The New World, United Nations, Haven, Fortress Singapore

"So until now, Megan still can't be found nor does anyone know of her whereabouts?" Blake seated behind the conference table together with the other senior officers, asked the image of Commander Ford on the display. "Not even one person in the entire Isles has any clue?"

"No, Sir," Commander Ford replied. "We are currently tracking the ships of her loyalists. But so far, we have not spotted her yet."

"How big is the force still loyal to Megan?" Blake asked as he flipped through a stack of reports.

Intel Officer Lieutenant Tavor stood up and replied in the place of Commander Ford. "Sir, Megan's forces consist of elements from the Isles' Second Fleet, Third and Fourth Fleet."

"Some of the captains and their crew remained behind but not much," Lieutenant Tavor reported. "The Second Fleet which command belongs to Megan has at least fifty ships of various classes, out of which, twelve are rated ships of the line."

"The Fourth Fleet which is under Akron has forty ships of various classes with ten ships of the line," Lt Tavor continued. "The Three Fleet which used to be under Dijon but the command of the fleet was later transferred to the new elected Fleet Master, Tediore, has only thirteen ships, out of which three are ships of the line."

"So there is a rough total of a hundred ships and twenty five of those consist of battleships?" Blake summarized.

"Yes, Sir," Lt Tavor nodded. "Including the crew and soldiers on board those ships, we estimated their numbers are close to around forty six thousand."

"What about their families?" One of the senior officers asked. "They won't be so stupid to revolt and left their families behind?"

"Most of the sailors do not have families," Lt Tavor explained. "For those that have families, well, either they are located somewhere safe or out of the way."

Tavor tapped a few keys on the screen and a top down image of an archipelago could be seen. "This is the Northern Islands region. It consists of three large islands and a chain of six smaller islands and surrounded by reefs."

"It looks like a hell of a vacation place to be!" Chief Matt joked.

"These three main islands are moderately populated, each having a population close to fifty thousand," Lt Tavor ignored Chief Matt's jest. "The smaller islands are also hosts to several fishing villages and island farms."

"Megan's Loyalists are all headed to this region," Lt Tavor continued his report. "As to why..."

He tapped a few more keys and another image was shown. A zoomed in picture of a coastal city could be seen with many thick white lines stretching out on the waters. Tavor gestured to the white lines and said, "This is the City of Loto, those white lines are piers and from this image alone, it has the capability to allow the entire Isles' Second Fleet to dock while still having plenty of dock space for other ships."

Another tap of the key, another similar image was shown. "Reefstead, also the same."

"And the city of Quayward," The image was changed to show another city. "All three islands have the capability and capacity to service Megan's loyalist fleet."

"We suspect that this region has the facilities and resources that would allow Megan's Loyalists to cater to their needs," explained the Intel Officer. "The Northern Island's defence fleet would not be able to hold out against the Loyalists' Fleet."

"How far is your task force away to the North Islands region?" Blake asked Commander Ford's tiny image on the side.

The image of Ford frowned and he looked off screen before he faced the screen to reply, "If we set sail now, it would take us roughly six hours."

"How long more before Megan's fleet reaches the North islands?" Blake asked again. "Can your task force intercept them before they reach the islands?"

"Four hours for them to reach, sir," Commander Ford replied after a short pause. "We can close the distance to launch air ops against them within three hours."

"Alright, your new orders are to chase them down..." Blake ordered. "Destroy them or force them to surrender, your choice. But stop them before they get to the North islands! Go!"

"Yes, Sir!" Ford's image saluted and winked out.

Blake glared at Tavor and said, "Find Megan!"

"Yes, Sir!" Tavor replied smoothly. "It will be done!"

"Chief Matt, what have you got for me?" Blake next turned to his Chief Engineer and asked. "What is this Project Icarus listed in this meeting's agenda?"

Chief Matt stood up and fiddled with the display which switched to a blueprint and started its introduction. "Project Icarus is the codename for the research and application of aetherium we collected from the ships of the Old World."

"As you all know, aetherium is an entirely new element discovered on this planet. In room temperature, aetherium exists in a solid state," Chief Matt gave a quick brief to the room. "Crystalized aetherium has a low melting point, at 78 degree celsius. Upon reaching that temperature, it melts rapidly into a gas."

"Further heating expands the aetherium molecules, allowing it to achieve ultra lighter than air state," Chief Matt said. "Upon cooling, aetherium will recrystallize back into a solid state."

"It's ultra lighter than air capabilities appear to be able to negate gravity, making it somewhat anti gravity like," Chief Matt grinned as he continued on. "Which the engineer in me is loving this shit more and more!"

"As you all know, a massive amount of energy is needed to lift something off the ground," Chief Matt explained. "Spaceship thrusters, rockets, helicopters, jets, all require a tremendous amount of 'lift' to get off the ground. In the past, our ancestors brute forced space shuttles into space by means of massive rockets and thrusters."

"Same for helicopters and VTOL drones, they use rotors to brutal force themselves to stay afloat," Chief Matt said. "And for fixed wing aircraft, wings are used to provide lift together with either a jet engine or prop engine."

"Aetherium on the other hand can help save a lot of the required energy needed to produce 'lift'," Chief Matt switched the image on the display. "In our experiments and tests, we found out that the use of aetherium is best used for heavy lifting."

"Using aetherium on fighter craft would reduce their manoeuvrability greatly as aetherium needs to be cooled and heated to change altitude," Chief Matt explained. "For heavy cargo lift aircraft or even heavy bombers, aetherium will be more suitable."

"So it is not wise to outfit fighters and attack helicopters with aetherium?" Air Force Commander Tommy asked from the side. "Does this means we still have to rely on prop engines?"

"Yes," Chief Matt nodded. "Also we do not have an unlimited source of aetherium, hence it is pointless to design or even mass producing aetherium powered aircraft."

"What we can do," This time Chief Matt's smile widened until he looked like a chester cat. "Is to build airships!"

"Wasn't the airships we captured unsatisfactory to our standards?" Blake asked curiously. "What changed?"

"Oh, no," Chief Matt shook his head while still grinning ear to ear. "Those ships are junk! They think its good, but blah... If they don't have those cheat barriers... A single 3" shell would blow them out of the skies!"

"Gentlemen! Let me present Project Icarus!" Chief Matt gestured to the display which changed to show a 3D rendering of a space ship like vessel. "Built with our very own designed aetherium heating, cooling and holding systems."

"It will be ten times more efficient compared to the system used by the Old World nations," Chief Matt proudly showed off his creation. The 3D rendering showed a rectangular vessel that looked more like a space ship with a blunt nose and edges. "Lift is provided by four main lifting pods and two back up pods, spaced around the main structure of the airship. These lifting pods will hold the heated aetherium in them and lift the entire airship."

"For propulsion, it will be powered by four locally made prop engines and encased in armoured box housing. Two in the front and two at the rear." Chief Matt tapped on the four rectangular shaped engines on the screen. "It will be crewed by a hundred and forty hands, with space for two hundred,"

"We calculated that burning 2 tons of aetherium crystals would provide enough lift for a thousand tons," Chief Matt started to list out the airship's specifications. "The entire ship's empty weight is around 1.4 k tons. Fully loaded, would be just below two thousand. Estimated range would put her around twenty thousand kilometres."

"Its top operating ceiling height would be around seven kilometres." Chief Matt continued. "For weapons, it has three mounts, it can be equipped with either the 3" guns or the 88 mm / 3.5" gun turrets. Two on the top side and one ventral facing forward. Secondary weapons include 20 mm turrets and .50 cal mounts."

"At the stern, it will boast a helicopter hangar and landing pad for helicopters like our AH - 1 Unicorns or CH - 1 Griffins," Chief Matt pointed to the stern where it was recessed downwards. "Also the belly of the Icarus would be modular, allowing it to swap its space for any mission modules."

Blake nodded as he was impressed with the design as were the others. "How long will it take to be completed?"

"I already had my boys work on a design ever since we found out that crashed Iron Kingdom airship before all this shit happened," Chief Matt replied. "And only really started working on a prototype once we started having aetherium to salvage from all those wrecks. So the design part had already been done months ago..."

"What is needed now is producing the hull but should be easy as the factories and workers already had experience in building the UNS Vengeance and our goblin class corvettes," Chief Matt said. "The Icarus size isn't that big, just about a third larger than the goblin class corvettes at 94 meters in length and with a beam of 18 meters, not counting the wings and engine pods."

"Already the hull and structure are done," Chief Matt said. "The aetherium system and

"The yard goblins had assured us that the internal outfitting work would be done quickly as long as we allow them to bless it in the name of the Faith of Firepower... and other gobliny stuff..." Chief Matt added. "Weapons, we already have lots of spares lying around..."

"We just need time to put everything together and running trials," Chief Matt reported. "If all goes well, within three months followed by another month or two for trials."

Blake frowned, "Any way to push that dateline forward?"

"Well, if they work full shifts," Chief Matt mentally did some calculations. "Should be able to cut a month off the schedule but for the trials, that's gonna be hard to cut down."

"Hmmm... Ford should be able to pacify the Isles and return to Hope Naval Station within a month," Blake said. "After that, the Vengeance will undergo servicing before it heads off towards to cross the End Zone towards the Old World."

"Two months," Blake said sharply to Chief Matt. "You have two months to get your airship up and running, or the Vengeance goes with or without your airship!"

"Damn..." Chief Matt cursed to himself inwardly. "That's kind of hard... It would take a miracle to get everything working within two months!"

"Boss! Do you know the story of Icarus?" Chief Matt blurted out.

Blake paused in his exit and without turning around, "Find that miracle, Chief!"

"And higher the son flew with his feathered wings of wax..." Chief Matt mumbled to himself as Blake left. "Until the sun's heat melted the wax away and down he fell from the sky..."

A note from neo Koh

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For everyone's info, depth charges were mentioned/used since chapter 513

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