Women were allowed into the Navy, that much was true. However it was the most gender restrictive military branch. That was especially true in war time. The Admiralty made up its mind that the fairer sex would be a distraction at best. Thus women, human or otherwise, were not permitted to serve on ships.
However, that left a very large loophole. Many sailors started taking up affairs and relationships with marine mamono such as mermaids. The Admiralty looked the other way in that regard. If they honestly tried to crack down on every seaman with a Merrow ‘friend’ then there would be no Navy.
That loophole also helped the Navy and was even encouraged in one regard. The exception was for a tactic in times of war called Commerce Raiding.
Submarines were still a very new invention but were invaluable assets for hitting supply ships and striking at coastal targets. If you had a wife with more experience in water than walking then the sub commanders wanted you!
JOIN THE UNDER-FLEET…
AND BRING YOUR WIFE!
The U-Fleet headquarters at Sister Sushi’s landing housed half the fleet of submarines. UFHQ was where Navy recruits took their wives and learned Morse code. After passing the classes, the couple would be assigned as Sub Curriers. The Husband’s role was inside the watertight confides. His wife was always on the outside.
The way this system works is simple. The Captain gives a message to the Male SC to send to another sub. The MSC taps out the message to his female counterpart. She acknowledges and then personally delivers the message to another female SC. The message is then tapped out for that sub’s male SC and he relays the message to his Captain.
I thought it sounded like a difficult job but in practice this wasn’t so bad. My name is Richter Bright. My job is to tap the metal wall of this underwater coffin every time I want to talk to my wife. See that glowing face with the warm amethyst eyes out there beyond the small port hole, out in the darkness? That’s my better half, Grete Bright.
We met on a fishing trip two summers ago. The both of us hit it off pretty well after she destroyed my uncle’s yacht and dragged me into the warm tropical waters. She had such a charm to her personality that uncle couldn’t stay mad at her…
Especially since his wife and my Grete were thick as thieves together.
About three months ago, a Navy officer showed up at the door of our seaside cottage. His warm smile and matching golden eyes looked more suited for a salesman than for an officer. My attention was pulled from the man himself and placed square on the draft notice he was holding. I think my legs turned to jelly as the realization slowly dawned on me. I would be leaving Grete alone to go fight in some bloody muddy trench for King and Country.
But the Lieutenant said he had another option and asked if he could come in. I nodded and showed him to our living room. Most people think living rooms are usually dry. Yes, usually. Ours was a remodeled boat launch. It made things more comfortable for Grete and I with easy access to the open water. The officer looked as if he was right at home walking into the water that was at shin level. Once settled, he set a paper down in front of me. An order from the Office of the Lord of the Admiralty to enlist marine couples for communications.
It was common for men and their Raiju wives to work in the Signal Corps so the idea wasn’t so odd. If we were doing communication work for the Navy then I wouldn’t be in the thick of the fighting and risk making my beloved a widow.
“Not quite.” The Lieutenant interrupted. “The work, such as it is, entails being stationed on a combat vessel. You can expect to see action either way.”
Grete held my hand so firmly and a few tentacles wrapped around my waist, not willing to let go. “I don’t want him to be dragged off to get shot in the Army.” This was a new side to her I had never seen before. Her voice was always so calm, tender and easy going. But now… It was strong and adamant and she wasn’t going to back down.
The Lieutenant remained calm even as Grete glared amethyst daggers into his lungs. “He isn’t going to the frontlines of the Army, not if I have anything to say about it.” Somehow his voice was reassuring to me and my wife, though her hold didn’t slacken any. Quite the silver tongued Incubus, I’ll give him that.
“Now, Mister Bright.” He spoke as he changed the flow of the conversation. “Would you say, sir, that you are a patriot that loves his country, almost as much as his wife?”
“Y-yeah, we are proud to live in the Kingdom and grateful to His Majesty for serving the country so well.” I was more than a little thrown off by his question and I could hear it in my voice. The Incubus Navy officer didn’t seem to notice though.
The Lieutenant’s face went from the calm and friendly expression that he had used to reassure us and turned very serious. “Then in the name of His Majesty the King and Country, what I am about to tell you doesn’t leave this room. Understood?”
Me and my Kraken wife, we looked at each other and then both eagerly nodded to the Incubus like excited school children. He spent the next hour explaining the secret program to build ships that could travel underwater. These ‘submarines’ as he called them, needed a way to communicate with each other while underwater. So certain couples like us were needed for that task.
Considering the other alternative, we gladly accepted.
A few knocks came on the glass as Grete brought back a response from CR-15. I grabbed a pencil and stationary to began writing out her message.
To: Commodore Phrazzer
From: Captain Donavan
Orders understood though delaying course changes.
Received message from CR-13 FSC
CR-13 reports that her quarry has made course changes to 115 degrees South.
Navigator expects contact tomorrow at 1100 hours with heading adjustment to 273 degrees.
Awaiting further orders.
After finishing the message, I read it back in my mind to make sure everything sounded right. I wasn’t sure what to make of Captain Donavan’s response. I added a note at the bottom asking if the message was correct and held it up to the porthole. I could see Grete look it over and she soon tapped out that it was right.
Phrazzer needed to see this. I stood up and spoke into the coms tube. “Comm Room to Bridge. Commodore, CR-15 made contact with Captain Stockhausen. Looks like we might have a good opportunity coming our way.”
A familiar old voice came over the tube seconds later. “Bridge to Comm Room. Hold tight, I’m coming back there. Out.”
The Commodore had rushed to my station. The patrol had been quiet for two weeks and the silver haired Phrazzer could hardly contain his excitement when he asked to see the message. “This is it, Bright!” The Phrazzer exclaimed. “Send word to the other subs: Prepare to surface and cuddle.” And as quickly as he had appeared, the Senior Captain of the Commerce Raiders had disappeared.
Within an hour, all seven of the subs in our group were on the surface and pulled up beside each other. A procedure like that was only allowed at night to keep the Under-Fleet a secret. All Captains, XOs, and Curriers had met aboard the Flag-Sub with Commodore Phrazzer to go over the information provided by the Currier from CR-13.
“At this time, CR-13 is tracking a convoy of fifteen enemy merchant ships. At about 0430 today, the ships changed their course and were moving South bound for this region. The convoy is composed of 15 ships. They are lightly armed and should be easy prey.”
“How did Stockhausen determine they would be easy to ambush?” Asked Captain Godfrey of CR-3. “They have been shaken up by the recent attacks in the North. Captain Stockhausen believes the convoy is moving into the Southern Seas because they are quiet and tranquil.”
Even without a full moon, I could tell Captain Godfrey was satisfied with that answer. The Northern shipping lanes were a hotbed of mysterious attacks on commerce vessels in the last two months. Ships or their remains would be found with no sign of their crews. Many blamed mermaids and Kraken for the attacks but that simply wasn’t the case. The submarines were actively raiding in the North and never left anyone behind who could tell the enemy about their attackers.
The South by contrast was calm. Our little flotilla of subs was the first to begin patrolling this region and that meant no mysterious attacks. So it made sense for the enemy to send ships down South. They were hoping for an easier trip.
“We cannot afford to pass up this golden opportunity.” Commander Phrazzer declared. “Our seven subs plus Stockhausen’s will be more than enough to take on 15 unsuspecting merchant vessels. We will split into two groups of four and squeeze them from the front and rear just as we did in the Emerald Straight.”
He looked to his Curriers in the water. “Ladies, go let all your girlfriends know they can expect a big batch of suitors tomorrow at noon!” With that there erupted a mix of squeals and giggling fits from the eight ladies swimming in the warm tropical water. “We are the most successful wing men on the high seas!” Proclaimed one of the Executive Officers and all the men cheered at that.
So now that the plan was set, the subs each cast off one after the other. The seven crews wouldn’t be going back to the sub-pens empty handed. Everyone had been afraid of returning without striking at a single ship but tomorrow would make up for two weeks of no victories. Then once we made port, Grete and I could enjoy some long awaited shore leave.
Pride of the King’s Navy, we go forth unto the seas!