"What do you think of the current batch of recruits?" Captain Blake asked Lieutenant Frank while sitting in Blake's office with Commander Ford and Staff Sergeant Pike in attendance.

"Well, physically and mentally they have are quite tough, it's just we had to brainwash away their notions of how to wage war and train them to follow orders and how to think," Frank gave his opinion of the recruits. "Most of them have the willingness to stay in a shield line and die, which is good and bad.

"Good for the fighting spirit and bravery, bad for it will be a waste for a trained soldier," Frank said. "We managed to get them to think for themselves and the overall bigger picture."

Blake nodded, "Alright, according to the schedule, they are reaching the last week of their training soon, right?"

Staff Pike spoke up, "Yes sir, once they finish the final week of training, they will pass out successfully."

"Ok," Blake reached into his desk drawers and pulled out a small felt box. "I believe congratulations are in order, Major Frank."

"What? Major?" Frank looked wide-eyed in surprise at the box which Blake opened to show a pair of embroidered Major rank tabs. "This is a triple promotion!"

"Well, we can't have you as a mere 2nd Lieutenant to be in command of a battalion," Ford spoke up.

Everyone in the room smiled and stood up, "As the Highest authority in detached command, I, Captain Richard Blake, Captain and Commander of the UNS Singapore, by the power and authority vested to me by the United Nations of Man Naval Command, hereby promote Marine 2nd Lieutenant Frank Lee to the rank of Marine Major," Blake intoned solemnly, "As the people presented shall hereby be my witness."

Frank stood in attention, his mouth opened in surprise, Major? Holy shit!

"Congrats Sir!" Staff Pike saluted Frank while Blake and Ford smiling, shook his hand.

"Well Staff, if you don't mind, it will be an honor for me for you to pin my rank on," Frank said sincerely to Pike.

"The honor is mine, sir!" Pike took the offered rank tabs and removed the 'butter bars' from his uniform collar and replacing them with the Major tabs that were embroidered in official emblem of the United Nations in gold thread.

"Here," Blake removed another box and pushed it to Frank, "You should have the honor for this."

Frank opened the box and saw a pair of Master Sergeant embroidered rank insignia inside and smiled, "Well, congrats to you too, Master Sergeant Pike."

"No shit?" Pike swore as he looked at the box offered to him by Frank. "Damn, everyone gets promoted."

"That's the idea," Ford answered, "With the new recruits passing out, we need to put the more experienced men into command roles and they need the rank for it, also we will need to come out with a sort of Officer Cadet School to train potential candidates into officers."

Newly promoted Major Frank and Master Sergeant Pike nodded in understanding, "We will come out with proposal and training manual for that," Frank said.

"Good, now with the newly trained troops about to graduate, I will pull out the Naval Security section," Blake informed the two Marines. "Marines will now handle the exterior threats and security while the Naval Security will take over civil security and police work."

"Our advanced weaponry will be locked in the armory only to be issued for areas of critical importance," Blake said, "Our ammunition stocks are too low for any more large-scale conflicts, all personnel other than those guarding points of importance will be issued with the Magelocks."

"Aye aye, Sir!" Frank and Pike echoed, "We will ensure everyone turns in their weapons to the armory."

"Next, the two pilots came up with this proposal of getting the two haulers to fly," Blake activated the display in his officer, showing plans of the Boeing 848 Super Spacebus. "They also proposed a weapon system, installing black powder rocket pods here and here."

Pike nodded, "Looks good as a close in air support platform, since it is not aerodynamics, using it as a fixed rotor might be more efficient than having it as a ducted fan design. But how are they solving the weight issue? Those things weight hundreds of thousands of tons, as they are for use in space only."

"Well, they are stripping as much of the structure and non-essential components out as possible," Blake explained, "As, we had some unexpected help from Magister Thorn."

"That elf quack?" Pike snorted, "I get that magic is useful, but it can't be all our solutions."

"Well, his idea of using runes to fire rifles is quite good, in fact, it's more reliable than using electronic firing circuits," Blake smiled, "Pike, you ran the tests your self."

"I know Sir," Pike shrugged, "It just doesn't really sits well with me Sir, how do we know if it will fail later?"

"That's something we have to take a risk for now," Blake said, "With winter coming to an end soon, we will need every tool and weapon in our disposal. From what the prisoner is singing to Intel, I bet you a wolf steak that they will be back for Round Three."

"So how will Thorn's magic help?" Frank injected, going straight to the point. He was very interested in having some VTOLs as close in air support or as an aerial transport for his Marines.

"Well, the same thing as before, the use of runes embedded into the hull of the ships, use some sort of anti-gravity or weight lessening spells engraved into the hull," Blake said, "He's doing research on aeronautics and aerospace engineering now. But he's very certain it is doable, and he did mention something about flying castles and fortresses in the ancient times."

"Flying castles and fortresses?" Frank and Pike sat up straight as they heard that, "There are such things on this planet?"

Ford shrugged as he added, "Thorn said he read it somewhere about the Old Lands having flying islands and castles, hundreds of years ago. There were even rumors about it in the Empire but no one could verify, even the prisoner does not know."

"Great, giant wolves to dragons to fly islands," Pike snorted, "What's next? Gods?"

"Don't curse it," Blake said sharply, "It might come true."

"Sorry Sir, my bad," Pike apologized. "But if that quack elf could get the ships up and flying, it will help greatly. I see what black powder rockets we can cook up with the current stuff we have. Also if we could get their combat spellcasters to join in the Marines..."

"I see what I can do with that point on the mages," Blake promised Pike.

"Alright, Chief Gale has informed us that the next fabricator will be up and running in another week or so, but as it is a smaller and simplified model, the things it could produce out when being able to match our current fabricators," Blake said, "The elves also have more or less finished learning the basics and advanced tech courses. So we will move production over to the elves instead of constantly relying on the workshops."

"We will introduce the concept of mass production and assembly line production to them," Ford added, "This will help simplify and ease production requirements. We are planning to let the elves handle the less... techy stuff first, till they get up to proficiency."

"Yes, when spring comes, we also have to expand the farms, we only have just enough to survive this winter," Blake rapped his fingers on the table, "Also that sailor is willing to teach whoever is willing to learn on shipbuilding techniques, plus what we have in our archives, we could produce a fleet of wet water ships for fishing to improve our food stocks and also for defense against Goblin City."

"Sir, the Marine armorer had also just submitted another firearm design," Frank sent a file over to Blake who opened it and put it up onto the display. "It's a revolver design."

The image displayed a 2D wireframe top, front, and side drawing of an archaic looking swing-out cylinder revolver. "It holds five rounds in the cylinder, chambered for the 6.5mm black powder loads, same ammunition as the Magelock." Frank read out the specifications of the weapon. "It also borrows from the concept of the Magelock, the revolver hammer hits the rune to fire the cartridge."

"This looks quite good," Blake admired the drawings. "Your Marine armorer is pretty knowledgeable on firearms."

"Yes, he is," Pike spoke up, "Other than that he is quite useless."

"Oh, why?" Blake looked away from the display, his eyebrows arching up.

"That guy's always finding ways to slack and avoid any dangerous duties," Pike explained, shook his head. "He got posted to the Marines as a rear echelon due to his family political connections. Ha. guess they are regretting their decisions now!"

"Well, I don't care if they got any political connections back on Earth," Blake leaned back in his chair, "We are all in the same sinking ship now, everyone has to help in one way or another if not everyone sinks together."

A note from neo Koh

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