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Skies over Goblin Coast, Southern Sector

The General Atomics MQ-242 "Owleye" reconnaissance unmanned aerial vehicle hummed happily as its glider wings were deployed, allowing it to maintain a power saving gliding attitude in the skies as it patrolled its designated sector assigned to it by its human masters.

Currently, UAV UNIT 03, nicknamed "Ozzy" by the crew was running on autonomous control, its electronic brain churning zeros and ones at a speed unmatched by anything this world could rival. It's highly sensitive multi-spectrum optics suddenly picked up movement under it and its electronic brain started checking its programming, following the correct lines of code and dialed in its optics at the movement spot.

It saw a cluster of tiny ships like objects moving under wind power and engaging in combat. In 0.2 seconds, its processor started to compare references from the installed Identification, Friend or Foe database, comparing the hull shapes and sizes with known ships while at the same time, a Priority Alert directive programmed in its core fired an encrypted compressed 18 kb communication data pulse to its controlling station onboard the UNS Singapore.

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UNS Singapore, UAV Control

UAV pilot and Sensor specialist, Seaman Rodney was half dozing off at his station. The bulbous front heavy UAV control headset covered most of his head and weight over 4 kg. He sat on his control chair, resting his head against special neck support that helped take most of the weight off his neck.

As he laid there for hours at a time with both his hands holding on to the flight controls on either side of his 'cockpit' chair, he had quietly set in a program for the UAV to run autonomously and it will alert him should it detect anything out of the norm.

It was a common practice done by UAV pilots and their superiors normally ignored it as long the UAV pilots don't ignore and properly check on the alerts reported by the UAVs. Military Regulations required a human operator to be overseeing autonomous AIs at all times, but it was not really rigorously enforced most of the time.

The United Nations Security Council has anonymously voted to not have fully self-aware AI constructs due to the French China Colony War in the late 2050s, when a nuclear armed UCAV (Unmanned Combat Aerial Vehicle) fired a couple of 15 megaton mini nukes on to a French Colony as the AI detected multiple hostiles inside the French Colony and its analysis was to destroy the Colony to prevent the French from expanding it into a forward staging area by adopting a scorched earth doctrine.

Later somehow Wikileaks managed to get access and leaked the records of the investigations and supporting data forensics of the AI which fired the thermonuclear missiles, It reported that the AI's core had calculated that killing an enemy civilian population of over a 100,000 to prevent the French from gaining a military foothold into friendly territory which has an 88.426% probability to change the course of the war towards the French's advantage. The use of nuclear weapons was justified by the Chinese AI's core analysis, prompting it to make its own decision to destroy all infrastructure in the area to deny the French forces.

The leak and general disclosure of the investigation had a massive backlash to the Chinese Government which prompted the end of hostilities between the two countries and also the 2061 Peace Accords banning the use of nuclear weapons on green planets and civilians. It also started a wave of anti AI sentiments and distrust among the populations in the outer colonies and also on Earth.

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Rodney jolted awake when UAV UNIT 03 pinged him. The loud ringing designed to wake the human mind continued to echo in his head even after he shut the alarm down. He quickly accessed the data streaming in from UAV UNIT 03, checking the live imagery being broadcasted directly. "Shit."

Rodney hit the alert button, which alerted the Duty Officer who came over and Rodney took over controls of UAV UNIT 03. Instantly his goggle's Head Up Display interface turned blue and a <CONNECTING...> message text popped up.

Once the link was established with the UAV, the blue interface faded away to be replaced with the view of UNIT 03's cameras giving Rodney a sense of vertigo as he felt like he was a bird flying in the air and looking down to the earth and sea.

He turned his helmeted head left and right and UNIT 03's cameras mimicked his actions, following his view, allowing him to see what is around. Rodney narrowed and focused his eyes on a spot under him, and the view zoomed in allowing him to see the area he focused on.

Micro sensors and monitors lined the interior of the UAV Control Helmet, which scans and monitors Rodney's irises for changes. These minute changes allow UAV pilots to control the UAV cameras like focus, change of spectrums and even target lock on using just their eyes.

UAV pilots had to train specificity and learn how to control their eyes and facial muscles to be able to pass the UAV piloting courses. One of the reasons why most people does not want to play poker with UAV pilots as they are very good at controlling their facial expressions.

"What is it?" The Duty Officer of the day arrived next to Rodney's station and glanced at the screens displaying the views of UNIT 03. "Wait, are those ships?"

"Yes, Sir!" Rodney replied as he deftly controlled the UAV to drop its attitude and trail the ships. "Looks like they are fighting."

"Damn, those darker ships look like goblins raiders!" The Duty Officer started to contact the Command Bridge. "Bridge? We got some situation here."

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UNS Singapore, Captain's Quarters

Blake frowned as he looked at the list of reports coming in of pirate attacks. "How's work on the... Floatin' Wreck?"

Commander Ford and Chief Engineer Matt looked at each other and Matt spoke first, "Well, we are still working on some teething issues."

"And the crew is being trained and drilled on the job," Ford added next.

"When can the Floatin' Wreck enter service?" Blake asked as he looked up from the reports.

"Realistically?" Matt frowned, "I say at least two more weeks."

"Two more weeks?" Blake shooked his head and placed the tablet he was reading from in front of Matt. "Have you seen this?"

"6 reports of sightings of pirates over the past two days within 200 km of the Far Harbor," Blake growled, "Another 2 reports of pirates engagement with other ships spotted by UAV recon flights."

"That's a 400% increase in goblin naval activity in the week and at 200 km off Far Harbour, that's like within a couple of days of sailing," Blake continued, "If the Isles know that we cannot control the seas around our harbor, what do you think they will do?"

Chief Matt shrugged, while Ford gave a sigh, and said, "They will cease all future forms of trade with us."

"Yes, that is one of the scenarios that will happen," Blake nodded. "Not to mention we do not have a thousand UAVs to keep watch along the entire stretch of coast!"

"That's thousands and thousands of kilometers of probable landing zones for goblins raiders to drop off and attack our outposts and farms," Blake rapped his table while making his point. "Even the Airforce could not be everywhere to cover us."

"Well, Cap," Matt frowned, "The thing now is if the Floatin' Wreck breaks down, we got no means to tow it home. That's why we are running extensive trials to ensure that the ship will be able to operate in a combat environment, survive it and limp home on its own power."

"We don't need an indestructible ship here," Blake replied, "Ford, I know this is under your jurisdiction, but we need to have some form of presence out at sea."

"The number of pirates running about, frankly is quite alarming," Blake rubbed his chin. "If we are unable to stop the pirates, I am sure it will come to bite us in the ass in the future."

"Couldn't we send in the Airforce to bomb Goblin City?" Matt asked.

"We could, but the planes have not enough fuel to make it back home," Ford answered. "We could use the Valkyries but they are getting overworked now."

"Yes, Commander Tommy reported that for each hour of flight on the Valkyries they have to ground it for maintenance for four hours at least," Blake said, "And the Valkyries are being tasked as transports for the time being."

"Therefore, the fight with the pirates will fall on your shoulders," Blake looked at the two officers who grimaced. "It's a tough war, but I got confidence in you two."

"Sir, we technically could launch the Floatin' Wreck for pirate suppression duties, but I will advise limiting its range to with 50 kilometers of Far Harbour only," Matt replied. "While we do that, we could make some sort of a barge or tug using the plans from Project Fast Attack."

"So at least we have some way to at least tow the ship back or even conduct rescue work should the Floatin' Wreck breaks down within our waters," Matt suggested.

Blake turned to Ford and raised an eyebrow, "Your navy, your decisions."

Ford rolled his eyes before he nodded, "Do it."

"For the time being, I have the Airforce engaging any pirates within range," Blake said, "Far Harbor also needs an airfield so that they can support the Navy in the future."

"Got it," Ford nodded grimly. "I talk to Letts."

"Alright, you two," Blake grinned, "Enough with the glumpy faces, once all these shit is over, I got a nice bottle stored up for you guys. What say you?"

"Aye..."

-----

Somewhere in the Goblin Sea

Mad laughter woke Captain Nemu up and he found himself tied upside down and dangling over the rafters of a dark hold. From the creak and swaying of his surroundings, he knew he was in a ship and when the splitting headache passed, he slowly noticed that he wasn't alone.

Several other figures were tied and hang up in the same manner as him. He wasn't sure if they were alive or not, but he was pretty sure he got caught by the goblins as the laughter and screeching cries were made by them.

The hold smelt bad of rot and decay. Light penetrated from cracks between the hulls and from a tiny mage light glowing on the other end. Crates, barrels and other objects laid haphazardly all over the area and from the sounds of laughter, the goblins must be celebrating.

Suddenly shrieking voices were heard and a flood of light appeared that reignited the throbbing headache of Nemu. and a hatch leading above decks opened. Several child sized goblins appeared and they excitedly grabbed the nearest tied up body and started to drag it up steps, which woke the man who started to groan at the rough treatment.

"They are gonna eat him!" A voice suddenly spoke to Nemu from the side, surprising him.

The hatch slammed shut and the bright light and laughter got cut off. Nemu wriggled himself, making his body rotate to face the direction of the voice.

"So we are just rations for those cursed creatures?" Nemu asked as his body dangling by the ropes turning him around slowly and the person who spoke earlier came into his view.

"Yes..." A roughed up sailor, with a puffy face, came into view of Nemu. He was also tied upside down and swaying with the rise and fall of the goblin ship. His eyes were void of any life as he said, "I saw what they did to the rest..."

"First... they cut your limbs one by one while you are still alive." He whispered. "They drain your blood to make blood sausages with your guts that they remove from your slit bellies..."

"Than they roast your limbs in front of you and chop the top of your skull off and eat your brains raw..." The man shrugged as he recalled the grotesque scenes he witnessed.

Above deck, a scream rang out long and hard, followed by giggles and sounds of children like laughter.

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