From the ocean depths, they came.
No one knew who they were or where they came from, but what is known is that the Abyssal fleet, powerful entities taking the form of young women, emerged one day without warning to force mankind from Earth's oceans. Appearing first in the Pacific, and then spreading across the seven seas like a black plague, mankind soon found itself under siege.
The world was thrown into chaos by this new threat. Shipping lanes were severed, global communications were disrupted and millions of lives were lost at sea.
Civilisation itself was at stake.
Mankind tried fighting back against these enemies, but found that their most powerful ships could barely hold the line against an enemy that seemed numberless. Worse still, despite the bravery and courage of many brave souls, that line eventually broke.
With the destruction of Pearl Harbor and Norfolk, it seemed that mankind's defenders had finally failed, and that fall of humanity was at hand… but then a miracle happened.
As if hearing the call of duty once more, protectors in the form of young girls, bearing the reincarnated souls of warships of ages past, took up arms.
First appearing in Japan, young women wielding powers that could fight against the darkness were found, trained and then sent into battle against the Abyssal fleet.
These heroines were dubbed 'Kanmusu'.The ship girls.
It has been one year since the first ship girl took to the battlefield. Since then, the Abyssal fleet has been pushed back, away from many of the world's most vulnerable port cities, by the combined effort of the brave ship girls, giving mankind some much needed breathing room.
In the Pacific, the young women of the former Imperial Japanese Navy fight valiantly to rid East Asia of this menace. The Royal Navy, Marine Nationale and the Deutsche Marine work as one in an unrelenting war to keep the English Channel and the Atlantic convoys safe from the Abyssal raids. The Regia Marina, now flying the standard of the Marina Militare, have swept the Mediterranean clean of Abyssal presence and now turn to aid others. In the northern seas, the Red Fleet braves the harsh artic cold in a deadly game of cat and mouse against their quarry.
Around the world, warships from every nation have returned from the grave in a time of direst need to serve their countries once more…
Warships from every nation… save, it seems, those of the United States Navy.
Disclaimer: This is a non-profit work of fiction using characters from the Kantai Collection franchise, developed by Kadokawa Games and published by . Please support the official release.
Additional note: Please be advised this work contains allusion to certain contemporary issues, namely war crimes perpetrated by Imperial Japan in World War 2. This work is meant to be for enjoyment, and no offense is meant. Also note that, as a fanfiction, many liberties were taken with Kantai Collection canon for the purposes of this story. That being said, please enjoy.
Additional Note 2: Please take note that this is a continuation of the story with the blessings of the original author, sasahara17. The content of the originally-published chapters will be preserved to the best ability of the KC:TGG committee made up of:
It was a memory that she would never forget.
Pearl Harbor was burning.
The sheer horror of what was before her was like nothing she had ever experienced.
Great plumes of smoke reached into the sky from the fires, a sound accompanied by the desperate screams of the dead and the dying. Indeed, the water itself was aflame from oil that coated it.
It truly was a scene out of hell.
Never in her career had she ever experienced anything like this.
She wasn't the only one who had trouble believing what she was seeing. Around her, thousands of sailors of the United States Navy looked on from the deck at the inferno before them. The bastion of America's military power in the Pacific, Pearl Harbor, was burning.
An attack as brazen and destructive as this should have been unthinkable, but it had happened. Now people were dying, her comrades, and she was powerless to do anything but look on. Thousands dying, and she had arrived too late to do anything.
The cold chill of the knowledge that, but for the whim of fate, she too could be in amongst the dead and dying, was something she would never forget…
"Commander Swanson? Commander Swanson, are you alright?"
Yvonne Swanson gasped awake, the feeling of someone shaking her shoulder pulling her mind back from her dream. Cracking open her eyes, the young officer remembered she was still strapped into her seat on that stupid C-17. Beside her was the USAF airman had been sitting beside her, Master Sergeant Hammond, if memory served her correctly, who had shaken her awake.
The flight was fairly empty today, with barely a dozen or so men and women milling about, so there had been no one else to notice her discomfort.
"Goddamn, ma'am. That must have been some nightmare," the man said, his concern evident.
"No shit. Are we there yet?" Yvonne asked dourly, brushing her blonde locks out of her eyes.
The young officer wore Service Dress Blues of a commissioned officer of the United States Navy, and filled out the uniform smartly. She was very tall, in fact she was a few inches taller than the man addressing her. Her normally untamed sandy blonde hair was tucked neatly into a bun and covered by the white peaked cap resting nicely on her head.
She was the very picture of a model officer of the Navy, even if she was absurdly young to be wearing the rank of Commander… or she would be, had she not just woken from that accursed nightmare. Much to her displeasure, Yvonne brought her hand up and noticed it was still shaking, and she didn't need to look into a mirror to see how pale her face probably was.
"Last I checked, it's still another two hours before we land at Atsugi," Hammond supplied. "Are you okay? You were tossing and turning something fierce back there, Commander. Do you need me to get-"
"No need, it's just old memories," Yvonne replied dismissively. "And I thought I told you to not address me by my rank when we started this trip."
Not really one to stand on ceremony and wanting to avoid the any unnecessary awkwardness, Yvonne had asked Hammond, a career soldier of least two decades, to avoid addressing her by her rank. She was a slip of a girl who looked barely older than twenty, and he was a man well into his late forties. It felt awkward for a man clearly twice her age to keep addressing her as his better, especially since she didn't like being reminded of her rank.
It was one thing to have gone up in rank through experience, hard work and dedication. It was another to have been made a Commander because the battles against the Abyssal fleet had left so many vacancies that the Navy was promoting anyone they had left with any sort of experience who could even remotely fill the billets.
The old saying was true: promotions came fast in wartime. It wasn't pleasant to be reminded of that, and Yvonne knew she wasn't the only one in the Navy that felt that way.
"Sorry ma'am. You're an officer, and well, old habits die hard."
"Well, stop doing it. I'll make it an order if I have to," Yvonne sighed as she settled back into her seat, "and I'm fine. I just can't stand being on this plane any longer than I have to."
"If you say so, ma'am," Hammond said, although his tone of voice hinted that he wasn't convinced.
Although Yvonne was annoyed that he seemed to be treating her line some kind of porcelain doll, this was something she'd gotten used to. Hammond wouldn't be the first to treat her like this, or many other US Navy officers with more than three years under their belt for that matter.
The casualties the Navy had taken just trying to hold back the Abyssals in the early months of the war were mind boggling: no other armed service had lost so many men or material trying to hold the line. At the start of the war the USN was the largest most powerful blue water Navy to ever exist, responsible for keeping the peace and protecting the world's oceans.
When the Abyssals appeared, it fell to them to stop this new threat.
The men and women of the Navy did their duty, and died doing it. The majority of their surface fleet, including nine of their aircraft carriers, and a good number of the fast attack submarine force… all gone. Their arsenals at Pearl Harbor and Norfolk razed to the ground. So many good men and women, dead, and people were still trying to figure out why.
Before the Abyssals had appeared, Yvonne had thought that December morning in 1941 was the darkest day in the US Navy's history.
Clearly she had been mistaken.
Great, now she was thinking about Pearl all over again.
"So, why are you going to Yokosuka anyway?" Yvonne asked, wanting to distract herself from those dark thoughts. "I can't imagine what an old Air Force guy like you will be doing over there."
"Well, since you asked, I'm a tech. Predators and Reapers," Hammond supplied. "Not sure what good we can do though, since I hear those carrier girls of theirs have pretty much got everything covered."
"Don't sell yourself short. Conventional weapons can kill an Abyssal just as good as a ship girl's can."
This wasn't just Yvonne trying to make Hammond feel better. The Navy had won plenty of engagements against the Abyssal fleet before the ship girls were finally implemented. The problem was just that every single one of those victories was won in blood.
The Abyssals were endless in number.
The US Navy, significantly less so.
It was a simple matter of attrition, and it was one that the US Navy simply could not win.
"Yeah, but it costs a shitload of lot more money to shoot a dozen Hellfires at one Abyssal destroyer than it is for a ship girl to do the same job. She'll probably do it a hell of a lot better than we could do it too since she doesn't have to cross her fingers and hope something hits either," Hammond sighed. "Man, getting kids to fight this damned war for us. I know there's not much we can do but… It just ain't right, y'know?"
Yvonne, a girl that looked young enough to be Hammond's daughter, couldn't help but find humour in Hammond's statement, but decided to keep her mouth shut. This was the welcome distraction from her restlessness that she had been looking for, after all.
"Well, every little bit helps. We all do our part, and trust that one day it will matter."
"Ma'am, you sounded like a damn recruiter," Hammond said, his amusement finally overshadowing his earlier concern. "Bet you got sucked in with all those recruitment slogans, eh?"
"You know the one; America's Navy, a global force for good," Yvonne nodded with a faint smile.
"Jesus, look at you. I just got that Captain America vibe from you. They should be sticking you on the recruiting posters!" Hammond laughed, "So why are you heading down there? Going to tell how those Jap girls how awesome our ship girls are going to be when we finally get some?"
"Well no. I'm with the Office of Naval Intelligence, actually. I was sent by Admiral Briggs to find the origins of the Abyssal fleet."
"You're shitting me. Ma'am."
Yvonne looked at him dead in the eye.
"You're serious. Fuck. That's… wow… just… wow." Hammond leaned back into his seat, as if to steady himself. "That's a helluva responsibility they handed to you, kid. I mean, ma'am."
"We're short on manpower. Somebody had to do it," Yvonne shrugged. "We know how to fight these things well enough, but we understand so little about them. I expressed by thoughts to my superiors, and the next thing I knew I was an O-5 with a plane ticket to Japan."
"Shit, good luck to you then," Hammond said.
"Thanks. I'm going to need all the luck I can get."
Finding the origins of the Abyssals was going to be a tall order. There was a reason nobody had been able to figure out what they were until now: they always shot first, they never surrendered and were never taken alive… or dead for that matter.
There was speculation about what they were of course, but no real definitive answers.
With luck, Yvonne was going to change that.
"Say, you're with ONI, right?" Hammond turned to face Yvonne with a hopeful expression. "Hey, if it won't get you into trouble or anything, do you know when we'll be getting ship girls of our own?"
Yvonne couldn't help but roll her eyes.
"Not this question again."
Kantai Collection: The Greatest Generation
Part 1: Arrival at Yokosuka
The dawn sun rose over the land of the rising sun, just as the C-17 finally touched down at Atsugi, and Yvonne had the good fortune to be treated to the breathtaking sight of the morning sun illuminating the bay.
While most of the USAF personnel were too busy offloading their own equipment to pay heed to the spectacle, Yvonne took a moment to admire the view.
"Well, I hope this is a good sign."
"Commander Swanson?" Yvonne turned to find a young Japanese man standing behind her in the JMSDF service dress uniform. The young officer gave her a snappy salute. "Lieutenant Satoshi Matsuda. I have orders to take you to Yokosuka Naval Base."
"Pleasure to meet you, Satoshi-Ittō Kaii. Please don't stand on ceremony," Yvonne crisply returned the salute, while speaking in Japanese… only to notice the man's lips curl into a smile.
"Sorry Commander, looks like I was trying to be a little too smart for my own good," he said in perfect English. "My first name is Satoshi. I just thought I'd reverse the order since most people from the States are used to having it the other way 'round."
"Oh, well. Yeah," Yvonne grumbled. She'd spent all that hard work learning the language too! "Goddamn it, I could swear that's a New York accent."
"Bingo. I grew up in New York while I was still a kid. My Ma used to be on the UN delegation and I tagged along for about six years. Never quite lost the accent."
"You went with your mother to New York?"
"It was either that or live on a boat with the old man."
"Huh, well isn't that something." What were the odds that a JMSDF officer who grew up in New York would be the one to pick her up on her first day in Japan?
"I had my subordinate grab your bags to save you the trouble," Matsuda informed her, as he motioned Yvonne to a nearby jeep, clearly the one that they would be using for transport. Stowing what was clearly Yvonne's luggage into the back of the vehicle was a very conspicuous dark haired young woman in a dark blue uniform and an eyepatch.
Yvonne didn't have to be a genius to know what that girl was.
"Thanks for the help," Yvonne said graciously.
"Well, we'd best be on our way. The Admiral has been looking forward to your arrival for some time now," Matsuda agreed, "Still, it's nice to know you know Japanese. You might not need it with me, but trust me, you are going to havta to use it a lot where you're going."
Yokosuka Naval District had a long and storied history.
Originally a quaint little native fishing village, its strategic location would result in the district becoming home to some of the greatest concentrations of maritime power in history. It was the main arsenal of the Imperial Japanese Navy, and then later became a major centre of US Naval power as United States Fleet Activities Yokosuka.
In the light of the near total destruction of the Seventh Fleet against the Abyssals, Yokosuka had once again reverted to its original ownership. The US maintained a small section of the base for themselves since the USAF was now an active part of the war effort in the region, but otherwise the whole district was more or less back in Japanese hands.
This was very apparent to Yvonne as she watched her surroundings go by while the small jeep travelled towards its destination. Years ago, this was the home port of Carrier Strike Group Five, a fleet with enough military power to challenge entire countries.
Now, the only thing left that indicated that the USS Ronald Regan was ever here was the odd signpost in English that the JSDF hasn't taken down in the district's remodelling.
"You've been awfully quiet, there," Matsuda asked in Japanese from the driver's seat., "You okay?"
"Sorry, it's just… it's hard to take in how much we've lost," Yvonne replied in the language. "We used to be all over this place, but now it's like we were never here."
"Yeah, Carrier Group Five. Went down swinging against an Abyssal battlegroup thrice their size, when they refused to abandon a passenger ship full of refugees." Matsuda shook his head sadly.
Yvonne closed her eyes and grit her teeth, fighting back the anger she felt towards the Abyssal fleet for that massacre. Her anger was tempered with the feelings of pride at the bravery and courage of her countrymen, but this didn't change the fact that good people had died because of those monsters.
Yvonne's discomfort must have been apparent, as Matsuda quickly took it upon himself to change the subject.
"So, you're not going to ask about Tenryuu or what?" Matsuda inclined his head towards where the ship girl sat in the back seat. Tenryuu was leaning against the window with a bored expression, the kind that indicated just how little she cared about being there. "Most people get quite excited when they meet their first Kanmusu."
"No problem, just pretend I'm not here. I just carried your bags for you and all that," Tenryuu snarked grumpily, earning a reproachful look from Matsuda in the front seat.
"Oh, uh, sorry," Yvonne said abashedly.
She'd been so caught up in her own thoughts that she'd neglected to thank Tenryuu for helping her with her luggage, because she had been so focused on the base itself.
Now that she had realized this though, Yvonne was getting a distinctly uncomfortable feeling at allowing Tenryuu to be right behind her.
This was going to be a problem.
"Fufufu, ya scared?" Tenryuu chuckled upon noticing Yvonne's silence.
"Not really. Just kind of overwhelmed by everything that's all," Yvonne recovered smoothly. "Besides, no offense, but compared to Abyssals you look kind of… normal? Does that make any sense?"
"Che. Admiral, this is a waste of time. Why do we have to be the one to drag this Yankee over to the base anyway?" Tenryuu groused lazily. "There could be so many other important things we could be doing with our time. I mean c'mon, I could be training or something, not playing a bellhop."
"Tenryuu! She is a guest. Watch your tone."
"Yeah, yeah. I'll shut up. Going to take a nap, so wake me when we get there." Tenryuu leaned back, and within moments was out like a light.
"Bad subordinate?" Yvonne said to Matsuda in a hushed tone.
"Temperamental. Very good at her job though, and she's invaluable in keeping the kids in line," Matsuda explained with a sigh. "This was not what I expected to be doing when I received my commission."
"I can relate. So… Admiral, huh?" Yvonne quickly glanced at Matsuda's insignia and confirmed that the man she was with was indeed a mere O-3. There was probably a story behind that, hopefully one less morbid than how she had come into her own rank.
"Little cultural quirk all our Kanmusu have. If you're their commanding officer, you're an Admiral to them, regardless as to what rank you really are," Matsuda clarified. "It helps that most people that are in charge of them are really Admirals, but then you get an officer like me who's put in command of a few Kanmusu because of efficiency or necessity."
"Yeah, so how did you wind up in charge of her then?"
"Expeditionary force: basically I'm in charge of logistics, and since I work with Destroyer Division Six so much, they ended up putting me in command of them to save me the runaround, and it pretty much went from there. Now I have two light cruisers and four destroyers under my command. Well, one cruiser and four destroyers: Tatsuta's over in the United States at the moment as part of our detachment at San Diego. Normally I have her as my de facto secretary ship, but since she's on the other side of the Pacific at the moment, well… we make do."
"Sounds like you lucked out."
"More or less. So, Commander, huh?"
Yvonne couldn't help but give an amused huff. This guy had a bit of snark of his own. The pair quieted as they had arrived outside at a large imposing building that was clearly the main headquarters of the base. Pulling into the driveway, Matsuda stopped to allow Yvonne to disembark.
"Thanks for the ride."
"Don't worry about your bags, we've already assigned a room to you so I'll have 'em sent there. Just go straight to the lobby and take the elevator to the Admiral's office on the top floor, you can't miss it." Matsuda helpfully directed her.
"Thanks for that."
"It's not a problem. Call me if you need anything, Commander," Matsuda said, before taking off.
"Commander Yvonne Swanson, reporting to Yokosuka Naval Base, as ordered," Yvonne announced, coming to attention. The Admiral, seated behind his desk, simply nodded as he skimmed through her papers and acknowledged what was in them, while she waited patiently for him to finish.
"So, a mission to discover the origin of the Abyssal Fleet? And you are all they sent?" The weathered old sailor looked at Yvonne with curiosity.
"We are very shorthanded right now, sir."
"Shorthanded as the US Navy is, I am sure that they could have sent more, given the significance of this mission," the Admiral noted matter-of-factly. "Sending a girl of your age alone to take care of a task as monumental as this either speaks of desperation, or of your ability. I wonder if it is the former, or the latter. How do you intend to succeed, where so many others have failed?"
"The outline of my mission, as well as its specifics, have been outlined in detail with the brief included with my transfer papers, sir."
"I am aware of that, but some parts of this briefing have been redacted."
"My methods are classified, sir. I have been instructed to keep them on a strict need to know basis. I can, however, assure you that I am confident in my success," Yvonne replied smoothly.
The Admiral raised a curious eyebrow, seemingly both intrigued and taken aback by the confidence and oddity of her reply. "That is an interesting reply, Commander."
"It's the only reply I am authorized to give, Admiral."
"Indeed. Military intelligence… always so vexing." The Admiral set her papers down. "Your orders come with the approval of the Chief of Naval Operations himself, so I see little reason to hold you for longer than I already have. I will call my assistant to show you to your quarters."
"Thank you, sir."
"Welcome to Yokosuka Naval Base, Commander Swanson."
When the Admiral's secretary showed up, Yvonne was quite surprised to find that the aide to the most senior officer on the base was, in fact, a ship girl.
"I am Battleship Nagato, pleased to meet you. I am the Admiral's secretary ship." The long haired beauty gave a respectful bow to Yvonne, who had been waiting outside the Admiral's office for her escort. "I welcome you to Yokosuka Naval Base, Commander Swanson. It is an honour to have you in our base."
"It's… an honor to be here?" Yvonne said.
That feeling that uncomfortable feeling she had from Tenryuu returned, this time tenfold.
Yvonne knew how irrational the feeling was, but allowing one of the most powerful big gun warships ever built so close to her person, knowing well that Nagato had enough firepower to level the entire building, if not the entire base, was a terrifying prospect.
She felt so naked and alone without someone with her.
Good god, she'd only met two Japanese ship girls so far and already she felt like running to Dakota and O'Bannon for help.
Maybe they were right; this wasn't such a good idea after all.
"I am making you uncomfortable."
"Not… not a problem." Yvonne squelched down on her discomfort with her considerable force of will and successfully regained her composure. Get a hold of yourself woman, she chided herself. "Sorry, but this is all very new to me. I haven't met many Kanmusu before. My experience with this sort of thing has been mostly with the Abyssals until now."
Nagato seemed to study Yvonne with interest. It seemed that the battleship wasn't about to let the issue drop without one final push. Thankfully, Yvonne knew exactly what to say to that.
"…I was at Pearl."
"Oh. I see. You have my condolences, then." Nagato winced sympathetically.
"Could have been worse. I could have been at Norfolk," Yvonne grunted sourly as she recalled the horror stories. A good portion of the fleet had been docked in there for repairs when it had happened. Poor bastards hadn't even gotten the chance to weigh anchor before the Abyssals stormed in and turned the whole place into a charnel house.
"Then do not worry, Commander. We are nothing like the Abyssals. You will have nothing to fear from any who serve. In fact, take comfort in our presence: each and every Kanmusu on this base would lay down their lives before allowing you to come to harm."
"Well hopefully that won't be necessary."
"Indeed. Shall we?"
With that the two women walked through the winding halls of Yokosuka's main HQ. Nagato proceeded to give Yvonne a brief tour of the building, pointing out where all the basic facilities were or anything that might be of interest to Yvonne, before showing the American to the guest quarters they had set up for her.
One thing that caught Yvonne's attention was just how empty the building was.
Unlike Naval Station Everett where she had been stationed previously, Yokosuka base seemed to be operating on a skeleton crew. There were people around of course, they encountered the odd officer here and there, on their tour, but it was far less than even what Yvonne had been used to. When asked about it, Nagato was all too willing to explain.
"The Admiralty prefers to keep us Kanmusu segregated from the regular troops, because it makes people uncomfortable to know that we are fighting in their place. As such this base is operating on essential support personnel for us Kanmusu only. Aside from the helicopter destroyer Izumo and the guided missile destroyer Mirai, which both are operating at a reduced crew on the south quarter of the base, the majority of our conventional fighting strength has been relocated to Maizuru."
"Wise choice," Yvonne agreed.
After the absolute bloodbaths that were Pearl Harbor and Norfolk, several navies had opted to relocate their conventional fighting strength to safer waters, away from large oceans where the Abyssals seemed be coming from. Sure, it meant that those ships would have to take a considerably longer route to get to the engagement zone, but the added safety was well worth the inconvenience. It wasn't as if conventional forces where that effective anymore, now that the ship girls were on the scene anyway.
If she remembered her geography correctly, Maizuru was facing away from the Pacific Ocean towards Russian waters, and thus would be less vulnerable to attacks from the Abyssals coming in from the south-east. Even if it were to be attacked, they would have at least some advance warning to prepare defenses, or at worst case, evacuate.
"Can't imagine it was easy fitting all your ships in Maizuru though."
"Not much left to fit. We lost half our surface fleet before we Kanmusu were developed. Nowhere near what your Navy has lost, but still not an inconsiderable amount. Those Abyssasls will pay for that they have done," Nagato glowered darkly.
"Amen to that."
"Ohy, Nagato!" A cheery voice interrupted the pair mid tour. Both Yvonne and Nagato turned to regard an excitable brown haired young girl in a white shrine maiden's outfit - at least what Yvonne thought was a shrine maiden's outfit - who was bounding down the hallway towards them.
"Hey! This must be the American girl I've been hearing so much about! IT IS NI-CE TO MEET YOU. HOW ARE YOU DO-ING! WELCOME TO YOKOSUKA."
"Kongou, I see you have returned from your mission. I trust it went well."
Jesus Christ, not another battleship.
"YES. I, Kongou, completely dominated the enemy with my BURNING LOVE for the Admiral. He was most PLEASED with my performance!" Kongou animatedly clenched her hand to display her unbridled passion, something that went directly over Yvonne and Nagato's heads. "But enough about me, this is the American who's come from abroad to help us? GOOD DAY MY NEW FRIEND! HUGS!"
Then Kongou scooped Yvonne up in a big bear hug, a true feat considering Yvonne was at least a head and a half taller than Kongou, causing the American to go completely rigid in the excitable battleship's arms.
Yvonne had been already uncomfortable by just being near Nagato.
Getting hugged by Kongou was enough to make the naval intelligence officer's every thought process come to a screeching halt.
"Eep," Yvonne squeaked.
Nagato, having buried her face into her hands, seemed to be on the verge of weeping, before she turned to Yvonne and gave a low sigh. "Kongou…"
"MY NAME IS KONGOU, NAME SHIP OF THE KONGOU CLASS. I COME FROM ENG-LAND. WHAT IS YO-UR NAME? WOULD YOU LIKE SOME TEA?"
"She can speak Japanese, Kongou."
"Please… let me have some personal space," Yvonne gasped, wondering if it was just her imagination that her ribs felt like they was cracking under the crushing embrace of the fast battleship Kongou. Holy shit, this girl was strong. Thankfully for Yvonne's lungs, Kongou released her, allowing Yvonne to lean against a nearby wall to catch her breath.
"Ah, SORRY," Kongou said, cheerfully apologetic.
"Kongou, she is a foreign officer of the United States Navy and a guest. Please try not to embarrass us completely and show some tact," Nagato rebuked sternly. Kongou gave a nervous laugh, having realized she may have been a little too excited about Yvonne's arrival.
"It's fine Nagato. I'm not hurt or anything," Yvonne said as she caught herself. "It's nice to meet you Kongou. I did some research before coming here, and it is an honor to meet one of the more decorated members of the ship girl fleet."
"HA! Yes, so you have heard of me! GOOD JOB!" Kongou beamed happily at the praise. "Anyway, GREAT that America is finally joining the fight. So, which ship are you?"
"Oh, not this again."
"Kongou, please, we've been over this," Nagato sighed.
"Which ship? America has so many cool ships I, Kongou, can't even begin to guess who you are!" The brunette continued undeterred., "I'm sure they brought back their best. So? WHO ARE YOU? Are you the Iowa? Wait NO! She's still afloat as a museum ship… Missouri! Wait no, that's not it either. Houston? Hm, no REACTION. Pennsylvania? No. Arizona? Hm, not her either. AH, YES! With that flight deck chest as flat as yours, you must be-"
"Commander Yvonne Swanson, United States Navy, Office of Naval Intelligence," Yvonne said sharply. "I was sent here to discover the origins of the Abyssal fleet."
There was silence as Yvonne allowed this to sink into Kongou's brain. It almost made Yvonne guilty to see the disappointment fall over the excitable girl's features, as she understood the full ramifications of what Yvonne was saying.
"I'm sorry to disappoint you," she added, not unkindly.
"You're not a Kanmusu?" Kongou said in a tone reminiscent of a kicked puppy.
"Would a ship girl be working for naval intelligence?"
"Kongou, we've been over this," Nagato cut in to spare Yvonne the trouble. "The American Navy was decimated by the Abyssals, trying to hold the line while we were being trained. At the moment they're still in the process of rebuilding their fighting strength. They can't help us just yet."
"You mean the official story is right? I thought that was just the American President telling fibs," Kongou sighed. "Man, SO DISSAPOINTING."
"If it helps, when we do eventually get some ship girls ready to help you out, Yokosuka is at the top of the list for places that are going to be reinforced," Yvonne placated her. "The JSDF has been kind enough to station a task group at San Diego. The least we could do is pay you back when we get the chance."
"Oh, SORRY. I didn't mean any offense. I was just so excited since I thought I was finally going to meet some new friends," Kongou hung her head apologetically. "I've been reading up on history and the US Navy had some of the most POWERFUL ships in the war. SO COOL! If we had them fighting with us, this war would be over in no time."
Yvonne couldn't help but agree with that.
"This is your room, Commander Swanson."
Yvonne's first impression of the room was that it was nice, if in a humble cosy sort of way. Certainly better than her old accommodations back in Everett, but then again back then she wasn't a Commander. It was modest room, sporting a single bed, a cupboard, a desk and a chair, but the make of the furniture and the nice view afforded by the single window overlooking the base made it feel more like a hotel room than assigned quarters that apparently doubled as her personal office.
As promised by Matsuda, Yvonne noted that her effects had been left at the foot of the single bed in the corner of the room.
"Thanks for showing me around, Nagato," Yvonne said as she walked over to her duffel bags to begin unpacking.
"The Admiral has nothing for you for the rest of the day. It has been decided to allow you a day to overcome your jet lag and get settled in," Nagato said from where she stood at the doorway. "He has advised me that from tomorrow onwards you will be assigned an aide to assist you in your duties as you see fit. While you are a foreign officer, please remember that this is a Japanese Navy facility and you are to adhere to all our rules and customs as required…"
And the lecture went on.
Wow, what a square.
Even so, as a representative of the US Navy, Yvonne did the honorable thing and listened to Nagato as she continued on about protocol and discipline for some time. Thankfully, the impromptu lecture was 'only' for about ten minutes or so, and soon the secretary ship turned to other matters.
"I will see to it that Kongou is reprimanded for her actions," Nagato noted once she had finished, "What she did was impolite, and an embarrassment to our Navy. I will see to it that the Admiral knows about this. On behalf of the Japanese Navy, I offer you our sincerest apologies over what inconvenience she may have caused you."
"Hey, I told you not to worry about it," Yvonne insisted, with a wave of her hand. "Look, there's no need to go bother the Admiral. It's actually nice to have met someone who was so friendly like Kongou. I was actually a little worried that my reception on the base would be a little, well, cold. I don't think it'll do me any favors making enemies on my first day here."
Nagato shifted on her feet awkwardly.
Oh, that wasn't a good sign.
"…Yes, it might be wise to remain on Kongou's good side. Very well, if that is your order, I will not tell the Admiral, just this once. Any other breach in protocol after this will be dealt with, however."
"I sense there is something else you want to say?"
"You will find that Kongou is a… minority on this base," Nagato stated carefully, with tactfully chosen words. "Many of our comrades are not as understanding of the current plight of the US Navy and feel affronted that you have not produced Kanmusu of your own yet. Some of your Navy's more vocal critics will not take your arrival to Yokosuka very well."
"I see." This was upsetting, but not something Yvonne hadn't foreseen before coming.
While the rest of the world's navies had solidly established their ship girl fleets, to the point where the Italians had already certified that the Mediterranean was Abyssal-free, the United States was lagging behind. It wasn't surprising that this was the case; a quarter million casualties, the destruction of the Atlantic and Pacific fleets and two of their largest installations fleet bases wasn't something that the Navy could recover from quickly.
It was so bad that most of the Navy's operations for the last nine months were centered on trying to assess just how much they had lost and tallying the death toll. Reconstruction efforts had only just begun. Going from the most powerful blue water navy to what they were now was traumatizing to everyone wearing Yvonne's uniform.
Most, even those who had been formerly critical of the US Navy's power, understood. It had been the US Navy that had held the line while everyone else struggled to find a solution. After all they had been through, after all their blood, sweat and tears, the US Navy deserved some slack.
Unfortunately, there were always detractors who wanted to know why the exhausted remnants of the once proud United States Navy weren't doing more by throwing themselves back into the fray. Most of these detractors were politicians, civilian commentators… and ironically enough, many ship girls of foreign powers, who couldn't appreciate what the conventional forces had suffered holding out against the Abyssal threat.
"Many of our Kanmusu are young and don't fully understand how much this war as cost us, or more precisely has cost your nation," Nagato informed her. "As secretary ship, I do. However, most Kanmusu just live day by day and battle by battle. They don't see the bigger picture and can't understand why America hasn't joined in the fight yet. That, with the stresses from their battles, may mean you will find many who will voice their displeasure to you."
"I understand. This was is hard on all of them, especially since they're the ones who have to fight it now. I won't fault them for it, " Yvonne replied.
"…Thank you for being so understanding. You are truly a credit to the uniform you wear," Nagato said with a hint of awe at Yvonne's equanimity, genuine respect in her eyes. "If that is all, I will leave you to unpack."
"Yeah, no problem."
"We will assign a permanent liaison to you. Until that time, I will attend to your needs. As a member of the Admiral's staff, I stay in a room further down the hall, next to the Admiral's office. It can be identified by the name plate. My sister, Mutsu, rooms with me. Do not hesitate to call upon Mutsu or myself if you require anything."
"Fine, thank you." Great. Two battleships. Just dandy.
"You can also go to the room next to yours if you wish. If she is in, Yamato would be happy to attend to you if you need anything, since her schedule normally leaves her available."
"Okay. Got it-wait, what? YAMATO?"
Jesus-fucking-Christ, where are all these battleships coming from?
"Yes Admiral, I see. Thank you. I'll do my best. Goodbye."
Given that she hadn't brought much in the way of personal effects with her, it didn't take Yvonne very long to unpack her effects and arrange the small room to her liking. After that, she'd slipped away to the former US section of the base.
Effectively abandoned by both the US and Japan, this gave her a bit more privacy to freely use some special ONI equipment she'd brought along… like the encrypted satellite phone she'd used to call Admiral Briggs and let him know that she was alright. It wasn't strictly necessary, since she'd already left a message with his secretary shortly before seeing the Japanese Admiral, but given how much he'd helped her out, she thought he'd appreciate the call.
As it turned out, he did.
"I can't believe he waited until 1 in the morning for me." She'd forgotten the time difference between Yokosuka and Washington D.C. and had been slightly embarrassed to discover that, especially when Briggs revealed that he had stayed up with worry just waiting for her to check in.
A four star admiral, worrying about lil' ol' her.
Well, she had one more call to make, and if her calculations weren't off it shouldn't be that late over in Seattle. Punching the number into the phone, Yvonne patiently waited for the operator to pick up.
"Naval Station Everett-"
"Naval Station Everett? This is Commander Swanson for Advanced Naval Weapons Research and Development. I wish to speak with Lieutenant Dakota Leigh Gatch."
"Oh, E-um, Commander Swanson! She's been waiting for your call all night. I'll put you through to them right away!"
It didn't take very long for the operator to transfer Yvonne's call to the newest and most secretive division. When the line next picked up it was the familiar voice of one of Yvonne's oldest friends.
"Calling over an unsecured line? You make for a lousy spook, Swanson."
"Oh put a sock in it, Dakota," Yvonne chuckled, just picturing her bookish friend on the other end of the line. Knowing Lieutenant Dakota Leigh Gatch, she was probably multitasking at the moment, likely reading a book or watching the news while talking over the phone, all at the same time.
"So did I win the bet?"
"Oh, yeah. Yeah you did," Yvonne sighed as she ran a hand across her forehead, "I kid you not; they got me in the room right next to Yamato. So yes, I sure as hell wish I hadn't been so stubborn and let you come along. I could use you as a meat shield right about now."
There was a slight pause.
"…okay, now I'm thankful I didn't. Being in so close proximity to those eighteen inchers? I'd need a clean change of pants. Sucks to be you, my friend."
"I haven't met her yet, though, but I sure as hell am not looking forward to the experience," Yvonne grumbled, "You called it. I bit off more than I could chew by coming to Japan on my own."
If Yvonne's reactions to Nagato or Kongou were anything to go by, she was probably going to faint dead away at meeting the most powerful battleship ever built. Her friends, the people Yvonne normally leaned on for support, were an ocean away.
Without them, she felt exposed, vulnerable, especially now that she was a stranger in a strange land, surrounded by unfamiliar people.
But then again, maybe they'd be in the same boat: all of them fainting dead away one after another like a bunch of falling dominoes.
Yeah, actually, that's probably what would happen. So much for the US Navy's best and brightest.
"So what's happening back over there? Anything to report?" Yvonne asked as she filed away that amusing thought for another day.
"You know the story. Same shit, different day. Politicians spinning their wheels, Navy planners going apeshit over the amount of things needing to be done and not enough stuff to actually do it… the works," Dakota complained gruffly.
"I thought you guys were working with DARPA?"
"Please. We have the toys, but can't play with them. Do you have any idea how boring that is?" Dakota sighed "The whole budget's been going into reactivating that old carrier they dug up."
"They greenlighted recommissioning the Kitty Hawk?"
Yvonne ran her free hand down the side of her face. The USS Kitty Hawk had been decommissioned for years and had been languishing as a museum in Pensacola, Florida. However, with the loss of nearly all their aircraft carriers, Yvonne had been aware that there had been a movement in the Navy to find, overhaul and recommission any still seaworthy ship to replace their losses… even ones as old as Kitty Hawk. She'd personally thought those guys were out of their minds, especially since the Navy should have been using their limited resources elsewhere, but apparently some guys on high really couldn't picture a US Navy without aircraft carriers.
"Oh, yeah. Sandy is over there helping out. Said something about not trusting anyone else with proper anti air, whatever that means, and then off she went. I don't think it was everything she expected though."
"She's not the only one. This wasn't what I expected to be doing when I got out of training." Yvonne grumbled.
"I don't think any of us expected this when we got out of training," Dakota laughed, . "Well at least you're doing something. I spend most of my day brainstorming new ideas and staring at blueprints that we can't actually build. Navy Intelligence gets to do all the awesome shit, Sandy's working with that carrier, and I don't think O'Bannon's had a day off since she started with the Seabees."
Yvonne couldn't help but roll her eyes at Dakota's misconceptions about the Office of Naval Intelligence. The master of multitasking had clearly been watching too many tv shows and had gotten the wrong idea about what ONI actually did. "Any word on Tresh?"
"Probably gone off to work with getting the submarine fleet back up and running, but you know her. She's not exactly the social type," Dakota said jokingly. However what she said next took on a very different tone. "Hey, Yvonne. Are you sure you're over there alone? It's just you over there along with every Japanese ship in the war. You could always come back, you know?"
Yvonne stayed silent for a while as she contemplated how to reply. Dakota had disagreed with her rather vehemently over Yvonne's instance on going to Japan. She was alone, surrounded by ship girls and no friends in sight.
"I wouldn't have come halfway around the world if I wasn't serious, Dakota," Yvonne replied with a sigh. "I can't just sit around anymore and hope things get better. At least this way, I can be useful. I can do something worthwhile."
"Stubborn as a bull, as always," Dakota sighed. "Well, if that's the way you want to play it, go right ahead… but for god's sake, you call me if shit hits the fan, alright? The whole gang will be over there before you know it to bail your sorry ass out."
"Yeah, I got that. Thanks, mom."
With the only remaining obligations she had for the day done, Yvonne had just focused on getting readjusted to her new surroundings, the time difference between Yokosuka and Seattle was quite significant, and by late-afternoon when she finally returned back to the Japanese ship girl portion of the base, Yvonne was feeling very drowsy.
Still, the best advice she had been given about jetlag was to stay hydrated, keep herself active and adjust to her new schedule, so Yvonne did the only thing that came to mind – go for a drink.
For off-duty personnel at Yokosuka, Houshou's café was the place to be.
Owned and operated by a retired 'decommissioned' ship girl, a true rarity considering how new they were as a whole, the café catered almost exclusively to the Kanmusu of Yokosuka and what few support personnel they had on the base proper.
Nevertheless, its fame reached the ears of jealous USAF and USN personnel who had their access restricted from going anywhere near it, given how touchy the Japanese were about their ship girls, something that the American brass had apparently agreed with. If access to the base wasn't so heavily restricted, the place would probably be the next big tourist hotspot.
Given that Yvonne was apparently one of the few US Navy officers to whom the restrictions didn't apply to, she decided that, on behalf of the service, it was her sworn duty to go where no American had gone before and see what the fuss was about.
And so it was that Yvonne Swanson walked through the doors of the café. It was a modest establishment that couldn't play host to more than a dozen patrons, but its small size created a simple air of homeliness that Yvonnne found pleasant. The time of the day Yvonne had chosen to visit also meant the place was more or less empty.
Behind a kitchen counter was the owner herself, Houshou, the ship sometimes referred to as the 'mother of all aircraft carriers'.
"Oh! You must be the American that I heard would be coming!" Houshou, a matronly woman in a pink kimono, turned from where she had been washing some dishes to give Yvonne a warm smile. "Please take a seat, I'll be right with you."
"Don't mind if I do," Yvonne said, as she chose one at the counter. "With how famous this place is, I thought there would be more people here."
"You probably don't know this, but the Admiral suddenly called for a large meeting that all Kanmusu and support personnel had to attend." Houshou finished cleaning the dishes and dried her hands on a nearby towel. "He probably heard about you getting accosted by Kongou and decided that they needed another prep talk."
"Wait, what? I thought I told Nagato-"
"Don't worry. The Admiral found out about it from Kongou herself. I know you tried covering for her, but that child is honest as they come," Houshou laughed in the same way a proud mother would when recounting the mischief of her children to a friend, "Don't worry, she won't get angry. I think she was actually worried that she offended you or something and went to the Admiral for help."
Yvonne shook her head in disbelief. Fast battleship Kongou, one of the most famous warships of World War 2… it boggled the mind that the girl had ended up becoming such a klutz.
A loveable klutz, but a klutz nonetheless.
"It is so rare to get new patrons. May I know the name of the person I am speaking to?" Houshou produced a menu for Yvonne, who graciously accepted it.
"Commander Yvonne Swanson. United States Navy Office of Naval Intelligence," Yvonne introduced herself politely.
"I see. I am pleased to meet you, Commander," Houshou bowed politely from behind the counter. "My name is Houshou, light aircraft carrier and proprietor of this café. Retired, of course."
"If you don't mind me asking, what's the story behind that?"
Kanmusu were very new, having been only having actually been fighting for the past year or so due to training requirements, so coming across one that was retired was a surprise indeed. Houshou was also a carrier, a rare and expensive commodity, even despite her outdated technology compared to other Kanmusu. Her having retired to what was more or less civilian life was a puzzle that Yvonne couldn't pass up.
"Well, I was the first aircraft carrier Kanmusu," Houshou explained with a nostalgic smile. "While officially we Kanmusu did not actively begin operations against the Abyssals until a year ago, the JMSDF had actually started using small groups of us in limited numbers well before that.
"Really? That's news to me." Yvonne said with some surprise.
The public reveal of the Kanmusu by Japan was only about a year ago, and it had taken the world by storm. The remnants of the US fleet had been fleeing the burning inferno Pearl Harbour, their battered hulls packed full of refugees from Honolulu. With escape to the mainland United States deemed too dangerous, given that they had learned Norfolk had been attacked at around the same time, they had instead chosen to make best speed for an allied port in the Philippines, thinking it the safer option. It had been the wrong decision.
They had come under attack from Abyssals halfway there. Exhausted, demoralized and low on supplies and munitions, there wasn't a thing the convoy could do but look out at the approaching storm and wait for death. Then, just as things had seemed hopeless, their miraculous saviours had appeared - war goddesses riding the waves, slaying those demonic monsters and saving the lives of every man, woman and child in the flotilla.
Safe to say, it was generally agreed by the world's populace that ship girls were pretty hard to miss.
"Unfortunately most of what we did were sea trials and tests. We were new weapons and people were still trying to get an idea on how to use us, so there wasn't much we could do," Houshou admitted sadly. "Back then, there were just ten of us separated into two battlegroups: plenty of younger girls were in training, but only ten of us were actually seaworthy at the time."
"I really wanted to help you know," she sighed forlornly a shadow of guilt cast over her features falling into memory, "It was tough waking up every morning to hear news reports of how your people were fighting and dying while being unable to do anything because we just weren't ready. When I heard about the Battle of the Bering-"
"Excuse me?" Houshou blinked as she looked at Yvonne, who was now pointing at an item on the menu. "I'd like some coffee. Black. Strong as you can make it."
"Oh. Oh! I'll get right on it, Miss Swanson!"
Houshou quickly gathered herself and went about satisfying Yvonne's orders, not noting the understanding look of pity Yvonne was giving her as she did so.
"…so after that, with Akagi and Kaga ready for battle and with my injuries making it difficult to hold a bow, it was decided that that I should retire. Maintaining an obsolete carrier when resources are so thin isn't cheap. So after I was decommissioned and had my equipment scrapped, the Admiral was kind enough to offer me this building so I could say close to my girls and support them as best I could out of respect for my years of service. So, now here I am, proprietor of this café."
Houshou finished her tale just as Yvonne had finished her cup of coffee.
"That's quite an adventure you've had, Houshou. I had no idea that there had been so much fighting before you went public."
"Well, as I said, it was mostly small skirmishes as field tests. Nothing quite like the battles that are happening these days. We only picked fights we knew were in our favour and left most of the heavy lifting to the regulars," Houshou replied modestly.
To be honest Yvonne felt Houshou was selling herself short: the matronly woman before her was a pioneer that paved the way for every other ship girl that came after her. Maybe she was right in that she only fought in battles stacked in her favour, but she had also been doing so using untested equipment and tactics. In Yvonne's opinion, going into battle with that kind of the risk involved made Houshou even more courageous than many of the still serving girls.
"How did you manage to fly under the radar for so long anyway?" Yvonne asked with great interest. "You said you worked with researchers for years before announcing your existence. How'd you manage to blend with normal humans in so well?"
"Do we ship girls really stand out that much?" Houshou said.
"Well, from the few I've met so far, let's just say they stand out in a crowd. No offence, but you're the first one that I've met so far that could pass for a normal person."
Yvonne couldn't help wonder how Houshou had managed to remain secret for so long, especially after meeting Tenryuu, Nagato and Kongou. Every single one of those girls dressed flamboyantly and carried personalities to match. More than that, just being around them caused Yvonne to feel like there was an incredible weight to their very presence.
All this was missing from Houshou, who by all appearances seemed to be a normal woman. If Yvonne hadn't already known who Houshou was, she'd likely have just pegged the café owner as 'that nice lady who runs that shop' and left it at that. What was her secret?
"Well, the younger generation certainly like being as flamboyant as they can be!" Houshou giggled in that matronly way again. "Well to be honest, it's simple really. Take away the uniform, our rigging and equipment, and we're just ordinary human beings that just so happen to have the souls of warships in our bodies. Unless we're deliberately trying to make our presence felt as warships, it's quite easy to blend in if you don't try anything to outrageous."
"Really? That's it? I thought there would be more to it," Yvonne said, with some disappointment.
When the Japanese had unveiled their Kanmusu, their secret weapon that they had managed to develop while the US Navy was bust getting pounded, it was entirely to the surprise of the Office of Naval Intelligence: to this day it had been a sore point for them that they hadn't even caught of whiff of what the Japanese had been doing, and that this war winning development had happened entirely without their knowledge… let alone with actual sea trials dating back well before their most conservative estimates!
Granted, ONI had their attention elsewhere at the time, but it still stung.
Maybe it was all in the past, the secret was out so there was no point in fussing over it now that there were more pressing matters to attend to, but many of the surviving members of ONI still felt that it was a blow to their professional pride. As such, Yvonne felt like she had to ask this, for her office's sake at very least.
"There really isn't. I do have some supernatural powers that allow people to feel that I am more than human, but as long as I don't do that well… I'm just little old Houshou that owns a café."
"Really? What about those little people you girls have?" Yvonne tried making an appropriate gesture with her hands. "What do you call them? Fairies? I heard Carriers like bringing lots of them everywhere they go. That has to be a bit conspicuous, don't you think?"
"Oh my, whatever gave you that idea?" Houshou giggled, "Why, I just left my fairies back at the base whenever I had to leave for outside business so I didn't stand out. Simple as that. Really, if you want any more proof, just look at me now!"
Well, Houshou did have a point there.
"Well darn, many of the boys back home are going to feel really silly when they hear about that. I was so sure you had some hocus pocus card trick up your sleeve," Yvonne grumbled.
"If it helps, the prototype Kanmusu all dressed much more conservatively than they do now." Houshou motioned down at what she was wearing. "I think most of the younger girls dress the way they do as a show of solidarity. At least… I hope so."
"Yeah, some of the stuff they're wearing is kind of… odd." Yvonne sighed.
"I could give you some tips on how to deal with being around the active duty Kanmusu," Houshou offered, "I know it can be a bit overwhelming to a first timer at being around them. We do bear the weight of history on our shoulders, and some people have trouble with dealing with that."
"Nah. Thanks for the offer, but I'm good." Yvonne said. Despite what had happened with her run ins with Tenryuu, Nagato and Kongou earlier, the problem wasn't so much that Yvonne was unused to ship girls. Rather, that Yvonne was alone and next to THOSE ship girls.
Light cruiser and two battleships. Freaking hell, why couldn't she have run into some destroyers or something?
"I'm very used to having friends with me. It's been that way for a while now," Yvonne informed the matronly woman before her, "They're my safety blanket so to speak. My armourarmor. Without them, well to be perfectly frank, I feel exposed."
"…I'm not sure what to say about that." ," Honshu replied with a look of pity.
Houshou probably drew the conclusion that Yvonne was suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder, and had used being with others as a way to cope. It was a reasonable conclusion; practically everyone in the US Navy with more than two years' experience knew someone who had died, and that had left plenty of people suffering from PTSD from the horrors they had seen.
"If that's the cause, you shouldn't push yourself," Houshou said concernedly. "I can only guess what it must have been like for you, but…"
"Hey, it's fine. MO gave me a clean bill of health before I even left the base," Yvonne said. "But we're so short-handed I felt I was being a burden. They were needed elsewhere, and I figured Yokosuka was a friendly port, so I took this assignment to go cold turkey on my needy ways."
"This is a pretty extreme way of going cold turkey."
"Well, that's what it means. You don't do things in half measures, you know?" The pair shared one final laugh before Yvonne pushed herself off her seat, deposited the payment of yen down on the countertop. "Thanks for the coffee. It was great."
"It was my pleasure. Feel free to come again," Houshou said, but then paused as she considered something. "Commander Swanson. A question, if I may?
"Go right ahead. I'm not in a particular hurry to get anywhere."
"I know you probably get asked this a lot, but since you're with Naval Intelligence, do you know when the USN will be starting up their ship girl program?"
Upon noticing Yvonne's face darkening with irritation at having being asked that same question again on the same day, Houshou quickly amended her statement.
"I mean, I know the USN is in the process of rebuilding their forces so it might be some time until you will be able to, but I would like to know if there's an estimate you can give me," Houshou asked. "Also, if you can tell me, do you know which ships will the Navy try to bring back first?"
Okay this was slightly different. Houshou was clearly looking for something far more specific now instead of a general ballpark figure. "Why do you ask?"
"Well, as I told you earlier, I personally trained both Akagi and Kaga. I know they've physically not that much younger than I am, but I think of them as my daughters," Houshou explained, motherly concern apparent in her eyes. "They're very brave and I'm very proud of what they're doing, but I can't help but worry about them. They carry such a heavy burden, and I sometimes wish there was someone who can help them shoulder it."
A lump settled in Yvonne's stomach as she listened to Houshou's words. She could see where this was going.
"You are looking for someone," Yvonne surmised, fighting to keep her feelings in check. "You don't just want the US Navy to have ship girls… you want them to have a specific shipgirl."
"Yes I am," Houshou replied, "Please, Commander. Do you know when the US Navy plans to bring back the Enterprise?"
"You, light carrier Houshou, the one called the 'mother of all aircraft-carriers', are hoping that the USS Enterprise would take to the field as a ship girl," Yvonne stated bluntly, frowning. "Why?"
Houshou nodded and explained herself.
"Among us aircraft carriers, none have won more renown then the Enterprise. Even though we were on opposite sides of the war and even if some would not openly do so out of pride, I can tell you that many of us carriers regard her as the greatest of our number. Maybe there were others later in the war that were larger, more powerful or advanced… but none were braver, determined or more corageous. If she was with Akagi and Kaga, I would feel much better," Houshou said, the quiver in her voice at the fear for her daughters mixed with the reverence she had for the most decorated aircraft carrier, hell, most decorated US Navy warship, to ever exist.
"You speak of her as if she was a hero," Yvonne stated evenly.
"She is. One of the best," Houshou replied with lowered eyes. "I think you would agree that in times like these, heroes are what we need."
"Do you… know when she will come?"
Yvonne couldn't help but hide her clenched fist behind her back, venting her anguish and frustration in private, cursing herself all the while. She looked Houshou in the eye, and told the first lie she truly regretted making that day.
"I'm sorry, Houshou. But I don't."
Even though she had spent hours at Houshou's café, it was still light out by the time Yvonne returned to her room. Her previous good mood at having made a friend in the café owner had evaporated, and had been replaced with revulsion and self-loathing. Yvonne practically stormed all the way back from the café into her room, ingoing the few surprised looks from the few she had passed along the way, and securely locked the door behind her as she did so.
Yvonne wasn't really one to vent. She prided herself on her composure and professionalism as befitting of an officer and gentlewoman of the United States Navy.
But thinking back to Houshou's earnest pleading look and having to give that bald faced lie was too much for even her to take. Throwing herself down her bed and seizing her pillow, Yvonne proceeded to let out a muffled scream of rage and frustration into it.
Maybe this might cause a scene.
Maybe this was unbecoming of her.
Yvonne didn't care.
What the fuck was she doing? She was IN Yokosuka Naval Base, practically the front line of the war… and she couldn't give them the help they deserved.
She was surrounded by young women who were actively fighting in that said war, risking their very lives for emperor and country as was their sworn duty. They had asked for help from the US Navy, who once fielded the most powerful armada of ships the world had ever seen… and if history was anything to go by, had the potential to field the most powerful armada of ship girls out of all of humanity's potential defenders. They needed help.
Commander Yvonne Swanson, a mere intelligence officer who had been given her rank because there were so few people who could fill the empty shoes she now wore, couldn't give that.
She wished she could tell them the truth. That the Navy wasn't as bad off as everyone thought it was – the United States had four major branches after all, and while the Navy and Marines had been almost decimated, the Air Force and Army were still going strong. Even with all the re-organisation that was going on, it had been a simple matter to redirect resources from those the healthier services back to the Navy to jump start the crucial Ship Girl program.
The US Navy had been bloodied to be sure, but all their losses hadn't caused them to break. Rather it had steeled their resolve: even after all they had lost, the Navy wanted see the fight through to the end as was their duty.
At least, that was the plan.
The program had been a debacle. Attempts to bring back the spirits of ship girls were unsuccessful. No matter how much the USN tried to follow the tried and tested procedures as dictated by the JDSF, they were confronted with failure after failure.
No matter how much they tried, it seemed that the spirits of the departed United States vessels, from their greatest generation no less, had refused to answer the call to arms.
The German Deutsche Marine had seen the return of the legendary Bismark and nigh unkillable Prinz Eugen. The French Marine Nationale was heroically led into battle by Richelieu and the Georges Leygues. The Italian Marina Militare's Littorio sisters had successfully led a campaign to make the Mediterranean Sea Abyssal-free.
The UK's Royal Navy had been pleasantly surprised when an over-eager HMS Termeraire, the 98 gun second rate ship of the line, had enthusiastically reported for duty, only to discover she was an two centuries out of date in terms of equipment.
And Japan? Well, Yvonne was seeing firsthand just how well Japan's ships had responded.
Around the world, warships of ages past heard their nations' call, and had heeded it dutifully…. except for the ships of United States of America.
Yvonne lay in her bed staring at the ceiling as memories of anger at and frustration played over and over in her mind from witnessing all those repeated failures to produce usable ship girls played over and over in her mind. Houston. Pennsylvania. Arizona. None of them responded to their nation's call.
Not when America, and the girl named Yvonne Swanson, needed them most.
To be continued…
Beta Note: Hello, folks. I'm Wild Goose/Whiskey Golf, sasahara17's regular beta and the formerly anonymous beta for The Greatest Generation. You may be reading this and going, "wait, didn't I read this last year?" and "Hey, wasn't this taken down or something?" The answers to those questions are "yes" and "yes". So, I think some explanations are in order.
Essentially, around November 2015, as I was doing beta work on the latest chapters, sasahara17 was going through a pretty rough patch IRL, and that adversely affected the fic and it's creative process. After a number of straws that broke the camel's back, he felt that he could no longer carry on with the story, and so he handed it over to the Committee, and gave us his blessings to carry on the story as we saw fit. We've spent the last several months planning out the story, and we're proceeding on at a good pace - we know our destination now, so what's left is the journey.
So what does this mean for the story? Let me assure you - we're not throwing the baby out with the bathwater. The main meat of the Greatest Generation remains, albeit with a little more tweaking, a little further polish. We will be making our own story, yes - but it will be a story told from the shoulders of one who's gone ahead of us. (Yes, this means that the Indefatiguable omakes will return. :p)
Thank you for waiting. Thank you for all your patience. Thank you for reading.