AN: Here we go folks, another chapter of the Haifuri: Gone Asiatic has arrived. I've decided to start pushing myself for 10k word chapters. Because you never know what you can do if you push yourself.
Still last chapter, the Malay Barrier Defense Command was all but wiped out. What ships that can are retreating for as Australia as fast their engines -in some cases heavily battered- can carry them. The largest of these groups has one Battleship, one Heavy Cruiser, one Light Cruiser, and a handful of destroyers.
Let's see what story the ocean has to tell us today, shall we?
Captain. Mashiro wasn't entirely sure if she could really shoulder that responsibility. But, like it or not; she now had been forced into that role, it sounded like something out of a novel except it wasn't. So she had to keep her wits about her, remain calm, and most importantly not fucking panic. She panicked then her crew would panic and that would result in a series of disaster dominios that would likely culminate in the sinking of the Tokoro with heavy loss of life. So that was looming over her head.
Then again the prospect of death at sea was looming over the head of not only the crew of the Tokoro. But also the crew of the HMS Prince of Wales, HMS Exeter, HMS Encounter, HNLMS Banckert, USS Walker, USS Mahan, and USS Pope. Or in other words, eight ships that all had some form of damage, major too. Due to damage they could barely make twenty-one knots, sad thing was that the majority of their ships couldn't go that much faster.
"Captain, signal from the Prince of Wales. They've picked up enemy ships ahead of us. Getting to Tjilatjap via Sunda Strait is no longer an option. We're going to have to turn around and head in the other direction." Tsugumi replied grimly.
"Affirmative. Cody, time for us to change course, bring us compass bearing 090. Both sides ahead standard." Mashiro ordered in response.
"No problem ma'am! Bringing us around, bearing 090, all ahead standard." Cody said as he spun the wheel with a style of grace. It was just as well, for suddenly multiple splashes bracketed the Tokoro and Exeter.
"What the hell?!" Kouko exclaimed in shock.
"Battlestations!" Mashiro yelled and few moments later the Star Brass Steam Siren started up it's incredibly loud whooping which predictably a few moments later began dueling with the sound of a horribly off-key bugle. But just like the few previous times, it did the trick for the sound of people running through hallways, the sounds of hatches being slammed shut, etc. reverberated through the Tokoro. The ship usually had thirty-one, but now she had crew of forty-five plus two cats and a dog that had somehow survived the chaos of the 1st Battle of Java Sea. Although the dog and the new crew members had come from the now sunk HMS Jupiter.
"Fucking bastards! They must be using either radar assisted or directed gunfire control or spotters! What's the biggest threat that the enemy fleet has out their?" Captain Blinn on the Pope snarled over Talk-Between-Ships.
"I was checking into that, radar officer is saying that the biggest threat closest to us. It's a pair of, oh bloody hell, Zao class Heavy Cruisers, range 45,500 meters they must be using rocket-assisted ammunition. Those two warships working together in tandem could tag-team Prince of Wales very effectively. Plus looks like they are bringing two destroyers each. Let's advance in the other direction shall we?" Sophie said over the TBS as another salvo landed among the ships, sending towering columns of water flying skyward. But in a rather wide spread.
"There accuracy seems to be pretty crappy from this range. Might have to do with the shells but it's most likely the range that they are firing from. Forty-five kilometers is downright impressive, but at long-range accuracy from artillery shells tends to suck. Although I hear railguns can deliver GPS guided rounds from a range of three hundred seventy kilometers." Captain Reddy on the Walker said as the ships turned around, more splashes erupting around them as they did.
"Well, seems like the enemy can't for shoot shit at long range, let's try and keep the range open and hopefully their aiming will remain crappy." Mei muttered under her breath.
"Yes, let us hope that their aim remains crappy and we also seriously have to pray that we can put enough distance between them and us." Kirkland said as the Tokoro finished her U-turn and began to head in the opposite direction away from Sunda Strait and away from those two Zao class Heavy Cruisers as they continued to lob long-range fire at them; the fire was inefficient and didn't score any hits but it had everyone's hairs up on end from the canvas-tearing shrieks and enormous shell splashes.
They continued to run, but due to damage; they could only at most achieve maybe twenty-five knots. Those things could and would chase them down rather easily, so they had to exploit the range advantage now if they had a chance to survive. Which meant going the other way as fast as humanly possible and as quickly as their ship's engines could handle without breaking spectacularly. Still they managed to get out of range of the two heavy cruisers. But they knew it was likely going to be only temporary.
The day grew longer as they continued to run away from the enemy forces, knowing that it was impossible to fight them in a straight up duel. They could do it now, but chances were that they would suffer heavy losses. Losses that should be avoided at all costs, for they simply didn't have the time to lose a major ship in a fight and then fish people from the water.
Onboard the USS Walker DD-163. Captain -well technically Lieutenant Commander when going by what his rank would be if he was commanding the USN equivalent to the Wickes class a Freedom or Independence class Fast Frigate, but he was the CO of the Walker thus the moniker of Captain or Skipper- stood on the bridge wing of his destroyer. He actually had been a transfer to the Asiatic part of the Junior Naval Academy from the USN Pacific Fleet Junior Naval Academy. Becoming an XO in his Junior year of a Gearing class Destroyer. Then his Senior Year came around and two things happened, first was that he got his very own command, but it wasn't even a Farragut class DD attached to the Pacific Fleet, instead he got an old 'Four-Stacker' of which there was only four or so still in the Pacific Junior Naval Academy; this brought him to the second thing that had happened, in order to take command of his ship, he had been transferred to the Asiatic Junior Naval Academy.
He sighed as he remembered the events that had wound up to them having to run away. Battle of Java Sea being the most responsible for that, the forces had practically been even. Yet despite the fact that they had sunk several ships including a great big battleship, it hadn't been enough.
He scratched the stubble that was on his chin almost nonchalantly as he peered at what was possibly the very last vestiges of the Malay Barrier Defense Command that were still afloat. It really showed how they had gone from having possibly fifty ships or so maybe at their command, they had now been brutally reduced to just eight ships.
To say that this school year had been interesting up to this point was an understatement. Still, he wished that they had a chance for one last fight, to go down swinging. It probably came from his Texas upbringing and the spirit of the Alamo, he felt that running away was against his nature. But after hearing about what had befallen Admiral Doorman it really drove home that they couldn't outfight this steamroller and even outrunning said steamroller would be tough.
"Here captain, coffee." Raymond, one of the kitchen staff aboard the Walker said, handing Matt a steaming cup of coffee. "Thanks Ray." Matt said calmly taking the cup of coffee.
"You're welcome, Captain. It has two sugars in it. But sir, I have to ask. What will befall us? I mean, will we survive our escape?" Raymond asked curiously, his voice heavy with emotion.
"To be honest Ray, I got no idea; however considering everything that has happened. Who knows if that's how the chips will fall." Matt replied shaking his head in response.
"Oh, I see. Thanks sir." Raymond replied before continuing his rounds around the bridge.
Matt shook his head and then put a hand in front of his mug of coffee in an attempt to prevent the wind that was created when moving at a speed of twenty knots from splashing it across his front. Which considering that it was relatively hot and fresh would probably hurt like an utter bitch.
"Captain, signal from Prince of Wales. Enemy sighted, confirmed as two Zao class Heavy Cruisers flanked by four Le Hardi class Destroyers." Radioman Clancy in the comms shack said, his voice coming over the speaking tube.
Matt sighed he figured it was only a matter of time, but he also knew why the Prince of Wales succeeded in spotting the enemy first, mainly because her lookouts were a lot higher than the Walker's were. Sure enough some time later, with a flurry of color, the 'Enemy spotted' signal went up the halyard on the Exeter. Which was shortly followed by the appropriate signal flags going up the halyard on the Tokoro, indicating that they had spotted the enemy as well.
Matt grabbed the talker for the TBS and keyed it. "Tokoro, this is Walker. Can you confirm enemy ship count?" Matt asked calmly and after a few moments of silence the TBS set crackled. "Affirmative Walker, count confirmed. Two Zao class Heavy Cruisers and four destroyers, be advised the destroyers do not appear to be Le Hardi class destroyers nor Mogador class Large Destroyers. I repeat the enemy destroyers do not appear to be Le Hardi class nor Mogador class Large Destroyers." Mashiro replied over the TBS.
Well that's just perfect. The enemy has decided to spring something new on us. Matt thought grimly as he mulled this new information over. This certainly complicates matters greatly.
Back aboard the Tokoro, Mashiro found herself wondering what the enemy could be using now for destroyers. Still, they certainly could serve as something of a blocker, run interference against those destroyers, mainly because of their rapid-firing hard-hitting 6in guns. Of course, Sophie the CO of the Prince of Wales had made it clear that the chain of command would go as follows.
At the moment the Prince of Wales was the flagship of the fleeing squadron, if the PoW was sunk or crippled. Command would then fall to the Exeter, then after the Exeter was the Tokoro. Which in turn was followed by the Encounter, and then the Pope, with lastly the Walker.
She heard a distinctive sounding Gong! Gong! Gong! Of an American General Quarters Alarm wailing followed by a little bit of chaos. "Kirkland, I know that we've had stations manned for the past four hours after those enemy ships opened fire on us. But with nothing having occurred recently, I think we should have GQ sounded again. Just to make sure that everyone is at where they need to be." Mashiro said somewhat bluntly.
"I am inclined to agree. Mainly because we've been at stations for so long and we've hadn't had anything bad happen. Some of the crew might be goofing around or they think we're out of harm's way." Kirkland replied gruffly, her voice filled with emotion. Totally understandable for what they had just gone through.
"Alright, sound General Quarters." Mashiro said calmly with a crisp efficiency, as she prepared herself for the battle that was bound to ensue. With everything that had transpired and was going to transpire, it was time to step up and prove to herself that she could be dependable commander.
"Aye, aye ma'am!" Kirkland said before stepping over to the ship wide speaking tube which happened to be next too to the activation switch for the Star Brass Steam Siren. She pulled out something that was attached to a ball chain necklace that was around her neck, a gleaming silver object, she put it to her lips, and then blew. A piercing screech came from the Bosun's whistle, a sharp sound that caused everyone to stop what they were doing and wait. She then engaged the Star Brass Steam Siren. "General Quarters! General Quarters! All hands man your battle stations, set traffic up and forward on the starboard side down and aft on the portside! Set material condition Zulu throughout the ship! Prepare for contact with enemy forces!" She yelled into the speaking tube.
Chaos seemed to erupt throughout the hull of the Tokoro as everyone scrambled to get the ship ready for combat. Hatches slammed shut with ringing clangs, the thunder of shoes and boots against metal decking and ladders rang throughout the hull. The distinctive sounds of weapons being manned, loaded, and armed for combat resounded. "Engineering manned and ready, main battery manned and ready" Kirkland screwed up her face in irritation. "Deck manned and ready, all stations are manned and ready." Kirkland reported calmly some three and half minutes later. Mashiro had to withhold a sigh, a time like that probably would have earned the ire of even Akeno.
The speaking tube that went up to the crow's nest squawked and Noma's voice came through. "Captain, from my perspective up here. It was just plain chaos on deck as everyone got ready. They probably forgot that the enemy was out there and thought that we had given them the slip. It was particularly amusing to watch." Noma said in a slightly amused tone.
"Captain, if we survive this, may I please give a firm talking to the deck division?" Kirkland asked suddenly.
"Why's that?" Mashiro replied, sounding somewhat confused.
"The deck division was the last division to report in. I am not amused by that and I have some very strong words for the deck division." Kirkland replied sounding a little upset.
"Permission granted, if I was in your position I would be hedged to agree with you on the fact about having some strong words." Mashiro replied.
That's when Tsugumi's voice came over the speaking tube that led to the comms shack. "Report from the Exeter! The enemy has opened fire!" She cried and sure enough several moments later the all too familiar canvas tearing shriek of incoming rounds rent the air followed shortly afterward by enormous… orange and green colored plumes of water erupting skyward.
"That's new, the enemy is using dye bags in their shells to help with spotting. Bad news for us." Captain Oliver Gordon on the Exeter said over the radio.
In response to the enemy beginning to rain shells down on them, the aft turrets of the Prince of Wales and Exeter slowly elevated there guns and then fired. Enormous clouds of fire and brownish-grey smoke enveloped the sterns of the two ships as they hurled rounds back down range toward the enemy. The anxious atmosphere that had been building up throughout the day was suddenly gone, replaced with exhilaration as adrenaline took hold.
Then Noma delivered some really bad news. "Captain, I can see the enemy ships. They are approaching hand over fist, they must be making thirty knots plus!" She exclaimed in shock.
More shell splashes erupted, less then last time and the Prince of Wales shuddered in response to several hits. A few moments later Turret X voiced its displeasure and hurled four massive projectiles back down range. "Noma, signal the Prince of Wales. They've taken a couple of hits, have they suffered any damage?" Mashiro asked into the speaking tube.
"Affirmative Captain!" Noma replied as the enemy shells continued to rain down and the Exeter and Prince of Wales kept up the return fire. Mashiro glanced over at Tama and saw that she was staring aft, with a look of helplessness. The enemy may have been in range of the two 6in guns that they had aft, but the chances of hitting anything or doing any damage was next to none. It would be quite a while before they could bring their 6in guns to play on the enemy and have a chance of actually doing damage. Even longer for the 4in, 4.7in, and 5in gun armed destroyers that were accompanying them.
A few minutes later, Noma's voice came back over the speaking tube. "Prince of Wales reports no damage, apart from dents in the deck and possibly some scratches in the boot-topping." She said the shrieks of incoming shells sounding a lot louder than normal, but granted she was outside.
The duel between the ships continued, while overhead loitering just out of range of their limited anti-air defense two spotting planes circled, constantly providing updates to their progress, transmitting corrections for the enemy ships, and alerting every single enemy ship that they could raise on their radios.
"Captain, message from the Exeter. There fire control system has just quit. They've suffered no hits yet, but the thing finally gave up the ghost." Tsugumi reported suddenly, sounding absolutely heartbroken.
The exhilaration that Mashiro had felt earlier drained away, replaced by cold dread. Without her gun fire control system, it would be almost impossible for the British Heavy Cruiser to score hits. Their chances of surviving this battle had just dropped significantly.
"Damnit, this is beginning to go bad. Tsugumi, keep us posted." Mashiro said somewhat bluntly. As she said that, the Exeter shuddered several times as the enemy finally hit home on the CA, it was clear that the enemy was beginning to find the range.
Just when Mashiro couldn't think the situation couldn't get any worse, it did as the TBS squawked. "Heads-up all ships. Our lookouts got eyes on more enemy ships. Two Heavy Cruisers at least, each escorted by at least one destroyer." Captain Saunders said over the radio.
Well fuck. We need cover. Mashiro thought grimly, that wasn't good at all. She gazed out the windows of bridge, looking longingly at the squalls that were starting to dot the horizon as the warm and muggy air evaporated to form clouds. If they could just get into one of those squalls then they might just have a chance at surviving, possibly.
That's when the destroyers suddenly began maneuvering, thick black smoke poured from their funnels as they formed a line abreast formation behind the Tokoro, Prince of Wales, and the Exeter. The thick smoke screen that the destroyers were creating quickly expanded into pall that was impossible to see out of. "Don't know about you, but when I see that, I always get a hoot out of it." Kirkland remarked with a smile as the smoke seemed to expand to cover the entire horizon. The smoke screen had its intended effect, for the incoming enemy fire slacked off greatly as the enemy gun directors were deprived of a view of their targets. The salvos that did come in, were horribly inaccurate.
"Enemy sighted! Count four destroyers unknown class, bearing 015! Closing at high speed!" Noma suddenly announced over the speaking tube. Mashiro instantly snapped to that compass bearing and brought a pair of 10x binoculars to her eyes. Sure enough there was four destroyers closing at high speed. Yet the appearance of the destroyers caught her attention. They had distinctive clipper bows with a bit of flare near the top, a large and completely enclosed pilothouse, two raked and angled back funnels, four gun turrets with two forward and two aft, plus what appeared to be two fully enclosed torpedo mounts. They appeared to be a little longer than the Kagerou class destroyer that she had been on during her freshman year, were probably just as lethal to; the fact that they were moving at least thirty-five knots maybe faster judging by the rooster tail that they were kicking up meant they were in a hurry.
"Tama, engage those destroyers! Commence firing!" Mashiro ordered calmly. Tama nodded and barked instructions to the artillery team. The two forward turrets twitched and then slewed out to face the enemy destroyers and then barked out a ragged salvo. Moments later, hearty cracks and bangs from the destroyers as well as Prince of Wales's secondary battery came to life. Splashes erupted around the charging enemy destroyers as they advanced.
Tokoro's first salvo landed and Tama gave corrections and the battery opened fire again. This time the shells landed close enough to probably give one of the destroyers a hard-knock. Meanwhile the friendly destroyers continued making smoke, but they changed their formation and went racing up the starboard side of the Exeter and the portside of the Tokoro. Their main batteries booming to life as they did so.
Suddenly one of the enemy destroyers visibly quivered as multiple bright flashes of yellow light appeared along the flanks and pilothouse of the enemy destroyer. An enormous fireball erupted out of the ship's deck near the base of it's second funnel. The destroyer slowed visibly as more flashes appeared along its flanks, funnels, and pilothouse. It was clear that the enemy destroyer was taking a beating but the ship continued to advance. Still the sight of that fireball caused nearly everyone onboard to cheer and even caused Mashiro to feel like pumping her fist.
That's when a bright orange and black flash followed right after by a heaving roaring crash rent the air. Moments later Noma's voice came over the speaking tube, sounding horrified at something. "Captain! The Exeter has been hit! She's been hit!" She shouted in alarm and fear.
Mashiro spun toward the Exeter and caught the fireball beginning to fade. The Exeter's speed dropped from arduous twenty-five knots to a mere six knots as if she had hit a brick wall. Before Mashiro realized what she was doing the talker for the TBS was already in hand. "Exeter, what's your status? Do you need assistance?" She asked frantically.
"This is Exeter, the bloody bastards got us good. Most of our boilers are gone, I repeat we've lost most of our boilers. Thanks for the help everyone we'll take it from here. Good luck." Oliver said over the radio, sounding morbid and defeated.
Mashiro cursed long and creatively in four different languages. "Understood, if worse comes to worse we'll see you in hell." Mashiro said somewhat bluntly as the Tokoro sped past the crippled Exeter at twenty-five and half knots. Her six inch guns still blazing at the enemy destroyers. More shells were now dropping on the Exeter with alarming frequency, splashes were erupting all around her, but amazingly her aft 8in guns kept up a spirited fire and flying proudly from her mainmast was an enormous White Ensign. A clear act of defiance, one that showed the crippled Heavy Cruiser would fight to the very end.
The fire seemed to grow more and more accurate as they left the crippled Heavy Cruiser behind. Eventually her 8in guns fell silent as the ship began to list heavily, while flames quickly became visible amidships. Lifeboats, liferafts, and skippers entered the water, filled with crew while those who couldn't have gotten to the boats, leaped into the water without a thought or fear for their lives. The Tokoro altered her course and began to come up to the port side of the Prince of Wales and then a sudden commotion broke out among the destroyers as they suddenly began to heel over and turn in one particular direction.
Then the TBS crackled and the voice of Captain Blinn on the Pope came over the channel. "Krak torpedoes! I am evading!" He shouted in alarm.
Mashiro wasted no time, for with torpedoes running there was very little chance to react and evade these torpedoes. "HARD TO PORT!" she yelled sharply.
Helmsman Cody spun the ship's wheel as quickly as humanly possible and the Tokoro reacted, turning quickly. Mashiro looked and saw that the Prince of Wales was doing the samething. She ran to the bridgewing and glanced down into water and just a ninety seconds later, a gleaming silver object shot past the hull of the Tokoro with mere inches to spare. Mashiro sighed in relief as the torpedoes streaked by, without hitting any of the destroyers, the Tokoro, nor the Prince of Wales. That is until she realized with a bolt of terror slashing through her that it was impossible for one ship to dodge torpedoes.
She looked back at the Exeter, which looked like she was going to capsize. Then three massive shock plumes erupted along her flanks as three torpedoes slammed into the side of the York class Heavy Cruiser and exploded. Steam roared out orifices and cracks in the Heavy Cruiser, as did large amounts of soot and smoke as the once proud and beautiful HMS Exeter rolled onto her side, right on top of some of the boats and people that were in the water.
"God." Mei whispered in shock at seeing just how clipped and efficient the enemy was at making sure the Exeter didn't survive. They made it look like a mere execution, which for all intents and purposes it had been a mere execution, no mercy shown it had been cold and ruthless; an act of cruelty against a ship that had been clearly doomed. Well it made Mashiro grateful that Akeno hadn't been here to see it, for it likely would have broken her heart.
Fifteen minutes after the HMS Exeter was lost, Mashiro cast her gaze around the bridge of the Tokoro and saw the same look plastered on everyone's faces, even Kouko's. Cold, stoney acceptance that they would all eventually have their ship shot out from under them.
The way that the Kraken Fleet had destroyed the Exeter probably didn't help matters. The 2nd most powerful member of their group destroyed almost effortlessly, it was terrifying to see. But, there was some good news, during the enemy's ruthless destruction of the Exeter, it allowed them to put some distance between themselves and the enemy, they never moved out of range of those Zao class Heavy Cruisers, for periodic ranging salvos would churn the water violently every now and again. Still, everyone couldn't shake this feeling that eventually they would all be sunk, one by one; but the one question on everyone's minds was who would be next?
Turns out that they didn't have long to wait. A sharp canvas tearing shriek rent the air, it caused everyone to look up in fright as a salvo of shells from the Zao's roared in. They actually saw the massive 8in shells glinting in the sun as they bored in. Numerous splashes and multiple flashes suddenly shrouded the HMS Encounter, as the spray, smoke, soot, and steam cleared it revealed a thoroughly mangled destroyer. Flames were licking out of the ship amidships, a near complete wall of fire with thick black smoke billowing skyward, the stern was twisted and broken, the aft gun mounts completely gone, and her aft funnel lay across a davit. Crew members were running to and fro across the deck of the dying E class destroyer, throwing anything into the water that would float for her boats and skippers had been smashed beyond recognition. Crew members were jumping into the water and swimming away, frantically trying to get away from the sinking ship.
"Good lord, they just don't know when to quit do they?" Mei asked in shock as the Tokoro steamed past the sinking Encounter at twenty-five knots. It hurt every member of the crew knowing that if they stopped to pick up survivors they would have been shelled into a sinking wreck rather effortlessly by those enemy Heavy Cruisers. "Damnit! I hate this, we can't stop to pick up survivors otherwise they will just plain decimate us!" Mashiro hissed as the shattered remains of HMS Encounter capsized and began to sink stern first.
Time continued to pass as slow as molasses it seemed as they struggled to escape from the enemy. First the loss of HMS Exeter and then the loss of HMS Encounter it seemed to drive a spike directly into the morale of everyone onboard the remaining ships. Just when Mashiro thought it couldn't get any worse, twelve Aeroplanes of the second-type appeared, they swooped out of the skies in screaming power dives. There machine guns and cannons riddling the water and walking rounds right up to the ships where they slammed somewhat ineffectually into the hulls of various ships. Amid this, the distinct thuds of the 5.25in, 4.7in, and 3in gunfire sounded through the air, causing menacing black puffs to appear in the sky, as well as heavy pom-pom of the QF 2-pounder "Pom pom" filled the air, the boom-boom of 40mm Bofors, sending shells out at a rather impressive rate, combined with the thundering bellow of 13mm, 12.7mm, and 7.62mm machine guns; sending tracers blazing into the sky.
The fighters ceased their strafing runs fortunately after one was simply ripped apart by the Banckert, the 40mm shells responsible simply tearing the left wing and the entirety of the tail assembly off and sending the craft, completely engulfed in flames plunging into sea. With the thing nearly hitting the USS Mahan as it did so. After that the craft clawed into the skies out of reach of anything but the 5.25s on Prince of Wales, which promptly tried to shoot the planes down, but once again they proved to be moving far too quickly for the AA directors to track. The craft decided to wait for their bombers to arrive and for the Heavy Cruisers to finish them off.
Sure enough, roughly thirty minutes after the fighters stopped their strafing runs. The enemy bombers appeared, they calmly came in and then lined up their targets once that was done, they winged over and went into a screaming power dive. "Commence AA warfare!" Mashiro shouted as the sky above the ships quickly turned into maelstrom of fire and smoke as shells raced into the sky. Filling the sky with steel, yet the planes bored in with some taking direct hits and dropping out the sky bathed in flames.
Mashiro gazed at the three bombers that were diving on the Tokoro, even as 12.7mm tracers streaked upward toward the enemy planes. She was trying to judge their drop point, it was her first time doing it, if she got it wrong then they would have a major problem. "Steady Mr. Cody, steady. Wait, NOW! AHEAD FLANK! HARD TO STARBOARD!" Mashiro bellowed suddenly as figured she got it.
Cody, grabbed the lee helm and slammed it to flank speed before throwing the wheel over. The stern of the Tokoro bit down into the water and the light cruiser leaped forward and promptly turned hard. Moments later black objects detached from the enemy craft and the bombs whistled in. The craft pulled out of their screaming dives as the roar of .30 cals joined the fracas, the 'V' of the Kraken Fleet Flag emblazoned inside a dark red circle that stood out brilliantly on the wings of the craft as they pulled out of their dives. The bombs slammed into the water churning it as they blew up.
"Captain, message from the Prince of Wales. Make for the squall." Tsugumi said suddenly. Mashiro looked and sure enough the Prince of Wales was making hard for a squall that had formed close to them. The Pope, Banckert, Walker, and Mahan were already sprinting for the squall, with the Pope's form soon becoming blurred as the destroyer dove into the squall at just over thirty one knots. Soon afterward the Prince of Wales's form was blurred as she entered the squall and then shortly afterward the Tokoro entered the squall.
Rain came down in sheets drenching the deck, causing water to begin to pool in some areas of the bridge. The seas were grew slightly rough, causing the ship to roll the water. Occasionally lightning flashed and thunder boomed, illuminating the sky. Still it was refreshing, for they had reprieve even if it was brief because their enemy was relentless and would like to see nothing more than their ships sitting on the bottom. Nevertheless they remained inside the safety of the squall as long as possible before exiting, but as they exited they got a horrifically nasty surprise.
"Captain, we're exiting the squall!" Noma said as the Tokoro sailing alongside of the Prince of Wales which had taken a few bomb hits during the air battle but nothing major began to exit the squall.
"Oh my God captain! The Pope! The Pope is sinking! She's sinking!" Tama suddenly breathed in horror. Mashiro grabbed her binoculars and swept the sea around them frantically. When she spotted the Pope, she saw that Tama was correct, the American Clemson class destroyer USS Pope DD-225 was going through her final agony. Her aft pilothouse had been flattened by enemy bombs, flames were visible aft, and as she watched, three more enemy bombers winged over and dove on the helpless destroyer. Prince of Wales opened fire with her 5.25in guns that could bear, flak bursts erupted around the planes, one burst caused an enemy plane to seemingly explode into a flaming wreck, another burst ripped the entirety of the left wing off another, and the last one took a direct hit from something and literally blew up. But the spotter planes were now overhead and the all too familiar canvas tearing shriek of 8in shells rent the air as the planes called in fire from the Zao's onto their carrion.
"She's done for. God-fucking-damnit! I hate running away from sailors who need help because if we stay it means our certain deaths." Mei snarled angrily.
That's when it became clear that someone had enough as well. For suddenly the TBS crackled and Matthew Reddy's voice came over the freq. "Make for that squall at bearing 010! Ahead flank!" He barked sharply over the channel and then moments later, the Walker, Mahan, and Banckert all heeled over and charged toward the squall that was looming on the horizon as fast as their engines could go. "Shit! Cody, bring us to compass bearing 010, all ahead flank!" Mashiro snapped as the three destroyers began to pull away.
"New course 010, ahead flank aye!" Cody said before bringing the Tokoro to her new course and having the ship increase her speed dramatically. With no other choice, the Prince of Wales turned as well, swerving over to follow. She advanced quickly going after the smaller ships to make sure that they don't do anything dumb. But considering that it seemed just about everyone was incoherent with pent up anger and rage at what they had been forced to do, they wouldn't have cared if they had to blast their way through a trio a Fuji class Super Fast Battleships.
As they approached the new squall, Mashiro noted that it was huge. Soaring to at least fifty-five thousand feet into the sky, it's clouds were pitch black with green and blue lightning flashing and pulsing angrily inside it's form. Rapidly approaching this squall was another one, this one while it was nowhere near as impressive in terms of scope and size it was still impressive. It was from this squall that a threat unlike any that had faced the survivors thus far appeared.
Four large and imposing destroyers of the unknown class from earlier appeared first, followed shortly by a Chapayev class Light Cruiser, right behind the light cruiser came two absolutely huge capital ships.
"Holy fuck." Kirkland breathed in awe, then crossing herself. "Pardon my French." she muttered right afterward. But her gaze was clearly on the Capital ships, they plowed through the water with grace of a juggernaut, for it became clear that the bull had just entered the ring. Mashiro gazed through her binoculars and her face fell as she realized just what they were up against. "That gentlemen is a Fuji class Super Fast Battleship and a Zipang class Battlecruiser. We all know what the Fuji class is capable of, but the Zipang class is for all intents and purposes a Tosa class but her hull has been lengthened, with an Amagi class style funnel, she has a Yamato class style Pagoda mast, and is armed with ten 25cm/55 caliber guns in five twin twos. Her secondary battery is composed of twenty 14cm/50 caliber naval guns and twelve dual purpose 12cm/45 caliber guns in single gun mounts." Mashiro said grimly.
"Well holy fucking shit! Guess the enemy doesn't really want us to get away now do they?" Kirkland snarled.
Before Mashiro could even reply, a very familiar thundering crash rolled across the water and the Prince of Wales's forward guns fired. Hurling 1,500 pound shells down range, her Type 284M radar helping with the aiming, six shells dropped out of the sky throwing massive columns of black dyed water skyward, the light cruiser slogged out of spray and it was revealed that two shells had hit. The number two turret was completely unrecognizable and the ship was very clearly losing speed. Which meant that she was crippled and thus an easily target. The Prince of Wales's forward guns finished reloading and fired again, this time the salvo was far more accurate, four shells impaling the light cruiser amid two massive splashes. One shell found its way into the forward magazine and exploded, utterly erasing the ship the existence.
Even as Prince of Wale's main battery began to elevate a bit more, the destroyers heeled over and sprinted off to engage the enemy destroyers. "Shit, Cody, follow the Banckert, Mahan, and Walker. They'll need help, also try and make sure we aren't hit by that battleship or that Battlecruiser." Mashiro ordered sharply.
"Aye, aye ma'am!" Cody replied before spinning the wheel and increasing the lee helm to flank speed. The Tokoro bounded forward in an effort to help out with the destroyers.
Very quickly the area between the Prince of Wales, the Fuji and the Zipang became filled with chaos as the destroyers maneuvered and traded blows. 6in, 5in, 4.7in, and 4in shells streaked downrange toward each other. While from the heavy capitals, shells screamed downrange seemingly tearing the sky apart with their screams. While from the Prince of Wales her 5.25in guns tried to provide what fire support that they could but it wasn't much.
The Tokoro shuddered violently as a salvo of 5in rounds tore into the light cruiser. Mashiro was grateful that they didn't have any torpedoes onboard, or they would have had the torpedo mounts blow up about four times over. But as Mashiro gazed at the ship they were engaging, she could tell that the heavier guns of the Tokoro were tearing the crap out of the enemy destroyer they'd targeted. Out of its four turrets, one was jammed, another had its traverse damaged, another had been outright blown up, but the last one was in perfect working order. It was that fourth turret that was giving them the most trouble as it was consistently landing hits on them, but the Tokoro clearly had her opponent on the ropes. Another six round salvo barked out from her guns and slammed into the enemy destroyer, an explosions of smoke, steam, soot, flames, and sparks erupted from the base of the aft funnel and the ship slowed considerably several moments later Tokoro delivered the Coup de grace, a salvo of 6in shells roared out of the barrels of the main battery, the shells arched through the air and hit the forward torpedo mount. The resulting detonation nearly cracked the destroyer in half, flames promptly engulfed the entire destroyer amidships and the thing slowed to a halt and promptly took on a heavy list.
With the enemy destroyer taken care off, Mashiro turned her gaze away from it. What she saw surprised her greatly, the Walker and Mahan had both already dispatched their destroyers and were now charging the Zipang class Battlecruiser which was now somewhat bow on toward the destroyers and was firing its secondary battery at the Americans, who were being forced to 'dance' to avoid getting clobbered by the 14cm shells. The Banckert had also dispatched her foe but was clearly heavily damaged and was making for the safety of the Prince of Wales.
Mashiro grabbed the talker for the TBS and engaged it. "Prince of Wales, Tokoro. I have an idea for knocking that Fuji class out." She said briskly, the plan that she was formulating in her head was borderline outrageous but it just might work.
"Prince of Wales here. What's your plan Tokoro?" Sophie asked.
"We will go on a mock torpedo attack, if possible we could have the Banckert accompany us. While that Fuji class is busy trying to deal with us, you get as close as you can and blast that fucker back to the stone age." Mashiro said bluntly.
"Language captain." Kirkland said with a laugh.
"Oi, you shut up." Cody quipped cheekily.
"You realize how badly that could go Captain Munetani?" Sophie replied sounding shocked at the idea that Mashiro was proposing.
"Yes, I realize that. But it's our best bet for survival, particularly considering that those Zao class ships will get bored sooner or later and attack." Mashiro replied grimly.
"Understood. You got the go ahead." Sophie replied solemnly.
"Affirmative, Prince of Wales." Mashiro said before going to the speaking tube for the comms shack. "Tsugumi, signal the Banckert and explain the basics of my idea to deal with that Fuji class." Mashiro ordered sharply.
"Yes Captain." Tsugumi replied quickly.
Mashiro found herself realizing just how crazy this plan was, if anything went wrong. It would go very badly wrong very quickly and would likely involve the Tokoro eating a 20in APC round, one that would hopefully overpenetrate and do 'minimal' damage. Of course, this train of thought didn't even begin to go into just how badly this could go.
The storm that Mashiro had seen earlier was now starting to lash at them, the wind in the wires made a tattletale sound, and a wave broke over the railing, lightning was starting to flash and thunder rolling, rain began pelt the ships constantly. The flashes of artillery, the shrieks of shells, and the enormous plumes of water and thundering splashes created by impacting shells further added to the general chaos and made the battle seem even more chaotic.
"Tama, fire a salvo of illumination shells, we can't see where we are going in this muck." Mashiro ordered quickly. Struggling to see out of the heavy rain and mist that making visibility close to zero.
"Aye" Tama said before turning to the speaking tube and giving the proper instructions. The 6in guns went to maximum elevation and barked out a ragged salvo, brilliant flares erupted in the air. Bathing the area rather effectively in ghostly blue light.
"Banckert, you ready?" Mashiro asked over the TBS.
"Affirmative Tokoro, we are ready to get this show rolling. Plus we actually have torpedoes. If you want us too, we can put those into that Fuji class, just to give the Prince of Wales more of a chance to close in and obliterate that fucker Steel Ocean style." The captain of the Banckert replied stiffly.
"I like the sound of that Banckert, that would really make for one hell of a distraction. We don't have any torpedoes of our own, but the enemy doesn't know that." Mashiro replied with a note of satisfaction.
"Ten-four; let's gank this fucker." The CO of the Banckert replied.
"Cody, bring us to compass bearing 334, all ahead flank. Mei, prepare for torpedo warfare!" Mashiro ordered calmly as the bells rangs up Ahead Flank and the blower began to roar and the stern bit into the water and shot forth like she had been fired out of a cannon.
"Captain, we don't have any torpedoes and only one of our mounts is still intact." Mei replied.
"I know that but they don't." Mashiro replied sharply.
"Understood! Prepare for torpedo warfare!" Mei said finally understanding what her captain was getting at.
Ahead of them was their quarry, some 75,500 tons plus of Super Battleship. A literal mountain of guns and heavy armor, a ship designed to go nose-to-nose with nearly anything afloat and win. And they were charging right at it with the intention to distract it to allow Prince of Wales to get close enough to hammer it. "Alright let's get that bastard's attention. Noma, what bearing is the Fuji on?" Mashiro asked as the Tokoro bounded forward in the general direction of the Fuji class.
"It's on bearing 045, moving approximately fifteen knots." Noma replied through the speaking tube tersely.
"Roger; Tama, target that monster, bearing 045. Use HE." Mashiro ordered sharply and Tama nodded before giving out orders to the gunnery team. The 6in guns swung out toward the Fuji's general direction and opened fire with ragged salvoes, shells were hurled out of the barrels and screamed through air throughout their flight, barely audible over the fracas of the battle and the storm that was all around them. The shells splashed across the armor of the enemy battleship in bright fireballs, dealing no damage but Mashiro hoped that it would get their attention.
Sure enough a searchlight suddenly flared into existence, followed by another, and then four more. They speared through the rain and surf, illuminating whatever their gaze was on. "Alright, got their attention." Mashiro muttered under her breath before looking at Tama. "Keep up the barrage, we need to keep their attention on us." She said briskly.
Tama nodded before relaying the instructions, the 6in guns continued their spirited barrage. Shells flew through the air and continued to splash across the armor of the enemy ship, dealing minimal damage. Then suddenly, nearly everyone was blinded when a fifth light suddenly speared to life and illuminated the Tokoro right in the bridge. "Oh shit!" Mei whispered as suddenly, bright flashes strobbed along the flank of the enemy battleship and splashes erupted around the Tokoro as the secondary battery began to blaze away at the light cruiser.
It didn't take long for the Tokoro to start shuddering and shaking in response to hits as shells ripped into the light cruiser. "Banckert, you in position?" Mashiro asked frantically into the talker for the TBS as the Tokoro maneuvered wildly, in a desperate attempt to evade the enemy fire but there was so much, some of it was bound to hit. "Yes we are in position to hit this bastard with torpedoes!" The captain of the Banckert replied quickly.
"Then hit them!" Mashiro barked sharply as suddenly another voice came over the TBS. "Tokoro, this is Prince of Wales. Be advised, the enemy super battleship has appeared to have lost interest in us or are having trouble acquiring us. They may start slinging shells from there main battery your way." Sophie said in alarm.
"Roger, Prince of Wales. We'll keep on our toes about that." Mashiro replied quickly. Then as if to punctuate that enormous fireballs exploded into being along the horizon, brilliantly illuminating and revealing for several long moments the distinctive outline of a Fuji class Super Fast Battleship. Then an enormous rattling roar filled the air and then eight enormous plumes bracketed the Tokoro, tossing her around rather effortlessly as 20in APC rounds, each weighing just over two tons with a seventy pound bursting charge, dropped right out of the sky all around the light cruiser.
"Cody, commence evasive maneuvers. But try and keep us in position so we can keep the entirety of the main battery in play." Mashiro ordered sharply.
"Yes ma'am!" Cody said before beginning an evasive course, all the while 6in and 5in shells landed all round the Cruiser, causing her rock to violently. Yet it was working, they had managed to gain the complete and undivided attention of the enemy warship.
"Captain! Signal from the Banckert, they report torpedoes away!" Tsugumi replied tersely of all sudden, amid the piercing scream of 20in shells that roared toward the Tokoro.
That's when a bright yellow-red flash erupted somewhere in the gloom. "What the hell was that?" Kouko asked surprised at the appearance of the fireball as it quickly dissipated from view.
"No idea Kouko, no idea." Kirkland replied as the Tokoro shook like a gong as several 5in rounds impacted the ship with tremendous whams! "How are we looking in terms of damage, Kouko?" Mashiro asked amid the thundering rumble of the Tokoro's 6in guns, the shriek and splash of incoming shells, and the bone-rattling crumps of hits.
"Pretty good captain, we got some flooding but the pumps are staying ahead and it's probably from water slapping into the numerous holes that we have, and we have a ton of those, but no major damage sustained so far. But that's likely to change considering what is shooting at us." Kouko said briskly, shaking her head as the Tokoro shuddered from another set of eight 20in rounds plunging into the sea all around the ship.
Several thundering muffled booms tore through the air. Mashiro grabbed the talker for the TBS. "Banckert this is Tokoro. Did your torpedoes just hit the Fuji class?" Mashiro asked over the radio.
"Affirmative! Three hits out of eight, which is impressive considering how bad the sea state is!" The captain of Banckert replied sounding absolute giddy with the news that several torpedoes had actually succeeded in striking the ship. Which considering how rough the seas were it was a miracle.
A screaming roar suddenly filled Mashiro's ears before she could formulate a response to the message from the Banckert. Her eyes widened in alarm as her brain realized what was coming at them. She went to the ship wide speaking tube and shouted as loud as she could. "ALL HANDS BRACE FOR IMPACT!" Before promptly following her own advice and grabbing hold of the speaking tube and bracing herself. She glanced around the bridge and saw that everyone else was hanging on for dear life.
Moments later, six enormous plumes of water erupted around Tokoro, at the same time the ship, heaved violently under her feet and a pair of absolutely titanic explosions rocked the light cruiser. Despite having braced herself for impact, Mashiro along with nearly everyone else was violently thrown to the deck. A sheet of flame erupted from the Tokoro aft, the ship seemingly groaned in agony as she began to slow down and began to struggle to power through the waves.
"DAMAGE REPORT!" Mashiro bellowed as loud as she could in order to be heard over the immense ringing that seemed to surround her as she scrambled to her feet. The bridge was in shambles, with numerous conduits and piping dangling from the ceiling, the white interior lights had all been blown out and the emergency lighting had come on which was bathing the bridge in dull red light, and every single piece of glass that had been replaced that hadn't already been blown in had shattered spectacularly.
"It's bad Captain, really bad." Kouko announced grimly.
"How bad?" Mashiro replied, although something told her that she didn't want to know.
As if on cue, Maron's voice came through the speaking tube. "Captain, we've lost the entirety of the aft boiler room. We've lost boilers five through eight! The steering engine is damaged to some degree! From the sounds of it down here, the force draft blower is damaged! And the uptake box for boilers one through four has been damaged, we have exhaust gases in the forward boiler room!" Maron replied frantically, coughing slightly, but judging by the wheeze in her voice, she had been completely winded by that hit.
"How long till we can get the aft boiler room back?" Mashiro replied urgently, knowing that since they were down four boilers that speed and probably to a degree maneuverability would likely suffer.
"Captain, the aft boiler room wasn't knocked out of action. It's completely gone the shell that knocked it out crashed into a boiler and exploded, we're lucky that it didn't break the ship's goddamned back!" Maron replied hotly.
"Fuck!" Mashiro hissed, realizing that they had actually gotten lucky, had they taken that boiler room penetration just a little differently then well that would have been bad.
"Turret three and a portion of the aft deckhouse has been completely destroyed. The turret blowing up also did something to the rangefinder!" Tama shouted, but it was clear she had been rattled. Giving more bad news as well to the captain.
"Maron, don the masks that are down there! If there are exhaust gases in the forward boiler room; it's very much possible that some can make their way into the main control room where you are! The last thing we need is a dead engineering team!" Mashiro replied quickly, beginning to realize just how badly two shells had fucked the Tokoro up. But she also didn't Maron and her team to die from Carbon Dioxide or Carbon Monoxide poisoning.
"Understood!" Maron replied quickly.
"Cody, begin as complex of a series of evasive maneuvers as you can without getting us sunk. Remember we only have four boilers and we have a damaged blower." Mashiro said bluntly, still amazed by how much damage just two direct hits had done to the Tokoro.
"Yes ma'am! I'll try my best, but remember I barely have any experience helming the Tokoro, so I don't know what will be and what will not be doable." Cody replied as he threw the wheel over hard and with a sluggish groan the Tokoro answered. "The maneuverability is definitely off, Chief Engineer Yanagiwara is right about the damaged steering engine, it doesn't seem that bad but that could change if we take any more hard knocks aft." He said as lowered their speed by disengaging from ahead flank to ahead standard. "That should buy us some time in order to think of a new plan. There fire control computers will have to work out a new solution since we are changing course drastically and lowering our speed." Cody explained as he had the Tokoro disengage from the enemy.
"That's good news, any reprieve at the moment is a good reprieve. I don't know how many more hits like that we can take before we're done in." Mashiro said, before looking for Kirkland, but she had already left. Probably to go and help with damage control efforts, which all things considered wasn't surprising, the last time they had taken a hit like that; well it had been during her time on the Harekaze when they had tangled with the Musashi for the final time.
Splashes continued to erupt all around them, but the fire became desultory as the Tokoro disengaged, it helped that Cody was very good at what he was doing. "Cody? Why are you going after their splashes?" Mashiro asked in wonderment as the British Helmsman continued to guide the Light Cruiser toward the shells splashes that had landed long. "It's a tactic that's known as 'Chasing splashes' the logic behind it is that it's a near statistical impossibility that the enemy will succeed in hitting the same place twice. Destroyers and to a degree Light Cruisers can use it to generally great success. Although it's usually used to engage battleships not runaway from battleships." Cody replied as the fire continued to slack off.
That is until their was enormous heaving detonation, a brilliant fireball erupted directly aft of the bridge as a 5in Common round impaled the base of the tripod mast. Steel rent and screamed, with violent hs-snaps, steel support cables snapped and flung around wildly with enough force behind them to tear a man in half if it hit any poor unfortunate soul, and most alarmingly there was a high-pitched terrified sounding scream from Noma as a large section of the main mast containing the crow's nest went crashing into the rough seas.
"MAN OVERBOARD!" Mashiro yelled into the ship wide speaking tube. Which was soon repeated by Tsugumi over the all hands frequency, thus alerting both the Banckert and the Prince of Wales to the fact that someone had gone overboard on the Tokoro.
Moments later, another terrifying bang rocked the Tokoro violently. More steel screamed in protest as it violently ripped apart as a 6in Common round buried itself into the twisted remains of turret four and exploded. Four massive fireballs erupted along the horizon, illuminating the ship that was firing, that Fuji class. It's massive pagoda mast was still moving forward at an arduous pace, despite the fact that three torpedoes had slammed into her.
An ear-piercing screech tore through the air as if some sort of demonic banshee was wailing in despair. The shells themselves actually punching visible paths through the sleeting rain as they glowed a fiery orange. They had caught the Tokoro at a bad time, she was locked in a hard turn to port, helmsman Cody was frantically throwing the wheel over to starboard, but with the Tokoro being down half her boilers, the other four boilers handicapped with a damaged force draft blower, plus being down a turbine, and having a damaged steering engine. It all boiled down to one thing, the Tokoro's speed and agility was gone and thus she had no way to dodge the shells.
Five massive columns of water burst forth from the surface of the water around the Tokoro, while three massive 20in shells slammed into the Tokoro. The entire ship lurched and then shuddered as if struck by an earthquake that sent everybody who wasn't sitting -minus Kaburagi who was sitting in her chair in sickbay- tumbling to the deck with yelps and surprised cries, while an enormous plume of fire and smoke exploded upward from the deck of the Yūbari class light cruiser, burning oil blew itself all over the ship and several fires quickly took hold on the ship, while steam, soot, sparks, and smoke seemingly enshrouded the Tokoro amidships.
"DAMAGE REPORT!" Mashiro shouted as she pulled herself to her feet, clutching her side. It actually felt like several of her ribs were broken, which considering the tumble she'd just taken it wouldn't surprise her.
"It's bad Captain, real bad. I can tell just by listening to the sounds of the hull, they got us real good that time." Cody whispered, as the hull groaned and the ship began to slow as if her legs had been ripped out from under her.
But despite Mashiro having basically yelled into the ship wide speaking tube was surprised when Maron didn't respond, she was about to use the engineering speaking tube, when suddenly, Maron trudged up onto the bridge, she was utterly soaked and her hands were covered in grime. "Maron! Why are you up here? Couldn't you have just given the damage report from engineering?" Mashiro said in shock.
"Not this word, Captain. Not this." She whispered sadly.
"Why's that?!" Mashiro asked completely stumped and still surprised at Maron's sudden appearance.
"We're gonna loose the ship, skipper. Those last three hits, they did her in. One shell all but annihilated the forward boiler room, we only got one working boiler left, another one of those damn shells blew a turbine to pieces, the last shell blew the bottom out of the ship and broke her back, plus you don't even want to know what those 20-inchers did to us below decks; but were sinking the pumps simply can't stay ahead of the flooding and in these seas, with the damage she's suffered, it's downright impossible to keep her afloat." Maron said glumly, her voice filled with despair. Dead silence went through the bridge as those words sank in. They had been uttered quietly but they carried the weight of a bellowed cluster F bomb.
"How long does she have?" Mashiro asked quickly, saddened and horrified that the Tokoro was actually sinking.
"Our remaining boiler has about five minutes left in it, maybe seven or eight if we push it. But once we lose that, we'll lose steam pressure and steam is required to run the main pumps because they are powered by electricity that's generated by the turbines, even with the diesel-powered auxiliary pumps we got running she won't stay afloat, after we lose that boiler she's gonna go under pretty fast; maybe twenty minutes after we lose the boiler she'll be gone forever." Maron replied sounding defeated, this was the second time her ship was going to sink.
"Do what you can to buy us as much time as you can Maron. But the moment that boiler goes out, I want you and your entire team on deck ready to abandon ship." Mashiro ordered.
Maron nodded before leaving. While Mashiro went to the ship wide speaking tube and took a deep breath. She then spoke the words that she never thought she would have to speak. "All hands abandon ship! All hands abandon ship! I repeat all hands abandon ship! All hands abandon ship! Don survival suits and get off the Tokoro right this goddamned instant!" She said sharply and crisply.
It could be described as chaos erupting, everyone scrambled to don life jackets and then get to the side of the ship in order to get off, the life rafts that weren't torn up were put in the water while the only available launch that wasn't completely smashed the Rigid Buoyant Boat was loaded survivors and also put in the water. Mashiro walked slowly to the Captain's chair and took a seat in it; she planned on abandoning the Tokoro, but she intended to be the absolute last person off the dying ship. She grabbed the talker for the TBS and keyed the talker. "Prince of Wales, Banckert, Mahan, and Walker; if you can hear this transmission, this is the Tokoro. Multiple crippling hits taken, sinking, we're abandoning ship." She said bluntly.
"This is Prince of Wales, roger that Tokoro. We acknowledge your transmission." Sophie replied quickly, sounding somewhat angry. The Tokoro groaned beneath Mashiro's feet, steel shuddered and quivered as the ship began to settle and take on a distinct list to port. She managed to tune out the sounds of battle and heard Kirkland she'd assumed yelling "Go! Go! Go! Into the water! Go!" among the sounds of people jumping into the water and swimming away from the Tokoro as she sank.
But as she watched, the battle around them went to hell. The Prince of Wales, which had been charging the Fuji class in order to get close enough in order to have a chance of penetrating the thing, took a gigantic hit, burning fuel oil exploded up from below decks and sloshed across the decking, smoke, steam, soot, flames, began to pour from several deep wounds in the Fast Battleship and she slowed to a crawl almost instantly. Her main battery lashed out angrily at the Fuji class Super Fast Battleship, but the shells simply bounced off the armor of the warship. Meanwhile, the four Zao class Heavy Cruisers began to close in for an easy kill, their 8in guns firing constantly at the British Fast Battleship as they approached.
That's when suddenly, the short-range marine radio that was commonly used for TBS purposes because it had a TBS frequency crackled and something began to play over the channel. A distinctive guitar riff, the same notes playing over and over again, but as it continued drums began to get in on the act. Then the vocals began, singing with a passion. But it also had this repetition in it. "Thunder!"
Just as the song got to the line "Sound of the drums," began to play an all too familiar rattling whistle rent the air. Then hurtling out of the sky came eight blazing fiery tracers barreling in like angry dogs from the very depths of hell came up to attack their enemy. Just as the shells, which judging by the sound were 16s and not 10s, 15s, or 20s slammed into the Fuji the song went into a thundering chorus of "You've been Thunderstruck!" These shells did monumental damage, unlike the 15s, 6s, and 4.7s of the remaining Malay Barrier Defense Command Ships these shells didn't bounce, they tore through the thick armor plate like paper, burrowing deeply into the ship before exploding, at least one shell found a magazine for even as burning fuel oil was blown out from several monstrous wounds, pieces of steel was sent flying and smoke, steam, and soot roared out and enshrouded the ship, the forward part of the thing literally ripped itself apart in an enormous and cataclysmic detonation which hurled a gunhouse clean out of it's barbette and flung it some fifty meters into the air, the remains of the ship began to settle and roll rapidly, with more explosions tearing the ship to pieces as ready lockers cooked off with stunning force, with a thundering whomp, boilers exploded as the lukewarm sea water came into contact with scalding hot steel, which further tore the ship apart. Within a span of just over three minutes, a ship class that the Malay Barrier Defense Command had only succeeded in sinking by having a capital ship ram the sonofabitch had been completely annihilated by one salvo of just eight rounds from an unknown warship.
"Captain, it's time for you to leave the ship." Kirkland said suddenly. Sighing Mashiro stood up and walked to the hatchway, as she did so; the let her fingers caress the ship's wheel one last time. She then stepped onto the deck and accepted the folded up inflatable survival suit that Kirkland offered her, she quickly got into the thing, without the need to remove her shoes or armor. "You go first, Boats." Mashiro said quickly and Kirkland nodded before she leaped over the side. A second later, Mashiro, the last person aboard the ship, leaped off the deck of the dying Tokoro. She plunged into the water and began to swim as fast as she could in order to put as much distance between herself and the rapidly sinking Yūbari class Light Cruiser. Steel was groaning and rending as the ship seemingly let out a mournful whooshing noise as the air inside her hull began to rapidly escape.
The Tokoro's RBB swung by, Cody was helming the thing. "Got room for two more! Come on, get them aboard!" He shouted, several of the occupants helped both Mashiro and Kirkland into the boat. It was rather crowded with ten people sitting in the boat itself, plus Cody helming the thing. Mashiro looked around and saw the vast majority of the crew, as well as Isoroku, Tamonmaru, as well as the Jupiter's mascot an Irish Water Spaniel named Merlin were present. But she also noted that their were a few faces that were missing.
Suddenly more shrieks tore through the air, and numerous splashes began to bracket the Zao's which promptly began to maneuver wildly. Then another massive salvo of eight enormous shells dropped out of the sky, these rounds just like the ones that had totally destroyed the Fuji class when they hit, by God did they hit. Five hit and they effortlessly crunched through the relatively decent belt and deck armor and then they exploded. Burning fuel oil erupted from below decks, a sheet of flame exploded upward from the ship forward near the forward gun turrets, while steam, smoke, sparks, and soot erupted from gashes in the ship and from both funnels.
"Holy shit!" Mei exclaimed, amazed that whoever was shooting and with just two salvoes had blown a Super Fast Battleship clean out of the water and then had simply mauled a Zao class fatally from the looks of it, as the crew was beginning to abandon ship.
The three remaining Zao's suddenly opened fire, but it wasn't at the Prince of Wales; which to the great relief of all, suddenly showed signs that her engines hadn't been totally destroyed, for a thick grey plume of oil smoke burst forth from her aft funnel and the ship began to limp forward. It was clear that the King George V class Fast Battleship was crippled, but she would be damned it seemed if she sank here. So the Battleship while lamed began to pick up speed slowly, thick torrents of water poured from the ship's sides as her pumps engaged and she moved forward.
Another salvo of eight shells screamed in and caught one of the Zao's in a tight bracket, burning oil erupted from below decks while smoke, steam, soot, and flames exploded outward from the base of the forward funnel. The ship lost speed almost instantly and promptly turned away, retreating as fast as it's battered engines could carry it.
"She's sinking! The ship's sinking!" Someone yelled, Mashiro whipped her head around and sure enough, the Tokoro was sinking. Her bow was high in the air and the ship was starting to roll, steel and metal was groaning in sympathy. The ship was clearly descending rather rapidly into the depths of the ocean. A long sad mournful whoosh escaped the ship's broken hull as she sank, as if the ship was sighing and thus accepting her fate.
Mashiro did the first thing that came to mind, she saluted the sinking wreck of a ship. The Tokoro had brought them through so much was finally disappearing into the depths of ocean, never to be seen again without the aid of submersibles. The Tokoro, was gone.
Then, as if God decided that the crew of the Tokoro needed cheering up after that. Fiery contrails at least two dozen suddenly cut through the storm, the CIWS and the AA weapons on the two remaining combat capable Zao class Heavy Cruisers opened fire; tracers slashed through the air and flak erupted to life, while flares and chaff exploded out of the dispensers on the ships. The missiles bored in, taking evasive maneuvers to avoid the counterfire, some were shot down but there was simply too many missiles. Both ships took multiple hits from the LRASMs with their large 1000-pound semi-armor-piercing warhead and were seemingly ripped apart as steam, burning fuel oil, smoke, soot, piece of steel, and what appeared to be pieces of flaming wood was hurled all over the place.
The remaining enemy destroyers, seemingly blanched at the sheer ease that something had destroyed a Fuji class Super Fast Battleship and four Zao class Heavy Cruisers; right afterward they began to retreat as quick as they could, but that was denied; for more missiles suddenly appeared cutting blazing contrails through the sky as they arched down from the Heavens and easily evading the pitiful amount of flak the destroyers put up and slammed into the unknown class of destroyers and they seemingly disintegrated under the ruthless hammer blow of multiple 1000-pound warheads impacting them; bright fireballs marked the end of the majority of the destroyers, except for two that had somehow survived likely through a large amount of luck those two ships promptly poured on the speed and fled from the battle area. The 2nd Battle of the Java Sea was over at long last.
The squalls passed shortly afterward and as the sun began shining on them again as the squalls moved on. Mashiro and a few others noticed that the Zipang class Battlecruiser, the USS Walker, and the USS Mahan were missing. The passing of the storm also revealed just how battered the HNLMS Banckert and HMS Prince of Wales were.
The Banckert was missing her aft funnel, aft mast, and number four gun, the ship just behind where the aft funnel would have been was heavily fire-blackened meaning that they must have had one hell of a fire onboard, and the hull, pilothouse, and forward funnel had numerous holes of varying sizes littering it. The ship was had a noticeable list by the head, but the ship appeared to be in no danger of sinking at least, not on the outside. Judging by the way she was moving she was likely down a shaft as well, which meant that she would likely be one hell of a handful to keep straight due to uneven thrust.
The Prince of Wales was turning toward the flotsam field that the sinking of the Tokoro had left behind on the surface. The British King George V class Fast Battleship had been brutally savaged by the battle they had just gone through, gaping wounds adorned her superstructure and hull from where shells had scored penetrating hits, there were several massive gashes in the battleship's side, all of her 5.25in DP gun mounts on the side facing them had been knocked out, it also stood to reason that the vast majority of her anti-air weapons had been knocked out, her structure aft was heavily fire blackened, the aft funnel was literally half the height it used to be, the forward funnel and superstructure appeared to be riddled with holes, most impressively B turret had been knocked out the gunhouse appearing to have exploded upward with tremendous force with one of the gun barrels was snapped like a twig, and to top it all off she had a noticeable list to port. It was also clear that the Prince of Wales was having trouble maneuvering meaning that either one or both of her steering engines and propeller shafts were either damaged or knocked out.
It was clear that both ships had been through ringer, but the most important aspect was that they were still afloat and powered. Even though water poured from their hulls thanks to numerous pumps, their blazing oil, air, and water fueled hearts still beat. Still, if they came under attack again it was very likely that both ships would be sunk with large loss of life.
However, there was some good news and that was the fact that they were still alive. The other bit was that the Prince of Wales, probably because she had the crew of the USS Stewart onboard had deployed her RBBs and were working hard to corral the life rafts from the Tokoro, allowing some of the students to use the buddy line that their inflatable survival suits came with to connect the life rafts together.
"Neither one of those ships are in any sort of condition to attempt a rescue, not with how badly damaged they are. Plus, the last thing the medical staff on those ships need is more wounded to deal with." Someone on the RBB said looking at the two ships and how battered they were.
"That's true, still Captain I have to say; this is a fine mess we've gotten ourselves into." someone from the Tokoro deadpanned.
Mashiro laughed bitterly. "Yeah, you're right. This is a fine mess that we've gotten ourselves into. But at least we're still alive." she replied and that earned a murmuring of agreement from everyone who heard her.
"Well, this damn depressing. I think we need to lighten up and always look on the bright side of life." Someone probably from the Jupiter said.
What resulted from that statement was rather unexpected. Mashiro didn't know who started singing, but before she knew it everyone was singing some comedy-song that seemed to touch on classical British Stoicism and "stiff upper lip" mentality in the face of adversity. Personally Mashiro found the line "Worse things happen at sea, you know" being incredibly ironic, mainly because well the Tokoro had been sunk and they were here waiting for rescue and the two ships that normally would be rescuing them were simply in no shape to do so.
Just under fifteen minutes later, it became clear that both the Prince of Wales and Banckert would be lucky to make it to Australia at all. Yet for some reason both ships refused to abandon the survivors of the Tokoro, but then again Mashiro remembered that there had been those shells and missiles that had seemingly come out of nowhere. The missiles, well Antiship missiles tended to have of at least seventy kilometers plus, but those shells that meant whoever had effortlessly demolished the enemy ships had to be within forty kilometers so what was going on?
That is until the Marine VHF radio on the RBB crackled and the voice of the radioman onboard the Prince of Wales came over the frequency. "Heads-up boys and girls, if you look at bearing 348, you will see something that is a very welcome sight!" the kid whooped.
Mashiro managed to grab the set of binoculars that the RBB had come equipped with first. She then looked toward that bearing and what she saw was a sight she would never forget.
Sailing toward them was a collection of warships, true warships. Ships that even the smallest of their number could easily decimate Blumer Flotillas with ease. These ships had their hulls and superstructures painted storm grey, although she swore she could see white and black as well on those hulls. They moved with pride and purpose, in a way their presence seemed to say "Try and exist in my engagement envelope if you think you can!" it was more than a little intimidating actually.
There were four different classes of ship, three of the ships had the distinctive appearance of the Kōngo class Guided Missile Destroyer, the Blumers had four of those ships in their force but they never operated this far from Japan, plus the shape of the superstructure and mainmast was a little different from the Kōngo's she'd seen before and the forward gun turret looked completely different from said ships.
The second class of ship was different in shape and there was four of them, it's hull was clearly based on the Kōngo class type ship but it had some drastic differences. Of those differences, the superstructure of this second class of ship had the most and indeed the superstructure it seemed lacked right angles particularly where it met the deck, the angles that composed the ship were all either obtuse or acute angles, the gun mount forward had a fully enclosed cupola but judging by the way it was shaped it was designed to break-up radar waves, reducing the amount of reflection; also judging by the bow wave, the thing had an Atlantic bow. It gave the ship a stately sleek and futuristic look to it, but one that also belied its deadliness.
When it came to the third ship class out of the four, there was only two. But just from the shape of the hull, Mashiro knew that those were Cruisers. At first glance, they looked like copies of the first class of ship, but there were major differences, the hull was a little wider, plus from the looks of it the thing had a sharp Atlantic bow, it's general appearance of its superstructure reminded her of the American Freedom class Fast Frigates she had seen on occasion in pictures, the gun mount was clearly a stealth mount, it also had forward what appeared to be a CIWS mount of some kind.
But the fourth ship class? Even from the front, it's design made it clear what it was, a battleship, a big one. It's wide hull powered through the waves with purpose, the distinct bow wave from the Atlantic bow further served it seemed to show that this ship meant business. It had moderate freeboard, roughly on par with the Tosa class although the Yamato or Fuji class would probably be closer in terms of the amount of freeboard the thing had. The superstructure was very unique, for it appeared to based on the Montana class but the bridge was certainly higher up on the superstructure and it also looked wider. However the thing that really caught and held her gaze was what it's forward gun battery arrangement looked like, it had two massive quadruple turrets forward and behind those two huge turrets was a considerably smaller dual turret and finally mounted just below the bridge with what was clearly a specifically built pedestal for it was a CIWS mount.
The last three ships that she could see were hanging at the very back of the formation appeared to be your atypical resupply ships. Still, the sight was an incredible one to see. Mashiro's jaw slackened in amazement, it quickly became clear who was responsible for destroying the enemy warships. It was this task force of ships that the USN had promised that had finally arrived if albeit somewhat late.
A mere half an hour later, Mashiro found herself onboard the American Nuclear Powered Battleship USS Enterprise; the last 'All-gun' Battleship in the world that was still in active service in any navy or Blumer force. A massive fortress of armor and guns but deep within her armored hull it was as if she was a floating city, for there was a medical bay with fifty-eight beds and four ICU beds, a barber shop, a dentistry, a gym, and a recreational center.
Currently Mashiro was in sickbay, ignoring the dull throb in her side. She'd been correct in her summination when she had fallen, she broken two of her ribs pretty badly and cracked her left arm, she also had a number of lacerations on her arms and hands thanks to falling on the damned glass and splintered wood that had been all over the deck from previous hits. But she had been lucky all things considered, five hadn't made it off the Tokoro alive, four had been from the Jupiter and the last had been a crew member of the Tokoro, Noma. If the crow's nest hitting the water hadn't killed her, the fact that the thing sank almost instantly afterward well that did kill her.
But at the moment, Mashiro was trying to wrap her head around what she had just heard. "So wait, you're telling me that while search and rescue efforts have found a lot of debris and a life-ring from the Mahan you're telling me that they've found just about nothing from the Walker?" Mashiro asked a young Ensign who had handed her the paper, this mainly stemmed from the fact that the Walker, Mahan, and that Zipang class had gotten separated from the main fight, and thus she had wanted to know the fate of the Walker and Mahan and their crews.
"Precisely, although judging by the amount of crud we've found in the water, it's safe to assume that the Mahan suffered a direct hit to one of her magazines and blew up and sank with all hands. But the Walker, it's as if that goddamned Wickes class Destroyer has just vanished without a trace, it's some serious Bermuda Triangle and Devil's Sea levels of whacked. We'll likely never find her or her wreck if she sank." The ensign replied shaking his head.
"I see, thanks it's just. Well, say what you want about the Asiatic Flotilla; how they may be the most underfunded of the United States Junior Navy Academies but they have a fighting spirit that's nearly unmatched, far greater than anything I've ever seen. Not to mention, they grow on you, within the four and half months we were with them, fighting the juggernaut everyone onboard the Tokoro learned more in those four and half months than we did during the entirety of our Freshman Year on the Harekaze." Mashiro explained thinking back to the events of the past four and half months, the friends that the crew of the Tokoro had made and lost, the experiences that they had gone through and how it had molded them and shaped them, through the fires of combat.
"True, anyway. Take care." The ensign said before leaving and thus leaving Mashiro alone with her thoughts. That and thinking how the hell was she going to tell Akeno that the Tokoro was sunk during the 2nd Battle of the Java Sea. She wasn't looking forward to that conversation.
Enterprise and her Strike Group arrived in Darwin Australia to immense fanfare, fire boats and a small flotilla of ships of various types led by the USS Nome, HMAS Sydney, and HNLMS Tromp, escorted the group in. In truth it was cause for celebration, because it hadn't taken long for videos to surface that showed the destruction of Exeter, Encounter, Pope, Java, De Ruyter, and several other ships in High-Definition as well as the capture of survivors from those three ships.
The Prince of Wales had been towed in by the Enterprise and the Banckert had managed to steam to Darwin unaided, but she'd been heavily damaged. Still the sight of seeing ships that had survived despite the fact that they were sporting damage, some of it incredible.
Still, the Malay Barrier Campaign was finally over with a terrible cost. The Kraken Fleet had won, worse they now had near total control over the Malay Barrier area. As it stood the Cheyenne had bagged herself during the Enterprise's transit through the Malay Barrier five Foxtrot class Submarines, three Tango class Submarines, and a pair of unidentified Nuclear Powered Fast Attack Boats, while the Las Vegas and her sister ship between them managed to bag two Heavy Cruisers, while the Winston Churchill and Zumwalt between them managed to bag four enemy destroyers and had given a crippled Heavy Cruiser it's last rites, and the Enterprise herself and nailed the Fuji class and a Zao class plus crippled another one and basically caused the enemy in general to likely piss themselves in fear. Then again, there had only been eight times throughout history in the age of the USN's Super Battleship Strike Groups where they had been forced to open fire on enemy ships and every single time it hadn't gone well for the bad guys.
Still as Mashiro walked down the gangplank, it didn't take long for her to find Akeno who was looking a lot better granted she had an orderly and was in a wheelchair but she looked way more healthy than the pale, tired, and bedridden young girl she had seen last in Surabaya, Java several days ago. She sighed and braced herself for what was bound to be a tough conversation.
AN: Alright, that's the end of the chapter, folks! This story is rapidly reaching the end, the next one is going to be the epilogue and thus will be the end of the story. Still, it's been one hell of a ride hasn't it?
Plus after doing this story, I've gotten some ideas for a possible Destroyermen Series/Haifuri crossover, who knows when I will put it into writing though.
Anyway, I'll catch you at the next port of call folks!