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United Nations, Sawtooth Mountain Base, Command Center

Joseph adjusted his collar as he entered the Command Center of his new command. On his collar sat a shiny silver star, denoting him as a general. Since his return from the aborted mission of attacking Goblin Island, he was given an order by High Command to take command over the SDF and a portion of the Marines. Those units under his command will be absorbed under the newly formed United Nations Army.

His new digital camo uniform was in tones of khaki green and blue unlike the grey blue digital camo of the Marines. The staff inside the commander center saluted him as he entered and he gestured them back to their duties.

He entered his office and looked at the stack of documents and reports placed neatly on a tray waiting for him to go through them and he knew the days of field command was over. He will be desk bound for the rest of his career yet he knew he was holding a critical role in the military.

Now the critical issues he was facing were the coming shortage of food of their neighbors which means the defense planning of the UN falls on his shoulders. But the most important problem now was the issue of the missing Princess and who were the bastards who had taken her.

He flipped through the documents until he found what he was looking for. He flipped out the document where several photographs of the scene where the skirmish had taken place on the island which resulted in the deaths of one hundred and twenty nine sailors of the Isles' ship Fury and the capture of three persons, the Third Fleet Master Dijon, Princess Sherene and her aide, Takao.

Criminal and military forensics teams had combed over the area, trying to reconstruct the skirmish that had happened to find out more information about the unknown enemy, but there had been too much disturbance of the scene by the Fury's survivors that little of clues could be gathered.

Yet what little clues that were picked up from the scene gave Naval Intelligence pretty of information. Things like boot sizes, empty wooden canisters, broken pieces of armor, blood, and even the remains of projectiles fired from both sides gave some idea to the capabilities of the unknown enemy.

Joseph flipped the pages over, reading the detailed analysis of the clues found. He frowned as he read the report further, as the investigations stated that the unknown enemies had a 'very high' chance of having magic barriers or a very powerful shield for each individual soldier judging from the trails of footprints and scattered remains of crossbow bolts.

The enemy also had some kind of ranged weapons, judging from the wooden tubes scattered around and projectiles that look like a wooden stake recovered from the dead sailors. Each stake was identical, measuring four inches with a diameter of 50 mm. This means that the enemy might have a standardized industry back home as he knew that in pre UN times, workshops providing ammunition like arrows or bolts, will have a difference in sizes due to non standardize methods of manufacturing.

The Isles had also sent salvage ships and crews to recover the sunken Fury which the investigators took the opportunity to measure and calculate the damages done by the enemy's flying ships. The calculations showed that the enemy's ranged weapons had the similar power of a pre gunpowder heavy catapult, judging from the weight of the projectiles and damage done on the armored decks.

Dozens of mushroom shaped projectiles were recovered from the Fury and the waters around it by divers and taken apart to be studied. The mushroom head of the projectiles was made out of cast iron, molded over a plug made out of an impermeable buoyant wood type material.

Joseph frowned as he read the notes added written by one of the investigators on the side report, "Suspects that the enemy uses some kind of air cannon that uses the plugs like wine bottle corks..."

He continued reading the report and did not really understand the next parts as it talked on about something about Bars of pressure, PSI, etc. Joseph skipped that part to the next section of the report details what findings that came from the Engineering team working on the wreck of the supposed flight capable ship.

Joseph might not have studied and learned much regarding machines like engines but he understood the concept roughly of how they work. As he read the report his frown deepened as he realized that the airship wreck carried a technology that can be considered comparable to the hoomans' flying tech!

"No..." Joseph mumbled as he continued reading. The hoomans' flying machines use an engine to create wind to push the machine into the air. The unknown flying ship uses some sort of magic crystal called 'Aetherium' to cause the ship to float in the air. The rune formations found scribbled all over the ship's hull acted as some sort of membrane over the ship, which the Engineering team is seeking help from the Mages to fully understand their full effects but so far they all agreed that the runes are used to help protect the hull from wind pressure and crosswinds.

The runes only covered the hull of the ship and not the protruding sails, which works like regular sailing ships, allowing the flying ship to 'sail' in the air and also steer in the air. It also seemed to have funnels at all sides that act as some sort of maneuvering device using compressed air or gas.

The Engineering team had also tested the crystals and found that when heated, it turned into some sort of gas that has the power to lift heavy objects up and when cooled, it reforms back into a crystal. Which answered their question about the boiler in the below decks. They suspect that they boiled water to keep the crystals in a heated state to keep the ship afloat.

If they want to lower the altitude of the ship, they will stop heating the aetherium gas, letting it form back to crystals and the ship will drop down. The Engineering team also wrote on the report that the whole airbag to the boiler to the cooling tank was a close looped system which means none of the aetherium was wasted.

But from the statements of the survivors, aetherium was a very valuable and rare resource, only able to be obtained from the floating mountains or sky fishes or sky whales.

Joseph put down the report and rubbed his eyes. "If we have a source of this aetherium, we could solve the issue of crossing the End Zone..."

He gave out a deep breath and knew that there was nothing he can do now, but he could still push things forward to help save the Princess. Joseph picked up his phone and waited for it to go through to his aide.

"This is General Joseph, I want a senior staff meeting within an hour!"

-----

Sea of Clouds, The Innocence, Inquisitor Quarters

Inquisitor Mathias sat on his chair, his mask placed aside on a velvet pillow on the desk. He rolled the strange golden orb with its many faces, twenty to be exactly as he had counted, around his hand before placing it down into a silver ornate box, lined with lead and covered with runes.

The box snapped shut with a click and Inquisitor Mathias placed his signet ring over the latch of the box which gave another click as it locked. He waved his hands over the box and muttered a chant under his breath and the box glowed red briefly before the spell was completed.

Inquisitor Mathias stood up and reached for a hidden switch on the side of one of the many bookshelves covering his room. A portion of the shelves slid open, revealing a hidden safe, which he mumbled another chant, and using his signet ring, he disarmed the magic traps and locks.

The hidden safe swung open, revealing its contents. A blackened blindfolded skull sat on one side next to a wrapped bundle and several stacks of old musty tomes. Inquisitor Mathias ignored the skull with appeared to move and placed the locked box next to two other similar boxes.

He shut the safe door and recast the spells before locking the safe with his signet ring and closing the hidden shelf back to its place. The shelf slid smoothly and with a soft click, and the whole shelf looked as if it was a single piece with no trace of a secret compartment.

He stood next to his desk and took a sip from the goblet of wine before he placed the white mask back on to his face and slipped on a coat before he exited his room. His guards outside saluted him and followed his down the gloomy passageway as he headed towards the ship's inner sanctuary.

The guards opened the heavy doors leading into the sanctuary of the Judges and Inquisitor Mathias entered alone. As usual, the thick cloying smell of incense covered the entire chamber. The three Judges sat in a triangle facing each other were meditating, counting the prayer beads in their hands, as they chanted softly.

"May the Judgement sees you worthy!" Inquisitor Mathias greeted the three Judges and waited patiently for them to end their mediation.

The chanting slowly died off and the three spoke as one, "The Judgement sees all and judges all as equals."

"We have three of the seven," Inquisitor Mathias said. "Have you communicated with the Court?"

"The Court has been notified," The three Judges answered in a monotone. "Yet, you have failed to retrieve the Fourth!"

"The Fourth orb?" Inquisitor Mathias frowned behind his mask. "Are you sure? Where was it?"

"The power of the Fourth was felt when we were in that new land..." The Judges intoned. "Its pull was strong but yet now... the pull grows feeble with each passing grain of sand..."

"And why wasn't this notified to me?" Inquisitor Mathias asked as he paused in his pacing around the chamber.

The Judges remained quiet as he stared at them. Finally, he sighed and gave up."Can you feel it again if we return?"

"The Judgement shall show us the way!" The Judges chanted. "The Judgement has never failed!"

Inquisitor Mathia nodded, "Inform the Court... We will return to the Court first and resupply... Before returning here for the Fourth!"

"Tell those... in the Court that, I, Inquisitor Mathias has never failed in a hunt!" Inquisitor Mathia declared before he left the chamber. "Judgement shall be served!"

-----

The crack of lightning woke Sherene from her nightmare induced sleep. She jolted up from the cramped bed and pulled away the sweat soaked blankets from her body. She felt slightly sick as the deck beneath her feet seemed to be swaying up and down.

Looking out of the small porthole, she saw the sight outside was completely dark, only lit up when brief flashes of lightning crawled across the skies while rain pelted heavily against the crystal glass.

Thankfully, every item was bolted down to the decks, even the lamp was nailed onto the desk. She pushed the porthole open slightly, and instantly a howl of wind rushed in, bringing a constant spray of cooling rainwater.

Sherene sat on the chair and let the rainwater spatter over her, cooling her sweaty body down. She had dreamt that her child was taken away from her and when Blake finally found her, he had blamed and discarded her for the loss of their child. When she woke up, she realized it was just a dream and she was in the small cabin.

She hugged her growing belly which had started to show signs of pregnancy and cried. "My child, mommy will protect you... Don't worry and grow up to be strong and healthy!"

"Daddy will come find us soon..."

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neo Koh

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