Notes: Just a note on the colorful sailor language in this chapter.

Hebert Household, Brockton Bay

Getting out of bed, dressed, and ready for school was not exactly one of Annette's daughter's strong points. Nowadays, however, she was up well before dawn making breakfast, more often times than not after coming back from a morning swim.

"Happy Tuesday!" Taylor grinned as she set the table. "Food, food, breakfast! What's for breakfast today."

Annette didn't bother to answer and just ignored her daughter's antics while sipping on her morning coffee. When a cell appeared in her hand, however, she noted the time. Even on a school day, it was early.

Having different people contact you must be difficult to keep track but not for Talyor, and after noting the caller, her voice changed to Yūdachi, and she greeted them with a 'Moshi moshi.'

"Someone's excited," Annette murmured with some amusement as Taylor had to pull the phone back from her ear. At least from the tone, it wasn't bad news.

"No, tomorrow after school should be fine; if it's not, I'll let you know-poi."

Annette raised an eyebrow, although she had an after-dinner workshop on those evenings, usually coming home late.

"OK, Keiko, thanks for the invitation and tell your dad congratulations for me. Sure, text me the details, have fun at school," Taylor said with a grin.

Taking another sip from her coffee mug, Annette raised an eyebrow and said, "Poi?"

Taylor giggled. "Keiko's dad just got confirmation this morning that he got a job on one of the many teams Kurt is putting together for the 'Project.' It seems Mr. Takahashi once worked at one of the ship repair facilities in Japan."

"So, you put in a good word?"

"Well, indirectly, maybe. I wasn't even aware of her dad's old job. Kurt's been complaining quite a bit to Vulcan that there's too much work and not enough people—especially those with particular skills. I just happened to pass on information and a phone number and email address of who to contact to a number of people where Keiko lives.

Annette's husband had been aware for years that there were a lot of untapped skills from those who immigrated from Japan. However, as much as he wanted to help, there was never enough work.

Taylor then made a face. "You're right, though; strange that Keiko wanted to thank me for helping her dad. Not that I did anything special, but it's nice that she invited me to a celebratory dinner. I assumed it was OK since you usually don't get home until nine or ten on Wednesdays."

"That's fine; half the time, you're out on the Sound anyway, then grabbing some unholy dinner on the boardwalk."

"Fugly Bob's makes my engineers happy," her daughter announced cheerfully. "Oh, talked to Sally last night. Her mom thought it was a great idea. You just need to call her so the two of you can figure out when."

Annette nodded, knowing her daughter and her friend had been trying to meet. Really, she expected Taylor to just sail down to Oyster Bay for a visit one Saturday morning, but her presence would have been hard to explain. Labor Day weekend, unfortunately, was out as they had a wedding to go to, but making a long weekend afterward before it got too cold was doable.

"Be nice to see Intrepid."

"Well, we will be sure to make time so you can see both your friends."

The happy grin on her daughter's face made Annette's morning.

Northern Docks, Brockton Bay

Deep within what was known as the Azn Bad Boys territory, a group of men met in the backroom of an old import business. Standing respectfully before Kenta, a tall half-Chinese, half-Japanese man whose mask would be recognized as belonging to the Parahuman Lung.

"All Kami died on Kyushu," he murmured, then barked, "What was her reaction when the girl was escorted through the mahjong parlor?"

"She looked upon it with a resigned fondness, Lung-sama," the young man who knelt on the floor, head bowed, replied.

"And held no fear when approached?"

"None; it was almost as if she expected it. Although, as you commanded, we were respectful, which I believe she approved," an older man in a suit who stood off to the side added. "The backroom did not surprise her either."

Kentia nodded. "Was Seiichi able to determine what that foolish old priest believes to be true?"

A man, probably twice the age of the Dragon of Kyushu, said, "Yes. Lung-sama, the questions collected were conversationally asked while over tea. Yūdachi answered them quite easily. When old man Koga started to reminisce about a particular Geisha house in Sasebo that he had visited as a young man, she even corrected him about the matron's name."

Another man sighed, "And when I spoke to her, it felt like I was speaking to my uncle Boshirō who attended Kaigun Heigakkō, the old Imperial Naval War College."

"She plays the child, the teenager, but she is not," the older of the two men insisted.

"And the rumors are true, Lung-sama. Many now have new jobs at the docks. Somehow, Yūdachi knew that the DWA was hiring again," the young man on the floor said.

"She interceded on their behalf?" He asked incredulously.

"Perhaps, from what is to believe, another ship's spirit walks among the wrecks of the Bay. The one called Vulcan."

"The PRT knows nothing of her, Lee?"

"They continue to be ignorant, my lord," Oni-Lee, Lung's right-hand man, who had remained silent for the conversation until now, replied.

"What do you believe?"

The teleporter appeared lost in thought for a moment. "I do not know my lord, but she is respectful; she even praised you as the Dragon of Kyushu, its protector."

"And this business with the Taganrog?"

Oni-Lee nodded. "She expressed her disappointment if you had been involved."

Lung wanted to feel the heat that burned in his chest for a mere girl to have such thoughts. But it felt cold.

"Shigeyoshi and the Red Tigers were the ones who contacted the Russians, thinking that such money would gain them favor in your eyes, my lord."

"And you have dealt with the ones not in Federal custody, Lee?"


The men in the room nodded approvingly. Most of the women on the boat were non-Asians from various cities up and down the east coast. However, the Red Tigers grabbed half a dozen young girls from the docks.

"Have the families been compensated for the actions of Shigeyoshi and his men."

"Yes, Lung-sama, I saw to it personally," the man in the suit replied. "And Yūdachi approved of you taking responsibility for actions done in your name."

"And if I wish to speak to her?"

"She expressed her unworthiness but said if you still wish it, then one of the Kongou-sisters or Lady Nagato would be more than willing to address their concerns with you."

Most of the men in the room shivered at the power of those names.

"All Kami died on Kyushu," Lung murmured, sounding now like a prayer.

41.26901 -72.07388

Most people pondered deep thoughts while in the shower, but not Taylor Herbert. Nowadays, she found contemplative silence thirty feet underwater. Today it seemed that it would not be one of those days when a pod of dolphins started prodding her. While playing tag, she reluctantly concluded that her idea that once school started, things would settle had been a bit premature.

The men who confronted her on her way home from dinner were respectful, at least—the interrogation over tea was also quite pleasant. It had been fun to reminisce with some of the older men who found great joy that she was able to share memories of old Sasebo over a few games of mahjong. By then, she half expected Koga to break out a bottle of Sake, which would have really made the evening complete.

Her mom had been angry, concerned, and amused all at the same time when Taylor finally returned home. At least her fairies managed to figure out a way for her to call out without anyone noticing. Walking in the door almost four hours late without checking in wouldn't have been good.

"What was that?"

Water was a great conductor of sound, and whatever drove the dolphins to swim away lay somewhere north, fifty degrees west of where she was floating. She then quickly blew her ballast tanks, driving her upwards because Taylor knew that as both a US submarine and U-boat, it had been an explosion in the water. And somewhere off to the west, a battle was taking place.

Breaking the surface like some giant porpoise, Taylor shifted from a submarine to a destroyer, sending up a rooster tail of water as she swung around. On the surface, at best, she could make twenty knots as Archerfish, but Yūdachi could fly across the water at over thirty.

With her fairies manning their battle stations, readying her naval guns, she peered into the darkness, noticing the sign of something burning some five nautical miles or so off in the distance. And a clear call for help suddenly came from one of the vessels, the USCGC Spinner, an eighty-seven Marine Protector class patrol boat that had come under fire from an unknown vessel.

Unfortunately, it was no longer answering. Then the chatter of a fifty-caliber machine gun filled the air to be followed by something unfamiliar—almost a buzzing sound and followed by another explosion and a ball of fire.

Speeding across the water, Taylor could now see both vessels and made a slight turn to port. The patrol boat was listing some twenty degrees to starboard and sinking by the stern. However, whoever was on the guns continued to fire franticly at the other vessel.

Its attacker was a crude, boxy-shaped vessel well over one-hundred feet in length. On both ends of the ship sat a square open structure that looked to have some sort of gun mounted on it.

"Now, let's have the most amazing party," Taylor growled fearlessly.

At a little over seven thousand yards, the IJN Yūdachi, since its sinking at the hands of the USS Portland in 1942, opened fire, sending great columns of water around her target. After the first of Taylor's shells bracketed the boat, its helmsmen panicked, making a hard turn to port, causing another round to miss, but the last landed right off the bow. However, the fifty-caliber high explosive shell appeared only to do minimal damage to the armored tinker-tech boat.

Still, without any overhead protection, the gunners were dangerously exposed, and Taylor hadn't stopped firing. Easily able to throw almost ten rounds a minute at an enemy, she filled the air with shells while reading her torpedoes before her opponent finally responded.

Whatever they were using to aim the guns needed work, or the ship's twisting and turning caused the gunners to fire blindly, filling the air with bright balls of plasma several hundred yards off to starboard. But one shot, widely off its mark, drove past Taylor's head, burning the very air.

Perhaps it was the thought of being hit by the tinker-tech weapon, but suddenly, it felt as if the world held its breath as Taylor changed. Her hull almost doubled in length; the destroyer armament manifested into the primary weapons of US heavy cruisers, nine eight-inch guns.

She, too, morphed from a short blonde Japanese teenager to a tall, caramel brown-haired northern European-looking young woman. Armed with a navy cutlass and dressed in a dark blue jacket covering an off-white blouse, a small black ribboned tie, a short skirt of the same color, and thigh-high white stockings, Taylor wasted no time and turned her rigging towards the enemy.

"One of us is getting turned into scrap today bitch, and it's not me! Fire!"

And now, as a US Navy New Orleans class cruiser, who shared the same seabed on Iron Bottom Sound with the IJN Yūdachi, opened up with a full broadside. With a velocity of 2800 feet per second, the shells reached their intended target in less than a heartbeat with devastating effects.

Although the first flew high, the second didn't, piercing the tinker-tech boat's midship, obliterating it in a ball of fire. It didn't matter if the other shells found their mark because a secondary explosion ripped it apart immediately after. Even as parts of the tinker-tech ship rained down, Taylor turned and began to steam at full speed towards the sinking Coast Guard vessel.

Lieutenant Paul Alcaraz, commander of the USCGC Spinner of Division 23 from Coast Guard Station New Haven, had been out around the waters east of Fisher's Island since the early morning hours. Although coastal security (PWCS) patrols were now few and far between, contact was made with an unknown vessel.

What he and the Station commander hadn't known was that the heavily armed and armored craft was owned by the parahumans, Skidmark, and Squealer, who were returning to Brockton Bay. The reason was that the New York Parahuman Response Team had not shared that intelligence with the Coast Guard, so the patrol boat and its crew were caught entirely unawares until it came under fire.

Although grossly inaccurate, the plasma-firing gatling guns opened up, lighting the morning sky around Lieutenant Alcaraz's command. Several shots, however, managed to impact the hull, the first almost below the water line, going straight through the galley, starting a fire, and killing two.

The second blew a hole not too far from the first into the engine room, causing an explosion that cost another seaman's life. In seconds, the Spinner had lost almost a third of its crew and was taking on water, listing dangerously. Already at General Quarters, the two fifty-caliber machine guns began to return fire, raking the unknown vessel but doing little damage.

"They are fuckin playing with us, sir!" Seaman Randolf screamed out over the sound of the fifty-cal.

Ducking from incoming fire, the Lieutenant shifted his weight so as not to slide onto the deck. He agreed and cursed the inability to damage the other ship. Its captain appeared to be circling as if on a pleasure cruise, giving his gunners the opportunity of a bit of target practice.

"How's Anders and Marks?" He asked after two of his wounded who had been caught in the explosion that took out the engines.

"Not good, sir, not good," Seaman Young said, ignoring another burst of superheated plasma flying across the deck. One beam smashed the patrol boat's stern, but it was already half underwater.

It was at that moment that everything changed. Massive columns of water surrounded the other boat, followed by the sounds of cannons firing. The vessel's captain, who had been playing with them, now panicked, sending his ship twisting and turning away as explosions continued to churn up the water around it.

"Is that Archerfish?" Seaman Randolf called out.

"Naww has to be the Yūdachi," Seaman Young replied.

"Who cares, give 'em, hell!"

"Good hit, did you see it? Good hit," Seaman Okada, who was manning the other fifty-cal, cheered.

The other vessel, no longer targeting his crippled ship, turned its weapons upon their savior; however, in a flash, the enemy vessel disappeared, disintegrating before their eyes. What had just been fired was not a small caliber round as the sound of heavy guns rolled over them, and a black mushroom cloud climbed hundreds of feet in the air.

"Jesus Christ," Seaman Young stumbling back, shielding his eyes.

"She must have only been firing her secondaries at first," Lieutenant Alcaraz murmured, his breath taken away.

Seaman Young looked shocked. "Those weren't destroyer guns, sir."

But then, the crew began to cheer as a girl appeared through the smoke. Dressed in Navy blue, she skated through the wreckage of the other ship, and the Lieutenant couldn't help but agree, noting her appearance. The Japanese destroyer was reportedly a young schoolgirl; this woman was definitely not.

"That was some fine shooting, ma'am," one of his sailors called out.

"Thank you." Keeping her distance from his sinking ship, she said, "I'm the Astoria; how can I help? I have already contacted Coast Guard Station, New Haven. Point Judith's also been notified."

"We have wounded," he called out.

Nodding, she slowed down and began to approach. "You have permission to come on board."

Lieutenant Alcaraz blinked. "I don't understand."

"I know it's hard to explain. Everyone hold hands and grab the wounded as well," the shipgirl commanded.

Moments later, the one calling herself Astoria came alongside and touched his shoulder, and the world twisted.

Note: Taylor looks similar to the USS Northampton CA-26 here from USN Fleet collection -Pacific- Vol. 1, and Archerfish looks similar to the USS Narwhal, although in a grey one-piece like Yuu with being in the Atlantic.