A Matter of Honor
A/N: Well, here we are, I've finally gotten around to doing this one. This is a slight realignment of what I did for the "Mother Like No Other" challenge on the AL Sub Reddit (I go by MetusR there) that had been posed by u/CaptainMattiasTorres . I had originally intended this as a follow up to Sensibility, but I just couldn't make it work nicely. So for this one, I highly recommend that you have read Sea of Flavours as I will be making a few references to it in the opening chapter at least.
Part One – Secrets and lies
I rub the sweat from my brow as I dump a load of papers into the burn pile, I can't for the life of me understand why my father had kept so many paper documents, I mean the world had been using digital mediums for decades now. I stop and look at a picture on his desk, it was just the two of us, me with my dirty blond hair and red eyes, him with his dark brown hair and blue eyes… and for the millionth time, I found myself asking him, "Dad, why wouldn't you tell me about my mom? What as so awful about her that you felt the need to keep everything from me?"
When no answer comes, I keep moving around in his office, it kind of sucked that everything was falling to me to deal with all the crap he left behind after the car accident, the worst part was he never got to see me graduate and join Azur Lane, the part I had found confusing is just as fresh Engsin as soon as I got off the stage, I was met by a woman in a black overcoat who told me to follow her, what greeted me at the end of that trip was a two-star admiral. From what I knew about the navy, this was a highly unusual thing, he handed me an envelope and new rank badges, telling me to head down to Davenport right away.
I had ridden the train and read the letter on the trip, apparently, I was being jumped to full Commander as my father had put in provisions for when he died to get my transferred out to some base in the pacific. Not that I didn't like the promotion, but I wasn't sure I was ready for it really… not when I didn't already have a ton of work to do down here in Davenport anyway with cleaning out the house.
I sit in his office chair, start to rock it back and forth as I look at the far wall and I see this massive painting that he had hanging there and I never understood why. From what I knew about the scene in it, it was an artist's rendition of the Battle of the Denmark Strait. From this spot I looked around a little more and saw a US Navy North Carolina class model with the number BB-56 on the hull sitting on his bookcase sitting bow to bow with dreadnought HMS Queen Elizabeth, what was strange though were the turrets on the models were pointing at the painting.
I get out of the chair and go over to the painting and I see something, a thin line down the middle of it. I slip my fingers under it and pull slightly. To my surprise, the painting splits in two and opens to show me a wall safe with a combination lock. Looking at the dial I see that it goes up to sixty… Looking around the room, the only visible numbers I can see are the fifty-six on the battleship and I know that the QE was the 1913 version… I wonder… I spin the dial to fifty-six, then nineteen, then thirteen, and finally I pull the handle. I smile as the safe cracks open; inside I see a stack of cash, passports, sidearm, a folder, and a letter.
Taking out the letter I see my name on it, in my dad's handwriting. I move back to his desk and start to read it:
If you're reading this, then I've died and you got stuck cleaning out my stuff. I'm sorry for that; I can only hope that the things I set up in the event of my untimely passing have come to pass. There is so much you don't know about who you are, and I'm sorry that I've had to keep that from you. To help you along the journey you are about to find yourself on, take the folder in my safe to the Tempest restaurant here in Davenport. Once you're there ask for Johnathan Hawker, when you meet him, show him the folder.
Again, I'm sorry to leave this to you now Mitchel; I wish I could've been the one to guide you through this.
I sigh and rub the back of my head as I fold the letter back up before I go back into the safe and take out the folder and close up the safe. Looking at it, I can't help but open it; inside I see a picture of a woman lying on her back, dirty blond hair like mine, red eyes like mine. She's in a medical gown that had been pulled down a little, her cheeks are flushed, she looks sweaty, and resting on her chest was an infant. Flipping it over I see written on the back: Mother and son. It was dated the same day as my birthday…
I start to wonder who this woman is, all I know now, is that this is the first time I've ever laid eyes on my mother since I've been old enough to remember what she'd look like. Well, now I need to find this Johnathan Hawker…
It doesn't take me too long to get to the restaurant; I had heard it opened a few years ago, after the war. I saw the doors were closed, but I could see the hostess standing at the podium writing on the board the specials of the day.
I knock on the glass to get her attention, when she comes to the door and unlocks it, her blond head tilts to the side, and her red eyes go wide as she says to me, "We're not open for another hour…"
I sigh and tell her, "Sorry, I'm not looking for a table, I need to speak with…"
I open the letter again to get the name as I say, "Johnathan Hawker."
She tilts her head up and off to the side and asks, "Why?"
I hand her the letter and she looks sad for a moment before ushering me in and taking me to the kitchen. In there I see a tall man in a white jacket, chopping and prepping food, while the woman says to him, "Johnathan, this man needs to talk to you about something…"
Without missing a beat or clipping his fingers with the knife he keeps chopping away and asks, "What do you need? I'm not looking to higher right now though…"
I shake my head and put down the folder as I say to him, "My father left a letter for me, that I should bring this to you to start to get some answers…"
I watch as he stops chopping and looks up at me with his eyes, they seemed to go wide, almost like I might remind him of someone, after a moment he asks, "You're Ol' Henry's kid right?"
I nod and I wonder why he knows who I am, let alone he had the same reaction that the hostess had had to me too. He wipes his hands before opening the folder; he takes in a sucking breath and asks, "What do you want to know?"
"I want to know who she is." I say, pointing at the woman in the picture and add, "And you seem to know who she is…"
He nods, but looks to the hostess and says, "George, this one might be better for you to answer…"
I tilt my head sideways as she walks over, turns the folder around, and covers her mouth before looking at me with her red eyes and says, "Aye, I know her, really well actually."
I scoot a little forward on the stool I'm on and ask, "Well? Who is she?"
"First, I want to know who that is." She says to me, pointing at the baby.
"That's me. This is the only picture I've ever seen of my mother." I say to her, pleading with my eyes.
When my words reach her brain, she looks surprised, sad, and happy all at the same time; she looks to Johnathan and says, "I didn't know we could… I always thought…"
I see it in now; Johnathan takes her hand and squeezes it as he asks her, "Should we start trying then?"
She nods at him before turning her attention to me and says, "She's my younger sister."
I blink a few times, how could this woman that birthed me twenty-five years ago, be younger than this woman that didn't look a day over twenty-four herself? When she sees me looking so confused she giggles, taking a seat beside me and telling me, "I'm kansen, your mother is kansen."
I knew that word; they were what let us win the war against the sirens, warships made flesh. They were a secret till just a few years ago, no one ever saw them really… well we only really saw the hulls, never the bodies. I take a moment to collect my thoughts before I ask, "So… how… why?"
She shrugs and tells me, "I don't know the answers to those questions, but I have one of my own, why are you not dead?"
I blink a few times and she elaborates, "We were told you were still-born. The first hybrid was a still-born… we mourned for you, made peace with your passing before you had a chance at life. It broke your mother for a long time…"
I turn the folder around to face me and I ask, "Who is she?"
"She is the kansen of the King George the Fifth class ship, Prince of Wales. I'm King George the Fifth." She says to me, still holding my hand as she adds, "It warms my heart to see that my eyes weren't playing tricks on me, that there was a reason why you looked so familiar."
"What happened to her?" I ask.
Johnathan speaks this time, "She should be at the base still I think…"
My new aunt nods as she says, "She should be, I allowed her to take my place as the Knight Commander when I left the service to live life with you."
I take my other hand and slip it into my coat to take out my transfer orders and ask, "Is this the base where I can find her?"
Johnathan looks over the orders and nods as he tells me, "Aye."
I look back to the picture of my mother and ask, "What's she like?"
"Strong, disciplined, and reliable… Those are the first three words that come to mind when I think about my sister" my new aunt says to me as she squeezed my hand.
From the other side of the bench, I watch as Johnathan goes to the fridge and starts to pull out stakes and he asks, "You hungry? It's going to be a long trip out there… and well; your family so I better feed you."
I blink a few times; looking to my new aunt's left hand I see the wedding band and then I look to Johnathan's to see a matching ring there before I say, "I couldn't possibly…"
My new aunt speaks up and says, "Nonsense. Today my family got a little bigger and I for one am happy to see this. Beside Wales will be overjoyed to know you're alive and well."
I look down and ask, "Could you not tell her who I am, I want to do that on my own."
My new aunt hugs me from the side as she says, "Of course, but I need to know the name of my nephew…"
"Mitchel, Mitchel Thatcher... newly minted commander in Azur Lane Pacific fleet." I say to her with a slight blush on my cheeks.
She leans back and pats my shoulders and says, "Then Commander Thatcher, I wish you the very best in your time there."
When the transport touched down at the airstrip and I grabbed my kit and stepped off the ramp, I held up my hand to shield my eyes from the sunlight. I also noticed the heat, leading me to undo the buttons on my jacket; my time here was going to be one spent in summer uniforms I think. As I look around I notice little yellow birds walking around with tools, puffballs in little uniforms and then I spot a woman with long brown hair tied with a red bow to make a long ponytail, her red and white uniform hugging her tightly. Once I got to the bottom of the ramp she gave me a salute and said to me, "Welcome to Midway Commander, I'm HMS Swiftsure, how can I be of service?"
I return the salute and look around just a little more before I say to her, "Pleasure to meet you Swiftsure, I guess I could use some directions to my quarters so I can store my kit before heading into my office to get up to speed."
She nodded and extended her hand and offered, "I can take your things sir, and take you to your quarters."
I shrug and hand her my kit while she leads me to a jeep and hops into the driver's seat, as I settle into the seat beside her I ask, "So, the population of this base…?"
"All kansen, manjuu or meowficers… you are the only human on the base right now." she tells me as we drive through the base.
As I watch the buildings pass, I catch a glimpse of the kansen, I'm surprised they all seem rather attractive, at least the ones I saw. I think Swiftsure picks up on me looking and says to me, "We are not playthings sir. If you want to get to know any of us in a personal way; you need to treat us right."
I feel my cheeks get hot as I nod and I shift a little in my seat as I say to her, "That's not really something I'm planning on seeking out…"
She laughs and says to me, "Sometimes sir, we don't get much of a choice… I've known a few kansne that have gotten involved with humans."
Heh, she didn't know how right she is right now, I'm living proof of one of those unions…
"Can I ask you something Swiftsure?" I ask her while I give her a soft smile.
"Provided it's not inappropriate, it shouldn't be an issue." She says as we go around a corner.
I shake my head as I ask, "I don't think it is… Have you been awakened for a long time?"
She shakes her head again while we start to slow down and tells me, "Only about eight years now sir."
I do my best to control my reaction, she was only eight? No… I reminded myself this body of hers was eight, her actual age was nearly one hundred, she is the HMS Swiftsure, a ship that was launched long before I was even born.
She smiles at me and says, "We're here sir, I'll come by in the morning to take you into the office for oh-seven-hundred."
I get out of the jeep and grab my kit out of the back as I say to her, "Thanks Swiftsure, I'll see you in the morning then."
I stretch and yawn, my first full day in the office was almost done, I had one last thing I wanted to do. I looked up at the clock before heading into the secretary's office to see Swiftsure sitting there typing away at the computer. She noticed there faster than I thought she would as she asked, "Something you need sir?"
I nod and put down a picture that I had printed off and said, "Yes actually, could you track down this kansen and have her meet me in my office later?"
Swiftsure took one look at the picture and nodded as she said, "Right away sir, I'll contact Prince of Wales and have her meet with you after tea time… it's the last block in your day."
"Thanks, Swiftsure, you can pack it in after tea time today." I let her know and I head back to my office and wait.
My mind raced with thoughts of what would I say to her? I learned from George that she thought I had died as an infant… so her not being in my life made a degree of sense, but why would my father hide this from me for twenty-five years?
I move to stand at the window that overlooked the port, I could see a real collection of hulls in there, Royal Navy, Eagle Union, Iron Blood, and Sakura Empire ships were here, in time I knew I had to meet with them to get a feel for the dynamics at play here, but for now, well there was only one kansen I wanted to talk to. I hear a knock at my door, I take a deep breath and let it out slowly before I call out, "Enter."
I hear it open and close, I both want to turn and face them, but at the same time, I want to let them speak first. The latter happens first it seems, "Henry, there better be a damn good reason why you're back here after more than twenty years…"
Huh, didn't expect that kind of reaction from her, I tug down my uniform, close my eyes to try and kill the butterflies in my belly before I turn around. Once I do, I see her standing there, short blond hair, the same color as mine, her red eyes going wide as they lock with my own red eyes. Her lips were parting as she starts to back up, her tone of voice becoming one of disbelief while the color drains from her face as she says, "No… You… You... you're supposed to be dead…"
I had always heard that a mother knows their child on sight, no matter how much time passes, seems like it might be true in this case. I take a step forward and she takes another step back, stumbling over my coffee table and falling onto my couch while she continues, "I mourned you…"
I sigh and run my hand over my head as I tell her, "I don't know why dad told you I was dead… I grew up in Davenport, England."
She shakes her head back and forth, I can see tears starting to form in her eyes and I continue, "I met George there, she told me who you are…"
That seemed to shock something out of her; she blinks her red eyes at me and asks, "How long ago did you meet George there?"
I move to sit in a chair that was off to the side of the couch she was on, "A few days ago, just before I shipped out here."
"Wha... What…" she stumbles out.
I give her a weak smile, she clearly knows my last name and assumed I'd be my father and I tell her, "Mitchel, my name is Mitchel…"
She wipes her eyes with the back of her right hand and I continue, "I don't know why didn't know I was alive or that I spent the last twenty-five years not knowing my mother…"
The two of us sat in silence for a few moments; the air was so heavy between us before she spoke, "Not a day has gone by where I haven't felt an emptiness in my heart, since I was told that you didn't survive."
I rub my hands together before I ask, "So, who told you I didn't make it?"
"Henry did… I was in such a bad way when he told me that, it drove us apart… or rather I thought it did." She says, leaning forward, inspecting me with her eyes.
I reach over and touch her gloved hand and she smiles at me as I say, "Whatever the reason was, it doesn't matter now. I'd like to get to know my family if you're willing that is… if not, then we can forget…"
She stopped me speaking with but a look before she squeezed my hands with hers and says, "Nonsense. Of course, I want to know my boy, I want to know everything I missed, I want to feel like I saw it all."
I nod before I tell her, "We can take it one day at a time…"
I didn't get to say anything more as another knock at my door came seconds before it burst open and I saw a short blond girl, in very fine clothes, a scepter in her hand. Behind her was another blond girl who had hair that looked like dog ears, the first one spoke "Henry Thatcher! You have… you are not Henry Thatcher…"
My mother cleared her throat before sanding and bowing to this half-pint that had the nerve to bust into my office, "Your Majesty, may I present Commander Mitchel Thatcher…"
She paused to look at me, I think I knew what she wanted to say and I gave her a nod before she continued, "My son."
The first girl blinked a few times before shaking her head and saying to Wales, "That is not possible; we are not amused by this jest…"
My mother shook her head as she reaffirmed, "It is no jest, Your Majesty… I know it to be true."
The girl walked up to me and extended her right hand, clearly expecting me to do something as she snapped at me, "Well?"
I looked to my mother and she puckered her lips quickly and made a head gesture to the hand and I knew what she meant from that. I kissed the hand and the girl spoke, "That took you too long… Still, We can only expect so much… Warspite, I want you to…"
I watched as the other girl handed the first one a cell phone and the first one spoke into it, "Belfast, I have a task for you."
She paused before speaking again, "We have a new Commander, a special case and I'm tasking you with his wellbeing… The honor of the Royal Household is at stake here Belfast."
Another moment passed before she handed the phone back to this Warspite and turning her attention to my mother telling her, "I've tasked Belfast with his care so that you can focus on your duties Wales, you are still my knight commander after all."
The girl turned her attention to me and spoke in a tone that left me knowing I had no way out of it, "We will host a gala as soon as possible in the Royal Navy quarter to officially welcome you, both as the base commander and as a member of the Royal Household, Commander Thatcher."
Before I could even say anything she spun on her heels and left, Warspite close on her heels, I looked to my mother and asked, "What?"
My mother cleared her throat and adjusted her jacket before offering me a smile as she said, "Queen Elizabeth has made it clear… As for your care, you can do no better than Belfast herself."
"Belfast?" I ask since I hadn't had a chance to go through the entire fleet roster yet.
My mother nodded and sat back on the couch, closer to me this time as she said, "Yes, HMS Belfast, she is the head maid of the Royal Maid corps."
I blink a couple of times before I ask, "Royal Maid corps?"
She nods and walks me through the concept, leaving me shaking my head and saying, "That is just absurd."
My mother nod and laughs a little before telling me, "I can understand that, tell me though, how is George doing? I miss her so…"
We spent close to an hour catching up, but there was still so much more to talk about, we were interrupted by a well-endowed woman with silver hair knocking at my door and waiting to be asked to enter. When she entered she gave a curtsy and I wondered how she managed to stay in her dress in the process while she said, "Pleasure to meet you, Commander, I am Belfast the head maid. From now on, I dedicate myself to you."
I was speechless, she was stunning to look at, and from beside me I heard my mother say, "Say something, Mitchel…"
That jolted my brain back into place as I greeted her, "Pleasure to meet you Belfast, I'm Commander Mitchel Thatcher. You don't need to dedicate yourself to me…"
As Belfast stood back upright, folding her hands in front of her she looked to my mother and asked, "My Lady, is there anything you need before I take the Commander to fetch him a meal and a bath?"
Wales shook her head and placed a hand on my shoulder as she said, "No thank you, I trust you to take care of my son."
That seemed to be information that cracked the professional exterior that this maid was presenting, she looked shocked for a moment before covering it back up as she said, "Of course My Lady."
A/N: Chapter one done, I hope you did enjoy this and that you'll stick around for how this develops… This one might be a longer format like how A Fresh Start was.