Mogami

Aka clutched the hearthstone medallion in her palm and held it close, she looked down at her guns which were quivering with fear. She gazed back out to the horizon and saw the ships off in the distance bearing the American Stars and Stripes upon their flag masts. She prayed they did not see her, she prayed they moved on, she furled her Japanese colors and left up the pure white flag to signal surrender. She also kept up signals that read peace and exemption from service. She prayed over and over again, watching for any signals from them. She was nearing Japanese homeland waters, she recently broke off from her mother, Mogami, and her fleet with reserve fuel tanks filled with her milk. While she was two years old and already weened off breast feeding, it was found that breastmilk was a more efficient way of feeding Aka. Her guns were barely five inches, not eight like her mother’s, she had no training on them but how to load, aim, and fire. No drills. No practice. No confidence. It was 1943 and the tables were leveling out, America was fighting back-and winning. Thus leaving poor Aka alone and vulnerable. Aka watched the ships closely, waiting for lamp flashes to call her, her heart sank when she saw flashes. These flashes weren’t from lamps however, these were gun flashes. Quickly she prayed it was at another warship, one she didn’t see or notice around her. But it was just herself against them. As the screaming shell noises passed overhead she shook. And as the massive plumes of water shot to the sky far off target, overshooting her, she wept and cried for help. On every radio channel she cried, she cried for help and mercy, begged to be left alone, but when another volley came closer she knew there would be no such thing. She loaded her guns and turned to fight. It was her, a child, against two of the most elite of the largest war machine in the world. She knew she would not float. She screamed as her guns roared in desperation, her shot group was terrible, and absolutely none of her shells even came within a mile of the two opposing her. The next barrage struck her, shearing, jarring, ripping pain hit her and she screamed again, tears pouring from her eyes. She felt water pouring into her and while she was water tight she couldn’t take much of this fire. She fired back with the same results. She cried for her mother when she watched the dozens of gun muzzles flare with bright fire. She screamed as the multiple sized ammunition sunk its way deep into her fragile hull and exploded. Her engines stopped working but she kept on, pushing and clawing and kicking her way as fast as she could away from them, they were faster and had longer, more accurate guns. She pleaded for her mother. But as she was continuously struck, repeatedly bashed, and tortured, all the while calling for her mother, the only thing Mogami could do was scream back.

“AKA!” Mogami was shaking and trembling, her whole entity shook so ferociously with such intensity she knocked her sailors to the deck, she actually had to fight to turn around and run for her daughter, she threatened her own crew, those she loved, for fighting back against it. She screamed and hollered like a demon to be let free on the monsters attacking her blessed child. Her captain ordered the crew to prevent her from breaking off, they knew she could not help her daughter, too much sea to cover, and all she would do was sink, too. They didn’t see the point in wasting two ships. But Mogami did, she hated every single one of them for their actions. She roared like a hell beast, and as she heard her daughter dying she damned ever member of her crew individually by name. She physically abused a few she could reach, many knew how to fight back and free themselves from her mechanical clutches and helped others out before she killed them. Mogami was literally seeing blood as she popped vessels in her eyes, she threatened to detonate her ammo storages if they didn’t let her go. The captain called her bluff and it worked. “AKA! MOMA’S COMING, BABY!”

“MOMA!” She wailed in pain, her stern was blown clean off, she had no propellers anymore and was bleeding oil, milk, and blood in the blue ocean. Her vision was fading in and out, she looked back at the hearthstone once more while she still could, it had a polished silver outline in the shape of the Emperor’s crest and in the center was a pinkish-red gem, engraved in it was her mother’s name and birthdate: MOGAMI 14.03.34 she watched as her world faded away and turned dark with that hearthstone being the only thing in her memory. “Moma.”

“AKA! AKAAAA!” Mogami continued trembling like a possessed creature until the next day, crying and screaming and hollering for her daughter’s voice to return. Not a single soul missed her screams, not one person slept that night, everyone everywhere in that fleet heard her calls. No one would be surprised if the Americans that sank Aka heard, too. “AKA! AKA! MY BABY! AKA!” She disrespected her crew, damned them to the worst pits of hell regularly, occasionally she’d spit on her commanding officer when she had the chance, she would regularly try to kill her officers or sabotage anything she could. She made sure that life was a living hell for her crew at all times. She hated every single one of them, she hoped they burned! She would pray for their deaths aloud so all could hear her. It got so bad that the highest echelon of command heard of it and made plans to transfer crews to protect them. But every day she looked at her hearthstone, the one matching Aka’s, it had Aka’s name and birthday on it. Mogami would give anything in existence for her daughter back. Absolutely anything. Her honor, her dignity, her pride, her service, her sex, her engine, her guns, her fuel, her life, even her soul. She would give her soul to the devil in a heartbeat if he even mentions bringing her daughter back. She wouldn’t hesitate to give everything for her daughter back.

The absolute and unrelenting hatred she had for her crew and officers persisted with her to the bottom when she was eventually sunk by scuttling. She had done a lot in her life but she was still a failure, as with many Japanese military designs of the era too much was asked for so little, and in order to make these demands many of Japan’s numerous warring weapons had many flaws, Mogami was no exception. Though the failures built in to her she cared little about, she could overcome them, no her failure was in Aka, Mogami knew she should have been there, but wasn’t. And while Mogami certainly felt an enormous amount of guilt the death of her daughter was more affiliated with anger and hate against the ones who prevented her from being with Aka. And as time went on while lodged in the seabed she didn’t waiver in these feelings but neither side grew in strength. When she sank and when she was found she had the same feelings. So when lights swirled around her and she heard the voices of men she felt that fury build up and remembered her crew. Bastards, all.

“Mogami,” a man started when the various cables were attached to her, he went on about who they were, who sent them, and why they were there. When offered to be raised she stoped them and said she needed closure, first, “closure on what, ma’am?”

“My daughter Aka, sank by America, about 1943.” The whole crew in the ship so far above her were all puzzled, there was no record Aka existed above the surface, the only evidence was Aka herself and Mogami’s hearthstone, both on the bottom.

“Aka?” The fact that nobody knew of Aka set off Mogami, her daughter was so little in the eyes of her superiors they didn’t even care that she existed. Mogami’s vision went to blood as she scolded and screamed at the crew and her own superiors, eventually she calmed down enough to give them the last known location of her daughter, Aka had given it to Mogami when she spotted the two American ships in hopes to learn they were Japanese. From there she dismissed the ship above her, told them she would not reciprocate until she learned of Aka’s fate.

The crew searched hundreds of Japanese records for an Aka cruiser and found none, but in Mogami’s records they did find the reports of complaints by the crew and officers, and included in an investigation file was the reason Mogami turned so hostile. The record did mention that Mogami suffered a ‘tragic loss’ of some sorts and she blamed the crew. So her story was holding up to a degree, but Mogami said that Aka was sunk by Americans, who kept very reliable records, and when they asked to see these records they were denied. The specific records of the two ships possibly in the area, a Cleveland cruiser and a North Hampton cruiser, were classified for that whole week. Determined to find out some of the crew tracked down the surviving crew members of those ships who did share their stories. All of them lined up perfectly. The two American ships sank a very small cruiser that looked to be a Mogami class, the ship bore a flag of surrender and peaceful signals, but in fear of a Japanese Navy version of surrender-surprise-attacks the Japanese Army conducted the officers ordered fire on the cruiser. Their radars said the ship was close but being so small the gunners trusted the full size measurement and thus overshot. The cruiser’s capacity to return fire was pathetic, they couldn’t believe that was a Japanese ship. And as they learned later, it was a small child ship they sank, they heard the cries on the radio. The eerie and bone shaking screams of a child crying for her mother. That is why the records were classified.

The explorers gained some coordinates of the child and the two American ships when Aka sunk from a Quarter Master; the endeavor was etched entirely into his memory when he heard the screams, so strange. They hurriedly explored the shallow waters with sonar-that’s how shallow it was-and a unique contact was found. Upon further diver investigation they found her, they found Aka. All attempts to contact her failed, and instruments read flatline. Aka was dead. A photographer snapped a photo of her hand, clenched in it was the hearthstone Mogami gave her. The team was in shock, disbelief, how could this happen? The remnants of Aka told a painful and brutal death, one that was prolonged and painful. Her stern a few meters from her rear gun turret was sheared off but most of her machinery remained intact. Various additions that used to be there by obvious mounting points was missing, later they learned that they stored toys, extra fuel and milk, a navigation book, and numerous flares. Her hull was missing whole external section of the bulge, outer hull sections, she had tons of indents and ruptures. Everywhere you turned there was evidence of pain and brutality. Their investigation was complete, they had the horrible truth to tell, and that’s what they said to Mogami, the truth.

Mogami’s deepest and strongest ethers of hope were crushed, her small flame was doused, her worst nightmares, deepest fears, and the truth she’d known for decades was true. There is no other way to describe her but crushed.

The team asked if she would be raised now. She simply said no, defeated, destroyed, and desolate of any life. She saw no more reason to live, nothing was left for her, no motivation, no aspirations, nothing. She began to let go as tears welted and bled into the seawater, she felt herself grow numb before losing all sense in her furthest portions of her body. A creeping blackness began encroaching on her as she slowly died off, the dive team’s instruments read this, they were astounded by the readings, she was dying right before their eyes! Quickly they began recording absolutely everything they could measure and record, from body temperature to the color of the metal. One person rushed up and asked her one last thing, they asked what her final request was.

“I just want to hold my baby one more time.” But she knew she couldn’t. “Moma’s coming, baby.”

She died shortly after. The whole process of her death lasted about seven minutes, just shy of it. The team was heartbroken. They reported their findings to the Japanese representative, Japan got back to them that they had no other interests at the moment, and wished the explorative team good luck in raising the first living ship. Some of the divers recommended ships in the Bikini atoll, many of them were still in good condition and well charted, it wouldn’t be an excellent example of deep sea recovery but it would be at least a demonstration. So while contacts and orders were made some of the team told the survivors of the two American ships the fate of both Mogami and Aka. It was a heart wrenching truth. Many of the crews took full responsibility and shame for it, and soon they put a notion forth to have Aka moved to be with her mother, resting together. It would cost millions but moving a ship from shallow waters to deep waters isn’t unheard of, and is commonplace. So the crews set up funding accounts and fund raisers and Japan even chipped in to have its shores cleaned up. So the team eventually had the funds to move Aka next to Mogami. All of Aka’s remains were picked up and moved, everything they could find nearby her was moved above Mogami and lowered down gently next to Mogami. Mogami’s hull listed about thirteen degrees to starboard in the sand with her bow wedges deep into the muck, so the crew had to gently move Aka around the far protruding mast and angle her under it, snuggly next to her mother. Once that was completed they placed an ornate plaque that read their names, birthdays, and death days. And one noticed that in Mogami’s hand clenched to the base of her conning tower was evidence of her hearthstone medallion. There were some pictures taken, some prayers read, and a ceremony finished for them. At long last Mogami was reunited with her beloved daughter, Aka. The wreck locations were classified, nothing was published, everything about them was kept on the down low so they may Rest In Peace.

Years later the team revisits the wreck with a wreath from Hisashi and Yamato to find the two just as they left them except that their hands are clasped together, and in the hand that bind them together are their hearthstones, together again.

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