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Raucous laughter echoed out from the ship that was slightly listed on one side. The lights from the party that was ongoing on the ship were enough to highlight the other five similar sized sailing ships that were anchored next to each other bobbing gently to the waves in the dark.

Several dark shapes slowly drifted into the cliff cove where the walls of the cliff formed a 'U' shape. The lead Marine onboard the dinghy raised a hand up and the rest stopped paddling as he scanned the area for any signs of enemy sentries being alerted. But thankfully the soft splashes of paddles were covered by the merry making onboard the half sunken ship turned pirate base and a waterfall at the end of the cliff cove.

The Marine scouting the way looked around carefully, slowly turning his head from left to right as he carefully scanned his surroundings in a hue of green white of his night vision goggles. Finally, satisfied that the way was clear, he gestured for the rest to start paddling again but more gently.

Once the dinghy gently bumped against one of the anchored ships, the Marine Raiders threw padded grappling hooks and the most nimble of them scaled up the rope rapidly like a monkey. The Marine Raider scanned the deck for any enemies before he unrolled the rope ladder he carried up and secured its ends before dropping over the side.

After the rest of the Marine Raiders had climbed up the ship, a signal using an IR flashlight was shone towards the opening of the cove. Shortly after, under the assistance of night vision goggles, several more dinghies paddled in softly.

With two platoons of Marine Raiders silently infiltrated the pirates' ships, they started clearing the ships of any hostiles. But it seemed their caution was unrequired as there was barely even a standing watch on each ship. The pirates that were supposed to be on guard were either dozing off or drunk, making it super easy for the highly trained Marine Raiders to silence them.

With all five pirate ships secured and the pirates gagged and tied up locked in one of the ship's hold, the Marine Raiders regrouped and quietly surrounded the half sunken vessel. Sounds of singing, laughter and other noises continued to erupt from the pirate base, that even the noise of creaking wooden planks made by the Marine Raiders couldn't even be noticed.

The Marine Raiders crossed the conveniently placed planks that bridged the anchored ships to the ad hoc pirate base and quickly secured the upper decks. The half sunken ship once a merchant's pride and joy looked like a galleon of sorts with all three of its masts gone. It laid slightly tilted in an angle after having struck a reef or rock and had remained stuck ever since.

Another IR signal was given, and the Marine Raiders tensed up as they readied their weapons, as the engines of two PT boats could be heard briefly over the raucous noise. The two PT boats had powered their engines and charged in before cutting off their engines, making use of their inertia to drift in close to the ad hoc pirate base. The two boats ran without lights instead they relied on night vision goggles to observe their surroundings. The pilots kept his hand on the power as they nervously scanned their headings, ready to power up their engines to avoid any collusion or worse, running into an underwater obstacle and ripping a hole in their hulls.

"Go!" The order came down to the Marine Raiders and they already anticipating the order, burst into action almost immediately. Hatches leading into the sterncastle, forecastle, and the top hatch at the main deck leading into the middle decks were assaulted simultaneously.

Their sudden entry did not attract much attention at first as the majority of the pirates were either too drunk and passed out, too high or was indulged in some carnal acts. Their presence was only noticed after the scantily clad women that were dancing and singing for the pirates paused in their performance as they stared in confusion at the dark clothed and covered faces of the Marine Raiders.

Those pirates still sober cursed at the women and some of them rushed up the makeshift stage, threatening to whip them when they too paused in their actions as they stared with confusion at the newcomers. "Waat?"

"Gas them!" Mills ordered, his voice muffled under the mask he was wearing. He ripped out a new toy from his pouch. The new toy was a metal canister that looked actually the same as a smoke grenade but its internals was arcane in nature. A spell scroll was wrapped around several arcane components that were required for a sleeping spell. An activation rune was etched onto a stamp that held a mana stone which will trigger the spell when the arming pin was pulled out.

The arming pin held back a spring when removed will push the mana stone against the activation rune which in turn power up the single use spell scroll which was being mass produced for non lethal usage for the military and police back in the New World. The spell scroll containing the sleeping spell will burn away together with the required spell components that were wrapped inside. Smoke instantly fills up the canister and the building pressure will pop out a tab holding the canister sealed and the sleeping gas will burst out.

Mills and a few other Marines casually tossed the sleep grenades into the middle of the cabin. The pirates addled by their drinks stumbled over each other as they tried to attack the Marine Raiders before a thin layer of smoke covered them. The pirates shambled a few feet more before their eyes rolled up and they collapsed down in a heap, including the dancing girls, and started snoozing.

Similar actions were performed throughout the ship and once the ship was totally secured, the Marine Raiders called in for more support. Instantly, the two PT boats roared to life as they motored over to the pirate's base. More Marines onboard the PT boat transferred over and the sleeping pirates, slaves, servants, and captives were sorted out and kept in different holding areas until they woke up and be questioned.

-----

Blake watched from the open air observation deck as the UNS Vengeance slowly sailed into the opening of the cove. He stared awestruck at the two towering rock formations at the entrance that jutted out like two horns towards the sky.

Slowly, the UNS Vengeance passed through the rock horns of the cove and Blake saw the captured pirate ships had been towed to the side. The cove was deep and large enough to park two Vengeance side by side and at the end, a majestic waterfall hundreds of meters high fell from between the jagged cliff.

Sandy beaches covered the base of the cliffs where trees and foliage grew. Above the cove, rising over a few hundred meters, rock spurs pointing to the skies provided some form of overhead cover. All in all, the cove was a perfect location for the UN to establish a base of operations and hide the UNS Vengeance.

Blake nodded with satisfaction as the UNS Vengeance dropped anchor in the middle of the cove. Since two days ago, the pirates' base had been identified, Blake had dispatched the Vengeance's small detachment of PT boats to locate the other villages and verify the truth about the pirates. Once he was certain the village elder did not pull any tricks, he had the pirate base under observation and found that the pirates seemed to be overly complacent, only partying all night and sleeping the day away.

From information gathered by Marine recon, Blake realised that the cove the pirates used as a natural hiding space and appeared to be large enough for the UNS Vengeance as a safe harbour. Hence, an operation to assault the pirate base was launched right at the dead of the night when most of the pirates were intoxicated in their drinks.

Once the pirates were subdued, surveying teams entered the cove and measured the entrance and depth of the cove to ensure the cove was enough for the Vengeance to enter without running around. A couple of reefs was mapped out that would damage the Vengeance's hulls had divers plant explosives and the dangerous reefs were blown away.

Once the waterways around the cove were safe, the UNS Vengeance then made its way in. Blake looked up above the cove where the rock spurs looked like fingers and made a note to have teams erect some camo netting over the openings to prevent anyone flying above from spotting the Vengeance.

"Sir," Captain Nimo appeared behind Blake. "We are still not getting any word from our comms... The techs think that we might have fried out external communications equipment..."

"It would take them another two more days before they replace all the communications arrays," The Captain of the Vengeance reported. "In the meantime, we can't contact Haven, yet."

"Try lasering the satellite probe when it passes overhead," Blake suggested. "We can do message dumps to the satellite and see if they on the other side can receive our comms data..."

"I... I shall inform the comms officer to do so," Captain Nimo nodded, his face slightly red as he did not manage to think of such a method. "I shall do so immediately!"

"Before you go, get the engineers to start prepping the land for a base of operations," Blake ordered. "Have the crew start unloading the heavy machinery and construction equipment."

"Yes, Sir!" The Captain gave a salute and left Blake standing alone on the observation deck.

Blake let out a sigh as he took in the sights and wished that Sherene was here next to him.

-----

Major James climbed down the creaking steps of the deck hatch and frowned at the stench of unwashed bodies and rot. He let his eyes adjust to the dim lighting and made his way over to the cries of pain. The two Marine guards saluted James as he reached a hatch and he climbed in and found Mills standing over a half naked person tied to a chair.

Mills stepped back from the moaning pirate and rubbed his gloved hands and gave a grin of greeting to James. "Hey, Boss! Need some exercise?"

James shook his head at Mills and went to check the prisoner. "What do we know?"

"Well, our tough friend here told us that there is another fleet out there collecting their monthly tribute up north," Mills replied coldly. "Four ships, all old retired Cartel steamrollers that they gotten from some scrapyard... Each ship has around a hundred crew or so."

"So another four to five hundred pirates?" James straightened up. "When are they expecting that fleet to return?"

"In another week or so, apparently, that fleet is led by some tough guy called Crazy Dan," Mills flexed his fingers and said, "Well, these Hungry Hands pirates aren't so tough after all!"

"Still torturing prisoners isn't part of the job scope..." James replied as he made certain that their prisoner was still alive. "Hand him over to Intel."

"Aww... Me and the boys are just starting to have some fun with these big bad pirates!" Mills grumbled as he lurched forward at the clearly frightened prisoner. "Fucking scum!"

"Hey! Captain!" James snapped as he gripped Mills. "Behave yourself!"

"Goddamn fuckers!" Mills spat to the side. "We should just line them up by the side and shoot them!"

"Chill out, Marine!" James growled. "While I do not like them as less as you, it is not our duty to judge their crimes!"

"Fucking child rapists and murderers!" Mills cursed as he jerked James's arm off. "Fuck this shit! I hope Naval Intel would make them suffer first!"

"Don't you worry about Naval Intel's interrogation methods," James sighed as he pushed Mills out of the cabin. "I am very certain they know how to make one wish they were dead..."

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Enjoy~ No dolphins were harmed in the writing of this chapter~


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