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As the week passed by peacefully, the damages to the Pass were repaired and most traces of battle were cleared, except for some blood stains still lingering behind despite some rain. 1st Marine Battalion, 2nd Company, slowly emerged out from the forest edge, finally after more than a week of combat patrols and sweeping of the area of any remnants of the Empire army and the prisoners that were released a week before, had ended their week-long patrol mission.

The tired Marines cheered when they saw the Wall in the distance and picked up their speed, marching in lines of two as they climbed up the slope. Suddenly a with a flap of wings and a dragon swooped down over the Marines, sending them diving for cover, the Marines yelling and shouting, "Aerial contact!"

The dragon flared its wings, beating furiously to hover on the spot and the Marines who raised their Magelocks found the dragon was actually dressed in armored barding, in counter shaded digital camouflage scheme, all dark above except for a multi-scale pattern at the edges.

It crackled out something suspiciously like laughter before flapping its wings away, heading towards the forest as it went on its aerial patrol. "Damn, fat lizard!" The Marines yelled insults and shook their weapons at the dragon flying away. "Goddamn Air Force pukes!"

"Alright, funs over," The sergeants ordered the men to continue their way back. "I want a shower!" The massive repurposed cargo doors slid open on oiled tracks, granting entry for the weary company, they noticed several changes made to the defenses, such as dozens of Czech hedgehog laid along the slopes, which served to prevent siege engines from being pushed up.

As they pass through Wall Alpha. they saw the sides of the mountain were being flattened, and the beginnings of concrete towers and bunkers were being constructed. Finally leaving behind Hell's Gate after passing through Wall Beta, the men were dismissed back to their barracks.

-----

Sawtooth Mountain Pass Defense Command Center, The Pit

"Attention on deck!" The Marine on duty called out as Captain Blake entered the staff meeting room, before leaving the room and closing the door behind him.

"At ease, people," Captain Blake gestured everyone to take their seats. "OK, what's today's agenda?" He looked around the room and the display screens showing other people's images.

Most of the command staff were present at the meeting room, while those not physically here were present via video conferencing from the ship's meeting room. "Sir," Commander Ford spoke up from one of the displays, "Today will be a briefing on our current material and supply situation and future plans on how to handle the new growth and our stance against the Empire."

"Great," Blake rubbed his hands, "let's start."

Quartermaster Chen's image on the display screen flickered as he stood up and said, "Sir, our current material needs far outstrips our production capabilities. Be it ammunition, weapons, rune stones, and even clothing. Our fabricators and simple factories are barely able to keep up the demand at our current rate of consumption."

"We are lacking in many vital resources such as niter, copper, zinc and even our stocks of salvaged steel is dwindling. We need to secure sources of resources! Even with the iron and crappy steel that was looted from the Empire army, it still barely enough!" Chen's face was full of worry as he gave his report.

"Princess," Blake called out, "How are the mines going for those sources of copper, zinc, and iron we found?"

"Slowly, my Lord," Sherene's image in the display replied. "There had been several reports of goblin activities going on south of the new mining locations, we are still trying to secure the area."

"Captain," Major Frank spoke up, "I have sent in another company of Marines to sweep the goblins out of the woods, but it takes time to ferret out the sneaky green skins."

"Work with the Air Force on this?" Blake suggested, "Get the dragons to help sniff out the goblin nests."

Frank nodded and sat back down, casting a look at the newly promoted Flight Lt. Commander Tommy, who was taking the role of Air Force Commander, returned a nod to Frank.

"Food production just still ongoing," Sherene spoke next, "We erm, stored the dead dragons and the meat yield from them are more than enough to sustain the population needs for meat for a couple of months." When the hoomans proposed to use the dead dragons for food, Magister Thorn nearly had a fit, while Sherene was kinda put off by the whole idea, but when she first tried dragon steak cooked by the hooman chef, she changed her mindset almost immediately.

And the fact that the other living dragons didn't really mind them eating their kind also helped, as to them dragons, meat was meat, they said all things followed a natural order, the strong preyed on the weak.

"The designated farmlands had been just cleared, thanks to the wonderous vehicles and planting has begun. We implemented a land lease scheme with the citizens, granting parcels of land to anyone willing to farm the land. Farming equipment was loaned to the farmers at 25% of their harvest for a period of two years." Sherene looked directly at Blake and gave him warm smile, "Response was great! We currently have over 800 hectares of land being cleared and farmed right now. It should be more than enough to support our needs with a surplus when harvest comes."

"Most of the ex-slaves and soldiers are farmers, to begin with," Sherene continued, "Once they are cleared to work, we can increase both our minerals. materials and food production greatly."

"Good work," Blake praised Sherene, earning a sly look from Ford, whom Blake ignored.

"And we have some good news," Sherene beamed, "In the saltpeter mines, the miners found a large deposit of Dragonite crystals!"

"Dragonite crystal?" All the humans looked at each other with confused looks. Magister Thorn nearly jumped out of his seat, almost pressing his face against the display screen. "DRAGONITE?"

"Calm down. Magister, can you all explain what that is?" Blake gestured Thorn to calm down.

"Dragonite is a very rare mineral!" Thorn explained excitedly, "It is suspected to be formed from the bodies of dragons after many many years!"

"How does it looks like?" Blake narrowed his eyes as he vaguely felt it was something very familiar. The rest of the humans also leaned forward.

"Oh, it looks like some sort of dark red crystal, like ruby." Thorn nodded to himself, "But the magical powers it possesses!"

"What are its uses for?" Frank asked next, while Blake was slightly disappointed that it wasn't crude oil that he was expecting.

"Hmmm, it has many properties, like highly flammable, able to increase magic usage and explosive too," Thorn listed out a few he can think of. "It is quite rare to find. The ancient scrolls do speak of them using as a fuel to power their floating castles."

"Fuel?" Blake's eyes lit up at the word, he rubbed his chin as he looked at Ford meaningful, who smiled in understanding.

"How much trouble will it take to mine it?" Blake asked, "It is dangerous?"

"Hmm no, and yes," Sherene replied, "It can be mined like how you mine ores, but as it is flammable, we have to use special tools to extract the Dragonite crystals out, as sparks could ignite it, causing an explosion."

"Then won't that Irisval girl be of use?" Blake asked Sherene.

She pondered about the question before answering, "I believe she should be of great help if she truly is a Geomancer."

"Awesome!" Blake grinned widely, "We talk in detail on this later! Next, military?"

Master Sergeant Pike stood up and said, "Ammunition consumption is at an all-time high, most of our ready stockpile are badly depleted, we couldn't sustain another all-out siege like before till ammunition production replenishes our current needs."

"Under weapons development, R and D are still ongoing with a man-portable mortar system, we do have a simple prototype but we actually need more production of gunpowder for the guns munitions."

"The M2 Magespitter has been proven in combat during the week before, so large-scale production can begin once the Hundred and First submits their comments and reviews on improvements of the weapon." Pike continued, "Also the new gunpowder mix of adding powdered mana stone has vastly improved the force of the gunpowder by a large as 20%. It will be very useful as a high explosive component."

"Next the experimental explosive shells and thermobaric rockets have also proven to be of quite effective, so we will refine those and being mass production as long we have the raw materials for them." Pike paused and looked at Magister Thorn's screen, "The stores of mana stones we captured from the Empire are all that is left as of now. We are seriously lacking mana stones of all types, we need to find a source for those fast."

"A mana stone can actually be used for many years," Thorn explained. "Cutting the stones into wafers and constant usage in the Magelocks are burning them out faster than we can replace them."

Magister Thorn furrowed his eyebrows, "Well, the only source of mana stones are harvested from beasts and monsters from the land. We used to have guilds that sent out requests for mana stones to be harvested, and those are typically taken care of by adventurers."

"So, we will require teams of men to go hunt beasts and monsters for their stones?" Blake asked, "Isn't it too ineffective?"

"Well, demands for mana stones ain't really high previously," Thorn pointed out. "Well, that is the only way to obtain more stones, unless of course, you raid the Empire stores for them?"

"Got it, I will think about what we can do," Blake scratched his chin, "Pike, I need weapons R and D to focus on making a proper fuse, rather than using up the mana stones as disposable fuses." Blake than leaned back and asked, "What's next?"

"Our patrols had spread out to a distance of 50 km radius from the Pass and found no traces of the Empire's army," Frank said next, "With the newly recruited dragons, we are using them as aerial recon while the UAVs are taken offline for maintenance."

"The two Silverwings had an endurance of roughly 2850 km per day or even more as long as adequate food, water and rest is given," Tommy said, "Their average cruising speed is roughly 142 km per hour and their sprint speed and jump up to 210 km per hour, but they could only keep it up for like 20 mins or so."

"They can keep going non stop on their cruise speed for up to twenty hours before needing to rest and properly feed, and the lesser the weight, the faster and further they can go," Tommy said. "The larger Spitfire could fly up to 30 hours non stop while its cruise speed is roughly at 120 km and sprint speed at 180 km. But the Spitfire can carry up to its own body weight in cargo as long it is distributed evenly along its body, while the Silverwings could only carry up to a third of its own weight."

"So far, the dragons are performing recon patrols around the Pass and flight trials to determine their full abilities," Tommy continued, "Also we have put up several recruitment notices for pilots and crew for the Valkyries and the dragons." He sat down as he finished his report.

"Ok, all done?" Blake looked around, "Ok, now for the Empire, I want us to stay on a lower alert level, but make no mistake, people, we are at war." Blake stood up, his arms leaning on the table top. "I want intelligence on the Empire," Blake turned to a display, showing the map of the land and pointed, "I want a team of intel gathering unit to insert here, pushing into the borders of the Empire to collect information, for this I would like to send the Hundred and First in."

"Communication rally points will be established and seeded along the mountain ridge and the forest for the intel team to communicate with us and also for future usage." Blake turned to Frank and Tavor.

"I want a plan of action by end of this week. It's time to hit back and we need to know how!"

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