6 km away from Sin City

"Dragon One, Dragon One, this is Claymore One, do you copy, over?" Hitsu spoke into the receiver of the radio. "Dragon One, come in, over."

"Nothing still?" Young asked as he observed their surroundings, alert for any hostilities.

Hitsu sighed and tweaked around the controls of the radio set and re-adjusted the umbrella antenna. "Damn, it's been a day and they still haven't responded yet!"

"Well, patience, young one," Young grinned. "They are supposed to be flying the area soon."

"I hope so! I just feel so exposed in the plains!" Hitsu picked up the radio and started broadcasting again. "Dragon One, Dragon One, this is Claymore One, come in, over."

"-on One, send again-" The radio suddenly squawked back.

"Hell yeah! They are responding!" Hitsu sat up straight cheerfully and he quickly spoke into the radio set. "Claymore One, to Dragon One, do you copy, over."

"-agon One, request Authentication Charlie, over."

"Claymore One, standby for Authentication Charlie!" Hitsu quickly removed his dog tags and whispered a chant which unlocked the magic lock on his dog tags. He snapped open one of the dog tags and pulled out a small piece of paper hidden inside.

"Claymore One, ready for Authentication Charlie, over!" Hitsu reported back.

"-ragon One, go for Authentication, over"

"Authentication Charlie, Omega, Uniform, Tango, Oscar, Foxtrot, Sierra, Papa, Alpha, Charlie, Echo, Two, Four, Niner, over!" Hitsu read the codes on the piece of paper.

"-ragon One, roger, stand by... ... ... ... authentication checks out, Claymore One, good to hear from you again. over!"

"Claymore One, I got a parcel for delivery to Hotel Quebec, go scramble, over," Hitsu grinned at Young who smiled back and plugged in his tablet to the radio transmitter and hit the upload key, "Uploading data package!"

"Dragon One, copy scramble mode, receiving!"


Orwell's Point, Marine Command

The specialist manning the communications systems suddenly jolt up in his seat. He had been manning his station for the past three hours with barely any excitement other than the usual radio chatter.

He accepted the incoming data package and following his training, he ran an anti virus scan of the data before checking the data.

"Sir!" He called out to his CO, Captain Joseph after doing a quick read of the info dump, "You need to see this, Sir!"

Joseph leaned over the specialist's shoulder and read the data on the screen and he nodded before saying, "Forward it over to HQ on high priority messaging, they need to see this!"

"Yes, Sir!"


UNS Singapore, Command Bridge

"Captain!" The operator called out, "We got an incoming priority mail from Orwell's Point."

"Send it to my desk," Blake replied and he sat down on his chair before pulling his console over and opening the file.

"Damn me," Blake whistled to himself as he read the file. "Call for an emergency meeting for all military departments!"

"Aye, Captain!"


Blake sat in his chair in his own office and waited for everyone to arrive before he starts the meeting he called. Other than Blake, only Commander Ford and Lt Tavor from Naval Intel were physically present in his office, while the rest were attending the meeting virtually.

"Alright, Claymore One has just sent word that they have found the deserters in a city apparently that was founded by them," Blake informed everyone. "They have set up a base for themselves roughly in the middle of the Great Ocean Plains."

"Now, our team has also found the factory and armory where they manufacture and store the weapons and ammunition," Blake continued. "They have proposed a strike on each target and they will enter the so called Palace to ensure the deserters are taken care of."

"So we are going to kill them on the spot?" Pike asked. "No judge and jury?"

"I am the judge and jury!" Blake replied. "In times of war, the act of desertion, murder of fellow crewmembers, stealing of critical war materials, and selling weapons are all crimes punishable by death!"

Pike nodded, "Just double confirming, Sir!"

"And you have it, Top! Now, we have their locations," Blake looked at everyone. "I want to station our bombers at Orwell's Point, and bomb the weapon factories and armories to dust!"

"I want a viable action plan by today!" Blake ordered. "What are our risks in this operation? What assets are needed? What is our timeline, everything! GO!"


One by one the commanders logged off leaving behind Ford and Tavor.

"What are your assessment of Orwell's Point?" Blake asked. "Give me your honest opinion."

Ford glanced at the impassive expression of Tavor, knowing that he liked to speak after everyone had said their piece. "Chaotic."

"There is barely a minimum amount of law and order," Ford continued. "We have multiple factions vying for control of the city and the Marines are barely able to keep the peace."

"There is too much anger in the slaves and these slaves barely respond well to strict laws," Ford shook his head. "We won't get many people willing to integrate into our society easily."

"Tavor? Your thoughts?" Blake asked next.

"It is as what the XO has said," Tavor replied. "We got too many individual factions and there are several charismatic leaders within those factions. But we completed our goal of cutting the supply of slaves to the south region and also their stream of revenue."

"I am still sweating the high value targets we caught from Orwell's Point in the cells," Tavor continued. "Soon they will break and we will be able to question them for all the information they hold."

"Okay, see to it," Blake asked again. "Now how are we gonna hold on to this hot potato we got in our hands?"

"The merchants are actually the easiest to deal with," Tavor explained. "They care about profit only. They are just angry due to the loss of their work slaves and the profit from slave trading."

"We can offer them some rebates or tax relief and other commercial incentives to pacify them," Ford offered. "It will help in keeping them quiet and happy."

Blake nodded and gestured Tavor to continue with his opinions.

"The locals are worried about their livelihoods as the freed slaves meant the loss of cheap labor. Most of the locals barely had to do any hard work and instead relied on the slaves for all kinds of chores." Tavor said.

"We have to encourage the locals to start working again," Tavor shrugged his shoulders. "They are over reliant on their slaves for all their work. Seriously I don't really have much of an idea on how to get them to move their own butts."

"Next, the slaves are bitter and angry from the treatment they received from their previous owners," Tavor said next. "Not to mention most are from defeated nations and kingdoms or kidnapped from villages and towns."

"I would recommend we put immigration on hold for the slaves from Orwell's Point," Tavor said. "Instead we can develop a tech and manufactury base there with the manpower we have there instead of shipping them over to Haven. This way we can save the cost of transfers and also slowly screen out who are the ones worth to retain and invest training on. And once the highway to Orwell's Point is completed, we can then decide if we want to do a large scale transfer of selected personnel over to Haven."

Ford nodded in agreement with Tavor's suggestion leading to Blake giving his approval. "Done, I will talk to the Princess to stop the immigration for the time being."

"And for the loyalists," Tavor frowned. " This will be the hardest foe to fight as they can be anyone. This would be similar to the 2010 conflicts in the middle east and the 2114 insurgency in the outer colonies."

"Urban guerilla warfare," Ford sighed. "This can be very messy."

"Yes, they know the land and the people," Tavor said. "And we can't kick door every door we want just to flush them out as it will seriously damage our reputation and support from the locals."

"And we don't exactly have much support among the people in Orwell's Point," Tavor continued. "Even if the slaves are grateful to us, they still see us as a form of conquering army."

"But didn't we do kinda well with the people of Goldrose and those slaves we saved from Falledge," Blake cut in. "They willingly joined us pretty fast didn't they?"

"Yes, Sir," Tavor replied. "But they had a rallying point, which is the Princess. While the slaves from Falledge witnessed how the 101st fought and how we destroyed a hero. That is more than enough to win them over to our side."

"The prisoners of war were the same," Tavor added. "A defeated army has no honor to return to and after witnessing our firepower, they could be swayed over due to strength difference."

"So we need someone for them to rally to?" Blake raised his eyebrows. "Is there anyone we can do that among the people in Orwell's Point?"

"Yes and no, among the leaders holding the slaves together we have a few candidates that we can approach," Tavor smiled slyly. "As for a local figure, I think I know someone who fits our goal well."

"Do what you need to gain support to our side," Blake ordered. "We need to win the hearts and minds of the people in Orwell's Point."

Tavor nodded before he continued, "And lastly, we have an unknown variable, the cultists. People talk about the cultists as demon worshippers or practitioners of the dark arts or magic."

"We have very little information regarding them but the general consensus is they are bad, like real bad guys. Live sacrifices, virgin blood, and all that." Tavor said. "We can actually earn quite a lot of goodwill if we can uproot them from the city."

"But the issues will be digging them out in the first place and not only that," Tavor sighed. "Each time we find a cult location, it's almost certain to be booby trapped with some monstrous demon which wrecks the entire area around it."

"These acts of destruction undermine our standing with the locals and not to mention the damaged property costs is pretty high, and worst if anyone is killed," Tavor said. "In short, it's hurting us more than hurting them in the long run."

"I agree too," Ford said. "We need to find a way to permanently stop those cultists while keeping the collateral damage as low as possible."

"Preferably with a live cultist," Tavor smiled. "I do so want to know what they have inside their minds. What secrets there are!"

"Ahem," Blake coughed uncomfortably at Tavor's eerie smile and words. "I am sure the team down at Orwell's Point is doing all they can to fight and stop the cults."

"Well, let's leave it to the people on site to do it, I trust that Dr. Sharon and Magister Thorn have everything under control," Blake replied. "But now, we need proper plans for a counter insurgency and we need to win the hearts and minds of the people in Orwell's Point, see to it."

"Yes, Sir!"


Haven, Draco Airbase

The next day, just as dawn broke, the main runway of the airforce base was already packed with five of the PB - 1 Mariners lined up with their crew and support techs swarming over them. One by one, the twin engine flying boats started up, the roar of the engines woke up the nesting wyverns in the nearby trees.

Three of the five planes were reconfigured back to a bomber role with bomb bays and racks reinstalled over the night while the other two remained as cargo haulers which were loaded with supplies and munitions for the three bombers.

After a final check was completed, the lead plane charged down the runway and took off, followed by others one by one. The support crew stood waving their caps wildly at the planes which took off for war disappeared off into the brightening skies.

A note from neo Koh

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