The throaty cough of the engines died down as the flying boat was laid next to the pier. Waiting deckhands quickly secured the lines and stood at attention as the side hatch cracked out and a soldier in a black military trench coat stepped out. He gave a quick scan of the area before he moved aside for a tall gaunt looking hooman to exit.
The newcomer walked with a slight limp and the deckhands saluted as one as soon as he appeared. Captain Blake returned the salutes and stared at the towering face of the extinct volcano that was layered by rows and rows of terraces and stone dwellings. He would have enjoyed the scenery in other times but not today as he stared up at the ship like structure on the peak of the volcano.
"Sir," Lieutenant Tavor handed a file over as they entered a Marine MRAP waiting at the end of the pier. "This report just came in from my agents here."
Blake started to flip through the report as the driver took the MRAP towards the Council of Masters' Chambers. The crowd were no longer as curious as before as the novelty of seeing the strange magical iron carriages of Un An has worn out. Only children happily tried to catch up with the vehicles as they ran alongside the vehicle.
"So... Megan really built a submersible?" Blake frowned as he read the report. "I am amazed by her intelligence and the ability of the elves with their hands."
"We suspected that Megan has been sunk around the Wind Coast region," Blake read out the report. "UNS Braveheart has unconfirmed reports of depth charging an unknown underwater contact that did not sound like a sea monster."
"If this is true," Blake turned to face Tavor, saying, "Then, that would make some sense as to why the ships and captains loyal to her would head off towards the Northern Islands in such a rush without even attempting a fight in the Home Islands..."
"Once her ship went down and contact lost, her people must have fallen back to a contingency plan of sorts," Blake mused. "I do not think she would give up without a fight if she is able to, especially having over forty thousand sailors and soldiers in that fleet of hers."
"Yes, Sir, that is my conclusion too," Tavor replied. "My agents had managed to find several workers that had worked inside her hidden dock at some point."
Tavor gestured to the report in Blake's hands and said, "We found out that her submersible is called the Sea Shadow. Not many know of its existence and even most of the workers working on it were either bonded kinsmen or silenced in the end."
"The few workers we interviewed did not exactly work on the Sea Shadow but they all had seen some part of its construction at some point, as it was too big a project to be totally kept hidden among the workers," Tavor said. "They heard of the project from those that worked on it and the project actually started more than a year ago..."
"Over a year ago?" Blake repeated as he looked through the report. "So she has been planning all these for over a year?"
"That would be correct," Tavor replied. "Initially, we assumed that she is trying to copy our weapons but in failing to do so, only managed to come out with black powder muzzle loading guns, after we traced some of our guns that being sold had landed in the hands of the Isles."
"That was when we decided to present clocks as state gifts to the Isles fitted with listening devices which my agents would regularly download and transfer the data over to us for analysts," Tavor said. "We found out of them attempting to build crude ironclads, which I am now assuming is just a smokescreen to cover up their real objective... The construction of the Sea Shadow..."
"But I think her plans did not expect the coming of the Old World and the UNS Vengeance," Tavor added. "If her Sea Shadow can function similarly to a World War submarine and has underwater weapons capable of penetrating the belt armour of the Goblin Class which has relatively thinly armoured hulls, it would present an extremely nasty surprise to our Navy."
"Of course, with our fledgeling sonar tech and depth charges, it would still be enough to tackle Megan's Sea Shadows, no matter how many they throw at us," Tavor continued. "But if she mounted a coordinated surprise attack on our Fleet, we would have suffered heavily in terms of having our most experienced and skilled sailors lost."
"Hulls can always be built but experience and skills would take a much longer time to replace..." Tavor said. "The loss of the majority of our ships and experienced crew would push us back, two, three years while the Isles with their superior ocean faring knowledge would emerge the victor."
"We would be playing catch up with them, despite having superior technology and weapons," Tavor gave his analysis. "In the end, we would win, but in doing so, Megan would have solidified her hold in the Isles and weaken our influence."
"It would be either war or having to deal with Megan at her terms," Tavor said. "While we can ignore the Isles', we cannot ignore the fact that we need their markets and reach."
"Most of the major trading and merchant houses come from the Isles," Tavor said. "Without the approval of these trading or merchant houses, we would lose a huge market and also they would force prices to their advantage."
"Even if our Fleet presence increases over the region, the Isles' merchants do not only deal with ocean trade..." Tavor explained. "Trading over land and the inner Source Sea is almost controlled by most of the Isles. We would be at a huge disadvantage against the merchants..."
"So to summarize, if Megan's Sea Shadows managed to destroy our Navy presence around the waters of the New World," Blake frowned as he said. "She has a high chance of taking over the Council and dictating her control over the Isles?"
Tavor nodded as Blake continued. "And then she can pressure the top merchants in the New World to put us on an economic strangle despite us having goods that they so desperately want?"
Tavor nodded again and Blake let out a sigh, "Well, she is swimming with fishes now..."
"That is the current highest probable assumption, Sir," Tavor replied. "But we can't rule out the possibility of her been somewhere else and alive..."
"Find it out," Blake snapped. "I do not want assumptions!"
"Yes, Sir!" Tavor nodded. "Sir, if I may, I have a suggestion to add."
"Speak," Blake replied as he put aside the file.
"I suggest that we do not let anyone know if Megan is dead or found, especially to the Isles," Tavor said. "The Isles need a new common enemy, now that the Cartel had surrendered."
"In doing so, it would allow the people of the Isles to direct their anger at something, in which this case, being Megan," Tavor explained as Blake frowned. "This way, Dijon can control the new Council once it is elected and we as the Isles' Allies, can position more of our forces within key areas of the nation and expand our influence more."
"But most of the Isles' wished to join our banner," Blake said. "Why go through with so much trouble? Putting troops in foreign land eats up a lot of funds."
"Yes, but sir, not all the Isles support the decision to join the UN," Tavor replied. "We still to show the people of the Isles' our strengths and having our troops on the ground would give us a market to expand into the Isles!"
"You want to use our troops to win the hearts and minds of the people?" Blake asked.
"Yes, Sir," Tavor nodded. "And also an excuse to import our own items into the Isles..."
"Currently the Isles' taxes on importing of goods is unfavourable to us," Tavor said, "While it might change after the new Council steps in, but having some insurance is always good."
"But if the Isles successful join the UN," Blake pointed out. "Than there won't be a need for all these, right?"
"No, Sir," Tavor shook his head. "Unlike what happened in the New Kingdom of Mecca, we would still need troop presence within the Isles even after they joined us. One, it is to ensure the smooth change of governance... There would be nobility against such a chance, and second, we would still need to deploy troops to take over the security duties of the current regime until local troops could be trained up."
"And last of all, our troops here are to pressure the local rulers!"
Blake stepped through the main gates leading into the Council Chambers under much fanfare. Guardsmen dressed in elaborate ceremonial uniforms formed up in two lines coupled with colourful banners and trumpeters heralded his arrival under an astounding cheerful chorus.
Lady Gloria waited at the bottom of the marble steps with her entourage of other senior officials with a smile. Commander Ford, Major James and Captain Mills were also standing at the side wearing their dress uniforms. Lady Gloria took Blake's outstretched hand warmly and even gave him a hug and said, "Thank you for saving my son's life!"
Blake replied softly, "It's the least I could do for a... friend."
Lady Gloria smiled warmly and introduced him to the rest of her officials as Ford and the rest formed up behind him. Finally, after the introductions were done, Lady Gloria welcome them into the Council Chamber where Blake saw the hulking shape of Dijon seated on the end of the Chamber plugged into his life support and power array.
"Cap.. tain," Dijon greeted Blake as he stood next to him. "Wel...come..."
Blake gave a nod in reply and he took the seat offered to him by Lady Gloria at the head of the table. "Thank you, this is the first time I came here and I must say, your city is beautiful."
"Oh, it not as beautiful as yours," Lady Gloria smiled and said. "My son, Dijon, he always speaks highly of your city!"
"Then, I shall welcome you to visit our city," Blake smiled politely back as he made some polite talk while the rest of the officials and influential people gathered inside the Chamber.
Finally, whoever was supposed to be in the Chamber has settled down and Lady Gloria addressed the Chamber. "First of all, I wish to welcome the leader of the United Nations into our nation."
The Chamber broke out into applause and Blake stood up and gave a bow to the gathered. Lady Gloria continued and said, "Today we are gathered here to decide the future of our beloved Isles."
"All of you know that there is talk of joining the Un An and becoming part of them..." Lady Gloria said to the quiet Chamber. "Some are against this idea, while others support this decision..."
"Now, before we start voting... I would like to say something first," Lady Gloria paused as she glanced around at every member of the Chamber. "Our military is in ruins! The Fleets needs to be rebuilt as basically, none exist now! Also, the Eastern Islands lay in ruins and many of our people need help there!"
"The Cartel might have surrendered today, but what of tomorrow?" Lady Gloria asked. "What if another Outsider Nation comes? The Un An has been gracious enough to protect us at our weakest point ever since the Isles founding!"
"As merchants, you all know the meaning of nothing comes free but with a cost!" Lady Gloria gestured to Blake and said. "The Un An... will not be able to protect us forever and they have offered us a path... Which I think would take us to greater heights!"
"Now, members of the Chamber, will you please cast your vote to decide should we, the Isles, join up with the Un An, as a member state, or remain independent?"