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It was quiet except for the occasional beep of the instrumental panels inside the dark cockpit. Flickers of lightning lit the interior of the cockpit where the two pilots sat in a side by side configuration. Thunder rumbled shortly after while the massive wingship sandwiched between two layers of endless clouds continued its journey through a landscape no mortal being has ever laid their eyes on until now.

Flying at over twelve thousand metres above sea level, the UN Airforce newest wingship, the WSC - 1 'Phoenix', powered by six massive contra-rotating propeller engines, was cruising at speeds of over four hundred kilometres per hour. The tailless flying wing with a span of three hundred metres flew above the sea of clouds while above it was another ceiling of endless clouds.

Constant streaks of purple white lightning flashed between the two layers of clouds as if the Gods were trying to sew the cloud together with lightning. The clouds were so thick that it was impossible to tell if it was day or night. The only source of light was from the ever active bolts of lightning crawling across the skies.

"Coming to Point Echo," The co pilot said as he checked his instruments. "And... we should be exiting the End Zone... in about thirty mikes!"

"Order the crew to get ready for the exit," The pilot replied. "Get them to check everything is secured and strapped down."

"All hands, the Phoenix will exit the End Zone in T minus thirty mikes." The co pilot made an announcement. "All crew chiefs are to ensure their departments are secured for exit!"

The wingship continued to plough through the clouds and lightning bolts constantly struck the wingship causing arcs of lightning to crawl along its insulated hull. The Phoenix punched through the dark wall of cloud that suddenly loomed up before the wingship.

"All hands! Brace for exit!" The co pilot hit the comms and broadcasted to the entire wingship crew. "Exiting End Zone in... Five... four... three... two..."

"ONE!" There was a violent shake as wingship burst into the cloud wall. The strapped in wingship crew shook in their seats and equipment rattled in their bins from the sudden turbulence. As sudden as the turbulence, it became calm as the wingship burst out of the clouds.

Instantly, the dark gloomy weather disappeared before the pilots' eyes and they had to screen their eyes as bright sun rays flooded into the cockpit. "Success!"

Letting out a breath of relief, the two pilots congratulated themselves and they peered out of the cockpit windows, happy to see blue skies and normal clouds after a gruelling thirty seven hour flight through dangerous unnatural weather. The crew crowded around the viewports as they stared out at the scenery.

The Phoenix dipped down and slowly the terrain beneath the wingship became clearer and more detailed. An expanse of the ocean could be seen and the dark smudge in the horizon soon turned into a landmass.

"Heading to Point Foxtrot," The co pilot intoned. "Fort Anchorage, Fort Anchorage, this is UNAF Phoenix, over."

"Fort Anchorage, Phoenix, can you hear us? Over." The co pilot repeated into the comms after a moment of static silence. "Fort Anchorage, this is UNAF Phoenix, do you copy? Over."

"This is Fort Anchorage, we hear you Phoenix! Congrats for crossing the End Zone!"

Both pilots grinned as they heard the reply. "Phoenix, we are en route to your location, ETA, three hours."

"Fort Anchorage, copy that! Welcome to the Old World!"

-----

The Old World, Waterfall Cove, UN FOB, Fort Anchorage

Carts of broken rock and stone rolled out from the bowels of the man made cave along tracks to a sorting area where workers sorted out the materials out. Ore was separated into bins to be refined into metal while the other rocks were to be used in the onsite cement factory.

In the six months since the UNS Vengeance had arrived at the Old World, the deepwater cove had changed drastically. Multiple caves were dug and turned into bunkers and underground facilities all along the cliff walls. Several massive cargoes and dozens of smaller passenger elevators lined the sheer cliff walls, providing a means of transport up the side of the hundreds of metres tall cliff.

The UN Forward Operating Base had been expanded aggressively both on the top of the cliff and under. Important facilities like storage of munitions and fuel were dug into the cliff walls while barracks and housing for workers were built on the top of the cliff. Concrete walls surrounded the base on the top of the cliff with more concrete defence towers spaced evenly along the walls.

Dozens of micro villages dotting the coast of the Lowlands had been successfully transported and migrated over to the UN town base where the once Banished villagers worked in agriculture, fishing, mining, and the metal industry. The forested land around the UN town base had been cleared back, providing clear fields of fire and also several squares of land growing grain and greens.

So far, the UN FOB appeared to have not been discovered yet despite the increase in their construction activity and the teams of adventurers and Marines sent out to recon the Highlands, together with the two Cartel dwarvans' intel, had greatly expanded their knowledge of their surrounding area of the Cartel Highlands. Magister Thorn and his mage techs had also come to a conclusion that the magic in the Old World was as reported, severely depleted.

Blake, standing at the sandbagged railing of a gun tower on the top of the cliff. watched with his arms behind his back as the wingship Phoenix dipped down the horizon and hit the surface of the ocean. The nose prow of the wingship churning the water white as it landed on the ocean. The massive wingship came to a majestic stop just beyond the opening of the cove that was protected by an illusion magic array, looking like a monstrous bird of prey.

The wingship slowly turned around and faced its rear to the cove while boats looking like tiny toys came alongside it. The Phoenix's rear slowly opened up to reveal its interior cargo space and the unloading of cargo began.

"Sir, with the Phoenix, successfully crossing the Sea of Clouds," Intel Officer Trism said from the side. "We can now make use of the two Icarus class airships here for our operations."

"Both the Icarus airships would provide a much greater use to our main objective rather than having them perform supply runs," Trism said. "The Phoenix with its faster speed could resupply us ten times faster!"

"I know," Blake replied with a nod. "I do intend to have both the Icarus to stop their supply runs. But they will not be used to insert into the territories of the Old World.... They are too eye catching..."

Blake turned his glance to the large airship landing pads where the boxy shape of both Icarus was parked next to a flamboyant airship. The fifty two meter long and sixteen meter wide flamboyant airship looked like a mid 1700s sailing ship with a bloated bulge on its sides and instead of vertical sails, its sails were placed horizontally on the sides like wings.

The airship was painted in a riot of bright colours and multiple patches were made to the hull. It was clearly the old Loose Confederation airship that had seen a lot in its days and had been patched and repatch over the years. Tiny figures could be seen putting the final touches on the hull of the airship, christened the Old Ugly.

Its original airscrew had been swapped out with a spare pair of F/A - 2 Viper's push prop engines. The old coal fired aetherium boiler updated with a modern boiler and pressure tanks. All the internal aetherium tanks and pipes had been further ripped out and replaced with new and better tanks and pipes.

In the end, the only original part of the Loose Confederation airship was its shell, decks and bulkheads. Its interior systems had been completely rebuilt by the goblin engineers and techs. 3" cannons and rocket batteries were hidden behind hull plating and the old steam cannons remained as purely camouflage. Some of the goblins had even tinkered with the old steam cannons in an attempt to make them fire modern shells.

It had taken over two months for the merchant Ait to procure and transport the airship over and another four more months to rebuild the decrepit airship into fighting standard. Rism had discovered why the rabbit man merchant Ait had been so friendly to the UN at that time. It had appeared that they had saved his wife and child from the pirates and he was returning the favour back.

"But that... old thing is not reliable!" Trism said in a worried voice. "No matter how it had been rebuilt or refitted, it could not compare to an Icarus airship!"

"We do not want to bring attention to ourselves..." Blake replied. "I just want to get this done over with quickly!"

"Any tangles with the locals here will further cause us more time!" Blake snapped. "Already we have been here for six months! Six fucking months! And we are still nowhere even close to the Protectorate!"

"No..." Blake sighed. "We will go in with a single ship, the Icarus airships will park somewhere nearby and remain in hiding while we make our way to the Protectorate!"

"Yes, sir," Trism conceded. "The operation can begin once the final checks are completed on the... Old Ugly..."

"Good," Blake nodded. "It's time."

-----

The Old World, The Iron Kingdoms

A shadow cast over the mountain border fort had its guards raised their heads up high to see a massive floating island drifting over their heads. Panicked cries came from the guardsmen and the alarm went off. Airships pushed to the skies and headed straight for the drifting island, only to find the floating island was flying the colours of the Iron Kingdom.

When the mountain fort's airships landed on the floating island and the soldiers combed the castle and the entirely of the island, and could not find a single person. The strangest thing they found was that things had been left as if the owners would return. Rotted food and cutlery remained on the tables, work tools left next to their stations, and even clothes that appeared to be half washed was left just as they were.

The soldiers combing the island felt a sense of fear as they searched the place and when they opened the vaults and the warehouses, the Iron Kingdom soldiers found hundreds and hundreds of crates filled with magic crystals of all types of elements. Seeing the treasure, the higher ups of the fort came to the conclusion that the floating island had to come from the New World and their claim was further reinforced when they found the colours of the Crown Prince and identified the floating island as the IK Iron Fortress that left with the Third Iron Fleet into the New World.

Word was sent out by the fastest courier airships to the waystations where they switch ships and continue down repeating at each waystation until the courier reached the Capital. The Iron King and his Iron Lords upon hearing the news were shocked and confused. Word was sent back for the IK Iron Fortress to return to the Capital so that they could safely store the magic crystals and also to find out what had happened to the people of the flying island, especially the Crown Prince.

The Iron King paced around his throne while his ministers and Iron Lords awaited his instructions watched his pacing. Finally, the Iron King came to a halt and he spun around, his eyes wild with anger, "I want the best people to find out what happened to the Iron Fortress!"

"Whoever finds the whereabouts of my son... The Crown Prince..." The Iron King stared down at his retinue and said. "I shall award him greatly!"

"Find. My. Son!"

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