The Submerged Threat Part 3
The sun rises as the witches take to the sky again only this time Eila is with them, and Shirley is staying behind to rest, this morning Minna decided to lift the flight ban on Sanya and Eila. So now Eila is flying into battle and Sanya is in her room resting for her night patrol tonight but resting isn’t the right word for it, she is laying on top of her bed hugging her pillow unable to close her eyes. The search for any more of those rats may have found nothing, but she can’t sleep out of fear that one might still be out there, that one might come and force her to hurt people again.
She can barely remember her actions, but she believes what everyone told her, that she helped infect Eila and tried to attack several of the girls from the Harekaze. No one blames her for it but herself, she still believes it’s her fault that it happened because she brought that rat into her room. No matter how much the others tell her it’s not, no matter how much they reassure she’s not Sanya still thinks it’s all her fault. So she lays wide awake watching the witches take off through the gap in her curtains wondering which one of them she could have hurt that day, which one of them she could have killed by bringing that rat into her room.
Meanwhile, with the witches, Eila looks back at the base worried for her friend she’s leaving behind, Eila knows Sanya still blames herself for everything that happened that day despite telling her it’s not countless times. It’s only when the many white fluffy clouds that fill the morning sky block her view of the base she turns away, feeling sorry for her silvered haired friend and not knowing what to do to help her hurts Eila so badly she wants to cry. Eila wants nothing more than to get this mission done as quickly as possible so she could return to her friend’s side. Eila looks forward and stays focused on the task at hand. As much as she wants to turn back to hold her friend she carries on with the mission ready to do her part.
Yoshika too is looking down until the clouds block her view like the mischievous witch only her gaze isn’t towards the base it’s directed downwards to the sea, to where Misaki and Mei are starting up their Skippers and getting ready to set sail once the witches locate the Neuroi. More accurately her eyes are focusing one Misaki who looks to be right in her element, Yoshika can’t help but worry about her. After being on the Harekaze when it nearly sunk, now just two of the crew are going to attack the same Neuroi that almost sunk them on even smaller boats. All she can feel is worry and fear for the captain that fills her with feelings that are so strong it scares her, the only thing she can think is good about this is that she isn’t running and hiding in her room like yesterday. Now she is determined to protect her, more determined than she has ever been about anything in her entire life.
On the surface of the water bobbing up and down on the waves waiting for the order to attack Misaki and Mei sit on their Skippers while the rest of the Harekaze’s crew watch on from the safety of the beach, both girls are nervous but ready and willing to fight. They want to be Blue Mermaids and protect the sea; it’s mainly that reason why they are fighting so willingly alongside the witches in their war against the Neuroi. In the sea we live, the sea we protect, and by the sea, we go... Blue Mermaids! That phase repeats itself over and over in the girl’s heads, every time they feel fear they think of it and it gives them the strength to see this through. Every girl on the Harekaze knows that phase and have done since childhood, they all love the sea and willing to protect it.
First, they fought against the rats who infected their sister ships and now against the Neuroi, even though they only just started training they have protected the sea time and time again and each time coming out wounded but victorious. As the witches fly over them they can’t help but stare; they fly so gracefully and effortlessly with animal ears, tails and those strange devices on their legs. Most of the girls are still surprised to see them fly since they aren’t using helium like the airships they are used to seeing flying around.
But for Misaki it is a different reason she stares, once again her hands are just itching to stroke and touch the witch’s animal ears. One pair specifically her hands burn hotter to touch, the pair of ears on Yoshika’s head. The way they make her look cute and the way she saw Yoshika smile while they are there makes her struggle to keep her hands under control, to her Yoshika’s just too cute and it’s nearly an impossible task to not touch her.
Back to the witches they now level off above the clouds where they can look up and see a bright blue sky, all of them looking forward but one smirking witch who stares at Yoshika. She seen the way the Fuso witch has been acting, heard her an hour ago and put two and two together about what was going on. Now watching Yoshika look down at Misaki the witch knows who Yoshika is crushing on and who is the cause of her change in behavior, her smirk grows large as she flies closer to her friend and asks.
“Still see Yoshika as an innocent young girl?” Erica asks Trude as the fly smoothly along.
“She is an innocent girl,” Trude replies not looking to see Erica but hearing her friend start to giggle. “What’s so funny Hartmann? We are on a mission so stay focused.”
“Lighten up a little,” Erica tells her. “I know a little something about Yoshika; she might not be so innocent after all.”
“What are you on about?” Trude asks to now looking at Erica who’s smile is so wide Trude is worried it might split her cheeks, Erica stares at her friend who she now has one hundred percent of her attention on her.
“That she… likes someone,” Erica answers flying close so she can whisper the last part in Trude’s ear, Trude doesn’t move as she’s so distracted. She sees Yoshika as her innocent little sister rather than a squad mate, the resemblance she has to her real younger sister is so good Trude can’t help but see her that way. Now hearing Erica say those things makes her freeze, she can’t believe her innocent little sister would ever feel that way about anyone one. Trude already knows what Erica means so when she whispers her next part she isn’t surprised. “More than as a friend.” But the next thing Erica says does. “And it’s a girl who stole her heart.”
“Who?” Trude demands stunned to hear that, it shouldn’t surprise her because of the way she saw Yoshika look at everyone in the bath, but it does come as a complete surprise. Erica just giggles as she flies away.
“You’ll have to wait for that answer,” Erica teases loving the look on Trude’s face. “Or find out for yourself.”
“Everyone get ready,” Minna quickly orders. “The sonar net has picked up the Neuroi, the two girls are heading for it right now, and it’s our job to keep the drones off of them so they can drop those charges.”
On the water the two Skippers burst into life, their engines easily able to handle the newly added weight from the modifications. They barely dropped in performance, only losing a little speed and being a little bit more sluggish when turning. Riding them towards the Neuroi eager to destroy it Misaki and Mei barely feel nervous or scared at all, all they feel is excitement as they head off to battle. The cheers from their fellow crew member’s send them off and make them feel proud of what they are doing and more confident that they will make it back, Misaki waves back at them as she and Mei disappear off to sea. Misaki stays focused with her head down and eyes forward, Mei meanwhile smiles happily as she charges off towards her new enemy and soon starts to laugh getting her captain’s attention turning her head to face her laughing weapons officer.
“I can’t wait to give this Neuroi the presents we have for it,” She says taking a quick break from laughing to say those words, her break is short lived because as so as she hits the throttle, she starts to laugh again leaving Misaki worried about her sanity.
From the shore the crew of the Harekaze watches their two crew members disappear leaving only small breaks in the sea where the Skippers cut through it, their cheering stops as soon as their comrades disappear and now all they can do is wait and worry. They have faith in them and know they will make it back, but they can’t help but worry, seeing their friends disappear off to battle and knowing they can’t assist them leaves most of their shipmates concerned for their safety. They stare out into the see long after the two Skippers are out of sight, some girls holding hands while other silently pray for their safe return.
All are worried, all are scare. All they can do is wait, wait and hope. Finally, after a few more minutes of staring at the sea they turn back towards the base, Shiro was going to get a drink, but a hand stopped her. Shiro turns and sees Koko holding on to her and most of the Harekaze’s crew now staring at her.
“Do you know what’s going on with Misaki?” Koko asks her as she lets go. “She may be herself when commanding the ship, but outside of that she’s been acting different, is something wrong with her?”
“No nothing’s wrong with her,” Shiro tells them. “She talked to me about; I can’t say to want it is, but it’s nothing to worry about.”
“So anything’s wrong?” Koko continues to question.
“She’s fine she just has a crush on…” Shiro stops herself as soon as she realizes her mistake, now even those who wasn’t paying attention stop and look at her. Shiro sinks down seeing the longing stares of her crew, knowing she made a bad mistake she tries to disappear on the spot wishing to find some unknown power she has deep down inside. “Just forget I said anything.”
“We can’t now,” Kuro says, and Shiro tries to back up before she says something else she wasn’t supposed to.
“I can’t say any more,” Shiro replies turns to leave, but she ends up tripping over a small stone, when she gets up she sees the crew of the Harekaze has her surrounded. “Just my luck.”
“Come on you can tell us,” Koko calmly tells her, but her eyes are anything but calm.
The sea isn’t calm today; wave covers the waters of the Britannian Channel and strong winds cuts across it. But this is nothing the Skippers can’t handle, they easily jump the waves, and the windshields in front of the two girls piloting them keep them safe from the chilly breeze blowing at them. Apart from little splashes of water hitting the girls and a few sharp drops, the two girls are handling the choppy water just fine, if it wasn’t for the modifications making their Skippers lower in the water, then most of those splashes weren’t have even hit them. But the little water that hits them doesn’t bother the two girls, despite the bitterness from the wind the sun is still warm enough to keep the girls from filling the chill.
Mei is still smiling, she’s stopped laughing but is still eager to drop her charges, and she can barely wait to drop them. Misaki is still just as focussed, her head still down and eyes still looking forward wanting to get this mission done safely so both can make it back to their friends.
“Minna we are nearly there,” Misaki says in a modified witch ear piece. They would typically run off of the witches magical energy, but Shirley managed to make it so it can run off of the Skippers engine power. By running a wire so thin from the ear piece to the Skippers engine, Misaki can barely feel the wire, and it’s as if it isn’t even there. The wire came from the spare parts on the Harekaze while the witches had several extra ear pieces Shirley could modify, it took her less than an hour to do with the help of the destroyers engineering department when it came to the Skippers engine. “Is the Neuroi still in the same position?”
“Yes, it hasn’t moved yet?” Minna replies from high above where she is watching over them. “Attack as planned, we will keep you covered.”
“Ok, we are going to attack now,” Misaki tells her looking at a new switch recently adding to her Skipper, making sure she knows where the trigger switch for releasing the depth charges. “Mei gets read we will see it soon, and it will fire at us.”
“I’m ready” Mei replies as the two girls close in on the Neuroi’s position.
Up above the witches descend so they are in a better position to cover the two girls below them who from up here looks like two black stones gracefully skipping across the water of the Channel effortlessly, they move swiftly towards the Neuroi ready to attack while the witches follow them from above. The speed of the Skippers did surprise the witches when they first started to move, at first, the witches nearly lost them not expecting the speeds they could reach, and Minna had to ask them to slow down. Now they are all moving together at a nice steady pace which is not too fast and not too slow, a speed that everyone can match and that leaves the Skippers enough speed to dodges any attack the Neuroi lunches at them.
“Everyone get ready, those drones could attack them at any time,” Minna says to her girls as the get closer and closer to the Neuroi’s position. “Also call out any beams you see heading their way, they may not see them in time.”
“Yes, ma’am,” The witches respond as several drones shoot out of the water, just like last time there are sixteen Neuroi drones, and they are heading straight for the girls on the water like last time.
“Intercept those drones!” Minna orders as soon as she spots them.
“Lynne, Yoshika stay up here and protect Minna and me,” Mio says taking command like she normally does in battle. “Everyone else dive down and stop those drones; we have to make sure the Skippers get through and drop their charges.”
Everyone moves as ordered with Lynne and Yoshika flying closer to their commanders while the other dive down on top of the Neuroi below, ever the Neuroi are blind or stupid because they don’t move or change course. This action plays right into the witches hands as they are able to attack from above and behind, the perfect position to be in.
They dive down guns blazing into the Neuroi drone swam easily blasting their way through, eight of the Neuroi drones shatter into a million sparkling pieces that fall down to the ocean like a shiny wave. The eight remain Neuroi don’t move; they continue to close in on the Skippers ignoring the danger posed by the witches. The witches’ quickly pull up and attack again this time from below destroying seven of the Neuroi drones but only damaging the eighth; the last remaining drone continues on track towards the girls on the Skippers. It fires at them, at the Skipper Misaki is piloting.
Yoshika feels her heart stop as she watches the red beam streak towards the Harekaze’s captain but it misses, Yoshika releases a breath she didn’t even realize she was holding when she watches Misaki swerve her Skipper around the part of the sea the beam explodes on. Trude quickly takes out the last Neuroi drone before it can fire again, with the drone threat eliminated the witches quickly regroup but Yoshika spots something out of the corner of her eyes heading straight for the two Skippers. Turning to face it fully she can see what it is; a red beam fired from the underwater Neuroi and its heading straight for the two girls from Harekaze.
“There’s a beam heading straight for them,” Yoshika calls out as she was ordered, Minna quickly spots it too.
“Misaki there’s a beam heading straight for you from your twelve o’clock,” Minna warns as she watches the beam get closer and closer to the two Skippers.
Misaki sees the waves in front of her glow red before they start to part giving way letting the Neuroi’s deadly red beam to pass through, the both split apart letting the beam pass harmlessly in-between them. They continue their attack getting closer and closer to the Neuroi, their finger now rests ready on the switches for their weapons. They slow down to the speed Minna told them was best for using these depth charges, too fast they will skip across the water and drift off course once they sink and too slow will leave the two Skippers sitting duck for when the Neuroi next fires. The second beam is aimed at Mei who easily dodges it, veering to the side to avoid the deadly ocean splitting beam heading towards her.
Again the Neuroi misses but now the two girls our right over it, Minna watches one as they get closer and closer to the Neuroi’s position. With the combination of the sonar and her magical ability she has now located the submerged Neuroi and is waiting to give the order for those two girls to drop their charges, she knows the Neuroi’s exact position and is keeping track of it as it moves giving the girls the information they need to hit it when they drop their charges.
“It’s moving slowly south, change course ten degrees left to keep on target,” Minna says sensing the Neuroi with her powers try to swim away. “Keep heading straight, and in ten seconds you will be right on top of it.” Minna watches the Skippers get closer and closer and when they are right on top of it Minna orders. “Drop them now!” Both Mei and Misaki drop one of their two charges right on top of the Neuroi, Minna temporary losses it as two massive underwater explosions shoot out of the water and into the sky nearly soaking the witches who hover just above. “Keep moving until I confirm the status of the target.”
“Did we get it?” Trude asks flying up to her commanding officer.
“I can’t tell,” Minna replied as she watches the two towers of water fall back down into the Channel. “There is too much movement down there for me to say.”
“Minna I see something moving,” Mio says, and everyone looks to see her magical eye out from under her eye patch. “I can’t make it out through the water, but I think you should order another attack.”
“Agreed,” Minna says trusting her girlfriend’s idea. “Misaki we can’t confirm the Neuroi’s been destroyed, attack again then head for home.”
“Ok,” Misaki replies as she and Mei do a one-eighty and head straight for where the water is only just settling down after the first two explosions. “Are we dropping them in the same place as before?”
“No drop them ten meters to your right,” Minna instructs picking up the Neuroi again now that the water is calmer, but then she senses something else under the sea. “Break off your attack!” Minna yells as four more drones shoot out of the water. “Trude, Erica take them out, Lynne try and take them out from here.”
“Yes, ma’am,” The Witches reply as they go to follow her orders and the Neuroi attack the two Skippers.
“Everyone else get ready to engage any more drones that may appear,” Minna says as she watches the drones as she opens fire, Minna’s body freezes in horror as she watches the beams land closer and closer the Skippers as they serve to avoid them. Finally, their luck runs out, a bright red laser strikes in front of Mei’s Skipper and the disrupted water causes her Skipper to flip and launches her into the water. “Misaki can you see Mei? Is she ok? Yoshika, Lynne go and check, everyone else covers them.”
“She’s ok,” Misaki answers after several awful seconds of silence, Minna sighs in relief as she sees Mei climbing onto Misaki’s Skipper and sit down behind her captain.
“Ok Lynne, Yoshika she’s ok so help take out the drones,” Minna orders now that she is sure Mei is ok. “Misaki drop you depth charge and get out of there.”
“Right away,” Misaki replies as she starts to move her Skipper again, the witches quickly shatter under the fire of the witches making the sky safe once again.
“Misaki you are clear drop you charge the Neuroi is just to your right twenty meters just to your right,” Minna says as she watches the Neuroi drones shatter. “Yoshika, Lynne regroup with us, Trude, Erica stay with them until they drop the charge then get out of there” The witches watch as Misaki drops her last charge over the Neuroi, it explodes making another tower of water, and everyone hopes their final charge destroys the Neuroi. “Misaki returns to base, Trude Erica escort them” Minna orders as she and Mio scan the water. “Everyone else will remain here while we check to see if the Neuroi is destroyed.”
“Do you think we got it?” Mio asks as she continues to scan the Channel water below as they calm once again.
“I hope so if we fail then the Channel will be filled with destroyers and cruisers until it is,” Minna says as white flakes start to appear and float on top of the water’s surface. “I think we got it” As more white objects surface and begin to disappear Minna is sure they did get it; she smiles as she gives her final orders of the battle. “The Neuroi is destroyed everyone returns to base, good work today everyone.”
“I think that Skipper could be repaired,” Mio says pointing down at it, it is on its side laying on its last remaining depth charge, but it is intact.
“Between us, we could lift it back, we will have to get rid of the depth charge carefully but should be able to take it back” Minna replies looking at the abandoned Skipper. “We can ask Shirley what she thinks when we get back.”
“Before you do that we might be able to sail it back instead it doesn’t look like it’s that badly damaged, we may just need help flipping it over” Misaki suggest hearing what the witch commanders were saying.
“Ok have a look at it,” Minna says, and Misaki quickly turns around to head back to where their second Skipper lays bobbing up and down in the waves, Misaki and Mei goes up to the Skipper and looks it over inspecting it for damage. Apart from a few scratches, it looks like it will run.
“Minna it looks like it will be able to sail,” Misaki tells her after looking over the sideways Skipper.
“Ok, we are coming to help” Minna replies as she and Mio descend towards them.
Back on the shore, the crew of the Harekaze meets their captain and torpedo chief on the beach where they dock their Skippers, happy to see them back alive and well but both girls can tell that isn’t the only reason why they are all here to see them. The way everyone is looking at Misaki makes the captain’s nervous, and when Mei looks at her for answers, it only makes her more nervous. Finally, she spots Shiro in the crowd looking guilty with her head down, and when the crew close in on her she has a pretty good idea of what is happening.
She doesn’t look forward to this and can tell it’s going to be awaked and not enjoyable, as her crew encircles her she shrinks down trying like Shiro did unsuccessfully earlier to disappear using some power she never knew she had. Of course, she fails, by the time she gives that idea up, it is too late. Misaki is stuck surrounded by her crew, feeling like a sheep trapped by wolfs she sighs seeing no way out of this.
“So are you going to tell us who it is?” Koko asks being the first to speak.
“Shiro never told us who it is,” Mimi adds as Misaki looks around, she can tell by the looks in their eyes they won’t let her get away without giving them an answer.
“I’m sorry,” Shiro says bowing her head. “I didn’t mean to it just slipped out.”
“What do they mean captain?” Mei asks looking confused at what is happening here.
“It seems our captain has a little crush on someone,” Minami the kid genius and ship doctor tells her.
“But Shiro won’t tell us who,” Koko says.
“Really,” Mei replies looking surprised before turning to her captain with the same mischievous knowledge seeking looks the others have. “So who is it?”
“I… I…” Misaki says trying to find a way out of this while she starts to blush.
“You can tell us,” Koko says her sounding friendly as she hugs her captain from behind. “You always say comrades and sea are a family right; family members shouldn’t keep secrets from each other.”
“But I…” Misaki continues to say until she takes a look over her shoulder and sees the look in Koko’s eyes, everyone else has the same look. She can tell by their looks that they won’t let her go until she gives them a name and that Shiro is really sorry for this, her deputy captain still keeps her head down ashamed of her slip of the tong. “It’s Yoshika.”
“Told you,” She hears someone say.
“How did you know,” Another voice replies and from the rustling sounds that follow its clear money is being exchanged between the two voices. Misaki doesn’t look to see who it is she just stares at the sand of the beach as her blush grows and gets brighter.
“So how do we get them together,” Misaki looks up, she didn’t see who said it but she can see her crew exchanging looks, and some are giggling.
“I have an idea,” Koko says letting her captain go.
“Is it based on reality?” Shiro asks making Koko frown.
“Of course it is,” Koko answers, but not everyone believes her when she says that. “I have seen it work in books, movies, and manga before.”
In the hanger, the witches have already taken off and stored their Striker Units, put their weapons away and are now dispersing throughout the base. Minna and Mio head towards the beach where the crew of the Harekaze is gathered, Eila heads to see Sanya, Lucchini climbs into the hangers support beams to take a nap, Perrine wonders off to tend to her garden and Yoshika and Lynne walk off to somewhere they can talk. Unknown to them they are being followed by Trude and Erica, Trude because she doesn’t believe what Erica told her and Erica just to simply prove herself right. They follow the two newest witches to the kitchen where Lynne quickly makes them some tea before they sit down opposite each other on the table, Trude and Erica stay hidden where they can hear the two girls talk but not be seen by them on the other sides of the doors to the dining hall. Yoshika and Lynne speak in soft, quiet voices so anyone who’s listening can’t hear them but where Trude and Erica are they can hear every word if they press their ears against the doors, listening close both Karlsland witches stay still trying to catch every word spoken.
“I still don’t know,” They both hear Yoshika say.
“Have your tried talking to her,” Lynne replies and Erica shoots Trude a look that says I told you so upon hearing that, ignoring it Trude listens in hoping it isn’t what Erica says it is.
“I don’t think I can,” Yoshika says. “I don’t know how she will react.”
“No one does,” Lynne tells her. “But I can say she won’t hurt you, she is a sweet girl, and I think you should speak to her.”
“But I…” Yoshika begins to protest but Lynne cuts her off surprising Trude, the Lynne Trude knows to be too quiet, too polite and too shy to interrupt someone.
“You can Yoshika,” Lynne says softly and calmly. “I know you can because…”
Approaching footsteps makes Erica and Trude stop listening and turn to see who’s coming, they move to a position that makes it look like they weren’t eavesdropping and look to see who is coming towards them. Eila quickly rounds the corner at the end of the hall and walks towards them; she looks worried and conserved. So much so she nearly walks right into Trude, only noticing the Karlsland witches at the last minute she stops to look at them before…
“Have you seen Minna?” Eila asks in a shaky voice. “I need to talk with her.”
“She went down to the beach,” Trude tells her. “I think she wanted to speak to the destroyer’s crew.”
“Ok,” Is all Eila says before she walks off towards the beach, as soon as she is gone Trude and Erica go back to spying. They were just about to lean against the door again when it opens, the two Karlsland witches and the two rookies both look surprised to see each other on opposite sides of the door.
“Barkhorn, Hartmann what are you doing here?” Yoshika asks surprised to see their squad’s aces here.
“We were just going to get a glass of water,” Trude tells them, but the sniggers she hears from Erica knows her friend will ruining that excuse.
“No we weren’t,” Erica says smiling mischievously. “How about the truth Trude?”
“That was it, Hartmann,” Trude replies pushing past the two rookies to get a glass of water so she can back up her lie. “Stop causing trouble for others.”
“But you always tell me not to lie,” Erica teases. “We were…”
“We may have just overheard you two,” Trude tells them stopping Erica from doing it and making Yoshika turn as red as a tomato.
“You did?” Lynne asks concern that their conversation will spread around the base.
“Yeah, we heard” Erica answers walking up to the red Yoshika. “Now how to set you two up?” Erica ponders. “I have an idea.”
Elia finally finds Minna; she reaches her just as she and Mio are leaving the crew of the Harekaze on the beach. Eila quickly walks up to them and both her commanders stop when they see her, the worried look on her face can be seen a mile away, and Minna and Mio can’t ignore it, so they have to talk to Eila and find out what’s wrong.
“Eila is something wrong?” Minna asks as Eila reaches her and Minna.
“I don’t think Sanya is ready to go on her night patrol,” Eila tells her to worry both witch commanders even more.
“Is she sick?” Minna asks, and Eila just shakes her head in response.
“What’s wrong with her?” Mio asks now.
“She hasn’t recovered from that rat thing infecting her,” Eila answers scaring both commanders into believing that vaccine doesn’t work. “She is terrified and can’t sleep.”
“Ok thank you for telling me Eila” Minna replies feeling better about the vaccine but bad about Sanya at the same time. “I’ll talk to her about it in a minute, can you take over her night patrol until then. I don’t expect you to do it tonight but from tomorrow if you are ok with that.”
“I’m fine with that,” Eila says before she leaves.
“What do you make of this?” Mio asks concerned about this latest news.
“That it’s not good,” Minna tells her. “If we can’t help Sanya we may lose her.”