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The Old Girl's New Tricks, Part VII

Things start winding down. Finally.

Chapter 30

Captain Blythe clenched the arms of his seat with a deathgrip. It was the only sign of the tension he felt.

The Arkansas had acquitted herself quite handily -- as had he personally. One Japanese cruiser sunk, one sinking, and two mauled, along with four destroyers sunk and the critical convoy shattered, at the price of two destroyers and a moderately-damaged battleship. As he had noted before, the battle was won as soon as the destroyer Hamm had savaged the convoy -- everything else was pretty much irrelevant. Blythe and his entire force were, to be harsh, expendable -- even more so than the Japanese escorts. But the transports and their precious cargo -- those were irreplaceable in the struggle for Guadalcanal. The Japanese had lost this effort to win the fight for the island, but they could still make the victory even more expensive for the Americans. And bagging a battleship -- even one as old and obsolete as the Arkansas -- would be a great propaganda victory, to counter the two Kongo-class ships the US Navy had sunk in Iron Bottom Sound.



Unwilling to show his anxiety, Captain Blythe waited for the inevitable shudder to shake his ship, and the plume of water along her port side indicating yet another massive hole being blown in her hull. The two prior torpedo strikes had wounded her seriously, costing her speed, maneuverability, and forcing her deeper in the water, and he knew that a third hit -- anywhere -- would be a fatal blow, barring a miracle. But there was nothing he could do but wait and hope and pray.

And so he did. Long seconds passed.

Too many long seconds passed.

Rose shouted, unable to keep the glee from his voice. "Four clean misses forward, one hit on the bow -- and it was a dud!"

Blythe let out the breath he hadn't realized he'd been holding. "I suspect the Japs didn't think we'd slowed down that much, plus the rattling we gave their cages with our main guns, threw their aim off. Well done, men. Keep pounding away on Baker. Mr. Foster, status on Dog?"

Foster paused to check. "Still slowly swinging around. He hasn't even got us 45 degrees off his starboard bow yet. We've got time before he can unmask his port torpedo mounts."

"Keep me posted." Just then, the bridge shook fiercely. "That one felt like it hit pretty close to here. Mr. Tripp, get a report from Damage Control on that last shot. Mr. Rose, keep firing on Baker until further notice, but have Director Two keep that solution on Dog."

Tripp passed along the report. "Hit to the superstructure, sir. We lost the bakery. Several casualties and fire."

Blythe recalled the baker with the beautiful backhand from the Line Crossing ceremony. He had a brief image of the man standing, stunned, while covered head to toe in flour, like something from a Three Stooges short. But he quickly dismissed the vision -- flour was quite flammable. Blythe had even heard of some silos of flour exploding from a careless spark. "Keep me posted, Mr. Tripp. Mr. Foster, how's Baker doing?"

"Not good, sir. Several fires, she's slowing, and major structural damage -- her forward stack's pretty much gone. She's down to just her aft turrets firing. I think she's pretty much out of the fight."

"Dog's getting towards bow-on with us. I think he needs a bit more working over. Have Director Two take over the turrets after two more salvoes -- I'd like him at least silenced, if not sinking."

"Aye-aye, sir. Two more salvoes, then shift aim. But we have a pretty tight angle on Dog -- some of the aft turrets are pretty close to being masked by our superstructure."

Blythe nodded. "Tripp, see what Commander O'Leary thinks of coming twenty degrees to port, rudder at his discretion."

Tripp spoke into the handset, then relayed the message. "Chief Engineer says a little less than standard rudder should be OK, but he stopped making promises on anything ten minutes ago."

"Understood. Make it so."

Foster interrupted. "Sir, I don't think that last salvo will be necessary."

Blythe looked out the windows, then stepped on to the port wing and borrowed a pair of binoculars. (Well, commandeered -- no one was about to say no to the captain.)

The devastation of Baker stunned him. The forward guns were wrecked. Turret one was aiming in two directions, and turret two had partially fallen on turret three -- apparently at least one hit had torn away a hefty chunk of two's supporting barbette. The bridge was a mass of flame. Stack one was half-gone, and stack two had its top half flopped over towards the stern. The center of the ship was a twisted mess, with at least two major uncontrolled fires going. The aft guns were still, and he could see smoke pouring out of the roof and one barrel of the last one.

Blythe panned back to the bow, focusing lower. Several large holes showed where the Arkansas' 12" shells had tore through the cruiser's thin skin, and he could see flames flickering inside several. When he got to the bow, he saw the jagged stem where one shell had apparently clipped the ship without detonating. And a careful look at the waterline showed she was making hardly any wake.

"She's done for, gentlemen. Cease fire on Baker, focus all guns on Dog. We've won this fight, but that last cruiser can still keep us from enjoying it."


Chapter 31


As five of the Arkansas'six massive turrets started their slow turn to starbard to challenge the last surviving Japanese cruiser, Commander Foster got an urgent message. "Captain, lookouts report Dog's opening fire again with her bow turrets!"

Blythe scowled. "So they're giving up on the sneaky approach. Just as well; they never fooled us, anyway. They only have four guns that can see us; we'll have ten on her shortly."

The statement was punctuated by four splashes that all fell well short of the Arkansas. "Looks like it'll take them a little time to find the range. Mr. Rose, have the Director fire the guns as soon as they are on target."

Blythe's order was rather well-timed; it was punctuated by the roar of the ten guns firing a near-full broadside of almost four and a half tons of steel and explosives.

Which also fell short of the mark.

"This could take a while," Blythe muttered to himself. "Mr. Foster, what's the latest word from the Hamm?"

"Still collecting survivors, still towing the Bates, still asking if we will accept their assistance."

"That's Commander Aspin for you. His guns would barely scuff up that cruiser's paint, but he still wants to do what he can. Tell him to continue as per existing orders."

Another series of splashes erupted as the Japanese shells creeped closer. In seeming response, he Arkansas' guns roared again, and also fell short.

Commander Rose spoke up. "Sir, perhaps we should switch to half salvoes until we find the range."

Blythe considered the suggestion, then rejected it. "It's a sound idea, Mr. Rose, but I think not. The crews might appreciate the slowdown, but I don't feel inclined to skimp on ammunition. Besides, each shell we fire is that much less weight we have complicating our flooding, and I'd like to maximize our chances to hit -- and number of hits."

Rose nodded. He was used to having his suggestions rejected, but Blythe was never harsh about it. He was far from a martinet; he had no problems accepting suggestions from his officers. He didn't always take them, but he always gave them consideration, and often gave his reasons for rejecting.

Just then, the Arkansas shook, and the echoes of an explosion rattled the bridge. Before Blythe could ask, Tripp was on the handset. He put it down with a smile of relief. "One hit, starboard side of Turret Two, no damage, just some torn-up decking, sir!"

Blythe wasn't so... well, blase about the hit. "That turret's already out of action, with a shell stuck inside the right gun. I hope that impact didn't rattle it too much, Mr. Tripp."

Tripp let his smile slip away. He hadn't connected the hit with the prior damage. "I'll get a crew right on it, sir."

Blythe let his voice raise slightly. "You'll do no such thing, Mr. Tripp. That turret is sealed, and will remain so until after the combat has ended. We will take no chances of causing any further harm to this ship or her men."

Tripp, abashed, replied meekly. "Yes, sir."

Rose found himself nodding. Blythe's attitude towards questions and suggestions didn't extend to exceptionally stupid ones, and Tripp's idea of opening the sealed turret in the middle of combat certainly qualified. He wished there was something to take the attention away from Tripp.

Fortunately, there was. "Sir, direct hit on Dog's bow! We're losing her in the smoke!" He paused. "Sir, lookouts say she might have exploded!"


Chapter 32


A ragged cheer started sweeping the bridge "Belay that!" Blythe barked, bringing to a quick end. "Save the celebrating until we're sure there's something worth celebrating." He glanced at Foster. "Get me a confirmation on that last report!"

Foster snapped back to sobriety. "Aye-aye, sir!" He picked up the handset, demanding answers -- and quickly got them. "Dog's still coming, sir. Hit on the bow, smoke might be obscuring her forward guns, and several near misses off her bow made it look like she might have gone up, but she's still in the fight."

"Still turning to her starboard?"

"Yes, sir."

"Notify me as soon as we're 25 degrees of her bow. Until then, continue firing."

Blythe himself was starting to feel fatigued. The fight hadn't gone on all that long -- he glanced at his watch, and it had been less than an hour -- but the adrenaline had worn off and he felt exhausted. He wondered about his men with more physical duties such as in the guns and the engines, or his damage control teams, and was amazed they were still on their feet, let alone still fighting the ship.

Rose interrupted his thoughts. "Sir, message from the Hamm -- that last Jap destroyer was playing possum and opened fire on them. She and the Bates returned fire, and she's on the way to the bottom. No damage, no casualties."

Blythe felt his heart turn to stone. Maybe it was the fatigue talking, but he didn't care. "Order the Hamm to skip any rescue operations for any Japs. Let them stay in the water."

Foster spoke up softly. "Captain, regs and the law of the sea are clear. We can't just ignore men in the water."

Blythe glared at his exec, but realized the man was right. "Belay that message. Tell Hamm they are to take no unnecessary risks, but if they can rescue any Japs, they are authorized to do so. Repeat that last part -- they are authorized, but not ordered to do so." Then, under his breath, he muttered "Thank you, Mr. Foster."

Foster nodded. One of the key duties of any exec was to protect hit captain from himself. It was extremely rare that he was called upon to perform that duty with Blythe.

Meanwhile, the guns continued their roars of fury -- but much more slowly. Under ideal questions, the Arkansas could fire her guns every 20 to 30 seconds. At this point, it was closer to a full minute. The guns were hot and starting to sag slightly, the crews had used up all the ready-use ammunition, the shells were having to come from deeper in the ship, and -- most importantly -- the crews must be dead on their feet. Prior, Blythe had never run a drill or firing exercise for longer than half an hour. It was nothing short of miraculous that there had been no jams or serious mechanical failures in the main guns -- several had missed a salvo here or there due to problems, but they had been tended to quickly and the gun was brought back into service in less than a minute each time.

Blythe commented on that to Commander Rose. Surprisingly, Rose had an answer. "Part of that's due to Lieutenant Bennett, the captain of Turret 2. After they evacuated their turret, he talked to the other turret captains. He's been splitting his crew among the other five mounts, and they've been spelling the regular men as needed. We essentially have an entire extra turret crew that's relieving the men in the other turrets."

"That young man is definitely getting a commendation once this is all over. But he's still getting his verbal reprimand for not evacuating the turret immediately as ordered."

Rose smiled. There was no way that the reprimand would ever show up in Bennett's file, but Blythe would still make it clear that disobeying orders was not something to be undertaken lightly -- even if it did possibly save the ship. The message Blythe would impart would not be "don't ever do this again," but "if you do do this again, you damned well better be as right as you were this time."

Just then, Foster sang out. "More hits on Dog, sir! Her forward turret's out of action, big fire amidships starboard, and she might be slowing down!"

Blythe whipped his head around. "What's her current angle?"

"We're eight degrees off her bow."

For the first time, Blythe let himself smile. "Gentlemen, we just might make a clean sweep of this fight. Continue firing, of course, but I'm liking the way things are going right about now."

Lieutenant Tripp noticed his handset was ringing. He picked it up, listened, and turned pale. He then hung up and turned back to Captain Blythe.

"Sir, Commander O'Leary reports we've got a critical situation aft."


Chapter 33


Captain Blythe bolted across the bridge and grabbed the handset. "Harry, Bill here. Talk to me."

The Chief Engineer reported. "We've had a major steam rupture in Boiler Room Two. Several casualties. We've got the room sealed, but there are still men inside."

Blythe fought down a shudder. He'd never seen, in person, what superheated, pressurized steam could do to a human body, but he'd seen photos. He shoved the images out of his mind. "How will it affect our performance, Harry?"

O'Leary paused, thinking. "We can jerry-rig around it for a time, keep up speed and power, but it'll put a lot of stress on the rest of the entire plant. So we can keep up as is, but I'm offering no guarantees for how long. And any more hits will not be helpful. I recommend we get out of this fight as soon as possible."

"No arguments there. Would it help to stand down any of the aft guns?"

"Not really. The ship's built to stand up to her own guns firing. I'm more worried about incoming shells -- and especially torpedoes."

"Noted and logged, Mr. O'Leary. Keep us posted if things change." Blythe put down the handset, then had an idea. It might not be a good one, but he had to find out. He called Boiler Room Two.

Surprisingly, there was an answer. "What?"

Blythe was so shocked, he let the insubordination slide. "This is the captain. Report!"

"We'll get back to you!" And the line went dead.

Blythe stared at the handset. He'd never been hung up on aboard his ship before, and wasn't quite certain how to handle it. But he knew that voice. He couldn't put a name to it, but it was definitely the Master Chief who'd taken on the role of King Neptune just a few scant weeks ago. If he was that rude to his captain, the situation back there must indeed be dire -- but not helpless, if he was still fighting the problem.

But appearances had to be maintained. He spoke into the dead handset. "I see. Carry on, and report to the bridge or the Chief Engineer when you have news." As he replaced the handset, he turned to the rest of the bridge crew. "Major steam leak, Boiler Room Two. We have men trapped in there, and they're fighting to control it. Chief Engineer says we can maintain speed and power for the time being, but we need to get this fight over with as soon as possible. Mr. Foster, what's Dog up to?"

"Still turning and burning. Her forward two turrets are still firing. She's got us about 15 degrees off her port bow."

"I thought her forward turret was out of action, Mr. Foster?"

"We thought so, too, but apparently either the lookouts were mistaken or they fixed it up right quick."

Blythe grunted. Even the lookouts had to be getting worn out. "Keep up the shooting. We need to get her out of this fight before she can fire off those torps."

The Arkansas' guns roared once again, but slightly out of sync. It was like the old girl was exhausted, out of breath, gasping and stammering with her main guns.

One way or another, this fight had to end, and end soon. "Mr. Tripp, consult with Mr. O'Leary. If we turn into Dog and increase speed, we'll buy us more time out of his torpedo arcs. See if he can scrape up any more speed, and how much right rudder he will tolerate."

Tripp nodded and picked up the handset, repeated the Captain's request, and then held the phone away from his ear. Even across the bridge, everyone could hear -- not the words, but certainly the tone.

As Tripp replaced the handset, Blythe shrugged. "Well, it seemed like a good idea. But once Dog has us in her torpedo arc, we'll be turning right full rudder -- even if I have to toss Mr. O'Leary overboard personally."

The bridge crew chuckled. The Chief Engineer's temper was quite well known. Foster chimed in. "You just might have to do that, sir."

For one brief moment, Blythe found himself regretting his command style. He'd instilled in his crew a sense of independence, a willingness to think and act for themselves on occasion, and now it was biting him on the ass. But, he had to admit, in each case the offending crewman had a point. The gun captain had done exactly what Blythe would have done -- in fact, what Blythe would have ordered him to do if he was utterly merciless. And the chief engineer was doing all he could to keep the Arkansas afloat and in fighting condition despite her grievous wounds.

No, after careful consideration, Blythe didn't regret reaping what he had sown. But that didn't mean he had to like it all the time.

Once more the Arkansas' guns roared another staccato salvo. It was down to a simple matter of time -- would the Arkansas inflict enough damaging hits first, or would the Japanese cruiser survive long enough to fire her portside torpedoes? Blythe had tremendous faith and pride in his men, but they'd already performed far above what anyone could expect. They needed one more miracle to survive the fight -- and Blythe feared they'd used up more than their share this day.


Chapter 34


As the Arkansas fired yet another salvo off at the devastated Japanese cruiser, a thought occurred to Captain Blythe. "Mr. Foster, an update on that ship."

Foster quickly spoke up. "Still afire, still turning. We're about 20 degrees off her bow."

Blythe nodded. "How long has it been since she last fired?"

Foster started, then checked. "A bit over two minutes, sir. Sorry, I should have noticed."

"And what's her current speed?"

"Um..." he checked that, too. "Ten knots and dropping. Sir, I apologize. I should have been paying better attention."

"Yes, you should have, Mr. Foster -- but I should have asked sooner, and the spotters should have called it to your attention. We're all exhausted. Just file this away for future reference." Blythe gave his exec a quick nod and reassuring smile. "But she's slowing, guns silenced, and still a good ten degrees shy of opening up her port torpedo arcs on us. I think she might be out of the fight."

Foster carefully considered the matter. "She hasn't struck her colors, or signaled any intention of surrendering, sir. We'd be more than justified in continuing to fire."

"True enough, Mr. Foster. But on the other hand, our own crews are exhausted, we've depleted a lot of our ammunition, and the non-stop firing of our guns can't be good for all the damage we've taken. I think, all things considered, it would be safe to cease fire and see if the survivors are interested in surrendering."

"Yes, sir."

"Mr. Rose, order all guns to cease firing, but keep a steady aim on that cruiser. Then reduce speed to eight knots and bring us about to starboard -- I want pass three thousand yards off her starboard beam before we start withdrawing due east, as per our orders." He paused. "What's the latest word from the Hamm?"

Foster checked. "She and the Bates are about 15,000 yards off, closing in at 12 knots."

"Inquire if the Bates still has any torpedoes aboard, and if she's capable of firing."

"One moment, sir." Foster spoke quickly to the radio shack. A moment later, he got his answer. "Yes and yes, sir. One five-tube launcher still loaded and in service."

Blythe nodded. "Tell them to stand by. If that cruiser doesn't indicate some kind of surrender, I may order them to deliver the
coup de grace. Tell them to form up off our stern and stand ready.

Foster relayed the message to the radio shack.

The Arkansas slowly pulled her bow around to starboard, her guns pivoting equally slowly, keeping a steady aim on the wrecked enemy ship. "Mr. Tripp, now that things have calmed down a bit, I think we could stand an update on damage control."

"Aye-aye, sir." Tripp spoke to the volatile chief engineer, then relayed the message. "Flooding has been all but stupped from the portside amidships torpedo hit. On the starboard aft hit, still flooding, but controlled. Between the two, the list to port is less than one degree. Boiler Room Two is still offline, with no reports. All fires are out. Current casualty count is 37 dead, 61 wounded, six men missing from Director Three but presumed dead, and eight men unaccounted for but presumed to be in Boiler Room Two, which is still offline."

Blythe sighed. Over a hundred men dead or wounded. In the big picture, it was a very small price to pay for the victory they'd won. But despite all his training and indoctrination about the reality of combat, he still felt the burden. He would personally write the letters to the families of each lost man, personally visit with each of the wounded. "I want word from that boiler room as soon as possible, Mr. Tripp. Tell Mr. O'Leary that is to be his top priority after the flooding."

"Aye-aye, sir."

As his crew went about their orders, Blythe stepped out on to the port bridge wing. There were smudges of smoke on the water, indicating the graves of two of the Japanese cruisers. Off a bit, he could see the two surviving destroyers closing, one sister pulling the other along.

It had been a hell of a battle. One old (OK, he admitted himself, obsolescent and long overdue for retirement) battleship and three destroyers against four Jap heavy cruisers and four destroyers. It was only that he'd caught them by surprise that the Americans did as well as they did -- a clean sweep, at the price of one destroyer sunk, another crippled, and a severely battered battleship. Blythe almost resented the Hamm, having come through the entire fight unscathed. Worse, she could claim the scalps of two of those destroyers and a good chunk of the convoy that was the true target all along. Commander Aspin would be insufferable.

No, that wasn't fair. He'd known Aspin for some time. He'd take pride in his crew's accomplishments, but he'd make certain that the rest of the group got the full credit they deserved. The Hamm only achieved what she did because of the efforts of the Bates, the Fleming, and the Arkansas, and he wouldn't let any mention of the Hamm's feats go by without noting that she had, as the old saying goes, "stood on the shoulders of giants."

Feeling slightly refreshed, Blythe returned to the bridge. "What's the word on Dog, Mr. Foster?"

Foster snapped to attention, then remembered Blythe's standing orders. The shooting may have passed, but the fight wasn't over until the captain declared it, and the ship was still at general quarters. "She's gone dead in the water, and lookouts report at least some of the crew is abandoning ship. And the lookouts are disagreeing whether or not she's sinking. I think it's safe to say she's done for."

"That's probably true, but no sense taking any chances. Keep a close eye on her, and stand by the signal lights. I'd like to give them the chance to formally surrender."

"You know they won't take us up on that, sir."

"True enough, but as you reminded me earlier, it's not about them, it's about us. We have to give them the choice."

"And when they don't accept?"

"Then we put her out of her misery. I'd like to let the main guns finish her off, but the
Bates still has five torpedoes ready to go. And as a wiser man than I once said, 'you don't sink a ship by making holes that let in air, but by making holes that let in water.'"

Foster nodded. "Truer words were never spoken, sir. But I find myself hoping they do surrender. They put up a hell of a fight, and I have to respect that."

"Also true, Mr. Foster. But remember, they're from a warrior culture. Surrendering is a grave dishonor for them. Dying for their emperor is the greatest honor they can aspire to."

"I know, sir. But still... this still feels a little like an execution."

"I know, and you're not entirely wrong. But this is war, and they are the enemy. Until they have made their surrender abundantly clear, we have no choice but to treat them as hostile. And remember -- Japan never signed on to the Geneva Conventions. Those rules only govern us as much as we allow them to."

Just then, Lt. Tripp stepped up. "Sorry to interrupt, sirs, but we have word from Boiler Room Two."


Chapter 35


Blythe turned to the junior guest officer. "Please, Mr. Tripp. Continue."

"Commander O'Leary reports the room was opened from inside. When the line ruptured, one man was killed instantly, two more severely injured. Chief Carbone ordered the room sealed, then led the men in closing off the line, patching it up, and restoring the room to fully functional status. But just as they finished, he dropped dead on the spot. Doc says it must have been a massive heart attack. One of the injured also died, but Doc says the other should survive. Commander O'Leary says that if that room stayed offline, we'd probably never make it back to Noumea."

Captain Blythe sighed. Chief Bob Carbone had been aboard the Arkansas his entire career, eventually rising to the senior chief of the ship. And he'd embraced the role of "King Neptune" on many occasions, doing great honor to the tradition. Of all the casualties he'd heard of so far, this was the hardest. Blythe had had very few dealings with the Chief, but he knew that Foster had worked quite closely with the man.

He thought back to that final conversation he'd had with Carbone, when the Chief had hung up on his captain. Blythe decided, then and there, that he'd put the Chief in for a Navy Cross.

Blythe needed some air. He stepped out on to the starboard wing, Tripp quietly at his heels.

The Arkansas pulled slowly alongside the battered, burning wreck that had once been one of the Emperor's proudest cruisers a scant 4,000 yards away. Her guns were trained at the wreck, but silent.

Captain Blythe forced himself to stare at what he had wrought. Battle had always seemed so... abstract before. In exercises, there were never any casualties or damage. Today, he'd been in a battle -- and all five senses had been overwhelmed. But his ship had been only damaged -- here he saw the direct results of the orders he'd given. She was barely recognizable as a warship any more.

"Mr. Tripp? What is the complement of a Takao-class cruiser?"

Tripp was instantly beside him, equally awestruck. "About 800 men, sir."

"And do you see any signs of survivors, Mr. Tripp?"

Tripp paused as long as he dared, then slowly answered. "No, sir."

"What would be your recommendation, then, Lieutenant?"

Tripp again paused. "She's finished, sir. I'd say let her go. She'll likely sink on her own soon enough."

Blythe let a bit of compassion trickle into his voice. It came across as regret. "Look at her stern, Mr. Tripp. What do you see?"

Tripp borrowed the binoculars. "Her name, sir. In Kanji -- Japanese writing. She's the Atago."

"Thank you, but that's not what I meant. Look a little higher."

Tripp raised the lenses slightly. "Her flag? We already knew she was Japanese, sir."

"Those are her colors, Mr. Tripp. Her crew hasn't struck them, and by the laws of the sea a surrendering ship indicates her status by lowering her flag. By law, she's still an active enemy warship, and we have not only the right, but the duty to capture or destroy her."

"But there might not be anyone aboard left alive. Or in a position to reach the flag."

"That doesn't matter, son. Our duty is clear. She has to go down." He sighed again. He found he'd been doing a lot of that today. "The only question is, do we do it with our guns, or..." he paused and gestured astern, "...do we let the
Bates use up the last of her fish?"

Tripp considered the matter. "We have a lot more shells than she has torpedoes, and they're a lot cheaper. Plus, we did the rest of the damage, so by rights we should be the one to finish her off." He saw Blythe's eyes tighten, and knew he was on the wrong track. "On the other hand, this is war. We're in hostile waters, and none of us are moving very fast. Since time is of the essence, I'd say have the Bates finish her off."

Blythe smiled. The young man was learning. "Good call. But just in case the fish don't work, we'll hold position. Have the Hamm tow the Bates between us and the Atago and send her to the deep. If the fish don't work, we'll finish her off with our guns."


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Comments (2)

Enjoying every line of this... (Below threshold)

Enjoying every line of this story, great job from an old Battleship Sailor!

Jay,There is a say... (Below threshold)
Brucepall:

Jay,

There is a saying in Japanese, which would fit Captain Blythe's thinking at the moment. Its spoken like a prayer, but its really more of an apology for an action of ones immediate intent. It has social and intra-cultural implications as well; and its delivered in that singing cadence that the Japanese language is so well known for:

"Shietsu-shuri-shiemas"

I know the words and Kanji (but the translation English spelling is suspect). Phonetically it sounds like:

Sheet - Sure Ree - She Maass (in colloquial Japanese the "tsu" is almost silent and becomes a very short "t"added to the previous syllable; and like other asian languages, the letter "i" is an "e," as in Hawaii; but pronounced as "eh" in Japanese).

Anyways, it roughly means: "Please forgive me for the rudeness I am about to commit." And then the action is followed through to completion. FWIW.

Great story Mr. Tea.

Semper Fidelis-
Brucepall




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