Lens of History (33)

STEC Archives, Auditory Recording Division
Curator signature: Tautog
Format: Audio Tape
Object: Excerpt of Interview Segment with Maury on the Real News Hour
Location (if known): STEC Archives
Time (if known): [UNKNOWN]

A: Now that the dust have settled a bit, I’ve got many historically astute listeners connecting the Abyssal War and the events of World War II. What’s your take on this?

M: I think overall, the comparison is fairly appropriate.

A: How so and in what sense? And, by the way, folks. If y’all’s interested in asking Maury a question, call our dedicated live line where things’ll be business as usual. Our staff’ll take care of it from here.

M: Shipgirls may have contributed greatly to the war, but in order to support the shipgirls’ operations, we – STEC – had to have everything else in order. These include logistical bases, reserves in materiel, support elements and craft, technology, and above all else, the manpower that was required to effectively operate all of the above. The Abyssal War was highly unconventional in many of its aspects, but it does not alter the fundamental nature of conflict. 

A: Manpower, huh. 

M : The ubiquitous presence of fairies in STEC can easily obscure the challenges STEC face when it came to manpower. In the same way as the wartime navy had to meet the challenge of rapidly recruiting, training, equipping, transporting, assigning, measuring, graduating, and ordering new men to ships, squadrons, or bases, STEC had the additional barrier of being (at least at first) entirely at the mercy of nature when it comes to the numbers game. 

A: Right. Yeah, okay. I do remember now. I was reading Admiral Yin’s book the other day – haven’t gotten through it yet but he did mention that at first getting enough fairies was also a big challenge, right?

M: I think a better way to put it is that the number of fairies that join our efforts is not something we can just “crank up.” There’s no recruitment drive or conscription, for instance. (Laughs) No “the Draft” equivalent which is what Congress seems to be earnestly discussing now. 

A: But the good thing is that they’re great at their jobs, right? 

M: Great is an understatement. Chester calls them the ultimate anti-abyssal lifeform, but I think that description is pretty good. Basically, I think you need to see it to understand what I mean. Even now, years after the Abyssal war, the fairies (those who remain active, anyhow) are still going about their daily business with the same gusto as their first appearance. I think it’s this single-minded laser focus that can really throw people off.

A: How so?

M: Hmm, let me put it this way. In America, there is a strong tradition of the citizen-soldier. Even the most ardent American military professional – the career soldier, if you want to use such an unrefined term – values his family greatly and sees that as a link to his civilian identity. Soldiers are citizens first, with a strong emphasis of the impermanence of the military life. While you serve you’re the model soldier – consummate, professional, loyal and dedicated to the Constitution and the United States of America. But that is only a part of your identity. 

Fairies make no such distinctions. They don’t plan to “return home” or to “retire with honor.” In a way they’re also like us shipgirls – after all, we’re here to fight the Abyssals, right? (Laughs) Now that the Abyssals are gone, we’re going to have to think hard about what we’re gonna do next.

A: Well, ah, no doubt you’ve heard many a grateful “thank you for your service” coming from the rest of us. I wonder if the fairies get thanked too. Hmm, maybe I’ll try to talk to one the next time I visit. Just, ah, you know. As you said before, I’m not sure if they have any sense of identity like we do. Not to mention, I don’t think they can understand us, right?

M: It would be negligent to think that fairies lack identities. They just tend to define themselves in much more broad (“American”) or abstract (“I’m with Maury”) terms.

A: Oh? How so?

M: Mm, the former is one that is largely observable via anecdotes and informal experimentation – with few exceptions it seems that most fairies have a notable preference for items or cultural traditions from their “native” cultures. When I went with Mike to Devonport, for instance, my fairies lived off of Hershey Kisses and SPAM rather than the local cuisine.  

A: I thought they didn’t need to eat?

M: Needing to eat and enjoying eating are two wholly separate things. (Laughs)

A: Ah, okay. 

M: Insofar as my own observations go, I know my fairies do separate themselves into distinctive “social groups” – that’s a term the researchers use to better identify how we can get the fairies to work better with us. 

First, you have what I call the “veteran core.” These are fairies that have been with me since I stepped onto the soils of Virginia from way back. I’d say in fact they’re the only “unique” group of individuals because their numbers can’t really be replenished, if that makes sense. Throughout the Abyssal War, due to their accumulated experience, they’re easily the best that I’ve got and you can actually see a lot of them taking on leadership responsibilities voluntarily. 

Visually speaking, they’re a bit more decorated, looks a bit older, and generally carries themselves a bit more calmly. Fairies are fairies. They will still get excited over a lot of things. They’re also a bit slower with newer pieces of equipment that we introduce. I suppose that’s the downside.

A: Sounds like real old sea salts!

M: (Laughs) I suppose so. 

Now, insofar as my main fairies go, I think you’re going to find them generally in two broad categories. Deck crews and snipes. I think it’s useful to remember that while my equipment is a highly advanced piece of engineering, the ultimate function here is that it’s still something designed to help me fight the Abyssals.

The first and most important thing are the propulsion units. These supplement my already functionally “super” speed and gives me the biggest advantage over the Abyssals – I can outrun anything they’ve got and oftentimes in circles. You know them as the “smokestack” like objects that you see us wear, but they actually do take many, many different forms nowadays. Naturally, the fairies that specialize in those, much like the destroyermen that manned the boiler rooms and propulsion, tend to form their own communities. The term “snipe country” was given to the men who manned those locations, and I think the honest truth is that historically, the guys there simply didn’t get much of a chance to come topside. I don’t know if this is some example of latent imprinting, but my “snipes” tend to like hanging around the insides of my equipment. They don’t generally like to materialize, and when they do they tend to prefer small, enclosed spaces. When I had to leave my equipment behind as a part of another operation I went on with Mike, for instance, I could easily find these guys by the simple virtue that they would all hide inside my purse until it’s time to actually train. 

Deck crews I think you’d be pretty familiar with. Basically anyone who’s not engineering falls into this category. You’ll find my gunners, radarmen, officers, torpedomen, loaders, helmsmen and lookouts, sonarmen, ASW specialists, comms, trainers, and the list go on. I do think each shipgirl’s crew tend to have a bit of a personality to them. Mine I would say (laughs) and you can ask the others to see if this is true are generally the “helpful” ones. Fairy crews actually do a lot of the equipment maintenance themselves, and mine habitually help the other girls’ crews – even the maintenance that are generally considered to be tedious chores. 

A: Do new fairies exhibit a preference for a certain role over the other? 

M: Not that I can see. I know there’s general observation that fairies dislike things you and I would also not like – moving heavy objects or lugging stuff about but I haven’t had any issues. Though of course this could be a matter of self-selection – I don’t lose much crew, and so when I do replenish I tend to get the top new recruits.

A: Are there the equivalent of transfers as a part of STEC’s overall policy? For instance, I heard that survivors from sunken warships are often transferred into newer commissioned ships to provide the ship with a core of veterans.

M: Yes and no. By the time of the Abyssal War STEC’s training program coordinating fairies are highly, highly developed. Any shipgirl-less fairies would in fact be reassigned to the common training pool unless they explicitly choose to serve with a shipgirl of their choice. In that sense it’s no different from fairies requesting to freely transfer under ordinary circumstances. 

A: Now, you mentioned the similarities of what you see with your historical counterpart, inspiration, er, whatever it is that we call ’em these days. Do y’all feel that STEC’s own warmaking capabilities is also a nod to the days of World War 2?

By the way, folks, we’ve now received over twenty-four thousand calls. That is twenty four thousand and counting. So if you want a chance to share your question with all our listeners, please call and stay on the line!

After all, as you mentioned, the Abyssal War pretty much turned conventional warfare back onto its head, where all of a sudden “dumb” technologies found themselves at the forefront alongside modernized vessels and weaponry.

M: I think this is where things sharply differ. I speak of course from my perspective as a DD girl. Bluntly put, DDs are smaller, specialized vessels that are emblematic of the necessity of the Navy’s decision making. They are exemplars of American industry and the military tradition – uniformly designed to standard, mass-produced with great efficiency, and designed to get into the action as soon as possible. They’re weapons of necessity, meant for a temporary life of conflict – much like the citizen-soldiers I mentioned earlier the vast majority of DDs during World War II will not “live” much beyond the conflict itself. 

DD girls? Eh, you know, I can’t say this for the other shipgirl services, but definitely not with STEC. For one thing no shipgirl is disposable and no STEC war plan’s created with that intent. Each shipgirl is a specialist in something, and it’s Mike’s job to figure out how to best use that specialty.

For instance, we tend to have the ability to carry far more ASW weaponry given our equipment design. This point by itself is a notable one, since most Abyssal units can choose to sink beneath the waves as an additional tactical option. In training Mike would direct me to order my sonar fairies to rotate around all of their primary stations – a watch on air search, a watch on surface search, one on sonar, and then one on the plotting table, for example. We do this so that in battlefield situations we would be at our top no matter what the Abyssals throw at us, but when we sortie I’ll often have more than enough sonar specialists to cover for the duration of the mission.

A: Does it seem to you that Admiral Yin places different emphasis on the specialization of each shipgirl? I mean, even for destroyers during the Second World War, some did more convoy, uh, convoy escort type of stuff, while others were more gun, right? 

M: Sure. Generally speaking in terms of drills he pick one and I pick one. For me coincidentally both ended up being the equivalent of naval maneuver warfare, but …

A: But?

M: (Sly laugh) Hey, you look at my record – the ones they’ve released, anyways and tell me I can’t ambush Abyssals? Or look at some of the “ASW” specialist girls and tell them they aren’t surface combatants. 

I think here’s the thing. On a broader, abstract level, shipgirls are like naval ships. There’s only a handful of us relative to everything else, and so naturally you’re designing battle plans like how we’d apply limited naval assets historically.

However, actual shipgirl combat is a lot different, and this is where creativity and ingenuity matters. A lot of lines are blurred when you look beyond what a shipgirl carries and instead think about it in the context of “jobs” or roles performed. Let’s say we’re supporting an allied attack on an Abyssal installation. Who’s the best girl for the job? Are dive-bombers or cruiser guns better for it? Or, let’s say we need to intercept an Abyssal force. Do we send in Tautog’s girls and attack from below, or do we call my squadron and blast them and leave before the Abyssals can react to our presence? 

With shipgirls, the timeframe to action is shortened considerably. In the Pacific, it took days for a ship to resupply. For shipgirls this is on the order of hours if we discount STEC’s extensive investments in logistical structure. We can air-drop supplies straight into a hot zone and have most, if not all of it making it into the hands of the shipgirls we’re resupplying. We can see precisely what the enemy is sending and where they’re coming from. These sort of capabilities are simply impossible with the technologies of the 1940s, and some I would say are still impossible with the technologies of the 1990s, 2000s, 2010s, or for at least a few decades to come. 

A: Speaking of which, Maury. Any chance, uh,  might let slip a bit about what STEC’s got in store for the American people next? 

M: We’ll update Congress and the general public on our scientific progress during our next Oversight hearing, which is scheduled for December. You’ll have to wait until then.

A: I can’t say I’m disappointed, since y’all ran an airtight operation so far. Well, folks, we’ll be right back with our next segment. And now, with a few words from our sponsors…