Norshelm, Inner City, Citadel, Inner Sanctum

Lieutenant Svar towered over the Marine signalman as he listened in to the conversation between the signaler and Nova Command while Titanna and her council members stood at one side of the grand table eyeing him and trying to make sense of their language and magic.

After the arcane storm had blown away, disruption to the radios, lasers, and sensors disappeared, allowing the troops inside the city to start receiving and broadcasting again.

"Sergeant Tyrier!" Lt Svar called out, his orc features twisting in distaste as he called out to the special forces team leader. "Got a mission for you from command!"

He gestured Tyrier over to the map spread on top of the table in the Sanctum and he traced his fingers over the map before tapping on a spot. "Here, Sergeant. I need your people here to setup an ambush."

Tyrier frowned as he stared at the spot on the map, labeled in an old script of the common tongue. "Abbey street? Ambush who?"

"Yes," Svar nodded. "High Command just gave the word that they had located the transponder signal of the pilot of the Shepherd Six Four. Seems like those crazies had taken him for some reason unknown to us. You are to ambush the crazies and save the pilot."

"Currently they are moving along this street here. Judging by their movements, they should be trying to make a beeline for the North Gates," Svar slid his thick green grey finger down the map to another series of lines. "I will give you command of a section of Marines too."

"How many crazies are we looking at?" Tyrier observed the city map, taking note of the streets and buildings.

"A thousand or two," Svar shrugged. "UAV is keeping an eye overhead and you have artillery support."

"A thousand or two?" Tyrier snapped his head sharply to stare at Svar. "And not counting the number of roamers between us and the objective... You want just fourteen men to ambush them and save one of ours?"

Svar lowered his head for a while before he looked up and nodded, "High Command did mention that if all else fails... we are to call in an artillery strike and take out the pilot."

Tyrier shook his head, "This is a suicide mission... Can't we just... call a strike now and end it?"

"High Command wants to know what they did with our pilot," Svar said before he leaned over and lowered his voice. "And its a hooman... one of their own..."

Tyrier nodded his head in understanding once he heard that information, "I see what we can do... but I doubt we will be able to save him. I will not put the lives of my men before that pilot. Even if he is a hooman!"

"You do that," Svar's beady eyes glistered. "And keep my boys safe too!"


UN Singapore, Captain's Quarters

Blake rubbed his tired eyes as he finished the report he was reading on. A knock on his door and he looked up, seeing Commander Ford with a plate of sandwiches. "Something to bite?"

Blake grinned and gestured Ford in. "Thanks, I was just starting to feel a bit hungry."

Ford eyed the pile of paper reports that Blake swiped to the side of the table and set the plate down. "Think we need to rethink our doctrine for ground conflicts?"

Blake took a sandwich and bit into it and chewed in thought before he swallowed and said, "I guess so... At this rate of attracting combat everywhere, we go... We need to rethink our strategies."

"Well, at least for combat capable manpower we are currently not lacking," Ford replied. "With the ongoing training for the next batch of Marines and the new Orc arrivals, we can now have enough manpower assigned to other service branches."

Blake chuckled, "I know you are running a paper navy."

Ford shook his head sadly, "Glad that you know! Ever since we got those old boats from the Isles, we were trying to improve our shipbuilding abilities and upgrade our fleet of ocean going ships."

"But in the end, we invested solely into mosquito boats," Ford sighed. "And the Floatin' Wreck and the Matador had their crews stripped to man the PT fleet."

"Our only fleet barely has enough strength to operate in the Goblin Straits for anti pirate operations," Ford grumbled. "All the new recruits were all taken by Tommy into his airforce!"

Blake raised his hands in defeat and said, "Alright chill... Next batch of Marine graduates, you can have the pick of your choice first, alright?"

"That's better!" Ford grinned.

Blake looked down at the plate of sandwiches and sighed, "I knew that there's some motive for you to bring me some food..."

"Well, the Navy literally has nothing to do now..." Ford complained. "Other than keeping the Straits clear for the Isles' merchant ships and shepherding those Island Whales... We are just sitting on our thumbs..."

"Well, fret not..." Blake took another sandwich. "Once we settle this fuck up at Norshelm... I got a job for you."

Ford leaned forward, "You know that you are planning on burning down the entire city?"

"Yup," Blake nodded. "No more Mr. Nice Guy here..."

"And our own too?" Ford frowned.

"Sadly yes..." Blake replied coldly. "He can't fall into the hands of the enemy. In fact, no humans can ever fall into the hands of the enemy... You know the consequences of it! Everyone signed up on this voluntarily."

"Yes..." Ford leaned back on his seat. "Still... it's one of our own people... How many original crew of the Singapore are still alive?"

"355..." Blake said. "Or 356, if the pilot is rescued without harm."

"356!" Ford hissed. "How many were alive when we first landed? 400?"

"424" Blake spoke from memory. "Over 70 had died over the year."

"70 deaths!" Ford shook his head. "I know everything you have done so far had been for our survival. But are we gonna kill off one of our own when we can have the chance to save him?"

"I know..." Blake sighed. "But what would you have me do? Sacrifice others to save him? Sacrifice the elves to save one of the humans?"

"They are lives too! And they have become our people too! Are you telling me to use them like chess pieces?" Blake yelled. "Is that the way you learn in Fleet Command? Sacrifice others to save one person?"

Ford kept quiet as Blake raged on. "I have done it before and I know what it means to sacrifice your own!"

Blake covered his face and said, "No... there have been too many sacrifices going on here. If they can save him, that will be good. But if they can't, I do not want them to waste lives for one man. Regardless if he's a human, elf, orc, or goblin."

"Too many lives had been lost," Blake whispered. "It is time we do something about it..."


Norshelm, Inner City, Abbey Street

Hedone ducked her pretty head instinctively as another series of thunderous explosions shook the streets, cracking the cobbled street. She looked up into the skies, trying to catch a glimpse of what was dealing with all that magic and destruction to the city, but she could only see thick black smoke covering the skies.

"Hurry up!" She hissed to her followers that surrounded her in the hundreds. They swarmed the streets and rushed towards the Inner City gate that leads to the Outer City, and it will be a straight route to reach the Outer City gates and she will hide and bid her time in the forest.

Suddenly, a shrill shriek ripped over her head and she jerked her head up and briefly saw a dark oblong object before the air in front of the crowd exploded. A thick cushion of air slammed into everyone and Hedone stumbled in her steps.

As she recovered, she was the group hundred of paces in front had vanished, replaced by a sea of red and unidentified bits and pieces. "Wha- what happened?"

"Its some kind of deadly spell!" Her follower, Qiem quickly explained. "Hurry, Mistress! We must get out of the city before we get hit by one of those spells!"

"W- how?" Hedone spun around, trying to find who cast the spell at her followers. "Where is that spell caster? How is he doing this!"

"W- we don't know!" Qiem admitted. "But we must hurry! It is too dangerous!"

Just as he finished those words, another shrill shriek screamed over and this time, it hit the rear of her people, turning those unfortunate enough in the airburst into shredded meat and blood.

"RUN!" Qiem cried out urgently and he tugged on Hedone's arm. "Mistress, run!"

Hedone felt a tingle of fear down her spine as she could not detect any traces of magic or how or where the spell came about. She allowed herself to be led away by Qiem, stumbling after him while her other converts and followers milled around in confusion.


She snapped back to reality as she heard an unfamiliar yelled, and the whole world around her suddenly turned into flames and smoke.


"FIRE IN THE HOLE!" Tyrier yelled as he thumbed hard on the detonator. Instantly, the wired claymores went off, spewing their lethal loads into the crowd of crazies.

"ENGAGE!" He ordered as he broke cover, bracing his rifle against the low wall and firing at those still standing. Around him, the rest of Claymore One and the Marines loaned to him followed his command and fired.

"CHECK YOUR FIRE ON THE CENTER GROUP!" Tyrier yelled and the Marines echoed the command while his own men advanced forward down the blood soaked streets.

The preemptive mortar strike on the group of crazies had mauled their numbers down while the hidden claymore mines further thinned their numbers. Still enough crazies remained to be a threat to Tyrier and his men. So he had the Marine provide suppressing fire at the crazies, hoping to divert their attention to the Marines instead while he and his team move in fast to grab their package and retreat.

Tyrier knew the crazies do not behave like normal people with fear or common sense, as these people had their will destroyed and they only follow their basic instincts and needs. He could scare or shock them back temporarily with enough firepower, but after that, they will still come forward once their fear has passed.

"Move it!" Tyrier ordered as he stepped over a street literally covered with bodies. He ignored those still twitching and only rammed his bayoneted tipped rifle to those attempting to attack or reach for him. He only fired at those still standing that approached him and his men and ignored the rest, making a beeline for the transponder signal.

He finally saw his objective, the bloodied pilot being carried by two crazies who stood there in confusion. Tyrier gestured and his men fired, taking down both of the crazies and any surrounding crazies before advancing.

Young, the team medic, took a kneeling stance next to the pilot and checked his vitals while Hitsu ran up behind him and pulled out the foldable stretcher on his back and deployed it. Young slammed a vial of tranq shot into the thigh of the pilot before with the help of Hitsu, hoisted him onto the stretcher and secured the straps.

Once done, Hitsu took one end, while Young grabbed the front and they ran as fast as they could back towards the Marine's line with the pilot between them while the rest provided security.

"Move move move!" Tyrier yelled. "I'm calling for a rocket barrage on our location to cover our asses! MOVE!"

As they ran, they could hear the screams of rockets coming from the distance, their fuzzing screams growing louder and louder.


A note from neo Koh

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