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Sea of Clouds, The Innocence, Holding Cells

The sudden brightness of a burning lamp made Sherene's eyes water as she was half blinded by the sudden glare. She blinked rapidly but was yanked up by the chains binding her arms together before being dragged out of her cell.

Takao protested wildly inside her cell, "Don't take her! Take me! She's with a child! Don't hurt her!"

Even Dijon roared furiously as he tried to move his weakened body, shaking the bars of his cell as they watched the expressionless soldiers dragged Sherene away before their eyes, helpless to do anything.

Sherene kicked her feet against the wooden deck as she tried to prevent from getting being dragged out. She managed to get to her feet and kept her balance as the two soldiers ignored her plight. She stumbled out between the two soldiers, trying to see her way as the glare of the lamp left a white spot in her vision.

She could only remember the confusing dark corridors and steps before being shown into a room that looked like a library or study. The soldiers left her alone and she took the time to observe her surroundings. Shelves covered in tomes and scrolls covered all sides of the room. A desk filled with papers and writing implements sat at the end of the room. The room even had a fireplace with a fire crackling away merrily, which warmed Sherene's cold body.

"Si," A voice suddenly spoke from behind the desk, which made Sherene realize that she wasn't alone. She noticed a person seated behind the desk, hidden by the shadows. The figure leaned into the glow of the fire and the light revealed a golden haired slim person wearing a white featureless mask.

"Si," The person repeated his word and gestured towards the chairs before the fireplace and Sherene gingerly sat down on the edge of the chair, her nerves taut.

The masked man opened a drawer by the side of his desk and carried out a small chest which he placed next to Sherene on the side table. He opened the chest and inside was a white milky pearl the size of a feathered wyvern's egg.

He held the pearl on one hand and held Sherene's right hand and placing it over the pearl. "-an understand me now?"

Sherene jerked her hand back in surprise but her hand was held on tightly as the masked man stared down at her. She could hear what he was saying and at the same time in her mind!

"This is an Orb of Understanding," She could hear his words in her mind. "This is how we use to communicate with... others... that do not speak our language..."

"I am Inquisitor Mathias of the Clergy," The voice said. Sherene looked up and found a pair of cold grey eyes staring at her from the eye slits of the mask.

She shuddered inwardly, feeling chills despite the warm fireplace. "I- I am Sherene Goldrose..."

"Goldrose..." The man sat down while still keeping his hold with Sherene's hand over the Orb. "Tell me... Where did you come from?"

"Me?" Sherene furrowed her brows at the question. "I came from the United Nations..."

"So... What kind of place is this... United Nations?" The questions kept coming. "What is the name of the continent?"

Sherene answered as best as she could without giving up any information she deemed to be important. She tried to question the masked man but he ignored her questions, only kept asking her more and more questions.

"Which Gods do you worship to?"
"Is law and order important?"
"How many airships do the United Nations have?"
"What races are there?"
"How many other kingdoms or nations are there?"
"What religions are there?"
"How did you find the Golden Orb?"
"What kind of diet people eat?"
"What is your social standing among the people?"

The questions kept coming, making Sherene panic as she tried to answer them as best as her tired body and mind could. Finally, the barrage of questions ended and the masked man leaned back on his chair and released Sherene's hand from the Orb.

He observed Sherene with an intense look that made her feel uncomfortable before he leaned forward again and placed the Orb on her hand and said, "You are carrying a child, yes?"

Sherene nodded and caressed her tummy with her free hand gently. "Yes, I am with a child."

"The most sacred of creation," The masked man whispered. "The creation of life!"

"I will notify my men to provide better rations for you and accommodations," He said. "But do not take my leniency as weakness... In the eyes of the Holy Judge, you and your child are lawless... heretics... Do not disobey or you shall face the Judgement!"

Sherene clutched her belly in panic at his words and nodded hurriedly. "I- I understand! But... Where are you taking us? And my friends? Can you spare them?"

The masked man took the Orb and placed it back into the chest without a word and called out to the guards outside. He said something to the guards and he returned to his desk while the guards shepherded Sherene out, her questions ignored.

The guards treated her better this time and led her to a small cabin that even had a small porthole, that allowed some light and air in. A small cramped bunk bed occupied one corner of the room and there was a small tiny table with an oil lamp and chair on the other side. She sat on the bed and looked out of the porthole, seeing nothing but dark grey clouds and she prayed.

"May the Gods protect my child..." She whispered to the streaks of lightning. "Richard... Your child and I are waiting for you to us home..."

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The Isles, Port Sanctuary, United Nations Embassy, Officer's Apartment

Blake woke up to a pounding headache and he laid on the chair where he had dozed off. He rubbed his head and realized that not only his head was pounding, someone was also pounding on the door.

He stood up groggily and stumbled his way over to the door, his bare feet kicking away a couple of empty bottles. "Coming... Stop hammering on the door!"

He unlocked the door and yanked it open, to find Commander Ford, Lt Tavor, and Dr. Sharon outside. Blake squinted his eyes as the bright sunshine outside hurt his eyes. "What's the matter with you guys? Make such a ruckus outside my room..."

"Sir... You have been not answering our calls and missing from work for days..." Ford said as he frowned at Blake. "We... everyone... is worried for you, Sir..."

"Alright... Now you have seen me..." Blake prepared to close the door. "You guys can leave without any worry!"

Dr. Sharon hissed in displeasure as she saw the condition of Blake. She shoved him into the apartment and tsked at the mess that was around the room. She yanked the curtains open, and opened the windows, letting in sunlight and fresh air while the other two officers entered.

"Oh please... close the curtains!" Blake moaned as he slumped down on the sofa, resting his arm over his eyes to block the light. "And get out!"

"Captain..." Ford shook his head at the wretched sight of the Captain. He felt sorry and sad that the once vigorous Captain was reduced to such a drunken state. "You need to stop drinking..."

Blake waved his hand to shoo them away as he lay down on the sofa. He only opened his eyes when Dr. Sharon slapped a cold towel over his face and grumbled. "Wipe your face! How old are you already and still can't take care of your own self!"

Ford gestured to Tavor to help clean up the rubbish in the room while Dr. Sharon fussed around the Captain. The two officers cleared away dozens of emptied bottles of local liquor and trash while Dr. Sharon shoved a mug of hot tea into the Captain's hand.

"If you keep this up," Dr. Sharon scolded Blake. "You will kill yourself regards how modified your liver is! I thought you gave up drinking years ago! Why are you starting to drink again?"

"Can't sleep..." Blake mumbled as he sat on the sofa massaging his own head. "If I am drunk... I won't see her face..."

"The drink makes it all go away you know?" Blake whispered sadly. "I can't stop thinking about her and my unborn child..."

"This feeling of helplessness..." Blake's voice cracked as he covered his face with his hands. "The inability to do anything at all... Yet you know that she is out there... but not knowing if she safe and well..."

"It just..." Tears leaked out between his fingers. "It just too painful to think about..."

"Oh... Poor Richard..." Dr. Sharon hugged Blake tightly in her arms as he cried. "Cry it out. We are all here for you."

Ford and Tavor both gave an encouraging pat on Blake's shoulder. Blake nodded in thanks and used the wet towel to wipe his face. "Thank you... I feel better now."

Dr. Sharon shook her head, "When was the last time you had a shower? Or even a meal?"

Blake gave a weak shrug, "What day is it today?"

"It's Wednesday!" Dr. Sharon sighed.

"Oh... I think... four days or was it three?" Blake shook his head. "I am not sure..."

"Get up! Go take a shower now!" Dr. Sharon pulled Blake up from the sofa and pushed him towards the bedroom. "And for God's sake, get a shave too!"

Dr. Sharon turned and looked at the Ford and Tavor and shook her head sadly. "We need to find a solution... Or it will break his heart... Since he had a history of drinking and depression... He might fall back into depression again and never recover..."

"You guys need to keep an eye on him!" Dr. Sharon advised. "I got some meds that can help with his sleep... But he has to stop drinking!"

Both officers nodded as they tidied up the room. After a while, the door to the bedroom opened and Blake, freshly showered and in a set of clean clothing stepped out. Dr. Sharon nodded in approval, "Now that is what the Leader of a whole nation should at least look like!"

"Come!" Dr. Sharon grabbed Blake's arm and pulled him out of the apartment. "I heard there a fresh catch in today! It is a good day for some fish and chips!"

Ford watched the departing back of the duo and said to Tavor, "Doc's right... We need to come out with something for the Captain... Or... He won't recover..."

Tavor nodded, "I will call for a meeting of all the senior guys of the original crew to discuss this issue."

"Do it quietly..." Ford said. "And suppress any news regarding the Captain's condition. If the people know that we lost the Princess... and the Captain is down... We might have some problems..."

Tavor nodded again. "No shit... I can just imagine those deposed nobles and merchants trying something funny... Not to mention... That bitch Megan might try to undercut us..."

Ford sighed, remembering how he had to cut a deal with the Second Fleet Master Megan to allow his men to continue working on the wreck of the airship. He was still quite pissed with that satisfied smug face of hers after extorting another couple of steam engines from him.

"Anyway, our priority now is to make sure the Captain doesn't go off into a depression..." Ford said. "As for a solution how to cross that End Zone place... We need to discuss with the rest and see if we can come out with something solid..."

"Hey! Hurry up!" Dr. Sharon called out from the waiting Jeep. Ford gave a look to Tavor and they both hurried over to the vehicle. "Let's go... We need to get some food into the Captain!"

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