((C’est Surcouf, in case you were of wondering. Though sometimes I wear extra padding and act as Jer’s double for times where she want to skip out on meetings.))
If you ask Mike which days tend to be the most stressful, let me tell you, it is days leading up to this one.
End-of-cycle progress report? The officier supérieur tend to be very accommodating especially in consideration of the consistent result that are delivered by STEC. More often than not we are able to hit some research targets, bringing unexpected surprises. A good example would be a newly developed sous-marine, er, underwater detection system that we have successfully deployed to the Mediterranean for its initial run.
But, of course, you are not here for that today, right? You want the gossip. Are the shipgirls going out today? How does the commander spend his day? Who does he spend it with? Is so and so an item yet?
Things of that nature.
Well, a lady does not idly chatter about the paramours of her companions and friends. If asked in public I will firmly answer by stating that I will not deign to answer such scandalous questions. In private, however, I will say that at least one girl is very into the commander and will leave it at that.
Do the shipgirls go out on this day specifically? To be perfectly honest, not much that I can observe. The reason is that generally, there is a “low-key” Valentine’s day event that generally ends up being supremely well-attended because of how mutable and fun it is. Think about it, right? Christmas and Easter and Thanksgiving and stuff like that you can pretty much expect the content to be consistent from year to year. Halloween you’re probably looking at spooky scary stuff and trick-or-treating. 4th of July? Flags and red, white and blue.
Valentine’s day, however, is pretty different from year to year. It’s not even tangentially related to love from what I can tell. Last year an entire sector of the base was converted into a live globe, where hundreds played a live game of Axis and Allies with some very intricate modified ruleset that what’shername cooked up. The year before that was “Pacific in the 2060s,” where the girls were given basically some sort of prototypic undifferentiated raw fairy energy (it’s what engineering wanted to test, so that I’ve heard) and told to create (on the spot, no less!) anything they want within the two hour’s limit. One of those items is still in service today because a shipgirl-sized chocolate mountain that can erupt on demand and automatically cleaned itself was a real boon for the kitchen. The year before that I did not attend (because I was not here yet!) but what I heard was that it was an American westward exploration themed party where a lot of fun was had cooking like the 1850s. I don’t know what we’re doing this year, but you’d have to be blind to not notice the literal castle that appeared last week.
As for how Mike spends today? Work, of course. In fact, for the vast majority of people, it’s a work day. The event itself tend to be on the Friday so everyone can have a good time, but honestly, and this is based on what I know from the other girls, Mike actually spends the day in the same way as he would any other. Sure, he might be dining with so and so on today, but his schedule is public knowledge and we know who months in advance.
What he does that’s pretty special is the “valentines” he send out. These are moderately lengthy (about a few thousand words, sometimes more, sometimes less) hand-written letters personalized and addressed to (to my knowledge) everyone that has been onboard Avalon for reasonable duration of time.
The delivery isn’t what’s notable – though seemingly being able to hand-deliver these messages without anyone else noticing should be considered a feat onto itself.
No, it’s the message. Mike has a pretty endearing way of communicating to you the best qualities about us, without sounding insincere or forced. Let me share a few excerpts from mine, and you’ll get what I mean.
Here I do want to say thank you for the extra shifts you pulled two and a half months ago. We’re all proud of the fact that we can go above and beyond for each other when the situation calls, and I think taking three sorties in a row without even setting foot back home is something memorable!
See, he’s not really a wordsmith. Nothing fancy here or literary, but some of the things he writes really make us feel special about ourselves.
Thank you, too, for being accommodating. As we grow in size, so do the number of personalities. It makes me very happy to see you socialize more with the other girls. I hope this means we’re all growing more familiar with each other, too! While your temper do still get the best of you sometimes, we all know that you mean well, and appreciate that.
He’s not exactly wrong about this. I mean, when I first arrived, I was (understandably) stand-offish. Not everyone is as courteous as Maury or friendly as Chester. Part of it is definitely me, and I think as much as we generally try to believe in the best of intentions, socializing is an art. It takes practice, and it takes time.
What I learned about Americans is that they tend to be pretty direct with what’s on their mind. In a way it’s less cultured. In another way, it’s refreshing because you can always count on what’s said.
I don’t want to make idle recommendations and this letter is getting a bit long, but one thing I have noticed is your penchant for scents and perfumes (to say nothing of the array of vaguely alchemical flasks that we sometimes see in your room. Mind I ask: can you tell me more of those? I’d love to learn about them.
If you ask me for why these letters are precious, I think it’s because these speak to us. Not as shipgirls or beautiful women or striding demi-goddesses or whatever have you, but really just … to us. What seems like idle chatter matters a lot to us. For instance, the “alchemical flasks?” Pfft, everyone knows that real ladies, the ones that care for fashion, match their own fragrances. It’s one thing getting fine wares from boutiques, but to craft your own is a skillset that I think is necessary if you want to stay at the forefront of fashion.
That’s a topic I care about, but maybe three of the hundreds of the girls here actually get. How does Mike know that it’s my thing? I don’t know, but that’s part of his special talent: being able to make everyone feel special.
I make no secret that I do my best to say what I think, and in public and in private, I want to say, thank you for being a part of our lives.
It’s special. It makes us feel special. It’s specially made and one of a kind, made just for us. So they work.
Now if you’ll excuse me, I do need to figure out just which wine we’re going to open as the aperitif…