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The Improbable Captain - A Victory Belles Story


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Chapter 2:

Chapter 3

Chapter 4


The Improbable Captain
Chapter One: Tiger Cruise

To the east of Hawaii
August 31, 1939, 7pm Hawaii Time (sunset)

There you are, Dory!” The familiar lilting voice came from behind me and sounded more than a little winded. Perhaps even a bit exasperated, although it was hard to tell through the heavy breathing. “I’d almost run out of open areas of the ship to look, you know. If this place hadn’t panned out, I was going to go hat in hand to Commander Simmons to have him sweep his Holy of Holies for you!”

I swiveled my head to look back at the approaching brunette, a view which was quickly obscured by strands of strawberry blonde hair brushing my face in the wind as it crossed the bow of the USS Pensacola. I’d been avoiding the bow for just this reason…well that and the abominable weather, but the tailwind this evening was brisk enough that the effect of the wind on my long hair was tolerable as long as I faced forward.

And the view was definitely worth the trouble.

“I promised Simmons I wouldn’t sneak into engineering again without a babysitter, Ginny.” I turned to face forward again and let the wind clear my face as the comely younger woman came up alongside me to lean up against the rail. “It was a dumb thing for me to have done, anyway. I thought I told you that.”

“Well, I was running out of options. I didn’t think you liked the bow with that ridiculously long hair of yours and your aversion to binding it down.”

I just shrugged since I was guilty as charged. “The view is worth it. Isn’t that the most incredible sunset you’ve ever seen?” The orange sun looked to be just touching the ocean when a swell would bring the ship up and the brilliant orb would once again be riding high. Moments later we’d hit the trough and Apollo’s Chariot would vanish from view only to bob up again with the next swell like a child’s ball in a bathtub.

I could imagine the two destroyers alongside us on each side, USS Cassin and USS Downes, were being treated to an even greater effect given how the smaller ships were rolling with the seas. During the rough weather the past few days I’d come to appreciate the benefits of boat size on the ocean. I wondered what being on a battleship must be like.

My dear friend turned her green eyes to the horizon before us. “Red sky at night, sailor’s delight?” she quoted an old saying about tomorrow’s weather.

It certainly sounded hopeful.

“We’ll see,” I allowed with skepticism. “The weather up to today has been atrocious, you know. I won’t hold my breath.” We paused our chat as the ship once again peaked and we were treated to yet another sunset. “Anyway, why have you been scouring the ship for me? Mildred have another bee in her bonnet that I have to exterminate with severe prejudice?”

Ginny’s soprano sounded so sweet when she giggled. “Something like that. You know how bad Alice has had it ever since we left San Diego? Well it seems she’s gone dry. Poor little Eddy is bawling which is setting off all the other infants. The crew complained and…well…”

“Mildred doesn’t want to be bothered by such trivialities as her duties as Captain’s wife on a tiger cruise so she ordered me to deal with it.”

“Pretty much sums it up,” the smaller girl admitted with a sigh. “Dory, why do you let her push you around like this? She’s been doing it ever since we gathered together to board the ship. Yeah, she’s Captain Miller’s wife and all, but don’t you, like, outrank her or something?”

It was my turn to chuckle. “You think so? Oh no. House member or no, I’m a Republican. From podunk California and a woman, no less. No Ginny, I avoid the War Department like the plague. If I showed any sign of trying to influence the Navy, both my career and Doug’s would be sunk.” I sighed as we both let a moment pass for the sun to finally dip below the waves – for good this time. “I knew when I ran for my father’s office that it would make Doug’s life harder, but he still gave me his blessing. When we decided for me to join you all for the move to Hawaii, I expected Mildred would take the chance to Lord it over me…see if she could bring me down. Her daddy’s Assistant Secretary of the Navy, after all; a good Democrat who would love nothing better than to take me down several notches. Captain Miller isn’t too fond of Doug either, ship’s XO or no. This was a trap for us, but I intend to show them we’re not such easy prey.”

“I guess being in politics and all isn’t as glamorous as it looks.”

“It has its perks,” I defended with a wan smile. “But you always have to watch your back.”

For some reason Ginny grinned, but I didn’t have to wait long for the reason to be apparent as she reached behind me and pinched my derrier through the pants I’d insisted on wearing during the cruise rather than have men peeking up my skirt as I climbed ladders; a feat I performed with great regularity when the weather permitted even if it irked old man Miller.

“At least your backside is a might prettier to look at than most of those fat old men you work with in Washington.”

I decided there was really no answer to that comment other than the blush I knew I must be showing from the heat I felt in my cheeks. Ginny was always outrageously flirtatious with me, in private of course. It brought back memories of college and…well never mind that.

“Shall we go down and see what we can do for poor Alice and her little Eddy?” I asked into the awkward silence now between us. “He’s three month’s now, isn’t he? It will take some work, I suppose, but he should be weanable. Wanna help me whip up some mashed peas in the mess?”

As the two of us turned to make our way below decks again, I noted something which would change all our lives forever. You must forgive me my naiveté at the time as it was the first sunset I’d ever viewed away from land.

Isn’t the sunset supposed to be orange and then fade off? Why has it suddenly turned green? Is that a deep sea thing?


I don’t know how to describe it, but the “feel” of the ship radically changed in just the half hour it took to attend to Alice and her little boy. Not only did the crew suddenly seem restless and men were scampering to and fro, calling out for us women to make way, but even the bulkheads of Pensacola herself seemed…anxious?




I couldn’t quite find the right word since the emotions often seemed to conflict with each other.

And since when did cold steel feel alive?

Just as we’d settled little Eddy down with some mashed peas in his tiny belly, an announcement came overhead. It was my husband’s voice. “All crew to your duty stations. Repeat, all crew to duty stations. Families, please remain in your berths until further notice.”

A simple statement.

To the point.

Clearly not relevant to me.

I hadn’t made it to the halls of government as a woman in this world by being well-behaved. Knowing Mildred wouldn’t lift a finger for her charges, I quickly did a circuit of the berths assigned to the families to ensure all was well…and that they knew to stay put. I placed Ginny in charge of ensuring everyone else behaved before turning to head topside to see what the fuss was about.

As usual, sweet little Ginny managed to fire her own broadside at me before I could get away. She slipped an arm around my waist and kissed me on the cheek before whispering in my ear, “Be careful, you hear?” She then swatted me on the rear to launch me forward on my way.

Damn that impertinent girl!



The world was green.

And not the verdant green of the California redwoods I love so much. No, this was the green of illness. A putrid, corrupt miasma. It didn’t exactly smell, but it managed to fill the nostrils nonetheless…not to mention everything else. The air felt thick. Moving through it felt like running your hands in thirty weight, leaving you feeling oily in its wake. Even though all objective evidence suggested there really was no resistance.

And above all, the atmosphere of dread covered everything. The only thing that didn’t feel like death was…

Well, the ship herself. Every time I touched a bulkhead I felt…


Tossing the strange and confusing feelings aside, I ran back to the aft tripod mainmast. I knew the conning tower would be abuzz with activity, but the rearmost tower was almost deserted except for a warrant officer and some crew ready to sight for the rear turrets.

During the cruise I’d used all my extensive skills of persuasion to win over the warrant and petty officers. Doug had told me before we left that it was they who really ran the ship. He and the other officers were just there to look pretty (and yes, my husband is quite attractive in that uniform of his!). The crew was all quite smitten with me by now. A shame none of them lived in my district.

It was clear that they were anxious as they watched me climb up to the maintop, but they kept their silence. It may have helped that I seemed to be the most positive person around, even managing to smile encouragingly to each man individually as I made my way higher. I wondered why that was the case, that I could feel so confident. But as long as my hands were grasping the ship I felt, despite mounting evidence to the contrary, that somehow everything would turn out alright.

The view has changed so much since this afternoon.

True, the sun had set and night was fast approaching, but that was the least of the changes. Green mist was all that could be seen in any direction. All three ships had struck most of their lights, but from Pensacola I could still visualize the superstructure of Cassin and Downes sailing close by to each side – likely as close as was deemed nautically safe. But even those few lights came to my eyes as that putrid green of the air around me. Beyond those lights was…nothing.

No, not nothing.


Maybe 30 degrees to starboard, as Doug would say. Ahead and to the right of us, on the Downes side.

“What the Hell is that…” I muttered, I thought just to myself.

“Not Hell, Captain,” a young female voice sounded near my left ear. “Desolation. You best get to the bridge, Ma’am. She's coming.”

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I chose Pensacola on purpose specifically because I am betting she won't be a Belle in the game...at least initially. Gives me more flexibility. Downes and Cassin too I'm hoping are lacking Belles in the game.


I should also note that Pensacola really DID emigrate from California to Hawaii in late 1939, although it was in early October. I moved it up to coincide with the arrival of the Morganna. Note also that I chose the time carefully. I was lucky that sunset near Hawaii on Aug 31 is pretty much the exact moment Germany crossed the border into Poland on Sept 1. For once, time zones worked in my favor!


So Captains, whatcha think of the start of my little project? :unsure:

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I think it's a great story so far! A stickler for historical accuracy, I must admit I'm not an immediate fan of female sailors in the story. I can let is slide as I read it though, if the story is well written enough, and so far I want to read more!

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I am totally historically accurate. There is not a single female sailor on board. All the women and their children are families. Note the title of the chapter- TIGER CRUISE. :P

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Sounds pretty good so far. I will say I half expected the Doctor (from Doctor Who) XP but I like it

Although it occurs: what pensacola said. "Not hell. Desolation." Is there a Morgana named for Hell? and if so, just how strong it she? And Desolation for that matter! That's a big word! Deeper than asphyxiation, than corruption...how dangerous could Desolation truly be? I look forward to finding out.


Another thing I like, which has been teased in the fanfiction thread: A Belle chooses her captain. it was not explicitly stated, to my knowledge, that the captains had to captain a ship or be soldiers. They could just as easily be a random civilian in the right place at the right time who the Belle sees strong qualities in. Just someone the belle knows she can trust and follow. So good on Yuri for that one.

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"They could just as easily be a random civilian in the right place at the right time who the Belle sees strong qualities in."


...exactly right. :)


Are we getting a hint about the story? :)


Also, great start to a tale, by the way :D.

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Oh no- that's just a role-playing mechanic, so you can choose your Captain.


In the future we *may* have Backgrounds, but that's not for '39, and most of those would be military.

I know if I chose my captain background it would be military. No sense in wasting good potential.

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I'm just an old fanfic writer who is obsessive about staying within canon. I've scoured everything that's publicly available from the Kickstarter, tumblr, and here and have woven a story from that foundation. It is pretty suggestive that if ships can choose captains from any nation, that they'd also be open to any occupation. I mean if an American ship can choose a Soviet captain, what's that lack of rank insignia gonna matter?


I know if I chose my captain background it would be military. No sense in wasting good potential.


Given I'm female and like to write what I know, I have certain limitations that require me to think outside the uniform in Sept, 1939. :P

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I'm just an old fanfic writer who is obsessive about staying within canon.

Haha, that's perfect! It's one of my biggest pet peeves when a writer or game master takes a well-established world and messes with the canon because "they can write what they want in their story"! I know it's their story, but really if you want a different setting and system then make a different setting and system. If your readers are reading a story from a canon, it's probably because they liked that canon and changing it to suit your personal fantasies will get you nowhere good.


That's my two cents anyway.

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I try to do that myself with my stories. That's why I stalled on my story I was making in my free time. I can talk more about it in the fanfic thread

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This has really gotten me pumped up to start writing fanfic... But first I have to work on the thing for Nel's officer training school, then I have to write up on the histories of 3 ships. I think I may be biting off a bit more than I can chew. I'll do what I can!

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The Improbable Captain
Chapter Two: Pensacola


To the east of Hawaii
August 31, 1939, 8pm Hawaii Time (evening twilight)

It’s a little known fact that there is no railing along the maintop of the USS Pensacola. There’s only a single coffee-toned rope which serves more for ornamentation than actually preventing a girl from plunging to her injury or death on the cold, gray-painted steel plates below.

It hadn’t been my intention to personally demonstrate this inconvenient truth, but then again it hadn’t been my plan to be one of the first captains to meet a Belle either.

I remember the voice. It was lovely, reminiscent of angels laughing; the most beautiful tone to grace my ears in thirty five years on this Earth. I remember turning to face it even as I jumped back in surprise from the unexpected sound. I remember tripping over the sheet and being flipped upside down by my momentum. I remember falling head first and wondering how the crew was going to explain to Doug why they let me get my fool ass killed when I was supposed to be holed up in my berth.

What I don’t remember is hitting bottom.

Instead I found myself in a woman’s strong arms, looking up into the loveliest eyes I’d ever seen, deep ginger pools which made my soul sing. A smooth face the color of the rich flesh of my beloved redwood trees, unblemished by nature or cosmetics, framed those magnificent orbs. Raven-black hair caressed her round cheeks and luscious full lips as each ebony strand cascaded down behind her shoulders, held back by what appeared to be leather straps and feathers.

“Wh…who are you?” I asked the apparition above me. I was only vaguely aware of anxious hollering from above. I couldn’t break my attention from this woman’s eyes.

I visited Paris once with my daddy as a little girl. This woman’s smile belonged on the paintings adorning The Louvre. A smile fit for Aphrodite or Helen. “I’m Pensacola.” The smile turned to a frown. “And you’re in danger, Captain, as are all the humans on this and the other ships.” She kept talking even as she gently set me down to stand again, now atop the third turret of the cruiser. The action served to break the spell, somewhat at least, which had frozen my mind in that first instant falling into those delightful eyes. “Introductions later. We have only moments left before Desolation opens fire. Your orders, Ma’am?”

“Captain?” I parroted dumbly in my confusion and wonder. My stupor was broken by the bright flash and thunderous sound of explosions to my left. I turned by reflex to confront a sight that still fills my nightmares. The USS Downes, her superstructure ablaze aft of her second smokestack as splintered steel flew in all directions from the gaping hole which had been her boathouse moments earlier.

Orange and red flames roiled and licked the sky, blending with the green mist to form a perverse yellow halo above the inferno engulfing the stern of the hapless ship. Once again I owed my life to this strange girl who, quick as a thought, interposed her body between mine and the carnage, preventing with only her lithe form a piece of jagged shrapnel as big as my leg cutting me in half.

By rights the scorched, glowing-hot metal should have torn us both to shreds, but she knocked it aside as if it were a twig leaving only a resounding “ping” hanging in the air.

“What…what are you?” It was all too much to take in, yet the events demanded I break out of my confusion and take charge of myself even if nothing around me made sense. I didn’t even know where to start.

“I’m a Belle,” the girl said tersely, clearly exasperated with me. “I’m the spirit of this ship and the yat'siminoli made manifest. You’re my captain. And THAT,” she added, pointing with her left hand to emphasize the discoloration in the distance beyond the Downes which was quickly taking the form of another warship, “is going to be the death of all of us if YOU,” now her right index finger poked straight into my chest pressing my brassiere against the skin between my twin peaks, “do not get your act together.” After the barest moment she added, “Sir.”

Those eyes which had been so affectionate…even loving…moments before now bore into me, demanding action.

Looking away from this impossible woman, my eyes fixed on the approaching warship silhouetted now by the angry glow of the burning Downes, which already was falling behind, as much as by the fading light of the waning sunset. It had all happened in seconds, and the men around me were only now starting to respond to the events.

I can’t say how I knew, but at that moment it all clicked. The emotions I’d felt from the bulkheads. The reassurance I felt when facing the mist despite the pervasive dread all around me. Looking once again into Pensacola’s eyes, pupils glowing in the dancing light of the flaming destroyer just astern of us, somehow I knew…something.

I had no words for it but it would have to suffice. There was no time. The rest would come later.

“Can you, um, carry me to the conning tower, Pensacola?” I asked with what must have been the silliest, most sheepish smile ever. “I…uh…don’t know how to get down from here.”


It may have hurt my pride being carried around like a child in the slim arms of a girl who looked maybe two-thirds my age at best, but she was right that moments counted. In the time it took us to make our way to the base of the conning tower, another shell had hit our little task force. This uncomfortably close round blasted one of Pensacola’s own seaplanes to sizzling bits but, miraculously, caused little additional damage.

“It’ll take more than a hit from a Morgana pea-shooter to faze me, Captain,” had been her curt response when I expressed my concern at the impact. “Still we lost two good men to that hit. And that useless imbecile of a ranking officer your Navy saddled me with is going to get the rest killed in short order if you don’t muzzle him.” Those beautiful eyes were now smoldering with rage.

“This Desolation is aiming for us, isn’t it, Pensacola?” I asked the question as the apparition’s slim arms deposited me on the deck just inside the conning tower hatch. Men looked at us in stunned wonder as together we made our way briskly up ladders and down corridors toward the navigation bridge.

I did my best to smile encouragingly to every man I came across, and noticed when I glanced back that Pensacola was doing the same. It may have been my imagination, but it seemed the men stood straighter and moved more determinedly after we passed them.

“Yes, Ma’am, she is aiming for us. The Downes was just in the way.” The venom in those words was palpable. “And she’s just playing with us or those would be armor piercing and not high explosive shells right now.”

“Pensacola, can you increase the speed of the ship yourself? Without the crew doing it?”

She grinned like a kid told she could have whatever she wanted in a candy store. “I can to the extent that I have steam available.”

“How fast?”

“Maybe twenty-two knots.”

“And what are we doing now?”


“Do it,” I gave my first order to Pensacola as I tried to visualize the actors in the game on a map in my head. “Put distance between us and the destroyers but also try and draw this Desolation away from them, so turn 30 degrees to port as soon as we clear Cassin and then slowly arc to 45 degrees as we put more distance between us and the destroyers.”

“That bastard on my bridge won’t like it, but I’m happy to oblige, Ma’am.”

“Can you fire your guns?”

“I could if they were loaded, but I need the crew to load them.”


“Same, I’m afraid. My launchers are empty and secured. What armaments I have are stowed in the magazines. But be warned, I don’t have much on board since your Navy didn’t think I needed anything for a simple cruise from California to Hawaii. In any case, I need human beings to load them before I can use them.”

“Then we need to persuade the crew to our cause.”

“Isn’t that your strong suit, Captain?” Once again, affection entered Pensacola’s smile.

“I suppose,” I grimaced, letting my doubt show. “But I’m generally not trying to persuade people while ducking high explosive shells.”

“Well, here’s your chance to expand your repertoire, Ma’am,” Pensacola exhorted me with optimism I didn’t feel just as we reached our destination.

The bridge.

All that stood between me and destiny was a steel door.

“Don’t they shoot mutineers?” I asked the door, knowing now that wherever I faced in the hallway I was still directing the question at Pensacola.

Pensacola, the girl, just shrugged silently but the gleam in her eye shone brighter.

“Well,” I sighed, “I know several Democrats who will be happy to join the firing squad. Shouldn’t keep them waiting…”


“Downes reports they can still make eight knots and that most of the fires are out near machinery or the magazines.”

“The good news is that we’re fitted for a Tiger Cruise, so the magazines were mostly empty anyway,” a voice very familiar to me responded to the crewman who had spotted the blinkers from the wounded ship. “The bad news,” my husband added in a decidedly sourer note, “is that we’re fitted for a Tiger Cruise and our magazines are mostly empty.”

“They still have their torpedoes, Commander!” a gravelly voice I found much less appealing boomed in response. “We’re up against an enemy we know nothing about that has opened fire without provocation. We can’t get any signals out of this mist, it seems. It’s imperative that the Pensacola get the word out. Like I said before, we’ll order the Cassin and Downes to commence torpedo runs against the enemy so we can escape the fog to get the word out.”

“Captain, you saw what one shot did to the Downes. It’s suicide! There are families on those ships!”

“Mr Stirling,” Captain Miller’s face was red and his engorged nose looked like it might explode, “your continued insubordination is noted. Either follow my orders or get off my bridge! And helm, why the Hell are we increasing speed and turning about! I gave no such orders.”

The poor helmsman looked about in tears as he tried to get the ship to do his bidding. “But sir…she won’t respond!”

They talk about the “heat of the moment.” I could feel the burning hatred from Pensacola toward the man giving orders as a palpable force. By now, my presence had been recognised by my husband, and I could sense his own desire to flatten his Captain warring with duty and his confusion as to why the Hell I was on the bridge. In fact, others were noting my presence too. An awkward silence filled the room.

I suppose there’s a reason I went into politics.

“Captain Miller,” I spoke as evenly as possible, “you’re an ass. Speaking for the families on all the ships and for Pensacola herself,” my eyes darted to my left to see the elegant brown-skinned woman nod, “I order you off the bridge. Pensacola, muzzle the blowhard. Try not to injure him…too much.”

“Yes Ma’am!” The girl looked so frail, but after being saved by her twice and carted across the ship in her arms, I knew she was much more than she appeared. In a moment she stood before Captain Miller. “Please resist,” she grinned dangerously.

“Dory, what is the meaning of this? Who is…”

My husband’s words were cut off as Captain Miller resisted. “Ooof…” the older man groaned and doubled over on the floor after a quick punch in the gut.


“Oh, he’ll be fine,” the girl assured me cheerfully. “I’ve wanted to do that ever since the little prick walked on board. And for the record, he does have a little…”


“But he does!”

And this is helping me gain the confidence of the crew how?

“Dory! What the Hell is going on here!”

“Doug, I don’t have time to explain. That thing out there, it’s called Desolation and it has a lot more firepower than anything you’ve dealt with. This here,” I indicated the young Native girl standing over the Captain who remained in fetal position, “is Pensacola. Yes, Pensacola. Doug, just trust me. She’s this ship given form. I watched her bat aside flying shrapnel like it was a cheerleader’s baton. And she’s the reason why the helm won’t respond. I’ve given her orders to draw Desolation out away from the destroyers. They’re helpless, but with Pensacola we have a fighting chance.”

My husband looked back and forth between me, Pensacola, and his captain who was just now beginning to unfold himself and try to rise. I knew the look on my lover’s face – duty conflicting with what he knew was right.

You want to believe me, I can see it. It’s now or never, dear.

“Pensacola, finish the turn to 45 degrees as we discussed.”

“Yes ma’am,” the girl responded and I could feel the ship heave over again.

“She’s nowhere near the helm and yet she can steer the ship, Doug. She’s a little slip of a thing and yet she just sucker punched the blowhard. Either believe me or get out of our way. I’m assuming command of Pensacola and I don’t care what Navy regs say about it. We’re not sacrificing families just because someone isn’t ready to die yet.” I glanced down at the captain as he pushed himself off the floor and scowled.

I looked around the bridge, making eye contact with every man there. “Pensacola needs the help of each and every one of you to build up full steam and to load the turrets and torpedo tubes. And Doug,” I looked the man I married straight in the eye as I continued; “I need your expertise. Pensacola can’t do it without the crew. I can’t do it without you. Support me and we’ll get the civilians out of here safely. Support him,” I indicated with my head toward the now standing man with four wide stripes on his cuff, “and women and children die.”

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Please write more, Dr. I love the dialogue. Your descriptions are a little full of prose, but other than that I really like it. Also the prose is good, even if it is a little excessive.

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I want to thank Fifrein for his assistance with editing. It's always good to have a second set of eyes on a manuscript and his are fit for an eagle. If you like the "ping" sound as Pensacola batted aside the shrapnel, you can thank him for the sound effect. :-)

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