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Fleet Master Akron eyed his surroundings with interest at first when he first boarded the flying ship. He had set sail out under Megan's orders to meet and secure a cooperative treaty with the newcomers. But after boarding the flying ship, he was disappointed with how the interior of the ship was despite the proud bearing of the short captain, who was clearly showing off even if they do not understand each other words.

The only thing that surprised him when he and his aides first encountered the newcomers was that their heights just barely reaching his chest, similar as a goblin but looked like some God had squashed a normal person down till they were all short, stocky, and hairy. Their features looked like people with long ears but their facial features were more rugged, unlike the people's smoother features.

In the short tour of the airship which he and the newcomers communicated using a series of hand signs and drawings, Akron found the parts of the ship that was shown was uncomparable to the iron ships of the United Nations. The ship of the newcomer was hot, and the stench of sweat and oil was everywhere. Rust strains covered the walkways and bulkheads, machinery and pipes looked crude and messy unlike the clean and finely machined equipment of the UN.

And the brief flight on the flying ship was noisy and full of turbulence, making Akron wonder how much advanced their tek no lo gee compares with the UN. He only noticed that the flying ship does employ more advanced magics and runes which he did not need a magister to know their knowledge of magic was above theirs.

When he boarded the smaller vessel which dropped him and his aides off inside the interior of the massive flying ship, he admitted for a moment the size of the massive flying ship awe him. But after looking around his surroundings, he noticed it was similar to the smaller flying ship, the difference being in size only.

Even the weapons held by the guards and soldiers of the short people looked crude and clumsy compared to the sleek no nonsense look and feel of the UN thundersticks. In the end, he just let his aide do the communicating with the other side as he let his eyes wander around the airship, keeping his expression neutral as he felt these newcomers' tek no lo gee was just so so.

Next, he observed the group of important looking people dressed in buttoned jackets and despite him towering over them, those people cast him dismal looks, like as if he was nothing worthwhile in their eyes. Akron covered his frown as he adjusted his monocle and wondered what race were these short people from and flagged those people as either commanders or nobility.

Following the gestures of one of the young looking squat people, they walked through winding passageways, thankfully most of the hatches were tall enough for them to walk through, most likely to ease the handling of equipment and cargo. And finally, they stopped before a pair of double doors that were only possible in a ship of this size and handed over his belted cutlass over when the guards gestured for them. Suddenly, one of the short soldier with a red plume on his helmet yelled something and the soldiers around them reacted by lowering their strange looking horn with an axe at them.

Surprised by the sudden hostility, Akron and his men could only raise their hands up helplessly as his man tried to reason with stirred up guards. Even the short nobles stepped back their indifference changed to looks of wariness and suspicion. The desperate attempts at communicating with the other side were making his man frantic as he gestured around seemingly like a mad person.

Just as things were escalating and Akron was cursing underneath his breath, the double doors swung open and a stocky being splendidly armoured in gold appeared. He yelled something loudly and the gathered soldiers backed off reluctantly.

Akron let out a sigh of relief but soon turned cautious as he eyed the golden armoured person. The golden armoured looked like he could single handed take out an adult wind wolf despite his short stature. His shoulders were as broad as his waist and even under all the armour plating, he could tell his arms and legs were heavily muscled.

A mop of thick beard that ended in braids covered his entire chin and the newcomer radiated out a commanding presence. The group of nobles thumped their chest with their fists and yelled something in greeting after which they all turned around and faced Akron and his men.

The golden armoured person made a gesture and led everyone through the double doors and he sat down on a throne raised on a platform and before he said something which Akron and the rest could not understand. Akron's man, stepped forward and started making gestures and even showing some drawings from the notepad which seemed to draw their attention the most.

After a moment of discussion among the short people, the Golden Lord said something and a well dressed stepped fore and gestured to the notepad held by Akron's man. Akron gave a slight nod when his man glanced to him for permission before handing it over to the short noble. The group of short people gathered around the notepad and seemed to be in some kind of serious discussion of sorts before the Golden Lord broke out in laughter.

He walked down and headed straight to Akron and reached up and clapped his shoulder, seemingly in an act of friendship which Akron gave an awkward smile and copied his gesture, making the rest laugh loudly. Another yell from the Golden Lord and suddenly, servers appeared from the side and started putting out trays of food and tankards of drink.

The Golden Lord gestured Akron and his men to a table and shoved a tankard of strong smelling alcohol into his hand and banged his own tankard against Akron's, spilling a great deal all over the place before the Golden Lord tipped back the entire contents into his mouth.

Akron started at the tankard in his hands and under the stares of the short people, he could only helpless swallow the bittersweet contents that burned down his throat and threatened to knock him out. "C- Cheers..."

-----

United Nations, Haven, Fortress Singapore, Captain's Quarters

"Sir!" Lt Tavor knocked on the hatch and stuck his head in with an urgent look on his face. "This just came in!"

He placed a stack of papers down before Blake who put aside his own work and picked up the papers given to him. "What is this?"

"Latest intel we have on the New World borders!" reported Lt Tavor. "We got new contacts here."

He pointed to the printout of a map on one of the documents. "North of us, a new group of contacts. This group so far is the largest we picked up from imagery taken from the probe. It's projected course seemed to be towards the Empire."

Blake flipped through the papers, looking at the numbers and enhanced imagery. He tapped on one of the images which showed some kind of blob with what looks like a castle in the middle and clearly surrounded by airships. "What is this?"

"We think it is some kind of floating base," Tavor replied. "No way to tell until we send some planes over to eyeball it."

"But it will be hard," Tavor added. "We do not have any aircraft with such endurance... And we have to cross through hundreds of kilometres of Empire territory... I doubt the Empire will give us permission to set up a forward operating base in their territory..."

Blake shook his head, "No... Let it be for now."

Tavor nodded before he gestured to another set of documents. "We have been monitoring the other fleet at the Isles' borders... Seems like the Isles has sent a welcome party to meet that fleet... As for what purposes... We have no idea..."

"Did the Isles request for any support recently?" Blake asked as he looked at the captured images of the small Isles vessels meeting an airship from the unknown fleet. "Did they ask for any military help?"

"No Sir, nothing from the embassy," replied Tavor. "Which is strange, considering we are allies... They would, no, should ask for our help since they clearly know we managed to defeat the Protectorate up northeast... There is no reason why they did not request for our help... unless..."

"Unless?" Blake prompted Tavor to continue. "What do you think they are up to?"

"Well... Fleet Master Megan is pretty much against us..." Tavor said. "And my sources tell me that the First Fleet Master is in ailing health, and will most likely step down soon..."

"It might be a power grab from her..." Tavor frowned as he tried to place the pieces together. "She has been pretty much bitching about how we are shortchanging her by not giving her some of our technology... especially gunpowder and aircraft."

"I can see this as an opportunity for her to gain access to Old World tech, especially if she could get this group to trade or support her," Tavor said. "Despite the fact of what we know of the airships from the Protectorate... Old World tech seemed to be around the early stages of steam power."

"Weapons wise, we still hold a vast superiority, including material science and aerial propulsion," Tavor added. "The only thing they clearly have an edge over us is magic knowledge... in fact, their magic is far superior to anything the New World has... words from Magister Thorn, by the way."

"So other than the fact they have better magic," Blake summarised. "They have nothing else?"

"Erm... Aetherium," Tavor corrected. "This stuff doesn't seem to be able to be found here, as it seems no one even heard or seen something like this before."

Blake leaned back as he digested the information given. "Let the Isles do what they want now..."

"Let's see what is their next steps," Blake said darkly. "Before we respond in kind..."

-----

The New Kingdom of Mecca (Annexed), North East Region, Fort Hensink

Sandbags and reinforced concrete walls had sprung up all over the cleared ruins of the once beautiful coastal city. A concrete pier now sat over the remains of the original harbour and a couple of fast transports were tied up on the dock, with dozens of workers offloading supplies and materials with machinery. In the distance coastline, another couple more fast transports could be seen with smoke spewing out of their funnels.

On the other side of the city ruins, tracked machines with bulldozer blades cleared the rumbled and shoved down walls and ruined houses to one side while trucks carrying rubble rumbled over to a makeshift cement factory. The trucks dumped their loads before heading back to pick up another while workmen sorted out the rubble and carried the raw materials to be processed into cement powder.

UN soldiers and engineers in army camouflage were busy setting up weapon posts and guns. Large squat and ugly looking reinforced concrete gun houses built along the new wall around the fort and 88 mm dual purpose guns were being mounted with cranes. Further back under the protection of the new wall that was still under construction, was the beginnings of an airfield with armoured hangars, bunkers and housing.

In just barely two weeks, shipments of weapons, building materials, the construction crew were shipped over and the ruins cleared and turned into a fort blistering with weapons. The soldiers and workers knew that the Protectorate would return, but when was a question on everyone minds. They could only expedite their work and hopefully, when the Protectorate returned, they will face the might of the United Nations with all their guns waiting for their arrival.

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