United Nations, Haven, Fortress Singapore, Captain's Quarters
"Three more weeks at least!" The image of Sherene pouted as Blake smiled. "I'm turning dark from all the sun!"
"Haha, remember to use sunblock then!" Blake replied. "Wear long sleeves if you stay out in the sun. If not, when you get sunburn, it's going to be very painful!"
"Yes, yes..." Sherene meekly said. "Alright, I got a meeting to go soon. I got a surprise for you when I'm back!"
"What surprise?" Blake raised his eyebrows at the grin on Sherene's face.
"It won't be a surprise if I tell you now right?" Sherene rolled her eyes and stuck her tongue out. "Be a good boy and wait for my return! Bye bye!"
Blake smiled and shook his head at Sherene's childish acts before tapping the End Call button. He returned to his work when a knock came from his door. "Enter."
"Good morning, Cap!" Dr. Sharon poked her head in. Following in behind her was Intel Officer Tavor, Chief Engineer Matt, Colonel Frank and a shy looking human female in a mixed culture business wear.
"Make yourselves comfortable," Blake gestured them to the chairs. "Give me a minute while I sort out my stuff first."
Chief Matt and Dr. Sharon both gave a grin as they went straight for the coffee pot and poured themselves a cup each. Both of them wore a satisfied expression as they sipped the hot beverage. "Damn... I needed this!"
Blake smirked at them, "Well, rank has its privileges."
"Coffee has been the most sought after trade good amongst the crew," Lt Tavor supplied his input while the other two were lost in savoring the rare beverage. "It's current value is almost equal to seventy gold crowns per 100 grams... if anyone is willing to sell their remaining stocks."
Chief Matt gave Tavor an incredulous look, "My, I didn't peg you as the type to know the market!"
"Information is my forte," Lt Tavor gave a chilling smile which made Chief Matt feel cold despite the hot drink in his hands. "I try to collect all areas of information."
"Okay, all ready?" Blake looked up from his desk after he finished sorting out his documents. "I called you over here is to discuss our... situation in the future."
"Now, on food security. With our current and future food production," Blake asked. "Is it possible to produce enough food to be stocked up and sold to the surrounding cities and towns within a year?"
Everyone turned to look at the newcomer, who stood to her feet in attention before blushing in embarrassment. "Sir... I am Spaceman Apprentice Alice from Hydroponics or... what I used to be..."
"I- I am the Minister of Agriculture," She stammered. "Pleased to m- meet you, S- Sir!"
"At ease," Blake gave a disarming smile at the young lady. "You are no longer in uniform, don't sweat the formalities!"
"T- Thank you, Sir!" Alice remained standing stiffly. "In r- regards to your question, Sir... I will like to inform you that, it is impossible with our current production levels."
"Explain," Blake asked.
"O- Our current farms only produce enough grains, meat, vegetables, and fruits to sustain our total population, with a 15% surplus which are stored as emergency supplies," Alice's confidence grew as they started talking business. "And that surplus is also drawn by the military for exercises or campaigns."
"We can expand the farmlands right?" Chief Matt asked. "And fishing?"
Alice shook her head, "We can't increase much within one year. Unless you increase the number of farmers to twice our current numbers or replace corp rotation with mono farming which can increase our grain output but will cause the fertility of the soil to be degraded."
"As for fishing, it's still a fledgling industry," Alice continued. "Even with attractive grants given out, not many people are willing to take up fishing as most of them are farmers or craftsmen, to begin with."
"But, I can recommend some measures," Alice said. "Like offering those grants to the Islanders, we can invite them over to develop our fisheries here while we provide tech or financial support to their startups."
"Since our people do not have much experience in this field," Alice elaborated her idea. "By letting foreign investors into our market, we are letting them teach our people and at the same time boosting our output, since the products will be circulated within our country."
"Next we can switch to canning our food instead of preserving in jars," Alice said. "It lasts longer, is safer, and can be produced faster than jars."
"Canning is also cheaper to produce since they can be made out of steel and coated with tin to prevent corrosion," Alice explained. "Canned food can last as long as thirty years and are less prone to spill or breakage."
"Matt," Blake frowned as he turned to the Chief. "Do we have a source of tin?"
Chief Matt scratched his head as he whipped out his tablet and started flipping through its contents. "We do have a small stockpile of tin, roughly a hundred tons, all by products from other ore mines but no mines producing substantial amount currently."
"But... we do know where there are a few deposits of tin," Chief Matt looked up from his tablet. "It's just that we have no need of tin at the moment, those deposits were left untouched."
"Okay, start looking into mining those deposits," Blake ordered. "And Alice, start planning to increase our food security. I am sure you read the confidential report regarding the food situation among the neighboring lands."
"Defense wise, I am very sure, our military can keep them off," Blake cast a glance at Dr. Sharon. "But I do not want to kill innocent people who are just hungry..."
"If we can help by providing food to our neighbors at a reasonable cost without risking our own food supply, I want to do so," Blake said. "And I think that we really need to expand our fishing industry. I think its a very huge untapped food resource we are not touching on."
"Nor, do I want to build a wall to surround our borders..." Blake sighed. "Yet, we do need some kind of border security up. We are going to need some kind of Customs and Immigration to handle this in the long run. Tavor, since you are already handling most of the internal security issues, I want you to get together with City Hall and the Chief of Police to set up a new department to handle border security and immigration matters."
"Yes, Sir," Tavor nodded.
"Alice, start work on measures to improve our food security," Blake added. "Work with the relevant heads. We have less than a year to prevent a mass famine outside our borders."
"Yes, Sir," Alice replied as she sat down.
"Dr. Sharon," Blake turned to the doctor. "We might need to do some humanitarian aid in the unforeseen future. Do you have any plans in place?"
"Yes, Cap," Dr. Sharon replied. "Our plans were to work with the military to dispense aid to any areas that required it. This includes any form of disasters, pandemic or war."
"The military will provide both security and transport, while on my side we will provide the doctors, nurses and medical aid," Dr. Sharon explained. "City Hall will provide the food, water, and shelter."
"We have already done this twice during the war," Dr. Sharon said. "but on a smaller scale."
"Good," Blake nodded before he turned to Colonel Frank. "How's the preparation for the change of command and the formation of the new military branch?"
"Some minor issues here and there," Frank replied. "But shouldn't be a problem since Top is on it. Once Joseph returns, we will do the switch."
"We will be processing the switch of the SDF to Army in batches, starting from Falledge," Frank said. "It should not cause any impact to our border security during the change."
"Okay," Blake said. "Looks like all of you know what needs to be doing, so I won't drag this meeting on any longer."
"Sharon and Tavor, please stay back," Blake said as he dismissed the rest. "I need a word with you two."
Once the others had left the room, Blake looked at Dr. Sharon and asked. "How is the voice in your head since the last time you reported it."
Dr. Sharon frowned before she answered, "Still the same, it comes and goes."
"No way to find out what happened or what is it?" Blake asked in a concerned tone.
"Nope," Dr. Sharon shook her head. "Magister Thorn and I had been trying both magic and technology to find out what is in my head. But nothing. Nothing on the scans or even magic detection spells."
"Could it be some kind of God?" Tavor asked as his eyes glittered. "Like what happened to that elf hunter girl, Evelyn?"
Dr. Sharon shook her head again, "Nope, nothing shows that I have anything wrong."
"But Magister Thorn did come out with a theory," Dr. Sharon said. "It's very likely I got possessed by some remnant of a spirit."
"Spirit?" Blake frowned. "Like demons? Or ghosts?"
"More like a ghost, yes," Dr. Sharon said. "It could be also just a wisp of memory that remained and somehow it got into my body. You know like some kind of memory data."
"So now you're haunted by a ghost?" Tavor gave an eerie smile. "Nice..."
Blake rubbed his forehead tiredly, "So now we got ghosts haunting us too?"
"It would be nice if we could... recruit ghosts..." Tavor continued to smile eerily. "They would make good spies..."
Dr. Sharon rolled her eyes at him. "Yes, yes... You and your spies... Anyway, I have gotten used to its babbling. It did quieten down a lot in these recent months."
"No way to decipher what it is talking?" Blake asked.
"Nope," Dr. Sharon jerked her head towards Tavor. "Even our poster boy here can't make head or tail of anything I narrated out when it spoke. Not even the universal translators are working. We don't any common words for the computer to run its algorithms."
"Okay, take it easy for now," Blake said. "Take some time off and get a break. Inform us immediately if you feel unwell."
Dr. Sharon nodded and winked at Tavor. "Will do! Besides, Poster boy here is keeping an eye on me!"
This time it was Tavor who rolled his eyes. "Just to be safe."
"Ok," Blake said again. "Report in if you feel anything unusual! You are our top medical doctor here! I don't want to lose any more of our people!"
"Gotcha, Cap!" Dr. Sharon grinned mischievously. "Oh, did Sherene say anything to you?"
"On what topic?" Blake asked offhandedly. "We just spoke earlier before the meeting."
"Oh..." Dr. Sharon sounded disappointed. "Than nevermind!"
Sea of Clouds
The battered looking skiff slowly skimmed over the tops of the waves and the people onboard dragged a heavy net up over the side of the skiff. After a while, only a small handful of small fishes were caught.
Claire sighed as she looked at their pitiful catch, it had been over a week since they escaped from the Clergy and they have been eating nothing but fish. Berringer, looking leaner from his previous chubby frame, was hoisting a bucket of seawater up from the side to be converted into drinkable water from the steam engine.
The Professor and Uwen were quietly sorting out the small palm sized fish caught in the net while Claire pulled the rest of the net up. They worked quietly and quickly, knowing they had to return back up into the clouds before the Clergy's ships appear again, or a sudden flash storm might suddenly appear.
After they had refilled their water barrels and secured the ship, Claire went to the steam boiler and injected her magic energy into the side of the boiler. Sweat dripped down the sides of her face as she focused all her power to boil the water inside.
As the needle gauge of the boiler started jerking as pressure built up, she dragged her exhausted body up to the decks and Berringer took over, continued using magic to boil the water. Once sufficient steam was built up, Claire standing by at the helm, pulled the levers to allow the heated aetherium gas to fill up the airbags and the skiff slowly ascended back up into the cover of the clouds.