United Nations, Sawtooth Mountain Air Base

Air Force Commander Tommy held on to pair of binoculars as he tracked the airship drifting across the runway of the airbase. Spectators lined the hangars at the side as ground crew and servicemen paused at their work and stared in wonder at the massive ship made out of metal doing its aerial trials. Fire and rescue teams in their black and yellow uniforms were also on standby on the side just in case of any accidents.

The hundred and fifteen meters long rectangular boxy airship looked naked without its armour plating and totally unlike the designs of the Old World's nations' airships. Its quad propeller engines with its internals could be seen and its underbelly was currently exposed without its mission module attached. Dozens of circular holes could be seen lined along its hull as its weapons were not mounted yet.

The Icarus came to a hover over the runway, all of its four massive prop engines powering down and hydraulic landing struts extended out from its hull as it slowly landed on the tarmac. Commander Tommy smiled as the crowd broke out in cheers and applause as the flight trials had been successful. "Chief, everything looks good."

Chief Matt nodded with pride as he stared at his project. "I never doubt it would fail!"

"Still, those magic runes giving it resistance to crosswinds are truly something of a marvel!" Commander Tommy said. "Now we just need to outfit it up and another few more of trial runs, and it would be operational!"

"You meant basic trials, right?" Chief Matt raised an eyebrow at the Air Force Commander. "We only ran some basic trials here..."

"Well, we are really running short on time," Commander Tommy replied with a helpless shrug. "We can't just let the Vengeance go in solo..."

"I know," Chief Matt sighed as he watched the testing crew disembark from the airship. "If only we got a month or two more to run full trials..."

"The Boss isn't gonna wait that long, you know?" Commander Tommy replied. "Keep running the trials once the Icarus completes its full fitting... If the Icarus can't clear its trials, then the Vengeance will have no choice but to cross the End Zone to the Old World alone..."

"That is why my guys are working overtime these few weeks!" Chief Matt nodded in agreement. "We can't let the Boss himself go in there without any backup!"

"We don't know what other surprises they have in the Old World..." Chief Matt added. "So the Boss is gonna need all the firepower we can get him."

"Alright, I am going over to see the boys working on the balloon satellite comms array," Chief Matt said before he left the control tower. "It will be their lifeline..."


United Nations, Hope City, Train station

Lord Copperstone was astonished by what he had seen in the past few days in his 'indented' service so far. The architecture, metalworks and magic was something that was alien yet opened his mind to so many new possibilities and made him so excited that he almost could not fall asleep.

And now, he stared at this great giant iron snake that stretched from one end of the platform to another and the number of people and cargo that was being loading into each of its sectioned metal body! He mentally counted the number of crates that were been loaded by some sort of magical wagon that seemed to be specially built for the work of moving crates into the belly of the iron snake.

He estimated that the number of goods carried was almost equal or more compared to the two cargo holds worth of weight of a medium airship! And he hasn't even counted the number of people boarding it! What an amazing creation, thought Lord Copperstone, his eyes staring hungrily at the train.

"The Un An is a place of wonders!" He mumbled next to his Grand Lord who was less impressed with the train. "And I have never seen a city so brightly lit up at night! It was even brighter than our under cities!"

"Yes..." Grand Lord Hammerfall could only grudgingly agree as they saw the lit up city during the nights they were held inside a compound just at the outskirts. "It was like some celebration or festival with all those different colours..."

The dwarvans had at first assumed the city was celebrating their victory over the Cartel which made them indignant. But over the course of the few days, they were held as prisoners, the colourful lights of the city did not lessen nor seemed to go away. Their guards continued with their vigilance watch and did not seem to resent the dwarvans for not having the chance to go join in the festivities unlike what the dwarvans would have expected the guards would do.

Even without going into the city, Lord Copperstone could tell that the Un An possessed methods and knowledge that was totally different from the nations of the Old World. He wondered could it be due to the differences in resources and geographical environment that the strongest nation in the New World has such different schools of thought.

In the Old World, cities would be filled with thick smog that came from industrials. Coal works, forges, steam plants and many other heavy industrials would spew out endless clouds of filthy smoke that over time, would cover the entire city in a layer of soot and dust while a fog of dirty air would wrap around the city.

Most nobles and the wealthier classes would have their estates in the cleaner areas of the land which was either far away from the industrial areas or was covered by a barrier of forested land. For of the rich and nobility that had to live in the cities, their mansions were either built above the dirty smog cloud, living in tower mansions or for the ultra rich and powerful, a floating mansion powered by aetherium that were anchored to the city by massive iron chains.

For the Cartel who lived inside the mountains, they had to dig massive tunnels to ventilate the air, or have their heavy industrials built on the sides of the mountains which made them vulnerable to raids. Therefore, many of the Cartel mountain holds would instead choose to build a complex system of ventilation tunnels and steam powered fans to clear the air. If not, the residents of the mountain holds could well suffocate inside the mountains from the lack of fresh air.

This made Lord Copperstone wonder what kind of energy source does the United Nations uses as it was clearly not steam as he has observed many of the wagons and even the iron snake called a 'train' which he was currently waiting to board. There no signs of any boiler that was required of a steam work nor was there any fluctuations of magic at work.

All these points made him confused and extremely curious. It was like an unscratchable itch in his mind and the questions he directed to the guards yield no results as the guards were unable to explain or too unbothered to reply. He squatted down next to the crack between the iron snake and the platform and stared curiously into the dark at the massive wheels underneath the iron snake.

His suspicious looking actions were caught by the guards and they hurried over and dragged him off to the side. Feeling disappointed for not having more time to look at the inner workings of the iron snake, he obediently returned in line next to Grand Lord Hammerfall who shook his head at his antics. "Is the ironworks of the Un An so fascinating?"

"Why yes!" Lord Copperstone replied. "Take a look at this iron snake! If we can implement this into our mountain cities and mines, think of the increase in efficiency of transporting goods and people from place to place!"

"True, it does seem that way," Grand Lord Hammerfall nodded as his interest was piqued. "But our airships could do the same."

"Yes, but operating airships are expensive..." Lord Copperstone said. "And if we could find out how these iron snakes work... It might provide us with a better way to move a large number of goods and people at a lower cost!"

Grand Lord Hammerfall ceded the point to Lord Copperstone by shrugging. He gestured to the orange clothing they were wearing and said, "Before we go into all that... We still need to find a way to escape and also a way back home..."


The Empire of Bluewood, Exile's Island

Leung sat squeezed between two locals hugging his knees to his chest. The hold he was inside was crowded and filled with many people that he found out were taken from villages and towns here and there along the coastal areas. He was unfortunately caught by a patrol of Outsiders' soldiers as the people here called their captives for quite some time ago.

He knew the true identity of his captives as the Tri State and Iron Kingdom as he had helped the Bluewood Empire fight them off and witnessed the one sided bombardment provided by the UN ships. He had later taken the opportunity to slip away from the Imperials and disappeared into the forest. After hiking deep into the forest for many days and certain he was untrackable by the Imperials, he settled down to a hermit's life only to encounter a wandering patrol of Outsiders.

He was next taken to their camp, a series of caves by the side of the mountain range but not before his meagre supplies and gear scavenged by the patrol. The soldiers questioned him and he lied as best as he could before he was thrown to work on clearing the nearby forest for wood with many others taken like him.

As time went by, Leung had long lost track of time, only following the harsh orders of forced labour. Those that slacked off were whipped by the watching soldiers and forced to continue working. They were just fed enough, only enough to keep them working. From the break of dawn, Leung shuffled out with the others and received their first meal, some sort of grain porridge and meat scrapes before handed tools to cut down trees.

During midday, they were given a turn of the sand glass to rest. Most collapsed where they worked and slept while others took out the wild fruits, mushrooms and tubers that they foraged while working and made a meal out of those. Once the rest time was over, the soldiers forced them back to work until the sun dipped below the land and they received the last meal of the day which was the same as breakfast.

But today was different, the soldiers herded the Leung and the rest into the hold of an airship that was hidden in a huge clearing. The huge airship was covered with a glimmer spell to prevent anyone from spotting it in the sky. Leung knew that there were more airships scattered all over the area, all hidden similarly from sight, from listening to the others talking about it.

He was too tired to feel worried or nervous and only mindless followed the harsh orders of the soldiers. Now he was squeezed with dozens of others in a tiny cell and many took the chance to rest, as did he. His eyes closed for a moment before he was suddenly rudely awakened by both a loud rumble and shaking of the decks.

Instantly, the people inside the cell started crying out in panic and fear, only to have the guards yelled at them to quiet down. Leung shoved his way through the tight confines and made his way towards the tiny viewport that was their only source of light from outside. He peered through the hole which was only the size of his head and briefly saw the blue green canopy disappear and replaced by the blue white skies.

"Where the fuck are we going?"

A note from neo Koh

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