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Petty Officer Ivan sneaked a peek around the corner, seeing no one around outside the armory, he whispered, "Raman! You there?"

Sgt Raman hearing his name stuck his head out of the armory hatch, "Ivan? What's up? You got a new batch of vodka?" He grinned.

"Ye-no, I mean I got something more than that!" Ivan entered the armory and looked around, making sure no one else is inside and shut the hatch.

"What's wrong?" Raman narrowed his eyes in suspicion, wondering what is wrong with Ivan.

"I got some really bad news man!" Ivan said nervously and poured out what he heard earlier from the lower decks.

"Seriously?" Raman widened his eyes in surprise at the news. "That's true?"

"Heard those stuffy elves and the Bossman himself said so," Ivan nodded, "Don't tell anyone else, man!"

"We need an exit plan," Raman said after he sat down and thought for a while. "We can't stay here anymore."

"But how are we going to survive out there?" Ivan asked. "You wanna go over to the Blue Boys?"

"We might not have to," Raman waved Ivan closer and whispered his plan into Ivan's ear.

"You understand?" Raman asked when he finished explaining his plan. "You know what to do?"

"You sure it will work out?" Raman asked, "I am not too sure about it."

"Come on, we will be like kings!" Raman said confidently. "Just follow the plan."

"Got it," Ivan nodded, "Once my side is done, I will contact you."

"Tell no one ok?" Raman said as Ivan opened the armory hatch and looked around outside before leaving.

Raman smiled contently as his plans are finally placed into action.

-----

Blake entered the medbay and found Dr. Sharon speaking with the sailor the Search And Rescue team brought back two days ago, laying on the hospital bed.

"Doc?" Blake called out, "A moment of your time please?"

Dr. Sharon paused her conversation with the elf and walked over to Blake.

"How is he?" Blake asked.

"Well, other than the torn muscles at his back, he's doing quite well. Gave him a blood transfusion and he woke up today." Dr. Sharon replied.

"Is he lucid enough for some questions?" Blake asked, watching the greying elf dressed in a medbay gown lying on the bed.

"Yes, but don't excite him too much, his stitches might come off." Dr. Sharon advised, leading Blake over to the bed.

"Hello Amar, this is Captain Blake, he has some questions for you," Dr. Sharon introduced the Captain. "It's alright, he's a friend."

"He-hello, sir. I try my best to answer as much as I can and know of," the elf appeared to be anxious about short-eared people.

"It's ok, I just want to know what is your role in the ship, where did it depart from and its destination," Blake spoke calmly and slowly. "And what happened along the way."

"Oh, alright, I am the ship's carpenter, from the merchant ship the Wave Dancer. We left the port of the First and is headed towards the Bluewood Empire's port city of Duhal all the way north with a shipment of iron, copper, cloth, and seeds." Amar said, "We hit a massive storm off the coast of the Goblin Sea before stopping for repairs."

He adjusted his lying position in the bed and continued, "Due to the storm forcing us to make landfall, our ship had to pass through the channels between the Goblin Islands and the mainland, if not we normally avoid sailing this area."

"We got ambushed by five goblin raiding ships but we managed to fight them off, but in the process of doing so, the topmasts were badly damaged and we didn't have any more spare spars for a jury rig."

"The Captain ordered us to make for land to cut down some trees for repairs but we got attacked by monsters!" the old elf moaned. "Am I the only one left? Is the Wave Dancer still around?"

"Sadly you are the only one we found, as for the ship called the Wave Dancer, we saw her sailing away," Blake said.

"Oh," the old elf looked crestfallen. "I see."

"Why couldn't you sail back out over the islands and avoid the goblins?" Dr. Sharon asked.

"The currents in the channel are quite strong, and from what I heard, the slave mage boy the Captain bought couldn't cast a proper wind spell," Amar explained. "And with winter approaching the trade winds will change, the ship could be stranded in the open sea."

"I see, thank you, Amar." Blake said. "Rest more and don't worry, we will help you find your way home after you have recovered."

"Thank you, kind sir!" the elf thanked Blake, who waved it off. "If you need to ask me more questions, free feel to, You are my saviors."

"How are the wounded?" Blake asked as he left the ward, "Let's visit them." and he followed Dr. Sharon around the medbay.

-----

Ford stood watching the topography of the island they dubbed as Goblin Island, several icons were interposed over various locations, indicating points of interests.

Shipyards, docks, warehouses, barracks, housing etc, were labeled on the map. All courtesy from regular UAV flights over the past two days.

A total of 73 goblin ships were counted with another 24 more under various stages of completion, their positions littered all over the map.

'If only we had some fighter-bombers, we could burn the place down,' Ford thought. The only way into the harbor is by the hidden cove and a landing force from the volcano side is too exposed.

The rest of the island is covered in lush ever blues and sandy beaches. 'It will make a great place of a resort for some R and R.'

Ford frowned in worry, 'Half a million troops to our North, a bloody goblin stronghold to our South and god knows where are those giant wolves are hiding.'

He looked at the numbers entered in the logistic system database on supplies and housing. At least we managed to stock up on enough supplies to last over the winter.

The womenfolk of the elves had been helping out with foraging and even using the lifeboats' landing parachutes to make extra coats for the coming winter.

The crews had stripped the electronic heaters and laid kilometers of wiring underground, connecting the heaters with the power generators, providing heat for the cold nights.

Hopefully, the construction of the public housing for the elves could be completed within the month and everyone will have a warm roof over their heads.

Ford admitted that the elves might look slim and pretty looking, but they are quite hardworking and earnest in their ways.

'At least we have some good news,' he thought, swiping his tablet screen on the gunpowder results. The few crew members he had drafted into becoming elementary chemists came out with a sulfurless black powder. 70% niter and 30% charcoal and ignited using an electronic fuse for firing.

The use of sulfurless black powder will not only reduce the amount of fouling and corrosion to the metallic parts of the weapon, it will also reduce the amount of smoke produced.

And of course, they do not have to go mine sulfur in the volcanic areas. Charcoal could be easily made by burning wood in an enclosed container and at the same time, the byproducts of heat could be used to boil water for steam to generate electricity.

And without sulfur in the black powder mix, makes it safer to handle. But the problem with sulfurless black powder is the high ignition temperature required.

The addition of sulfur helps to reduce the black powder ignition temperature, meaning a spark would ignite it easily, whereas, without sulfur in the mix, a simple spark won't be able to ignition the black powder at all.

Not only that, they still do not have a proper percussion cap or primer developed yet. The amateur chemists are still figuring out how to synthesize out mercury fulminate.

Lucky, so far the test results with the electronic firing look promising but the problem is the production of the electronic firing fuses, as they don't have stores of lithium for making batteries for the fuses.

Either that or a manual crank is required for creating an electrical current to ignite the black powder. Which will greatly reduce the rate of fire of the bolt action rifle designs they were planning on as the shooter would be required to clank the dynamo several times before squeezing the trigger.

The fabrication team will have a prototype soon, once that is settled and all kinks worked out, it will be put into production and the training of the elves will begin.

The marines and the security teams will also learn the new weapon and also how to fight with a sword, just in case.

'And the sailor, with his skills as a ship's carpenter, if he could be recruited, we can make our own ships for fishing and as a deterrent against the goblins or even do trading with the Isles for much-needed necessities.' Ford thought.

"Guess I need to push the idea out to everyone in the next meeting," Ford spoke to himself. "Hope nothing more will go wrong…"

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A note from neo Koh

Urgh ... flu is back and whole body is aching ...

enjoy....


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