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The Old World, UN Expeditionary Force, Forward Operating Base, UNS Vengeance

"There are a total of twenty two micro villages scattered along the coastline within a hundred kilometer radius of the cove," Dr. Sharon addressed the meeting room. "Majority of them are sustaining themselves from fishing while the rest which has more access to forest regions survive more on hunting and small scale farming."

"I call them micro villages there are only several families to the most a dozen, in each village," Dr. Sharon said. "I had initiated contact with these twenty two villages and established a friendly rapport with the majority of them."

"Of course, defeating the local pirates who were the overlords here helped a lot," Dr. Sharon grinned before her expression turned serious. "Each of these villages is what our Cartel friends called Banished villages."

"From what the Cartel Grand Lord said, their ancestors committed taboo against the Gods," Dr. Sharon explained. "This caused the people to be banished out of their nations."

"Why won't they killed for committing taboo?" Someone from the meeting asked. "Isn't execution a common punishment?"

"Yes, execution is the norm for punishments," Dr. Sharon replied. "But in this case, the taboos appeared to be changing their religion and believing in their other Gods."

"They were banished instead of being executed is due to them being granted protection from the Gods they switched their worship to," Dr. Sharon said. "This made the people unable to punish them by death, for fear of getting retribution."

"At least this was the history known to the Old World," Dr. Sharon added. "Therefore we have these micro villages that existed for centuries all over the coastline where the local government ignores their existence."

"Do we know what kind of Gods they follow?" Blake asked. "Are they a threat to us?"

"I do not believe they are a threat," Dr. Sharon replied. She keyed in some commands into the keypad and the display screen changed, showing several images. "I have observed some religious icons scattered and hidden around the villages I went."

"They do not speak of the taboos that their ancestors committed but I managed to secretly take a few photos," Dr. Sharon gestured to the screen and continued. "I found religious symbols of Greek mythologies and the most prominent symbol was that of the thunder god... Thor..."

"There is a brief on the thunder god Thor inside the briefing handouts." Dr. Sharon gestured to the handouts on the table, more for the benefit of the other races who have no knowledge of Earth's mythology. "Thor is part of an Old Norse religion from our homeworld. He is a hammer-wielding god associated with thunder, lightning, storms, oak trees, strength, destruction, fertility, healing, and the protection of mankind."

"Thor bears at least fourteen names, is the husband of the golden-haired goddess Sif, and is the lover of the Jötunn Járnsaxa," Dr. Sharon briefed the meeting. "He is the son of Odin, who was known as the All Father and oversees Valhalla, where he receives those who had died in battle, who will rise to fight again during Ragnarok or the end of an age."

"There are, of course, many other interpretations," Dr. Sharon added. "Since all this information were myths or stories passed down from thousands and thousands of years ago.

Blake's frown deepened as he eyed the capital 'i' shaped symbol of Thor on the screen. "Do we know if Thor is still active with his followers?"

Dr. Sharon shook her head. "So far none of the villagers speaks of their religions or Gods..."

"So we do not know if Thor is friendly or hostile," Blake said. "And the villagers? What are the chances of them willing to work for us?"

She gave a shrug before saying, "It's still too early to say anything... We just establish friendly contact..."

"But I think once we return those villagers taken as slaves by the pirates to their village, it should improve our influence greatly," Dr. Sharon replied. "Also providing some medical aid to them also helps a lot."

Blake nodded before he turned to the chief engineer. "How goes the construction?"

"The basic works have all been set up already," The engineer said. "We installed a hydro generator using the force of the waterfall to provide energy and also as a source of clean water."

"Explosives are being used to blow caves and tunnels within the rock walls," The engineer continued. "A temporary storage site inside the cliff has already been opened up and our people are moving our supply containers into them for storing."

"We are also reusing some of the emptied containers as offices and barracks," The engineer said. "They will also be used temporarily as a defensive wall around the entrance of the FOB. We estimate it would take two months of digging to create a base large enough to house the entire crew of the Vengeance and space to store all our supplies and equipment."

"Put the captured pirates to use," Blake ordered. "You can put them on hard labour details as punishment for their crimes."

"Yes, sir," The engineer nodded.

"What intel we have of our location?" Blake asked Intel Officer Trism.

"We have been working with the Marines to map the area out in detail," Trism replied. "The coastline we are at is known as the Lowlands."

"Above the cliffs, the lands are called the Highlands," briefed Trism. "As Dr. Sharon has said earlier, there are twenty two small villages along the Lowland coastline within a hundred kilometre radius."

"On the Highlands, there are three farming village or towns, and a city within a hundred kilometre away," The Intel Officer said. "I already have teams of intelligence operatives on their way to investigate those locations."

"There is currently no access down from the Highlands to the Lowlands as far as we can find and it has been confirmed by the Banished villages we visited," Trism said. "For now the only way is by helicopter, and I will assume it would be the use of airships for the locals."

"There is also a clear distinctive status gap between the those living in the Lowlands and the Highlands," added Trism. "From the information provided by the Cartel, those living in the Lowlands are either the Banished or people without citizenship."

"Only those who live on the Highlands are considered citizens of the Cartel," Trism said. "And the true ruling elite lives inside the Mountain Cities."

"We are located in an area which the Cartel barely cast an eye on," Trism continued his brief. "Hence, this region is rife with bandits and pirates. Basically, it's a land where the strong rule the weak..."

"In my opinion, this works well for us," The intel officer said with a smile. "First, we can remain hidden while building up our foothold here."

"Secondly, we can establish friendly trade relationships with any opposed village, towns or cities once we expand out," The intel officer ticked off his fingers. "Third, the people here have no loyalty to the Cartel, allowing us to recruit them as auxiliary forces if required."

"And lastly, we can take over the region once we defeat the pirate overlords without worrying the Cartel will get involved," Trism closed his fingers and held his fist up. "We can turn this lawless land into part of the UN!"

The officers around the staff meeting nodded and mumbled their agreement. Blake too gave a nod before he said, "Do not forget our primary mission here."

"Once we establish our FOB here," Blake gestured out of the viewports towards the sea and said. "We will sail up north towards the Protectrate lands!"

"Yes, Sir," Trism replied. "But my recommendation would be to continue to establish ourselves here and at the same time gather maps, regional intel, and more forces before we head to the Protectorate..."

"Your advice is noted," Blake replied with an impatient wave of his hand. "Now, we will concentrate on the construction of the base."

"Yes, Sir!"

-----

The ground shook as explosives gouged out chunks of rock from the tunnel. Powerful fans sucked the dusty air out and shackled prisoners shuffled their way into the tunnel. They hoisted chucks of rocks onto wheelbarrows and dumped them onto carts before pushing those carts out to be used to make concrete.

Lord Copperstone was happily directing a group of prisoners to attack the rock with power tools. The power tools provided by the Un An was fascinating and powerful! As were those 'ex po sleeves' used by the engineers to blow the hard rocks. When he first witnessed the tunnelling and mining methods by the engineers, he was blown away by their skills!

If using Cartel mining standards, which Lord Copperstone was certain ranked the top among the Seven Nations, to dig a massive cavern which he stood inside now that was brightly lit by glow lamps, would have taken them months of hard work and hundreds of miners.

Yet, the Un An has used barely a hundred men and those wonderous 'ex po sleeves' and taken just a week to create this cavern that was thousands of steps wide and several dwarven heights tall! And the strange boiler less magic wagons that effortlessly moved the massive iron containers and stacked them neatly in rows all along the incredibly smooth stone floor!

He had observed them spreading a thick grey paste over the uneven flooring just the other day and when he returned a day after, the rocky ground turned flat and smooth as if by magic! He was very certain that he had not picked the wrong choice in offering his services to the Un An if he could just learn even a tiny portion of their magical abilities!

He felt honoured when the Un An engineers came to him to ask about mining and even assigned a group of prisoners which he had found out were pirates that were terrorising the local region, to work. Like all the others, he despised pirates for their cruel and wanton ways, hence he was more than happy to put them to hard work. If one or more of them died in their work, it was nothing off his skin and even a blessing to the world.

The sharp crack crack crack of the power tools wielded by some of the prisoners started up again and Lord Copperstone shook himself out of his thoughts. Next to the prisoners, a Un An engineer drove some kind of special magic wagon that had an arm with a spike driver like weapon. The spike hammered hard against the rock wall and easily shattered the rock with its power.

Once again, Lord Copperstone found himself lost in the 'tek no lo gee' of the Un An, as he stood there deep inside the side of the rock cliff.

-----

The boy watched his sister laugh as she ran towards the surf, her tiny feet kicking up clumps of fine white sand. The worry and stress that plagued him for months had finally disappeared like the sea breeze as he watched his sister play in the waves.

He reached to his collar and held on to the crude carving that was tied with a piece of string around his neck and gave a prayer of thanks. The strange magic of the strangers had saved his sister from certain death and he was determined to pay his debts to repay them for their kindness.

Yet the strangers who came in their strange ships were like the old tales once told to him by his parents during the nights when he couldn't sleep. He could tell that they were warriors from the way they held themselves and it made him recall the words of his parents.

Warriors who come from the distant lands of ice and snow. From the midnight sun where the hot springs flow to fight the horde. Oh, how they calmed the tides of war and became the Overlords...

To Valhalla, they are coming!

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