There was the faintest hint of purple in the sky, signaling the oncoming of dawn. The stars receded from the east to be replaced by the swirling indigo and magenta paint strokes of the gods. Pale lights twinkled across the coastline and a faint melodic clicking echoed through the air. Icy waves sloshed against the cliffs of the harbor and a chill breeze blew through the winding streets and labyrinthine alley ways of the city. The first rays of sun flashed over the horizon, catching the tops of bronze towers and the crowns of crystal spires. A peaceful calm drifted with the fog, washing everything in a pale peach glow.

This is Berk, the citadel of the Archipelago. It is a city built on hopes and dreams, made almost entirely of metal and glass. It has a grand view of the sunset, and the sunrises aren't half bad either. It is the pinnacle of the modern world. The only problem is the pests. While most cities have to worry about warlords or political corruption, Berk has…

An explosion ripped through the air…

Dragons.

Glass shattered and metal screeched. The calm was torn apart in an instant as screams and battle cries filled the air. Dark shadows danced through the sky, swooping low over the city. More explosions followed and the city shook from the impacts. Swarms of shadows fell over the city center around an immense structure that towered above the rest. Red and orange fireballs ricocheted off the steel reinforcements, illuminating the bronze armor of the Málm Lagið, leaving hardly a scratch, must to the frustration of the assailants.

Hiccup lost her balance as the tower took another bombardment of blasts. The walls echoed and vibrated but held firm. She clung to the railing until the shaking subsided, and continued her sprint up the stairs. Her booted feet clanked against the metal steps and joined the cacophony in the tower. The stairs spiraled around the entirety of the inside of the tower. Hiccup looked over the railing as she continued her climb. While the outside of the tower, a giant of bronze and steel, was an impressive sight to behold, the inside truly took one's breath away. Massive gears, weights and counterweights, struts and support beams, churned at the heart of the tower. The air hummed with mechanical melodies, beating a clockwork cadence and singing a tempered steel tune. This was the literal Heart of the city, the beat of which was felt in every home and under every cobblestone street. It was a constant source of hope and power.

Hiccup pulled her attention back as she neared the next platform. The walkway was in near chaos. Leather and metal clad men and women ran to and fro, hauling weapons and ammunition to the gunmen on this floor. The steady chug of artillery could be heard on the other side of the wall from the gunmen in their firing pods. Hiccup wove her way through the chaos with practiced ease and ducked up the next staircase, making her way as fast as she could for the top of the tower. There were three solid floors that spanned the entire tower above the Heart. She burst through the heavy door and continued to sprint down the hallway, skidding to a halt in front of massive steel double doors. Wasting no more time, she burst through those as well. The sounds of the fire fight hit her full force, crashing with the heavy smell of sulfur and smoke.

"Nice of you to join the party!" A gruff voice yelled from somewhere in the chaos of the vast laboratory. "I thought you'd run off."

"What? Who, me?" Hiccup called back, "What would you do without all…this?" 'This' referring to all 90 pounds of her pale, thin figure that was currently weaving through piles of machinery and scrap metal towards the open bay doors on the other side of the room. She finally found the source of the voice currently shoulder deep in the engine of a rather beat up bi-plane. As he stood up, the plane sputtered to life. Hiccup hurriedly strapped in her harness that tethered her to the tower, tied her hair up out of her face in a sloppy bun, and ran out to the sling-shot. The plane's front tires rolled into two divots on the balcony, a hook latching onto its axle. With a thumbs-up from the pilot, Hiccup pulled the release on a leaver and heaved down on it with all her weight. There was a click and a boom and the plane shot back out into the night.

Hiccup watched the plane bob back out into the fray. Dragons and planes brawled in the sky, receiving and returning heavy fire. The sky was alit with the sights and sounds of heavy firefight, the rising and falling whine of engines, and the vicious roars of dragons.

Not three seconds later, another plane skidded down the short landing run, halting just before the frame of the bay doors.

"RUDDER!" The co-pilot shouted simply in order to be heard over the roaring engine, howling wind and deafening fire blasts. Gobber instantly went to work on the smoking and torn up rudder, and after resetting the sling-shot, Hiccup joined him. She ran for a new rudder while her mentor removed the old one. Moving with practiced and fluid motions, she attached the new rudder, tested it, and was at her place back by the slingshot release without a moment to spare. That plane was in and out in less than a minute. Hiccup watched proudly from her position as her planes darted through the fire fight.

Of course they had been her inventions, though not many people knew that. Who else's could they be? Certainly not Gobber's, though he had a few inputs for additional features once she had completed the basic design. Mainly weaponry. Weapons, however, were very heavy, and speed and maneuverability were sacrificed for the ability to counter attacks. She would have preferred to have as few weapons on board as possible and focus on shielding and tact, but it had not been her call to make. In the end, her father had deemed strength more important than agility, as was the Viking way. The pilots are warned repeatedly never to stray far from the citadel center so they can return to for hasty repairs on a moment's notice. Many a pilots had gone down from overconfidence and arrogance drawing them too far into the fight, unable to make it back after an unexpected hit from a dragon. It was a shame but Hiccup knew not only could she not dwell on it, but she could not blame herself as she had tried to do countless times. They were her planes, her designs, her responsibility to keep the pilots safe.

Then again, how safe was anyone with dragons in the air with you?

The planes main design was simple enough, two parallel sheet metal wings straddled the open double cockpit, a stream engine powered twin propellers that were short but thick, and the tail fins and rudder mimicked those of dragons in form and function. Apart from the basic frame, however, every plane was different. After so many hits, each repair adds a certain amount of…character? Yeah, that's what the pilots call it.

Welding scars litter most of the planes' hides, propellers come in all shapes sizes and colors, and tail fins take so many hits that it was almost a competition to see which pilot could last the longest with the most damaged fin. It made Hiccup sick just thinking about all the needless risks the pilots took just because she couldn't make their planes strong enough, but she was making up for that now.

Plane after plane tumbled onto the machine shop balcony, each repaired with high speed precision, and returned to the battle. Gobber and his young apprentice worked in determined silence. This continued until the sun was clearly visible beyond the eastern mountain range.

Hiccup was beginning to tire and when the fighting finally began to taper off, Gobber took over for a time to allow her to rest. She took a moment to remove her harness and retreat farther into the shop. She took a drink from a metal canteen and watched Gobber launch the last plane into the morning sky. He shielded his eyes from the sun with his non-prosthetic hand and peered out over the battle field. From where Hiccup was sitting, she could only see the sky line and the tops of a few taller structures of the citadel. A swarm of dragons was retreating past the snowy peaks to the east and only a few stragglers still fought on, but they were easily repelled by the skilled pilots that remained in the air. Eventually the sky was clear of the flying demons and Hiccup allowed herself a relieved sigh.

"No one called in Downed," she pointed out to Gobber as he slumped over the where she was sitting on a pile of discarded rudders. She offered him the canteen as he sat down on an upturned barrel next to her, but he declined, preferring his own mug of some mysterious steaming brown liquid. Hiccup just shrugged, whatever got Gobber going was fine by her.

"Ay, that's good," Gobber replied, too tired to even construct his usual snarky retort. The day had only just begun. Pilots would be in all day to get their planes properly repaired, but they could take it a bit slower without the urgency of battle biting at their heels. Hiccup undid her hair and started tying it back in a proper braid, working the bright red strands into tight knots.

A familiar hiss sounded from beside the doorway, followed by a soft thunk that signaled the arrival of mail. When Gobber made no move to retrieve it, Hiccup sighed. "No need to get up, I got it," she said sarcastically in an attempt to get him up, but to no avail. "No no, really. I'll get it. Don't want you straining yourself in your old age." That got him. He swung his mallet prosthetic at her, which she easily dodged. Giggling, she skipped backwards a few steps before trotting over the mail chute. She removed the metal cylinder from the chute built into that wall and popped it open, pulling out a piece of paper.

Her eyes skimmed over the hastily typed message and she turned back to Gobber. "Dad wants you in the War Room. He's probably going to suggest another counter attack to try and fond the Dragon's Nest."

"Aaah," Gobber grunted, downing what was left of his drink. "Those caravans never come back. Besides, it's almost Winter and the mountain pass will be snowed over within a few days. Does he think we're indestructible?"

"Hey, no use trying to convince me, it's me dad you're after," Hiccup held up her hands defensively.

"I mean, I get that we're Vikings and it's an occupational hazard and all, but seriously!" Gobber threw his hands up. "We're not gods as much as he likes to think we are... And not all of us are as young as we used to be." He sighed and his face dropped. Hiccup was about to snap a witty retort about his age but refrained when she saw his face. There were moments when Gobber seemed ages older than he was, or perhaps he was for once acting his age. But it was those moments that worried Hiccup. Gobber was never one to let his age or disabilities hinder him in any way. When he was genuinely tired, Hiccup knew there was something wrong.

Gobber caught her sad expression and instantly scowled. "I don't' need yer pity!" He barked. Aaaand, he was back. "You hold down the fort. I'll try to reason with your boar-headed father." They both snorted at that and Gobber left with an exaggerated battle cry. They both knew there was no reasoning with Stoick the Vast, Chieftain of the Citadel of Berk, Commander of the largest and fiercest army in the Barbaric Lands. Hiccup just shook her head and silently wished Gobber luck.

"Hey Gobber," Hiccup stopped Gobber at the large entrance. The large man stopped and looked at her expectantly. "C-could you, you know… ask him again?" she said quietly, her large green eyes uncharacteristically serious as she stared up at her mentor pleadingly.

"Ah, lass, you know his answer…"

"But I haven't messed anything up recently… well, nothing big anyway. And nothing big has blown up, and I-" She was cut off with a wave of Gobber's hand.

He sighed exaggeratedly, pulling his good hand over his face before looking back down at his apprentice. He had to admit, she had been exceptionally good these last few weeks since her father's previous rejection. All the lass wanted was to join training when it inevitably started up this fall, but although he was the training instructor, it was not his decision to make whether or not she could join. She had confronted her father on the matter numerous occasions, but his answer had stayed the same. A while back, Hiccup had recruited Gobber to help with her plight. But even with him on her side, the Viking chief remained unmoved in his decision for his daughter to stay out of the fray.

"Just once more, Gobber. Please. If – if he says no this time, I'll never ask again," she held his gaze with determined yet pleading eyes.

"Alright-"

"Yes!" She jumped up and shook Gobber's forearm in her excitement. "Thank you, thank you, thank yo-"

"Just this once, and I'm not making any promises, I cannit say I can change his mind," Gobber didn't want her getting her hopes up. She nodded furiously but an exuberant smile split her face as she quickly hugged him. He patted her frizzing red hair and turned to leave. He understood what this meant to his apprentice, and if she was willing to put all her hope in him, then by Thor, he wasn't about to fail her. If anyone had a chance of changing Stoick's mind, it was his best friend and right-hand man.

Hiccup watched her mentor stride down to bronze platted corridor feeling her hope shrink a little with every step. She quickly gathered it again. If anyone could change her father's mind, it was Gobber.