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The New World, United Nations, Haven, Fortress Singapore, Captain's Quarters

Lieutenant Tavor returned the salutes of the two Marine guards and knocked on the closed hatch. The hatch slide opened and Tavor entered to see Blake seated behind his desk. His eyes were reddish and covered with dark eye bags and he seemed to have been wearing the same uniform for the past few days.

"Sir, are you alright?" Tavor asked in concern as he gave a once over on the Captain. The Captain looked terrible and Tavor wondered when was the last night he had properly slept.

Blake waved Tavor's concerns away and instead asked, "What is it?"

Tavor took out a file which from his briefcase and placed it on the desk. "Sir, this is the current report of the interrogation regarding the Old World prisoners we have in custody."

Blake picked up the file and started flipping through it for a short moment before placed it back down on the table and rubbed his tired eyes. "Give me a summarized brief."

"Yes, Sir," Tavor replied before he started his report. "The Protectorate prisoner appears to be some kind of high ranked religious officer. Their goal here appears to be recruitment and gathering of resources."

"Forced recruitment to be exact," Tavor added. "As for resources, they seemed to be very interested mana stones."

"Mana stones?" Blake frowned. "They want more magic?"

"From what Professor Hamlot had told us of the Old World," Tavor shook his head. "Magic is a dwindling resource. If we are to compare it to our history, mana stones are like Earth's crude oil."

"They are facing a massive shortage of that resource," Tavor explained. "Just like Earth during the 2070s, when both the Middle East and Russia's oil fields dried up creating conflicts and global recession on Earth before being replaced by a hydrogen economy."

"The Old World is similar, but in this case, they were more reliant on magic than fossil fuels," Tavor said. "And the results of our investigation into their level of technology in steam shows that they are only in the very early stages."

"That is the main reason why Chief Engineer Matt finds no use for the airships we captured," Tavor pointed out. "To even convert those airships to our standards and technology, it is basically a full rebuild project."

Blake nodded, "So in short, these assholes came here to grab mana stones?"

"Yes," Tavor nodded. "This also explains why all seven nations of the Old World dispatched a force over regardless of the dangers of crossing the End Zone."

"So, we are the pie that they want to carve up?" Blake let out a sigh. "A free for all for the Old World..."

"Yes, Sir," Tavor nodded again and he hesitated before he steeled his heart and said. "Using the prisoner's belief against him, we managed to gain some insight into their thinking..."

"We also found out who... took the Princess..." Tavor said in a hesitant voice. "The person who took her was a Protectorate Inquisitor called Mathias."

Blake jerked his head up and stared with bloodshot eyes at Tavor who shifted uncomfortably from the stare. "And?"

Tavor took a deep breath to settle his nerves before he continued. "From what the prisoner said, he appeared to be a rival of his and that Inqusitior has a habit of taking children and pregnant woman to become converts to their faith."

Blake felt a chill down his spine and an unspeakable feeling pushed down on his chest. He slumped back in his chair and closed his eyes before he asked in a low voice. "So... there is a chance she is alive and well?"

"Yes, Sir..." Tavor replied hesitantly. "But the info has not been verified nor do we have any way to verify it yet..."

"The info might... be false," Tavor added weakly. "We have no way of confirming the info..."

Blake let out a deep sigh and sat back up straight. He nodded and waved Tavor away, "Alright, thanks for the report. You can go now."

Tavor gave to attention and gave a salute. But as he was about to exit, he paused and said, "Sir, you should get your hands bandaged."

Blake looked down to his clenched fists, seeing the bruised and scabbed skin on his knuckles. He forced himself to relax his fists and opened and closed them several times, feeling the dull ache of his scraped knuckles.

"Sir, assaulting a prisoner isn't the right way..." Tavor sighed softly. "But if you want to let off some steam... Please remember to wear some gloves at least..."

Blake gave an absent nod as he returned to his work, "Point noted."

-----

The New World, The Old Kingdom of Foral, ???

"Ow!" Blue Thunder hissed out in pain as Stamford yanked a nasty barbed crossbow shaft out from his side. A few pieces of his overlapping scales were ripped out together with the arrow and dark blood oozed out. Stamford poured some antiseptic over the wound before he dosed the wound with clotting powder and stuffed a tampon like plug into the wound.

"Alright," Stamford gave Blue Thunder's plugged up wound a pat to ensure it was fitted tightly. "Stop your whining!"

"But it hurts..." Blue Thunder bent his body and stretched his neck over to try to lick his wound. "You come and try getting shot by an arrow and having it ripped out!"

"Stop licking your wounds!" Stamford smacked Blue Thunder on his side. "I just disinfected it!"

Blue Thunder let out a deep sigh and glanced around their surroundings. They were currently hidden under a thicket, having dived into the trees to evade their pursers. Saphia was curled up next to a large tree and her dark scales easily blend her to the shadows of the trees, making two large yellow eyes staring unblinkingly at Blue Thunder.

"Cold rations," Stamford ordered the rest. "No fires!"

"I hate cold rations..." Blue Thunder sighed again as he tested his wing that a crossbow bolt had left a hole which was patched up by duct tape. "It makes my belly ache..."

"You want to bring down the whole world on us?" Stamford hissed. "You have forgotten how you just got shot?"

"Just saying..." Blue Thunder mumbled and he eyed the blocks of dry rations behind unwrapped out sadly. "Please not ration pack B..."

Stamford walked over to the black dragon coiled up around the base of a massive tree. He paused before it and called out, "Saphia? I need to check you to see if you have any wounds..."

The black dragon looked down at him and cocked her head to the side as if it was trying to understand his intents. Stamford started gesturing for it to come and stand up while pointing to his eyes and moving his hands all over his body.

Saphia eyed Stamford's actions before looking at Blue Thunder who was busy picking through some square blocks of rations. She had seen they were treating Blue Thunder wounds and she knew the 'Sam Fort' person wanted to check her for wounds from his gestures. She stretched to her full length and stepped out from the shelter of the tree and allowed him to check her body.

Stamford walked around the black dragon, checking her body, belly, wings and tails from all sides to ensure she did not suffer any wounds. Sometimes, an arrow or crossbow bolt might not fully penetrate a dragon's armoured scales and instead leave its barbed head wedged between their scales which might cost injuries later on. So, they had to check all crooks and crannies where sometimes they find giant ticks feasting on the dragon's blood too, which of course they have to remove those ticks.

Stamford finished his check and gave a pat on Saphia's side which made her flinched away. He could only shake his head at her skittishness as he knew she did not fully trust them yet. He gestured to the unhappy black dragon towards Blue Thunder where he had the ration blocks separated into several piles. "Go and eat something."

Saphia eyed the short eared person with less coldness as she knew he was trying to help her. But she could not allow herself to trust these people who had bought her for their own purposes. She looked at the big oaf who seemed to be enjoying himself as he was humming some strange tune despite having survived a fierce battle earlier with overwhelming odds and even getting wounded.

"What is this?" She asked the big oaf as she joined him, looking at the strange dark brownish blocks. She gave a sniff and they smelt like dried meat to her. "Food?"

"Food!" The big oaf showed his white teeth, which she came to recognized as a smile. A really silly looking smile. "This food, that no no food!"

"No no food?" Saphia had trouble trying to understand his broken command of high speech. She gave a cautious sniff of the pile and frowned as it still smelt like some kind of dried meat to her. "Eat?"

"Eat!" The big oaf picked up one of the blocks and started chewing it. He made a distasteful face which Saphia had to suppressed her urge to laugh at his expression. "Urgh.."

"If I throw this at the enemy... I can kill him with how bad it tastes..." Blue Thunder sighed as he picked up another ration block and started to slowly chew the rations. "My jaws hurt... Can I complaint?"

The crew laughed while Stamford ignored him, making Saphia realised that they all actually had a very good relationship, that did not seem like a master and slave contract. She reached a claw up to scratch at her skin under the heavy slave collar and wondered what her future will be like.

She sighed deeply and bent down to gently pick up one of the ration cubes and started chewing. She made a face and spat the rubbery cube out in disgust and quickly swallowed a few mouths of water from the barrel next to her to wash the taste away.

The taste was horrid and chewy. She shivered as she saw the big oaf giving her his dumb grin again while still chewing away at the cubes. "No no food!"

-----

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

"Haaa hoooy!" A bunch of Dwarans pulled at the nets, muscles on their short and thick arms bugling as they fought against the desperate struggling winged dragon caught in the net into the cell. "Haa hoooy!"

Surrounding the net were other Dwarans armed with shock bidents, the twin ponged tips of the pitchfork like weapon had copper wires attached to crystal charger which looked like a fishing reel. The user just had to spin the handle and it charges the crystal up, giving it a bluish glow. The brighter the glow, the more shock energy will be discharged when the twin pongs touched anything.

The shock bident armed Dwarans poked their charged bidents against the flank of the struggling dragon, shocking the beast, making it scream in pain and temporary disabling its movement, allowing the rest to pull the dragon into the waiting cell.

Once the thick wooden cell door was secured, the Dwarans let out a heartily cheer as they had successfully caught another winged dragon. Dozens of large iron and wood cages held various dragons and creatures thought to be mythic or extinct. The Dwarans were in high mood as they knew if any one of these creatures were to be sold back in the Old World, they would be set for life!

Grand Lord Hammerfall had a big smile pasted on his bearded face and he took a swig from the wine skin in his hand as he watched his men celebrating the capture. He took in the entire island from his perch on the mechanized tower where a pair of windmills were slowing turning in the sea breeze.

Already the island had been transformed, steam and wind towers together with smokestacks from boilers and factoriums covered the growing settlement. Black spouts of steam cannons poked out from entrenched positions and forts while the airships that carried them through the Sea of Clouds were being loaded up with their spoils, ready to depart back to the Old World once they were full.

Grand Lord Hammerfall took the last swill of his wine skin and hopped off the battlement, satisfied that they, the Cartel has established a firm foothold in the New World and that it would take a mighty force to dig them out.

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A note from neo Koh

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When I was serving... I hated the SAF combat ration non halal 'Menu B' - Mutton Rice... I would dig a small pit and bury that shit to prevent my sergeant from finding out that I threw it away...
Later on... I found out that everyone else hated that shit too and they too buried their uneaten rations... 

Fun times~ 


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