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The hum of the Cartel flying frigate's aerial screws was overshadowed by the louder hiss bark of its steam cannons as the flying ship came down swooping parallel to the Isle's battle line. The sides of the rectangular shaped frigate with a nose drill vanished in a cloud of white steam and the crack of projectiles whiplashed across the air and the waters around its target churned wildly with massive plumes of water splashes and splintering wood.

The Isles ship under the heavy bombardment of the Cartel's steam cannons, had its rigging smashed and its hole ridden sail toppled down, dragging the ship out of the line of battle. Another volley of steam cannons hammered it and the sickened ship slowly drifted off course as the majority of its crew were dead or dying, its weapons and rigged all smashed apart.

The fate of the rest of the Isles' battle line was the same as their weapons lacked the penetrating power to destroy the Cartel's magical defenses and their ships mostly still used ballistas and catapults which were greatly obsolete in the current battle. Some of the Isles' ships suffered too heavy casualties attempted to surrender but the Cartel's flying ships gave no quarter. They held their range and pounded the Isles' battle line until what remained was just wrecks that barely floated.

The sea soon turned red with blood and the waters churned wildly as sea monsters ravaged the dead and those in the water. The Cartel's flying ships having victory over the Isles, soon departed away leaving the survivors to their fate.

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Fleet Master Megan waved off the scrying spell before her as she leaned on her fur covered seat. Surrounding her was a mass of machinery and crew members manning several control stations. She made a gesture and a member of her crew quickly came before her and saluted, awaiting her commands.

"Bring us away from this... depressing place..." She sighed softly. "Make haste to the Cartel's base... Once it is destroyed, those that have died here will have their rest!"

"Yes, Fleet Master!" The crew member saluted again and hurried off to pass on her orders. A short moment later, Megan could feel a shudder from the metal decks behind her feet and the hum of machinery grew louder.

A large barrel sized tube slowly retracted away from the waves and disappeared into the dark ocean, unnoticed by the Cartel flying fleet. A massive shadow slowly moved forward underneath the waves propelled by several trails of bubbles. The massive oblong shape moved away from the departing Cartel flying fleet as it headed towards the island where the Cartel had first settled in.

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The drone of engines filled the cabin where several of the specialist crew sat manning the banks of surveillance and reconnaissance equipment. Wearing large bulky headsets, the specialists flipped and pushed buttons and switches as the FB - 1S surveillance flying boat patrolled around the ocean in altitudes way above the reported operating altitudes of any flying airships.

Cameras and sensors salvaged from the retired Owleye UAVs and refitted under the bellies of the FB - 1S took in the sights underneath them. Clumps of islands, tiny dots of ships, and even pods of sea monsters were picked up by the cameras and enlarged onto the screens for the specialist crew to view and filter the information.

And meanwhile, another specialist manned the radar station, watching the pings and beeps on his screen. Once aerial contacts were picked up, the pilot was informed and he turned the aircraft towards the sightings to confirm if they were just a flock of dragons or airships.

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UNS Vengeance, En route to the Isles' First City of the Fleet

"Do you think the Isles will officially request our help?" Captain Nimo of the Vengeance asked.

"Maybe not," Ford replied as he handed over a report to the captain. "With First Fleet Master Kose missing in action... I am willing to bet they will delay us with some excuses."

"But it does not make any sense," Captain Nimo replied with a frown as he glanced through the latest Intel report of the fate of the Isles' First Fleet. "Aren't they crippling themselves this way?"

"It should be some kind of power play that is going on here," Ford said. "Megan has gained quite the following and holds the majority of the Council in her pocket. But the older council members like the First Fleet Master Kose are more conservative and they lean towards us."

"Having Kose disappear is the best scenario for Megan," Ford continued. "If I guess correctly, she most likely has some kind of scheme to deal a massive blow against the Cartel, which would cement her position within the Isles for eternity..."

"Would she be so vicious to do that?" Captain Nimo's frown deepened. "Using the lives of her people and even thousands and thousands of gold and materials?"

"Maybe," Ford gave a shrug. "I always have the feeling she is like a snake."

"If this was true," Captain Nimo shook his head. "Won't such action cause the Isles to lose out in both people and resources? All those ships and crews sent to die against the Cartel..."

"Most likely, those ships and crew belong to the opposing faction," Ford said. "She can kill off those that opposed her legally."

"So she is making use of her own people for her own agenda?" Captain Nimo felt a chill down his back. "She is one vicious bitch!"

"Well, it's only my conjunction..." Ford gave another shrug. "It might not be the truth..."

"But I am guessing..." Ford's eyes narrowed. "That they when they request for our help, they will pull something off behind our backs..."

"We better keep our eyes open and our guns ready when we are within their waters!"

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The Sea Shadow

Megan lounged on her fur lined chair as she stared out of the view ports into the dark murky waters outside her ship. She took a sip of wine and a small smile played on her lips as a crew member reported that they will arrive at their destination within two days.

She stood up and walked up to the thick crystal view port that separated her and the waters of the ocean and she briefly spotted a flashing tail of some sea monster disappearing into the inky darkness. The ship she was inside was unlike any that has been seen in this world, as it traveled underwater!

The underwater ship was built in a fat oblong shape, like a flattened sausage with a large bugle on its back and bottom. The ship was almost twice the size of the largest Isles warship despite only having three decks. Fins covered its four sides like some kind of fish monster and a massive tail fin powered by mana stones acted as propulsion pushed the ship through the waters.

For air, a large barrel fitted with a hose will occasionally be released to float up to the surface where the crew below will work several pumps to exchange the air inside. The whole underwater ship was built in secret, using the construction of the iron steamships as cover. Megan knew that the Isles' ships were no match against the United Nations' thunder weapons and would only become tinder for their cannons.

Hence she came out with the idea of underwater ships after charming some of the hoomans and hearing them speak of fully enclosed ships traveling through the void or something similar. Using the construction of the iron steamships to prototype and test construction methods, the shipwrights under Megan's employment were able to come out with both the design and construction of the Sea Shadow.

But several limitations were inevitable, such as the underwater ship could only travel slowly, leaks constantly and could only stay a few cable lengths underwater. It also had to be heavy enough to prevent the ship from floating onto the surface and air needed to be constantly pumped to prevent suffocation of the crew. There was also the constant danger of a sea monster mistaking it as prey and taking a bite out of it.

The Sea Shadow ran on both mana stones and steam, which the latter would built up a lot of heat and poisonous smoke which required constant pumping and venting through a series of hoses connected to floating barrels. Magic runes inscribed within the hulls of the underwater ship served as a way to prevent air from leaking out of the ship.

 

The massive tail fin at the rear worked like the tail of a whale, moving up and down, pushing the ship through the water. Dozens of experimental runes powered by mana stones were etched on the body of the ship to reduce water resistance, increasing its speed and ease of movement through the water.

For underwater weapons, a steam ballista enclosed in a turret sat on both the top and bottom of the ship. The weapon mechanism was taken from the steam weapons traded with the Cartel and retrofitted onto the Sea Shadow. As the ballista bolt's power traveling through water was greatly reduced, it was mainly used as a means of protection against any curious sea monster that came close.

Against targets on the surface, the Sea Shadow would either sail very close to its target and fire its ballistas at close range or it will float to the surface where its back would open up, exposing a dozen cannons and giant mortars. It would then fire off its weapons before the deck closes up again and the Sea Shadow would dive back underwater to avoid return fire, using the ocean as armor.

Megan's original plan was to build a fleet of Sea Shadows so that she can dominate the seas against the United Nations and regain control of the seas. But the appearance of the Cartel and the super ship built by the United Nations was unexpected and she had to change her plans.

Now her plan was to use the Sea Shadow as a way to stealth carry troops and attack the Cartel Outpost when it least expected it. She planned to bombard the outpost and land troops onto the island to deal a decisive blow to the Cartel and slip away before they could respond.

Knowing that in doing so, the Cartel will respond in force against the Isles, especially on the capital. Hence, Megan had to wait for the United Nation's super ship come sail over to the First City of the Fleet before she can put her plan into action. She knew that if the city ever comes under attack from the Cartel's flying ships, the United Nations will not close an eye and will send its forces to help defend the city.

Her plan would allow her to move unmolested and hidden from the Cartel's flying ships, allowing her to strike at any of their bases or islands they had taken over while the United Nation's presence around the Isles' main islands would deter the Cartel and even weaken them if they choose to face off against the United Nation's strange machines.

As for the Isles' fleet defending the Eastern Islands, most of them were from the Old Guard, loyal to the First Fleet Master Kose and even the dead Dijon. With them gone, she now holds the most authority and power in the Council. As for the lost of the ships, it was no matter as sooner or later, those outdated wooden sailing ships would become scrap wood, good only for tinder as iron steamships and flying ships were the future!

Megan's lips widened as she smiled at her own reflection on the crystal view port. Soon, her name will be known to all as the one who saved the Isles and defeated the Outsiders! She will take up the position of First Fleet Master and she will reform the Isles and make the Isles great again!

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