"Fleet Master!" A frantic messenger came panting into the Chambers. His hurried foot steps making a series of squeaks on the polished marble floor of the Chambers as he came to a knee before Akron. "An urgent message!"
Akron frowned and he gestured the messenger over, ignoring the inquisitive looks cast his way from the other Council members including Fleet Master Tediore. The messenger bent over Akron's ear and started whispering in a low voice. "The Home Fleet reports the giant ship has veered off course and instead sailed to the Wind Coast!"
"What?" Akron jerked up from his seat in shock. "Why?"
The messenger could only give an apologetical shrug as he stepped back from the enraged Fleet Master. Akron pushed him out of the way as he rushed to the viewing balcony on the upper levels of the Chamber and stared out to the distance and sure enough, the unmistakable shape of the United Nation's giant ship could be clearly seen just off the coast in full view of the entire city. "No!"
"Signal the Home Fleet!" Akron yelled at his aides in frustration. "Tell them that no matter what, they must force that... damn ship to the Seabone Reefs!"
His outburst and actions had attracted the entire Council to join him at the balcony and they too saw the United Nations' giant ship in the distance. Many of them rejoiced to see the ship as it was their only hope of winning the war with the Outsiders while those in the know regarding the plans of Megan had their faces turn pale.
"Do we still not inform the people of the coming attack?" A Council member asked the visibly furious Akron. "The giant ship of the 'Un An' is already here. The people will soon find out if the battle starts here and the city will be in chaos!"
Akron grounded his teeth as his mind raced to come out with a counter plan to the unexpected actions of the United Nations. He grabbed another aide and said in a voice as calm as possible, "Send a message to the giant ship of the 'Un An'! Further, explain to them they need to sail to Seabone Reef to block the Cartel flying fleet instead of waiting here!"
"If the Cartel flying fleet changes course to attack other of the home islands, they will not be able to intercept if they sit here!" Akron spoke as clearly as possible to the aide, making sure he was very clear of the message before he sent him off. "Remember! Tell them to sail immediately!"
Those not in the know of Megan's plans frowned as they heard Akron's orders. They quickly question Akron's action. "Why must the 'Un An' ship leave? The other islands can fend for themselves!"
"We can't let the First City fall!"
"The Council is more important!"
"Enough!" Akron yelled over the din of questions, and the Council quietened down. He quickly came out with an excuse. "We must not let the battle occur in sight of the city! Imagine the trust of the people in us falling! The traders and merchants will flock to the 'Un An' for their protection in the seas if think we could not protect them in the seas!"
"Your business interests will be affected! The people trust in us will drop! Your influence will be affected forever!" Akron's words seemed to strike a chord among the Council members as they mumbled agreements. "Do you want to lose everything to the 'Un An'?"
"No! They... they must not battle here!" An 'enlightened' member of the Council suddenly cried out and soon his cry was taken up by the rest.
Akron let out his breath which he had held in and watched as the Council members started ordering their aides to send messages to the damn ship commander, demanding them to move their fleet away from the city.
"Damn the Un An!" He cursed under his breath. If the Un An remained here, their plans to ambush the Un An fleet with the Sea Shadow would fail and with everyone in full view of the battle, it would be hard for them to claim any credit for destroying the Cartel's air fleet even if they recaptured their lost islands!
The Cartel Expeditionary Fleet, Flagship The Hammer of Resolute
Grand Lord Hammerfall glanced out of the bridge windows at the tiny dots in the distance, his eyes trying to making out the details without success. He was impressed and afraid both at the same time at the speed and power of the small flyers of the enemy. Such a small flyer was able to fly so fast, far, and also had such powerful magic attacks that could cripple his airships!
If they could capture those flyers and make their own versions of it, then their hold in the Old World would be even stronger and even possibly allow them to expand their lands and influence! Such thoughts crossed the Grand Lord's mind as the air fleet chased after the retreating flyers.
"Grand Lord! Land ahead!" An observer yelled out from his station. "The enemy flyers appear to be heading there!"
"At last!" Hammerfall stepped over to the observer's station and peered through the far seeing glasses. "This stupid chase has gone on for far too long!"
"Order the fleet to ready for battle! We will win this war once and for all!" Hammerfall ordered. "For Rock and Stone!"
UNS Vengeance, Bridge
"Sir, we are being hailed by multiple light signals from the First City," The XO of the Vengeance called out to Captain Nimo. "It seems they want us to sail out of sight of the city."
Captain Nimo had a smile on his face as he turned to his commander who was bent over the tactical plot table. "Sir, the Isles want us out of this area."
"Ignore them," Came back the reply as Commander Ford continued his work.
"Sir, the Isles escorting fleet is also hailing us and their ships are cutting into the path of our ships," Captain Nimo said. "And the Cartel air fleet is coming into the one point five kilometre range."
"Ignore them," Came back the same reply. "Order the fleet to hold their position and prepare for combat!"
"Aye aye!" Captain Nimo's smile widened as he carried out the orders given. "All hands battle stations! Repeat this is not a drill!"
Sirens wailed throughout the fleet as each ship in the task force went into combat. The Isles' Home Fleet by this time had also spotted the approached flight of returning aircraft that was being followed by a more ominous looking cloud of airships. Most of the Isles' ships quickly fled the area only a few more courageous captain remained behind to defend the First City.
The chopped off roars of landing aircraft soon filled the air as the air wing returned. Commander Ford finally left the map table and came into the bridge. He watched the bridge crew going on with their work in a professional manner and he smiled inwardly to himself feeling proud of the men and women here.
"Enemy fleet entering task force engagement range in... three... two... one..." The weapons officer intoned as his eyes were glued to his screen. "Enemy fleet has entered preset weapons range!"
"All ships..." Commander Ford had picked up the comms that was set to the fleet wide channel where all the ships' captains were waiting with anticipation for his command. "Open fire!"
There was a brief moment of silence before the harsh barks of 3" guns erupted throughout the fleet. Task Force Flag consisted of nine Goblin Classed corvettes, three having joined them in Fort Hensink and another three oilers and two supply ships hurdled behind the Vengeance.
Flickers of red hot shells floated off into the skies towards the approaching Cartel air fleet as the entire Task Force fired their main guns. Even the auxiliary supply ships each carried a couple of 3" guns for self protection joined in enthusiastically. The sudden display of firepower was quickly noticed by the inhabitants of the First City when the rumble of cannon fire rolled over the city.
"NOO!" Akron yelled as he hammered his fist uselessly against the balcony railings as he saw the damn Un An fleet started firing their cannons. He quickly calmed himself as his eyes followed the floating glowing dots that seemed to travel at a slow speed in the skies.
He turned to another aide and whispered into his ear, "Tell Megan that the plan has failed! The Un An did not take the bait and are fighting the Cartel right at the First City! Go!"
The aide nodded and silently slipped away without anyone noticing as all was watching the spectacle happening just off the coast. Akron turned his attention back to the battle and prayed silently. If Megan could return in time, she might still be able to deal a blow to the Un An before the battle was over!
The Cartel Expeditionary Fleet, Flagship The Hammer of Resolute
"ALL MAGIC POWER TO SHIELDS!" Grand Lord Hammerfall yelled as he stared in horror at the glowing lines of magic spells slamming against his ships. "All ships to spread out!"
He could see the small blobs of ships in the distance glittering under the sun rays. One appeared to be extraordinary large but he did not give it another thought as his entire fleet had suddenly come under a barrage of a new type of long range magic attack that they had never seen before!
Loud booms and rumble of thunder surrounded the Cartel fleet as the spotted enemy fleet before them, spat bolts of magic at them from a distance that boggled the mind! "What in the Mountains are those magic they are throwing at us?"
As he was trying to understand the situation, the ships bearing the crest and flag of Lord Copperstone suddenly surged forward. Strange apparatus appeared from openings along the hulls of those ships and suddenly arcs of blue white lightning crawled between the tips of the tower like apparatus. The airships took up a formation before the fleet and took the brunt of the long range magic bombardment as Grand Lord Hammerfall feared the worse for Lord Copperstone, the enemy spells exploded against the arcs of lightning and the shields of those airships just flickered briefly and held.
"By the Mountains!" Grand Lord Hammerfall yelled in glee. "That old bastard did it! His lightning shield finally worked!"
The airships of Lord Copperfield were covered with a layer of crawling lightning arcs and worked as a crude kind of point defence system. Any projectiles coming into contact with the lightning arcs were burnt and destroyed as was the case of the 3" shells. The 3" shells harmlessly exploded against the lightning shields before the resulting explosion rolled over the magic barrier at a strength that did not overload the magic barrier allowing the barrier enough time to recover its power.
Seeing its success, the rest of the fleet quickly formed up behind Lord Copperstone's ships using them as a shield against a storm of arrows and the fleet pushed on, trying to close the distance to the UN fleet. Grand Lord Hammerfall's eyes flashed with anticipation as the distance between the two fleets closed. "By the Mountains! We must capture these!"
UNS Vengeance, Bridge
Commander Ford frowned as he watched the imagery shown by a circling recon plane above the battle. Captain Nimo gesture to the bluish lighting at the front of the enemy fleet and asked, "What kind of magic is that?"
"Looks like some kind of magical point defence... " Commander Ford guessed before he shook his head. "Let's see if they handle something bigger..."
"Order the 2nd Air Wing to engage the enemy," Commander Ford said. "And ready the main guns."
"Aye!" The orders were passed on and the loitering 2nd Air Wing in the clouds came swooping in using the sun as cover as they began their rocket runs. In the meantime, the waiting gun crews of the 14" gun turrets leapt into action, more than eager to show the Cartel the might of the Vengeance.