Fortress Singapore, Conference room

"Alright, now that everyone had their fun and our boss and lady boss are away for their honeymoon," Commander Ford gave a mischevious grin to the gathered senior officers. "It's time for us little mice to start making havoc in their absence!"

The officers and head of departments laughed, while Chief Matt growled and said, "Why mice?"

"Cause in Pinky and the Brain, they are mice!" Someone retorted. "And they always wanna take over the world!"

Another chorus of laughter greeted that sentence and Commander Ford gestured for everyone to tone down. "Alright, fun's over! Time to get serious!"

"I had gone through all the departments and ministries reports and frankly, I am very glad to say I have no complaints nor has any shit came up," Cmdr Ford said to a round of applause. "Good work."

"But I have noticed something that's gonna kick us in the balls," Cmdr Ford paused as he glanced at Dr. Sharon. "Erm, I meant our asses if it continued to go on."

Everyone gave looks of confusion to each other and some even quickly flipped through their tablets and paper reports to check for anything amiss.

"Well, I give the stage over to our Accounts Officer from HR department," Cmdr Ford gestured to a petite female dressed in the ship's work uniform. "Warrant Officer Jean, please brief the rest."

The short Warrant Officer stood up and activated the display screen where a series of graphics were shown. "I will cut things short. In another eight months, we, the UN will run out of money."

Looks of surprise were expressed on everyone's face as they heard the news. WO Jean tapped a series of commands and the display changed, showing a table of expenses. "Originally, we have a combined reserve of 783,234 gold and silver."

"But with the current actions involving Norshelm," WO Jean highlighted a column on the presentation. "We used up approximately 132,000 gold and silver just on humanitarian efforts after the city was destroyed."

"Following that, another 60,000 on rehoming the refugees," WO Jean added. "And the military in total expended over 230,000 gold and silver worth of munitions for the entire operation."

"Now, while Haven will not be affected much due to our use of our own printed currency," continued WO Jean. "We will still see a sufficient increase in the market prices of imported goods and services."

"Also it will affect our buying power and policies to both Orwell's Point and Falledge as we will require gold and silver as those two cities still had not converted over to our own printed currency yet."

"But didn't we looted quite a bit of money from the nobles and governors?" Master Sergeant 'Top' Pike asked. "Shouldn't we have millions instead?"

"No, that is incorrect, Master Sergeant," WO Jean shook her head. "Most of the items retrieved were only valuable to the eyes of collectors. There is no value to us as no one will buy it from us, even if we trade it away to the Isles, they wouldn't be worth much."

"Also most of the recovered treasure was used to pay for construction projects and compensation to the citizens of Orwell's Point for the release of the slaves," WO Jean explained. "After deducting our monthly expenses and setting aside a small reserve for any unexpected events, we only have enough to fund our ongoing contracts and projects for the next eight months."

"That is of course, without another major incident," added WO Jean.

"So in short," Cmdr Ford took over and addressed everyone. "We need to make money."

"Can't we force the two cities to purchase our currency in exchange for gold and silver?" Chief Engineer Matt asked. "Didn't we did that with Haven at the start?"

"No," WO Jean replied. "We printed our own currency at the start is due to us not having any reserves of gold and silver to tap on. Also, Haven has a closed loop of production and sales. Hence we can use our own currency without any issues as we have no external trade."

"But once we start dealing with free merchants and the Isles' merchants," WO Jean said. "We need hard currency in the form of gold and silver as our own printed currency has no face value in their markets."

"Even in our newly acquired cities," WO Jean pointed out. "The locals needed gold and silver to trade with the surrounding communities and even traders from afar. Implementing our own currency forcibly could cause quite some backlash among the locals there. We can only do it step by step once our currency achieves recognization among all the trade guilds."

"How about taxes?" Someone asked. "Increase them?"

"No," Cmdr Ford replied immediately. "We still need to pacify the locals of Orwell's Point and Falledge. Increasing taxes will be... bad..."

"Well, I think there's only one thing we can do," Chief Engineer Matt said. "Trade our advanced stuff out."

"Well, that's one idea," Cmdr Ford nodded. "But we need to set the type of things we want to sell and that it will not give the others a military or technological advantage over us."

"Well, we can make salt and sell them," Dr. Sharon suggested. "I can think of some trade items that we could produce and sell them. Like luxury textiles or clothes, high quality glassware, perfume, or jewelry. Hell, even our factories can make diamonds out of carbon!"

"Good idea!" Cmdr Ford said. "I got homework for you all. I want everyone to list out anything that will be received well with the merchants since most of the guests are still in the Haven. You guys got two days max!"

Everyone nodded and started discussing among themselves about what items will make a good income for the UN as they left the conference room leaving Cmdr Ford behind who rubbed his head. "Damn... when is Blake returning..."


Goblin Coast, Rest and Recreation Resort

Sherene laid her head down on Blake's chest as they cuddled together on the beach chair watching the sun setting over the sea while Blake unconsciously rubs Sherene's head.

"This is nice," Sherene purred against Blake's chest. "Just doing nothing."

"Yea," Blake nodded and rubbed his chin over Sherene's soft hair. "But... I feel a bit worried about the rest..."

Sherene shook her head and said in a complaining tone, "Hey... no work topic allowed! We are here to relax and enjoy ourselves!"

Blake laughed and gave a squeeze to Sherene until she squeaked. He returned his glance back to the sandy pink white beaches with the seas so clear that it was almost invisible. He purposely had this resort built at this beautiful beach for his crew to get some rest and recreation on this planet.

"Hey," Blake returned to rubbing Sherene's head. "I want to ask you something."

"What is it?" Sherene replied.

"I... I want to pull my people out of combat and front line duty," Blake hesitantly said. "Do you think it will cause any issues with the rest?"

"You mean us elves?" Sherene used the term the hoomans called the people on this planet. "Wel... I guess some people might find it unfair and biased."

Blake nodded and sighed. "That was what I was afraid of."

"But I think you should do it," Sherene turned her head up and smiled at Blake. "You and your people had sacrificed a lot for us."

"But..." Blake sighed. "We are a United Nation. It will really be unfair to those who give their lives for the nation if while my people stay in safe jobs."

"Silly," Sherene placed both her palms on Blake's cheeks and kissed him. "If your people keep dying... how many of you will be left? Just you alone? How can you live with that thought?"

Blake leaned forward and kissed her back. "Honor, courage, ethics, loyalty, these are the core values taught to me in the Navy."

"Don't worry," Sherene assured Blake. "Your people have done a lot for us. In fact, you should make them all into teachers! They are more valuable teaching and passing on their knowledge than fighting in the frontlines! You should protect them well!"

"Thank you," Blake smiled lovingly at his understanding wife.

"Okay, enough of work topics!" Sherene pouted. "We only have two weeks of holiday!"

"Haha!" Blake laughed. "It's called a honeymoon!"

"I still don't understand why you hoomans' call it a honeymoon," Sherene sighed at Blake. "Is the moon sweet like honey? You hoomans are weird."

"Well, you married a weird human!" Blake laughed again. "Well, still it's nice to not do anything for two weeks..."

"Well, shouldn't you make good use of these two weeks?" Sherene winked at Blake. "After all... we might get too busy when we return..."



Fortress Singapore, Conference Room

Commander Ford lowered the scroll he was reading and eyed the two burly Isles leaders seated before him. "A technology and magic exchange treaty?"

"Yes, Lord Ford," First Fleet Master Kose replied. "We are willing to trade our ship building techniques and advice to your shipwrights."

"We will also provide preferable terms for any trade items you need," Fleet Master Kose said.

"And in return?" Cmdr Ford asked, secretly excited.

"We want you to teach us the magic of those moving wagons," Fleet Master Kose stated frankly. "Also those 'trains' that could carry many people and goods."

"And also this franchise thing with 'bur girls'," Fleet Master Dijon added at the side.

"Hmmm..." Cmdr Ford frowned. "You want to learn how to build cars, trains and make burgers?"

"Yes, yes," Fleet Master Dijon nodded eagerly. "And of course, we will like to also learn how to build ships made of iron!"

Cmdr Ford tapped the rolled up scroll against the table as he pondered on the terms. "To tell you the truth. Burgers are easy and teaching you about vehicles isn't the issue here, it's more on manufacturing them."

"For example," Cmdr Ford explained to the two confused Isles leaders. "Take a normal carriage. You got skilled carpenters and wheelwrights to build the carriage. How long do you think they take to learn the skills?"

"One year? Two years?" Cmdr Ford asked.

Fleet Master Dijon frowned and said, "They will have to be an apprentice for four to six years before they can be considered a full fledged craftsman."

"Well..." Cmdr Ford interrupted. "You get the idea. Making vehicles is just the same. Look, you need like many years to learn how to build all these things..."

"I see..." Fleet Master Kose nodded in understanding. "How about we trade for some of those wagons instead?"

"That can be arranged I believe," Cmdr Ford grinned. "But of this will be purely a trade deal."

"And the ships of iron?" Fleet Master Dijon enquired. "I know mastery of ship building takes a lot of time. I am willing to bring over two hundred of my finest shipwrights to live here and work here for five years!"

Cmdr Ford shook his head, "No, I am sorry. We will not teach you how to build ships of iron. It is a military secret."

He had thought of selling one of the new all steel corvette that was under construction at the moment to the Isles, but rejected the thought immediately as he recalled they were an ocean going nation with lots of skilled shipwrights who can easily reverse engineer the ship if they ever bought it.

Even if they can't make the steel frames for the ships, they could still learn a lot from their designs to improve their own ships. As for vehicles, it will be impossible for them to build unless they learn combustion, some form of engineering and even the means and capabilities to build the tools needed to build the vehicle.

"And what do you want in return for the wagons?" Fleet Master Kose asked. "Food? Ores? Spices? Ships?"

"Gold," Cmdr Ford gave a sly smile. "I want cold hard cash!"

A note from neo Koh

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