The entire area around the naval docks was jam packed with people. Banners and flags fluttered in the sea breeze while sounds of a concert could be heard over the din of the crowd. Stalls lined the streets of the naval docks and merchants hock their wares to the crowd. Colourful balloons drifted into the skies where a dozen VF - 2 Vipers buzzed overhead with streams of coloured smoke trailing behind.
The UNS Vengeance sat next to the docks decked out in festive banners and flags while its crew had dressed up in their finest uniforms. They mingled with their families, loved ones and friends on the docks. Most of them queued up next to the photo booths to take a picture of remembrance before their journey into the unknown.
Both of the UNS Vengeance's flight decks were stacked two high with containers, only the aircraft elevator platforms and the helipads were empty of containers. During her month long refit, she had gained over a dozen new platform for dual 20 mm gun mounts that were welded into place along her hull. Additional heavy machine gun mounts were also installed to boost its anti air arsenal as the Vengeance will only have dragons for air support and no fixed wing aircraft until the containers were removed from the flight decks.
Her secondary armament consisting of 3" guns were also upgraded to the new 3.5" (88 mm) guns further increasing her firepower. New radar systems were also installed onboard, including back up communications arrays on both superstructures. The mission planners had come up with spares for everything they could think of and fit onboard the battle carrier, just in case.
Finally, the singing ended and a military band took up the cue. A motorcade drove down a cordoned street next to the UNS Vengeance and the senior officers of the ship and VIPs exited the vehicle under a soul shaking cheer from the crowd. The officers saluted and waved to the crowd before they climbed up the linking bridge and boarded the UNS Vengeance.
The crew gave their final farewells to their loved ones and formed up in their respective units before they too boarded the UNS Vengeance. Many returned waves and kisses to their crying yet proud families on the docks as the crew members disappeared into the giant ship. The military band continued to play as the boarding continued and the people remained waving and cheering for the brave crew of the Vengeance.
Once the last crew had boarded, the link bridges were detached and the mooring lines cast off, the Vengeance gave a blast of its foghorn. The mournful cry rolled over the docks and the waiting tug boats roared as they strained their engines to pull the massive battle carrier out of the docks under it can move in its own power. The crew of the Vengeance crowded along the hull and any open area of the decks and waved back to the shore where the shore defence guns fired off a twenty one salute.
The UNS Vengeance gave one last blast of its foghorn before her lines are released from the tug boats and under her own power, it fell into formation with a dozen escorts waiting out in the open sea.
UNS Vengeance, Admiral's Stateroom
Grand Lord Hammerfall and Lord Copperstone were both standing before a tall tired looking short ear who was seated behind a desk. The cabin they were in was large and spacious even with the presence of armed guards standing next to them.
Grand Lord Hammerfall took the opportunity to observe the short ear person whose race seemed to be referred to as hoomans and sensed that despite the sickly outlook, the person oozed an aura of command and cold anger.
Lord Copperstone on the other hand occupied himself with the decor of the cabin, his head turning around curiously as he took in his surroundings. Finally, the hooman set down his writing apparatus and looked up at the two Cartel leaders before he opened his mouth, speaking in near perfect trade tongue. "We have not met but I am Captain Richard Blake of the United Nations."
"Grand Lord Rugatus Hammerfall, hailing from the Silver Mountains, Leader of the people of the Cartel!" Grand Lord Hammerfall replied. making their own introductions. "This is Lord Copperstone, hailing from the Fire Mountains."
"I am sure both of you are curious about why are you here, on board this ship," Blake said simply, going straight to the topic. "After all that trouble to transfer from the city to the mines and back."
Both the Cartel Lords nodded their heads and wondered who this Captain was but politely waited for their host to explain himself. Blake continued, "We are heading to the Old World."
"What?" Both the dwarvans were very surprised. Grand Lord Hammerfall had a few guesses but he never thought that they will be brought back to the Old World. "With this ship?"
"Yes," Blake nodded. "It will also be our first time to cross the Sea of Clouds as you all called the unnatural barrier that surrounds this continent."
"By the Mountains! But to cross the Sea of Clouds on board an oceangoing ship... is madness!" Grand Lord Hammerfall exclaimed in shock. "No matter how powerful your steamworks is, your ship can't compare to the forces of nature!"
"We know," Blake replied with a soft sigh. "Still there shouldn't be much to worry about."
"Rock and stone! It's... its suicide!" Grand Lord Hammerfall insisted. "The only way across is by flying through! The sea monsters, whirlpools, and waves will destroy this ship!"
"Yes, there is that chance," Blake replied calmly as if he was not bothered by the thought of dying. "You two have experience in crossing that barrier. This is the reason why you are here instead of digging rocks in some hole."
"And both of you do not have a choice," Blake added quickly, cutting off whatever protests the Grand Lord wanted to say. "Remember, both of you are still considered prisoners of war!"
"I shall provide any assistance you require!" The quiet Lord Copperstone suddenly declared. "On one condition!"
"State your condition," Blake leaned back on his chair and crossed his fingers together.
"I... I will like to have a chance to study your nation's steamworks!" Lord Copperstone said, his eyes glittering with excitement. On the side, Grand Lord Hammerfall cursed as he wondered what situation was he dragged in.
"That is possible," Blake said after a moment of consideration. "But nothing of military nature!"
"I will not presume to do so," Lord Copperstone gave a modest bow.
"Cooperate and I will allow both of you some degrees of freedom," Blake said coldly. "Try anything funny... Well, I got plenty of cells here..."
UNS Vengeance, Brig
Four bulky Marines waited for the duty officer to unlock the security gate of the brig before they entered. One of the Marines carried a food tray and they strolled past the empty cells until to came upon one that was locked. The locked cell had scribbles of rune words covering the hatch to the surrounding bulkheads.
A constant thudding could be heard coming from inside and the Marine In Charge tapped a few keys on a command panel and the screen lit up, displaying the insides of the cell. He glanced at the screen, seeing the prisoner crouching on his haunches at the far side of the cell and rhythmic banging the side of his head against the padded cell walls.
The Marine IC gave nodded to one of his men who took out a set of keys and unlocked the hatch. He remained outside while the rest entered the cell, his hand on his sidearm, ready to use it if there was a need. The walls of the entire spartan cell was padded without any furniture yet there were smudges of dried blood here and there on the padded walls.
The Marine with the food tray quickly exchanged the emptied tray on the floor for the one in his hand while the Marine IC watched the prisoner. Once they were done, the Marines left the cell and locked it back up before exiting the brig.
The prisoner whose entire face was covered with ritualistic scars did not even seem to register the Marines entering and exiting as he banged his head against the padded wall all the while mumbling softly to himself.
"I am justice. Justice is me. I am justice. Justice is me. I am justice. Justice is me. I am justice. Justice is me."
UNS Vengeance, Mess Deck 'C'
"Professor!" A joyful cry came from the hatch and Professor Hamlot who was nursing a cup of hot tea on one of the long tables turned around in surprise at the cry. He spotted three youngsters rushing over towards him from the entrance and he broke into a warm smile as he recognized his students.
"Clarie! Uwen! Berringer!" He stood up and gave a hug to his three students which he had not seen in months. "How are the three of you doing?"
He looked at the three youngsters who seemed to have grown taller. He remembered their once thin and weak frame after surviving for over a month on rainwater and whatever they could catch in the sea. After getting rescued by the Un An, they were placed in a school and he joined the UNS Vengeance as a civilian advisor ever since.
"We are well, Professor," Clarie beamed happily. "We were hoping to see you onboard."
"It is nice to see all of you, doing well!" Professor Hamlot wholeheartedly replied. "But... this journey... It is very dangerous, we might not be able to make it across..."
"Professor," Uwen, his once snotty demeanour no longer present, said, "We all missed home... and our families and friends too!"
Berringer the quiet and soft boy who now had seemed to grown more muscles and confidence nodded, "Yes, We were told the risks. But I miss my family. I am certain they are worried sick about our disappearance!"
"Well, if you all know the risks then I shall not say more!" Professor Hamlot smiled. "Come tell me what happened to you three! How was life in that school?"
The three youngsters happily joined the Professor and started telling their own experiences and adventures they had when they at the School of Science and Magic. Their stories made the Professor laugh or shook his head at their silliness.
UNS Vengeance, Hangar Deck A
"CAN YOU STOP SHIFTING YOUR BIG FAT ASS?" Rastraz growled as she stabbed the fleshly side of Blue Thunder who let out a yelp of pain. "Go and curl up at that corner!"
"But... this is my corner..." Blue Thunder mumbled sadly as he shuffled over to the other end. He slumped down and coiled his body up, resting his head on his tail and watched the two female dragons hurdled over the eggs.
Rastraz and Saphia let out a giggle as they watched the projected images on the bulkhead while keeping the eggs carefully pressed between themselves. Shockingly to everyone, the two dragons seemed to hit if off and they became best friends ever since which made Blue Thunder grouchy as he was cast aside.
Blue Thunder sighed softly to himself as he watched the two hog his projector which he had saved up by not having his cheese fries to purchase. Now he was ignored by the two dragons, his eggs taken away, his projector and movies taken over, no cheese fries for the unforeseen future, no playmate since Plee was always busy lately, and very soon, no chance to spread his wings.
He sighed again as he tried to peek over the bodies of the two dragons but he couldn't see the projected korean drama that they were watching and gave up. He laid down again and closed his eyes.
"This is gonna be a long boring trip..."