It is a long, long day.
Action stations are called at 0400 hours, and at action stations Zuiho shall remain for the entire day.
The menace about her, below the surface, and potentially above it, is too extreme.
Takeji will have her buttoned up today, and buttoned up she shall remain.
For the men below decks, in this tropical heat, its hell.
Every door and hatch is dogged down, every scuttle screwed down, every access hatch tightened down to maximum.
For Lurch, and his companions, to get from one end of Zuiho to another is a physical marathon.
For the men in the spaces, the galley, the dozens of tucked away corners, the minutes drag by, excruitiating minute after minute.
How many expect a fish to gut them this moment?
All, at some time or another, I suspect.
The fleet enters the Banda sea, and marks time, fuelling from her fleet train............
Out on the far flank of this fleet, with only destroyers to his right, the majority of the fleet to his port,
Takeji takes Zuiho alngside the tanker for his turn with the usual aplomb, and watches with satisfaction how much easier it goes in these glassy seas.
He moves to the bridge wing, and bends over it to shout to the men below
"How goes it Engines?"
Minobe winces visibly as he looks up. face pale, small beard distinctly greying, hair receeding.
"They will only give me 700 tons!"
"Little wonder! - THAT has to fuel yet"
Minobe merely nods, shrugs, returns to his work'
Takeji takes in THAT for a moment.
Yamato makes an impressive ship yes, but what risk to bring her into here!. And the fuel, the fuel she must need.
And that, of course, is once again the problem.
There are but three tankers here, and they will be sucked dry. A sorry picture indeed, when Combined fleet must lend its AO's to General command merely to cart oil. A sorry picture indeed.
'Sir!, aircraft bearing 090!, range 15 kilometres!"
Quick steps into the bridge, hand to the siren.
Blast1, blast 2, blast 3, blast 4, blast 5.....Emergency breakaway!
"Gunners report!, standby to launch ready fighters!...........Engineroom bridge, stadby for full revolutions, heavy manouvering!"
The words, the actions flow automatically.
Zuiho responds about him.......
'Single aircraft sir!, 4 engined!, coming straight in, 10 kilometres!, CAP intercepting!'
4 engines..........BUKA!, Liberator coming to smack my arse...........
"Bridge, Focastle!, fuelling gear clear sir!"
Good!............. 'Full ahead Flank!, Starboard 15!, , Action port guns!
The bells tinkle, beneath his feet, the wail of the fans rises to the familiar scream. The uptakes bang, the funnel belches black, the deck vibrates, she begins to lean, picking up speed
A fighter rumbles of the deck, flying a crazy crabwise flight, for a brief moment he thinks it must go in,............
Another roar, another, his birds are away.........
Where the hell is the buggar?
Bearing 090!...........5000 metres sir, 2000 feet.......our CAP is on it!"
Swiftly Our captain moves to the bridge wing, expecting to see the liberator thundering in.
Float plane..........four engined!...........on fire..........going, going, going................IN!!