It's rather mediocre compared to my other stuff but it was rather fun to write. I wrote it originally in Polish for a competition, but it didn't score anything (instert biased jury QQing here). After some time I rewrote and well here you go. A dark, cold January night. An old, rusty barrack in the middle of a forest two hours of walking north of the city. A little light was coming from the inside. Inside, members of the Elite Para Insertion Corps were resting after a long day of tiresome fighting. Some placed themselves comfortably on the benches and attempted to get some sleep after the hard work. Others were slowly drinking from their water skins and reminiscing on families and homes left far behind, regretting they’ve allowed themselves to get hauled so far away. A few were taking care of their equipment, and the rest was sitting by the table in the middle of the room and playing cards. Suddenly, the sound of footsteps came from outside. Everyone dropped what they were doing, grabbed a weapon and locked their sights on the door. It opened with a crash and a soldier from the recon squad rushed inside. He made just two steps and fell to the ground. Medics ran up, carefully lifted him and moved to a blanket on the side. He propped himself on his elbow and gestured for someone to come closer. A soldier stepped up and stooped to hear what he was whispering. Right as he finished, the wounded dropped on the blanket, fighting for breath. The other straightened up and repeated what he heard from his companion. Silence fell over the barrack. Nobody spoke, nobody moved, even the medics ceased their work. The shock lasted almost a minute. Everyone already sat back down, but after the news lay down in their minds, over a dozen stood up, snatched their rifles and rushed outside. They marched in silence for at least an hour. The weather wasn’t the worst that the Corps has seen in the area – with a cloudless sky, the moon was new, so darkness reigned around them. They stuck close to each other, trying not to get lost in the forest and not blow their cover with flashlights. They reached a small meadow. On its edge Colonel Trickster, the group’s leader, gestured the team to stop. They leaned over one another, trying to see the reason for halting. And what they saw, they didn’t like. The Weavers, pride of the region, towered over the scene. But even they seemed to turn away from the massacre below. Even though snow lay in abundance everywhere around, the meadow was covered in craters and blood. All around, bodies of the Corps’ members lay dead. The group, enraged and craving for revenge as it was, carefully walked around the clearing before entering open ground to make sure they weren’t walking into the same trap while checking if anyone was still alive. Nobody was. They didn’t bother identifying each and every one of the dead. Instead, the search was for a single person – the leader of the recon squad. However, none of the now frozen corpses bore his face or insignia. Major Zeke, highest ranked after Trickster, found a map of the nearby terrain by a corpse. With a little help from a flashlight they inspected the piece of paper, on which a base of the Brenodi Empire was marked. The colonel called to gather back up and march on in battle condition. After half an hour of intense march fuelled by anger and lust for revenge they lay flat on top of a little hill overlooking the whole area, the enemy base in front of them in particular. It was an outpost, but with quite large barracks and garages, in which tanks and APCs of the Empire were stationed. Trickster called for corporal Ends and gave him his binoculars to allow him a look at the enemy. His orders were simple – disable the automatic turrets guarding the perimeter and not get spotted by enemy patrols. Ends nodded and moved towards the base. The next minutes passed in waiting for the signal from him. Patrols passed the area four times before a short signal from a flashlight caught the colonel’s attention. Ends sent it from a small group of dried bushes near a barrack at the edge of the camp. While the corporal was sabotaging the turrets, Zeke organised the rest of the team into two groups. The first, lead by the Major, was to hit the garages and secure safe transport back to the remainder of the Corps, while Trickster and three others reached Ends, rescue their man and regroup with the rest in the garages. They split up under the cover of trees and continued to their targets. Behind the Colonel sneaked Master Sergeant Predator, a grenadier whose fame reached even the Brenodi, Lieutenant Herbie, the best rifleman of the Corps, and Lieutenant Nihia, chief medic. Reaching the camp took them a couple minutes. Knowing that their comrades’ cover can be blown any moment, Trickster only asked the corporal for confirmation of locating the captive soldier. Then, he drew his pistol, stood up and ran to the entrance. The rest took position good for covering the Colonel. He entered a little hall, so he closed the door behind him. He tiptoed to the next door. From the other side, he could hear sounds of beating and groans. He very slowly moved them open a tiny bit to peek inside. He saw an imperial soldier standing over a ragged and heavily wounded prisoner bound to a chair in the middle of the room. He couldn’t see his face, but he knew it was him. He clenched his fists and took a deep breath. He heard taunts and insults addressed to his companion. He looked around the room again. From his position, it was empty save for the two men. He sighed and kicked the door. It opened with a bang. The enemy turned quickly to see Trickster aiming directly at his head with a pistol. - That’s my soldier you are beating! - He roared, losing all control. He fired. The shot hit the youngling directly in the forehead, making him fall on the tied soldier, who produced a painful moan. The Colonel quickly approached him and threw the corpse off of him. He winced once he saw the bloodied and beaten face of Captain Sonecha. Despite the damage, he smiled lightly and asked: - What took you so long, eh? - We couldn’t go faster, trust me. Can you shoot? - At those bastards? Always. Untie me. He did it with pleasure. Afterwards, he gave the Captain his pistol and took out his assault rifle. An explosion shook the building. - It looks like they started without us – noted Sonecha. - So let’s not make them wait – Trickster turned around and slowly exited the room. His comrade limped after him. Members of the Corps were not very good dancers, but there was one dance they were masters at. The dance of war. The explosion was caused by detonating a fuel silo, and it was clearly heard in the city. In smaller settlements, it was a signal to begin the uprising against the Empire’s tyranny. The people, weary of the imperial soldiers’ cruelties, took out their weapons and struck the enemy or escaped to the closest outposts of the Northern Faction. Many headed for the old barrack in the middle of the forest. Members of the Elite Para Insertion Corps, however, had their own worries. The explosion turned the opponents’ attention from Zeke and Sergeant Magnus while they were trying to start up two APCs, but it also alarmed everyone in their vicinity. The rest of the team had to prepare to repel imperial forces, who could easily overwhelm anyone with sheer numbers. Each of them knew what they would face here, but no-one hesitate even for a moment when the life of their friend was at stake. The missing six reached the garages under cover of buildings. Ends and Nihia carried the weakened Sonecha inside one of the transporters. The first imperial soldiers ran straight into the fire of the Corps members. Zeke managed to hotwire one of the transporters. The enemy finally managed to comprehend what was happening and stopped running into open ground in front of the garages, resorting to grenades and forcing the forwarded defenders back. From inside the second vehicle, loud swears of Magnus were clearly heard as he struggled to get it started. Ends hit a grenadier readying himself to shoot right at the transporter. However, he quickly hid behind a block of concrete. The enemies set up heavy machine guns in front of the entrance. After a minute of desperate defence the second engine finally started. At the time, no sound would make the pinned soldiers more happy. Under covering fire of the vehicles’ machine guns they retreated inside them, and Zeke and Magnus put the pedals to the metal, rushing out of the garage. Around the entrance, grenadiers were waiting just for that moment. They were preparing to fire at the escaping APCs. Showers of bullets fell from the slots in the vehicles’ sides, pushing them back into cover. Both of them managed to break through enemy lines unscathed. Trickster sat down between Predator and Sonecha, still tended to by Nihia. - You do realise that they will give chase, right? - We took care of that too – said Zeke through a speaker. – Just look at the fireworks. Indeed, a bright aura spread over the camp. Time and again, an explosion brightened the horizon. The fire spread dreadfully quickly. Trickster fell back on his seat. Sonecha forced a smile. - I honestly thought I was done for. Thank you for the rescue. Everyone in the transporter smiled. - We never leave anyone behind – replied Trickster and returned to admiring the view. Zeke and Magnus drove by the edge of the forest, willing to return to the rest of the Corps as quickly as they could. In the distance, the soldiers saw lights of the city and its surroundings. Everything was lit up, everywhere in the region the people took fight to the Empire. Snow started to fall. And over all this, the Weavers kept their guard. And if someone could see them through the complete darkness of the forest, he would see three big smiles on their stony faces.