Falledge, Merchant District

Hitsu stood next to a statue of wind wolf, waiting for Tyrier to appear at the plaza next to the main street that led into the Merchant District, tapping his feet impatiently as he waited. The plaza was filled with people and races of all kinds. from the large greenish Oerkins to the stout and short dwarves, there were even a few mixed breeds in the crowd.

Finally, after like an eternity, Hitsu spotted Tyrier in his top hat, coat, and cane, strolling out of the Merchant District. As he was able to approach Tyrier, Hitsu spotted some movement at the corner of his eye, and when he turned to look, a couple of shadowy figures ducked out of sight into an alley.

"Damn, was I followed?" Hitsu muttered to himself, "I was careless!"

Tyrier spotted Hitsu at the statue of the wolf and strolled up to him, "What's up?"

"I got some important news and also I seemed to have picked up some rats," Hitsu wagged his eyebrows to the direction of the alley were his followers had ducked into.

"Empire or?" Tyrier asked, his eye narrowed and he gripped his cane tightly.

"I think its local thieves," Hitsu gave a shrug, "I think offed a couple of them the other day."

"Well, it seems its still too early for lunch yet," Tyrier glanced up at the sky and grinned, "I could do with some exercise."

"Then let's do it," Hitsu grinned too, jerking his head towards the alley.

As the two of them entered the alleyway, the smell of sewage grew stronger and sounds of the bustling crowd disappeared. "Come on out, I know you are there," Hitsu spoke out, his hand on his scabbard.

Two figures detached themselves from the shadows and stood before Hitsu and Tyrier while another two more figures appeared behind them, blocking off their exit route. "Well, well well," A third figure appeared in front of them and said, "Fancy that, walking right into my lap."

The person who spoke was a slim looking elf with shifty eyes and a sharp angular face. He wore a jacket with long tail coats and trousers with knee-length boots and held an ornately carved staff. On his head, a similar top hat to what Tyrier was wearing, rested in a fashionable angle.

"Capias Kane," Hitsu spat, "So, what do you want?"

"Oh well, a few of my boys went missing the other day," Kane looked at his nails and buffed them against his coat. "I was wondering if you knew anything at all."

"Those?" Hitsu raised an eyebrow, "They tried to double cross me, accepted my money and attempted to rob me later."

"I see, but it is bad for my reputation if I allow anyone to off my boys," Kane said, his eyes narrowing. "This is the price you have to pay. Take them, boys!"

His four henchmen stood forward, drawing short swords and wicked looking knives, surrounding the two Claymore One members. Tyrier gave a shrug and turned to the rear, facing the two at the back while Hitsu deals with the two in front.

The two henchmen rushed forward, stabbing towards Hitsu, who eyed the speed of the attack with contempt. He easy sidesteps the first stab and punches out with his leather glove protected right fist, catching the henchman in the jaw, shocking his brain and knocking him out with a single punch.

The other henchman hacked his sword at Hitsu who after giving a punch he gave the first henchman, did a round horse kick using his body momentum, the back of his left heel hitting the face of the henchman, breaking his jaw and sending a couple of teeth flying out.

Tyrier blocked the thrust of one of the enemies at the rear, and countered with a backhanded whip of his cane, drawing a mark across the man's face and sending him scrambling back crying with pain. He then smacked the second henchman with his cane on his sword arm, breaking bones, and stab hard with the cane's tip in the abdomen, causing the henchman to vomit bile out.

Kane stood ashen-faced as he watched four of his men get taken out easily. "Whoa, easy there!" He quickly backed off into the alley, "I was just joking around!"

"Uphold your end of the deal," Hitsu said, "Or end up worst, don't worry, we know where to find you." And the two of them left behind the moans and groans of pain in the alley.


Sawtooth Mountain Pass, Marine Support Base

The nine cylinder air cooled radial engine roared as it pushed the bi-wing prototype out of the hanger and onto the stretch of newly built runway. Spectators lined the sides of the runway with both medical and fire services on standby as they watched the first test flight of the YF-1 Cobra, YF meaning prototype fighter.

Flight Lieutenant Peter sat at the rear of the tandem cockpit as the pilot with a navigator/gunner in front of him, crewed by test pilot Third Sergeant Legos Stilva from the newly formed Airforce. Both of them wore modern parachutes just in case of any failure, they were to ditch the plane and eject out.

Despite many disapprovals from High Command and Commander Tommy, Peter forced his way to be the test pilot of the Cobra, ignoring the risks it may bring to him and the rest of the crew, using the argument that, other than he as Tommy was the commander of the Airforce, no one else has actual piloting experience who could fly the plane and provide feedback and comments on the plane's performance.

Peter pushed the controls and the plane responded eagerly to his commands, rolling to the middle of the runway. The two seater fighter bomber prototype designated YF-1 Cobra, retained several features and looks from the original Aircon DH 2 despite many changes made to the design. The bi wings were spaced slightly further away from each other to reduce aerodynamic interference between the two planes and flaps were installed.

The engine used was a 9 cylinder radial engine pushing an output of 220 horsepower and the design of the aircraft hull and wings was streamlined, the cockpit was enclosed and in tandem rather than open, making the aircraft look more sleek and deadly like a dart.

"Cobra One to Eagle Nest, do you copy?" Peter radioed the control tower that was built in parallel to the runway. "Cobra One is all green, ready to take off."

"Eagle Nest to Cobra One, you are cleared for taking off, God speed over!" The control tower responded. "You better not crash my plane!"

Peter grinned as he recognized the voice belonging to Tommy, "Roger that, Eagle Nest, save some champagne for me when we get back! Cobra One launching!"

He pushed the throttle up slowly to 50%, building up Revolutions Per Minute or RPM while engaging the brakes and setting his flaps on takeoff mode. The howl of the engine rose and he checked the red and white flag at the side of the runway for the direction and strength of the crosswind. He released the brakes and pushed the throttle up to 75%, getting more speed for taking off, and slowly pushed it to the max, and the plane leaped forward, reaching speeds of 100 km per hour and the tail started to lift off the ground.

Peter pulled the control stick up gently, and the plane wheels left the grounds, and he reduced the throttle slightly, to prevent the engine from overheating. His altitude meter showed him climbing slowly from 40 meters... 70 meters and finally at 150 meters, he pulled the stick back and looped the plane towards the airfield, both he and his co-pilot whooping in joy.

"Cobra One to Eagle Nest, we have lifted off, so far so good," Peter radioed back, as he tilted the plane in a gentle curve. "She's flying fine!"

"Eagle Nest, roger that, proceed with the test flight, over"

"Cobra One, Wilco, out." Peter finished his report and engaged the internal comms, "Hey, Legos, how are you doing up there?"

"Great! The view is very nice," Came back the reply.

"Alright, we are going for the testing objectives," Peter said back, "You ready?"

"Got it, head south-southeast," Legos read from his map chart that was secured to his left thigh, "at our current speed, we will be over the objective in 10 minutes."

"Wilco," Peter replied as he piloted the plane towards the testing grounds.


Sawtooth Mountain Pass, Marine Support Base, Air Traffic Control

Captain Blake stood in a spacious tower with clear glass surrounding all sides of the wall, overlooking a long airstrip and dozens of tiny hills, each housing a concrete hangar, covered with soil and grass, providing both protection and camouflage from the air.

He watched one of the display screens installed from the dwindling stocks of displays onboard UNS Singapore, showing the biplane performing several twists and turns, the live video captured by a hovering UAV.

"So far so good," Commander Tommy said next to Blake. "A few more trials and we can go into mass production."

Blake nodded, "We need to start production as soon as possible, and also have pilots trained and ready within a month's time."

Tommy raised his eyebrows in surprise, "Why the rush?"

"Well, a few days ago, we received intel that a new Imperial Commander is on his way over, most likely to take over command of the Empire forces here," Blake replied in a low voice, not wanting the Air Traffic controllers to hear anything.

"If the Intel is correct, we will be facing another large-scale attack from a more experienced general," Blake continued, "I would like to be more prepared this time, especially now we are fine-tuning our smokeless gunpowder."

Tommy nodded, "I will do what I can to teach the pilot cadets as much as I could."

"Luckily most of the aircraft is made out wood, glue, modern and magical bonding techniques," Blake said, "The native glue made from the ever blue trees' sap works like aircraft dope, making the hull and wings airtight and weatherproof when dried and set."

"Seriously, I don't even understand how half of all these works," Blake admitted, "Ford just says its magic just to explain it all."

Tommy laughed, "Well Sir, frankly, I also don't know how everything works either! My techs just tell me everything is being held up by duct tape and magic."

"Seriously, I will require a lot from you and your pilots," Blake said, "If we can establish air superiority early, this war is half won."

"Intel is studying both supply and invasion routes to the surroundings of Sawtooth Pass, and also the nearby towns, villages, and cities." Blake continued, "Once Intel has pinpointed all important locations, your boys will fly in and bomb the shit out of them."

"I heard there is a new ordnance research division up?" Tommy asked.

"Yes, I placed my missile and main gun weapon techs with Top advising under one roof," Blake replied. "They came out with the fuel-air mix for the 70 mm rockets."

"I have them working on a 100 kg general purpose unguided bomb and a 250 kg version," Blake grinned, "It will be used on both soft and hard targets."

"Nice!" Tommy grinned, "Can't wait to test them!"

"Other than bombs, the Ordnance Research Divison is also working on a 20 mm gun design," Blake said, "It should be more than enough against a heavyweight dragon."

"Sirs!" One of the flight controllers yelled, causing both Blake and Tommy to stop their conversation and look at what the problem is.

The whole team of flight controllers stood gawking and pointed to the display, as the image showed the tiny plane dropping out of control from the sky and a couple of parachutes popped up seconds later, while the plane pummelled into the ground turning into scrap.

"Ah damn," Blake cursed, "Back to the drawing board again."

A note from neo Koh

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