A roll of thunder echoed through the sky, a flash of lightning illuminating the deck of the mighty floating vessel as it cut through billowing dark clouds. From amid a porthole embedded in the hull of the ship Captain Barnabus Tar'qun peered out at the moody weather. The captain was a stout man of many years with a rugged face, framed by a wiry grey beard and piercing green eyes behind half moon spectacles. His visage was streaked with wrinkled lines that spoke of years of hard labour on the decks of airships and fighting tooth and nail for other men. His eyes however still held a delightful glint that gave the impression of a youthful soul trapped in an older frame. The stub of a well chewed cigar jutted from the corner of his lips, ash cascading down his facial hair as he leaned back into his brass rocking chair.
The ship he resided on was known as 'Aether-Walker' and was the pride of the fleet. Its ornate shape had been designed to perfectly traverse the turbulent winds, fickle weather and aether-rot that had claimed so many lesser constructs. Barnabus had full faith in the machines capabilities, however his over protective nature of the creation was justified for the kings ransom he had paid ( and still owed) to its previous owner. The 'Aether-Walker' was the first ship that he had been in command of and had been funded by the Sky port council of Tel'ra Da, on the merit of his experience as a navigator. The pursuit of Aether-Gold had always been a harsh focus for the Kharadron, however in recent times they had been forced to travel further afield to find suitable deposits. Barnabus had theorised in a recent journal the existence of an accumulating mass across the stained sea that yet remained untapped. It was this that had allowed him the chance to captain his own fleet in search of this potential anomaly.
The acrid blue smoke of the cigar pooled around his balding pate as he flipped open his leather bound log book and stubbed the chewed end into an ash tray. From the inkwell of his bureau he produced a metallic quill, dipped it in ink and began to scrawl runes on the pages. As he worked, recording the coordinates of the location, the weather and other such trivial things the day had brought he thought on the strange phenomenons he was encountering as he drew ever closer to his destination. The weather seemed to become more animated the closer to they came to the anomalies location. It had struck him as peculiar that a storm could be apparent, this high within cloud cover, however the higher they ascended the thicker the clouds had become. It had become increasingly difficult to work out their location from vision alone as the intermittent storms brought thick clouds and fog to surround the ship. He pondered the correlation of this with his anomaly theory for a few moments before being jarred from his deep thoughts by a heavy impact that sent him reeling to the deck.
Startled voices could be heard from all over the vessel as a great horn was blown, warning the crew of immediate danger. Instinctively he dived for his Aether-Suit and began the difficult process of sliding into his life preserving armour. With shaky hands he pulled clasps tight, checked seals and released the valves that allowed the air to be filtered and fed to him within his metal cocoon.
The suit was an ornate display of his kin's craftsmanship. Each one had been forged with an individual in mind and would fit no other. It was the Kharadron's pride and joy and was as revered as any holy icon.
When the safety checks on his armour were complete, Barnabus reached for the valve door in the ceiling, unsealed the hissing quarantine locks and heaved himself on deck to face the commotion.