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Hundreds of boots crushed the soft melting ice underneath their feet as lines and lines of blue cladded soldiers marched tirelessly forward. Dozens and dozens of covered wagons pulled by beasts followed along behind the soldiers. Flags and banners hung limply under the absence of a breeze while drummer boys tapped out a slow beat.

A dragon cry in the skies caught the attention of the soldiers and officers riding on land dragons. Heads turned up towards the noise coming from the skies, while a couple of medium weight dragons flapped their mighty wings and approached the dots in the skies to investigate.

Dragon Rider Smerdis, of the Thirty First Imperial Dragon Corps, yanked his reins hard at his dragon, Starlight, a medium weight Silverwing. His dragon gave out a roar of acknowledgment and beat its wings towards the dots slowly appearing before it.

As the dragon struggled to gain altitude, the rumbling noise grew louder and louder and Dragon Rider Smerdis, using a magic spell that concentrated the air before his fingers, brought the dark dots closer to his focus.

He frowned as the jerky images showed something like a cross of some sorts and there was not just one of them. By this time, the strange flying crosses where almost directly above his head and yet, Starlight could not reach the same height as them.

Smerdis could only watch as the strange objects flew past him at a speed far greater than what a Silverwing dragon could achieve, and he and his dragon could only fruitless follow behind. Even his wingmate, could not do anything, and they could only observe the strange flying objects fly over the marching army with confusion.

"Wait, what are those?" Smerdis cried out as he noticed black objects dropping off from the flying crosses. He quickly used his far sight spell and saw dozens of egg like objects falling off the flying crosses. "What in the heavens are those things?"

His eyes glued to his far sight spell followed the fall of one such egg which it turned into a flash of flames and a ball of thick black smoke as it impacted the ground next to a column of marching soldiers. He saw the toy like figures flattened down next to the blast before the smoke covered them.

Smerdis stared in helpless horror as there was not just one explosion, as more and more of the eggs landed and the land was carpeted with flames and smoke.

-----

317 Km from Orwell's Point

"Seagull One, RTB," The co pilot's face, covered by an oxygen mask, spoke mufflely into the radio as the newly upgraded FB - 1B Mariner, with the new and more powerful engines, tilted its wings over and did a long loop over the area of operations.

Tiny craters of smoke and flames could be seen all over the whitish scenery. The passage of the Imperial soldiers easily left dark lines in the melting snow, making the whole scene look like someone drew lines with a pencil that ended with blobs of ink on the white paper.

"Dragons, ten o' clock low!" The nose gunner yelled in the comms. "Two of them! Do we engage?"

Airforce Pilot Goldan leaned over the cockpit to look at the direction indicated by the gunner, seeing the winged serpents easily over the backdrop of snow. "Nah, they can't catch us at their current speed and heading. But keep your fingers ready on the triggers, just in case!"

"Aye!"

"Alright, I think we just made some of the Blue Boys had a bad day!" Goldan grinned as he turned the bomber towards the correct heading. "Let's go home and pick up more presents for the next group!"

He checked his fuel gauge, noting down the amount left on his notepad strapped on his knee before double checking his map and compass. "An hour plus and we be home!"

Goldan wondered when he would get to fly the new heavy transport plane that he and the rest of the pilots had heard rumors of. It was said to be larger, faster and has more fuel and load capacity compared to the FB - 1.

He loved flying the Mariner, it might not be as agile as the F/A - 1 Cobras, but as a bomber, it sure delivers a heavy punch on its enemies! Now, the new rumors were of a new type of plane which will carry 20mm and 105mm cannons on its side! He wondered how it will be fly such a plane!

The bomber wing droned on and soon they passed over the ruins of Norshelm. Goldan peeked over the snow covered ruins that had thousands and thousands of people burnt and buried in it and also the site of one of worse disasters so far for the Marines.

He sighed, thinking of the Mad Goddess that caused such calamity. He used to worship some Gods and believed in their teachings. Now, the only thing he believed in was his plane, crew, and mechanics!

Finally after crossing the dead city, the glittering reflections of the Source Sea came into view. His co pilot started fiddling with the radio communications, "Dragon Roost, Dragon Roost, this Seagull Flight, ETA to your location in fifteen mikes! How copy?"

"Dragon Roost, roger, we are picking your transponder on the radar, over."

"Roger Dragon Roost, Seagull Flight out."

Goldan reduced the altitude of the Mariner till the belly of the flying boat was just over the waves of the inland freshwater sea, the powerful engines kicking up a small trail of water behind them. Soon the seaplane tender came into view and Goldan gently eased the flying boat down onto the water and reducing speed.

The waters were thankfully calm enough to not jolt the rapidly slowing Mariner with much force. Goldan expertly drifted the Mariner, making the flying boat turn and stopped just meters away from the ex Imperial barge turned seaplane tender.

Like a floating city, the ex Imperial barges were connected together, forming a sort of floating rig. Cranes and hoists stood out from the hulls to service the flying boats while inside the barges were filled with fuel and bombs.

The crew on the seaplane tender started tossing lines over to secure the flying boats while cranes swung out, dropping refueling hoses that Goldan's crew accepted after they climbed out from the top hatches and stood on the wings and the top of the Mariner.

A larger cargo hatch opened from the top of the Mariner just behind the top gun turret where another crane started hoisting the 250 kg bombs over to the crew to load into the bomb racks.

Goldan shut down all the systems of the Mariner and stretched his body. A technical rapped on the side of his cockpit window and he opened the top hatch, accepting the orders and checklist given to him.

"Alright, looks like we got three hours of downtime before the next mission!" Goldan read the orders before handing the checklist to his co pilot. "Let's get the plane rearmed and refuel before we take a break and then it's back to business!"

-----

482 Km away from Orwell's Point, City of Silverton

The Governor of Silverton was constantly wiping the beads of perspiration coming from his balding head with a scented handkerchief. He kept his head lowed as the Emperor sat quietly on the throne that was brought along with the Emperor's entourage.

The silence in the great hall only made the sense of dread worse as the minsters and generals stood silently, waiting on the Emperor's bidding. Finally, the Emperor spoke, "How... many... times... has it... happened?"

The unlucky commander cleared his throat and glanced to the sides but seeing no support from anyone, could only step forward and report, "Nine times, my Emperor..."

"Nine times?" The Emperor repeated the words softly. "Nine times, yet no one... no dragon... or mage, was able to counter it?"

"No, my Emperor," The commander nervously said. "It came from nowhere and without warning from the skies. It was faster than our fastest dragons and flew higher than any dragon capable of doing so."

"The dragon outriders all reported it was some sort of flying cross... that dropped eggs that exploded upon impact on the ground and it was a hundred times more potent than our firebombs," The commander reported. "The magic barriers put up by the mages were barely able to hold off a single one of those fire eggs!"

Silence reign once again in the great hall as the Emperor fell into silence. The governor of Silverton wiped his sweat nervously again. "How did those things know where to strike?"

"My Emperor," The commander said. "It is not hard to spot an army of over a hundred thousand moving over the lands..."

"And how many soldiers we have lost?" Emperor Varacen asked.

"Close to four thousand my Emperor," The commander replied. "We did the best to save as many soldiers and supplies as possible!"

The commander added. "We have switched the movement of the Imperial Army to the night and in smaller groups to hide from the flying crosses and so far it seemed to work. Our losses have decreased."

"Decreased?" Emperor Varacen smirked. "I WANT NO LOSSES! Find a way to destroy those things! Or I will find someone else to replace you!"

"Yes, my Emperor!" The commander and the generals all bowed and quickly departed, leaving behind the Governor.

"You," The Emperor snapped his fingers. "Bring me some pretty girls! I want virgins! Now!"

"Yes, yes, my Emperor!" The governor quickly bowed and ran off to do the Emperor's bidding. "At once!"

"Cursed rebels," Emperor Varacen hissed. "I must have their heritage of the gods!"

-----

UN, Seacliffs Mines, Dungeon Level 4

Thunderous barks of firearms echoed sharply throughout the stone and dirt corridors. Hitsu took a deep breath of air filled with a bitter chemical smell and grinned as he reloaded the .45 submachine gun in his hands.

He and the rest of the Hundred and First Arcane Tactics and Intervention, Team Claymore One, was doing a weapons test and evaluation inside the depths of the dungeon. The long corridor of the Level 4 dungeon was temporarily converted into a firing range.

Hitsu stood behind a wooden folding table piled with magazines and spent casing of .45 caliber and was firing at the advancing minotaurs. The horned beast which the hoomans said looked like half cow half man, made Hitsu wonder if the hoomans' cows were some kind monstrous beast.

The minotaurs charged over the fallen bodies of their comrades while roaring a challenge. They held double bladed moon axes in both hands and their hooves kicked up sparks over the stone floor as they charged.

Hitsu placed the sights of his SMG directly over the chest of the leading minotaur and fired in three round bursts. The heavy .45 slugs slammed into the minotaur, knocking it back on its hooves and sending it crashing with the others.

The minotaur shook its head and rubbed its hairy chest where the rounds had impacted and coughed some blood out. But other than that, it doesn't seem to be badly wounded at all.

"I got it!" Atlied said as he fired the .50 caliber machine gun they had set up on a tripod. The powerful rounds ripped the minotaurs to bloody shreds and then there was just a ringing silence.

"Well, the .45 rounds are just so so I guess?" Hitsu said as he reloaded. "But its fun to shoot!"

"Yeah, especially at Level 3 of the dungeon," Loke said. "Those zombies just went pop pop pop!"

"Alright, quit clowning around!" Tyrier called out. "Remember to note down your observations and comments!"

He walked over to the mangled minotaur bodies and poked at the corpses. "Well, the new .45 round might not have much penetration power, but it sure does stops a minotaur at its tracks!"

"Make ready! I can hear more minotaurs!" Tyrier yelled. "This time just fire only the .45! I want to see if we can kill a minotaur just using the .45 rounds!"

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