The New Kingdom of Mecca, Hensink

Four airships, one massive, the other three barely half its size were floating somewhat forlornly over the ruins of the city's harbor. Blacken stumps covered with molluscs jagged out from the lapping waves remained of what was once the busiest harbor within the north eastern region of the New World.

Now steel chains were wrapped around these foundations as they tethered the airships like balloons, preventing them from being blown away by the wind. Ropes and winches ran off the sides of the airships, their ends secured to several pairs of two story high towers and pulleys set up over a relatively flat space that had been cleared and constructed by Army Engineers.

Blake stood on top of a ruined light tower, its roof long blown away by a 155 mm artillery shell, leaving behind just large circular platform with broken walls. A large crate wrapped in cargo netting came sliding down a pair of ropes from the side of an airship. It smoothly rode the ropes down as it zipped down before slowing down after passing by several of the towers that held the ropes horizontally, using friction to bleed off its speed and allowing the work party to safety catch and secure the cargo at the end of the line.

"How goes the salvage operations with captured airships?" Blake asked, his gaze never leaving the ongoing of the working party. "Is there anything of value and use to us?"

Chief Matt cleared his throat as he stepped forward from the group of officers and gave his report. "We only have a bare minimum understanding of the operations of the airships and we estimate we have roughly nine hours before the airships start losing buoyancy one by one..."

"By fourteen hours, all the airships would no longer be floating in the air..." stated Chief Matt who had taken the earliest flight over to look over the airships once they were declared cleared for non combatants. "The boilers are losing steam and temperature and soon the cooled aetherium would no longer provide any form of buoyancy."

"We also have no idea if the hulls are seaworthy and judging by the images from Intel, they seemed to use some kind of tower and elevator to load and offload cargo and personnel." Chief Matt pointed out. "Which unfortunately did not survive the artillery bombardment..."

"So... what is the final verdict?" Blake frowned as he has not gotten his answer yet and asked in an impatient tone.

"No... the airships are worthless..." Chief Matt declared. "Their weapons, power systems, armour, and propulsion systems are all not worth salvaging... Hell... even the construction and quality of the hull is much... much lousier than what we can produce!"

"The only of valuable items are its magical arrays for shielding and some kind of mana stone converter that's making the mages wet their robes in orgasm," Chief Matt said. "The other thing is the aetherium which we are carefully draining away."

"Is there no way to get these ships over to a controlled landing?" Blake asked as he gestured to the surrounding fields.

"Well..." Chief Matt scratched his head. "We could try that, but we barely know how to operate them... And the instructions that those Old World kids and history teacher we picked up only know how to operate a small boat..."

"These airships required like a hundred crew or more to man its systems..." Chief Matt explained. "Especially that big ass there... It would need hundreds of crew..."

"Hell even the USN Singapore needs almost a thousand crew members even with automation!" said Chief Matt. "We simply do not have the manpower nor expertise to run those airships with putting the crew at risk..."

"Duly noted," conceded Blake. "Can we salvage what we need before they go down?"

Chief Matt nodded, "We are taking most of the useful stuff, like food, clothing, meds, and even gold and other resources they plundered off the Meccans... We did also found quite a number of young Meccans hold up in one of the transports."

"Young?" Blake' frown deepened. "For slavery?"

"Maybe," Chief Matt gave a shrug. "Most of their ages range from literal babies to the oldest at twelve years old..."

"How many?" Blake turned around and stared at Chief Matt with a fierce look in his eyes.

"Erm..." Chief Matt checked his data tablet before answering. "Last count, five hundred and forty three..."

"From statements of some of the freed locals," Chief Matt read the report out loud. "The Protectorate had gathered all children from babies to thirteen summers and carted them off somewhere... Anyone who dared to object was cut down on the spot."

"The medics are looking over the kids and once declared healthy," added Chief Matt, "They will be shipped back to an orphanage in Haven."

Blake let out a small sigh as he turned back to face the ocean, veins popping out from the side of his head as he suppressed his anger. "Continue with the report."

"Eh, where was I? Oh yes, by removing cargo helps lighten the airships, giving us more time to extract the magical arrays and other important items..." Chief Matt responded. "We are also dumping their cannons off the ship to give us more time..."

As if in reply to Chief Matt's words, several large bulky objects were dropped off from the side of escort airship, the impact against the surging waves creating large water splashes. Chief Matt gestured to the action and said, "Those weird cannon of theirs... is... pretty badly by our standards... but we did find some interesting munitions which are being brought back for R and D to look over them."

"As for their steam boilers, we are having them fired up still... but how to redirect, open or closing of the valves or even refill the water tanks..." Chief Matt gave a helpless shrug. "It's all guesswork... We can only try to keep them lit as long as possible to heat the aetherium."

"Once we could all we want from the airships," Chief Matt added. "We will start cooling the boilers and extract the aetherium by bleeding them off the pipes..."

"We should be able to get a sizeable amount," A smile broke out on Chief Matt's face as he rubbed his hands together happily. "We can make ourselves our very own flying ship! Hehehehe!"

"We shall see..." Blake answered dryly. "If we can't bring those hulls away... Is it worth it to break them down and recycle them?"

"Well... not really... I checked... Most of them are made out of wood and iron..." Chief Matt replied. "Some parts are steel... but really bad quality steel... I just think that breaking them down is more time consuming and wasting manpower..."

Blake nodded. "Then we shall ignore the hulls for now... maybe use them for target practice for the Navy or Air Force in the future."

"Is that all?" Blake asked as he turned around.

"Yes sir..."Chief Matt replied. "Oh yes, what about this city?"

Blake ran his hand over the crumbled brick wall of the lighthouse and said, "Fortify this place up..."

"I want AA guns... rocket batteries, anti tank guns... naval cannons... airfields... bunkers..." Blake listed out each word one by one. "Bring out all the works... Make this... ruined city into a fortress..."

"And it shall greet the next wave of airships from the Old World..."


The New World, 562 kilometres East of the Isles, End Zone

A fleet of airships burst out from the greyish colours in twos and threes, leaving behind tendrils of grey clouds that seemed unwilling to release them. The spinning spiral before the noses of the long rectangular hulls slowly came to halt as the airships formed up. Blinking lights came from the largest airship as messages were relayed throughout the fleet.

Moments later, small barrel like aerial crafts started to detach themselves from each airship, the twin propellers pushing the small crafts towards the flagship. The sides of the flagship swung open and the small transports landed inside one by one.

The barrel like transport hovered gently over the deck of the flagship's hanger and dropped down with a hiss of steam and a loud squeak of springs on a pair of landing skis. The twin propellers powered down while the side hatch swung down and formed a flight of stairs.

Stout figures started to climb down the hatch and an ensign approached the lead figure. The ensign wearing a dark green double button jacket thumped his fist over his chest in salute. "Rock and Stone, my Lord!"

"Rock and Stone!" Lord Copperstone replied. "Has the rest of the Cartel Lords arrived yet?"

"No, my lord," The ensign replied. "You are the third to arrive, Lord Hammerfall is awaiting all of your arrival in the Great Hall."

"Lead the way," Lord Copperstone said while gesturing for his aides to follow.

They walked passed dozens of small barrel shaped aerial crafts parked side by side and secured by ropes to the deck. Mechanics and crew paused in their work and saluted the party as they went past them. The ensign led them through the hangar and into a steam powered elevator.

The ensign worked the levers and switches and with a loud whistle and hisses, the elevator made its way up noisily. The elevator brought them out of the hangar and into the upper decks. The ensign led the party through a series of passageways before stopping at two sentries clad in plate mail and full face helms each carrying a long blunderbuss like weapon that had a wicked looking half moon axe as a bayonet.

The sentries stood at attention while the ensign gestured for Lord Copperstone and his men to enter the Great Hall before departing for other duties. Inside the Great Hall, two rows of tables were placed on the side, leaving the middle of the large cabin clear. Chairs were on one side, facing inwards while a throne like chair sat on a raised platform facing the entire cabin, similar to one would find in a castle hall.

"Lord Copperstone!" A loud boisterous voice came from the flaming red haired person seated in the throne like chair. "Welcome brother! Take your seat! The rest shall be here soon!"

"Rock and stone, my Lord!" Lord Copperstone gave a low bow before he took his place, while his men took up positions behind his chair. Soon the seats were filled up one by one by the other lords and an aide whispered into the ear of Lord Hammerfall.

"Rock and stone, my lords!" Lord Hammerfall stood up and raised a goblet in salute to the gathered lords. Copperstone and the rest stood up and raised their goblets in respond. "Rock and Stone!"

Copperstone noted that there were three places empty, out of the ten seats, which meant those three were lost somewhere within the Sea of Clouds. Lord Hammerfall gestured for everyone to be seated and spoke in a grave tone, "We have some brothers that had fallen..."

"But this was a risk we all had chosen to take!" Lord Hammerfall boomed loudly. "Now! I have here a tallied report given by each Lord here..."

"Out of a total of fifty ships..." Lord Hammerfall's brows narrowed. "Nine did not make it..."

"Lord Kimber, Lord Ator, and Lord Wicton sadly did not make it to join us here today!" Lord Hammerfall said. "Their ships will be reorganized to replace losses and bring your fleets to full strength!"

"And all of you shall thank Lord Copperstone for his Storm Piercer!" Lord Hammerfall raised his goblet in salute of his invention. "His invention has improved our odds in crossing the Sea of Clouds! Or more ships and lives would have been lost! To the Fallen!"

"To the Fallen!" The rest of the Lords chorused and raised their goblets towards Lord Copperstone.

"Now... we are finally here in the New World! We need a plan of action! Remember! Teamwork and beer will keep us together!"

A note from neo Koh

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