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UN, Orwell's Point, Forward Fortifications

A dragon's cry attracted the attention of the soldiers under the fortifications. The size of the flying dragon grew larger and larger as it dropped its altitude and landed with surprising gentleness on the paved square behind the lines. The crew unbuckled themselves while the blue red dragon laid its whole bulk down flat and the crew climbed down the dragon harness expertly.

"Priority message to the Ground Commander!" A fresh faced lieutenant wearing a jacket over his Air Force overalls jogged over to the guards at the entrance of the command post while the rest of the dragon crew see to the dragon's needs.

The lieutenant disappeared into the tent after his identity was verified. Blue Thunder released a tired sigh as he stretched out one wing and gestured with his claw to his crew, "Scratch there, please? Ahhh.... yes..."

"I miss Boss Stamford..." Blue Thunder grumbled. "The new boss is... too easily excited..."

"You meant eager for action?" retorted Dek the radioman as he used a blunt spear they kept together with the stores for Blue Thunder to scratch his scales. The spear was supposed to be used to kill and remove parasites that leeched on to the dragons' scales.

"Ah huh..." Blue Thunder rumbled with his throat, his eyes half rolling upwards. "That's the spot!"

"Well, the Chief got posted to Airforce Academy," Barkley said as he appeared with a barrel of water for Blue Thunder. "Actually I am finding it strange... I heard from a friend in the Marines that there seems like there were a lot of transfers and restructuring among the ranks, but most of the transfer orders involved the hoomans."

"You meant to say that after the fark up at that city," Luth the other crew member added in as he dumped piles of protein blocks into the feed tray for Blue Thunder. "High Command doesn't want to lose any more of their precious hoomans, that's why they are all being transferred to a safe and cozy post?"

"Really?" Blue Thunder hearing the gossip, turned his head and blinked his great big eyes rapidly in attention. "Are they playing favoritism?"

"Shhhh!" Both Dek and Barkley hissed and looked around their surroundings to make sure no one heard their talk. "Keep it down you big dummy lizard!"

"This is just hearsay! We don't know if it's true!" Barkley glared at Luth and spoke in a low voice. "Don't anyhow spread these rumors! It will affect morale!"

Luth gave a shrug as he continued opening boxes of protein blocks and retorted. "Well, isn't it true? Chief Stamford got posted away somewhere safe while we are here risking our lives in the front lines. I am sure the hoomans are protecting themselves while letting us go die!"

Everyone stared at Luth with displeasure, "You really should keep your opinions to yourself. Don't forget what they did for us!"

"Yea," Luth rolled his eyes. "Freeing us from slavery? Only to fight and die for them later? Should I be grateful for that?"

Even Blue Thunder felt unhappy at the words his crew member Luth was saying and he spoke in a serious tone. "If you think that way, you should just quit and leave the force!"

"Yeah," Dek nodded, agreeing with Blue Thunder's words. "Just quit, no one is forcing you to stay and fight, you coward!"

"I am not a coward!" Luth paused at his work. "You think it's fair for us to just die for the hoomans while they sit in their silver thrones?"

"I don't know if it's fair or not," Blue Thunder cut in. "You were given a choice to join the Air Force, and you agreed to the terms and danger that was offered. Yet now, you are grumbling like a child!"

"Whatever," Luth replied and returned to filling the feed tray. "You just eat your damn protein blocks and watch your stupid dramas. You are an asset to the hoomans, but us? We are just numbers on a piece of paper or in that 'tek no logee, corn put er' of theirs!"

"The hoomans won't care about if we live or die," Luth continued. "See how many Marines had died already? Did they pull our kind out of combat?"

"Yet when only one of their own died, what happened?" Luth spoked heatedly, tears threatening to fall. "You see hoomans get pulled out of combat roles! And we continued to remain to fight!"

"Hey, chill," Barkley said. "You okay?"

"No!" Luth lowered his head and clenched his fists tightly. "My brother died in that damn place! But what did our mother get? Just a piece of useless metal and ribbon!"

Bek and the rest nodded silently and they patted Luth's back in comfort. Even Blue Thunder swept his wing around and rubbed Luth with its tip. "Hey, we all lost something in this war. Some of us, homes, others like you, families. But if you want to blame somebody, blame the Imperials."

"I can't say what the hoomans' decision was for," Bek tried to comfort Luth. "But all I know is that the hoomans gave us a fighting chance to fight for our new homes and families!"

"Yes!" Blue Thunder thumped his tail in agreement. "Bek family! Barkley family! Luth family! Chief Stamford family! New Boss family too! So don't be sad! We all grieve together for your bro!"

Luth nodded as he silently wept in their hurdle. "Thank... you..."

"Hey?" A voice called from the side. "What are you all doing? Have you all feed and watered the dragon?" The new Lieutenant called out sharply. "Get working!"

"Okay... new Boss not family!"

-----

"Cork! Wake up!" Someone shook the Rock hard, breaking his dreams. "We got to stand to now! Hurry! The Imperials were spotted!"

The Rock blinked away the sleep and pushed himself up from the duckboard covered trench. His khaki uniform was caked with dried mud and he picked up his gear and follow his buddy towards their bunker.

"Cork, you okay?" His buddy asked in concern as he eyed the Rock up and down. "You seemed a bit off today."

"I'm fine," The Rock replied. He used a fake name when he was 'rescued' by a group of slave warriors after his defeat with the rebels. To avoid capture, he had stripped away his armor and clothes and acted as if he was also a slave.

After his rescue, he had spent over a month to recover from his wounds in a neat and orderly campsite just outside of the city of Orwell's Point. After he was able to walk, people came and ask about his past and work experiences. He told the truth that he was a soldier before but he did not reveal his true identity. Afterward, those people told him he was freed and no longer a slave. He could find work in the city if he wants to, he could return home. He was even given enough coins to survive for over a week together with new clothes and shoes.

The Rock was at first wary, thinking that it might be a trap to expose him when he off guard. But it turned out that was what happened to everyone in the camp. Some decided to stay to find work, others left on their own to return to their homes. For him, he decided to stay and find out more about this enemy that had weapons and spells so deadly on the battlefield yet were naive enough to release so many slaves and prisoners!

Thus he spent the next few months observing and learning from the enemy that defeated his great legion. He was surprised by the small changes and laws made to the local population which appeared to greatly improve the life of the people. Even more surprising were the strange metal wagons that moved on their own!

He found out that his enemies were a kingdom called the United Nations where all races lived together in harmony, including Orekins, Trolls, and even the hated Goblins! The UN was ruled by a strange race of short ears, which the Emperor had called them as demons. They had some kind of great 'tec no lo gee' power that enable the metal wagons to move with some kind of magic or even flying constructs that flew faster than any dragon!

They can control the power of thunder and fire as evidenced by the defeat he had suffered under their hands. The Rock sought hard to find out more about the power of thunder and fire of the hoomans but no one knew how the spell worked.

Strangely, the local Governor started spreading the word that there were free lessons for anyone willing to attend at night. Children were to start compulsory lessons were ordered too at the new schools that were popping up here and there in the city.

He took a job as a laborer, doing odd jobs and even worked on a couple of schools for the city. At night, he joined hundreds of others in attending the lessons where they were taught how to read, write, count and other basic scholarly knowledge.

At first, he was just curious as to what was the king of the United Nations up to. But after a few lessons, he found that he quite enjoyed learning new things! After he passed the examinations given at the end of the lessons, he was given a certification which he was told that if he wanted to learn more advanced knowledge, he would need this certification to qualify.

As he was debating whether should he continue his studies, there was an announcement over the 'la do', which he enjoyed listening to the music that came out of it, talking about military recruitment for the local militia.

He decided to take a look to find out more and to his surprise, the recruiter frankly told him that if he joined the Self Defense Force, he will get to learn how to use those thunder weapons he sought for!

He quickly signed up and a week later, he and many others were whizzed off onboard one of the moving wagons which was called a 'truck'. At the end of the destination, he and the others came to a camp and there, he trained for three months to be a soldier of the SDF.

-----

"Cork!" His buddy shook him again. "Stop spacing out! The Imperials are coming!"

The Rock shook off his thoughts and peered through the firing slits of the covered fighting position dug low into the ground. "Where?"

"Up in the skies!" His buddy replied and shared his binoculars to the Rock.

The Rock peeped into the binos, another invention of the UN that impressed him a lot. He swept the binos left and right before spotting a cluster of dots in the purplish skies as the sun was slowing setting down. "Dragons... lots of dragons..."

"Yeah," His buddy replied. "Our dragon patrol spotted them earlier. Seems like they are planning to transport the bulk of their troops over our lines by flying dragons!"

"Luckily we got those anti dragon guns!" His buddy jerked his thumb back to the rear of the lines. "They won't know what they ran into! Ha!"

The Rock gave a grin and continued to observe the approaching dragons. He could see the colors and trappings on the dragons and frowned as he tried to remember which colors did those flags belong to. "Shit... It's the Third Army!"

"Huh?" His buddy who was checking his rifle turned and glanced at the skies. "You know which Imperial force they belong to?"

"Ahh..." The Rock quickly came up with an excuse. "I used to be a slave with the Imperial Army... So I recognized some of those flags..."

"I see," His buddy returned his attention back to his rifle, unsuspecting of his friend's past. "I hate the Imperials, I lost a lot of friends to them..."

"Oh... me too... Me too..." The Rock whispered, his eyes glittering in the setting sun.

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