"Alright, settle down people," Commander Ford called the meeting into order. The conference room full of both humans and elves quiet down and rosed as Captain Blake scrolled in. "Captain on deck!" The Marine guard holding the door open yelled.

"At ease," Blake sat down on his customary chair after returning the salutes gave to him by his officers.

"Now, I'm sure most of you have heard that the Pass is under siege by Empire forces for the past week by now." Blake acted as he didn't notice the glares given to him from the elves, especially from Princess Sherene.

Blake gave a small cough, "We deemed that it wasn't wise to release the news of the siege to the public as we have everything under control for now." He gave a quick peek at Sherene's direction, who turned her head away.

He sighed, "A quick update to those not privy to the news up in the Pass. Currently, we are still holding the Pass, with 44 injured Marines and zero deaths. Intel has estimated the enemy deaths reaching over a thousand."

A display screen where Frank and Pike could be seen nodding as they attended the meeting via video conferencing. "Not counting the undead, we also destroyed two of their super siege engines."

The Super Siege Engines which the Marines called them, was a giant ballista twice the size of a mature land dragon. Made out of bones and tendons of dragons, magical runes were also engraved onto the construct, further strengthening it. Land dragons were attached to a winch which winded the loading mechanism, and it is powerful enough to launch half a ton projectile at over 500 meters away.

Marine snipers ravaged the loaders and gunners of two of the Super Siege Engine from afar when they first appeared at the edge of the forest and attempts to recrew the Super Siege Engine were met with accurate and deadly fire. It was only till later in the night, when the Undead came out, that they were able to recover both siege engines.

"The first operation involving the Hundred and First ATI was a great success. They destroyed the two Super Sieges and a large number of Undead." Frank reported from over the video call.

"Hundred and first A, T, I?" Sherene questioned, "What is that?"

Blake nodded to Frank in the video, who then explained, "The Hundred and First Arcane Tactics and Intervention or 101st ATI for short is a special operations task force created to combat against magic using magic."

"Form from volunteers from the Marines who have displayed an amplitude for magic, they undergo further training, from Recon to Special Operations and infiltration." Frank continued, "They went through Enhanced Combat Magic Theory courses which are a fusion of human knowledge of natural science, physics and magic are taught with the help of Dr. Sharon and Magister Thorn."

"Each member of the 101st ATI is highly skilled in stealth infiltration, direct magic combat, and anti-magic countermeasures." Frank proudly introduced the 101st as he was the brainchild of its creation.

"We are planning a new operation to eliminate the source of the undead forces once and for all, if successful, the battle of the Pass could be said to be over." Frank finished his part.

"Magister Thorn?" Blake invited Thorn to say his piece.

"Ahem, regarding the Undead, the books I have did not cover much on Black or Dark Magics, as it is a taboo magic and most spells or literature involving the Dark Arts are destroyed when discovered," Thorn explained. "But I have managed to find a small fragment of a diary of a Court Magician, hundreds of years ago, describing their fight against the undead."

Thorn skillfully manipulated the keypad in front of him and a scanned image of an ancient yellowed parchment appeared on the room's display screen. "I translated as much as I can of the old language as possible and here is what it says."

A translated text appeared below the scanned image in English, "Fought over a fortnight with thy cursed dead, numbering in the hundreds. My vanguard of brave warriors gave their blood to open a path to the Spirit Caster, and after several bouts of spell weaving, I stand victorious. Yet the dead still roams and hunger for the flesh of the living."

"Is that all?" Chief Matt asked, "Defeating the Spirit Caster here doesn't drop the dead. It doesn't tell us how to stop the dead at all."
Thorn apologized, "That is all from the diary. But we deduced that there might be a magical anchor instead for the spell to keep reviving any dead creatures, if we can prove it, destroying the magical anchor will end the dead once and for all."

"That's where the Hundred and First come in, we will insert them in stealthily, and their mission objectives is to eliminate the Spirit Caster or Necromancer and find evidence of the magic anchor and destroy it," Frank said. "Details of the operation will be released after its execution."

The people within the room started to mumble among themselves, till Ford stood up and cleared his throat loudly.

"Alright, let's move on to the next agenda, morale," Ford continued the meeting. "Currently the morale at the Pass is pretty low due to the constant attacks and the psychology of exposure to undead magic."

"We are open for any suggestions and ways to improve morale," Blake spoke up, "This will be a long siege as we do not have the manpower nor the resources for a counteroffensive."

"How about a VIP visit? Captain and the Princess can go do a tour of the Pass to help boost morale," Quartermaster Chen suggested.

"Ok, what else?" Ford asked as he took down notes.

"Song and dance?" Matt added, "Have some concert or performance?"

"Can we just blast music, like a radio talk show in the past?" Dr. Sharon added, "We can use it on both the city and the Pass, we can also allow family members to dedicate songs to the Marines fighting in the Pass, it should help a lot psychologically speaking."

"All good ideas," Ford rapidly wrote down the suggestions.

After a round of discussions later, Blake came to a final conclusion. "Alright, we will need to create a new department for spreading news and increasing morale for the masses through means of media like a talk show."

"Princess, can your people share their music for us to record? The more popular the better," Blake asked. "Also can you hire some people with a talent for storytelling to be the radio talk show host?"

Sherene nodded as she too took down notes with her ballpoint pen on a notepad."When do you need all these?"

"As soon as possible," Blake replied before turning to Chief Gale and Chief Matt, "You two, please come out with a simple working receiver and a transmitter for mass production and a broadcasting tower, keep our advanced communications strictly for government and military usage only."

"Sir, also we like to recommend that radios and communication devices be installed in the Academy, we found out that getting Magister Thorn to travel up to the Pass and only to have to return to the Academy for his research is wasting too much of his and our resources." Frank pointed out, "If that night we could communicate directly, we would have not wasted more than three hours running up and down."

"Gale and Matt, you heard that?" Blake asked the two Chiefs, who nodded in confirmation. "Anything else?"

"Yes Sir," Frank said, "My two guns are still not working."

"Reasons?" Blake raised his eyebrow, he shouldn't have to deal with these details.

Matt answered, "The power conductors are discharging an unusually large amount of electricity each time the electromagnetic guns are fired, we had a few incidents during testing that the gunnery crew and techs got electrocuted, but so far none in serious conditions."

Blake closed his eyes and sighed, "So what is being done?"

"We are testing several theories and taking the guns apart to see what went wrong during the modifications." Matt admitted, "Until we fixed the issues, the guns can't be used, as it is a much as dangerous to the gunners."

"I understand, send me a detail report on that, put the priority on fixing the guns," Blake said, "Frank, I am sorry but till the problems are solved, your guns are grounded."

Frank nodded, unhappiness could be seen on his face. "Yes, Sir."

"Ok, next, resources and production," Blake instructed next, "Princess?"

Sherene dressed in a pair of ivory robes, wrapped around her slender waist and tied by a sash ending in a ribbon, stood up, gave a small bow to the gathered audience before starting her report, "Our current expenditure of black powder ammunition is slightly over 40% of stored reserves. Our production of ammunition is hampered by the lack of resources from the saltpeter mines. We will need more mines or enlarge the existing mine to increase the output of niter if we are to meet our current needs."

"At this rate of usage, our reserves of ammunition will be deleted in two weeks, not counting the new production. If added, it will only give us another additional week." Sherene reported, causing the room to break out in heated discussions.

"Quiet down," Ford glared at everyone from his seat, "Let the Princess finish."

"Thank you, Commander. As during the whole winter, the 'Fa-bi-ators' has been focusing on producing Magelocks and military equipment to outfit the soldiers, I hope that this season they could be used to produce tools for mining, farming and basic necessities for the people."

"To date, we only have a single saltpeter mine running at the moment. Surveying teams have actually found several deposits of zinc, copper, and lodes of iron within the caves of the Southern Cliffs, located near the saltpeter mine."

She highlighted the area on the map she displayed on the briefing screen. "Now that Spring is here, and the snow has melted, workers will be able to start clearing the land around the resources and also to build proper roads. But we will require troops to help protect the workers from wild creatures and possible goblin raids now that winter has passed."

Frank interrupted, "We do not have excess manpower now for protection of the workers, all the Marines are tied down defending the Pass, and the next batch of recruits will take at least three months to graduate."

"Can't we cut short the training?" Sherene asked, "We really need those mines running for the industries that are starting up all over the city. And there is only so much material left from the Iron Castle." Sherene and a selected few knew about how the hoomans came to this world and the Iron Castle is actually a starship.

"If you want to compromise quality for quantity," Frank said bluntly. "I will not recommend that I rather have the men properly trained than be some half fuck soldier."

"Noted, Major, no need for such words," Blake stepped in, giving an eye of warning to Frank, who blushed and apologized.

Sherene nodded, she grew up with her two brothers and had heard enough cuss words to be not affected by them. "Then how about the Po-lease? Can we tap into their manpower?"

2nd Lieutenant Mike Jacobs, ex-Head of Security, currently now Police Chief, spoke, "I could only spare like twenty to thirty men, that's about 30% of my total manpower."

"That should be enough for now," Sherene said, "I would like to propose to also train the workers as a sort of militia, so that if any trouble occurs, at least they could fight and defend themselves."

"We could make them into a reserve police force," Mike offered, "So at least in times of trouble, we can call them up to help with any problems in the city."

"Sounds good," Blake agreed, "Mike, I want you to also start recruitment of more permanent police officers."

"Captain," Sherene cut in, "We are actually running out of manpower for everything, from the mines, farms, land clearing, soldiers and skilled workers for the new factories, we need more people in the long run."

"I know, but where else can we get more people?" Blake asked, looking around at the table. Everyone was also looking at each other for ideas. "More sex?" Someone joked, causing most of the room to burst out laughing.

"I know from where, Sir," Pike spoke in the video, "We can try to free the Empire slave army and rope them into our side."

A note from neo Koh

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