Dijon stood stock still as he stared at the short eared creature before him, dressed in a grey uniform and wearing a flat sloping hat. His hand darted to his saber pommel only to find Lieutenant Joesph's hand gripping his in an iron grip.
Lt Joseph shook his head while preventing the Isles Fleet Master from drawing his saber. The bridge sentry Marines stood at the ready, their hands on the flap of their sidearms. Dijon looked around at the tensed look coming from the soldiers and he relaxed his hand away from his saber, putting his hands up in surrender.
"At ease, people," Commander Ford waved the Marines to stand down. "Let him keep his weapons."
Joseph nodded and stood at the side, placing his hands behind his back as he stood at parade rest, eyeing Dijon's actions carefully while the two Marines relaxed and returned to their spots.
"Welcome to my ship, Fleet Master Dijon," Ford gave a disarming smile. "Welcome aboard the Floatin' Wreck."
UNS Singapore, Command Bridge
Blake closed the comms line with Ford that came from the Floatin' Wreck and traced the position of the ship on the tactical plot. The blinking green dot on the map showed its current location that was being relayed back to the computers by the UAV performing overwatch in the area.
Telemetry from the UNS Floatin' Wreck's surface radar had several other pings blinking on the tactical plot which the sensor operators had tagged them as ships from the Isles. Other unknown contacts were also tagged and the sole Sea Cobra flying in the area was being vectored in to investigate.
Blake keyed another line on his comms and the Princess answered shortly. "Hey, the Floatin' Wreck has met up with the Isles convoy of ships. They will be arriving at Far Harbour tonight."
"I got it," Sherene replied, "I will be on my way over from City Hall after I settle everything here, I will be there to meet them when they arrived."
"Okay, be careful," Blake ended the call.
"Ops, issue a tasking for Airforce Command," Blake said, "I want a full flight of Cobras over Far Harbour for security."
Goblin Sea, The Fury
Fleet Master Dijon stood on his deck staring at the metal ship that was puffing away in front of their formation. His crew was making signs to ward off the demons as their eyes fell on the demon powered contraption.
Dijon rubbed his tired face and sighed. He had wondered why the rebels were suddenly so strong and able to survive in the wildland. Now he knew why, as they had received the help of these strangers.
They looked like people except that they had short and round ears, other than that feature, they closely resembled people. But are they demons as the rumors said? He thought back to the conversation that occurred onboard that demon ship.
The strange short ear spoke in Common tongue with a strange accent and Dijon noticed the other people seemed to jump at his every command. Was the power of these demons so great that the rebels had to obey their commands so rigidly?
The demon said that they came to escort the Isles ships and offer friendship and protection as long as they are in these waters. Dijon frowned as he wondered why the rebels still needed to purchase ships from him if the demons were so powerful to even construct a ship out of metal and sail without wind!
The rest of the conversation with the strange demon was mostly about cooperation and ways to communicate. After that Dijon was dismissed and he returned to his own ship in a daze. Now, he watched the metal ship sail forward without any sails, easily keeping ahead of his fleet and he wondered if he has made a deal with the devil.
Goblin Sea, UNS Floatin' Wreck, Bridge
Ford settled back on his chair and listened to the list of reports coming up from all the ship's departments. "Another rupture in the high pressure pipes and armor plates buckling on the forward aft of the ship." Lt Grayson said.
"The wooden undersupport for No. 1 Gun has cracked under the firing of the weapon," Grayson continued reading the reports and sighed, "Other than all that, ship is still seaworthy. We can still push her up to 14 knots per hour if needed."
"Keep it steady at 4 knots," Ford replied, "Them Isles ships couldn't make more than 4 knots. Just stay ahead and escort them back to Far Harbour while we see what repairs we can do for now."
"Make sure No. 1 Gun can be fired, make its repairs a priority!" Ford yelled after Grayson who left the bridge.
"Captain!" The radar operator called out, "Sea Wyvern One reports multiple sightings of goblin raid ships!"
"Where?" Ford asked as he sat up alert.
"North north west, 40 kilometers out," The operator reported, "Its the cluster of unidentified surface contacts we have on the radar!" The radar was taken from the dwindling UAV spares and installed onboard the ship.
Ford stood over the transparent map board where the radar operator had drawn a red 'X' of the sightings. He did some mental calculations and gauged that the goblin pirates will intersect their current course within 3 hours at their current heading.
"Tell Sea Wyvern One to keep tabs on their movement," Ford replied. "Notify me once they are within 10 kilometers."
Hours later, a siren blared throughout the UNS Floatin' Wreck. "Action stations! Repeat! All personnel action stations!"
The crew having drilled rigorously over the past week, quickly and professionally arrived in the fastest possible time and manned their stations. In the horizon, dozens of grey sails appeared in a tiny line like magic.
Ford lowered his powerful binos and said, "Comms, inform the Fury that enemy sighted, bearing in from our port side."
The operator nodded and switched to the loud hailer and started to broadcast the message across the sea. Following that, the Fury ran up a series of colored flags and shortly after, the rest of the fleet formed into two lines.
The warships formed the outer line closest to the approaching pirates while the merchants and non combatants stayed in another line staying away from the fighting.
Ford nodded, "Looks good, they are pretty skilled."
"Alright, let's show these Islanders what our baby can do!" Ford grinned. "Grayson, take us out and engage the enemy at half range!"
"Aye aye, Captain!" Grayson replied excitedly. "Helms, give us full speed! Bring us to port, keep our distance at two kilometers away from enemy contacts!"
The Floatin' Wreck suddenly surged forward, leaving the rest of the Isles ships behind in its wave, its speed climbing up and holding at 14 knots, closing the distance between the two fleets rapidly much to the surprise and awe of the Islanders.
The ship charged forward and the navigator was calling out the distance for the pilot at the helm controls. "Now!" Ford ordered.
"Turn! 90 degrees starboard! Now!" Grayson yelled, "Ahead slow!"
The ship groaned as it tilted to its side as the rubbers forced the change in direction, making a large turn before it slowed down, and its broadside of guns facing the line of goblin ships.
"Guns! Give them hell! Independent fire!" Ford commanded.
"Aye! Independent fire!"
And the guns of the Floatin' Wreck roared.
The empty shell casing sprung out from the opened breech and smoke followed the casing out. The loader holding 5.9 kg shell dropped it into the opened breech and another shoved a 0.56 kg propellant charge behind it, shoving both into the breech before it was slammed shut and locked.
The gun commander yelled, "Clear!" And everyone stepped away while covering their ears and opening their mouths yelling, "Clear!"
The gunner having laid the gun sights pulled the lanyard and the gun roared, throwing the 5 kg shell out at 503 meters per second. The barrel jumped back on its hydraulics which damped the recoil away.
The HE (High Explosive) shell screamed its way over two kilometers of open sea and impacted against the wooden hull of the goblin galley. The impact triggered fire runes wafers on the nose of the shell touched each other and ignited the 3.62 kg charge of black powder and mana dust.
Immediately everything around 5 meters around the impact point in a spherical wave was vaporized by the explosion. The shockwave grew out and turned nearby bodies in mush and broken bones and further cracked the wood hull and beams. Seconds later, another HE shell landed on the same vessel and totally obliterated the galley.
The Floatin' Wreck cruised slowly forward and its guns constantly fired, sending rolls of thunder over the stunned Isles fleet behind. Dijon glued his eyes on his telescope in shock as he watched the impossible havoc caused by the demon powered metal ship.
Each clash of thunder seemed to signal death on the enemy and at such range and accuracy! In the time his fleet caught up with the demon ship, there were only pieces of floating wreckage and dirty smoke over the area of the one sided massacre. Was this how the small group of rebels defeated the thousands strong Empire army? Dijon thought.
"Ma-master!" The First Mate stood in horror at the scene, "Wha-what are they? What powers are those? Is it magic?"
"I-I have no idea," Dijon found himself tongue-tied and he couldn't understand anything either. Even the ship's mage was shaking in both fear and excitement upon seeing those powers up close.
Suddenly a low buzzing sound rolled over them from the skies and everyone looked up and saw a strange oblong object with what appears to be wings circling over the fleet. The crew yelled out in fright and some even grabbed crossbows to defend themselves.
The strange flying object seemed to wobble in the air as it lined up towards the metal ship before it came roaring straight down and hit the water, bouncing up and down against the waves before coughing sounds could be heard and the roaring ceased.
It floated on the water next to the demon ship and the ship closed to it before something like a crane was lowered over the strange flying thing and what appeared to be a person riding the flying creature climbed out and took something from the crane and exchanges words with the crew on the metal ship before he ducked back into the flying creature and the roaring started up again.
The mind boggling flying thing rode the waves and charged off, seemingly to time its bounce into the air by hitting one of the waves before it flew off into the skies.
"What is that?" The crew was shaken badly by all the events today. Even fighting sea monsters and pirates could not rattle the veteran crew but after dealing with the metal ship and roaring flying thing, the crew went crazy. "Gods have mercy! Demons!"
The First Mate looked at Dijon with a horrified expression, "M-master? Ar-are we going to still follow them? Are we dealing with de-demons? Are they the ones that destroyed all the rest of the ships we encountered along the way?"
"I.." Dijon looked down at the pieces of floating wreckage hitting the side of the Fury's hulls and his brain seemed to have shut down as he could not process all the new things he saw and found out today. "Demons?"
Are these short ears friends or foe? What sacrifices had the rebels made to these 'demons' to be granted all these strange powers and weapons? If the rebels with these weapons and powers could stand up against the strongest Empire here, what will the future hold for these lands? What will we see and happen if we follow them back to Far Harbour? These thoughts raced through Dijon's mind.
"I-I thi-think, this is the beginning of a new era..."
----- End of Book 1 -----