.
Several of the witches meet them at the beach where the girls come ashore, Lynne, Minna, and Mio watch them approach while Lucchini sleeps nearby. Yoshika and Shirley stare mesmerized but for two different reasons, Shirley because of the Skippers and the way they speedily move on top of the surface of the water. Yoshika because of the way Misaki looks, to her she looks incredibly beautiful as she jumps over the waves on her Skipper, the water sparkling in the sunlight and her eyes so bright and full of life. She’s so caught up in staring that she doesn’t notice the others move towards the girls or the fact that one of her hands was gripping her shirt over her heart, it isn’t until Lynne taps her one the shoulder making her jump that she comes back to her senses.
“Sorry,” Lynne panicky says before calming down and saying, Yoshika can feel her cheeks color as she realizes she was caught staring. “But we should go meet them.”
“Shh… Sure,” Yoshika stutters.
It’s only now Lynne notices her friends cheeks turning red as a tomato, worried Yoshika might be sick she doesn’t turn to follow the other witches down to greet the Harekaze’s crew instead she looks more closely at her friend making Yoshika turn redder and redder.
“Are you feeling ok Yoshika?” Lynne quietly questions, she doesn’t want to embarrass Yoshika anymore than she already is by bringing everyone else in on the conversation.
“I… I… I’m fine… Just a little tired” Yoshika answer is hoping to lose her redness before anyone else notices. “Healing all those girls wore me out… I think I’ll go to my room and lie down until dinner.”
Yoshika walks off leaving Lynne standing there confused and worried for her friend. Instead of going to the beach Lynne follows after Yoshika concerned over what is happening with her, she’s not acting the same as she usually does and Lynne can tell something is on her mind. Spacing out isn’t anything new to Yoshika, but lately, the Britannian has noticed her doing it more and more, ever since the Harekaze arrived something’s been strange with the way Yoshika is behaving. Lynne can’t figure out what is causing it only that her best friend isn’t the same as before so she follows her, hoping to find out what that something is or find a privet spot they can speak.
“Maybe she would be more open if they were alone,” Lynne thought as she follows, she wants and hopes that Yoshika will tell her what if bothering her because it’s hurting Lynne seeing her best friend like this and not being able to help.
So Lynne shadows her friend quietly until she sees Yoshika go into her bedroom. At first, Lynne feels relieved that maybe Yoshika is acting like this just because she really is tired but then she reminds herself that it isn’t just today she’s been behaving like this and carries on with her plan to find out why that is. She reaches Yoshika’s door and takes a deep breath before opening it; she doesn’t knock like she normally does instead of going right on in knowing her best friend never locks her door like some of the other witches do.
“Yoshika can we talk?” Lynne asks as she walks into the Fuso witches room only to find her friend laying down on her bed with her head buried in her pillow.
Lynne slowly walks towards her more worried now then she was before. She gently sits down next to her best friend careful not startle her since Yoshika still hasn’t moved or made any indications that she is aware of Lynne’s presence. Lynne then starts to rub the Fuso witches back remembering how her mother would do this when she was upset. It always helped her now she hope it will help Yoshika.
“Lynne,” Yoshika says noticing her friends presence.
“I’m here for you, you can talk to me about anything, and I will do my best to assist you. I won’t tell anyone if you want to keep it a secret,” Yoshika just remains still, and silent. She is barely responding at all to Lynne’s words leaving her mouth and her hand stroking her back. “Please Yoshika I want to help, you helped me so many times please let me help you now.”
“I don’t know what to do,” Yoshika finally replies her voice muffled by her pillow as she looks up at Lynne. “Every time I see her I feel… different.”
“Who are you on about Yoshika?” Lynne asks her as Yoshika sits up, she looks down shyly avoiding eye contact as she blushes again. “I don’t care who it is I will still be your friend no matter what.”
“Misaki,” Yoshika whispers so quietly Lynne barely hears her as her faces starts to match a tomato in appearance again.
“The captain of the Harekaze?” Lynne asks, and Yoshika nods still looking down.
“Every time I see her I feel warm and tingly inside,” Yoshika tells her picturing how beautiful Misaki look just now as she came ashore on the Skipper. Just the thought makes her heart flutter and her pulse quicken “It’s scary how she makes me feel, I never felt like this before and don’t know what to do.”
“Have you tried to talk to her?” Lynne suggests, and Yoshika looks up looking shocked at the idea. “I heard that could help”
“I can’t,” Yoshika replies jumping back at the idea. “I can’t even get close to her without feeling what I feel let alone talk to her.”
“But you spoke with her in the sick bay of the ship,” Lynne reminds her.
“That only made things worse,” Yoshika says. “I wasn’t feeling it as strongly then, but her praise made things worse, seeing her riding that strange boat scared me so badly I had to run.”
“I can talk to her for you” Lynne offers smiling sweetly.
“No you don’t have to,” Yoshika tells her while friend shaking her head from side to side. “I don’t even know what to say to her myself.”
“I think you should take your time think what it is you want to say to her,” Lynne says as she gets up. “Only you can do that Yoshika. You don’t have to help me cook. I’ll tell everyone you were tired after healing the Harekaze crew and that you are sleeping, they won’t bother you, and you can think things through.”
“I can’t let you cook alone Lynne,” Yoshika says standing up.
“Yoshika you need to stay and think,” Lynne tells her sounding more forceful than she ever has before surprising both girls. “The cooks from the Harekaze can help me; you need to think this through because until then you will be too scared to leave your room.”
Trude walks along the beach watching Shirley mess around with some of the crew members of the Harekaze on their strange boat things, as soon as the Liberion witch saw them she wanting to drive one and wouldn’t take no for an answer. Trude sighs watching her wondering when she would stop acting like a kid and more like a soldier, Shirley meanwhile couldn’t careless as she races across the water in a Skipper enjoying both the speed and agility. But watching Shirley move on that skipper gives Trude an idea, she quickly runs up to Minna and explains it to her.
“So what do you think?” Trude asks taking a breath.
“This may be our best bet,” Minna replied after thinking it over for a few minutes. “Tell Misaki and Shiro to come to my office, as long as they agree to it your plan has a go ahead for dawn tomorrow.”
As soon as Trude leaves Minna lets out a sigh. Professionally agrees with Trude and that her plan is the best option they have right now, but personally, she hates the idea. It puts the girls from the Harekaze in a lot of the danger. She fine with her witches going off to fight, they have shields to protect themselves with while as the ship girls are completely defenseless. As she waits for the Harekaze’s two commanding officers, Minna wishes for them to refuse because she doesn’t have the right to order them to go through with the plan. But part of her wants them to accept, this idea of Trude’s may be dangerous, but it’s still their best shot, too many people will die if this Neuroi isn’t dealt with soon.
Misaki dumps her bag in her new room and instantly falls in love with it, a large queen-sized bed, beautiful oak wardrobe and matching chest of drawers, windows with a perfect view of the sea and lovely wooden floor. She quickly goes about putting her clothes away and wonders if the others rooms were as grand as hers, everyone apart from the cooking team who agreed to room together has their own room. Never before has she imagined that people could live like this, she’s been so used to her cabin on the Harekaze that she is forgotten what real bedrooms on land look like.
Her tiny gray cabin could never compare to this if you tried to then her cabin will be like a small prison cell. Misaki smiles as she finishes unpacking and part of her wishes the Harekaze would never be repaired so she can live here forever but a stronger part of her wants it to be fixed as quickly as possible, the destroyer Harekaze is her ship and her home. That’s true for all the girls on the destroyer.
Seeing the Harekaze damage hurt the captain of the ship. It feels like a knife has been thrust into her heart every time her mind wanders back to the state of her ship. She couldn’t help but question her actions today and wonder if there is anything she could have done to avoid taking that hit, but she gives up that thought as she spots an old friend on her bed.
“Good to see you again Isoroku,” Misaki says as she walks over to him, he just lazily watches her approach him and then purrs gently when she strokes him. “Come to greet me.”
“Captain,” Shiro calls out as she enters Misaki’s room, their rooms are right next to each other, so she isn’t surprised to see her second in command. In fact, all the rooms along this hall now temporary belong to the bridge crew of the Harekaze.
“Hi, Shiro. Isoroku came to welcome us,” Misaki replies as she picks up Isoroku before turning to face her Deputy Captain.
“Commander Minna wants to talk with us,” Shiro says ignoring fat cat in her captain’s arms.
“Ok, I’m coming,” Misaki says gentle putting Isoroku down before following Shiro out of the door.
Ten minutes later Misaki and Shiro walks in along with Mio who Minna called herself, behind her desk Minna stares at them with her face blank of emotion. She doesn’t like this plan, the Harekaze and her crew were lucky to survive today, and now she was going to push that luck by sending them out tomorrow morning. Minna watches them walk up to her hoping they would turn down this mission because it was her duty to approve it if they agreed. She may not like it, but her duty was to destroy the Neuroi and Trude’s plan is their best option, but Trude’s plan also relays on the crew if the Harekaze taking part in it.
On paper it’s a good plan, Minna can see it working, but it’s dangerous. She hates her job at times like this; she hates to punish her girls and or put them in dangerous situations. Fighting the Neuroi is different for a witch, they have their shields to protect them. These girls have no protection, it’s safer for them to remain in the base, but now Minna’s duty demands she sends them to the front lines in harm’s way to defeat humanity’s greatest enemy the Neuroi. Minna takes a quick deep breath before she begins once again hoping and silently praying they turn her down, her orders are to stop the Neuroi and use the Harekaze’s crew if necessary which it is for Trude’s plan.
“You wanted to see us, Minna,” Mio says stepping behind the desk, so she’s on Minna’s side.
“We have a new plan to attack the Neuroi,” Minna says regretting having to ask this. “But it involves you and those… are they called Skippers?”
“Yes, their Skippers,” Misaki answers. “What do you need us to do?”
“We are going to use them to take out the Neuroi,” Minna tells them. “We have just received some modified depth charges but they are too heavy for us to use and those Skippers are the only things that are fast enough to clear the blast radius.”
“Minna are you sure about this?” Mio asks her wondering why her girlfriend who was so against using them suddenly changed her mind.
“It’s our only option right now,” Minna replies, and the look in her eyes tells Mio everything, she can tell her lover doesn’t want to give the order, but she has too.
“The Skippers aren’t equipped to carry depth charges,” Shiro says as Minna and Mio turn their attention back to them. “They can probably be modified to take one or two of them thought”
“So you would be willing to help?” Mina asks feeling her stomach drop although she doesn’t let is show in her voice, she wanted them to refuse so she didn’t’ have to send them out there.
“We did stuff like this before while dealing with infected ships,” Misaki says surprising both witch commanders.
“So you are sure this will work?” Mio asks feeling more confident than her commander about this.
“I’m sure the Skippers can do it safely” Misaki answers. “I don’t know whether it will destroy the Neuroi or not.”
“Ok,” Minna replies seeing no way not to avoid involving the Harekaze’s crew in this coming battle anymore. “During the night those submarines you saw in Folkestone will be deploying buoys with sonar attached to them to create a sonar net, we will begin our mission at dawn tomorrow. I’ll leave who pilots the Skippers up to you, Shirley can do the modifications if you have anyone you think can help her send them to the hanger to assist Shirley.”
“Ok, is there anything else?” Misaki asks.
“Unless you have any questions then no,” Minna replies, and soon the two commanders of the Harekaze leave the two witch commanders alone, once the door shut behind them, Minna turns to look at Mio. “There has to be another way to handle this, those girls could have died this morning, and now I am sending them to face the same danger tomorrow.”
“They had confidence and said they done something similar before, if you look at it this is safer than the times they did it before,” Mio replies confusing Minna, she just can’t see how this is safer than the times they did this before. “Before they would be dodging multiple incoming shells while this time it’s just a single beam they need to worry about.” Minna finds herself nodding in agreement with what Mio is saying. “We know about the drones this time so that we will be ready for them. It won’t be like this morning; we will protect them better this time because we will be ready for them.”
“I still don’t like it,” Minna says. “I don’t know why command wanted them to be part of this mission, but I wish they would have refused to help so I wouldn’t have to send them, maybe we could learn to pilot those Skippers and use them instead.”
“That won’t work,” Mio tells her crushing that hope. “Shirley tried to sail one, and she said it is hard to control and she nearly crashed it twice. The girls from the Harekaze that were there stated that they are easy to pilot once you get the hang of it and I don’t think we could learn to be as good as them before command wants us to attack again.”
“I really wish there was another way,” Minna almost whispers hoping for just that.
“I know you do,” Mio replied leaning in close and giving Minna a quick peck on the cheek. “That’s one of the things I love about you.”
Walking back to their room both Misaki and Shiro are both scared and excited about tomorrow, they walk back quietly as they both think through who to send.
“I think I should go,” Misaki finally says. “I’ve done this twice before against the Admiral Graf Spee.”
“I’m not surprised you would volunteer,” Shiro replied knowing her captain all too well. “I think we should ask for someone else to volunteer for the second Skipper; it doesn’t feel right to order someone to do this.”
Yoshika lays on her bed and stares up at the ceiling watching the patterns created by the sinking sun that cast streaks of light across her white painted ceiling, her mind filled with thoughts as she tries to think of what to do. She can’t speak to Misaki; she can’t even look at her for more than five seconds before her body is overcome at an alarming rate with such powerful feels that scares her so much she can’t stop herself from running away and hiding in her room. She can’t keep doing this, she tries to leave, but her body won’t move. Even hours of thinking alone in her room she is still can’t think of what to do, what to say to Misaki when she next sees her.
Yoshika knows she will have to see her again and wishes she could go back to the way she was this morning where she could be in the same room with her in the same room with Misaki. Yoshika hates herself for this. She hates the way her body runs from Misaki when she wants to be close to her; Yoshika hates the way she feels tongue-tied around her when there is so much she wants to say, and she hates the way her she can’t even look at her without these terrifying feelings consuming her. So she just lays there on her bed as the sun sets and her room darkens still seeking the answers she needs to know when Lynne walks back into her room minutes after the last lights have vanished from her room. Lynne walks into a pitch black room only dimly lit by the light of the rising moon, she flips the light switch on and sees Yoshika just where she left her hours ago to think.
“Yoshika I brought you something to eat,” Lynne says walking over carrying a tray with some of the Harekaze curry which she just learned to make herself. “Are you feeling better?”
“No,” Yoshika replies sitting up as Lynne hands her the tray. “I still don’t know what to do.”
“I talked to Misaki earlier,” Lynne says her making Yoshika freeze in worry of what her friend spoke to her about. “She is a sweet girl; I’m sure she wouldn’t hurt you.”
“I know but I can’t,” Yoshika says staring down at her food.
“Yes you can Yoshika,” Lynne says to her calmly as she sits down next to her best friend. “You can do anything you put your mind to before you turned up I couldn’t do anything right, and now I am of use to the squad. You helped me, and this unit more times than I can count, there is nothing you can’t do Yoshika.”
“Ok,” Yoshika shyly replies still staring at her food. “I’ll try and talk to her tomorrow.”
The next morning everyone awakens an hour before dawn, even the girls who aren’t part of this mission wake up to wish those who are good luck. After breakfast which Yoshika and Lynne made everyone makes their way to the hanger. Inside, they find the only people on the base that hasn’t slept a wink last night. Shirley and the engineering team from the Harekaze covered in oil and grease they have only just finished their work; they were stepping back to admire their job when the rest of the witches and destroyers crew walk in. Everyone else two looks at the new additions to the Skippers, two metal arms ever side of the small ships frame big enough to hold their depth charge payload and robust sufficiently to throw them clear of the speedy crafts.
It doesn’t look pretty the steel cages, but it will work, the girls that worked on it are confident it will do its job. Misaki steps forward, and it’s an action that makes Yoshika take a step behind her best friend; Yoshika thought she was getting better because she could serve the Harekaze’s captain breakfast but now that she sees her again she couldn’t stop her body from moving. Lynne grabs her hand and gives it a reassuring squeeze without alerting the others as she watches everyone get ready. Minna steps up beside Misaki as the captain runs her hand along the cold steel cage, hoping she has changed her mind about this mission Minna is the first to speak.
“Are you still sure you can do this on the Skippers?” Minna asks hoping for a no, so she doesn’t have to put the new girls in danger.
“As long as the performance isn’t drastically affected then we should,” Misaki replies ending that hope, Minna takes a moment knowing nothing can stop these girls from going now before continuing.
“You have about an hour till the mission starts,” Minna says. “You should take them out and test them… Who’s driving these things by the way?”
“I’m taking one and Mei going to use the other,” Misaki answers.
“Ok get them in the water and have some practice once the depth charges are loaded,” Minna suggests turning back to speak to the rest. “Load the depth charges and then help get the Skippers into the water.”
Yoshika and Lynne stay back, seeing her best friend’s hesitation to move Lynne quietly drags her off into a corner to speak out of earshot. Yoshika doesn’t fight or look up suddenly finding the floor to be extremely fascinating; she knows what this is about and why Lynne dragged her somewhere privet to talk to her. Yoshika can’t look at her friend, though; she’s too embarrassed by the way she is acting to look up, all last night the young Fuso witch barely slept because she was willing herself the strength to speak to Misaki and to figure out the words she will say to her.
At breakfast Yoshika did fine, she handed her food and told her what it was without any problems, she kept control of the feeling bubbling up inside her and did what she wanted to do despite Misaki’s smile nearly destroying her with its beauty. But in the hanger, she falls apart, without the food there to talk about she couldn’t face the destroyer’s captain and hates herself for it. Yoshika can’t look at Lynne because of how embarrassed she feels of her actions; she just focuses on the oil stains under her feet admiring them as if they were works of marvelous pieces of art.
“Calm down Yoshika,” Lynne says in a quieting soothing voice that the others won’t hear. “Everything’s ok.”
Only one person did hear, spotting Lynne and Yoshika walking off she followed and had been eavesdropping on their conversation. As Yoshika and Lynne walked back to the others, she smirked knowing she got some juicy information, hiding in the shadows, so the two returning witches doesn’t spot her she disappears barely able to contain her excitement. Although the words didn’t leave their mouths she knows what it’s about; she has seen the way Yoshika has been acting and placed two and two together. Yoshika has a crush on somebody; she can’t wait to tell the others and find out who. But until then she quietly uses the shadows to re-join the others before they notice she is gone, smiling brightly she helps load the last depth charge onto the Skippers without anyone being aware of what she just slipped away for.