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Goblin Island, Marine Expeditionary Force, 1st Battalion

Corporal Slow carefully seated the belt of munitions into the feed tray of his MG, as he laid prone over the tip of a small rise. Gunfire echoed all around him, followed by shrieks of man packed mortars and naval shells.

The city or what remains of it was on fire. Crude dwellings made out of wood, mud, and rocks laid shattered and broken. Hundreds and hundreds of broken goblin bodies were scattered everywhere as they died while trying to rush the Marine attackers. The haphazard criss cross of piers and docks had long been destroyed by naval artillery and the skeletons of the goblin raiding ships poked out of the waves.

Slow hummed a tune as he cocked his weapon and peered down its sights, watching the fireworks having over the city. A sudden burst of laughter had him reflectively rolled away to one side as a goblin suddenly burst out from the ground.

The goblin giggled madly as it slashed down with a crude blade. A sod of soil and grass was slapped on its head like some sort of helmet while turfs of grass were tied behind its back. Slow cursed as he drew out his sword bayonet and stabbed upwards and skewered the laughing goblin as it tried to claw its way through the blade to reach Slow.

"Farking... Goblins!" Slow grunted as he kicked the dying goblin off his sword. He saw around him there were holes on the ground where the goblins had laid hidden. Around him, the Marines were engaged in hand to hand with the ambushing goblins.

"Fire in the hole!" Someone yelled as a grenade was tossed into one of the openings. Seconds later, a dull boom followed by shrieks, sent smoke and rock dust bursting out from the hole in the ground. "Blow the holes up! Damn green skins are coming out from the ground!"

Slow ripped out a grenade from his side pouch and pulled the pin before dropping it into the hole nearest to him. He rolled away from the hole just as a goblin climbed out. The grenade went off and the goblin shrieked happily as it flew in an arc out of the tunnel with its legs ruined.

Slow chopped down with his sword to cease the mad laughter of the goblin before he crawled back to his MG. Just as he reached his weapon, thousands of goblins poured out from the ruins of the city and charged forward, snickering and giggling all the way. They ignored the punishing artillery, some even stop to roll on the floor laughing at the sight of seeing their own getting blown to bits.

Slow cursed and leaned into his weapon just as the command came in. "OPEN FIRE!"

-----

"One farking month..." Joseph sighed as he watched the raging battle, which was more like an extermination instead of a proper battle. His Marines had fought on this island for over a month as the number of goblins exceeded their imagination.

Not only were the goblins numerous, but they were also crazed up with some kind of drug, making them fearless. And the goblins had hundreds of tunnels and hidden entrances all over the island, making it a headache for Joseph and the Marines as they had to ensure each and every tunnel entrance was found and destroyed.

Or they will have repeated ambushed from their rear which they found out in the first weeks of the battle. Uprooting the goblins and their tunnels were time consuming and dangerous. The goblins fought with goblin wave tactics and surprise ambushes. It was lucky the goblins tend to be unable to hold off their laughter, which the Marines found out, making it easy to bait the goblins in exposing their traps and ambushes.

"Push the 2nd up to reinforce the 1st!" Joseph ordered as he eyed the battle over a pair of binoculars. "Tell the 2nd to clear the rear of the 1st! Burn out those hidden tunnels!"

"Sir!" A radio operator suddenly appeared at Joseph's elbow. "Priority message from High Command!"

"What?" Joseph found as he took the slip of paper. He read it twice before he glared at the operator. "Is this real?"

"Yes, sir!" The operator nervously replied. "Authentication matches the code of the day. Sir!"

"Fark!" Joseph read the message again before he crumpled the paper into a ball. "Call the Navy to back off, and the transports to get ready to pick us up."

"Tell Logistics to start packing up!" Joseph said to his surprised command staff. "And get 1st, and 2nd Battalion to fall back to the 3rd's defensive line!"

"We are retreating!"

-----

The Isles, Port Sanctuary, Air Field

Rows of Marines and officers stood at attention under an open hangar as the large cargo plane's wheels hit the tarmac, kicking up a small cloud of dust and burnt slime. The four heavy prop engines winded down as the pilot followed the blinking lights and parked the cargo plane right before the hangar.

Techs ran forward and secured the wheels while a couple undogged the side hatch. They threw a salute at the limping figure who climbed down the hatch steps. Ford took a deep breath and wiped the sweat off his head before he donned his peak cap and went forward to meet the Captain.

"Sir!" Ford saluted a stone faced Blake who returned the gesture. "Welcome to Port Sanctuary!"

"What do we know?" Blake ignored the greeting as he waved the salutes of the Marines and officers off.

"Not much..." Ford said as he eyed Lt. Tavor behind Blake. "Other than eye witness accounts of ships that fly and... your wife's assistant seeing they took her..."

Blake paused as he sucked in a deep breath to calm himself. "So... basically we got nothing?"

"We do know the direction they headed to," Ford said. "And... we might have some clue to who those people are..."

"Some clue?" Lt. Tavor asked in a curious tone.

"Yes," Ford replied and they boarded a waiting Jeep. "I will brief you all when we are in a secured facility."

The trip to Operations Command was made in awkward silence. As they reached the building, Ford called out to Blake, "Sir... a word... privately please?"

Blake nodded and gestured for the rest to go in first and walked a short distance away with Ford. Ford took off his peak cap and ruffled his hair before saying, "I am sorry that Sherene got taken... If you want to punish me for derelict of duties... I am prepared for it..."

Blake gave out a deep breath as he looked up at the night skies. "I'm not gonna blame you. Shit happens. But whoever took Sherene... will pay for it."

Blake patted Ford's shoulder, "Come, start the briefing. The earlier we know what we are dealing with, the faster we can come out a response to save my wife."

Ford lowered his head and nodded before he followed Blake into the building.

-----

"So what happened to lead to this situation?" Blake asked when everyone was seated in the conference room.

Ford remained standing and he started the report, "As I am sure everyone here has read the report, I am just going to summarize everything."

"The Fury took shelter during the night to avoid the sudden storm at Star Island," Ford said. "At roughly 1000 hours, the storm has subsided and the Fury was about to weigh anchor when a lookout spotted a shipwreck on the island."

"1040 hours, a party of Fury's sailors found and rescued four survivors from the wreck." Ford listed out the timeline of the incident. "Roughly 1100 hours, the Princess, her assistants and Fleet Master Dijon departed from the Fury to inspect the wreck, as it was an unusual design, from the statement of the First Mate."

"The Fury's crew reported sighting of two large flying vessels, roughly at 1130 hours which one of them engaged the Fury with long range weapons while the other ship deployed ground troops at the vicinity of the wreck."

"The first mate ordered the Fury to weigh anchor and into evasive maneuvers to avoid being a sitting target and to return fire," Ford said. "But, the first mate said the Fury took four direct hits through the top decks, and one of the hits holed the ship's forward decks."

"The flooding caused the Fury to be unable to back out of the cove, and he ordered the crew to abandon ship as the unknown enemy is able to rain shots down from the air through their thinner top deck," Ford tapped a spot on the map behind him. "This is where the Fury went down."

"The unknown enemy also killed any sailors who swam to shore to surrender," Ford continued. "Thus most of the survivors remained out at sea, hiding among the reefs and anything that can float."

"Out of the total crew of 182, only 53 survived," Ford added. "The rest are either KIA or MIA."

"Well, shit..." Someone whispered.

"On our side, we have confirmed reports that our Princess and her aide, Takao, was clearly taken on board the airships," Ford said. "Kaga has witnessed the events so for now, we can be certain that Sherene has not come to any harm... As for Fleet Master Dijon, they did not find his body, so we can only assume he has been taken prisoner too."

"Our aircraft have tailed the airships to the edge of the End Zone," said Ford. "As you, all know, we did not explore beyond that area, as we are focusing on our internal problems. Now, there have been multiple reports and tales from the Isles saying that any ship that they sent beyond the End Zone has never returned."

"Tavor," Blake suddenly spoke. "Find out more on that."

"Yes, Sir."

"Now we do have a good idea of the direction of where the two airships were headed," Ford continued. "Also... by a stroke of good luck, Kaga managed to slip a tracking talisman onto Sherene. She said it could help track the general direction of the whereabouts of Sherene with it."

"As for the strange wreckage," Ford said. "We are working out a deal with the Isles on who to look into it. Hopefully, we can come to an agreement soon."

"And last of all," Ford leaned forward on the table. "The four survivors from the wreck survived the sinking of the Fury and they are here recovering in Medical."

"Once Dr. Sharon has cleared them," Ford turned to look at Tavor. "You can go do your thing."

Tavor gave a cold smile and nod. "With pleasure."

Blake leaned forward and said, "Tavor, collect as much information about the End Zone as possible. And also from the four survivors once they can talk."

"Ford, drop the base alert levels to yellow," Blake ordered. "But I want a constant air and naval patrol around these waters."

"We won't let this news about Sherene getting taken to be known to the public till we know more of who they are," Blake said. "For now, everyone works for Intel."

"I have recalled the MEF back from Goblin City," Blake said. "They will resupply at Far Harbor before making their way here."

"Ladies and gentlemen," Blake stood up. "I don't know who they are... But they dare to take my wife... I will find them and I will kill them... if they ever harmed her."

"I ask everyone here to lend a hand in saving my wife," Blake said. "I will be very thankful for your help."

------

The Isles, Port Sanctuary, Medical Tentage

Claire blinked her eyes, clearing her blurry vision as saw a white ceiling. She tried to raise her body up but felt too weak to do so. She tried to move her hands before realizing her hands appeared to be bound to the bed she was lying on.

She panicked in the alien environment and started thrashing her arms, trying to break free from her bonds. And she screamed in fear when a strangely robed short eared female wearing gloves entered.

"Noooooooo!"

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