Sinku's fleet was almost fully repaired and ready for action again. The Fury had a new flight deck with better armor plating underneath to protect against shell fire and turret three had been lowered back into place after repair only days before. Planes began to land on the ship again now that she was free floating and out of the drydock. These pilots had big shoes to fill since most were new and had a lot to learn about the inner workings of the fleet along with learning the secret of it's commanders. On Sinku's request he received SBD Dauntless dive bombers instead of the newer Helldivers due to crew preference and reliability. The compliment of Avengers stayed the same but instead of Corsairs, they were given Grumman Hellcats to replace the lost Corsairs and allow VMF 214 to receive the Corsairs to fill their numbers back to full. Sinku and Ohka retained their customized planes and all the new ones received the standard black paint job with the fleet emblem emblazoned on the sides and wings hiding the fact that they were American save for the design and navy stars on the tails.
Repairs on Mushashi were almost complete as well but she remained in drydock as repairs were finished on numerous torpedo damaged locations. Atlantia was once again the proud battlecruiser she had been turned into and the Tirpitz and Admiral Hipper gleamed with fresh paint jobs. Sinku smiled at the sight of his small but powerful fleet coming back to life and looked forward to their next engagement. Repairs had been slowed by daily air raids by the Japs but they did little damage fortunately. A few older Battleships had been added to Sinku's complement of ships brining him up to five battleships of varying age, class and country of origin, two battlecruisers, several heavy and light cruisers, and close to twenty destryoers also of varying age and class, along with the four carriers counting Fury , and Mushashi Sinku realized he actually had as powerful of a fleet if not more so that Halsey did but Halsey had more fast fleet carriers whereas Sinku only had two full sized fleet carrier, one light carrier, and a battleship carrier hybrid.
Bridge of the Fury several days later.
Sinku was running his flagship through seatrials again to make sure the repairs were complete when a message came in over the radio.
" Sir, orders direct from Nimitz."
" Rumors confirmed, New enemy ships do exist and are running loose in the pacific. Halsey had to retreat to save his fleet despite best efforts to sink the enemy fleet. Do what you have to to assist his retreat. Halsey will make for your base at best possible speed. Suggest deploying to intercept and escort the rest of the way. Use extreme caution as these ships have longer gun ranges and carrier support."
" So they did build those monsters. This war is about to get really really difficult on the navy side. " Sinku said to himself with a sigh
" Sir what did that message mean? what rumors and what kind of ships would send Halsey running?"
" Son you know how big that Jap prize ship we have it right? They have ships bigger than that one out there with even bigger guns."
The sailors around the bridge could see Sinku's uneasiness and could tell he was serious.
" What shall we do sir?"
" Signal the fleet. Upon our return ready every ship for combat. We leave in a couple days to intercept Halsey and provide escort back here. Fury and a few ships will continue north to scout out the situation and hopefully get more intel on those monsters without actually getting into a fight with them. Fury is a fine ship and a strong one, but we can't handle that kind of firepower in a straight gun fight.
A few days later.
Sinku's fleet had mobilized save to then Musashi due to the hull not being fully sea worthy yet but Sinku had left instructions to move her into the harbor in case any American Carriers or Battleships needed the largest drydock.
" Sir scout planes say they have spotted the fleet about forty miles ahead of us.
" Masts on the horizon sir!"
Sinku walked out onto the bridgewing and picked up a pairr of binoculars." Alright boys keep an eye put for any other sightings. Signal the Destroyers to spread out and watch for Submarines.
Several hours later
The two fleets finally met and Sinku was surprised some of the American ships were still floating. The carriers had bomb hits along their decks that had miraculously not set off any secondary explosions, the battleships were shot to hell and some of the hits were obviously from the new Japanese ships. The fleet as a whole was ragged and nearly broken. Halsey came over to the Fury on a launch from the Enterprise.
Sinku saluted his superior when he entered the cabin
" At ease and right now I should be saluting you first Walker. Quite the interesting fleet you have assembled. Kinda strange seeing some of those ships here. I heard about your tangle with the Yamato and her sister ship last year. That most have been a hell of a fight."
" Yes it was Sir. We were lucky to get out of the without loosing any ships." Sinku patted the wall of his room." This old girl just won't quit sometimes."
Halsey chuckled." I like the enthusiasm. Hate to break it but I don't think the old Pennsylvania will survive direct combat with those monsters that are out there now. I think this ship may be out matched."
" I agree whole heartedly Sir. I don't think even the Musashi and this ship working together would do much good. If the rumors are true, we would need every ship we have here and maybe then some to handle a fleet centered around those leviathans. How did you manage to escape?"
" Luck. A storm rolled in at just the right time to allow us to make a break for it. Last we saw of that fleet, they were headed towards the home islands or some point north of were we ran into them. No clue. For all we know they were skirting the storm and heading for point east like Pearl."
" God help us if that happens. We won't be able to catch them in time if they have that kind of lead on us" Sinku said with a nod and a shudder at the thought of the damage the Jap fleet could rain down on Pearl without ever even coming within sight of the islands. " My fleet will provide escort for you back to our base at San Cristobal as you have been informed. I'm taking a part of my fleet on north for recon to see what we can find out since right now seems like my raider fleet is all that we have in the area with full fighting strength."
Halsey nodded." Sounds good to me. How many are you taking with you Walker?"
" The Fury, Hermes, Tirpitz, Atlantia, Scorpio, Pisces, Draco, Houston, Perth, and Leo. I leave the remaining ships under your command until I get back. Use them as you see fit but I have a feeling your main focus will be repairing your fleet. The Musashi will be moved out of the largest drydock so your carriers can begin repairs. You may suspend work on her so long as she can remain afloat. If not then continue the work on her because we will need that ship if we want to stand a chance."
" Sounds like an awfully small fleet to do recon with the chance of running into those ships but being that it is small maybe the Japs won't notice you poking around. And I don't think I'll be sending out any sorties unless i have to but I appreciate the use of your fleet. We may be on the same side but your fleet operates by a different set of rules and thus makes it under your sole command. I will keep them safe."
Sinku nodded." Thank you Bill. i look forward to seeing you on my return and hope our fleets get to ride together at some point in the future."
" Good hunting Walker."
Both men Saluted each other and Halsey left Sinku's cabin heading back to his battered flagship so the wounded fleet could move on to San Cristobal.
The Fleets separated with only the ships Sinku had named continuing on North.
Over the next few days, Sinku's small fleet combed the seas all the way up to Leyte Gulf and oddly enough ran into no enemy planes or ships of any kind. Sinku was greatly bothered by this and sensed a trap." All ships abandon search pattern and regroup. This doesn't feel right and I want to get out of here." The word was passed around and soon after, the search fleet had formed back up and were headed home again.
Sinku's senses had been right. Had they continued North merely another six hours, Sinku would have run smack into the Jap fleet he was hunting. How his search planes and those of the Japanese had not found each other's fleets it may never be known.
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