Interlude – Commander Carlyle

Two US Marines watched a Seahawk land in the parking lot of an elementary school, drop off its passenger, then immediately take off again.

"Sir, how was the flight?"

"Pilot said it's probably what it's like to fly through the Bermuda Triangle, Sergeant," the Navy Commander slid into the Humvee back seat. "So where are they? I was told the convoy was close."

"Next town over, Commander." Now sitting in the front, Sergeant Pierson raised his voice as the vehicle turned on the Kuhio Highway. "They just stopped to pick up a couple of stranded motorists south of Princeville. We didn't know they were behind schedule until a few minutes ago."

"Radio still an issue?"

"Yes, sir, they work about a third of the time. We're going to join another group coming out of Kalihiwai, which we will meet up with in about ten minutes. Lieutenant Hutchens and the warship girl should be right behind them."

"Alleged."

"Alleged, yes, sir. You don't think she's actually one of them?"

"We'll know soon enough, Sergeant. However, I understand why she might not have stepped forward with her identity. Although with the name Akagi Takijirō, she's not exactly keeping it a secret."

"Kido Butai," the third person in the Humvee called out.

"What was that, Anderson?" the Sergeant asked.

"Sorry, Sergeant, I recognized the name."

"That's correct, IJN Akagi was part of the Imperial Japanese Combined fleet or Kido Butai," the Navy Commander explained. "Are you a student of history, Private?"

"Err, no, sir. I play Campaigns of the Pacific online. Akagi's one of the first carriers you can build along with the Kaga."

The Navy Commander smiled. "Good game, play it myself. As Private Anderson could probably tell you, Sergeant, the Akagi was part of the task force that attacked Pearl Harbor on December 7th."

"Ahh, yes, sir, I can see how that might be a problem."

As expected, they met up with the convoy but didn't go too far, making an unscheduled break next to a health food store. The Marines would end up apologizing to the owners, but there weren't any other bathrooms in the vicinity. The stop, however, allowed the Commander to meet with Miss Takijirō.

"Did you notice how all of the civilians unconsciously gravitate around her? " He asked after returning to the Humvee.

"Yes, sir, according to Lieutenant Hutchens and Arnold, Miss Takijirō's presence seemed to have kept everyone calm. So, she's a warship girl, sir?"

"I believe so. But who, I'm not exactly sure yet."

"What did you talk about, Sir?" Anderson asked.

"See, the little girl standing next to Miss Takijirō? The two were talking about anime. So, we all ended up discussing Studio Ghibli movies."

"They do make good ones, sir. I'm a fan of 'Howl's Moving Castle.'"

Commander Carlyle nodded. "I must admit, I feel a little bad about recommending one movie."

"Grave of the Fireflies?"

"No, although that would be one. Have you ever heard of the movie 'The Wind Rises,' Private?"

"I recognize the name, sir, but I'm not sure what it's about."

"It's fictionalized biographical of Jiro Horikoshi, who designed the Mitsubishi A6M Zero. A scene early in the movie depicts the Great Kantō earthquake. I could see the pain in Miss Takijirō's eyes when I brought it up. If she is the Akagi, then she lost someone very dear to her, a sister."

Sergeant Pierson, who had been listening, commented. "But she's a warship, sir. How can she have a sister?"

"Our new friend was not the only one in her class, Sergeant; the first was called the Amagi. The 1923 earthquake did so much damage to her that the Japanese Navy ended up selling Akagi's sister for scrap."

"Christ," the Sergeant murmured as the three entered the Humvee. They still had a long distance to go.

Even after picking up another family whose car had broken down, the convoy had made good time before stopping at a park in Anahola. By then, however, the wind had picked up, and the sky, which had been clear, had darkened. To the north, out to sea, bright flashes of lightning lit up the sky. The storm which everyone had been dreading had finally arrived.

"How did you get everyone to listen to a lecture on the Washington Naval Treaty, sir?"

The Commander laughed. "I assure you, Private, they weren't listening to me. Any professor of history would be thrilled to have Miss Takijirō as a guest speaker for a graduate-level class."

"So, she's definitely the Akagi?"

"Yes, Sergeant, I believe so. We won't officially approach her until we reach Honolulu. Her presence has kept all the civilians calm, and I would like that to continue until we leave Nāwiliwili harbor."

"Do you think she's aware that we know who she is?"

The Commander watched as the Akagi helped everyone to get back into one of the trucks. "I think she knows something's going on. But remember, she's out of her element. If you watch her closely, every so often, she looks towards the ocean."

"And she's an Imperial Japanese Aircraft carrier on American soil."

"That's also true, but I think that's why she hasn't told us her identity, Private. You play Campaigns of the Pacific; how many ships does a Japanese Carrier Division normally have in support."

"So, she's operating without a task force," the Sergeant observed.

"Indeed."

"Akagi's looking towards the ocean again, Sergeant," the marine Private commented. The convoy has just stopped, hopefully for the last time, after picking up another half a dozen stragglers.

Before he could reply, a flight of Bell AH-1Z Vipers roared overhead, flying so low to the deck that the two instinctively crouched down.

"Somethings going on."

Moments later, Commander Carlyle returned from his meeting with the convoy leaders. "Two Coast Guard cutters were just attacked north of Kilauea Bay. They encountered a group of those sea demons shelling the island."

"Damn," Anderson whispered, looking towards the north.

The three men frowned, watching a convoy go by, which brought even more Humvees.

"Looks like the major here, sir," the Seargent pointed to a group exiting the vehicles.

"Let's go find our carrier. It looks like we are going to need help from the Kido Butai after all."

Interlude – Katheryn Harper

"We should have left weeks ago," Katheryn whispered unhappily, then hugged her young daughter.

She had wanted to leave when the Governor called for a voluntary evacuation; however, the home office told her to stay, which was quite ridiculous. The vacation homes she managed were empty as tourists fled the island. Two weeks later, as more horrible news came from Europe, even more of her neighbors evacuated.

And still, they told her to stay but then again, where should she and her daughter go? She had no family in California, much less the rest of the states. News of rising rent and hotel stays rocketing was alarming. The thought of staying in one of the refugee camps was equally unappealing.

"We should have left," Katheryn whispered again as she took her daughter by the hand and started to walk down the highway. No stores were open. The whole north side of the island was a ghost town, and she cursed herself for not getting gas earlier in the week.

"Mommy, where are we going?"

"Well, since the car isn't working, we need to see the people in the house; others there can give us a ride."

Which ended up being a fool's errand; no one was home. Everyone had already evacuated. She needed to be strong for her daughter. Gathering up her luggage Katheryn continued to walk down the highway,

Rescue would come less than an hour later when they noticed a group of military vehicles moving up the road behind them.

"Thank you," She held back a sob as a pretty Japanese woman helped her to a seat at the back of a large truck. The Marines wasted no time getting her and her daughter situated before the convoy started down the road again.

"Konnichi wa, watashi no namae wa Cloe desu," her daughter said with a smile.

Katheryn sighed, feeling a bit horrified that her child just assumed the poor woman spoke Japanese. Before she could apologize, the woman replied.

"O ai deki te kouei desu. Akagi to moushi masu."

"Oh, ahh, I don't know a lot of Japanese," her daughter frowned, then grinned. "It's nice to meet you."

"Well, it's a pleasure to meet you too, Cloe," she replied. "My name is Akagi."

Katheryn smiled. "I'm sorry about my daughter. She recently got a couple of those anime shows for her birthday, and they were all in Japanese."

"No subtitles?"

"Everything, including the menu, was in, what, Kanji," she said. "Decided it would be a good way for Cloe to learn the language. She had been taking lessons from one of our neighbors."

"Miss Takahashi is nice."

Katheryn noted the trip wasn't exactly comfortable, but she had few complaints as she and her daughter were now safe. Akagi was a godsend, though, keeping Cloe busy practicing her Japanese. In fact, everyone on the truck also appeared to be enjoying the impromptu language lesson.

"That Commander Carlyle seemed quite enamored with you, Akagi,"

At the group's last stop, they had picked up a few more people and some more Marines, including a Navy Commander.

"I think he was just being nice."

Leaning over, she whispered, "He said something that upset you, though."

Katheryn had seen the young woman's face when they were talking about one of those anime movies.

Akagi gave her a sad smile. "A scene in one of the movies reminded me of someone close to me that I lost."

"Oh, I'm sorry."

The young woman waved it away. "It's fine; it was a long time ago."

"I didn't know that didn't live here," her daughter suddenly chirped.

"Oh, so you understand more than you let on, do you, Cloe," Akagi said with a grin, then gave the young girl's nose a poke. Part of the conversation with the Navy Commander has been in Japanese.

"The Marines must have told him I'm a tourist."

"Oh, where are you from?" Alan, one of the others on the truck, asked.

"Well, originally from Kure, which is about twenty kilometers from Hiroshima City in Japan."

"I think I know where that might be," he mused. "I was stationed in South Korea for a little while back in the '80s."

"I thought you might not be from around her," Lucy, a young but very pregnant woman, mentioned. They were latecomers to the group. She was told by the doctor not to travel, but now she didn't have much of a choice.

"Strange time to be a tourist," Jack, her husband, added.

Which caused Akagi to laugh. "That's the same thing one of the Marines said when they picked me up."

"Well, your outfit's very pretty, Akagi," one of the older women commented. "Although I'm sure you didn't expect to be traveling in it. Did the Marines not let you change?"

"I didn't have any luggage with me, Ana, when they found me wandering around Hanalei."

"Oh, I'm sure you'll be able to find some nice outfits in Honolulu. There are plenty of shops."

"Looks like we're coming to a stop," Katheryn called out.

"OH, thank God. I hope they have a bathroom," Lucy groaned.

It had already been a long trip, and Katheryn and the others dozed as they made their way south toward the harbor. She opened her eyes for a moment and saw that Akaki stood vigilant, watching over them. For some reason, she felt protected and drifted back to sleep.

"Private Bentley, sorry to bother you again, but can you tell us what's going on with Miss Takijirō?"

The group had been surprised when the Commander pulled her away to speak to her. They were even more surprised when a group of Marines approached and saluted her. Currently, Akagi was standing among what Alan said were officers.

The young private, who had been quite affable, now looked quite tense. In a professional voice, he addressed the group. "I'm not sure myself, ma'am. But if all of you could return to the other side of the park, I'll see if someone has that information."

"How about we speak to that Sergeant Pierson? He seems to be around the Commander all the time. I think he is his driver," Ana asked.

The Private nodded and then asked one more time for the group to return to the safety of the small woods. Several more military vehicles roared into the parking lot, so everyone thought it was a good idea.

"Mommy, is she in trouble?"

"No, I don't think so, Cloe," she replied, grabbing her child's hand before she ran off toward her new friend. "She seems to be helping them with something."

As the group wandered back to where they had been before, she asked, "Does anyone know if Akagi mentioned she was in the military? She did salute those Marines."

"She does have a certain bearing," Alan mentioned.

"Oh, something going on," Lucy announced.

Akagi and a group of Marines began to gather and started to walk to the beach on the other side of the park.

Cloe suddenly broke free and ran towards the Marines before calling out, "Akagi!"

The young woman stopped and bowed. With a smile, she gave a wave before continuing on.

"Don't run off, Cloe. You're going to get hurt," Kathryn scolded her child, dragging her back to the others.

"She's obviously busy," Jacob commented. "We should wait for someone to tell us what's going on.

From the beach, a bright light caused everyone to pause, both US Marines and civilians alike. Bathed in light, Akagi suddenly stood on the water with a bow in her right hand and a large quiver on her back.

Cloe was the first to speak up in wonder, "OH, Mommy, Akagi is a magical girl."