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United Nations, Hope Naval Station, Super Dock One, UNS Vengeance

"Damn...I like the smell of the sea!" said a grinning Mills as he stepped up on to the gangplank. "How does it feel to be back in uniform?"

"Itches," Bartley growled as he scratched himself as he wore a neatly pressed Marine uniform. "And the sea smells like dead fish and rot..."

"Nice to know that you are still the same kill joy self," Mills chuckled. "Still this place smells better than hay and giant dog poo!"

Bartley gave a curt nod at that as he boarded the super carrier and saluted the officer at the end of the boarding ramp. "Sir!"

James Bone, once their section 2nd IC had a big grin on his face as he returned the salutes of the two human Marines before he scribbled something down on his notepad before he. He now had the rank tabs of a Major on his shoulders,

"Wow," Mills wiggled his eyebrows at James's rank as he shook hands with him. "Someone has a crab on his shoulders!"

He referred to the Major rank as the rank insignia was similar to the United Nations of Man's emblem with the only difference was the landmass depicted on the emblem was not of Earth but of the New World. From far, the roundish shape of the rank tabs looked like the body of a crab while the wreath of crossed olive leaves were the claws.

James took a glance on his shoulder and puffed up his chest dramatically before he dusted some imaginary dust off his shoulders. "Oh well, they can resist my manliness, so much so that they had to make me a Major."

"Yea right!" Mills rolled his eyes in reply. "Well, don't worry, I reach your level soon."

"Sureee... First Lieutenant Mills," James winked as he eyed the two gold bars on Mills's shoulder. "Maybe in ten years?"

Mills snorted as he did another eye roll while James laughed. He turned to Bartley who remained silent at the side and shook his hand. "Nice to see you too, Bartley."

"Yes, Sir," Bartley replied. "It is nice to be back, Sir."

"Yes," James nodded. "You are pretty lucky they took back the dishonourable discharge charges off your file."

"You better keep your head clean, Private!" James reminded Bartley. "High Command only give you one chance, and don't screw it up!"

"Yes, Sir, I won't," Bartley promised.

"Right," James nodded and his serious expression faded into a smile. "Get to the Marine decks and settle down, I find you guys after I checked everyone in."

Mills and Bartley grabbed their duffle bags and headed off, following the instructions of a navy ensign and after some wandering, they found the Marine decks. Mills separated from Bartley as he headed towards officer country while Bartley settled down with the men.

"Well, well, look who has just wandered in," A cocky voice said as Mills entered the officer bunks. He turned around with a look of annoyance which quickly faded into a grin when he saw who it was. "Collins! You son of a bitch!"

"Hahaha!" Collins, one of the remaining human Marine, stepped forward and gave Mills a brotherly hug. "Good to see you are still alive!"

"Haha you too man, I thought you were dead! Haha!" Mills laughed happily at seeing another old face. "So you made Captain huh?"

"Yup," Collins grinned back. "The rest of the old gang is all here too!"

"Holy shit! Really?" Mills raised a questioning eyebrow. "And High Command approved all this?"

"Shit must be really going down!" Mills shook his head. "If they need us... the REAL Marines here!"

"Hey, that is offending!" Silverstar, Mills's previous commandeering officer in the 1st Marines, now a Captain too, stuck his head out of his bunk and yelled. "And I still outrank your ass!"

"Damn," Mills covered his mouth in mock panic and laughed. "Just joking, Sir! Nice to see you are still alive too!"

"Still the same asshole!" Silverstar threw out a retort. "So how's are things between you and the Rothschild's Princess?"

"Ah..." Mills clammed down. "Eh... okay? I guess?"

"Hahaha," Collins laughed while shaking his head. "I think this little fucker just ran away from her!"

"Noo... I did no such thing! That would be such a bastard thing to do!" Mills hurriedly said. "I... just said I got recalled back... you know, duty calls and all that..."

"Did you get her pregnant and then you ran?" Silverstar shook his head alongside Collins. "You bloody bastard!"

"No! She's not pregnant!" Mills insisted. "It's just... she wanted the marriage thingy and me out of the Marines... Wanting me to play Lord next to her, running Orwells' Point..."

"Hahahahaha!" Both Captains laughed at Mills's sodden expression. "So you ran?"

"Well... You guys know I'm not into all that Lordy stuff," Mills sighed. "I'm just a kid who grew up in a rough neighbourhood! I am not cut out to be some Lord! Fighting... and killing is all I know and good at... Not... looking after a city and people, you know?"

"Well, I guess everyone has their problems," Collins patted Mills's shoulder in sympathy. "But... You got to man up, don't waste the lady's time. You know, as they say, a woman's youth is precious, if you are unwilling to commit to her, tell her straight up! Don't let her wait for you and waste her time!"

"He's right, you know," Silverstar chipped in. "I do know other than you shitty ass, there are probably enough suitors for her to form a line all across the entire Uncharted Forest Expressway!"

"I know..." Mills replied in a grim tone. "It's just... I am not ready yet! I'm just twenty four this year! I... still want to see the world!"

"Even so, don't keep a lady waiting!" Silverstar joined Collins in patting Mills's shoulder. "In fact, most males at your age have already started a family."

"Damn..." Mills sighed. "Alright, mommy and daddy, I know what to do..."

"Good boy!" Collins laughed. "Your daddy is proud of you!"

"Hey wait a minute!" Silverstar blurted out. "Whose your goddamn mommy?"

-----

The Kingdom of Foral, East Coast, Clamcaster Village

The beach was covered with clamshells, picked cleaned by the villagers from the nearby settlement which got its name from the cast off clamshells. The villagers made a simple living off picking the abundant clams and fishing off the coast, sometimes selling their stock to passing merchants.

Today there was a big ruckus coming from the rickety low docks of the village as the villagers crowded the returned fishing boats. The fishermen had caught and towed back a huge dragon in their nets, its wet midnight black scales glittered under the sun.

Not long, word had spread to the fort overseeing the coastal region and the local garrison was dispatched to investigate. Riders on large alligator like mounts and bearing flags of green and yellow descended upon the sleepy village. The villagers lined up alongside the only roughly paved street greeted the soldiers and the village head led them to the dragon.

The knight captain seeing the black dragon laying on its side in the middle of the village centre was surprised greatly. He circled the dragon a couple of times poking and examining its swings. "What a beast! Where did you find it?"

The fishermen who caught the dragon stepped forward hurriedly and bowed. "Lord Knight! We found the dragon floating out in the open sea when we were fishing and we saw it was motionless, we used our nets to bring it back."

"This beast is still alive?" The Knight Captain turned back to face the dragon which did not move at all.

"Yes.. my Lord," The village head bowed as he replied. "It has many wounds... and we do not know magic to heal it..."

"Never mind about that!" The Knight Captain waved away the village head's grovelling apologies. "Anyway, you all have done a good deed in finding this dragon!"

The Knight Captain pulled a small coin pouch out and tossed it to the village head who caught the tossed pouch expertly. "This is your reward!"

"Men! Start moving the dragon back to the fort!" He snapped to his soldiers who hurried forward with ropes. The Knight Captain smiled to himself, thinking that such a rare specimen of a dragon would be well received by the Duke and if he gifted the Duke with this dragon, he will be greatly rewarded.

The Knight Captain remounted his war dragon and left the village behind, where the villagers started a small fight over the coin pouch containing a handful of gold crowns.

-----

Eastern Border of the Isles, No One's Island, Cartel Expeditionary Force

Fleet Master Akron let off a sigh of relief when the crates of the boilers and steam cannons were loaded onboard the merchant ships. He had felt like crying as the Dwarans which he had come to know of their race, kept delaying and inviting him to drink constantly until he blacked out. Finally, after several firm rejections, the Dwarans gave in and now, with two boilers of Dwaran made were being shipped back alongside with several of their steam cannons.

He was pretty sure the smiths and craftsman would find them interesting but most of all, he had complete a part of his quest given by Megan. He turned back towards the fishhook shaped island and frowned, seeing the strange unrecognisable structures being built. He made a mental comparison with the UN base at Sanctuary Island and couldn't come to a conclusion of what structures were being built.

In the end, he gave up and gave a bow to the group of Dwaran delegates at the dock and boarded his ship to return back to the Isles with news of his success.

-----

Grand Lord Hammerfall's beady eyes watched the local fleet of merchants and escorts leaving by the tide and wind before he turned away with a smug smile underneath his beard. He led his followers down the wooden track and towards the hive of activity in the middle of the island where a massive structure was behind constructed.

Coils of pipes as thick as the waist of an average Dwaran laid half unburied on the soft topsoil and Hammerfall made his way over them carefully. Workers paused in their work as he passed them by to salute or call out a greeting before returning to their work.

He soon found Lord Copperstone standing on the top of a small platform and busily directing a small crowd of workers. He waited until Lord Copperstone dismissed the workers before stepping forward. "How goes the work?"

"Rock and Stone, my Lord!" Lord Copperstone thumped his chest in salute. "The work goes smoothly except for the soft ground and sand."

He thumped his feet hard against the ground as he continued. "We need to dig deep and reinforce the foundations, which delayed construction for a while."

"Other than that," Lord Copperstone glanced up with a fond expression at the structure that looked like an observatory. "The Lightning Thrower will be ready soon once we hook up all the boilers and magic convertors."

"Good," Grand Lord Hammerfall nodded and laughed. "I just sent off the slimy long legs off with some of our old boilers and cannons. That should keep them happy for a while."

"I played with him for so long that I felt sorry in the end for him," Grand Lord Hammer gave a chuckle. "Anyway, I have delayed them as long as I could. You better finish up the other two towers in time too and I pray that your inventions will be able to stop those... United Nation of theirs."

"Oh..." Lord Copperstone patted the side of the rock tower. "My inventions rarely has failed, I promised it will work as stated!"

"Good! If that United Nations were as powerful as that slimy one eyed long leg has said," Grand Lord Hammerfall's expression changed grim. "We need all the ale on the table to get through this!"

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