23 July 44
Action stations for Zuiho is programmed for 0200 hours.
Nearly all of her men are at their stations well before then, veterans to a man, they have done this before. Gods willing, they will do it again
Her hatches are shut, her magazines filled. below decks, all her fire pumps run, her steam systems isolated into units, Port and starboard
She continues to race east, through a dark, wet night. There is no moon, what there is is hidden behind low wet clouds, squalls.
By 0300, as ordered, as expected, her Jills beat their beat on the flight deck, dark shadows on the flight deck, the shaded lamps giving barely enough light for the work in hand.
takeji takes his helmet, and makes his way to the little conning tower. Its wet, almost cold. But he needs to be here, needs to see them off.
A quiet shadow joins him, Nikaido.
he nods acknowledgement.
Is he Hidaka?. Who knows.
Today, maybe, we will find out.
The Flight commander speaks
"Tokyo is 50 square miles of wood and paper.........today we must, must win"
Takeji cannot reply. It is a thought to terrible to think about.
The flight commander moves to the rail, nods his head.
A flag, waiting, falls
Zuiho goes to work again.
One by one, the Jills rumble away, 11 only now, yesterday one has gone missing.
Nikaido salutes, and hurries away, the zeros are coming up, the ilots sheltering below takeji.
There is laughter, smiles even.
And why not?
About them, above them, the air is filling.
Abe will not wait for dawns reports, he intends to strike now.
The morning is breaking.
A morning, wet grey, low clouds, cieling 5000, clouds stacked to 20000.
A grey morning
There is no sunburst this day.
battle breakfast. A meal worthy for the day.
And the last, for many, many of them.................