Fleet Master Megan was sorting through several administration documents when the doors to her office chamber opened. Her aide bowed and ushered in a youngster who went down on one knee as he saluted her.
"Fleet Master! I came bearing urgent news from the docks!" The messenger quickly said and presented a couple of scrolls from his sling bag. "We have reports of flying ships raiding the Eastern Islands!"
Megan's aide took the scrolls and handed them over to her where she ripped the binding cords off and quickly scanned through the written contents. She nodded to herself before she said to the waiting messenger, "Order all the Islands and ships to be on the look out of raiders at once!"
The messenger gave a hurried bow as he left the chamber to carry out her orders. In his haste, he did not notice the trace of a smile appearing on Megan's lips.
"The Krarga has taken the bait!" Megan happily mumbled to herself as she looked out of the windows. "Now, let's see how will the United Nations respond..."
Bells were ringing throughout the Islands of the Isles, as word came of an attack from the group of Outsiders that rode flying ships into this land. Ships of war were being loaded with supplies while merchant ships that served as auxiliary ships had bolt throwers and other weapons installed. Young men and even women volunteered themselves at the military docks to fight against those treacherous Outsiders who broke their bond of peace and trade with the Isles.
Defences for the islands were each readied and manned by militia while food and other supplies were collected from each household to be stored in a central storehouse. Carpenters and blacksmiths stopped all their existing work orders to switch to the production of weapons and munitions for the bolt throwers.
Those islands with a large treasury started recruiting mercenaries and ships to prepare for the fight with the Outsiders. Rumours started spreading of the short Outsiders' bloodthirstiness and savagery, making the people of the Isles more determined to protect their homes.
At a secretive dock on the edge of the First City of the Fleet, a small squadron of four armoured steamships came puffing out from the hidden docks and made its way towards a waiting fleet of sailing ships. Once the ships had rendezvous together, they departed off towards the Cartel outpost.
Lord Ironmore of the Cartel stood inside the under bridge watching the process of offloading of goods off the captured prize. Armed sailors watched over the rows of squatting prisoners that lined up on one side of the prize ship while other prisoners moved goods off the cargo and onto the waiting air barges that floated next to the prize ship.
"Do we have a manifest of the prize's cargo?" Lord Ironmore asked and an aide handed over a crudely scribbled note. He scanned the translated list before his stern expression broke into a smile. "Hmmm... over ninety barrels of local liquor! Brothers! Tonight, everyone shall have an extra ration of liquor!"
The crew manning the under bridge gave a cheer and the mood lightened up immediately. Lord Ironmore continued to read the badly scribble words and nodded to himself as the haul this time was pretty good, especially with the several lots of food and grains that would help the Outpost greatly.
Taking of the prize was easy, the fat unsuspecting merchant ship ladened with goods was most likely making its way back to its homeport when Lord Ironmore's airship, the Rammer, came plunging down from the skies like a griffin going for its prey. Dwarvan shock troopers descended from a couple of air barges upon the unsuspecting crew from the skies, the tubby looking flying hauliers used for both cargo and troop transport, dropped the shock troopers down into the middle of the deck of the surprised crew.
Arcs of lightning crackled out from the long shock staff of the shock troopers, zapping away any resistance among the crew. Many seeing the charred remains of their fellow shipmates quickly surrendered and the subversion of the crew was quickly completed.
Lord Ironmore rubbed his calloused hands together happily as he as the Captain would gain a fifth of the prize's total value while the rest of his men will gain another fifth of the prize, split among everyone, with the officers taking a larger share. But even after splitting everything, the remaining prize money for the lowest ranked sailors would still be more than what they made in a year of service!
Hence, the crew of the Rammer acted quickly and without complaints as they stripped the captured prize ship of all valuable items and the fate of the captured crew would be turned into slaves or indentured workers. Those who were willing to switch allegiance were even given the chance to join the Cartel.
"Lord!" An aide reported. "All items of value and use has been removed and is now being transferred onboard the Rammer!"
"Good!" Lord Ironmore nodded with delight. "Once everyone is back on board... Raze the ship down to the water!"
"Yes, Lord!" The aide replied and orders were sent out. In a turn of a sandglass, the last flying barge docked onboard the belly of the Rammer and two stubby cannon barrels poked out from their armoured gun ports.
With a loud hiss crack, both cannon barrels erupted into a burst of white steam and two dark projectiles slammed into the thinly armoured top deck of the stripped prize ship. The steam cannons were fired at point blank range, making it impossible to miss and the alchemical substance stored inside both the projectiles broke free from its confinement when the body of the projectile broke up.
Instantly, the alchemical substance sprayed out and upon contact with any material, the substance started smoking and soon, flickers of flames grew out from the coils of smoke and seconds later, fire engulfed the ship from its insides. As the Rammer made its way back towards the Outpost, what remained of the prize ship was just a pillar of black smoke on the horizon.
The New World, East Coast, UNS Vengeance
Commander Ford looked at the communique suspiciously as Captain Nimo and a few other senior officers waited patiently at the Admiral's Bridge. Ford put down the note after reading it thrice, to be certain and a deep frown appeared on his face. "Is this accurate?"
"Yes, sir!" The UNS Vengeance's Intel Officer replied. "A call for help came from the Isles just an hour ago. My department has verified the report with Navy Intel and it appears to be real."
"The Isles asking us for help?" Captain Nimo let out a snort of displeasure. "I didn't know the day would come!"
"What does High Command has to say about this?" Commander Ford asked his command staff. "Are there any new orders?"
"Well, High Command's new orders are to investigate and support the Isles if possible..." Captain Nimo replied unhappily. "I say it serves them right if they get backstabbed by those Outsiders!"
"Regards of what game Megan is playing here," Commander Ford reminded the Captain. "We still have some obligation to our... ally."
"But something is strange here," Commander Ford added. "I would expect Megan to have a backup plan if their deal with those Old Worlders went sour..."
"Something just doesn't seem right here..." Commander Ford mused as he checked the charts. "How long more before we reached the waters of the Isles?"
"Another two days of sailing," Captain Nimo quickly replied. "One and a half day if we push it..."
"Proceed as normal," Commander Ford said after a moment of consideration. "Gives us more time to gather intel."
"I want all intel we have on the isles, especially information on Group Delta," Commander Ford said to the Vengeance's Intel Officer. "Including any latest satellite or recon plane photos of the area."
"And double the air patrols," Ford turned to Captain Nimo and Commander Peter who was the CAG of the Vengeance's carrier wing. "I know it will be hard on the pilots and machines, but it's better to be prepared."
"Yes, Sir!" The senior officers saluted before leaving to carry out their orders. Commander Ford waited until everyone has left before he entered his office, and dial a connection back to Haven.
It did not take long for his call to connect and the image of Captain Blake appeared on the corner of his screen. The image of Blake gave a nod of acknowledgement as he greeted Ford. "How's everything on your side?"
"Other than that unknown God Girl and two dragons demolishing my food stores like termites on wood..." Commander Ford grinned before he gave a helpless shrug. "Morale is pretty high and everyone is ready to get into the fight with the Old Worlders."
"Good," Blake replied without a change of expression. "You know your orders?"
"Find the Old Worlders and hit them hard," Ford said. "If they do not surrender... Hit them harder."
Blake's image nodded while Ford asked again. "How about the Isles? What are we gonna do with them? I smell some kind of plot cooked by Megan here..."
"Ignore her," Blake said. "This... fight between the Isles and Group Delta... We can make use of it force the Isles to cede some concessions over to us. If they are not willing... I got another option here... standing by..."
"Hmmm," Ford frowned as he made a guess. "You mean, Dijon? Isn't he totally out of the fight?"
"Not really," Blake replied and seemed to fiddle with something off screen. A second later, an incoming file notification started blinking at the corner of Ford's screen. "I just sent you his report. Take a look at it and if the situation calls for him... I got a transport standing by and in five hours, he will be dropped off at Port Sanctuary."
"Okay," Ford nodded. "I will take care of the Isles and Old Worlders. Get some rest, you look like shit."
The image of Blake made a nonchalant gesture before signing off leaving Ford alone staring at the screen. He clicked the blinking file notification and waited for the data to be downloaded completely before he opened the document. He shot up straight as his eyes widened in shock at the contents in the document and he let out a curse. "What the fuck?"
"Is he mad?" He mumbled to himself as he continued reading the file. "Are they all crazy to allow this?"
Finally, he finished reading the entire file and he sat back in his chair brooding away as his mind was filled with thoughts of how many illegal body modifications and medical unethical laws they had broken before he let out a sigh. Ford could understand why Dijon wanted this and he could feel his pain and fear of being a cripple bound forever inside a tank.
He closed the file and shook his head, thinking of how much they had changed since crashing onto this planet. Everyone has changed, some for the better, others for the worse, while some would never see their homes again.
"Damn!" Ford was feeling melancholic and felt he needed some fresh air to clear his head. He stepped out of his office and felt the admiral bridge under the salutes of the Marines guards and headed down to the officer's mess to grab some tea.
As he walked past the connecting passageway to the carrier hangar, he paused in his footsteps and decided to look at what the two dragons and the God girl had been up to lately. He had heard many reports and rumours that those three seemed to be up to some mischief, together with that Faith of Superior Firepower cult nonsense.
He entered the hangar deck and waved away the salutes of the deck crewmen and headed straight towards a cordoned off corner of the hangar that was set aside for the dragons. Several pieces of marine tents had been tied together to form one large sheet and it was draped over two support beams, creating a sort of cover.
He could hear some laughter and noises coming from behind the makeshift wall and he ducked under the covers curiously and found himself in some sorts of home theatre as a projector was projecting some kind of war movie against the hangar hull and dozens of crew members, two dragons and one god girl was seated down watching the movie.
"What the fuck?"