“Tighten the search net. He can’t escape!”
“We found him!”
“To the North! Ah! He run away!”
Around forty people are chasing after one person in a dark forest while communicating through their radio. They spread out to cut off the escape route. However, the chased nimbly jumps around and slides past the hole under fallen trees causing them to have a hard time.
Outside the forest, a man is observing the operation in the forest on the monitor. The display shows the approximate location of the chased person and the chasers along with an overall map of the forest taken from above with a drone.
He is watching intently and silently. Suddenly he shakes his head and gives command with his radio.
“Alpha 5 and 6, move to point Foxtrot.”
“Alpha 3 and 4, move to point Hotel and cut him off from the front.”
“Alpha 1 and 2, slow down your pace.”
“Alpha 7 and 8, move to the west with a detour to point Juliet.”
The encirclement suddenly widen. Some squads from the concentrated group of people to the south quickly move to the east and west to form another circle with almost no gap. The squads from the north move slightly to complete the egg-shaped encirclement.
“Alpha 7 and 8. Stay put. Alpha 5 and 6, move to the west. Alpha 1, 2, 5 and 6, cover the flank.”
The two squads to the east slowly move forward while searching for the chased. The four squads to the north and south also move to the west while keeping an eye from the side.
A while later, a movement occurred close to them. The chased who fears the encirclement moves to the west because there aren’t any soldiers in sight over there.
When the soldiers chase him, a trap is triggered. It jumps out of the ground to the height of their chest and explodes. The small shockwave hit one of the approaching soldiers squarely at the chest and sprays some paints on him and two of the nearby soldiers.
Afterwards, the chased turns around and fires a few shots towards the soldiers. He tries to hinder the squads from approaching. The soldiers take cover and follow up with retaliating fires from three sides.
The chased maneuvers around trees to avoid the bullets. Several bullets nearly hit him. He continues to run west.
The six squads quickly follow him to the west. A while later, a small open ground comes into view in front of them.
The chased hesitates and slows down his running speed. However the soldiers from behind don’t allow him time to hesitate too much. He storms out of the forest to the open ground.
The moment he runs out, the six squads spread out around the open ground to cut him off. The two squads waiting to the west of the open ground emerge from their hiding place. The chased quickly turns to the north but two squads already took position there. The same happened to the south.
“Exercise finished!” A loud voice sounds out across the forest.
This marks the end of the chase. When he runs to the west, he has already fall to the trap. With nearly forty people encircle him now, he can only surrender in the middle of the open ground.
After we return to the base, an instructor comes out of the tent and walks towards us. On his hand is a piece of paper. After glancing on it for a bit, he calls out.
“Erwin! Step forward!”
“You should be more careful when you’re infiltrating a guarded place. You actually got careless at the last moment. Remember, no mission is finished before you go home.”
“Your last trap is quite good but you didn’t utilize it properly to run away. When it injured three of the soldiers, there will be a gap which you can utilize. How you utilize it is up to you.”
“Overall, your performances is fine even in failure. We will train you more in basic to strengthen it before we go for other things.”
“You can rest for today. Come here tomorrow at six hundred hours sharp.”
“Next will be you people. The way you chased after one man is so down to the book. You need to cooperate more with your teammates. Arnold!...”
The instructor starts to lecture the eight squads. I leave the camp while listening to the voice of the instructor. The camp is busy cleaning up since the exercise has just finished.
I go out of the forest complex where the exercise was conducted. After I walk a bit, there is a bridge in front of me. Across the bridge is the main square where the barracks are located.
While walking on the bridge, I see a young girl with long shining silver hair. She is holding a staff with blue crystal and pointing it towards the ocean.
A young man holding a staff with red crystal is standing beside her. He nods and shakes his head once in awhile.
I am curious as to what they are doing so I go closer. The girl is closing her eyes and a few sweats are dropping from her forehead. Since I don’t want to distract her, I silently watch on the side.
Under the bridge there are several small whirlpools. I count them absentmindedly. There are twelve of them.
Not long after the young man speaks while pointing at one of the whirlpools.
“That’s enough. Good work. The control is slightly off on that whirlpool but the rest of them are excellent.”
The girl releases her magic and the whirlpools slowly disappear. She looks at them with complicated expression. Then, she feels that there is another person beside her.
She turns towards me and looks up with her light blue eyes. The young man also turns to look at me.
"Oh. Hello, Erwin. You finished your training?” (Man)
“Hello, Erwin.” (Girl)
“Hello Harris, Mary. Yeah. I am done. What are you doing?” (Erwin)
The young man is Harris and the girl is Mary. They are magicians from Magic Division.
“I am practicing control of magic.” (Mary)
“The amount of mana on Earth is small so magicians on Earth stress on control. We can maximize the power of each magic this way.” (Harris)
“Hmm... I don’t get it. The magic just now only created small whirlpools.” (Erwin)
“Well... You will see how amazing she is on world with abundant amount of mana.” (Harris)
“I will do my best! By the way, what are you doing?” (Mary)
“I am about to go back to my barracks. Are you done?” (Erwin)
“We are done here. Let’s go back together.” (Harris)
“Yeah, let’s go.” (Mary)
We get off the bridge connecting the forest complex and main square complex. There is a guard post nearby. We check in there before going into the main square.
This square is this base’s headquarters and also acts as a small city. We decided to walk around the center of the square which is a marketplace. We go to a cafe and talk for a long time. Our topics are mostly about magic.
I learn a lot about what Mary can do. It will be easier to work together later on as we are both assigned as scouts. When evening comes around, we go to the barracks area and return to our rooms.
After I enter my room, three people greet me.
“Hey, Erwin! How is your day?”
“How will you feel after running around in a forest for half a day?” (Erwin)
“Same as always. Don’t feel a thing.”
“Of course you are. Damn wolf!”
“Ignore him. So, Erwin, you don’t look tired at all. Something good happened?”
“I met her again.” (Erwin)
“So, he finally got a girl?”
“That certainly can explain why you, a miserable loner, can be so happy.”
“I hope his wallet can hold on.”
“My wallet can hold just fine. Beside, we haven’t gone that far.” (Erwin)
I ignore their booing and lay down on the bed. Then, I open up my e-mail. There is a mail concerning the training program and schedule for a month. There will also be exercises every week.
“When will you go to that new world?”
“Next month. We are having a training program for a month starting today.” (Erwin)
“Ho? I hope there is a squad drops out so my squad can join in.”
“Hmm? Oh right, you just missed by one rank, aren’t you, wolf?”
“Yeah. Such a pity. Well, our fine wolf will still be with us so it’s fine.”
“Hmm? I got so many training program...” (Erwin)
“Let me see.”
I sit up and hand over my phone to the wolf. His big, white furred hand grabs it. The three then curiously look at it.
“Hahaha! Look! More than half of these are basics. Just how did you pass the tests when you must train in basics again? Hahaha”
“Erwin, did you bribe the judge?”
“How much did you pay?”
“They are just going to strengthen my basic! You guys don’t know how unreasonable those tests were.” (Erwin)
“You don’t have the right to say that.”
I give up and lift both my hands. Then, the wolf reads out loud the other training program.
“Hmm… Something interesting is here. Sword and shield training.”
“Oh? So, you are really going to a Medieval era world.”
“Yeah. They told us in the briefing before the test.” (Erwin)
“Right. I nearly failed that test because I can only use brute force.”
“You can’t even handle normal weapons. Only heavy weaponry is suitable for you.”
“It’s scary when you see him carry two rocket launcher on his shoulders.”
“It’s light. I don’t feel any weight on me. Hmm… Next is magic knowledge class. What is this about?”
“I guess they want us to know what magic our magicians can cast and its effects.” (Erwin)
“I see. Hmm… Nothing is interesting anymore.”
I turn around and see the clock. It’s almost dinner time. I turn to my friends and see that they also see the clock.
I take back my phone and stand up. They stand up too and we head to the door.
“Let’s go.” (Erwin)
“You better treat us for passing that test.”
“Did I not treat you guys already?” (Erwin)
“Don’t be stingy. You can pay the judge so why not treat us?”
“I already said I didn’t!” (Erwin)
We go out of the room and walk to the cafeteria. Starting tomorrow I might not get free time like this anymore.
Starting from the next day, the expedition force started to train in their respective programs. Each day is filled with physical trainings and mind wrecking classes.
There are also joint exercises with the army every few days to train our cooperation.
Day by day. Week by week. Just like that, we passed through a month.
Today, we will gather at Zone #21. This zone is located in the gate complex to the east of the main square and hold a large number of domes. Most of them are filled with gates to another world while some of them are research facilities.
Before we go to the meeting place, we go to the storehouse to collect our equipment. We are given our personal suits with integrated exoskeleton, assault rifle, sidearm, bracelet, and many other equipment.
Beside them, there are also medieval clothes, weapons, and some materials for trade.
I pick an iron sword from the piles of weapons. I take it out from its sheath and swing it a few times to test out the weight. After some tests, I find a sword with familiar weight.
For shield, I take a plain steel heater shield.
After we are all done, we move to Zone #21. It is shaped like a dome. We go into the dome and walk through the winding pathway to the center of the dome.
When we pass through the last door, there is a large space with many bunkers being built in it. A large number of soldiers are working on the fortifications.
A lone half circle with a radius of five meters stands tall in the very center. We can see greeneries in there. There is a complicated diagram with many lines and shining stones placed on the ground around it.
This half circle is the gate which will lead us to another world.
“All personnel of expedition force are to gather here.”
A shout come from the side of the gate. There is a platform there. On it are our commander with a few other people. They are the staffs of this base along with their commander.
We move and line up in front of the platform. After we line up, we salute the people on the platform. Then, our commander steps forward.
“Today, we will march to the new world. Before that, we will hear a few words from the commander of the base.”
Our commander turns to a late middle aged man beside him.
“Sir, please give us a few advice.”
The man moves forward a step while our commander takes a step back. He looks at us one by one. After looking at all of us, he coughs a bit.
“The youths this time are looking excited. Hahaha. However, please be careful in there. We already have a lot of youths who got too excited and died.”
Youths... Yes, the expedition force is filled with youths. We are all under twenty four years old including the commander. Most of us are not even twenty. This is because the oldest person that can pass through the gate and survive for a long time is twenty four years old.
For some unknown reasons, people above twenty five always have some kind of complications and die shortly after passing the gate. Some can survive for days, some died within hours.
Due to this unknown reasons, they can only restrict the age of people. This led to a number of hot headed youth who try to do things they can’t and ended up dying.
“Alright then. I will repeat what you have all heard before. We are not there to find adventure. We are there for works.”
We all nod to the words. We have been preached about that since we are still in training.
“First, we need you all to blend into the locals and gather information. The next step will be for you to contact their governor. I will leave the negotiation to your commander.”
“Good. Second, you are not to do any harmful acts. It will worsen our relationship even before it starts.”
Harmful acts like banditry or intervening into local affairs excessively are forbidden. This can lead to fear and unpleasant feelings to spread around the civilians. Their governor(s) may or may not act on it but this will eventually lead to a bad ending.
“Third, find a place for permanent placement of this gate on the other side. We can move the gate wherever we want but it is better to place it permanently.”
The gate will be used as an entry point and also a meeting point for delegation. Having a permanent placement will better our relationship with them. Trade can also be easily conducted.
“Hmm... What else?”
“Oh right. If you find anything strange, no matter how ridiculous it is, report them. Even if it is not harmful at all.”
For example, orbs, crystals, stones or even strange places. There are times where we find a spot to mine valuable gems. Some other times we found a previously dormant volcano that will soon erupt. Other times a dragon nest.
“Finally, after doing all those works, all of you are allowed to stay there and do anything you want. Just make sure to behave.”
It is still far in the future but this is why so many youths want to be a member of expedition force. Even youths from other worlds come to Earth for this chance. Adventures, chance to make name, or simply to travel.
“Alright. I won’t hold you any longer. I will let your commander to take command.”
“Thank you, Sir. Salute.”
On command all of us salute the man. He salutes back and goes back to his previous place. Our commander steps forward.
“First Platoon. Form up in front of the gate. Prepare your equipment.”
First Platoon of expedition force consists of forty soldiers. They will serve as defensive troops and protect the second platoon. They equip their external exoskeleton on top of their suits. They line up in front of the gate.
“Second Platoon. Prepare to enter after the First Platoon.”
The second platoon will handle many different jobs like snipers, scout, medic and supply officers. The magicians will also join in the second platoon. Mary is beside me with Harris on her other side.
All of us are staring at the greeneries on the other side of the gate. A gentle breeze passes through the gate. We smile a little and glance at our commander.
He smiles back at us. In his eyes are excitement. I can bet all of us are the same. He looks at the gate and then back to us.
“Expedition Force! March!”
“ “ “ Yes, Sir! ” ” ”
We march to the new world under the gazes of the army who send us off.