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An Enterprising Captain

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This is the first chapter of my new story, An Enterprising Captain. Give me as much feedback as you can, please. I want to hear all the negatives you can think of to criticize me on.

 

 

 

 
Captain Samuel Truxton stared up at the starry night sky as he laid in his hammock on the flying bridge. He reached his hand up as if to grasp the Constellations shining in the heavens. The pleasant imagery was shattered by the voice of his Officer of the Deck.
 
"What are you doing, Captain? Is there a fly in your view?"
 
Samuel ignored the question. "What do you think is up there, Tommy? Don't you ever want to search the stars and find out?"
 
 
 
Not amused, the seasoned sailor blandly replied, "Between all them twinkling lights is nothing, Sam. That's why they call it space. It's empty."
 
Samuel lazily turned his head to look at Thomas in his watch duty.
 
"Come on, try to imagine a little," He said, encouraging his comrade.
 
Thomas shrugged and responded once more in a bored tone, "I'm not the wonderin' type of guy. I leave all that hooey ta you." Samuel sighed and gave his companion a disappointed frown. On a calm night with so many stars, the sea around them was clear for miles, and Thomas gazed perpetually into the distance. Sam stood up from his hammock and took a look around his ship from his vantage point on top of the conning tower. The deck was almost empty. The sailors that were out were either on duty, or loitering to give those on duty some company.
 
 
 
Sitting atop of the number 2 turret at the bow of the ship was a now familiar young lady. Her dark, curly hair waved in the light ocean breeze. She wore an old US Navy Lieutenant's uniform, with a blue coat and twinkling gold buttons. At her hip was a unique ceremonial saber. Her name was USS Sterett, second to last of the Benham class destroyers. She stared solemnly ahead, watching the open ocean with vigilant eyes. Samuel asked, "How long has it been, Tommy?"
 
 
 
Another bored reply came almost instantly. "About two hours, sir. You'd know that if you paid attention to the bells."
 
Samuel grunted in what was barely a laugh, "I know how long you've been on watch tonight. I was asking how long we've had her with us."
 
"Oh, that." Thomas said with realization. "I'd say 'bout three years now."
 
Samuel thought about it for a second, trying to recall the years in his head. "That's what I thought, but it seems like so much longer. I almost can't remember what life was like on this ship without her."
 
Thomas responded quickly, a slight smile touching the corner of his lips for the first time since the night watch started, "Well for one, we couldn't fight battleships back then."
 
 
 
Samuel couldn't deny that. Even though they were on a mere destroyer, the power of the "Belle", as she called herself, was spectacular. Since Sterett appeared, their five-inch guns could penetrate the thickest battleship armor, and their thin side plates could stop a regular Sixteen-inch shell. Unfortunately, they didn't fight anything that fired regular shells. The job of the USS Sterett was solely to hunt Morganas.
 
 
 
Those unholy demons that had appeared in 1939 disrupted the entire world's shipping lanes and shredded even the most powerful warships with ease. Their weapons were nothing short of devastating, and their armor was nigh impenetrable. The only ships that could fight them were ships that had manifested belles of their own, such as Sterett.
 
 
 
Samuel patted Thomas on the back reassuringly then softly chuckled. "I hope you can keep yourself occupied for the next two hours."
 
Thomas grunted in affirmation and returned to looking through his binoculars. With that, Samuel climbed calmly down the compact ladder to the bridge wings.
 
 
 
About level with the top of the number 2 turret, he called out to the girl sitting on it, "How long has it been?"
 
She responded deftly, "About two hours. Haven't you been paying attention to the bells?"
 
Samuel couldn't stop himself from laughing. Sterett turned around and gave him a slight grin.
 
She pondered for a moment and then spoke once more. "Well, it's been almost three years. I've been with you since December 1939."
 
 
 
Samuel leaned against the railing and let out a soft breath. "It feels like so much longer," he said.
 
She shook her head. "Don't be so dramatic. You simply feel that our battles together have drawn us close. There are no bonds stronger than those forged under fire."
 
Samuel laughed warmly and responded, "Now you're being the dramatic one." He paused for a second, unsure if he should ask, afraid of the possible answer. Finally, he said, "Do you think you'll ever leave us?"
 
 
 
She seemed a bit shocked at the question, almost pulling back. She opened her mouth to answer, then tensed up, her eyes suddenly darting to the northwest. Realizing what that meant, Samuel ran into the bridge. "Sound general quarters!" he ordered. He didn't have to stick around to know the bridge crew would follow through. Sam ran back out and climbed up to the flying bridge, where Thomas was searching the western horizon with his binoculars.
 
 
 
Before Samuel could speak, Thomas gave an annoyed grunt, then spoke with a similarly annoyed tone "She always finds them too far out now. I remember back when we saw them 'fore she did." Samuel smiled, content with the answer to the question he didn't have to ask. At that moment, the ship came alive with loud bells signaling the action stations alarm.
 
 
 
The bells rang out with fervor, punctuated by the call of: "This is not a drill! This is not a drill! General Quarters! General Quarters! All hands, man your battle stations!"
 
 
 
The ship exploded into action. The empty decks were suddenly full of sailors rushing to their posts, all ready for action. Samuel looked down once more at Sterett. She was now standing on top of the number 2 turret, facing west with her sword at the ready. Thomas suddenly stopped and called out, "I see her!" Checking his gyro, he continued, "Bearing 264! She's sailing north!"
 
 
 
Samuel grinned once more at the impressive eyes of his friend and said, "Thanks, Tommy!"
 
He then rushed down to the bridge to find his XO, who hadn't even bothered to put on his uniform before running to the bridge. Despite his obvious haste, the man looked quite alert and ready for someone who had just been so suddenly awoken. "We're already plotting an intercept, sir," Said the XO without looking up from his map.
 
 
 
Sam almost found himself laughing as he replied "Thanks, Jack!" He was running out of work. At this rate the ship would start to run itself. Oh wait, he thought, I suppose it already does!
 
 
 
He looked out the bridge windows at Sterett, standing valiantly on top of the gun turret. She wasn't the type of girl to relegate herself to the bridge in a battle. A report came in from the radar room.
 
 
 
They'd established radar contact with the enemy. They were at 32000 yards and closing quickly. Samuel ordered flank speed to close to the target and engage.
 
 
 
He felt the wind pressure increase as the 3 Babcock and Wilcox boilers produced maximum steam. With her improved boilers, Sterett was able to make an impressive 40 knots.
 
 
 
Sam stepped out onto the bridge wings and shouted to Sterett, "Do they know we're here yet?" She shook her head in response. If they were lucky, they might be able to get the enemy with no casualties in return.
 
 
 
As the distance decreased, the tension rose. He ordered preparation for general attack. The anticipation was nearly unbearable as the ships inched closer. Then, Samuel got a report on the enemy position from the radar room.
 
 
 
They had reached 15000 yards, maximum torpedo range for their Mk 15 torpedoes. Samuel looked once more at Sterett, and she responded again by shaking her head.
 
 
 
At 10000 yards Samuel ordered, "The target is 45 degrees to starboard, sailing towards us. Adjust firing angles." When he received the affirmative report from the starboard torpedo crew, Sam said, "Rudder hard left! Ready torpedoes, Fire!"
 
 
 
Four fish slid into the water at 3 second intervals. Once the last had been released, Samuel ordered, "All guns, prepare to fire!" USS Sterett made its full turn and began to pull away from the enemy as the crew held their breath, waiting for confirmation of their success. They seemed to wait for an eternity.
 
 
 
After a full 7 minutes, they saw a bright flash off the port bow, and Thomas called out from his position above the bridge. "We got 'em!" The crew felt a rush of excitement, and simultaneously released the breath they didn't realize they were holding.
 
 
 
A second later, a scream pierced the night, and shot splashes leaped out of the water several hundred yards away. Excited, Samuel shouted, "Fire!"
 
 
 
Almost simultaneously, the four 5" guns on Sterett barked their reply. The bright flash of the naval rifles illuminated the ship for a split second. Sterett's coat whipped out behind her with the gun blast from the turret she stood atop. Samuel's bones vibrated from the shock of the guns, and these were comparatively small for naval cannons.
 
 
 
Within a couple seconds, they fired once more. A couple more shot splashes landed a safe distance from Sterett. After the belle fired another three salvos, a call came down from the lookout tower "They're goin' down!"
 
 
 
Samuel gave the order to cease fire, then said, "Hard right rudder! Make for the enemy position!" Hopefully this time they could catch some pieces of one. It would prove invaluable to fighting them in the future. Sterett jumped off the gun turret and walked up to the bridge.
 
 
 
"Do you think we can get her this time?" Sam asked excitedly. Sterett replied, "She's going down quickly, I don't think we'll get there in time."
 
 
 
"Then make the best speed you can!" Sam said as he scrambled up to the flying bridge to get a better view. Sterett calmly followed him up. "You know I'm already pushing my boilers as hard as possible." It was true, their foaming wake was proof of the fact that they were making a blistering 41 knots. Anxious, Samuel swiped Thomas' binoculars, with a stymied objection from the latter.
 
 
 
Looking through them, he found the sinking enemy destroyer. She had rolled onto her side, her superstructure already half submerged. Sterett was right, it wouldn't be long before she went down completely. Upon closer inspection, she appeared incomplete. There were the smoking holes and torn misshapen metal from 5" shell hits; But more than that there were parts missing, little cracks in the framework, exposing machinery like a skeleton. Some parts looked altogether wrong, as if they were from a different ship. Samuel could think of no better word to describe her than "Corruption".
 
 
 
Sam stared on with a morbid fascination. Before her bow was engulfed by the waves, he no longer needed his binoculars. The sinking ship was surprisingly stubborn, taking a long time to go down. When they reached 1000 yds, he could see thin sinews of oil spreading from the wreck. It added an ominous hue to the already dark water. Samuel called, "Engines to one-third power."
 
 
 
As Sterett slowed, he shouted, unable to hold back his excitement; "Get that salvage crew in the water! I want as many pieces of her as we can get!" One of her motorboats was quickly lowered into the murky waves, full of salvage crew and equipment. Sterett pulled out to a safe distance and began slowly circling the wreck, guns trained on it, just in case they were needed. Samuel watched with unbridled anticipation as the small salvage boat sped towards the dead Morgana.
 
 
 
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
 
 
 
Andrew Pollock stepped onto the motorboat with elation. He had skipped out on a career at MIT to join the navy when the Morganas attacked. It was paying off in spades. He had a rare chance to see the insides of the demon Morganas that mysteriously plagued the seas. The small craft rocked in the waves produced by its parent ship, and oily water sloshed into it. Seizing the opportunity, Andrew immediately took one of the collection jars they had brought with them for smaller artifacts and used it to scoop as much oil as he could. Grinning with satisfaction, he put the jar down as the boat started to move.
 
 
 
The vessel cut through the oily black water, quickly approaching the dying Morgana. When they got within 200 meters, they started seeing small bits of debris floating away from the sinking ship. Andrew eagerly plucked a piece of some unidentifiable material from the water. It was a fragment of the Morgana's hull. These rare pieces would be invaluable for researching the Morganas if they could get them back to base.
 
 
 
Soon, the debris got too thick, and the boat was forced to slow down to navigate it. Andrew stared at the bits of wreckage with great interest. Suddenly, something caught his eye. There was an small red top hat with a flower in the brim floating in the water. As they passed, Andrew reached his hand out. If he didn't know better, he'd say the hat wanted him to pick it up. It seemed to be calling to him.
 
 
 
He took hold of the brim, and felt a hand on his shoulder. He heard the gruff voice of the damage control chief, barely holding back laughter, "Funny as it is, we're on a salvage operation. Don't get carried away shopping for the latest fashions!" He turned around to face the rest of the salvage crew, then looked back at the water, but he couldn't see the hat. Then he realized where it was.
 
 
 
He immediately removed the fashionable red hat from his head, so quickly that he nearly threw it away. When did he put it on? Blood rushed to his face as he turned a color to match the hat. At this, the team could no longer hold themselves back, and the boat broke into uproarious laughter. The cheerful guffaws seemed out of place among the morbid scenery of the wreckage.
 
 
 
He unceremoniously stuffed the headpiece into one of the bags the team had brought with them, trying to play it off as smoothly as possible, but this just made the crew laugh harder. Their laughing stopped quickly when the groan of bending metal pierced the night. The DC chief spoke softly; "We're running out of time."
 
 
 
Andrew quickly recovered himself and said, "Let's get on that ship before it sinks!" The salvage crew nodded in unison, and the small craft took off once more, closing the distance with the hulking mass of damaged metal. Pulling in close, they threw grapple lines, which caught fast onto the jagged pieces of the hull.
 
 
 
Once they'd secured the grapple lines, the team started moving quickly into the Morgana Hull. Their footsteps on the thin metal hull echoed eerily across the open water. Andrew walked with caution, trying to avoid stepping on the odd non-metal parts of the Morgana. As far as they knew, those pieces were horribly unstable, falling to dust from even small vibrations.
 
 
 
Without going too far on the hull, they stopped and set up their equipment. Andrew picked up his welding torch, and started cutting a piece from one of the unusual cracks that ran through the hull. Once he secured a piece of the unidentified Morgana material, he put it in a padded, protected container.
 
 
 
Just as he was about to start on the next piece, the ship shook violently. Metal screamed as one of the cracks widened, splitting the sinking hull in two! Andrew picked up the box containing the hull fragment, and ran back towards their small boat. The hull groaned under each of his footsteps.
 
 
 
Andrew was almost at the boat, but the angle of the sinking ship was increasing fast. He focused on the boat. If he made it there, the crew could leave and get safely back to the Sterett. Suddenly, the hull under him gave way!
 
 
 
He realized his mistake too late. Andrew had been so focused on the boat that he didn't watch his footing, and he had stepped on a patch of the unidentified material. He felt suspended, and time seemed to slow down as he fell into the blackness of the Morgana hull. Was this its way of getting revenge?
 
 
 
But the darkness rising to meet him stopped abruptly. He looked up, and saw the large hand of the DC chief holding his arm, pulling him up to safety. Andrew released the breath he didn't know he'd been holding, and his heart seemed to start beating again. Not only that, but he had managed to keep his grip on the important box.
 
 
 
The DC chief pulled him onto the small boat, which was nearly being pulled out of the water by the rising bow of the sinking vessel. They cut the grapple lines, and the salvage boat splashed back down into the murky sea. The engine revved, and the boat pulled away. Andrew sighed with relief as they managed to get out of range of the whirlpool that formed on the sinking vessel, dragging everything nearby down with it.
 
 
 
A searchlight beam cut through the night, seeking out the salvage crew. The motorboat turned towards it, making good speed. As the USS Sterett sailed into view, elation finally hit Andrew. He had just managed to get a major breakthrough on the composition of the enemy ships. This could be crucial for shortening the seemingly endless war with the Morgana! The young engineering chief had never felt so excited in his life.
 
 

 

 

 

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This is really an excellent read, Ninja!

Thanks! I'm going to start I chapter 2 as soon as I can.

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The second chapter is finally here! Along with it comes a beautiful picture of the fierce lady herself, USS Sterett, drawn by the amazing Jojosqex!

Chapter 1: http://academagia.invisionzone.com/index.php?/topic/3423-an-enterprising-captain/

 

 

2jfgo3r.jpg

 

 

 

     From the bridge of her hull, USS Sterett anxiously watched the broken Morgana slipping beneath the waves. "Turn on the searchlights! Hard left rudder! Find the salvage team!" Samuel ordered. Sterett saluted, and as soon as she thought it, her rudder complied. She felt her bow cut through the inky sea towards the wreck. Her high-powered searchlights managed to illuminate the last of the enemy ship as its nose sank into the dark depths. A twinge of satisfaction shot through her as she witnessed the last of her defeated enemy.

 
     The searchlights scanned the black water, searching for the small motorboat. Sterett could feel every man in her crew watching the water for a sign of the salvage team. A shout rang out from her flying bridge! "There they are, off the port bow!" Thomas called. Sterett's searchlights immediately focused on the small boat speeding towards them. She smiled, elated that they managed to beat the enemy once more with no losses, as long as the whole salvage crew was in that boat. She had a feeling they were.
 
     Samuel excitedly gave the command, "All stop. Prepare to recover the salvage team!" Sterett quickly responded, "Right away, Captain!" Just as soon as she said it, she decreased her own engine power, letting her propellers stop and the ship float slowly to a halt. The X.O. relayed the captain's order to the rest of the crew, and Sterett rapidly felt the movement of sailors rushing around the deck to get in position for recovery.
 
     From the flying bridge she watched the small craft pull up alongside. Sam ran down to the deck and awaited the returning crewmen. Sterett walked calmly behind him, and eagerly stood with him as the sailors threw down a ladder. She counted every member of the salvage crew as they came on. She beamed pridefully as each man stepped aboard. Andrew was the last to get on the ship. The second his feet touched the deck, she felt her sailors start hoisting the salvage boat up to be stored away once more. However, she felt something else lightly hidden away. A small spike of pain. Curious, she asked Andrew; "Are you alright?"
 
     The young man responded in an almost apologetic tone, "Yeah, I just got a little scraped up on that thing. It nearly took me down with it." He quickly switched gears, though, and pointed excitedly at the bag one of the other salvage crewmen was carrying. He was almost bouncing with joy as he described the artifacts he'd collected. Sterett decided it must be those artifacts causing her unrest. She wouldn't feel something as small as a scratch on one of her crew. Her thought process was interrupted by Samuel giving Andrew a large pat on the back, and congratulating him on his success.
 
     Sterett couldn't help but join in the merriment. She proudly puffed out her chest and said, "We've won once again, And this time we bring back trophies!" A cheer rang up throughout the crew; one of the loudest coming from her captain. Of course we won! I'm USS Sterett. She thought to herself.
 
     Keeping the good spirit going, Samuel declared, "A pint of ice cream for everyone if we get this back to port!" Sterett instantly forgot all her worries. Ice cream was a rare treat these days, but the Captain was right. What they had was certainly a big enough find to grant them some rare privileges. It had been a long time since they'd had ice cream, and she couldn't wait.
 
     "Not to kill the mood," The Executive Officer's voice cut in; "But I think it's time we return to our stations."
 
     "Oh, come on Jack! I think a little celebration is in order." Samuel responded encouragingly. Sterett did want to continue celebrating, but she decided that she should instead keep up her professionalism. She quickly steeled her expression.
 
     She straightened her coat and said, "I agree with the X.O., Captain. The faster we get this back to port, the sooner we can celebrate." She paused, then added: "With ice cream."
 
     Samuel sighed. "Alright, alright. No fun for me, Jack. For now the crew will have to settle for bonus portions at the mess tonight. I hope they're okay with that!" He said with enthusiasm. Then he ordered, "Let's get this ship turned around and headed home. Get me in radio contact with Midway Island."
 
     The ship thundered with a report of "Yes Sir!" from the crew. As they dispersed, Sterett walked back up to the bridge with Jack. "That Captain of ours lets himself get carried away too much." Jack said bluntly.
 
     "And on the contrary you are so focused on your work that you forgot to put on your trousers!" Sterett quipped in response.
Jack didn't seem too bothered by the remark. He simply replied, "I felt that the need to do my Duty outweighed the necessity of pants. I was the first to my station, was I not?"
Sterett chuckled. "Except for the men who were already there on the night watch, yes."
 
     Jack smiled proudly about his accomplishment as they reached the bridge. Sterett held a hand out to stop him. "As much as your indifference amuses me, I believe there is a level of decency required on my ship. Now that we are not under imminent threat of combat, please put your uniform on. You're not allowed to enter my bridge again until you do."
 
     Jack saluted and immediately ran back to his bunk. After watching him leave, Sterett climbed up the ladder to the flying bridge. Thomas grumbled a greeting as she walked up beside him.
 
     "You did not join in the celebration, lieutenant." Sterett noted. Thomas shrugged and said, "I ain't been relieved yet." Sterett looked at him quizzically. He was not the sort of man to ignore a celebration. He gave a sly smile and pointed to an empty can of beer next to him on the deck. "And who said I didn't partake in no celebratin'?"
 
     Sterett picked it up and drew her sword. "You know I don't allow drinking aboard this ship. You're the officer of the watch no less!" She shouted angrily. Thomas put up his hands defensively and backed up to the railing, the sword almost pressing into his neck.
 
     "Whoa, calm down there. It's just one, and I figured I deserve it after a win like that. It ain't like that little ol' thing is gonna get me drunk." Sterett was fuming. Her glaring eyes cut just the same as her sword. Drinking aboard a navy vessel was against regulations, but he was right that he didn't leave his post before being relieved. He did have an important job after all, and it was probably the only reason he was still breathing.
 
     However, it was also the reason she was so furious. A drunk officer of the watch could be slow, unable to respond to sudden threats. He could endanger the entire crew. He had to be made an example of. He had to- Her train of thought was once again interrupted by the Captain's voice. This time however, it did not carry jubilation. "Stand down, Sterett!"
 
     Keeping her sword at Thomas' throat, she held the beer can out to the Captain. She spoke with a sharp edge in her voice. "He was drinking while on watch. This deserves immediate and severe punishment." Samuel took the can from her and inspected it. Then he said with a calm but serious tone, "Sterett, I'll handle the punishment. Lower your sword."
 
     Sterett objected, "But Captain, this is a dire-" She was cut off once more by Samuel, with a commanding emphasis on his voice.
"Lower. Your. Sword."
 
     She opened her mouth once more to object, but she couldn't ignore an order from her Captain. She slowly brought the sword down to her side, ready to strike once more at a moment's notice. Thomas visibly relaxed, letting out a deep breath. He began to speak "It was just one, Sam, you know that ain't enough to..." He trailed off, and the Captain stepped forward. Samuel rarely got angry, but anyone could plainly see that his usual cheery air was gone.
 
     "Thomas, you are relieved of duty. You are to be confined to your quarters, effective immediately. There you will await the Mast." The Captain said, his voice bereft of glee. Thomas was rash, but he knew when it was better to keep your mouth shut and follow orders. He nodded and walked past them slowly. After he left, Sterett sheathed her sword and turned to face her Captain. "I still believe he should have been lashed at the very least. Why doesn't the navy do that anymore?"
 
     Samuel sighed then responded, "Because an iron fist only goes so far. It's been three years, Sterett. You know all punishment has to be done by me." Sterett quickly interjected, "But he was drinking on duty, Captain! As someone in his position it could be fatal for the ship, for the crew! I know that he may not have a problem but the rest of the crew may see such action and get complacent!"
 
     Samuel looked disconcerted and distraught, and his tone reflected it. "I understand, Sterett, but I just can't go around killing my own men! Trust me, he'll be punished harshly, but it will be my punishment."
 
     "I refuse to condone such activities while I'm around." Sterett said matter-of-factly. "I will not back down a second time. I can promise you that." She glared at him, and her eyes left nothing to the imagination. She would /not/ let it happen again. Samuel looked straight back into her eyes and slowly nodded. "The crew will be notified immediately." He said.
 
     "Anyways, before I was interrupted by this incident I made contact with Midway base. They're preparing everything for our arrival." The Captain said, trying to shift the conversation away. She wasn't going to let him off the hook that easily. "Incident? This was blatant disregard for the law! You can't just ignore this because he's the oldest member of the crew!" She protested.
 
     "Now, now, Sterett, I think I'll have quite the strict word with him. In the mean time, it's been a few weeks since you last got any rest, hasn't it?" Samuel quickly said, changing the subject once more. She thought for a moment. It had been a few weeks, yes. She didn't have to rest as often as humans, but she did have to restore her energy sometimes.
 
     "Well, yes." Sterett said. Before her Captain could respond, she continued, "But I believe that's beside the point. And anyway, I think I should at least stay awake until we reach Midway. I don't suppose the Morgana will sit quietly while we gain the upper hand in our war against them."
 
     Samuel was quick to respond, "It will be alright. Don't you worry! You'll want to look your best when we arrive back as heroes, won't you?"
 
     Her brow furrowed. "I look fine already, don't I, Captain?" Sterett asked. She was certain that she probably looked alright.
The captain nodded in agreement. "Oh yes, you look dashing as always, although, perhaps a little tired." He left the last sentence hanging, as if waiting for her to catch, then quickly added, "Oh, but don't worry. It doesn't really show."
 
     It doesn't really show? She thought to herself. What is that supposed to mean?/ She looked away slightly and turned up her chin.
"Alright. I'll rest, but only until we see Midway. Wake me up if anything at all happens." She said strictly. Her Captain let her go and she began to walk to her bunk. Samuel waved her off, rushing her to rest. "Of course, Sterett! I'll wake you up as soon as anything happens." He shouted after her.
 
     After she had gone, Samuel looked back out over the bow of the ship. He yawned, then said to himself, "I need get some sleep too. I really should stop keeping the night watch company."
 
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
 
     Thomas walked back to his bunk with his chest held high. Nobody knew his mistake as far as he could tell, so it was best to let the rest of the crew think he was in top condition; although he was relatively certain that they heard the furious storm commonly known as USS Sterett. He opened the hatch to his bunk and walked inside. It was a modest closet, albeit better than the enlisted mens' mass stretchers. But like the enlisted bunks, he did have to share. The X.O.'s bunk was significantly cleaner, and considering how uptight Jack could be, it wasn't a surprise.
 
     The room was simple. On the far side from the door, there were two bunks, one on top of the other. Neither could fit a large man particularly well. On the back wall of the lower bunk sat Thomas's 1892 Winchester rifle. Thomas grinned to himself every time he saw it. Normally personal weapons weren't allowed on ships, but after a whole lot of work with the right people in high places, he managed to get a pass. Between the bunks and the door was a small cabinet that doubled as an office space for both him and Jack. It wasn't much but it was enough to get paperwork done.
 
     He closed the hatch behind him and sat down on the lower bunk. Then Thomas took out his service revolver and began to carefully clean it. Of course, he hadn't fired it in a while, but it didn't hurt to give it a once-over every now and then. He had to make sure it was in top condition, just in case. There wasn't much use for a revolver on a ship, considering the engagement ranges. The only situation he figured it was useful in was if they were shipwrecked in enemy territory, not that six rounds would do much good. He shuddered at the idea of getting sunk. After so long with Sterett, he wondered if it was even possible anymore. Still, it was best to be prepared.
 
     As he was finishing up the cleaning process, there was a knock on the hatch. Before he could respond, Samuel opened it and walked inside. "Great timing, captain." Thomas said as he put away his gun and cleaning kit. Samuel sat down across from him at Jack's desk, holding the discarded beer can. He looked solemn, quite unlike the Captain that Thomas usually worked with. The Captain was silent, waiting for Thomas to begin explaining himself. "Listen, Sam, I knew it was a bad idea, but I figured one ought not ta be a problem. You know I can't even get drunk at all offa that." Thomas started, indicating the can.
 
     Sam's response was immediate. "You thought one wouldn't be a problem? You almost got decapitated, Tommy! Heck, if I wasn't there, we might be down a lieutenant!" Sam didn't shout in anger often. If it wasn't obvious from Sterett's tirade, there was no doubt now that Thomas had crossed some serious lines.
 
     Unlike the unforgiving lady however, the Captain could be reasoned with. "But you were there, Cap'n, and I didn't lose my head." Thomas pointed out.
 
     "You know that's not the point, Tommy." Sam said, putting a stop to the redirection. "You screwed up big time. This is grounds for a court martial. You know she won't allow me to let you off lightly." Thomas nodded in understanding. He wondered briefly if the captain really would carry through with the court martial. It would be a pretty darn stupid way to end a twenty-six year navy career. His morbid train of thought was interrupted when the captain spoke up once more. "I'm sorry, Lieutenant Jefferson, but I have to remove you from active duty. You also must continue your detainment in your quarters until we reach Midway, where you will await further punishment. It is regrettable, but I also must confiscate your gun." Samuel said ceremoniously.
 
     Thomas sighed and once again took out his service pistol. "You know I hate it when ya call me that, Sam." He said as he handed his armament away. "You never were too good at formality." He hesitated, then reached back to get his rifle as well. The Captain sighed heavily, then said; "You don't have to give me that one."
 
     Thomas paused, a little surprised by the leniency, but didn't argue. When he turned back around, Samuel was staring at the empty can. "Tommy, how did you even get this on board?" he inquired, changing the subject. Thomas laughed heartily at the question.
 
     "Now that there was a stroke o' genius, if I do say so myself. I brought it in my luggage with a bunch o' cans of beans when we docked in Australia. Figured that even though drinkin' is prohibited, one after a real big victory ought ta be okay." He said, grinning widely. The Captain raised an eyebrow, clearly both mildly impressed and annoyed at the old sailor's audacity. Thomas suddenly realized how out of place the proud grin must have looked. He grunted a quick apology and wiped the smile off of his face. "Of course, it'd seem that this wasn't a big enough victory." He said in a more serious tone.
 
     Samuel sighed deeply once more. "You can't keep doing this to me, Tommy. I don't know what I'd do without you." He pleaded. Thomas was about to reply, when Sam cut him off. "It would be horribly boring up there with Jack. You've never had to sit through a full watch with him." Thomas chortled and replied, "If it's that bad, just send me up there with 'im next time I step outta line. Maybe that'll set me good an' straight."
 
     Samuel laughed along with him for the first time since he'd entered the room. Thomas smiled, content that he had gotten at least a small hoot out of an otherwise dreary conversation. Samuel broke up the laughter and his face, though smiling, was full of worry and apprehension. "I just hope there is a next time, Tommy." He said softly, his concern evident in his voice. The Captain turned around and with one final glance, stepped out of the room. After he'd closed the hatch, Thomas sighed and laid back on his bunk.
 
     Thomas knew he'd done some stupid things in his career, but somehow this one topped them all. He grunted in a weak attempt to laugh at himself. Things like this were the reason that after so long he had still never gotten command of a ship. Well, that and the fact that he would have turned down the offer. He figured that being a Captain was more trouble than it was worth. Having so much depend on you wasn't the kind of life he wanted to live. Although at this rate, he might not live too much longer anyways.
 
Please comment and give me as much feedback as possible. I love criticism because it tells me what I need to improve, so be as critical as you like.

Finally, I'm recruiting Pre-Readers. Please PM me if you're interested.

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The second chapter is finally here! Along with it comes a beautiful picture of the fierce lady herself, USS Sterett, drawn by the amazing Jojosqex!

 

 

2jfgo3r.jpg

 

 

 

From the bridge of her hull, USS Sterett anxiously watched the broken Morgana slipping beneath the waves. "Turn on the searchlights! Hard left rudder! Find the salvage team!" Samuel ordered. Sterett saluted, and as soon as she thought it, her rudder complied. She felt her bow cut through the inky sea towards the wreck. Her high-powered searchlights managed to illuminate the last of the enemy ship as its nose sank into the dark depths. A twinge of satisfaction shot through her as she witnessed the last of her defeated enemy.

The searchlights scanned the black water, searching for the small motorboat. Sterett could feel every man in her crew watching the water for a sign of the salvage team. A shout rang out from her flying bridge! "There they are, off the port bow!" Thomas called. Sterett's searchlights immediately focused on the small boat speeding towards them. She smiled, elated that they managed to beat the enemy once more with no losses, as long as the whole salvage crew was in that boat. She had a feeling they were.
Samuel excitedly gave the command, "All stop. Prepare to recover the salvage team!" Sterett quickly responded, "Right away, Captain!" Just as soon as she said it, she decreased her own engine power, letting her propellers stop and the ship float slowly to a halt. The X.O. relayed the captain's order to the rest of the crew, and Sterett rapidly felt the movement of sailors rushing around the deck to get in position for recovery.
From the flying bridge she watched the small craft pull up alongside. Sam ran down to the deck and awaited the returning crewmen. Sterett walked calmly behind him, and eagerly stood with him as the sailors threw down a ladder. She counted every member of the salvage crew as they came on. She beamed pridefully as each man stepped aboard. Andrew was the last to get on the ship. The second his feet touched the deck, she felt her sailors start hoisting the salvage boat up to be stored away once more. However, she felt something else lightly hidden away. A small spike of pain. Curious, she asked Andrew; "Are you alright?"
The young man responded in an almost apologetic tone, "Yeah, I just got a little scraped up on that thing. It nearly took me down with it." He quickly switched gears, though, and pointed excitedly at the bag one of the other salvage crewmen was carrying. He was almost bouncing with joy as he described the artifacts he'd collected. Sterett decided it must be those artifacts causing her unrest. She wouldn't feel something as small as a scratch on one of her crew. Her thought process was interrupted by Samuel giving Andrew a large pat on the back, and congratulating him on his success.
Sterett couldn't help but join in the merriment. She proudly puffed out her chest and said, "We've won once again, And this time we bring back trophies!" A cheer rang up throughout the crew; one of the loudest coming from her captain. Of course we won! I'm USS Sterett. She thought to herself.
Keeping the good spirit going, Samuel declared, "A pint of ice cream for everyone if we get this back to port!" Sterett instantly forgot all her worries. Ice cream was a rare treat these days, but the Captain was right. What they had was certainly a big enough find to grant them some rare privileges. It had been a long time since they'd had ice cream, and she couldn't wait.
"Not to kill the mood," The Executive Officer's voice cut in; "But I think it's time we return to our stations."
"Oh, come on Jack! I think a little celebration is in order." Samuel responded encouragingly. Sterett did want to continue celebrating, but she decided that she should instead keep up her professionalism. She quickly steeled her expression.
She straightened her coat and said, "I agree with the X.O., Captain. The faster we get this back to port, the sooner we can celebrate." She paused, then added: "With ice cream."
Samuel sighed. "Alright, alright. No fun for me, Jack. For now the crew will have to settle for bonus portions at the mess tonight. I hope they're okay with that!" He said with enthusiasm. Then he ordered, "Let's get this ship turned around and headed home. Get me in radio contact with Midway Island."
The ship thundered with a report of "Yes Sir!" from the crew. As they dispersed, Sterett walked back up to the bridge with Jack. "That Captain of ours lets himself get carried away too much." Jack said bluntly.
"And on the contrary you are so focused on your work that you forgot to put on your trousers!" Sterett quipped in response.
Jack didn't seem too bothered by the remark. He simply replied, "I felt that the need to do my Duty outweighed the necessity of pants. I was the first to my station, was I not?"
Sterett chuckled. "Except for the men who were already there on the night watch, yes."
Jack smiled proudly about his accomplishment as they reached the bridge. Sterett held a hand out to stop him. "As much as your indifference amuses me, I believe there is a level of decency required on my ship. Now that we are not under imminent threat of combat, please put your uniform on. You're not allowed to enter my bridge again until you do."
Jack saluted and immediately ran back to his bunk. After watching him leave, Sterett climbed up the ladder to the flying bridge. Thomas grumbled a greeting as she walked up beside him.
"You did not join in the celebration, lieutenant." Sterett noted. Thomas shrugged and said, "I ain't been relieved yet." Sterett looked at him quizzically. He was not the sort of man to ignore a celebration. He gave a sly smile and pointed to an empty can of beer next to him on the deck. "And who said I didn't partake in no celebratin'?"
Sterett picked it up and drew her sword. "You know I don't allow drinking aboard this ship. You're the officer of the watch no less!" She shouted angrily. Thomas put up his hands defensively and backed up to the railing, the sword almost pressing into his neck.
"Whoa, calm down there. It's just one, and I figured I deserve it after a win like that. It ain't like that little ol' thing is gonna get me drunk." Sterett was fuming. Her glaring eyes cut just the same as her sword. Drinking aboard a navy vessel was against regulations, but he was right that he didn't leave his post before being relieved. He did have an important job after all, and it was probably the only reason he was still breathing.
However, it was also the reason she was so furious. A drunk officer of the watch could be slow, unable to respond to sudden threats. He could endanger the entire crew. He had to be made an example of. He had to- Her train of thought was once again interrupted by the Captain's voice. This time however, it did not carry jubilation. "Stand down, Sterett!"
Keeping her sword at Thomas' throat, she held the beer can out to the Captain. She spoke with a sharp edge in her voice. "He was drinking while on watch. This deserves immediate and severe punishment." Samuel took the can from her and inspected it. Then he said with a calm but serious tone, "Sterett, I'll handle the punishment. Lower your sword."
Sterett objected, "But Captain, this is a dire-" She was cut off once more by Samuel, with a commanding emphasis on his voice.
"Lower. Your. Sword."
She opened her mouth once more to object, but she couldn't ignore an order from her Captain. She slowly brought the sword down to her side, ready to strike once more at a moment's notice. Thomas visibly relaxed, letting out a deep breath. He began to speak "It was just one, Sam, you know that ain't enough to..." He trailed off, and the Captain stepped forward. Samuel rarely got angry, but anyone could plainly see that his usual cheery air was gone.
"Thomas, you are relieved of duty. You are to be confined to your quarters, effective immediately. There you will await the Mast." The Captain said, his voice bereft of glee. Thomas was rash, but he knew when it was better to keep your mouth shut and follow orders. He nodded and walked past them slowly. After he left, Sterett sheathed her sword and turned to face her Captain. "I still believe he should have been lashed at the very least. Why doesn't the navy do that anymore?"
Samuel sighed then responded, "Because an iron fist only goes so far. It's been three years, Sterett. You know all punishment has to be done by me." Sterett quickly interjected, "But he was drinking on duty, Captain! As someone in his position it could be fatal for the ship, for the crew! I know that he may not have a problem but the rest of the crew may see such action and get complacent!"
Samuel looked disconcerted and distraught, and his tone reflected it. "I understand, Sterett, but I just can't go around killing my own men! Trust me, he'll be punished harshly, but it will be my punishment."
"I refuse to condone such activities while I'm around." Sterett said matter-of-factly. "I will not back down a second time. I can promise you that." She glared at him, and her eyes left nothing to the imagination. She would /not/ let it happen again. Samuel looked straight back into her eyes and slowly nodded. "The crew will be notified immediately." He said.
"Anyways, before I was interrupted by this incident I made contact with Midway base. They're preparing everything for our arrival." The Captain said, trying to shift the conversation away. She wasn't going to let him off the hook that easily. "Incident? This was blatant disregard for the law! You can't just ignore this because he's the oldest member of the crew!" She protested.
"Now, now, Sterett, I think I'll have quite the strict word with him. In the mean time, it's been a few weeks since you last got any rest, hasn't it?" Samuel quickly said, changing the subject once more. She thought for a moment. It had been a few weeks, yes. She didn't have to rest as often as humans, but she did have to restore her energy sometimes.
"Well, yes." Sterett said. Before her Captain could respond, she continued, "But I believe that's beside the point. And anyway, I think I should at least stay awake until we reach Midway. I don't suppose the Morgana will sit quietly while we gain the upper hand in our war against them."
Samuel was quick to respond, "It will be alright. Don't you worry! You'll want to look your best when we arrive back as heroes, won't you?"
Her brow furrowed. "I look fine already, don't I, Captain?" Sterett asked. She was certain that she probably looked alright.
The captain nodded in agreement. "Oh yes, you look dashing as always, although, perhaps a little tired." He left the last sentence hanging, as if waiting for her to catch, then quickly added, "Oh, but don't worry. It doesn't really show."
It doesn't really show? She thought to herself. What is that supposed to mean?/ She looked away slightly and turned up her chin.
"Alright. I'll rest, but only until we see Midway. Wake me up if anything at all happens." She said strictly. Her Captain let her go and she began to walk to her bunk. Samuel waved her off, rushing her to rest. "Of course, Sterett! I'll wake you up as soon as anything happens." He shouted after her.
After she had gone, Samuel looked back out over the bow of the ship. He yawned, then said to himself, "I need get some sleep too. I really should stop keeping the night watch company."
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Thomas walked back to his bunk with his chest held high. Nobody knew his mistake as far as he could tell, so it was best to let the rest of the crew think he was in top condition; although he was relatively certain that they heard the furious storm commonly known as USS Sterett. He opened the hatch to his bunk and walked inside. It was a modest closet, albeit better than the enlisted mens' mass stretchers. But like the enlisted bunks, he did have to share. The X.O.'s bunk was significantly cleaner, and considering how uptight Jack could be, it wasn't a surprise.
The room was simple. On the far side from the door, there were two bunks, one on top of the other. Neither could fit a large man particularly well. On the back wall of the lower bunk sat Thomas's 1892 Winchester rifle. Thomas grinned to himself every time he saw it. Normally personal weapons weren't allowed on ships, but after a whole lot of work with the right people in high places, he managed to get a pass. Between the bunks and the door was a small cabinet that doubled as an office space for both him and Jack. It wasn't much but it was enough to get paperwork done.
He closed the hatch behind him and sat down on the lower bunk. Then Thomas took out his service revolver and began to carefully clean it. Of course, he hadn't fired it in a while, but it didn't hurt to give it a once-over every now and then. He had to make sure it was in top condition, just in case. There wasn't much use for a revolver on a ship, considering the engagement ranges. The only situation he figured it was useful in was if they were shipwrecked in enemy territory, not that six rounds would do much good. He shuddered at the idea of getting sunk. After so long with Sterett, he wondered if it was even possible anymore. Still, it was best to be prepared.
As he was finishing up the cleaning process, there was a knock on the hatch. Before he could respond, Samuel opened it and walked inside. "Great timing, captain." Thomas said as he put away his gun and cleaning kit. Samuel sat down across from him at Jack's desk, holding the discarded beer can. He looked solemn, quite unlike the Captain that Thomas usually worked with. The Captain was silent, waiting for Thomas to begin explaining himself. "Listen, Sam, I knew it was a bad idea, but I figured one ought not ta be a problem. You know I can't even get drunk at all offa that." Thomas started, indicating the can.
Sam's response was immediate. "You thought one wouldn't be a problem? You almost got decapitated, Tommy! Heck, if I wasn't there, we might be down a lieutenant!" Sam didn't shout in anger often. If it wasn't obvious from Sterett's tirade, there was no doubt now that Thomas had crossed some serious lines.
Unlike the unforgiving lady however, the Captain could be reasoned with. "But you were there, Cap'n, and I didn't lose my head." Thomas pointed out.
"You know that's not the point, Tommy." Sam said, putting a stop to the redirection. "You screwed up big time. This is grounds for a court martial. You know she won't allow me to let you off lightly." Thomas nodded in understanding. He wondered briefly if the captain really would carry through with the court martial. It would be a pretty darn stupid way to end a twenty-six year navy career. His morbid train of thought was interrupted when the captain spoke up once more. "I'm sorry, Lieutenant Jefferson, but I have to remove you from active duty. You also must continue your detainment in your quarters until we reach Midway, where you will await further punishment. It is regrettable, but I also must confiscate your gun." Samuel said ceremoniously.
Thomas sighed and once again took out his service pistol. "You know I hate it when ya call me that, Sam." He said as he handed his armament away. "You never were too good at formality." He hesitated, then reached back to get his rifle as well. The Captain sighed heavily, then said; "You don't have to give me that one."
Thomas paused, a little surprised by the leniency, but didn't argue. When he turned back around, Samuel was staring at the empty can. "Tommy, how did you even get this on board?" he inquired, changing the subject. Thomas laughed heartily at the question.
"Now that there was a stroke o' genius, if I do say so myself. I brought it in my luggage with a bunch o' cans of beans when we docked in Australia. Figured that even though drinkin' is prohibited, one after a real big victory ought ta be okay." He said, grinning widely. The Captain raised an eyebrow, clearly both mildly impressed and annoyed at the old sailor's audacity. Thomas suddenly realized how out of place the proud grin must have looked. He grunted a quick apology and wiped the smile off of his face. "Of course, it'd seem that this wasn't a big enough victory." He said in a more serious tone.
Samuel sighed deeply once more. "You can't keep doing this to me, Tommy. I don't know what I'd do without you." He pleaded. Thomas was about to reply, when Sam cut him off. "It would be horribly boring up there with Jack. You've never had to sit through a full watch with him." Thomas chortled and replied, "If it's that bad, just send me up there with 'im next time I step outta line. Maybe that'll set me good an' straight."
Samuel laughed along with him for the first time since he'd entered the room. Thomas smiled, content that he had gotten at least a small hoot out of an otherwise dreary conversation. Samuel broke up the laughter and his face, though smiling, was full of worry and apprehension. "I just hope there is a next time, Tommy." He said softly, his concern evident in his voice. The Captain turned around and with one final glance, stepped out of the room. After he'd closed the hatch, Thomas sighed and laid back on his bunk.
Thomas knew he'd done some stupid things in his career, but somehow this one topped them all. He grunted in a weak attempt to laugh at himself. Things like this were the reason that after so long he had still never gotten command of a ship. Well, that and the fact that he would have turned down the offer. He figured that being a Captain was more trouble than it was worth. Having so much depend on you wasn't the kind of life he wanted to live. Although at this rate, he might not live too much longer anyways.

Please comment and give me as much feedback as possible. I love criticism because it tells me what I need to improve, so be as critical as you like.

 

Finally, I'm recruiting Pre-Readers. Please PM me if you're interested.

 

 

I'm not jealous you got Jojo to do Sterett. Nope. Not one bit. Not at all.

 

May have said before, but I like the direction. So far so good. Personally would like some more Sterett and Captain interactions but that's just me

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Thanks, Welly. Also, don't worry; There will be more Sterett and Captain in the future.

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Glad to see you get this up. Please keep at it!

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After far too long of a wait, here's the third chapter of An Enterprising Captain.  Please give me as much criticism as you can!  If you read it, leave me a review so that I can make the next chapter even better!

Chapter 1: http://academagia.invisionzone.com/index.php?/topic/3423-an-enterprising-captain/

Chapter 2: http://academagia.invisionzone.com/index.php?/topic/3423-an-enterprising-captain/&do=findComment&comment=51969

 

 

The engines were running steady, keeping USS Sterett at cruising speed.  Andrew Pollock monitored the valves and meters carefully, making sure everything ran smoothly.  Most would think it wasn't exciting work, but he enjoyed it.  Of course he had thought there would be much more action and heroism, so he was a little disappointed when he first signed up.  Back then, he had just graduated MIT with full honors.  He was even offered a job by the military in Research and Development.  The War and the Morgana threw a wrench in that career, though.  He wasn't going to just sit around with dusty old Lab coats when he could be on the front.  Being the optimistic boy that he was, Andrew had signed up for the Navy.  His first assignment wasn't on a combat deployment, but it was there that he saw the engine room of a warship.

 

He was deeply fascinated even now, as he watched the majesty of engineering.  Steam lines and pressure valves captured his interest, running a multi-thousand ton vessel faster than ever.  The sheer power of the steam was incredible.  He immediately learned all he could about them and got an engineering rating. His MIT background helped him work his way up and become the chief engineer of his very own ship.

 

Even despite his progress, he never imagined himself leading a salvage mission on the Morgana.  He thought back on it, but it seemed blurry.  He remembered getting the pieces off and the crippled enemy vessel collapsing under him, but the trip there and back were tough to remember.  Although, one detail seemed to stick out in his mind now that he thought about it.  He thought he saw a young woman on the Morgana vessel.  He didn't remember seeing one back then, but now that he was thinking about it, he seemed to remember one clearly.

 

In all his reminiscing, he hadn't realized that the engine room was surprisingly empty.  Only a couple of men were manning their stations.  He decided not to think too hard on it.  Since they were only cruising, as long as everything was monitored properly it would be fine.

 

He nodded to reassure himself.  They must all be sleeping.  We've just gotten out of a battle, after all.  Andrew confirmed in his head.  He smiled and looked over all the meters and gauges again.  His men deserved the rest.  Heck, after a battle like that, I should get a nap as well! He mused.  It suddenly occurred to him that the thought was odd, but he wasn't quite sure why.  Oh well, it didn't matter.  He went happily back to his monotonous work.

 

The hours seemed to pass like seconds.  As he looked around, less and less men were in the engine room each time.  The more men  disappeared, the more worried he became.  Now something was definitely not right.  Finally, nobody was left.  Just as he began to stand up, a hand grabbed his shoulder and he damn near jumped out of his pants.  He swiveled around as quickly as he could to find his engineer's mate with a concerned look on his face.

 

His mate, Michael, pulled back his arms defensively.  "Whoa, there.  Are you alright, Andy?" he asked.  "You've lost your usual smile, bud.  What's wrong?" he continued, the worry evident in his voice.  Andrew quickly looked around the room once more, trying to determine where his friend came from.  He decided he must have just dozed off and missed Michael's entrance.

 

He sighed.  "It's alright, Mikey.  You just surprised me is all.  I was wondering where all the crew went.  They were here a minute ago, and now they've gone and disappeared!" Andrew complained.  Michael quickly retorted, "Come on Andrew, what did I say about calling me Mikey?  Only pretty girls do that, and I hate to tell ya, but you're not that pretty.  Call me Mike or Michael." Andrew immediately blushed and apologized.  He forgot that too.  Michael always called him on it when he made that mistake.  "Anyways, the crew is all sleeping in their bunks.  We just had a good fight.  Don't you think they deserve it?" Michael assured him.

 

Andrew smiled contentedly.  He knew he was right about them sleeping.  Still though, he figured that there should be more of them here.  He couldn't be the only one manning the engine room.  He laughed halfheartedly and said.  "Yeah, of course.  As long as you and I are here, Mike, we shouldn't have a problem."  He turned once more to his dials and valves, getting back into his usual smiling demeanor.

 

Suddenly, he thought he heard a woman's voice.  He couldn't quite make out what it said.  He swiveled his head around to try to find the source, but he couldn't see it.  He also could no longer see his friend.  Andrew began to feel very alone in the engineering spaces.  It was quiet now, far too quiet.  Even the incessant rumble of the steam engines he had grown so accustomed to could not be heard.  The voice in his head spoke once more with an eerie, broken tone.

 

Bright boy.  Is he the one?  It said.  Was it talking about him?  He stood up, ready to bolt.  Something was horribly wrong.  He blinked, and as he opened his eyes once more, he found a lady standing on the catwalk where nothing had been earlier. She wore a short black dress that flickered like fire around the frayed edges.  Her torn clothes were matched by her slightly unruly short blonde hair.  Parts of her body were missing, but it didn't look like torn flesh.  The holes in her body made him think of the broken edges of a brittle machine.

 

What caught his eye however, was the small maroon top hat with a flower on the brim that sat neatly on her head.  It was the same as the one he found in the wreckage.  He has discovered secrets and secrets.  Bright boy wants to know more.  The thoughts ran through his head in the same broken, feminine voice.  "Who are you?" He asked, fearing he already knew the answer.

 

Her head tilted to the side in a sudden inhuman movement.  She is corruption.  But she is not corrupt.  She is not.  He took a step back, nearly tripping over his chair.  "What do you want?"  He asked cautiously.  She answered immediately.  It is for what he wants that I am here.  He wants to know.  He wants to know all.

 

Andrew did his best to stand up straight once more.  "I'm not afraid of you." He stated.  His voice was shakier than he had intended.  He continued, "We took pieces of you from the wreckage!  We'll study them and learn your weaknesses!"  Of all the responses he expected, laughter wasn't one of them.  The crackling broken laugh filled his head, then she responded confidently.  He has pieces.  If it was easy, the Human Crews and the Bright Belles would win.  They would already know us.  With pieces they can not know us.  With pieces they can not see us.  We are not weak.

 

The more he heard it, the more uncomfortable the voice made him.  They are flawed.  He is weak.  He does not know.  But he can know.  Well, not if he studies the broken pieces.  Andrew knew that she was probably right.  Several pieces had been captured before, but they had become dust before they ever reached a lab.  If it were as easy as he'd hoped, they probably wouldn't even need the hull fragments Sterett was currently carrying.  He decided to hear her out.  "You said I could learn more?"  He inquired, hoping to draw as much information from her as he could.

 

She stepped towards him in oddly graceful motions.  He did his best not to appear scared, standing tall against her.  She did not say learn.  She said know.  Bright boy can know more.  Bright boy can know our weakness.  A mess of emotions swam around in Andrew's head.  It was possible for him to learn the weakness of the Morgana!  He could complete their mission before they even reached Midway!  Intrigued, he demanded, "How?  Tell me how I can know!"

 

She cringed, as if he had hurt her ears.  Loud Boy, Bright Boy, let her in and she will tell him.  Let her in and she will show him.  That is how he will know.  Let her in?  Was she suggesting that he join her?  He knew he should probably turn her down, but maybe he could handle it.  Maybe, just maybe, he could get all her secrets.  He could know everything he needed to.  He took a deep breath.  It was worth the risk.

 

He spoke calmly, despite his apprehension, "Alright.  I want to know."  A creepy grin ran across her cheeks, sending shivers down his spine.  She took his chin in her hand and looked directly into his eyes.  He hadn't seen it before, but her eyes were piercing orbs of scarlet, digging into his.  He was certain they could see into his soul, and it frightened the heck out of him.  He began to regret his decision but it was far too late.

 

She spoke with glee, her voice smooth.  It was a stark contrast to the way she had sounded before.  "She takes bits and pieces of them and fixes herself.  She will tell them how they can be saved."

 

Andrew woke up in a cold sweat to find Micheal shaking him.  "Hey, bud.  You alright?  You looked like you were about to cry."  Andrew looked around to find himself in his bunk.  His head hurt a little, but he sat up and said "Yeah, I'm okay, Mike.  It was just a bad dream."  Michael was about to go back to his bunk when over the Public-Address System the voice of the Executive Officer calmly spoke.  "Ship spotted, she's one of ours.  All men to action stations."

 

------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

 

Captain Samuel Truxton made his way to the bridge from his cabin.  He'd only gotten a few hours of sleep.  As he approached, Jack handed him the binoculars.  He looked through them to see the familiar form of a single-stack US destroyer.  Her four 5" gun turrets had neutrality stripes painted on. The foremost line was white, followed by red and blue lines respectively.  They were identical to the stripes on Sterett's own turrets, signalling a belle of the United States Navy.

Sam handed the binoculars back to Jack and calmly ordered, "Ahead one-third.  Pull alongside."  Sterett smoothly decelerated as the friendly destroyer approached.  They slowed down as well, and soon the destroyers were sailing side by side barely 20 yards apart.  Sailors from Sterett threw lines to their ally, and once they were secured, the ships pulled a little closer.  On the railing of the other destroyer's bridge wings sat a rather cheerful looking girl waving excitedly at them.  

 

She had dark reddish short-cropped hair and a pretty jeweled headband with a single feather sticking up.  She wore a short pink blouse over a pink dress that ended right where her light blue stockings began.  On her upper arm there was a Naval Lieutenant Commander rank embroidered in gold.  She cupped her hands to her mouth and shouted; "Hello, Steadfast!  How are you?"

 

Sam nearly jumped out of his pants when Sterett's voice rang out clearly behind him.  "Don't call me that!  It's just Sterett and it always will be!" She shouted back to the friendly belle.  Sam whipped around to find himself face to face with the short, yet intimidating girl.  The rest of the bridge crew also seemed taken aback by her sudden appearance, save for Jack, who looked at Sam with an expression that read You're on your own.

 

He let out a tired sigh.  "Jeez, I thought we agreed you wouldn't do that anymore." He told her.

 

"And I told you to wake me if something happened." She responded sharply.  Sam put his hands up in defense.

 

"Alright, I'm sorry.  I just figured you could use a little more rest."  He pleaded.  "We don't seem to be in a battle right now."

 

She shot him another stern expression, but eased up.  "I think that properly receiving my sister is a sufficient reason to wake me."  She said.  "And anyways, talking to her can become a fierce battle in its own way."  Sam nodded and decided to make a mental note of that for next time.  As the ships pulled together, only a few feet apart, Sam and Sterett walked down to the main deck, where they found the cheery girl waiting for them.  Along with her was her captain, a tall dark-skinned man with quite the welcoming smile.

 

Samuel reached out and shook the Captain's hand.  "It's been a long time since we last worked together, Bob!" Sam said, welcoming his comrade.  "Where's the rest of your division?"

 

 Bob gave a short laugh.  "It sure has been, Sam.  We were operating off Bougainville when we heard your message to Midway.  The commodore decided to send whoever had the most fuel left.  It turns out that was us.  The rest gave us all the fuel they could and turned back for Port Moresby."

 

Sam grinned and said, "Isn't that swell!  You hear that, Sterett?  We have an escort now.  It almost makes me feel important!"  The comment seemed to disperse any remaining tension from Sterett.  She nodded in agreement.  Suddenly she was pulled into a very lively hug by the delighted redheaded belle.  Sterett struggled to break free from the apparently powerful grip.

 

The redheaded belle released Sterett and excitedly said, "It's wonderful isn't it!  We get to sail together again!"  Sterett took a second to catch her breath, then dusted herself off.  She stood up straight, softly cleared her throat, and said with a formal smile, "Yes, Benham, it is wonderful to sail and fight with you once more."

 

Benham's look dampened for just a moment, then quickly returned to a slightly playful smile.  "Why is everything about fighting with you, sis?  You should take some time off and have some fun!  Maybe dance a little." She said as she gave an energetic twirl.  She continued, "Maybe you'd like swing!  Sometimes that looks a bit like fighting.  I know I wouldn't mind swinging a little with your Captain.  He looks like a lotta fun."

 

Samuel chuckled as Sterett stepped in front of him.  "You can dance with your own Captain, Benham.  I'll dance with mine." Sterett responded firmly.  

 

"So you'll dance then?" Benham said quickly, catching Sterett's words.  "Oh I can't wait!  Bobby, get your guitar!" She continued, waving her hand at her Captain.  Sterett stood there for a moment, trying to figure out what just happened.  Sam took a mental photograph of the scene.  It was a rare moment when even Sterett was flustered.

 

It was not to last, as Sterett quickly regained her composure and stood up to her taller sister.  "No dancing!  No music!  We have a mission to complete.  Who knows what's lurking out there ready to catch us while we're prancing about and making merry?"  She shouted, stopping her sister.

 

Benham pouted.  "Alright fine, but we're gonna have a dance with the whole crew when you finish your delivery!"  Sterett looked like she was about to start lecturing her sister, but she backed down.  "I suppose... One dance couldn't hurt.  We can have one when we get to Midway." She conceded.  Benham was about to jump in but Sterett cut her off.  "And only once we make it to Midway."

 

Benham nodded happily.  "I'll hold you to it, Sis!" She confirmed.  Sterett let out a relieved sigh, clearly glad they had gotten that out of the way.  "Good.  Now, I'll take point." Sterett said.

 

That seemed to strike a small nerve with Benham.  "Not this time, Sis!" Benham replied.  "You're always so keen to be the first one in battle."

 

"Someone has to be ready to fight!" Sterett shot back.

"This time you're the important one!  You have your mission, and it's going to be pretty darn hard to escort you if you throw yourself to your death trying to defend me.  Let me look after you and be your older sister for once!"  Benham shouted angrily.

 

Sterett looked like she was about to burst.  "What does it matter if you're the older one!  I'm always the one who has to prote-"

 

"Stand down, Ladies!" Samuel interrupted.  He had to stop that before it got out of hand, at least, more out of hand than it already was.  Samuel laid his hand firmly on Sterett's shoulder, trying to calm her down.  Benham's Captain did the same with his Belle.  He continued, "We're the one with the cargo.  Bob, you take the lead.  Sterett, back to the bridge."  Sterett begrudgingly saluted and disappeared, presumably to correct the posture of each member of the unfortunate bridge crew.

Bob nodded in agreement and said, "That's alright with me.  Come on, Benham.  Let's get back to the ship and prepare."  As they returned their own ship, the sailors on Sterett prepared to release the lines and disconnect.  Sam, meanwhile, had bigger issues to attend to.  He felt sorry for the men he had just unleashed Sterett upon, including himself.

 

His sympathies were short lived as the General Quarters alarm blared.  Not far away, he heard the alarm sound on Benham as well as they began to pull away.  Sam ran back to the bridge to find Sterett already focused on the task at hand, seemingly having completely forgotten about her argument with Benham.  Samuel knew she hadn't forgotten, but he was glad she was otherwise occupied.

 

The other destroyer pulled pulled ahead of them in formation, making good speed.  Samuel watched them and quickly got himself into combat mindset as well.  "What are we looking at?"  He asked.  Jack responded quickly and efficiently, "There's a small group of enemies at bearing two-two-six, range 35,000 yards, confirmed by Benham, Sir.  Enemy force composition unknown.  Benham is making twenty-six knots towards Midway."

 

"Thanks, Jack.  Ahead two-thirds, stay with them."  Sam ordered.  It wouldn't do to get into another fight at this point.  They just needed to get away.  He was a little concerned about fuel usage.  They could get away if they made flank speed, but they would burn too much fuel to make it to Midway.  Even at full they probably didn't have enough range.  They'd just have to make what speed they could and hope the enemy didn't pursue.

 

Samuel addressed his Belle, "Sterett, do you know what we're up against?"

 

"I don't know yet, but they're closing fast." Sterett responded.  Sam gritted his teeth.  Since they were detected at 35,000 yards, it probably was a larger and hopefully slower ship.  They might have been able to outrun it, but at this point, it wasn't an option.  Fighting a larger ship probably wouldn't be easy either.

 

Samuel decided to he'd confer with Benham.  He was about to order a message sent to them when one of the young radiomen ran in and saluted hastily.  "Message from Benham, Skipper!" The radioman said.  "It says, 'Not enough fuel to escape, we will stand and fight.'" He relayed.

 

Samuel chuckled.  That solved that problem.  "Tell them 'Ditto.'  If we let someone else fight for us we wouldn't be the crew of Sterett, would we?" Sam gave his belle a quick smile, which she returned with fervor.  Clearly she appreciated the sentiment.  The radioman saluted and ran back to the radio room.  

 

With a slow turn to port, the tiny flotilla prepared to make their stand.

 

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As she prepared for battle, she realized she was nervous.  It wasn't the battle that made her worry.  She'd never lost a battle, and she hadn't met an enemy that could faze her.  What really worried her was her argument with her sister.  She was certain they'd make up after the battle.  Benham never could hold a grudge.  What if they couldn't make up, though?  What if one of them sank?  Even Sterett had to admit it was possible.  Nobody was invincible.  With how fast a destroyer could go down, it was likely they wouldn't even be able to call out their last goodbyes.

 

Sterett steeled her resolve, pushing away her anxiety.  The solution is simple. She told herself.  I just won't let either of us sink.  Sterett closed her eyes and concentrated as she felt the enemies getting closer.  She began to feel the essences radiating from them.  As she opened her eyes she could see their trademark Morgana mist enveloping them.  The purple-hued fog rolled in around them, bringing with it a sense of doom for all who were unprepared.  Sterett felt no sense of doom however, because she knew her crew had faced it many times before, and would no doubt stand firm this time as well.

 

The mist brought with it the unique powers of the Morgana, and Sterett could feel their names.  The strongest among them was Avarice, a light cruiser.  Sterett felt its incorporeal grasp, trying to lure everything to it.  She could almost hear an enticing song floating through the mist.  As she recognized Avarice she noted its companions.  Just two corruption class destroyers accompanied the light cruiser, so it was still a relatively small group of foes.  Avarice may be powerful, but they stood pretty even against the enemy destroyers.  It was an uphill battle for sure, but it could be won, and Sterett had faced far worse odds than this before.

 

She looked to her sister sailing ahead of her.  It was comforting to know that she'd be fighting with an ally, especially one so close.  She was happy to be fighting with her sister once more, even at the risk of- No, there was no reason to think that.  They were going to win the battle.  Just in case though, Sterett decided to give her crew a morale boost.  

 

It had been a while since she'd put on this form, and her bridge crew all knew it as they watched mechanical parts begin extend from her.  In her left hand, a small 5-inch mount appeared like an old pistol, and two quadruple torpedo tubes spawned from each side, revealing a powerful torpedo armament of 16 tubes, 8 of which her hull no longer carried.  Even so, it symbolized immense firepower packed into such a small ship, allowing her to take down foes far more massive than herself.

 

Her battle rigging wasn't as extensive as some, but she only ever put it on for a real fight.  It wasn't particularly useful in combat, but it made her look like a machine of war.  If the whole crew looks to you to keep them alive, it's important to look as invincible as possible.  When the bridge crew saw it, they all doubled down on the task at hand, each looking to do their job with just as much effort.  After all, a ship was only as good as it's crew.  Sterett was certain she had the best crew in the world.

 

It seemed the enemies knew it too.  Sterett could feel their malice directed at her.  As her crew stood fast at their stations, she stood strong on the bridge, awaiting the captain's orders.  She felt the range getting shorter.  25,000 yards, then 24,000, then 23,000.  As the distance grew smaller, the sensations from the Morgana grew stronger.  She could feel the greed building the closer she got to avarice.  It affected everyone differently.  For some it was a lust for wealth, others just wanted whatever was around them.  Sterett wanted to win.  As Avarice drew ever closer, Sterett's desire to be praised and rewarded grew in turn, bringing with it a longing for victory.

 

A thought occurred to her.  What does my Captain want?  She glanced at Samuel, who was looking dead ahead, his gaze fixed on the USS Benham.  He turned around suddenly to look at Sterett and their eyes locked for a second.  His warm coppery eyes soothed her and quelled her lust for victory.  She opened her fists, letting her hands relax.  She had been so focused on the enemy that she hadn't realized that they'd been clenched.  "What's the range, Sterett?" Samuel asked calmly.

 

Sterett thought back to the enemy, and was able to instantly sense the range once more.  Once she was certain, she replied, "They're almost 19,500 yards out, Captain."

 

"Good, prepare to launch port torpedoes." Samuel ordered.  The chief torpedo officer didn't even need to be told.  Sterett could tell by the anticipation of the torpedo crews that they had been ready before they were even called to action.  She let her senses drift throughout the ship and felt the same for the whole crew.  Even Thomas, sitting alone in the officer's berth, felt ready to get out and fight at a moment's notice, despite his punishment.  She wished he could be above her in the gun director, where he had served dutifully dozens of times, but she could not go back on her word, or the Captain’s.

 

The gun director was still full of activity, watching and waiting for the moment to unleash the power of the small warship.  She reached up to it and felt her radar mark the Morgana at 18,000 yards, around the maximum range of her guns.  It wouldn't be long before they opened fire.

 

Suddenly a large burst of water leaped into the air 1000 yards off the port bow.  The enemy was firing, and it looked like they were aiming for Benham.  A second volley fell short once more, and Sterett felt the mist get thicker.  It seeped through the air, bringing with it powerful emotion.

 

As the mist got thicker Sterett began to have trouble finding her foes.  She let her thoughts extend into the mist as another volley fell closer to Benham.  She reached towards the source of the mist, trying to find the enemy within.  Suddenly a song cut through the mist, and everyone on the bridge simultaneously looked in the direction of the Morgana.  Jack began to say something, but Sterett didn't hear it.

 

Within the song, Sterett heard a voice talking to her.  It was a deep, soothing voice.  It was beautiful, almost motherly, but it carried with it a feeling of evil desire.  It felt deceitful and treacherous despite the welcoming exterior.  Sterett, I've wanted to meet you for so long.

 

Another set of splashes appeared off the port beam, now closer to her than her sister.  Sterett didn't take notice.  "Unfortunately, Avarice, I can't say the same."

 

What a disappointment.  Would you at least be polite enough to introduce me to your captain?

 

"We've met your sisters, I'm sure you'll be just as unpleasant."

 

Wonderful, you're just like I heard you would be.  I can feel your crew.  They seem to like my little song.

 

Sterett felt anger welling up inside her as another salvo flew right over her and splashed off the starboard quarter.  It was shortly followed by two smaller salvos aimed at Benham.  "This is my only warning, my crew will not fall for your tricks.  If you hurt even one of them, I promise you'll be under the surface within three minutes."

 

This time the response came with a hint of anger.  There's no need to make threats.  I can feel them resisting me.  I hear they even stood strong against Treason.  The anger she felt from Avarice transformed into an overwhelming pull of greed.  I will enjoy every second of their fragile lives in my collection.

 

Sterett forced the rudder hard starboard and the ship tipped fiercely.  Every man on the bridge crew who wasn't holding on to something fell flat on their ass.  A volley of splashes rose from the water where they would have been if Sterett didn't turn.  "When you get to the bottom, you can give Treason my regards."

 

Sterett turned to Samuel, who was sitting on the floor looking surprised.  She gave him a fierce grin and reported, "They're at 10,000 yards, Captain, and begging for a response."  Samuel Stood up quickly and brushed himself off, then returned the grin.  

 

"What are you waiting for?  Give them one!" He ordered.  The bridge lit up as all four of Sterett's 5" guns barked their reply.  Now that they were close enough, Sterett watched the first salvo straddle one of the enemy destroyers.  She heard a crack in the distance as her sister opened up as well on the second Morgana destroyer.

 

She looked ahead to her sister and watched Benham's torpedoes jump into the water, racing towards their foes.  Before she knew it, Sterett's guns fired once more, and she watched The shots converge to within feet of each other as they struck Corruption's bow.  There was a flash as the shells detonated, and she saw the glow of a fire lighting up the enemy destroyer.

 

A riposte came from the guns of the enemy cruiser, shells splashing between Sterett and Benham as they sailed in line.  "Direct hits on Corruption, Captain!" Jack reported.  Without hesitation, Samuel gave the order, "Fire at will!"

 

Sterett felt the elation in the gun director, and the second the guns were loaded, they were fired.  Shell after shell impacted with the enemy destroyer until it was burning from stem to stern.  Their burning target began to slow down and pull away from the others, but Avarice kept up a fearsome barrage of fire at Sterett.

 

As Avarice's shots fell around them, Sterett kept up her maneuvering.  At every missed shot she could feel the aura of desire permeating the Morgana’s mist grow.  She could almost feel the anger carried in every Morgana shell.  Even though they missed, each shot fell closer than the last, and for her crew, Sterett knew she had to end it quickly.

 

With one Corruption burning and out of the fight, there were only two enemies left.  One was the second destroyer that Benham was firing at.  She could see that Benham's target had suffered damage to the stern, and Benham was keeping her under heavy fire.  She once more looked to Samuel and saw that he was thinking the same thing.

 

Their next target was Avarice.  Sterett shifted her aim, and her radar found the range.  As she elevated the guns she felt a sudden rush of adrenaline from one of her AA crews.  She reached her thoughts to them and saw enemy torpedoes racing towards them!  "Torpedoes off the port bow!"  She hastily shouted.

 

Sam ran to the bridge wing to get a better look and shouted back "Rudder Twenty-five degrees to port!"  Sterett felt her rudder shift over and the ship lean hard to starboard as they turned.  Benham seemed to see the torpedoes as well, and turned hard to starboard, putting her on a course away from the enemies.

 

Sterett watched as the torpedo trails passed within yards of her.  They must have been fired by the enemy destroyers around the same time Benham launched her own.  As if right on cue, there was a bright flash off the starboard bow as one of Benham's torpedoes found its mark on the second enemy destroyer.

 

The Corruption class destroyer was lifted out of the water, and a disjointed scream rang out through the mist as it cracked in half.  Sterett felt the morale of her crew bolster as the enemy began to sink.  A shout rang up from the bridge.

 

Suddenly the shout ceased as a blinding flash illuminated the bridge, and a loud bang seemed to knock everyone off their feet.  As Sterett regained her senses she felt an emptiness above her and a searing pain in her left eye.  She looked around and saw light streaming in through holes in the ceiling, and several of the bridge windows blasted out.

 

She could no longer feel the crewmen in the gun director, but she felt the pain of her crew in the bridge.  Blood was spattered on the walls of the bridge, and she could see drops falling through one of the holes in the ceiling.  She felt someone grab her shoulders and try to help her stand.

 

A shout brought her back to reality.  "Sterett!"  Her captain's voice rang loud and clear, and cut through the shock of the impact.   Sterett quickly stood up and saw the rest of the bridge crew do the same.  Samuel's voice called out once more. "Who's seriously injured?"  Jack was the first to stand up.

 

Despite the fact that he was bleeding heavily from his right arm, he replied "I'm fine captain, it's just a scratch."  Next the helmsman stood up with light scratches and a torn uniform, but nothing serious.  The chief torpedo officer had a wound on the back of his neck that was bleeding, but he refused to see the ship's medic.

 

Most of the bridge crew had minor cuts, but there was no real injury.  Sterett was glad that the one who had come to the least harm was her captain, because he was out on the port wing, furthest from the blast.  "Keep making evasive maneuvers!" Samuel ordered.  The helmsman got to work immediately, as another volley of light cruiser shells fell around the ship, splashing the bow with water.

 

Sterett was furious.  The men in the director were all excellent sailors and men, and more importantly members of her crew.  Samuel spoke once more, softly to her, instead of to the crew.  "Sterett, you're missing an eye.  How do you feel?"  He asked, concern heavy in his voice.

 

She grimaced and replied, "I'm having trouble finding the range, Captain."  Samuel let out deep breath and chuckled with relief.  "Captain, she has three minutes."  Sterett said sternly.  His expression hardened and he looked out the shattered bridge windows at their opponent, gleefully firing away at them.

 

"All guns, manual control!  Rudder hard starboard, prepare for torpedo attack!"  Samuel ordered.  Jack repeated the order throughout the ship.  Sterett immediately felt each of her guns rotate individually, barking at their own pace.  The ship once more leaned over in a hard turn, bringing them to face Avarice and then pull parallel to her.  Avarice seemed surprised at the suicidal maneuver and her shots showed it, splashing far past Sterett.

 

Gun 2 barked faster than the others, keeping up a blistering rate of fire.  Sterett could feel the heat from their gun barrel, and it was one of their shells that struck home first, exploding amidships on Avarice.  She heard them report the range to the rest of the gun crews over the radio.

 

With the range confirmed, the chief torpedo officer immediately plotted an attack and radioed the solution to his crew.  As soon as they locked it in the first fish left the tube, shortly followed by the second.  As the torpedoes slid into the water, the gun crew kept up a rapid assault on the enemy cruiser, blasting away her bridge structure.

 

It was only so long until Avarice's surprise wore off.  As the last torpedo left its tube, Sterett felt a burning pain in her left side as three Morgana shells slammed into her.  The first one blasted an anti-aircraft mount to pieces along with the men on it.  The second exploded at the base of her stack, destroying a lifeboat and causing minor damage to her, but no serious injury.  The last one exploded at the base of gun number 4, starting a fire.

 

Sterett felt every single man in her crew doing their part.  Anyone who wasn't firing guns or working on the engines was fighting the fire or helping the ship's doctor with wounded and dead.  Her chief torpedo officer ran down to turret 4 and began to carry men from the debris.  Since she was out of torpedoes, she felt every man in the torpedo crews helping with damage control.

 

Sterett felt Avarice lining up another shot now that she had found the range.  She braced herself for another impact, but suddenly the forward gun turret of avarice exploded!  Shots began to rain in on Avarice from ahead and Sterett looked over to see Benham keeping up a high rate of fire on their last foe.

 

Samuel saw the opportunity and ordered hard starboard once more, turning away from their opponent and presenting the smallest silhouette.  Sterett kept her composure and walked to the bridge wing as they began to zigzag once more.  She looked out over the stern watching Avarice infuriate herself trying to keep fire on Sterett as she was bombarded by Benham.  Less than a minute later, two large explosions wracked Avarice's waterline.

 

Almost immediately, a massive detonation blew Avarice out of the water.  When the huge cloud of fire and smoke had lifted, Sterett could see that only the Morgana's bow remained above the waterline.  In mere seconds that too slipped beneath the waves.  Sterett decided the battle was over and dismissed her rigging.  She then turned around to find herself facing her Captain.  "Two minutes and forty-six seconds." He said, disappointed as he glanced at his watch.  "I think we're getting rusty."

 

"Thank you." was all she managed to say before he walked back into the bridge.  She immediately climbed the port side ladder to the gun director.  When she got to the top, she could see that the mast behind it was in shambles.  The radar had also been hit, and the recognition lights were a tangled mess.  It explained her loss of ranging ability.

 

That was nothing compared to the gun director. The starboard side had a 3-foot hole in it, and everything inside had been reduced to a shredded mess.  She felt a spike of hatred once more at Avarice as two AA crewmen ran past her and began removing the bodies, piece by piece.  She turned aft and looked out over her once pristine hull.  

 

She could see a hole in the deck where her AA crew had been, a couple yards aft of the port torpedo tubes.  There was no longer anything there, as if they had disappeared without a trace.  There was still a small fire burning inside gun 4, but she could see one brave crewman with a hose, who seemed to have gotten the fire under control.

 

Yet more men were removing bodies from the turret and the area around it.  Several injured ones were being carried out on stretchers.  She reached out her thoughts once more to feel the injured.  She knew every man in her crew, and she had no response from 26 of them.  Another 14 were heavily wounded and might not survive until tomorrow, and 33 more had suffered minor scrapes and shrapnel.  Jack in particular was no longer on the bridge.  She felt him in the Med bay helping the doctor, despite his own injury.

 

As she felt through the crew, she noticed something off.  It was the same feeling she got when Andrew returned from the salvage mission two days ago.  This time though, it was more prominent, more powerful.  It couldn't be ignored.  Sterett concentrated, and instantly moved to the deck.  She appeared just in front of the door to the engine room.  A surprised sailor almost ran into her, but she ignored him.

 

The door to the engine spaces slammed open, and she felt a Morgana staring her in the face!  That was impossible.  A Morgana could never enter the ship, unless, maybe when she was dazed after the first hit, their power might have seeped in.  She steeled herself for a foe, but all she could see was young Andrew, looking confused and staring straight at her.  She sighed and eased up.  She must have been imagining things.  He opened his mouth and said Too bright for his own good.  Sterett reached for her sword.

 

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Samuel watched the ship pull close to Benham through the shattered bridge windows.  He knew in a second he would have to go out and see the damage, but for now he and the skeleton crew remaining on the bridge concentrated on meeting up with their ally.  A cry of "Man overboard!" broke the concentration, and he ran outside.  He felt the ship jolt and slow down, and noticed that they hadn't started to turn yet.  He was worried for Sterett, did the battle shock her so much that she didn't turn around immediately for the lost man?

 

That would be impossible. He thought.  They'd been in worse situations before and he'd never seen her flinch.  "Sterett, we have to come back around for him!" Sam shouted back to the bridge, just in case.  He felt a sense of relief as the ship began a slow turn to search for the lost man.

 

Sam wondered momentarily who had been knocked overboard.  A hysterical crewman ran up the steps to the bridge and Samuel stopped him.  "Who was it?" Sam asked.  The man took a few deep breaths and replied "There were two.  I didn't see the man, but one of the crew  tackled Sterett, and they both went over!"  Samuel's eye's widened in surprise.  He ran back into the bridge to see the helmsman turning the ship, confirming his worries.

 

 Samuel rushed past the sailor and ran down onto the deck, leaning out over the railing to try to catch a glimpse of Sterett and whoever had gone with her.  After two minutes of searching someone shouted "I see him off the port quarter!  It's Pollock!"  The ship came around again, and someone threw a line out with a life preserver.  Andrew grabbed on and they pulled him in and back onto the the deck.  One of the men who had been working with the doctor ran over and began checking on Andrew as he climbed aboard.

 

Jack ran up to Sam and told him "Sir, we can't stick around and search anymore."

 

Samuel shook his head.  "We've got to find her, Jack!  She's a part of the crew, just like anyone else!"

 

"Sir, we're low on fuel after that fight, we're damaged, and we've got a lot of wounded.  I don't think we'll even make it to Midway."  Jack reported.  "Even worse, it looks like everything has reverted."

 

Samuel paused, unsure of what to make of his exec's report.  "What do you mean, reverted?"

 

"I mean everything has gone back to how it was three years ago, before Sterett."

 

Samuel didn't even realize that he'd fallen on his ass.  He sat there for a minute, contemplating.  Did this mean that Sterett was gone?  Did she die?  Impossible, she wouldn't die from just falling in the water.  Could she?  He'd heard of belles sinking with the ship, but never of a belle being lost.  He was pulled back to reality by Jack, shaking his shoulder.  "Sir, we need orders."

 

Samuel stood up shakily.  "Yes, yes Jack.  You're right."  His voice shook, but he knew what he had to do for the crew.  He looked around at them, suddenly realizing there was a large gathering around him, and even the chief torpedo officer was standing next to Andrew, looking at him expectantly.  "Jack, meet up with Benham, make for Midway.  It's our best shot now.  And..." He hesitated, unsure of what the crew would think.  "Jack, you're in command of the ship.  I'm unfit for duty."

 

There was a sudden uproar from the crowd, all of them surprised at the loss of Sterett and the transfer of command.  Samuel couldn't make any of the voices out, but he saw Jack doing his level best to calm everyone down.  Suddenly, out of the corner of his eye, he saw Andrew reaching towards the distracted torpedo officer.  Without thinking Samuel tackled Jack and stole his service pistol!

 

He stood up, aiming it at Andrew, who in turn had stolen the torpedo officer's gun and was aiming it at him.  He barely noticed the absurdity of the standoff he was now in.  The crowd had gone eerily silent as they watched the two face off.  Samuel broke the silence.  "Why are you doing this?  You know she'll cut you to ribbons!" Sam said, forgetting that the belle was gone.  The response came from an oddly disjointed voice.  They are too loud, too bright.  They are doomed.

 

Samuel shook off his surprise at the response, not taking his eyes off his absurd crewman. "Who are you?  What do you want?"  He asked.  They are lost, they are broken.   She is not broken.  She watches them dance across the sea, blinding, bright, unfortunate.  Samuel was dumbfounded.  "You're a Morgana."  He guessed.  He realized what Sterett would do to Andrew.  There was no saving the boy, but he also realized he had no idea what the boy could do.  

 

Andrew was a danger to the crew.  Samuel had to shoot, but it was still a crewman.  After they had just lost so many, Samuel didn't know if he could pull the trigger on another.  Andrew began to speak once more, and the disjointed voice clawed at Sam's ears. The Captains and their Belles are broken.  They are corrupt.  She will sink them together.

 

Samuel squeezed the trigger, but couldn't bring himself to fire.  He let the gun fall to his side, and closed his eyes.  A single gunshot rang out across the deck of the broken destroyer.

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