The Isles, Port Sancautry, UN Embassy

Commander Ford formed his hands into a tent as he stared coldly at the smug smiles of the Isles delegates. The Fleet Master Megan lounged like a cat on the chair, ignoring the proceedings as her underlings laid out their demands.

"We want half of those crystals! And the wreck too!" The shrill voice of the Isles negotiator grated Ford's nerves. "You have all spent more than enough time going over the wreck! Now it's our turn!"

Ford shook his head and said, "You have agreed to allow us to spend as much time as we want on the wreck. After which the UN will hand over the wreck to the Isles."

"That was before we knew the value of the wreck!" The Islander shrilled. "As an ally, how can you withhold such information to us! Do you still treat us as allies?"

"Of course..." Ford sighed. "We just signed the alliance with you. We had no intention withhold any information to you."

"Than hand over the wreck and the crystals!" The Isles negotiator demanded. "Or else!"

"Or else... what?" Ford growled. "You leave the alliance?"

The Isles negotiator paled as he stammered, "Y- yes! We will le- leave the alliance!"

"Than do it!" Ford spat, pissed off with the negotiator. "Do what you want! Do you want war? The UN is always ready!"

The Isles negotiator looked at disbelief at Ford who called his bluff. His mouth opened and closed, gaping like a fish out of the water as he was at the loss of words. "Y- you!"

"You what?" Ford stormed, his fist banging the table. "Let me remind you! We agreed to be your ally not because you are stronger or equal to the UN! We offered to be your allies cause we see you as friends!"

"If you think this... wreck is only worth that much of our friendship between the two nations," Ford said as he stared angrily at Fleet Master Megan who was still looking relaxed at the chair. "Then break off the alliance! But we will never hand the wreck nor the crystals to you... ever!"

Fleet Master Megan rosed an eyebrow as she lazy unfurled her self from her seat and raised a hand to stop her representative from speaking. She gave a smile at Ford and said, "Why so serious? We are trying to negotiate with you... Why speak of war and breaking of alliances?"

"This is enough!" Ford growled. "You all are treating this like some kind of merchant deal! But this here is the only clue and way to find the Princess and your missing Fleet Master!"

"I do not care what politics you Islanders are playing amongst yourselves!" Ford glared at Megan who remained impervious to his anger. "But the UN needs this wreck and the crystals to find back the Princess!"

Ford stood up and walked to the double doors of the conference room and opened it. "This meeting or negotiation as you called it is over. The UN will give up the wreck nor the crystals for now till we find out what we need. We will still abide by the agreement accepted by you... Fleet Master Megan, and hand over the wreck and crystals to you after we are truly done with it!"

"If you think this terms which you yourself had accepted to be unagreeable now," Ford narrowed his eyes. "By all means... Break the treaty signed between the two nations!"

"I shall not see you off to your ships!" Ford gave a curt salute before storming away. "Good day!"

Fleet Master Megan remained seated on the chair, her cat like eyes narrowed with a trace of suppressed anger as she watched Ford walked off without another word. Her people burst into a storm of indignant outrage at the disrespectful treatment given by Ford while the UN guards and aides watched on with coldness and suppressed glee.

"Let's go!" Megan snapped her fingers. "Since they want to play hard, then do blame me for what is next!"


"Arghhh..." Ford growled as he sank into his seat. "Goddamn fucking merchants!"

"I see the meeting did not go well?" A voice suddenly spoke from the corner of the room.

"Goddamnnit!" Ford cursed as he jumped off his seat. "Are you trying to give me a heart attack?"

Tavor grinned as he uncrossed his legs and stood up. He placed a document on Ford's desk and said, "Nope... Can't have you dying before the Captain!"

Ford shook his head as he patted his raced heart. "What is this?"

"Some interesting information given by the prisoners from the other side," Tavor smiled. "Still pretty basic but at least we now have some inkling of their military, technology, and society."

"Their tech level seemed to be at some kind of victorian steampunk setting..." Tavor sighed. "This is why I kinda did not want to explore any more of this planet... Trying to file all this information... is a bitch!"

"So the other side is a steampunk setting?" Ford flipped through the document. "Airships and what's that called... Da Vinci machines?"

Tavor nodded, "I included a few sketches done by the prisoners."

"Interesting..." Ford frowned as he looked through the drawings. "So... their society is kinda around our early nineteen century?"

"Roughly, with the cultural differences, of course..." Tavor clarified. "And their military appeared to be powered with steam tech... Like steam tanks... and cannons..."

"Wow..." Ford shook his head as his mind tried to wrap around all the new information he just received. "Okay... I will go through this later. Right now I need to issue a nationwide advisory against the Isles..."

Tavor nodded, "Yes, Sir! My people will also be keeping an eye on the Isles' responses too. You will be informed immediately if they... try anything funny..."

"Good!" Ford waved Tavor away and started making calls to warn all departments about the worsening relations with the Isles. Once he finished the calls, he informed Naval Operations to keep an eye out for all Isles' ships and be on the alert for any aggression.

"What a fucking shitty day!"


United Nations, Uncharted Forest, Crossroad Town, Army Depot Office

The lines stretched out till it disappeared around the corner of the street. Hundreds of people of all ages and races had lined up early in the morning, even before the opening hours of the Army depot.

Cork was surprised as he stood there watching the line of people who came earlier than him to work. He tapped in through the security booth and found the office in a disarray as the soldiers manning the front desk. "What's going on outside? What's with all those people?"

"Sarge!" The corporal at the desk looked flustered as he piled a large stack of forms on the side. "They all want to sign up to the Army!"

"What?" Cork blinked in surprised. "All of them?"

"I think so, Sarge!" The corporal dug out another stack of forms and handed it over to a private. "I am going to open the doors now!"

As the corporal unlocked the doors, the people outside quickly flooded in. They started yelling, saying they want to join the military, wanting to fight and save the Princess from the evil people.

Cork frowned and roared loudly in his best parade square voice, "GET IN LINE! THIS IS NOT A GODDAMN MARKET!"

His roar had a positive effect as the people quietened down and stared at him fearfully. They soon formed up in orderly lines and staff at the front desk started to hand out the recruitment forms for them to fill in.

Cork shook his head at the sudden surge of people wanting to join the Army due to the news on the TV and radio been constantly talking about the missing Princess. Some people were angry at the government for being useless to allow the Princess to be taken, others showed their support by buying government issued bonds and some decided to join the military.

Still, the numbers of applications were unexpected. The higher ups had warned everyone that there will an increase of applications but this was way over the top, especially in a town in the middle of the Uncharted Forest!

"Sergeant Cork!" A private suddenly appeared at the office door. "The OC wants to see you in his office now!"

Cork nodded and followed the private out and headed to a row of squat looking buildings. Just before the entrance of the buildings, stood two flag poles, one hanging the UN flag and the other the new Army flag.

"Sir, Sergeant Cork reporting, Sir!" Cork stood at attention before the desk of his OC who waved him to the chair.

"Sit down," The OC was a middle aged elf the look of a school teacher look. Yet despite his looks, he was a veteran in the Imperial War. He pushed a document over to Cork and said, "Sergeant, I am sending you and a few others to a new deployment."

Cork frowned, "A new deployment? I was under the impression that I will be posted here permanently."

"Not anymore!" The OC replied. "I am sorry, but you have new orders... In two days, you will ship out with the rest to a new location. Don't worry this will be a temporary assignment."

"As you know, the Army is lacking on experienced NCOs," The OC said. "I am bumping you up to First Sergeant... Your new deployment will be handing security at a new outpost."

"A new outpost?" Cork was confused. "Where is this new outpost?"

"It will be at the coast," The OC replied. "The Navy is building a new port and town there. They are lacking manpower, so they will be borrowing some Army personnel to help with security."

"There will be a large batch of settlers coming in to build the place up," The OC explained. "Most of those people will be the refugees at our borders. The government decided to give them a place to live and at the same time grant them employment."

"The new Naval Station will be the new training grounds for the navy and also the new shipyard that will be building the rumoured 'supership' that will be used to cross the End Zone to save the Princess," The OC added. "Hence, they will need a lot of security there! You are one of my best NCOs, so I am sending you over!"

Cork left the admin building feeling conflicted. He really enjoyed the peace and quiet here, but now he will be going off to a new place where the land was untamed. He felt both excited and reluctant to go.

"Hey, Cork!" His friend suddenly appeared next to him. "Why the grim face?"

"Hello, Krew," Cork getting his best friend. "I just got redeployed..."

"Really?" His friend gave a big grin. "Let me guess... Is it to some coastal place?"

"How did you know?" Cork narrowed his eyes suspiciously.

"Hahaha!" His friend grinned. "I got redeployed too!"

"Really?" Cork felt his mood lightened.

"Yeah!" His friend, Krew, laughed at Cork's expression. "You need someone to cover your ass!"

"More like you need me to keep yours out of danger!" Cork shook his head helplessly at Krew's joke.

"Come on!" Krew gave a sad face. "Didn't I pulled your ass out of that fire that time?"

"And the other time, you were in that bunker..." Krew started to recollect their times together. "I saved your ass from getting shot..."

"In your dreams..." Cork sighed as Krew started to rumble on and on about their past adventures, knowing that once Krew started, he won't stop. "Come on, let's go get something to eat at the mess hall..."

"Oh, sure!" His friend hurried after Cork. "Talking about the mess hall... Did I help you get out of that fight with the other platoons?"

"And the other time, that guy tried to punch you in that bar..."

A note from neo Koh

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