A surprisingly quiet week passed by without any attacks from the Empire forces, and scouting parties sent to investigate found the previous campsite empty. The Empire forces had already retreated.
The Pass now had a two stories tall concrete wall, with a gate made from recycled cargo airlocks, large enough for two wagons to pass through side by side. The front of the gate were several chest high concrete barriers placed in such a way that forces anyone walking to travel in an 'S' path.
A second wall, hundred meters away was under construction, planned to be even taller than the first wall. Block towers of reinforced concrete and steel covered the ends of the wall, allowing soldiers to fire at the approaches.
The tents were gone, replaced with more concrete buildings designed to survive bomb blasts lined the rear of the walls, which served from barracks to storerooms and offices. A couple of wind turbines were under construction to provide power to the Pass defenses.
A simple paved road made of crushed rocks linked the Pass all the way back to the Base Colony. The elves refugees' city of tents had days before dismantled and the inhabitants moved into the walls of the colony.
A huge crowd gathered over the top of a small hill, located outside the walls. The skies slightly cloudy and gloomy, the weather starting to turn colder, even the trees are starting to shed their leaves. People from both races stood silently and respectfully as coffins bearing the dead of the UNM crew and soldiers carried by bearers to their final resting place.
All the humans that turned out worn their dress uniforms and lined up in parade manner saluting the dead for giving their lives. Marines snapped to attention and raised their weapons, firing three volleys in a final salute, while a bugler blew a sober tune to give a final farewell. Flags were folded and handed over to Captain Blake who will help safe keep it till they can return home to their next of kins.
Blake gripped the folded flags tightly, vowing in his heart to not let any more of his men die. He spoke to the crowd. "Since we had arrived here, we suffered many losses, friends, family, and colleagues. Yet we did not grief or fall into despair, nor gave the dead a proper burial. We fought on and carried on with our duties. For that, I am proud of you all. Today, we are here to grief and honor our dead and give peace to them."
"Go peacefully, know that you men had exchanged your lives so that others could live on. You will always be remembered. Thank you."
The elves stood at the side, watching the hooman ways of honoring their dead. Days before, during the night, they had stacked their dead over firewood and sent them off into the heavens, where they will become one with the stars.
Sherene sighed as she watched the whole ceremony. We had caused unnecessary deaths to these hoomans, will they blame us in the future for it?
In the city, hundreds of colorful tents lined up in perfect rows occupied a portion of the empty and unnaturally flat ground within the walls. Chatter and laughter could be heard from the tents as the people gathered in groups to exchange words or share a meal.
Lyonel struggled with a pail of water, trying to not spill any water out of it, as he navigated through the colorful rows of tents. Finally reaching his tent, he pulls the covers back, "Aunt May! I brought the water back!" And he sets it outside the tent and covers it with a wooden lid.
"Lyonel! Why aren't you still resting!" A plump motherly figure with an apron around her waist and a shawl covering her silver-brown hair appeared out of the tent. "The hooman healers told you to rest more!"
"I am fine! It's almost three five-days! And I want to help out!" Lyonel smiled at the middle-aged woman. As he does not have any known blood relatives here, the people in the Iron Castle arranged those children to stay with other families who are willing to accept them.
"Come in, I have gotten two bowls of meat porridge from the cook tents!" She fussed over him. Lyonel knew that she had lost her own child in the war, and treats him as her son.
"I heard that the hoomans are telling everyone to join classes." Aunt May places a bowl of still steaming hot porridge on his hands as they sat on the folding beds with a simple wooden crate as a makeshift table.
"Really?" Lyonel slurped the hot meal down, enjoying the salty taste of the porridge. "What kind of classes?"
"Language, maths, 'se-sign'?" Aunt May struggled with the unfamiliar word. "Also they are looking for people with work or skills experience in various industries."
"I want to be a magic soldier like those hoomans!" Lyonel mimic the gun actions of the hooman's thundersticks.
"No!" Aunt May nearly upsets her bowl as she stared in anger at Lyonel. "You are not allowed to join the army!"
"But…" Lyonel opened his mouth.
"Go to school and study your letters!" Aunt May said, cutting off Lyonel's objections. "You are still a child, wars are not for you! Finish your food before it gets cold. I still have to go to the Aid Station to help with sewing coats for the coming winter."
"Yes aunt," Lyonel quickly finished his meal, thinking that once he grows up he will join the army.
Blake sat in his office, reading a list of reports in his computer, while Sherene sat at another table, tapping gingerly at the keypad, learning how to use the computer,
"How are you doing?" After an hour of approving and reviewing reports, Blake asked Sherene.
"I-I am fine!" Sherene's eyes glued to the screen, as she focused on the tutorials Blake gave her to do.
"Oh…ok," Blake watched the princess's intense focus at the computer. Oh well, back to work.
Reports of the Empire movement has shown them retreated out of the forest. At least that's one headache less. The defensive works were half completed, another week or so, it will be fully operational. Another couple of nests of those green skin goblins were discovered, and Goldrose soldiers supported by Marines were dispatched to handle them.
Schools were also opened up for both humans and elves to learn from each other, in the way of languages, culture, and skill. As they only have so many sets of translator devices, it is also better to learn how to speak and write Elvish than to rely on the device.
Classes teaching basic maths and science were also prepared to help train the elves into a basic workforce. While classes on farming, metalworking, and others were given to those already with experience in the related fields.
With the deaths of his crew, he has to get the natives trained with some basic elementary knowledge so they can operate machinery and work in the factories or farms. He also needed to get the Goldrose soldiers trained to handle firearms once they have the means to be produced.
A knock on the hatch woke Blake from his thoughts, He looks up and sees Ford stand there, with a tablet in his hands. "Come on in."
Ford enters the office and looked at Sherene who barely gave a glance at him, engrossed in her computer. He raises an eyebrow at Blake who shooked his head and gestures him to take a seat.
"New report for the saltpeter mines." Ford hands the tablet over.
Finally, the most important report Blake wanted to read appeared. The progress report of the mining station for saltpeter.
He reads the report which stated the number of worker recruited, the progress of the construction of a camp for the workers, the amount of niter mined and currently transported.
He scrolls to the bottom of the report, looking for the amount of processed potassium nitrate.
"We only managed to process a few kilos of that stuff currently," Ford explained, seeing Blake reading the bottom of the report. "We set up a distilling plant at the south end of the Base, and a laboratory for experimenting with it. There are only eight crew members who actually scored pretty well for their chemistry when they are still in school, so I roped them in as our chemists. They should be coming out with a batch of usable gunpowder anytime soon."
"That's great news. Any troubles?" Blake asked,
"Not at the moment. The guys are still figuring out the best way to distill the stuff and also plans for a milling plant to be connected with the wind turbines." Ford said.
"The computers archives has no records of this stuff?" Blake was sure that the computers have all the information they needed.
"Yes and no," Ford explains. "The computer only listed the chemical formulas and very basic information of its compounds and not ways to manufacture or extraction. It does not give every step by step information, so we have to experiment and test everything. And most of the crew are not really educated in sciences, especially chemistry."
"I see," Blake frowned, "We couldn't get the AI to simulated stuff out?"
"We lost most of its processing hardware when the ship blew and whatever remained got further damaged when we crashed." Ford shrugged, "The techs are working on restoring its systems as much as possible."
"Oh ya, the elves are saying those caves are dragons caves, by the way," Ford added as an afterthought.
"What? What kind of dragons? The docile ones or the giant flying ones?" Blake raised his eyebrows at Ford.
"Big flying ones."