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UNS Singapore, Captain's Quarters

Blake removed his uniform and draped it over his chair before he poured himself a drink made from fermented carrato, locally farmed. He took a sip and let the harsh burning liquid go down his throat and felt a warm fuzzy feeling in his stomach. "Want a drink?" He asked the princess who was seated on his chair going through her work with his computer.

She shook her pretty head and said, "Our food stores are looking good. We had a large surplus of grains and tubers, which can be stored for over a season."

"And we do not need to slaughter the animal stock for winter as we have plenty of feed stored up for them too," Sherene focused on her Excel sheet. "The Muffalo herders have started to sheering the wool for production of winter clothing."

Blake stood behind Sherene and hugged her. "How're the preparations going on for Summer Festival?"

Sherene smiled and leaned in Blake's embrace, "We have quite a few venues allocated for this Summer Festival, one at each Residential District, and the main event will be held at City Hall Plaza."

"Since it is a two-day holiday event, I have increased the number of buses to the outer farms, mines, and Far Harbour to pick up those that wish to attend the Festival," Sherene purred happily in Blake's arms. "I also followed the recommendation given by your staff to double the pay for those working on holidays, so that they will not feel left out for the Festivals."

"Hmmm," Blake muttered, "So everything is in order?"

Sherene nodded, "Well, my people are still setting up the stages and event site. They should be finishing by today and tomorrow the Festival starts!"

"How about your side?" Sherene looked back and asked, "Is everything ok?"

"Well, we still have many things to worry about," Blake sighed and stood up, picking up his drink and drowned it down. "Goblins to our West, Empire to our North East and a natural disaster to our North."

"But at least we managed to resolve all our basic needs," Blake smiled at Sherene. "Food, water, shelter, security, and manufacturing are all on track."

"We just need a larger population to support our industrial needs," Blake said, "other than that we are doing pretty well, as long there aren't any more invasions."

Sherene nodded, "But the Empire... sooner or later they will return right?"

Blake rubbed Sherene's head gently while leaning against his table. "Intel estimates roughly a month before news gets to the Empire's Capital, and another month before some sort of response to be taken."

"By then, it is autumn," Blake said, "Hopefully late autumn is the best, as no sword and shield army will move in winter without long term preparations. I hope..."

Sherene nodded again, "My father and brothers used to say fighting in winter is terrible and a huge drain to resources. Men had frozen to death or died to hunger due to supply lines getting cut off by heavy snow storms."

Blake grinned, "Not bad, well that's one of the major reasons, not to mention the terrain will be harder for travel. And they have to cross the Uncharted Forest."

"The newly formed Combat Engineer unit together with that Elementalist girl has already started a line of defensive works at the bottom of the ramp at Sawtooth Mountain," Blake added, "The original wall will be upgraded and supported with the still under development 3" guns. Once we have those built, even if the Empire throws a million troops at us, we can easily hold the pass as long as we have ammunition."

Sherene frowned, "Will the Empire stop coming? Why can't they leave us in peace?"

"I don't have the answer for that, my princess," Blake replied gently, patting her soft hair. "Well, we can only make it so expensive for them to attack us, that they call for peace talks."

"If not, once our airpower is up and running," Blake's eyes gleamed dangerously, "I just bomb them back to the stone age."

-----

The Colony, Residental District 4

Kaga sat on a wooden bench watching several City Hall staffs hanging colorful banners and ribbons on to the lamp posts lining the side of the streets. Lately, the whole city was full of excited energy as everyone was looking forward to the Summer Festival.

She nibbled her 'bur-girl' and sighed in bliss. She picked up a textbook, Introduction to Basic English, and started reviewing her notes for her class. Her study partner was Billy, when she returned from her day job at City Hall, both of them were becoming closer and closer in just a few short days.

The next day, Kaga went to her morning class in time and joined a class of over forty students, some she recognized as part of her same group when they escaped from Falledge. The teacher called Kristine taught them the basic alphabet and phonics. The lessons were easily picked up and absorbed by Kaga, as she had always liked to read.

When the school bell rang, Kristine ended the lesson and gave them some homework to do at home. The whole class stood up and thanked the teacher before they all excitedly left the classroom. Kaga was no different as she had an appointment with Billy at the Commerical District.

Having traveled a few times in buses, Kaga confidently boarded a bus that will take her to the Commerical District or C District, as some of the locals called it. As the bus turned into the street of D District, colorful signboards covered up the facade of the stores and buildings lining the street.

She alighted the bus and saw Billy already here and she went up joyfully to her. "Billy, I'm here!"

"Kaga! Finally!" Billy smiled, "I'm hungry waiting for you!" Billy reached out and hugged a blushing Kaga while rubbing her soft fluffy ears. "Hehehe."

"S-stop!" Kaga quickly brushed off Billy's hands, and covered her ears with her hands, "..."

"Hehehe," Billy grinned, "Your ears and tail are just too soft and fluffy for me to control myself! Hehehehe!"

"..." Kaga turned redder, "Let's go..."

"Alright! Let's go shopping!" Billy grin went wider as she thought of dressing Kaga up in cute clothes. "Hehehehe..."

"..."

-----

Northern Forest, Hydro Dam Power Station

Bartley carried a large bucket of water over to the wolves' shed and refilled the water trough for the wolves. He had spent over two hours showering the wolves and the pups earlier and now the wolves looked much better despite some wounds still visible on their bodies.

Both the giant wolves licked Bartley and the little dog-sized wolf pups charged out and tackled him down on to the group and started to lick and sniff him happily. "Good boys and girls!" Bartley gave a rare smile.

These couple of days, Bartley schedule has been, the morning after breakfast, he goes to the wolves to feed them, cleans the shed, brushes their coat, takes them on walks and returns to his cell for the night.

The aggressiveness of the wolves had decreased a lot, that some of the other Marines could come near and play with the wolf puppies and the men started nicknaming Bartley as the Wolf Whisperer.

"Alright, let's go for a walk around the base shall we?" He gave a whistle and the wolves and puppies started to follow him as headed towards the perimeter fence.

----

The Colony, City Hall Plaza

The crowd grew larger and larger as more people squeezed into the plaza for the Summer Festival. Large white sails of cloth were hung at regular intervals among the streets and some local musicians were playing linked to the broadcasting system.

Along the streets were lined with stalls selling drinks, food, and trinkets. Everyone was in high spirits as they waited for the Festival to start. Soon the Princess came onto the stage set before the City Hall and the crowd went wild, cheering happily away.

"Hello everyone!" Sherene beamed happily to the cameras which were projected onto the large cloth sails, allowing everyone including those at the other districts events to see her. "I hope everyone is excited to be here tonight!"

"YES!" The crowd replied enthusiastically.

"Everyone here has worked hard, be it as a farm hand, a clerk, factory worker or even a cleaner!" Sherene gave her opening speech, "And this hard work is shown around us. Those that came here first will remember the food rationing, the lack of necessities and even proper heating or clothes."

"Now we have heated homes, plenty of food, running water, clean and safe streets," Sherene smiled to the camera. "And now I declare the first Summer Festival to begin! Enjoy the night of musical performances and dance!"

A sudden burst of fireworks erupted from City Hall's roof, turning the twilight sky bright with flashes and burst of colorful stars. Loud cheers joined the fireworks as the music started playing again performed by local musicians and the people started to party.

-----

Northern Forest

The red dragon just finished fighting with a giant copper boa twice its length, when it heard pops and cracks of thunder in the distance. Ignoring the rumbles of thunder, it roared out flames from its mouth, flash frying and cooking the snake.

It used its nimble front claws to tear the charred skin and scales off before tearing into the yummy soft medium rare meat inside. It feasted halfway when the rumbles of thunder came again, this time longer and louder.

Irritated by the thunders, it raised its serpentine head high up and looked at the sky, trying to see if it is going to rain. The rumbles of thunder came again, and it leaped into the air, as it scouted around its surroundings.

To its surprise, it saw exploding stars in the far distance lighting up the sky and the clouds. It tilted its horned head in confused and dropped back down to the ground and continued its meal while pondering on what are those strange bright colorful stars.

Once it had its fill, the red dragon leaped into the air again, and spread its wings out, heading towards the location were the exploding stars were last seen, leaving behind a burning forest.

-----

UNS Singapore, Command Bridge

The festival yesterday night was a success and everyone off duty had partied till late. The morning shift was only half manned, and Commander Ford was the senior commanding Officer inside the Bridge.

He seeped some hot decaf from his mug, wondering if they could come out with a local equivalent of coffee before their stock of runs out. He rubbed his temples as the party last night took his toil on his head.

"XO!" An operator called out, "Sensors are picking up a moving object, 168 kilometers away, heading in fast at roughly 110 kilometers per hour, bearing North, North East, to our position!"

"What is it? Do we have visual?" Ford called out, all his headache and sleepiness gone instantly.

"Negative!" The operator replied, "We got no assets at that location!"

"Scramble the alert Cobras!" Ford asked. "What other assets do we have on standby?"

"Aye! Scrambling the alert Cobras!" The operator replied as she looked at the ready chart. "Dragon One and Three, Gold, Silver Wing, and Valkyrie Two,"

"Launch Dragon One and Three, have Gold and Silver Wing on alert and Valkyrie Two on standby for airlift support," Ford ordered. "Give me one UAV into that AO*!" (*Area of Operations)

"Aye XO!" The operator replied and she quickly started to send out orders.

"Recall all combat personnel, bring us up to Condition Yellow!" Ford added.

-----

Sirens blared out in the pilots' ready room, where four alert pilots of Bronze Wing was lounging around. They jumped up and started grabbing their gear and helmets when the sirens went off in the room and rushed out towards the Hanger Deck of UNS Singapore.

Color coded techs ran a final check over the four Cobras parked at the internal hanger, while a few techs started to power up the engine starts, spooling up the Cobras engines.

The pilots climbed into the cockpits as the massive hangar deck doors started to yaw wide open, letting in a gush of wind.

A yellow jacketed tech started to wave his light wands, signaling for the planes to get into the position of launch. Once the lead Cobra was hooked into the catapult gear, the jacketed tech gave a salute and a sharp wave off, and the F/A - 1 Cobra was thrown out of the Hangar Deck with a loud roar.

"Whooooosssssssh!"

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