Chapter 4:

The Voyage Part 2

The Young Knight of the Desert

Outskirts of Banak, Eurasian Tsardom. July 23, 2030; 1247 hours (Tehran Time)

“Ganji, are you okay?” Wattana asked while she drove the truck with the crates.

“I’m fine,” Tarou replied.

“Aren’t you worried?”

“About what?”

“Meeting Farahani.”

“It’s just a mission. How I should treat Farahani any differently from you and the others?”

“I… guess you have a point there.”


Kansai City, State of Japan. 1756 hours (Japan Standard Time)

“What am I even doing here?” Maria Hoshikawa asked as she stood outside Tarou’s apartment. I somehow forgot that Ganji-kun isn’t here.

Maria left the apartment and began to wander across Kansai City. She then came across Hanasaka Central Park. Without a second thought, Maria continued to proceed to Hanasaka Central Park but stopped as she saw the playground built for children.

Maria briefly continued walking toward the park, but she stopped as she saw children and watched them play; many thoughts now filling her mind. Unlike Ganji-kun, these children never had to learn how to wield a gun, Maria thought. How can I even understand Ganji-kun if I grew up like those kids?

“Hey there!” a male voice shouted with Maria turning to find a man in his thirties with very light skin, short blond hair, and light brown eyes.

“You’re Crawley-san!” Maria exclaimed.

“Yep, that’s me. Jake Crawley. What’s a cute girl like you doing out here all alone?”

“I… don’t even know?”

“Let me guess, it’s about Tarou, isn’t it?”


“That must be it!” Crawley exclaimed before he saw Maria not looking at him. Crawley then glanced downward toward Maria’s face and found that she was frowning. “Oh… I’m sorry if I hurt your feelings like that… ”

“It’s alright,” Maria replied as she resumed facing Crawley. “It’s just that… I don’t know why I’m acting this way while Ganji-kun’s not here?”

“Why don’t I take you out to dinner? It’s on me.”

“But… ”

“You think I’m going to take advantage of you? Don’t worry, I’m not that kind of person.”


1848 hours

Both Maria and Crawley were at a small eatery far from Hanasaka Central Park named Flower Café and Deli. A waitress then appeared to give Maria and Crawley what they respectively ordered.

Maria got a chicken cutlet meal with honey mustard sauce and a “green smoothie” whereas Crawley got a hamburger steak meal and a glass of water. “Itadakimasu,” Maria and Crawley said in unison before eating.

“Crawley-san, forgive me for being blunt with this but… ” Maria said in-between eating pieces of her meal. “… you followed me to Hanasaka Park, didn’t you?”

“Guilty as charged,” Crawley admitted. “Orders are orders, after all.”

“Am I that important to be abducted?”

“Apparently, yes. However, if you want me to answer the rest of that question, we must keep this conversation to ourselves.”

“I promise.”

“We were hired by the Intelligence Collective to monitor you.”

“The Intelligence Collective?”

“Yep, those guys. They believe you are being sought by many, as proven by what happened a month ago. However, the ones who really want you are the Eurasian Tsardom’s VRO and the Asian Pact’s Intelligence Cooperative Committee.”

“Why me?”

“I doubt anyone knows the specifics but it may have something to do with why you brought to that facility where Solbein was stored in until Tarou saved you.”

“I never thought that I would be of importance… ”

“Oh… I apologize for phrasing it this way. This is how I know of the situation.”

“It’s alright. I really don’t know what I want in life after I finish my studies. Even I felt that my parents aren’t my biological parents and that I really don’t belong here in Japan. Having to fear for my life just makes it more complicated.”

“I can see where you’re coming from. Tarou’s like this too.”

“I know. He had a Persian mother and a Japanese father and yet he became a soldier at ten years of age.”

“There’s more to that. You see, there are many ethnic groups in Iran and the largest are the Persians. Tarou’s mother, if I remember Hamilton-sensei bringing it up, was Persian. Tarou grew up in a community of displaced Balochs.”


“One of the smallest ethnic groups living in Iran. They’re mostly concentrated in Pakistan and Afghanistan and when that alien ship hit Afghanistan in 1985, a lot of Balochs died as they lived where the borders of Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Iran meet. Tarou was an infant when that Baloch community found him and they begrudgingly took care of him. That was until the Eurasian Tsardom invaded Iran.”

“I can see why he believed fighting will allow him to learn who he really is.”

“It’s why we took him in two years ago in Libya.”


“As you know, most countries ceased to be functioning states in the wake of World War III, becoming arenas for warlords to fight it out amongst themselves. Libya is one such country.”

“What were you doing in Libya? Or what used to be Libya, that is.”

“Protecting oil deposits from bandits. Our client was an oil company based in Egypt and when we came under attack by bandits who got a hold of a Walgear, Tarou appeared out of nowhere and stole the Walgear as we were given Walgears not suited for melee combat.”

“And how long you have been a mercenary?”

“Since Vos started up Iron Dutchman Services three years ago. It all first started with me and Sunan. We were a part of a New United Nations unit stationed in what used to be Zaire. Zaire was one country that is nothing more than an arena for armed factions to fight it out amongst themselves, but due to the resources it had to offer, NUN stationed troops there. Of course, we had to contend with the African Federation, so Zaire ended up split into two—half being the area of responsibility of NUN while the African Federation were responsible for the other half.

“Anyway, in one mission, the unit Sunan I belonged to was ambushed. It occurred near the Federation’s area of responsibility. Vos at the time was in command of a squad of the South African Marine Corps stationed in Federation-occupied Zaire and he saved me and Sunan despite it carrying the risk of war between NUN and the Federation. Out of responsibility, Vos opted for a discharge.”

“And how did you join Vos-san?”

“Sunan and I also opted for a discharge, but that was because we were angry with how the operation ended. You see, our commanding officer at the time was Major Henry Armstrong.”

“You mean Colonel Armstrong from a month ago?”

“The same one though he was a Major at the time. You see, he kind of was more focused on getting a desk job at the time that he really didn’t anticipate the ambush. He got off easy because Vos saved me and Sunan and as a result, Vos took responsibility. It’s for that reason Sunan and I traveled to South Africa together to thank him. It was then we heard that Vos was attempting to establish a mercenary group, so we joined him since.”

“But how did you get the name ‘Iron Dutchman Services’?”

“For about a year, Vos, Sunan, and I worked for various clients across war-torn Africa. Then, we wound up going to Namibia where we met the owner of a salvage company in Namibia who offered a ship they can salvage to one’s needs if we beat him in a blackjack game. Vos accepted the challenge and, to our surprise, he was good at blackjack. So naturally, we got the ship and at Vos’ request, the rear end of the ship was modified to carry two Walgears. Being a descendant of Dutch settlers, Vos named the ship Iron Dutchman, and we traveled across the seas to find more jobs and more recruits.”

“Is that how you met Hamilton-sensei?”

“Yes, but you should know that Doc—we simply call her that—had no combat experience. She was just a doctor from the United Kingdom who was dumped by her boyfriend because she wanted to volunteer overseas. We met her at a refugee camp in what used to be Venezuela and although there was no money in it, Vos ordered that we help. Doc had joined us since and when we were at Libya, she managed to learn how to wield an AK before Tarou appeared and saved us all.”

“Other than you, Vos-san, Wattana-san, Hamilton-sensei, and Ganji-kun, who else joined Iron Dutchman Services?”

“Let’s see, there’s our chef Bartolemeu Moura from Angola, who joined hoping to earn enough money to set up his own restaurant. Then there’s Federico Díaz from Uruguay in the South American Union, who joined us because we saved him after his unit was decimated in an operation in what used to be Bolivia. He, along with two others, maintains Solbein. Then, there’s Tatev Mirzoyan from what used to be Armenia. She’s as old as Tarou because we saved her from human traffickers a year ago and somehow, she can pick up a language as fast as Tarou and knows her way around computers. It’s for that reason she’s our information analyst and the one who tells us about job offers.”

“Wait, there’s another girl living with you who’s as old as Ganji-kun?”

“Yeah… about that, it’s hard to really determine the relationship between the two. Tarou doesn’t seem to treat her any differently than the rest of us, but he does call her ‘Tatev’.”

“Why is that?”

“I don’t know. Personally, I’m jealous Tarou just calls her by her first name.”


“I mean, they’re both the same age. Anyway, forget that. Mirzoyan’s what got us convinced that Tarou isn’t the only extraordinary individual out there.”

“How so?”

“Like Mirzoyan, Tarou can learn things quickly from languages to piloting Walgears. Other than them, there’s you.”


“We were told of your exam results and how you practice Judo. It’s why the Intelligence Collective has been keeping an eye on you and why they hired us to covertly protect you.”

“But I’m nothing special.”

“You are. You were found as a baby by Daisuke and Miku Hoshikawa and due to your physical features, it is believed you’re either from the Eurasian Tsardom or the Russian Socialist Soviet Republic in the Asian Pact.”

“But I was an infant. Does it matter where I came from?”

“Sadly, it does. You managed to speak Japanese like a native despite where you came from. That and your skills have acquired you many who wish to take advantage of you.”

“And that’s why you were hired to protect me?”

“That and we’re trying to ascertain as to what you, Mirzoyan, and Tarou really are.”

“And I suppose Ganji-kun and Mirzoyan feel the same way?”

“Tarou, yes. Maybe the same with Mirzoyan.”

“Is that why I was abducted a month ago?”

“That could be it, but figuring that out is up to the Intelligence Collective. We’ve stayed here long enough. I’m asking for the bill.”

“Thanks again for treating me to dinner.”

“Again, the contents of this discussion are only for you and me. Don’t even tell Tarou that I told you about all of this.”

“Got it.”

After the payment was done, Crawley and Maria left Flower Café. However, a limousine appeared before them with the driver waiting outside. In his late fifties, the man had short gray hair and was dressed as if he was in the 19th Century.

“Ojou-sama, your father asked me to pick you up,” the older man explained.

“Wakarimashita,” Maria replied before she faced Crawley. “Crawley-san, again I thank you for accompanying me.”

“No problem. This was partly part of my orders, anyway.”

Maria then boarded the limousine. After the driver closed the door behind her, he faced Crawley and bowed. After that, he started up the limousine and left.

Tarou’s one lucky kid to even talk to Maria-chan, Crawley thought.

Unbeknownst to everyone, another car watched, but from a distance. Its driver was the VRO agent Pyotr, who then opted to leave lest Crawley noticed him.


2009 hours

“Are you sure it was only Jake Crawley who’s been guarding Maria Hoshikawa,” Tatiana Tsulukidze asked to Pytor after the latter had returned to inform her about Crawley and Maria.

“Da,” Pyotr replied.

“Continue patrolling the city, but be careful. If Crawley catches you, he will report us to the Intelligence Collective.”


“Why don’t you get some rest for tonight? You’ve been working really hard.”

“Are you sure?”

“I have to take of my charges after all. We need you to be sharp tomorrow.”



Outskirts of Banak, Eurasian Tsardom. 1506 hours (Tehran Time)

“We’re almost there,” Yusuf al-Saqqaf boasted as he, inside one of two trucks loaded with Walgears for a cell of the Brotherhood of Freedom, now sat beside Wouter Vos, who drove the truck.

“Good,” Vos replied. “Maybe I can rest.”

“Only for tonight.”


“I already planned out a schedule for how we’re to train Farahani’s cell.

“You really did plan out everything!”

Suddenly, both al-Saqqaf and Vos heard a gunshot. “What was that!?” Vos asked.

“It seems we made it,” al-Saqqaf answered. “I’ll need you to stop.”

“Hold on. I have to signal Wattana that we’re stopping.”

Opening his window, Vos used a hand signal to notify Wattana, driving the truck carrying crates filled with small arms. Understanding the signal, Wattana adjusted her feet involved with the pedals slowly as she now knew that not only was Vos going to stop the truck he’s driving but also, they had arrived at where their cargo was meant to go to.

As a result, both trucks stopped. The truck with the Walgears was the first to stop with the truck carrying the small arms stopping next. Because of the hand signal Vos used, the trucks stopped while being far from each other. After that, the armed men who boarded the second truck got off as they saw another armed man, also carrying a Type 56 approach. The mercenaries and al-Saqqaf looked on with fear as to what will happen next until the man with the Type 56 who called al-Saqqaf “Nasr” approached the truck with the Walgears.

al-Saqqaf opened his window knowing that the man with the Type 56 intended on talking to him. “You’re clear to proceed ahead.”

Hearing what the man said, Vos made another hand signal for Wattana. After that, Vos moved the truck assigned to him, with Wattana following.

The trucks then appeared at a village far from Banak. The man with the G3 began to lure the trucks but he started with the truck carrying the Walgears. After leading the truck to a destroyed house, the man with the G3 did the same for the truck with the crates of small arms by leading them to another destroyed house.

After the trucks were respectively taken to a house, the mercenaries got off. The other armed occupants of the village used debris to hide the respective trailers of the truck. After that, everyone began to unload the cargo. However, they started with the crates of small arms.

Next was removing the sheets in the second truck; this showed the EG01s. Both Wattana and Tarou jumped into the truck with the Walgears and boarded them. After starting them up, Wattana was the first to leave the truck as Tarou boarded the second EG01. After Tarou got off the truck, he followed Wattana to where she took the EG01 she boarded.

As soon as Tarou joined her, Wattana got off the EG01 she rode on. Upon placing his EG01 beside Wattana’s, Tarou joined her.

Both Tarou and Wattana joined Vos, Hamilton, and al-Saqqaf. They were now surrounded by the armed men, then a man without a weapon joined them. The unarmed man gave a speech in Farsi.

“He’s saying ‘Welcome, Iron Dutchman Services. Thank you for delivering these weapons as we will be able to liberate our homeland’.” Tarou translated for the other Iron Dutchman members.

“Bah min bia,” the unarmed man said.

“He said ‘Come with me’.”


1539 hours

The mercenaries and al-Saqqaf were brought to a manhole by the unarmed man and the man with the Type 56 who called al-Saqqaf “Nasr”. One by one, the mercenaries and al-Saqqaf climbed down the manhole into a tunnel. After that, the two Brotherhood members joined them, then they resumed moving.

While walking, the man with the Type 56 said something in Farsi. “He said that this tunnel was built as part of an emergency shelter during the Iran-Iraq War,” Tarou translated.

Eventually, the two Brotherhood members brought the mercenaries and al-Saqqaf to a room. However, the former made the latter stop, then knocked on the door.

A conversation in Farsi followed. Tarou wasn’t able to translate, but he knew whose voice was coming from the other side of the door. After that, the door was opened with the unarmed man gesturing the mercenaries and al-Saqqaf to come inside.

After the door closed behind them, a man then faced the mercenaries and al-Saqqaf. He was twenty-two years old with light intermediate skin, short black hair in a ragged crew cut, and blue eyes.

“Welcome, Iron Dutchman Services,” the young man declared. “I welcome you to the Brotherhood of Freedom. My name is Vahid Farahani and I am the leader of this cell.”

This is Vahid Farahani? Vos pondered. Not only does he appear younger than I anticipated, he seems to know good English.

“Thank you again for helping Mr. al-Saqqaf in delivering the weapons. I will now entertain questions.”

“How did you learn English?” Wattana asked.

“Glad you asked,” Farahani replied. “I learned from a comrade I met while serving in the Euro-African Alliance’s Foreign Legion. Of course, I’m better at French.”

However, Farahani gave the impression that he had nothing else to say, confusing al-Saqqaf and the mercenaries. That was because he saw Tarou, who was standing behind Vos and Wattana, that Farahani didn’t recognize him. “You over there, you look familiar,” Farahani said to Tarou. “Think you could please come out?”

Saying nothing, Vos and Wattana moved out of Tarou’s way. The latter stepped forward, causing Farahani to widen his eyes upon seeing Tarou, the boy he saved from a Walgear seven years ago.

“Y… You’re Tarou Ganji?” Farahani asked.

“I am,” Tarou replied. “I’m glad you recognized me.”

“I apologize for interrupting this reunion, but what will we do tomorrow?” Vos asked.

“Ah yes, I apologize,” Farahani replied as he turned to Vos. “I will talk with Mr. al-Saqqaf on that matter.”

“What about food and medical supplies?” Hamilton asked.

“Easily provided.”

“And how long are we needed here?” Tarou asked.

“Depends on how well you train my men in using Walgears. Any more questions?”

“What about bathing water?” Vos asked again.

“Sadly, we can’t promise that,” Farahani answered with a disappointed tone. “Anything else?”

“None,” al-Saqqaf and the mercenaries answered in unison.

“Then rest up for now. Saman, Armin!”

The unarmed man and the man with the Type 56, respectively named Saman and Armin, appeared as he opened the door. “Yes, sir?”

“Show our guests to their rooms, please,” Farahani ordered.

“Yes, sir,” replied Saman before facing the mercenaries and al-Saqqaf. “Please follow me.”

The mercenaries and al-Saqqaf did so without saying anything. Tarou attempted to join only for Farahani to grab his left shoulder with his right hand.

“Except you,” Farahani said with Tarou stopping as he treated it as an order. “Why don’t we talk?”

Tarou said nothing, but he moved away from Farahani to put down his belongings, including his Sayf assault rifle. Saram then closed the door.

“I can’t believe you’re alive!” Farahani exclaimed.

“And I can’t believe you’re alive,” Tarou sniped. “Last I saw you, you were-”

“Hit by that helicopter’s machine gun? I somehow survived. But what about you?”

“I don’t even know how I survived as well. And for the record, it’s an autocannon that shot you.”

“Does it even matter?”

“I guess not.”

“So? What have you been doing for these past seven years?”

“Can I please explain that to you another time? I want to rest.”


Armin then appeared again, opening the door. “Armin here will you take to the room where Mr. al-Saqqaf and that fellow male mercenary of yours are staying at,” Farahani said as he saw Tarou get his belongings.

“Mersi,” Tarou replied before joining Armin.


Melitopol, Eurasian Tsardom. 1535 hours (Novgorod Time)

At the air base of the Imperial Eurasian Air Force located in Melitopol, an An-124 Ruslan heavy transport aircraft was being loaded with four Walgears. The city and its air base were a part of the Ukrainian Socialist Soviet Republic that split apart after the Third World War. During the Unification War, Ivan Vladimirovich Tsulukidze’s forces captured the lands east of the Dnieper River, which included the Zaporizhzhia Oblast where Melitopol was located at.

Being loaded into the Ruslan were four SH-6s that were colored purple. Given the reporting name “Lance II”, they’re the current workhorse of the Imperial Eurasian Armed Forces, as they’ve replaced the SH-5 whose reporting name was “Lance”.

Although it originated from the New United Nations, the Walgear (short for “Walking Gear”) was developed as a new fighting vehicle capable of doing things tanks cannot do. That changed when the Eurasian Tsardom developed a Walgear with arms and legs like those of a human being. The result was the SH-5.

“Why exactly are we loading SH-6s used by the Navy again?” an Imperial Eurasian Air Force airman asked.

“Same here, but it’s an order,” another airman asked.

Three men and one woman then approached the Ruslan carrying sports bags with one man having a leather belt carrying a scabbard equipped with a rapier. Their uniforms comprised garrison cap, a navy blue tunic, black-colored trousers, and black-colored leather shoes. The tunic comprised five gold-colored buttons, four pockets, gold-colored epaulettes on the shoulders divided by a black line with a small star inside each gold half, and in the sleeve cuffs was a gold star above two lines, one small and one large, that were also colored gold.

As they reached the left side of the Ruslan, the airstair was laid out. A man in his early forties with blond hair in a buzz cut, very light skin, and dark brown eyes wearing a VKK-6 flight suit saw the approaching men and woman and saluted. The latter four stopped and saluted in kind.

“You’re Leytenant Mirov?” the man asked to another in his mid-twenties with very light skin, gray eyes, and short black hair.

“Da,” replied the man named Mirov. “Leytenant Vladimir Nikolaievich Mirov.”

“Starshiy Leytenant Andrei Romanovich Bazin. I’ll be your pilot. Please get on board.”


Mirov and his men reached the top deck of the Ruslan. Finding seats, Mirov and his subordinates helped themselves. As Mirov and his subordinates occupied three seats, a woman as old as Mirov with long auburn hair and very light skin.

“Leytenant, is it safe to ask where we’re going?” a male subordinate with light skin, brown hair in a buzz cut, and light brown eyes asked as he sat beside Mirov.

“I guess it is but… ” Mirov incompletely answered. “… not a word of this if we return to Sevastopol.”


“It began last night…”


Sevastopol. July 22, 2030; 2149 hours

At the changing room of the Imperial Eurasian Navy base in Sevastopol, Mirov began to leave. While he wore his black trousers held up by a leather belt of the same color and shoes also colored black on his feet, Mirov’s shirt was that of the telnyashka whose stripes were dark blue.

However, Mirov saw an older man wearing the full uniform for officers in the Imperial Eurasian Navy, including the navy blue tunic. The man was in his late fifties, with graying black hair, light skin, and light brown eyes. Fearing insubordination, Mirov saluted despite only wearing a telnyashka.

“I apologize, Admiral, I-” Mirov said until the admiral raised his right hand.

“It’s alright, Leytenant,” the admiral replied. “Come to my office, but please get into full uniform. I’ll be waiting.”



2240 hours

Mirov, now in full uniform, then opened the door to the office of the admiral who caught him in a telnyashka. Seeing the admiral who caught him in a telnyashka, Mirov saluted. The admiral did so in kind after standing up.

“Admiral Khachikyan, what can I do for you?” Mirov asked.

“Please sit down first,” the admiral named Khachkiyan requested.

Mirov then sat down. “Leytenant Mirov, I’ve been contacted by Tsesarevich Iosif,” Khachkiyan explained.

“The Tsesarevich?” Mirov asked. “Why?”

“He received information about those mercenaries you fought a month ago.”

“Iron Dutchman Services?”

“That’s right. They’ve been hired by the Middle Eastern League’s FIA to not only guard their latest shipment of weapons bound for the rebels in Iran, but it is believed that among the weapons being delivered are Shagokhods.”


“Yes. Other than guarding the weapons, those mercenaries were also hired to train the rebels in using them. You and your team are to go to Iran and capture those mercenaries while assisting in eliminating the rebels. I’ve already arranged with the Air Force to take you and your team to Iran. Your Shagokhods will be delivered first thing tomorrow.”

“I won’t let you down, Admiral,” Mirov stood up and saluted.

“I know you won’t,” Khachkiyan replied before standing up and saluting in return.


Melitopol. July 23, 2030; 1600 hours

“Attention, this is your captain speaking,” Andrei Bazin said over the Ruslan’s PA system in the present. “We will be departing for the Iran Governorate. Please fasten your seatbelts.”

“We best do as the captain ordered,” Mirov warned to his subordinates.

“Zametano,” Mirov’s subordinates replied in unison.

As Mirov and his subordinates bucked up their seatbelts, they heard the Ruslan’s engines. After that, the four Imperial Eurasian Navy Walgear pilots began their voyage to Iran.


Ojou-sama – a Japanese term for girls from affluent families. Maria being addressed as such points to her coming from an affluent family. Original Japanese: お嬢様

Wakarimashita – Japanese for “I understand”. Original Japanese: わかりました

Mersi – “Thank you” in Farsi. Original Persian: مرسي

Leytenant – Russian for “Lieutenant”. Cyrillic: Лейтенант

Starshiy Leytenant – “Senior Lieutenant” in Russian. The Russian equivalent to “First Lieutenant”. Cyrillic: Старший лейтенант

Telnyashka – a white shirt with horizontal stripes of a certain color worn underneath uniforms of those in the Russian military. The dark blue stripes in Mirov’s telnyashka were used by the Soviet Navy. Cyrillic: тельня́шка

“Admiral” in Russian – unlike “Leytenant”, “Admiral” is the same in Russian because of the Cyrillic (Адмирал).