United Nations, Fortress Singapore, Conference Room

Commander Ford sat at the head of the table quietly watching the playback of the surveillance video taken by the recon flight with the rest of the senior staff officers. Intel Officer Lt Tavor stood at the side of the display and pointed out various details as he briefed everyone.

"We ran a cross calculation of the images of the impaled bodies with the computers," Lt Tavor said. "And the numbers the system crunched out, put the death toll to approximately eighteen thousand..."

"That is literally, almost the entire population of the Capital of the NKM," Tavor stated in a serious tone.

Mumbles of disbelief broke out among the senior officers as they voiced out their opinions. "Are you saying that this enemy not only did not invaded the Capital of the Meccans but also put to death their entire population?"

"Yes," Tavor replied. "While we do not have any ground assets to verify the situation, we now do know from the refugees streaming towards the other cities within the NKM territory that they are expanding at a rapid speed."

"Who are they?" Another officer asked. "Imperialists? Cults?"

"No... Something even better..." Tavor gave a cold smile. "The assholes that took the Princess!"

Instantly the atmosphere within the conference room changed. The officers especially the elves felt their blood boiling in rage as they heard what Tavor said. "Is that true?"

"Yes..." Commander Ford replied with a simple yes and the entire room broke into dishevel as the officers volunteered to lead a force to take down the enemy. The noise grew louder till Commander Ford had to bang the table with his fist to restore order to the room.

"Enough!" Commander Ford growled. "You are all officers! Not a bunch of recruits!"

"Now, I understand everyone's emotions here," Ford said. "As much as I want to, we can't just send a force into the NKM's lands without raising alarms to the other kingdoms and even the Empire!"

"Such an act might cause another massive war to br-" Ford paused when the door to the conference room opened and an excited Marine came in and stood at the side of the door.

"Attention on Deck!" The Marine cried out and gave a salute as a haggard looking Blake stepped in.

Instantly, the entire conference room rose up as one and everyone stood up at attention as the Captain joined them. "At ease, gentlemen."

The officers remain standing, their faces breaking into smiles as they stared excitedly at the Captain who had looked pale and haggard yet clean shaven and wearing a properly ironed uniform. Commander Ford stepped away from the head of the table and offered the seat to the Captain, smiling, "Ready?"

"Ready..." Blake nodded and sat down, gesturing the rest to be seated while Ford remained standing at his shoulder. "Tavor, brief me again on this enemy that is sweeping across the lands of the Meccans."

"Yes, Sir!" Tavor replied crisply and said, "Over two months ago, Intel has picked up word amongst the free merchant cartels and houses to avoid the northeastern territory of the New Kingdom of Mecca."

"But at that time, no one paid it much attention due to the fact that such communique was common during the monster seasons," Tavor explained. "What changed was the fact that the frequency and urgency increased between the merchants and traders... And that caught our eye."

"Four days ago, a recon flight was dispatched over to the NKM to investigate this matter," Tavor said. "The mission was to get in, take some videos and images of the land to get some idea of what was happening."

"But when the recon flight flew over the Capital of the NKM," Tavor gestured to the big screen. "This was picked up by the surveillance crew."

"The recon flight retreated after spending all its fuel over the area and rendevous with the floating base off the coast of the NKM," Tavor said. "And the reports started flooding in."

"I had the recon flight stationed at the floating base and had them repeat their missions to other major cities of the NKM," Tavor said. "In the past few days, with the effort of both air and ground assets we have within the NKM, we gathered enough intel to plot a rough map of invasion by these... Protectorate forces..."

"Here is what we know so far," Tavor continued, the display switching images. "This invasion force definitely came from overseas, but where their beachhead and direction we still have no idea yet."

"Can't we use the probe like a UAV to scout the area for us?" General Joseph raised the question.

Tavor shook his head, "There are some limitations to the probe's usage."

"We only have a fixed window of time each time the probe passes over us to do any live coverage within its sensor's range," Tavor explained. "Each window lasted roughly 4 hours before the probe goes out of range of our communication arrays and takes another twelve hours before the probe comes back in range."

"The probe will do an automated data dump each time it passes overhead," Tavor said. "And I got a team of analysts sifting out thousands and thousands of images downloaded to the system manually."

"This means, it takes time, a lot of time to find the information we need out of thousands of others," Tavor said. "Even if the manpower of the team were doubled, it will still take time."

"Of course, I am not only looking a single source of intel," Tavor added. "I am having our ground agents within the NKM to find out more information, but as usual, we only have a limited amount of agents there."

"I see," General Joseph nodded. "So what else do we know about this enemy?"

"They are definitely the Protectorate of Ramuh," Tavor said. "I have images of their flags and uniforms tallied with the group we picked up and they clearly recognized them."

"Also, this..." Tavor changed the display and a top down image of a sort of fat looking ship clearly floating in the air was shown. "On the previous recon run, the surveillance flight picked up this image."

Tavor switch the display and a map of the region appeared with several red dots. "These red dots indicate cities, towns and villages fallen to the Protectorate in the northeastern region of the New World."

"These yellow dots," Tavor pointed out to a dozen more yellow blinking dots that appeared on the map. "Are unconfirmed reports of the Proetectorate's presence."

"Judging by the pattern shown here," Tavor tapped the map, tracing his finger southwards along the Eastern Coast. "They appearing to be spreading to this direction towards the cities of the old Foral Kingdom..."

Tavor tapped his finger back up to the northeastern coast and said, "And we suspect that they had landed around this region, as if we draw a straight line across the End Zone, directly to the Old World..."

"This is the closest distance between the two continents!" Tavor stated but he mumbled in a low voice. "Would be nice if we could capture one of those airships to see how they cross the End Zone safety..."

Captain Blake nodded and he turned his attention to the gathered officers. "First of all, before we go on to the next steps..."

"I would like to thank Commander Ford for his dedication and support," Blake said in a hoarse voice. "And also everyone for holding the fort while I... am... not around..."

"Sir, it is good that you are back!" Airforce Commander in Chief Tommy declared. "I- We are all glad, you are here!"

The rest of the officers gave their agreement and they started clapping. Blake raised one hand up to stop their cheering and he looked at everyone with his bloodshot eyes. "Thank... you."

"I know everyone has put in their best efforts into the supercarrier project..." Blake spoke in a low voice. "For that, I am very thankful for your hopes."

"But..." Blake paused and signs of struggle appeared on his expression. "I believe their chances of rescue to be very low."

"Realistically, once twenty four hours have gone," Blake closed his eyes as he faced his demons. "Chances of a rescue dropped drastically... and after every hour, the chances of rescue will be even lower as time goes by..."

"In my heart..." Blake had balled his fists tightly, gripping his trouser pants under the table. "I know they are gone..."

The conference room turned deadly silent as the joy of the Captain's return disappeared. Everyone's head was lowered as they too had thought of the chances of finding the Princess was extremely low after so much time.

"That is why..." Blake said after a moment of silence. "I thank you all for your support and concern."

"Now..." Blake's eyes flicked to the map. "The culprits to the demons in my heart has appeared..."

"We should, of course, give them a big welcome..." Blake's hoarse voice held a hint of anger. "Don't you all agree?"

The officers all nodded solemnly as one, except for Commander Ford who frowned. "Sir, with due respect, but sending our troops into another sovereign country could lead to some bad consequences with the rest of the nations!"

"It would create an impression that we can disregard all agreements and treaties by breaking them," Commander Ford warned. "It might cause them to band against us in the future!"

"So what?" Blake replied in a cold manner. "We have the might and power to crush any force in this world!"

"But!" Commander Ford spoke again only to be cut off by a raised palm from Blake.

"Enough," Blake said hoarsely. "We have been playing too nice with everyone. Now, we are playing by my rules!"

"General Joseph!" Blake called out. "General Frank!"

"Sir!" Both Joseph and Frank stood up and snapped to attention.

"What is the readiness of the Army and Marines?" Blake asked.

"All 100% and ready to go, Sir!" Both officers reported the status of their troops.

"And the Airforce?" Blake turned to Tommy who stood up in attention.

"Sir, all assets ready to deploy within six hours!" Tommy replied. "We will need a forward operation airfield within the NKM if we want to hit deep into those lands."

Blake nodded before he turned his head and looked up at Commander Ford. "And the Navy?"

Commander Ford let out a deep sigh before he replied, "3rd, 4th, and 5th Corvette Squadron stationed at Port Sanctuary can be deployed within four hours. Longer if you want to switch the transports into seaplane carrier roles..."

"Good, that is enough for now..." Blake replied as his eyes stared at the map on the display.

"Ford, start deploying two squadrons to head up along the eastern coast," Blake ordered. "Find out where the Protectorate has landed... And start the conversion of the transports to carrier role."

"Do not engage, do a quick sweep and see if you can find out their entry point from the End Zone..." Blake said before he turned to Frank. "Start moving your Marines to Port Sanctuary."

"Joseph and Tommy, start a plan of action to secure an area for an airbase within the Meccan's territory that will give our aircraft enough reach to hit anywhere within the north and eastern regions."

"Logistics, start planning how to supply our forces," Blake said. "On both land and sea."

"Tavor, keep digging out more about the enemy," Blake added. "I want numbers, force depositions, weapons, magic, supply routes, morale and so on! You know what to do!"

"I want an action plan up and running within twenty four hours!" Blake ordered in a cold voice. "I should see everyone here again tomorrow at the same time! Is everyone clear?"

"SIR, YES, SIR!" The officers their orders acknowledged loudly.

As the room emptied, Ford stood hesitated at the door, wanting to speak to Blake who remained behind, his head and shoulders hunched over the table. Tavor placed a hand on Ford's shoulder and silently shook his head and both officers closed the door behind them, leaving behind the lonely figure of their captain.

A note from neo Koh

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