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Haven, Camp Alpha, Command Center, Operation Freedom, Day Five

"7 river barges impounded, over 200 other various types of small boats also held," Joseph's voice came through the speakers with some background static and slight chops to the audio feed. "Death toll as of now is over two thousand Imperial troops and slaver guards."

"2nd Battalion suffered two deaths and 22 injured," The 2nd Battalion commander reported. "Also there were 300 over collateral damage to civilians and slaves."

"Three thousand soldiers and guards captured and currently being imprisoned at the Slave Pens," Joseph continued. "We have taken major merchants leaders and the Governor as HVTs* (High Value Targets*) and will be sending them back for Intel to debrief on the Mariners."

"In total, there are over 3,376 civilian residents remaining in the city," Joseph's image said. "That's not counting the population of outlying farms and fishing villages. So far, the citizenry is following our orders without any issues."

"We seized over five thousand slaves, which more than half were so badly abused that they could only blindly follow orders," Joseph's expression hardened in the video link. "And over a thousand of those slaves are just children!"

"We found a slum about two kilometers away from the city that consisted of slaves too weak, ill, or crippled to work," Joseph's expression looked tired. "Battalion medics are warning all personnel to not approach the slums as it is overflowing with diseases and other viral infections."

"Its a dumping ground for unwanted slaves," Joseph gave a sigh. "Teams in protective gear checked out the slums and found hundreds of bodies, most in various stages of decay and some bodies are still thawing."

"Still there were two hundred survivors, all sick and malnutrition and half dead," Joseph looked deflated.

"Do what you can for them," Blake replied. "If they can be saved, do it."

Joseph nodded, "We can only do so much for them."

"Now, material goods ranging from winter food supplies are over 800 tons, enough to feed the whole city for a couple of weeks," Joseph continued. "We expect shipments of supplies to start coming in now that Spring is here."

"Over 27 tons of cold weapons and armor seized, two hundred war dragons taken from the stables and the valuables we confiscated from the merchants and nobles there, are still being tally. But current value estimated at over half a million gold crowns."

Someone whistled in the background, "Damn that's a lot of money!"

"We expect the figure to climb as seriously, some of the stuff here, we do not even know how much the true value is," Joseph admitted. "Just from the pay chest of the slavers, it's more than enough to equip a company of soldiers!"

An average layman in most kingdoms earns roughly one gold per year, the money plundered from Orwell's Point is more than enough for Blake to buy a dozen warships from the Isles!

"We are using the prisoners to help rebuilt the city and also to buff up the defense works," Joseph grinned. "We estimate another two days before traders and other travelers to start coming to the city as the weather turns warmer."

"Good, do what must be done," Blake nodded before turning to Major Frank who shook his head, indicating that he has nothing to add. "Alright, we will talk again later."

Joseph's image saluted and the video link cut off shortly. "So now, the easy part is completed. Here comes the hard part of holding the city."

"Sir, I still think we should ship a squadron of Cobras over via the Mariners in crates," Airforce Commander Tommy suggested. "The FA - 1 Cobras can be disassembled and reassembled easily. Having a fighter squadron would greatly help the troops there."

"Hmm, true," Blake nodded. "Ensure that the planes have a defendable location for the runways before giving Tactics a workable plan for that. There's no point to having the planes there but the runways get attacked and destroyed."

Commander Tommy nodded, "The Mariners will be down for major maintenance after this Op is over!"

Ford and Frank both nodded, "We really need a dedicated cargo hauler, just relying on the Mariners isn't gonna cut it in the long run."

Blake agreed, "Yeah, I agreed too. Still, we work with what we have now. Anyway, hows the defenses for all the outposts now that Spring is here?"

Frank gestured to the map on the wall and said, "Well, all the personnel at the mining outposts, farms, logging camps, and other works have completed their basic military training over the winter."

"They are all equipped with surplus M1s and the outposts are all fortified and holds enough supplies for them to hold for two weeks," Frank said. "We expect the feral goblins to start their usual attacks and raids within the week."

"All vehicles now are traveling in armed convoys and no one is to solo drive at any highway now," Frank added. "Even the new cargo trains have armed guards accompanying them."

"What happens if the goblins lay siege to any one of the outposts?" Ford asked.

"3rd Battalion is on rapid response duties," Frank replied. "The guys under siege at the outposts will hunker down and wait for the 3rd to come in and relieve them."

"The Air Force is also on full standby to provide close air support," Tommy added. "We can keep the pressure off the outposts till the 3rd comes and save the day."

Frank winked and bumped fists with Tommy. "1st Battalion will be holding the defenses for both Haven and Far Harbor."

"The Navy is also on standby for any sightings of goblin raiders," Ford said. "Intel has been throwing up UAVs and scout planes up to recce Goblin City for any ship movements. But so far they seemed to be trying to recover from the previous bombings."

"Good, everyone knows your assigned work and duties!" Blake smiled. "I can start relaxing and planning my honeymoon!"

"Yea right!" The guys laughed. "You are still the Boss!"

"Alright, jokes over," Blake grinned. "Great work all around. I want constant recce flights all over our area to spot any goblin movements. Hit them as they mass up, try to destroy them before they near any of our facilities!"

"Aye, aye Captain!"

-----

Dead Frontier

Teams of men carried several horned deers into the village to the cheers of the gathered. They managed to survive winter and now the wild game has reappeared due to warmer weather, the people won't starve anymore.

Borse smiled at the cheerful gaunt faces of the people and saw hope on their faces. The wild game they had caught will most likely be lean meat as the animals just came out of hibernation.

He needed to start building and repairing the palisades now that winter is over and also have the troops patrol their surroundings. So much work to be done, thought Borse. Food for the people, trees to be cut for lumber, the village to defend from Oerkin and goblin raiders.

And the constant threat of the Empire looming overhead, Borse felt very tired suddenly.

-----

Orwell's Point

Sergeant Mills jerked the black hooded merchant up from his knees as the roar of the flying boat engines grew in pitch. "Bring them all! Let's go!"

The frightened merchant cried and squirmed in his restraints as Mills and another Marine dragged him across the dock, his legs thumping over the gaps between the planks. They dumped the HVT to the Air Force who took over the slobbering merchant and secured him on to the seat.

Mills stood back and double check the head count of the HVTs been loaded onboard the Mariner and signed off his charges over to the Air Force crew chief. "All yours!" He yelled over the roar of the engines.

The crew chief gave a thumbs up and climbed into the plane and Mills helped the crew close the hatch of the flying boat. The crew gave a wave to the Marines on the dock before the pilot pushed the plane off the docks and headed towards the open stretch of water.

The engines of the plane grew louder as the pilot pushed the engines to the max and the craft roared its way across the wide river before it gently rosed into the air and it banked over slightly and disappeared into the sky.

"Alright! No more baby sitting!" Mills grinned to his men. "Now, get those prisoners to help move these supplies! I want them under cover before lunch time!"

-----

Joseph paced around the great hall of the stronghold as his staff manned radios and other command systems. "Sir, Dragon One has spotted two river barges on approach from the North East River."

"How long till they come in sight of the city?" Joseph stopped and asked.

"Four to five hours," The operator replied.

Joseph gestured the operator to enlarge the image taken by Blue Thunder. "Looks like a cargo runner."

"Most likely they are here to sell goods before picking up slaves and bringing them back," 2nd Battalion's tactical officer said. "Looking at the log books of the Governor and merchants here, seemed like slaves are brought in from the surrounding areas to be traded back to the Empire or other places."

Joseph nodded and grinned wickedly, "Hmmm, I wonder if we can trade off the prisoners for their goods?"

"Haha!" His staff laughed, "Well, Sir, we have to check with Higher Command about that!"

Joseph kept smiling, "Hmmm, well, how's the counting of the treasures we confiscated?"

"Sir, we are still going through all the stuff," One of his staff replied. "There are just too much and we are short handed."

"Alright, there is no rush," Joseph waved off his staff's concern. "We will load what has already being counted and weighed on the next flight back to Haven."

"Yes, Sir!"

"Any issues with the city populations?" Joseph asked next.

"There are several fights breaking out with the slaves and locals," Another staff reported. "We have a couple of stabbings, but not fatal."

"What happened?" Joseph's eyebrows rosed up.

"Seemed like the slaves were abused and treated badly but some of the locals," The staff replied. "The ex slaves returned to exact vengence on locals. We have arrested everyone who was involved, but these cases on the rise!"

Joseph frowned, "Issue out a statement to the slaves, tell them to report whatever abuses or injustice they had suffered to us, and we will investigate. I do not want public order to be disrupted."

"Ensure the slaves understand that. I will not hesitate to punish anyone harshly who breaks the law!" Joseph said.

Just at this moment, a Marine came in and saluted, "Captain! There is someone wishing to speak with you! Sir!"

"Who is it?" Joseph asked.

"Sir, the person calls himself as Mattew and he says he represents the slaves, Sir!" The Marine stood at attention while giving his report.

"Where is he now?" Joseph walked over to the Marine.

"Sir, he is outside the stronghold gates, sir!"

Joseph turned to his staff and shrugged, "Seems like we can save the trouble of issuing a statement to the slaves."

"Bring him into the parlor," Joseph said to the Marine who saluted and went off to carry out his orders. "Well, let's go see this Mattew guy and see what he wants."

Joseph was enjoying a goblet of fine red taken from the Governor's stores when there was a knock on the door. The Battalion Sergeant opened the door and a gaunt looking male with filthy red hair stood with two Marine escorts behind.

"Come in," The Sergeant gestured the man in and took up a position at the doorway, watching the ex slave like a hawk with his hand resting on his sidearm.

"Drink?" Joseph offered the slave who looked out of place in the finery of the parlor with his dirty and tattered clothing.

The man shook his head and stood there with a proud bearing facing Joseph and spoke in a serious manner.

"I like to propose an alliance!"

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dropping today's chapter before i get too giddy to do it...


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