"Good morn~ing, Marines!" A sweet and cheerful voice echoed down Sawtooth Mountain Pass, "Hey this is not a test! It's rock and roll! From the Pass to the No Man's Land!" The voice came from a speaker mounted on a tall wooden pole. "We got a song dedication from a Mrs. Montery to her son, Pvt. Ladian in the brave Marines fighting in the Pass to protect us all from the Big... Bad... Empire! Her message is, Stay safe and love you always, Mom. And here's Creedence Clearwater Revival, Fortunate Son for you boys in Hell's Gate! Enjoy!"

Rock and roll music started playing from the speakers after the announcement. Mills held his Magelock like a guitar and jammed along with the song, while the others tap their feet or nod their feet to the rhythm of the song. Surprisingly, the elves really took to rock and roll from the human's music archives.

"Oh fuck," Mills moaned, as a whistle blew across the walls. "Here they come again!" He propped up against the firing slits, peering at the clouds of smoke appearing in the passage, littered with discard weapons and bodies. A ragtag band of Empire soldiers charged past the ruins of barb wires and barricades, wearing mismatched pieces of armor and wielding swords and shields. Small spots of magical smoke erupted here and there, concealing the charging soldiers, while the defending Marines held their fire, waiting for targets to appear before firing.

The weary Marines had been fighting in the Pass for ten days now, the men rotating between resting at the rear encampments and fighting in the front lines. The Pass was now known as Hell's Gate by the Marines and public as they received news from the new broadcasting stations and portable radios. The public response to the attacks by the Empire was shock and anger, followed by an overwhelming support of the fighting Marines and items as such handcrafted gloves and socks were donated to the front. But the Marines as they faced off the dead and living alike, they themselves slowly become numb like the zombies they were fighting against.

The constant attacks both in the day and night tested the Marines' mental and physical strength. The nightly ghastly moans and howls of the dead seeped the morale of the Marines, causing some of them to break down mentally. Even the original human Marines were affected, thou mildly, thanks to their mental conditioning done on Earth.

Just the day before, Command had come up with a new department, called Armed Forces Entertainment Service or AFES, to help boost morale using music and news to the masses. A team of technicians had come up and set up a few broadcasting towers around the Pass and the base. After which music was blasted throughout the day and night, drowning out the cries of the dead.

Ever since the installation of the broadcasting towers, the Marines morale soared as popular music from both human and elves were played, and during certain times of the day, messages from family members of the Marines were played on air, making some of the tough soldiers cry and others smile. And the sassy female voice of the broadcaster, made the men laugh with her antics over the air and fantasized on how she looked like.

With the background music blasting loud enough to cut through the war cries and gunfire from the Magelocks, Mills sang along to the lyrics of the chorus of the song, "It ain't me, it ain't me, I ain't no millionaire's son, no. It ain't me, it ain't me, I ain't no fortunate one, No, no!" while aiming and firing. Almost everyone around Mills was doing the same, either screaming the song lyrics or just humming along.

After a while, the Empire slave army had enough and retreated, earning the jeers and taunts from the Marines, "Come on? Come back!" Mills yelled at the backs of the retreating troops. "I still haven't had enough fun yet!" He turned to his section and ordered, "Alright, those clowns will be back again, take this time to clean ur arms, and drink some water and check your ammo. And for god's sake, keep those helmets on!"

The radio ran Led Zeppelin's Immigrant Song as rocks half the size of a jeep flew over from the cover of dug in wooden shields, fired from siege engines hiding behind them and the rocks started landing around the walls, sending clouds of rock dust into the air while the hardened Marines hid within the fortified walls.


Specialist Sergeant Tyrier Lodess, of the 101st Arcane Tactics and Intervention, checked his gear as he and his team, Claymore One, gathered in the briefing room inside the Mountain. He and his men wore a modified Mk VI Riot armor, additional heat formed laminate plywood and 2mm thick steel plates at strategic locations on the armor. They carried a variety of weaponry, from swords to black powder shotguns, silenced Magelocks and the latest weapon out of R&D, the M2 MageSpitter.

The M2 Magespitter was a specially designed rapid-fire assault carbine, the body of the rifle was made out of stamped steel and the grips and stock out of native wood. A fire selector enables the firer to switch between, Safe, Single and Automatic fire. Weighting at 3.3 kg empty, a total length of one meter with a barrel length of 45 cm, it has a capacity of 30 rounds of 6.5mm held in scythe patterned detachable magazines. Muzzle velocity was measured at 607 m/s and an effective range of 270 meters with a rate of fire of 320 rounds per minute on full automatic.

To enable the gas operated system to work properly, two gas tubes placed at the sides of the main barrel channeled the expanding gas from firing the cartridge against two wind runes were inserted at the front, the expanding gas than collides both the wind runes, creating a pocket of air, which created the much needed force for a gas blow back system used in conventional twenty-century rifles. To increase the efficiency of the gas trap style mechanism, a muzzle booster comes installed at the muzzle of the rifle barrel. It provided additional energy to 'boost' the energy provided by the recoiling gases. This 'boost' provides higher rates of fire and more reliable operation of the gas operated system.

Using a fusion of technology and magic, the Hundred and First make use of runes carved into their equipment to strengthen and reduce the weight spells to enhance and buff their abilities like speed, strength, agility, endurance etc. Defensive spells were woven into their armor and shields, making them able to tank damage from both physical and magical. Offensive spells were even imbued into ammunition, increasing the damage dealt or even creating special effects like explosions or flash freezing an area.

Tyrier ensured his customized M2 is tightly strapped against his chest, his rifle magazines secured jungle style with dual clamps. It was customized with a 2x red dot sight, a forward grip, a laser sighting device and a silencer attached. Another member of Team One carried a huge rune reinforced ballistic shield, his double-barreled sawed-off shotgun holstered in his right tight, a crisscross bandoleer of shotgun shells covered his burly armored chest.

"Officer on deck!" The nearest Team One specialist yelled as he stood at attention when the door opened and Major Frank, Master Sergeant Pike entered with and a First Lieutenant with Intelligence markings on his uniform following behind. The rest of the team of seven stopped all work and stood at attention.

"At ease," Frank waved them down. "All ready?" He looked at the seven elves standing fully decked out with weapons and heavy armor. "Alright gather around than." The Lieutenant directly plugged in a data stick into the display in the room.

"Now, you guys surely could have guessed about the mission by now," The Lieutenant said, "I am First Lieutenant Tavor of Fleet Intelligence, we will be working closely together in the future." He introduced himself and pointed to two points at on the map displayed in the screen. "Primary Objective Alpha, take out the Necromancer." The map zoomed into a blob of darkness in the middle of a group of Orcs.

"UAV recon flights spotted this anomaly a few days ago," Tavor highlighted the inky black blob. "Intel had rerun back the previous videos during and before the attacks and found have recorded this in a few instances. The next few images switch to different locations of the forest with a different timestamp stating the time and date, showing a similar dark blob with a group of Oerkins.

"We suspect that this fellow here is the boss of the Orcs," Tavor pointed to Orc significantly larger to the rest, without any adorations on his body and armor. We spotted him a few times staying at the rear and with the humanoid-shaped dark blob with him." Another image showed a very sharp and clear image of both the giant Orc and the dark blob behind him.

"Magister Thorn's assessment of the blob as a sort of anti-magical scrying spell to prevent others from discovering it. We tested with a similar spell and it does appear to show up as a blurry blob in our cameras and sensors, so we are 100% certain this is our target." Tavor explained to the room.

"Eliminate Target Alpha, if possible recover any intel or artifacts in relation to the target for Command to study," Tavor listed out their objectives. "Objective Beta, if after eliminating the Primary Target and the undead is still operational, search and destroy possible magical anchor in the vicinity of these two locations."

Tavor displayed a top-down map of the forest with areas highlighted with blue and red. "Areas marked in Blue are suspected Empire forces, while Red are areas of Orc activities." He pointed to an area highlighted in Red, "There is an 80% chance of the Nercomancer's living quarters to be located here. And here, is where the mass graves of the Empire soldiers were buried."

"The Primary Target will most likely appear at these locations during certain timings of the night, most likely to observe and control the Undead army." Another three locations were highlighted. "We want a clean kill here. Cut the head off, douse the body with salt and burn it." Tavor stared eye to eye with the Claymore One members. "This is a high priority target, make no mistakes. Questions?"

"What level of support are we getting?" Tyrier raised up, "Couldn't we hit the target with a missile strike?"

"Command doesn't want to leave it to chances, the target might have a barrier spell that negates all forms of attack." Tavor clarified, "We need you guys there to ensure that the target gets taken out completely."

"You will have priority UAV tasking and a single missile strike for emergencies," Major Frank spoke up, waving off the protests from team Claymore One. "I know, I asked for more support but that is all that has been tasked to you."

"The seven of us going against ten thousand Oerkins, and unknown thousands of Undead to kill one Necromancer?" Someone sarcastically pointed out, "And all we get is a single missile?"

"Settle down!" Pike bellowed, glaring at the unhappy elves of Claymore One. "You are the 101st, elite among the Marines! Stop your whining!"

"I will have a full company of Marines on standby with half-tracks to pull you out when you give the word," Frank assured them. "Command has their reasons for this arrangement I am sure."

"Alright quit whining!" Tyrier cut his team's complaints off. "We will think of a way to get in and out with them knowing we are there. Isn't this what we trained for?"

His team nodded, "Alright, if we are going in and out quiet, we need to swap out some of the guns." Tavor continued, "Drop the shields, grab a silenced M2, pack some more explosives for distractions."

Turning to the display and looking at the map, "Any intel on the patrols routes and locations of sentries?" He asked Tavor, who smiled.

"Ahh, thought you never ask,"

A note from neo Koh

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