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"I am Lady Gloria of House Portia," A woman looking in her mid forties and covered in an all black gown and a weird looking head scarf stepped forward with a curtsy and said in a soft tone. "I am currently the Head of the House."

"I hear you bear news of my deceased son..." Lady Gloria asked as she measured up Mills who gave a salute. "You are?"

"I am Captain Mills of the United Nations, 3rd Marine Battalion," He introduced himself and his officers. "In regards to your son, Lord Dijon..."

"I think it is better if we speak in a more... private setting and time is of the essence," Mills said as he took a quick glance around, seeing a small crowd forming around them at the square.

Lady Gloria gave a nod and was about to show them the way when Mills gestured to her instead towards one of the magical wagons that had a huge long box on it. "This way, my Lady."

Mills gave a bow that would not look out of place in a royal's court, courtesy of Titanna's coaching. He inwardly grumbled to himself thinking that was why Major James had sent him here but he did not let his emotions show on his face. As they came to the side of the container truck, a Marine unhitched a set of steps and opened the armoured hatch.

Mills gestured for Lady Gloria to enter while stopping the rest of her ladies in waiting and guards, making them start a fuss. Lady Gloria silenced her retinue with a sharp glance before she gave Mills an inquisitive look. Mills gave her an assuring smile and she let out a soft sigh before she steeled herself and climbed up the metal steps and into the strangely lit unknown interior.

Mills jerked his head at his men who took up positions outside the entry hatch to prevent the incensed and worried ladies in waiting and guards from forcing their way in before he and some of his platoon leaders climbed into the container truck.

-----

Lady Gloria had been heartbroken ever since her eldest son was lost against the Outsiders that heralded the start of the current conflicts around the New World. House Portia had long been established itself as one of the more influential Houses in the Isles.

An outpouring of sympathy and condolences had flooded in ever since her eldest son, Dijon was presumed dead. But once his title of Fleet Master was taken over by another, those voices of support disappeared as fast as gold vanishing in a gambler's hands.

It was not all that bad for House Portia as they still retained a large number of trade houses and merchant ships, which would ensure their legacy to continue on for another few hundred years. But when the Outsiders called the Cartel appeared and suddenly invaded the Eastern Islands, several House Portia's interests were affected.

The Third Fleet which used to be led by Fleet Master Dijon, had been handed over to the ex master Guild Master, Tediore who was voted to the position of Third Fleet Master. The Third Fleet had been dispatched after the loss of the First Fleet to reinforce the Eastern Islands but the majority of the Fleet had sunk after several heroic encounters with the Cartel's flying fleet.

Most of the Third Fleet used to be trained and financed by House Portia when under Dijon's command. A large part of House Portia was effectively wiped out by the loss of the Third Fleet and one of the ships that sunk had carried the younger brother of Dijon.

Hence, Lady Gloria, mourning another son, was devastated. But some form of hope for Dijon came from a mysterious messenger from the United Nations that claimed to have news of Dijon's fate and that he was still alive. Badly hurt but still alive. This news gave Lady Gloria hope again and she agreed to meet up with the United Nations, giving them a letter permitting them entry to House Portia.

When the convoy of magic wagons came knocking at her door, she hurried down to meet the visitors, her heart beating frantically for the hope of seeing her son alive. Hence she agreed without a question to enter the strange box shaped wagon alone without any regards for danger, just to know if her eldest son is still alive or not.

Once inside the strange wagon, the bright white glow lamps lit up the interior as brightly as a sunny day. Rows of strange arcane runes glowed and emitted low hums covered one side of the boxy interior. At the furthest end, a huge bulky statue with dozens of hoses of some sort appeared to be being worshipped by some of the strange green wearing soldiers.

The tall short eared soldier called Mills appeared behind her with a few other of his similarly clad soldiers. The door closed with a hiss clamp and the soldier Mills with his courtly etiquette gestured to the statue at the rear.

Lady Gloria took a deep breath to calm herself and walked towards the statue. The interior was larger than she imagined as she followed the soldier to the end. She wondered if the rumours from the past were true, that the hoomans of the United Nations were demons and practised sacrificial and dark magic.

They stopped before the strange statue that appeared to be squatting down and what appeared to be hoses poked out from various parts of the statue. The statue looked to be shaped crudely, its surfaces were squarish and boxy looking, and it was painted in a deep crimson red, like dried blood.

It did not appear to have a head and only a sort of thick slit on the upper portion of the chest area and also only has three or four giant fingers and toes on its strange thick limbs. Lady Gloria frowned ask she stared at the statue, wondering why did these strange soldiers bring her here when all she wanted to know was news of her eldest son.

Suddenly a strange disembowelled voice came from the statue before and its words surprised her more as she stared in confused shock at it.

"Mo... Mother, i... it is good... to see you... well..."

-----

"Skull Lead to Venny," Flight Lieutenant Foy hit his comms as he spotted the dots lining up the horizon of the sky in the distance. The current generation aircraft still lacked a radar system and required the FB - 1S loitering in the skies above to provide radar coverage for the Cobras and Vipers. But he heard rumours of the next generation fighters would boast radar systems and higher combat abilities and manoeuvrability. "Contacts spotted!"

"Roger, Skull Lead," Came back the cool reply. "Engage the enemy!"

"All Flights!" Foy switched his comms to squadron wide. "Form up to the attack plan!"

Replies of confirmation returned in the comms and the carrier strike wing shook itself into an attack formation with the Viper squadrons taking up both the lead and rear with the Cobras armed ship killer rockers in the middle. Fuel tanks fell off the aircraft to reduce drag, weight, and increase manoeuvrability in combat as they readied for action.

"Incoming!" Someone yelled out in the comms and Foy spotted even more tiny dots that suddenly appeared from beneath the fast approaching Cartel air fleet. "They are deploying interceptors!"

"Alright, boys! They spotted us!" Foy spoke into his comms. "All fighters to cover the strike bombers! I heard they got a new shipment of cococane wine at the flight mess tonight!"

The leading Viper squadrons roared in and rapidly closed the distance to the Cartel's air fleet and they suddenly veered off course. The Cartel's tiny ornithopter interceptors broke formation and chased after the veered off Vipers in hopes of shooting them down and gaining glory. The distraction tactics had successfully drawn off a large portion of the Cartel's protective air cover.

Seeing the air cover thinned out, Foy gave the order for the rest of the Viper squadrons at the rear to engage the remaining Cartel's interceptors. The pilots acknowledging the orders pushed their second generation fighters to the max and overtook the slower and heavily ladened Cobras and engaged in combat with Cartel's ornithopter and screamed. "HAIL FIREPOWER!"

The once clear skies were suddenly crisscrossed with fiery tracers, smoke trails and thunder as pilots from both sides wrestled in the air. The UN Airforce with its superior machines quickly had the upper hand as bolt after bolt of incendiary and armour piercing rounds punched holes in the slower Cartel's ornithopters, shredding metal and wood as easy as tearing paper. Boilers burst and escaping steam cooked the four man crewed ornithopters, sending many of the barrel shaped machines spinning out of control to splash down at the dark ocean waters.

The Cartel's ornithopters were seriously over classed by both speed and weaponry as they carried only a single steam cannon. The entire ornithopter was built around the steam cannon, the single pilot cockpit was housed above the barrel of the cannon. The boiler, water, coal and aetherium tanks sat right behind the cockpit crewed by an engineer, and rear, shaped like a giant barrel housed the gears and aerial screw engines, including the two gunners.

The short barreled steam cannon once fired, can be retracted in and the two gunners would proceed to reload the weapon. Like a rifle grenade, they will plug the muzzle with a harpoon or canister containing dozens of fisted sized lead balls.

The slow rate of fire and including the need to keep the craft stable in flight for both the boiler and steam cannon meant the Cartel ornithopter could not engage in crazy manoeuvres, making them easy kills for the more agile Vipers.

The Cartel air cover was soon reduced down to just barely a handful of survivors who attempted to escape death and return to the protective magic barriers of their motherships. The UN Navy Cobras with the way cleared, broke off into pairs as they began their attack runs on the capital airships of the Cartel.

Bursts of white steam shrouded the Cartel's airships as their steam cannons open fired at the fast approaching attackers. The Navy Cobra pilots were well known to have balls of steel as they had to stare at death coming at them and not flinch in their attack runs. Dark blurs whirled past the Cobra pilots as they finally came within range of their ship killers.

Fiery roars rocketed off underneath the wings of the Cobras and the pilots veered off their aircraft as the airspace was suddenly filled with streaks of dirty grey contrails of heavy rockets screaming to their targets.

The Cartel airships captains sensing danger from those fast approaching streaks of smoke quickly ordered their ships to turn. Ailerons were deployed and aerial screws on one side stopped turning and the huge heavy airships turned ever so slowly to evade the smoke streaks.

Balls of flames and inky black smoke exploded against the magic shields of the evading airships. Not all the airships managed to dodge the rockets and the surrounding skies were suddenly coloured in flickering rainbow glows and thunderous roars.

Shields failed as they were overloaded by the might of superior firepower and hulls were suddenly exposed to the elements. The mages onboard the airships scrambled urgently to restore the magic shields but they were too late as the second wave of ship killers rockets came screaming in and impacted against the naked hulls.

Airships engulfed in flames started to fall out of the skies mixed with thick streams of ink black smoke, white steam and faint blue white aetherium gas escaping from the breached hulls. In barely ten minutes of combat, already a third of the Cartel air fleet was lost in the opening of the air action.

-----

UNS Vengeance, Hangar Deck A

Plee paused in the chewing of her burger as she suddenly felt a surge of divinity emerging out from beyond the iron ship she was in. She turned her head to face the direction where she could sense the surge coming from and her eyes started to glow orange in colour as she stared off into the distance.

"Fire... power!"

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