United Nations, New Kingdom of Mecca, Sky Mountains Valley

The sun has dipped behind the mountains and the valley was cast into darkness as night came. A shepherd retreated back into his hut after securing his flock of cloud deer, and a warm glow came from within the hut as a fire was made. All around, light could be seen from the few scattered huts around the village.

Many of the houses in the village had been abandoned as the new government soldiers came to evacuate the surrounding villages around the Sky Mountains due to the increased raids from a force of Outsiders called the Protectorate that had made the Sky Mountains their base. Over the past weeks, several villages were hit, with people, livestock and supplies taken away.

Those that remained stubborn and stayed behind were mostly the elderly could regularly hear echos of thunder rumbling down the mountains at all times of the day and even the night. The old prayed and placed offerings at altars and shrines around the villages in hopes to appease the angry gods of the mountains.

As the remaining few villagers prepared their night meal, a group of shadowy figures emerged from the edge of the Sky Mountains. Moving under the cover of darkness, the figures moved as fast as they could without tripping down the gentle slopes of the valley, using the light of the village as a waypoint.

Harsh whispers came from the figures as they came upon a low wooden fence at the edge of the village. Just as the figures spread out, there was a loud crack that broke the silence of the night followed by a hissing whizz before another loud pop came from the flare in the sky and the night was illuminated.

Under the illumination of the flare drifting down from the sky, the figures caught in the harsh white glow froze as their cover and night vision was blown. The light revealed them wearing dark red robes and light armor and wielding short lances and swords. A shout came from one of the hut at the sight of the revealed figures, "Protectorate!"

"Engage!" Flickers of red yellow tracers spat out from the huts in the village and caught the Protectorate raiders in a crossfire. Bodies toppled backwards from bullet impacts while the raiders hesitated before they charged over the fence with a war cry.

Sergeant Cork of the UN Army stroked the trigger of his rifle and briefly saw the target he shot at stumbled down and he switched targets. Another flare burst into existence in the sky, further illumination the land, allowing the ambushing troops better visibility against the raiders.

Not long, the order came down to cease fire and Cork yelled at his men, to fan out into the open and clear the area. Cork checked the time piece in his arm and shook his head. The one sided fire fight felt like hours but in fact not only ten minutes has passed.

"Clear!" A yell came from the point men of his squad as they swept the area around for more enemies. "We got wounded here!"

"Medics! Up front!" Cork ordered. "Move the wounded back!"

The medics hearing the all clear, came running out of the huts carrying stretchers and they started checked the enemy wounded. Cork checked his men and found no one was injured when the company commander came over and said, "Good work men! This shall teach the Protectorate not to raid the villages here!"

"Sergeant Cork!" The company commander walked over to him. "What's the situation?"

Cork looked to the medic who handed over a slip of paper and reported, "Forty seven enemy dead and nineteen wounded."

"Zero casualties on our side, Sir," Cork said as he handed the butcher's bill over to the company commander who nodded. "Most of the enemy wounded wouldn't make it without a proper medical facility..."

"Have the medics do what they can," The CO replied as he watched the bodies being carried away. "Anyway, good work! With this, we wilted down more of the enemy numbers and denied them vital supplies!"

"Sir, why aren't we taking the fight to them?" A nearby soldier asked he spotted Cork and the CO. "We can end this if we move our troops into the mountains!"

"Too many caves and tunnels up there," Cork replied for the CO. "We do not know where they are hiding..."

The CO nodded in agreement, "Yes, that is why High Command has us sitting here and ambushing any Protectorate that dares to poke his head out!"

"Cut of their supplies and sooner or later, they will come out on their own," The CO grinned before he said to Cork. "Good work again! Clear the area and get the men some rest."

"Thank you, Sir!" Cork replied and watched the CO and his staff walked off towards the quiet village.

"Sir Cork," Jeanne Von Iris suddenly appeared out of nowhere, startled Cork. She looked at the bodies being moved away and sighed, "How much longer will... this war continue?"

Cork looked at Jeanne, her pretty features highlighted sharply against the lights of the working parties and reached a hand out and patted her shoulder. "I do not know."

"It feels like war is never end... And there is no peace..." Jeanne said in a tired voice. "When will all these bloodshed end?"

"I... do not know..." Cork replied weakly as he did not know what to say. "It... should end soon... Once we starve the Protectorate out from the caves..."

"And after that?" Jeanne asked softly. "There will be another war waiting for us..."

"It's an endless cycle," Jeanne said as she held onto Cork's hand on her shoulder. "We will never stop fighting and killing..."

"No, we will," Cork tried to assure Jeanne. "The... UN... has the power to unite this world... And once the world is united, there will be no more wars..."

Jeanne remained in silent as the two of them continued watched the work going on. After a while, she said in a determined voice, "I have decided... I shall sign up with the UN army..."

"What?" Cork was surprised. "But..."

"I trust in your words, Sir Cork," Jeanne said as she stared with resolve into Cork's eyes. "I believed in your words that the Un An would save us and they did. Now, I shall put my trust into the Un An to end all wars!"

"And to do that, I shall fight to do my part!"


UNS Vengeance, En route to Hope Naval Station

Blake stared at the stack of documents awaiting his attention and sighed. He ignored his work and stood over the view port and looked blankly out at the view. In his heart, he felt a tinge of fear as the time has finally come for the push into the Old World. The fear in his heart was of finding out Sherene and his child was no longer in this world and the feeling was driving him mad.

A sudden knock on the hatch broke him out of his moody thoughts and he sighed deeply before he called out, "Come in."

"Sir," Lieutenant Tavor came in and he placed a file on the table. "We found more traces of Megan's plans and ex Fleet Master Tediore has gave us some information in regards to Megan."

"Just tell me," Blake said as his mind was too tired to read anything.

"Megan has plotted to sink or disable the Vengeance during the Battle of Wind Coast," Tavor said. "From Tediore's words, her plans was to have the Vengeance sail to this place called the Seabone Reefs."

"Her plans would be to strike the Vengeance while it was busy with the Cartel," Tavor continued. "By means of a sneak attack."

"But what weapons does she has that is capable of piercing through the belt armor of the Vengeance?" Blake asked curiously. "Do they even have torpedoes?

Tavor shook his head and said, "No, it would be more of a ramming attack."

"She intends to ram a battle carrier?" Blake was surprised but felt that it was also a logical method.

"Yes, Sir," Tavor replied. "Her submersible ship should have some kind of ram that could tear the bottom hull. And by doing so, she can put the blame to the reefs in the area."

"That is also due to the fact that no one knows we have sonar," Tavor added. "If used against any one else, her submersible would be a great headache and danger. But only if they do not have sonar and depth charges..."

"So is that report of one of our ships sinking her confirmed?" Blake asked as he shook his head at Megan's devious mind.

"I checked with the crew and I am even more certain that the UNS Braveheart has indeed encountered Megan's submersible and depth charged it," Tavor replied with a small smile on his face. "The crew had tried to dredge more of the wreckage or ship up as they assumed it might be a weapon of the Cartel but other than a few floating debris, they found nothing else."

Tavor gestured to the file on Blake's table before he continued. "Some of the retrieved debris was taken and analyzed by my team and the results was that it matched the rolls of fish skin we found in Megan's secret docks."

"I also had ships pinging the area for the past few days with sonar, but nothing was found," Tavor said. "And as it is not a true submarine, it would need to surface to replenish its air or resupply."

"Recon flights has spotted nothing within a hundred and twenty kilometer radius around the last known location of the debris and no support ships of any kind was found, " Tavor added. "It is very highly probable that Megan's ship had been sunk!"

Blake took a deep breath and leaned back in his chair. He closed his eyes as he pondered on the report by Tavor before he said, "I think so too judging from all the evidence and searching done."

"I guess we can close our file on Megan," Blake said. "And keep it under wraps. No one is to know she is dead."

"Yes, Sir!" Tavor nodded before he asked. "How shall we handle Tediore and Akron?"

"Confiscate all their assets," Blake replied coldly. "And put them away for now... Once the new government for the Isles is up, then let them decide what to do with them."

"Yes, Sir," Tavor replied again. "And the Cartel prisoners?"

"Have they told us about how they made that electric shield thingy?" Blake asked.

"No, Sir," Tavor shook his head. "They were quite adamant about it."

"Since they can't pay for their freedom," Blake said. "Trade it for some of their debts. If not, put them to work in the mines."

"Sir, the Cartel has a second Fleet that should arrive anytime to resupply their outpost at the Eastern Islands," Tavor said. "We now barely have any ships in the Isles."

"Don't worry about that," Blake waved away Tavor's concerns. "Ford has already sent word to the fleet at Port Sanctuary to sail at full speed to support the Isles."

"One converted merchant carrier and three corvettes would be more than enough to force their surrender," Blake said. "After that they will be supporting the ground forces within the Isles."

"Yes, Sir. Regarding the Isles, there are quite a few discontented with the move to join us," Tavor said. "Do we..."

"As long as they do not disrupt public order or the government," Blake sighed. "Take care of them discretely."

"Yes, Sir. I will notify my agents." Tavor replied as he dismissed himself.

Blake closed his tired eyes feeling the urgent need to take a dose of Happy to make the dark thoughts in his mind to go away. In the end, he let out a growl of frustration and headed for the shower and let the cold water wash over his whole body and shocking his system.

"Just a little more..."

A note from neo Koh

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