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The New World, Exile Island, Combined Fleet of the 3rd Iron Fleet and the Tri State Exploration Fleet

Rows of airships were parked parallel to each other with ample distance between each ship to prevent any accidents or fire from spreading, were docked to a series of towers. Dozens of metallic leg beams extended out from the bellies of the airships and supported the entire weight of the ships as the ships' boilers went cold and the aetherium cooled down to a solid state.

Only the airships on duty lazily circled around the camp as they patrolled the perimeter. The massive flying fortress of the 3rd Iron Fleet had too landed, but unlike the airships, its size, shape and weight were not suitable to land on the ground, instead, the island fortress had landed into the deepest portion of a lake, the flying island's reinforced bottom dug into the soft mud and sand of the lake and displaced the lake's water, forcing the water levels to rise and flood its banks.

When the muddy waters of the stirred up lake finally settled down, an island with a castle appeared on the middle of the lake and the rest of the Combined Fleet settled down along the shore of the lake. Over the course of a month, the region around the lake the locals called the Sword Lake, due to the lake looking like a sword, changed drastically.

A wood and stone wall and numerous wooden buildings were erected along the lake together with docking towers that serviced the docked airships. A bridge also made out of wood, extended from the shore and connected to the island fortress. It was large enough for five steam wagons to steam through side by side and traffic was constantly moving up and the bridge.

Work on these structures was still ongoing by a mixed workforce of locals and soldiers. Every few days, loads of new workers joined the construction work, all of them taken in raids along the coast of the mainland. Day by day, the defences of the Combined Fleet grew stronger and stronger and the confidence of the outlanders grew as well as they barely faced anyone able to resist their attacks.

Unknown to them, all their ongoings were being recorded and spied upon by a United Nation Navy, FB - 1S2, a brand new redesigned variant of the flying boat medium bomber, FB - 1 Mariner. The Mariner S2 was the first purpose built tactical airborne early warning and surveillance aircraft of the UN, fully taking over the role of the older S variant which was just a converted bomber turned surveillance aircraft. The Mariner S2 was also intended to fulfil the role of the hi tech but ageing Owleye UAV which had reached the end of its service life over a year ago.

It has a dedicated sensor blister protruding out just slightly behind the cockpit and a rotating radar dome mounted above its fuselage and wings. Operated by a crew of five, including the pilot and co pilot, the Mariner S2 operating from a high altitude, thanks to its new fully enclosed fuselage which the original Mariners does not feature, it could detect and track targets and distinguish between friendly and hostile flying contacts much farther away than a similar ground or sea based radar system.

Now, one such aircraft was circling in the skies in an altitude so high that even if one was to stare up directly at the aircraft, they would not be able to even see even a speck of it. The powerful sensors and cameras on board the Mariner S2 were trained directly over the Combined Fleet's camp, every detail recorded and transmitted over to the UNS Vengeance's CIC many many kilometres away.

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Entrance to Exile's Passage, UNS Vengeance, Command Information Center

Data streamed into the Vengeance's CIC computers that once adorned the insides of the space cruiser, UNS Singapore. Unlike the crude computers systems produced locally, the computers of the UNS Singapore that were deemed obsolete by the standards of the United Nations of Mankind was still vastly powerful, with processors that were still unreplicable yet by the current production, technology and education level of the still growing UN.

The operators patiently compiled and updated the data flowing in from the Mariner S2 into intelligence reports which currently, Commander Ford in the Flag Bridge was reviewing. He sat behind his work desk, his eyes glued to the scrolling display of images and reports of Group Alpha.

He has ordered Taskforce Flag to sail north again, returning to the mouth of the channel between Exile Island and the mainland when the Imperial messengers and envoys returned and landed. The envoys had stated the Emperor was willing to accept their assistance with the sky raiders and also help clear up any misunderstandings between the UN and the Empire.

Since the envoys had so kindly provided a map of the region and even marked the coastal regions where the raids occurred, it allowed him and his staff to determine where the Old World airships raiding routes begin and end. To prevent getting spotted and losing the elemental of surprise, Ford's Taskforce has anchored off in the middle of nowhere in the middle of the ocean.

 

The map provided by the Imperial envoys did not fully list out each and every village or settlement along the coast, as only towns, cities or villages with strategic or monetary value were listed. Hence, there were actually many other villages that had been raided without the Empire knowing.

Almost every hour or so, a courier wyvern or dragon would come fluttering into a landing on the carrier deck where the Imperial envoys had set up shop at one corner of Flight Deck A. Cages of courier wyverns had been delivered from dragons were stacked together and a simple awning covered and provided shelter for the feathered animals.

A crystal mounted on a wooden tripod served as a magical homing beacon for the courier wyverns, which they were trained to hone into the magical signature, allowing messages to be delivered. Ford had been half tempted to just loan the Empire a radio set for faster and easier communications but gave up the idea as he did not want some unforeseen consequences to occur in the future.

"Sir," An aide appeared and handed a note over. "Word from the Imperials has arrived."

Ford nodded and read the note, which said of an invasion force was being readied to make an attempt to cross the channel and march towards the sky raiders' camp. Ford frowned as he finished reading the note and he asked his aide, "That's all? Nothing else?"

"Yes, Sir," The aide nodded. "The Imperials handed the message to me just now."

"How the fuck are we going to coordinate such an attack if they just give us such a half assed message!" Ford cursed. "Tell them to give us more details! Timings, dates, locations all this information!"

The aide saluted and left the Flag bridge to carry out his orders. Ford shook his head in defeat the way of communications between his Taskforce and the Imperials. "Maybe I should just blow the shit out of Group Alpha instead of working together with the Imperials... Fucking waste of time..."

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Skies over the Great Ocean Plains

Blue Thunder leisuely flapped his wings as he flew at the head of an arrow formation of dragons. He felt free and relaxed at last after leaving the borders of the UN and Rastraz behind with the eggs. He hummed to himself happily, enjoying his newfound freedom.

"What the hell you so cheerful about?" UN Air Force Captain Stamford asked as he sat on the back of Blue Dragon. hooked up to his harness. He had returned with a promotion and to captain Blue Thunder after a year, joining him on his mission to Fortress Hensink to speak with the survivors of Group Bravo.

"No Rastraz! No eggs to look after!" Blue Thunder rumbled. "Heheheheehe!"

"You are lucky Rastraz did not want to go and leave her eggs behind to be watched by some other dragons!" Stamford kicked the flanks of Blue Thunder's neck. "I thought you like being henpecked?"

"Henpecked? Me? Nooooo!" Blue Thunder raised his head indignantly. "I am the alpha of the brood!"

"Hahaha, sureee!" Stamford shook his head at his old friend. "You wish!"

"Hey!" Blue Thunder craned his head over and jerked towards the formation of four dragons around him. "I am in command of all the dragons in the Air Force!"

"But not your home," Stamford laughed as he teased the dragon. "Oh, well, I can guess why you are happy. No chores, no looking after the kids..."

Blue Thunder bobbed his head in agreement happily. "Yess! No looking after the eggs! You don't know how much work there is!"

"You have polish them... turned them every hour and lay on them to keep them warm..." Blue Thunder lamented. "And if you lay down on them, you have to be careful to keep your weight away from them... I had woke up in shock several times thinking I had accidentally crushed the eggs when I fell asleep over them! My poor heart and lack of a good sleep can't handle such stress!"

"Silly dragon!" Stamford shook his head at Blue Thunder. "Those are your kids, for god's sake!"

"I know..." Blue Thunder said in a low tone. "I do care about them. But... it is good to be free from looking after them..."

"Alright..." Stamford laughed again at the sight of Blue Thunder's wounded expression. "Take this as a vacation than and recharge yourself. Once we return, you gonna be a full time daddy again!"

"Of course!" Blue Thunder grinned, showing off his sword length teeth. "This is what they call taking a break, yes?"

"Yea," Stamford replied. "But remember, we are on a mission to get information out of those Dragon Lords."

"Why would one call themselves as Dragon Lords?" Blue Thunder mused. "Hmmm... Maybe I am a Lord too? Should I call myself as a Dragon Lord too?"

"Dragon Lord your head!" Stamford kicked against Blue Thunder's side with his heel. "You think you have the quality to be a Lord? A noble? You glutton!"

"Hey! I am an officer now, okay!" Blue Thunder hissed with pride. "OF FE SER!"

"And yet, I outrank you still, First Lieutenant Blue Thunder," Stamford grinned. "You still have to salute me!"

Blue Thunder growled something underneath his breathe that no human could make with their vocals and Stamford's eyes narrowed as he kicked Blue Thunder again. "Cursing me in draconic?"

"Nope, I did not say anything!" Blue Thunder put on an innocent expression, as he kept his head forward and flapped his wings. "Must be the wind..."

"So you picked up draconic eh..." Stamford shook his head at Blue Thunder's antics. "Rastraz taught you?"

Blue Thunder bobbed his head and his shoulder's and wings shagged for a moment. "You don't understand what I went through to learn how to speak draconic..."

"Hahahahaa!" Stamford laughed at Blue Thunder's misery. "Well, hopefully, that bit of draconic Rastraz taught you would be helpful when meeting the Dragon Lords..."

"Oh... it better be useful..." Blue Thunder sighed in defeat before his mood changed again. "Well, no point worrying about that now! I'm free now!"

"Maybe those Dragon Lord people seeing me would start to worship me since I'm a dragon?" Blue Thunder started to daydream. "Maybe they treat me better in their lands compared to here?"

"Maybe the name Dragon Lords meant the people are the lords of dragons!" Stamford snapped. "Maybe they take dragons and turn them into slaves!"

"Blaah..." Blue Thunder huffed in a dismal tone. "You just jealous!"

"So you want to give up cheese fries to go be some lord?" Stamford asked in mock surprise. "I am pretty certain the UN is the only nation that knows how to make cheese fries..."

"What Lord? I'm just joking! Who wants to be a Lord when there are no cheese fries to enjoy!"

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A note from neo Koh

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Can you imagine Blue Thunder as a Lord... ruling over people?


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