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The shrill of wood and metal being processed resonated loudly in the confines of the cargo bay. The machine shop fabricator's robotic arms constantly moved up and down, as it took processed materials and form it into a finished product.

"Hey, Ivan!" Chief Gale shouted over the din of the noise, waving his arms to get his attention. "Over here."

"Yes, Chief?" Ivan shut the door of the small office, cutting off the racket of the machines.

"Hey, take a seat. I got some stuff on the inventory here that says defects. And you signed off it." Chief Gale handed over the tablet to Ivan to see. "There's almost more than a dozen items highlighted. What's wrong with them?"

"Ahh," Ivan eyed the inventory list, "I think the fabricator printer head is faulty, that's why there are so many items on the list that failed the quality control tests."

"OK, then on the next production downtime, get the guys to do a full diagnostics of the fabricator," Chief Gale sighed, "The Boss needs those manufactured as soon as possible." He looked out of the small office window, at the crates of freshly minted rifles lined up in rows.

"Got it, Chief," Ivan took the opportunity that Chief Gale was not looking at him to quickly wipe the cold sweat forming on his forehead. "I get the boys to do a full maintenance run."

-----

Mills, leaped off the back of the half-track turned public bus, his newly issued boots crunching the soft snow and he hoisted his duffle bag over his shoulders. "Welcome to Camp Alpha," He read out loud from the large wooden sign, hanging over the gates.

Wrapped up in his environmental suit, his exposed skin turned red as the cold winter wind blew against his new baby smooth pale skin.

Walls of reinforced concrete, several meters high and topped off with razor-sharp concertina wires stretched off as far as the eye could see from where Mills stood. Signs with 'No Trespassing' written in both English and Common, decorated the walls on regular intervals.

He adjusted his pixeled cap and joined the short queue at the gates, where he spotted Koing inspecting the queuing elves' identity cards. "IC please," Mills could hear Koing asking the elves in front of him.

The identity cards were a fusion of technology and magic, as the elves have a system using magic and mana stones to record a person's identity and records with blood. The cards have a photo image taken of the cardholder, his or her name, date of birth if applicable and address. The cards were also magically linked with a keystone and radio-frequency identification or RFID capable.

The registering person will be required to put a drop of his or her blood onto the keystone, which will then store the data of the person in the stone. Another drop of blood is then dripped onto a special rune that has been engraved onto the card and synced with the keystone, like a modern day card key and reader. This way, the cardholder can be verified if he or she is the actual person holding the card.

This measure was put into place as the humans were worried about infiltrating spies or enemies. Even if a card was stolen and used in an inspection, they could find out whether or not the person holding the card is the actual person.

Mills watch curiously as Koing held up a brown-yellow stone set in a pendant which Koing wore around his neck. The elf held the card in his hand and Koing held the stone over the card, after which it started to emit a soft green glow like a chem stick which Koing than nodded his head and waved the elf through.

"Yo, Koing," Mills gave a greeting as the queue finally reached him. "Security is pretty tight." He looks at the four security goons in their black riot armor and navy grey environmental suits.

"Hey, out of the hospital?" Koing replied back, taking out a handheld scanner. "Ooo, lookey here, somebody got promoted!" He gestured to Mills's new lance corporal strip on his sleeves.

"Goddamn, you look so pretty!" Koing teased, "What skincare products are you using? Can I pull your cheeks?"

"About damn time!" Mills grinned and tilted his head to the side, allowing Koing to scan the RFID chip embedded into the back of his neck. "And fuck you, understand?"

"Hahaha, baby face Mills is angry!" Koing laughed, much to the amusment of the rest of the guards. "Anyway, Staff is pretty pissed with that sneak attack at the Pass,"

He puts away the scanner after it beeps an affirmative. "He's all worried about magical mimics and doppelgangers and stuff. So everyone in and out needs to be checked and verified."

"Damn, I heard about that attack in the medbay," Mills said, "Crazy son of bitches."

"Yeah, well you better drop your stuff and report to Staff," Koing pointed into Camp Alpha, giving Mills directions to the barracks. "It's pretty bare compared to Camp Pendleton back on Earth but its cozy enough."

"Cool! Sounds lovely," Mills rubbed his cold hands together. "What's with all the elves coming in?"

"Some of them are here doing construction work for the base, others are the goldies soldiers coming for boot camp," Koing replied. "Higher up wants them trained to be at least marine standard or least proficient in modern warfare tactics."

"Wow? That's going to be a challenge," Mills said.

"Also heard a scuttlebutt that we will be needing to turn in our arms and be reissued with new weapons and training," Koing said in a low voice. "Except for those guarding critical posts."

"What? Are they giving us swords and shields?" Mills cursed, "So we going caveman with sticks and stones."

"Well, not really," One of the guards said, "Heard that it's gonna be some black powder rifle or something."

"Whoa?" Mills looked surprised, "Muzzleloaders?"

Koing shrugged again, "Like I said, rumors. You better get going."

"Right, see you around," Mills strolled through the gates and headed towards the direction of the barracks.

As he passed through the gates, several lines of gabions covered the gate internally, where a couple of bunkers could be seen too, making anyone forcing an entry into the camp into a fielding field. "Damn, Pike is serious about this security shit," Mills whispered as he navigated his way past several barriers and into another gate.

Finally, after walking for a while, he found the barracks he was looking for. A squat three stories concrete structure with tiny windows and firing slits on the walls of the upper floors sat next to an open field with a couple of flag posts flying the marine corp flag and the UNM national flag.

He entered the building and found Cpl James as the duty officer of the day, sitting behind a table, reading something on his tablet. "Hey Corp! Guess who's back?"

"Oh shit," James gave a dramatic groan as he looked up as sees Mills standing there grinning. "My peaceful days are over, and they even gave you a candy strip? What are they thinking!"

"Haha, I know you missed me," Mills grinned wider, "Come on show me your love, tell me you miss your daddy!" He dropped his duffle bag and opened his arms wide. "Come to daddy!"

"In your dreams, boy," James stood up, grinning and clasped Mills's arm. "Welcome back, good to see you all okay."

"Heh, it's good to be back! I missed all the killing!" Mills replied cheekily.

"Well, you probably be assigned to do something else for the time being till you get back to shape fully." James said as he pulled out a file from his tablet and consulted it for a moment before saying, "Your bunk is on the second floor, door 205, you are sharing it with Bartley."

"How's the Big guy doing?" Mills asked as he picked up his bag. "He alright? I didn't see him visit me in the medbay."

"He's pretty quiet lately," James said, handing over a set of keys. "You better go ask him yourself."

"Gotcha," Mills replied and headed up the stairs, looking for his room.

Finding his room, he gave a couple of knocks on the door before turning the door open. "Knock, knock."

"Mills!" Bartley dropped the gun barrel he was cleaning and bounced up from the floor. "You are back!"

"In the flesh!" Mills smirked and dumped his bag on the side. "Why didn't you visit?"

"Ahh, I-I was worried that you won't make it," Bartley said in a small voice as he hunched down on his bed. "I didn't dare to see you gone, just in case."

"Goddamit, I am hard to kill," Mills said, lopping his arm over Bartley's massive shoulders. "Come on, Big Guy, have a little faith in me!"

"Anyway, you saved me, if you didn't come through the enemy lines and pulled me back," Mills patted Bartley's back. "I would have really died back there."

"Well, you are my friend, it's the least I could do for you," Bartley replied.

"No, not a friend," Mills said in a serious voice. "Brother. Thanks for saving me, brother!"

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A note from neo Koh

sorry for the late update, laying in bed sick, brain not working ...

 

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