"Captain, the sailing ship is exiting our area of operations. The UAV won't be able to track them much longer." The operator reported as he piloted the UAV from his console. "Do you want to follow the ship?"
Blake looked at the map, calculating the distances between the ship and the Base. "Alright, follow it till the UAV has 40% power remaining and return to base."
"I think we need to launch another UAV to recon these islands south of us," Blake pointed to the map. "Need to find where are all the goblins are hiding, especially if their ships."
Ford nodded, "We can set up a UAV controller at the mining station, should give us enough range to cover the islands." He looked at the map. "The islands look like they appeared to be formed by volcanic activity."
Ford scrolled through his tablet, "We got to wait till tomorrow afternoon to launch. "Currently we have one UAV on standby and the remaining UAV is under maintenance. For the other two, one is trailing the ship and another is covering the Pass. The UAVs are all booked out."
"Noted. Send the techs first to set up a UAV controller at the mining station. once maintenance is completed, we can fly the UAV over." Blake said, "Saves us some time."
Ford nodded and went to his own console, and starting assigning new jobs and missions for the crew.
As the morning breaks, Blake was woken up by an aide. He took a nap at his office sofa, informing his aide to wake him up when the day breaks. He washed up in the toilet, feeling refresh and headed back into the bridge.
"Sir, the Search and Rescue convoy has departed, ETA, one hour twenty minutes to reach the area of operations." A bridge crew informed him as he asked for a status report. "The sailing ship has left the channel an hour ago and there is no sign of any goblin ships around."
"Got it, thanks," Blake accepted the daily report from the crew and sat down on his chair, reading the full report while his aide handed him a mug of steaming caffeine.
"Hey Mills? How ya doing buddy?" Lambert pulled a roller chair over to the tank, where Mills was submerged in. The greenish fluid bubbled as oxygen was pumped into the tank constantly. "Mills?" Lambert rapped against the clear plastic.
Mills floating inside the tank had his burnt skin removed by laser and now is recovering in the 'Fish Tank', a biochemical cocktail of polymorphic drugs, nanites, and healing assisters. Wearing a breathing device, Mills opened his eyes in the tank, seeing Lambert and a few other marines wearing medbay gowns gathered around the tank.
"Hey there, pretty! How's the vacation?" Lambert joked. "You look like a newborn baby!"
Mills gave him the finger, his wounds mostly recovered and restored by the medical soup. He pressed the big red release button and the top of the tank opened. Mills slowly climbed out from the tank with the assistance of built-in steps and sat on the lid, removing his mask and breathing hard.
His lungs had to be reconstructed due to him breathing in superheated air that turned his lungs into middle raw steaks, over 80 of his skin was burnt away, so did all his hair. His cornea had melted and had to be removed and repaired, even his voicebox was damaged.
"Wha- are you ba-stards doing her-e? He rasped, breathing hard as the climb had used up all his stamina.
"Hey, take it easy," Cooper said with concern in his eyes. "You just got some new lungs, take it slow man."
Mills nodded, out of breath to make any response. The rest of the marines climbed up and carried him down gently from the tank, putting him down on a bed.
"So, what are you all doing here?" Mills asked again after he rested. "Skiving?"
"Hahaha," The whole gang laughed, "Well not really skiving, we just had a bit of disagreement with the local food here."
"You meant untested and inedible stuff?" Dr. Sharon entered the bay. "You all could have died!" She fumed. "Why did you do that for? Have you guys have no sense?"
"Eh... Mdm, the surveying team dared us to taste test the stuff they bring back in exchange for credits to the VR E-Room," Lambert scratched his short cropped hair in embarrassment.
"What? For more credits to use the entertainment room, you guys can bet your lives?" Dr. Sharon roared. "Do you think this is funny? I got more important cases to deal with rather than you kids! If you want to die that much, I can help you!"
"Sorry, Mdm!" The whole gang straightened into parade attention. "No more dares, Mdm!"
"Alright, I take your words this time around," Dr. Sharon lowered her voice, her temper cooling down after giving the marines a piece of her mind. "Now go back to your beds and rest, and don't disturb the rest of the patients!"
"Aye aye, Mdm!" The whole gang dispersed from the bay, giving Mills a wave and a wink. "See ya around Mills!"
Dr. Sharon shook her head, wondering what is in the brains of those marines, air? "How are you feeling now, soldier?" She turned her attention to Mills.
"Bett-er, Mdm," Mills replied, "My in-sides feel itchy all the ti-me,"
"That's good, means you are healing up fine," Dr. Sharon took out a penlight and shone into Mills' eyes, checking his irises. "Your corneas look better, after another few more days of treatment in the tank, you should be fully recovered, but you need to do some physio to restore your stamina."
"Thanks, Mdm," Mills replied, "I thi-nk I slept more than en-ough. Ca-n't wait to get out of he-re."
"Take it easy, soldier," Dr. Sharon said while going through his medical readouts. "Rest more, and don't get into trouble like your friends!"
"Yes, Mdm." Mills meekly replied.
"Captain, SAR reports that they have found a single survivor." Comms officer Clara looked towards Cpt Blake. "They are on their way back."
"Sir, UAV has spotted more sailing ships off the coast, they are heading for the elven ship." The UAV operator called out, "Looks like goblin ships."
"How many?" Blake asked, turning his attention back to the tactical screen.
"Four, fi-seven. Seven ships, Sir!"
Blake looked at the screen, watching seven ships with oars pursing the elven vessel. I don't think they will be able to catch up with the elven ship, Blake thought.
True enough, less than an hour of trying to close up with the elven ship, to no success, the goblin pirates turned around and head back to where they came from.
"How much power does the UAV have left? Blake asked the operator.'
"Follow those goblin ships," Blake ordered. "See where is their hideout."
The operator wearing the VR bulbous helmet, piloted the UAV towards the retreating ships, keeping a distance of one kilometer away in the sky. After another hour of tracking, which the pirates headed seawards along the island, looped into a natural cove.
Blocked from view by the dormant volcano, a city appeared on the opposite side. The only way to spot the city is to fly over the volcano or travel around the island.
Several large makeshift piers stuck out like skeletal fingers along the sheltered cove, dozens and dozens of galleys berth next to the piers, and some larger ships, most likely prizes that they have captured. Sunken ships of all shapes and sizes could be seen in the clear water, their rotting masts jagging out from the waves.
Dozens of dry docks could also be seen, lined the coast with skeletal frames of even more ships under construction. Hundreds and thousands of goblins could be seen moving around the ships and the city streets.
Behind the backdrop of the busy harbor, a massive ramshackle city could be seen with crude dwellings made out of mud and wood sprawled haphazardly along the coast all the way up to the volcanic mountainsides. Cave openings could be also seen, dot the sides of the dormant volcano mixed with what appeared to be farms of some kind.
"Oh my god," Blake stared at the screen. "How many goblins are there!" He tried to count the number of ships laid tied up against the piers and gave up when he reached 40. He noticed most of the ships appeared to be badly in need of repairs.
The whole bridge crew stared in fascination of the goblin city. "There must be thousands and thousands of them!"
"Sir, UAV power is below 40%, do you still want to UAV to continue its mission or return to base?" The operator reported.
"How much power is needed to return?" Blake asked the operator.
The operator ponders for a while before replying, "Sir, due to the strong winds here, flying the UAV back will eat up roughly another 35% of remaining power or more."
"Damn, alright, pull back the UAV for now," Blake said. "Fire up the standby UAV, I want eyes on that city!"