Captain Hasegawa , not with out some regret, watches Mutsu and her sisters slide out of the anchorage.
They are steaming into battle –of this he feels in his bones.
Real battle – gun against gun –not this piss piddling sitting near a radio speaker as men do your fighting over the far horizon……..
Zuiho lies still at anchor – currently shorn of all escorts, swinging around a boy waiting for new arrivals, waiting for the chaos of Army to sort itself out.
This, thankfully, is coming good –there is still much, much to do –but now, with the rain gone, (relaced by blazing crushing heat and humidity) the work is picking up pace.
There is little for Hasegawa to do.
What to do?
Well, to that, there is only one answer –he will take a walk –and truly see what this new Command is .
It is a revealing walk…..
The hanger deck is strangely quiet today –packed with aircraft, all ready for action, Zuiho’s flight group is at 100% availability.
He notes immediately the small of aircraft – do they all always smell like this –and the steady low hum of great ventilators battling the faint, but present small of avgas.
The Hanger is bright –the great arc lamps throw each plane into stark relief –only a few men are crouched under one of the fighters –and a pilot sits quietly in its cockpit
The crew noticing him, spring to attention, salutes crisp, disciplined.
Good. Discipline , so far, on this ship, has been good.
“at ease men.”
But of course Lower ranks can never be at ease around commanding officers, they remain standing, nervous. He can almost read their minds –‘what does he want –what does this mean –are we in trouble?’
He has to encourage them further
“Just a curious old man –what are we doing?”
The PO –obviously the crew leader, speaks “PO Nashiguchi has reported a problem with a drop tank sir –we are investigating”
Ah, he remembers –a tank for extended range. “One hopes they always drop on an enemies head other than ours neh?”
Small smiles. Nervous still.
For a moment Hasegawa considers the plane, the pilot in the cockpit.
And recalls his thought –that here is the man who he will listen too.
Is he any good?
He indicates his desire –and some of the men have to help, but with some effort the old man joins the young . The Cockpit to Hasegawa seems incredibly complicated.
But a 16inch turret must appear the same to the untrained eye too, he thinks, and I learnt that quickly enough………
“Po Nashiguchi sir”
‘Have you been onboard long son?”
“No Sir, only since we sailed –before that flight school”
Okura is of average build, narrow faced. And so young –heavens, so young.
But dressed just in shorts, and singlet, he looks incredibly comfortable in the cockpit –as if he was born in it.
“And the ship –do you like her?”
For a moment, the young pilot hesitates, then a shy smile breaks across his face “its all I ever dreamed of sir”
Hasegawa notes this, stores it away. Those who struggle to achieve –often fight hardest to keep……….
He turns to climb down, and something around Nashiguchi’s neck catches his eye.
A small crucifix
‘Are you Christian Pilot?”
A small nod –and eyes now suddenly anxious………
‘we fight a ‘Christian people’ Nashiguchi –I would keep that thing around your neck hidden if I was you………..”
Next stop, the ready room.
Hot, stinking humidity –and an unpleasant odour of sweat, and other smells –un identifiable.
Through a door on the other side –leading to a companionway perched on the side of the ship –laughter.
He passes through the room, onto the companionway –into cool shade (thanks to the overhanging flight deck) and a pleasant vista.
A Prime spot this, perched above Zuiho’s curving bulge, gun tubs delineating its boundaries for and aft.
The laughter comes from , Okura Kamisaka and Kurihama. –good loud laughter –that abruptly stops at his appearance
These men cannot spring to attention – due to the minor matter that Okura is hanging upside down from the gangway –the two others holding his legs.
Hasegawa notes with humour – that Okura has been fishing –he can clearly see the snagged hook mere millimetres from his outstretched hand……….
Okura’s face, slowly going red as the blood rushes to it, and veins straining in the arms of his companions
“catching any men?”
‘I see. Gentlemen. My spear or not –the whole ship is at work –a little discretion eh?”
As he departs, behind him –out bursts of more laughter –he does not, however hear the half expected splash…………
Hasegawa continues to explore – he disrupts many men as he goes – it is almost unheard of for a CO to wander thus –but Zuiho is so damn busy today preparing, storing, working on the million things a week at sea has exposed as needing doing –that his disruption is minimal.
Most salute, shrug –continue on…..
Below the hanger deck, and well aft –in the machine shop, he encounters two more men, PO Okano, Po Hirate.
Dressed in shorts, sandles only, bodies slick with sweat, they have their backs to him, bent over some strange piece of machinery.
He watches quietly, listening with an amused ear at the steady steam of profanities directed at the dumb piece of metal.
It is obvious that whatever the piece of machinery is –she is female –she is a stubborn bitch –but that she would submit………..
Obviously cursing machinery helps, he notes wirily –as whatever they are trying to force into place goes –and a cry of triumph rattles the workshop.
He does not disrupt them, quietly slipping away.
He encounters Minobe above the hatch leading down to the Port boiler room, he is looking down below – shouting to some hidden noise.
From below, the rattle, rattle of chain blocks.
He straightens, obviously surprised at his presence.
‘All good engines?’
‘Ahhh, yes sir –almost. A few little things apparently…….(apparently, an interesting word engines, this word apparently).but we will be 100% by dusk. Defect free I think”
The hatch looms beside him.
Hasegawa lets its presence linger –does he not see I am waiting for an invite to see below?
But it does not come.
What does come, out of the hold, face black, oil streaked, a frown fighting the sweat on his brow, is the charge.
He salutes, nervously wipes oily hands on the back of his coveralls – (God-how many spanners can he fit in that pocket?)
Minobe excuses himself, scuttles elsewhere. (as if he is embarrassed by this man?)
Curious man……..not only a pocket of spanners, but I see a torch, a steel ruler, heavens that rag could fuel the ship –and what the hell is that thing?
‘Ahh Chief…….tell me –what is that thing in your hand?”
“Wheel spanner sir –“ and suddenly there is enthusiasm, and is it –delight? –“ see this curve sir, clip it over the handle, this bit gives purchase –and you can open any **** of a valve ….”
Hasegawa lets THAT word hang……. “made it myself sir”
“care to show me below Chief?”
A great grin. “With pleasure sir – the last skipper never came down here at all………..
Hasegawa considers the sea, from the quiet bridge.
His limbs ache, and he is tired, sweaty.
Needs a bath.
But he has learnt much
Little Zuiho has two boiler rooms, port, starboard. Two matching engine rooms. An auxiliary diesel compartment, machinery separating the two main spaces.
Another diesel down aft, where the large diesel fire pump also resides.
The boilers, he actually knows. Standard Kanpows , 1a, 1b, 2a, 2b
Recip fuel pumps.
Standard DD machinery, 4 generators, 2 for each engine room.
The charges description –what was it –“farm machinery”
But so far, farm machinery that has not let him down.
The next phase of operations are beginning already – ahead lies much hard steaming –and probably hard fighting.
Hasegawa considers what he has seen. Potentially a god little ship, a good hard little ship.
And although in his heart of hearts, he thinks it’s the BB’s that will do the killing –he hopes he can have Zuiho contribute her score……………
< Message edited by 1275psi -- 1/28/2016 9:30:41 AM >