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Second Imperial Army Camp, 'Centre' of the Front

The General in charge of the Second Army paced about his tent in frustration. Braziers of burning coal lit and warmed the tent against the night. His army of a hundred thousand was bogged by the numerous enemy forts and defensives laid before their path of advance! The rebels were like the pesty prairie burrowers, which liked to dig burrows and hunters who hunted the prairie burrowers for their pelt had to stop and check each and every mound.

And that was not all, the rebels had developed some kind of hit and run tactics, laying traps and ambushes out of nowhere. His best trackers tried their best to track down the rebels but they always came to a dead end as the rebels' tracks seemed to stop in the middle of a field and vanish into thin air.

His dragons also fared poorly against the rebel's demonic flying crosses. The rebel's fliers could outfly his fastest light weights and even take on the strongest heavy weight dragons in his command. Thankfully, those thrice cursed giant flying crosses no longer appeared and hound his forces with their egg shaped fire bombs.

The General paused in his tracks and glared at his retinue who shrank back from his fearsome gaze. "Another supply camp destroyed? Was the rebel scums caught this time?"

The men in the command tent looked at each other sheepishly before the bearer of the bad news bowed and said. "No Lord General..."

"The rebels had disappeared before our trackers manage to find them..." The bearer said.

"AGAIN!" The General roared and slammed his fist against the table. "AGAIN AND AGAIN! Are you all fools? How can a small group of rebel scum sneak in and out of our lines? ARE ALL YOUR EYES BLIND?!"

The men all kept their heads down and remained quiet at their Lord General's tirade. "How many men do we have? Yet the rebels couldn't even be caught EVERY SINGLE TIME!"

"FIND THEM!" The General roared. "USE ALL MEANS... BUT FIND THEM! Or you lot will be hanging by the end of the day! GO!"

The General's retinue frightened by his threat all rushed out of the tent to carry out the General's orders.

"Damn you rebels!" The General sat down. "Curse you!"

-----

3 km From Extraction Point Alpha

The shadowy figure in the front suddenly froze and shot up a clenched fist. Instantly the men behind him froze as well and ever so slowly lowered to a crouch.

The point man gave a thumbs down to indicate the presence of the enemy and raised two fingers followed by a fist and pointed. The section leader nodded and spread his fingers before his face and waved the men to deploy on the left and right.

The glow of several torches slowly came into view as the patrol of Imperial soldiers marched over. The Marines could hear the Imperial's grumbling as they stumbled in the dark in such an ungodly hour trying to find the rebels that had earlier just burnt down a camp filled with supplies.

The section leader chopped his hand down and the section of Marines fired their suppressed rifles and seconds later, the entire column of Imperial soldiers laid dead or dying.

"Stamp out the fires!" The section leader hissed. "And silence those still alive!"

The Marine raiders move out of cover and started the grim job of finishing off any wounded or dying. Others stamped on the fallen torches and the area once again was shrouded in darkness.

"Trap the bodies!" The SL ordered next. A couple of Marines removed the pins of the grenades and carefully rested the bodies of the Imperials facing downwards on top of the grenade' arming spoon. Should the bodies be turned over, the arming spoon will bounce off and whoever is still standing there will get a bellyful of shrapnel.

"Hurry up!" The SL checked his illuminated watch face. "Pickup coming soon!"

"Done! Sarge!" The Marines setting the booby traps replied.

"Let's go!" The SL waved the men forward and they silently left the area.

-----

Arche used to be a hunter until he got caught by Imperial soldiers for poaching inside the Emperor's forest. He was given a choice, lose an arm, become a slave or serve the Imperial Army. Now, he served the same Emperor as a tracker for the Second Imperial Army.

He was not the best nor was he the worse tracker in the Army. And tonight, he was roused out of his thin bedding to track a group of rebels that had sneaked past the Imperial lines and torched a camp full of supplies.

He squatted down and carefully observed the ground under the light of the burning torches. There were a few trampled prints on the soft soil and lowered his head to ground level. "Looks like a small group heading that way, maybe five or eight people..."

The Imperial Captain nodded and shouted a few commands to his men who climbed to their feet and got ready to move off. Arche straightened up and followed the tracks while the rest of the soldiers followed behind.

Arche suddenly stopped and sniffed the air, he touched the leaves of the undergrowth and hissed, "I can smell blood!"

The Imperials soldiers immediately readied themselves and cast alert glances around their surroundings. Arche crept forward and yelled for the soldiers to come, "We are too late!"

Bodies of Imperial soldiers laid sprawled where they had been ambushed. The smell of blood had attracted a few small night scavengers which scurried off when the soldiers appeared. The Imperial Captain growled at the sight while the other soldiers felt anger at seeing their own dead.

Arche slowly and carefully bent over the terrain around the bodies as he studied the ground for any tracks of the rebels. He frowned and picked up a large fine ring with a piece of slim two pronged metal attached to it.

He held the strange ring up to the light and observed its fine craftsmanship and slipped it into his pocket and returned to observing the ground around the bodies. He noticed the bodies were not looted despite the number of tracks around them. "Strange..."

The Imperial Captain came next to Arche squatting by one of the bodies and asked. "What now, tracker?"

"Captain," Arche stood up and said, "Their tracks head that way. But I find it strange they did not stop to loot the bodies..."

The Imperial Captain was a veteran of several wars and he knew that a basic soldier's instinct was to loot the dead. He too found the words of the trackers to be strange and turned around, to see some of his own men going through the bodies of the dead for coin or food and drink.

Suddenly, realising something, the Imperial Captain yelled at his men, "STOP! DON'T MOVE THE BODIES!"

But his words came too slow as some of the soldiers had already rolled the dead over and there was a soft metallic 'PANG' sound. The soldiers paused at their Captain's yelled but at the same time they looked down at the cause of the noise. One of the soldiers even picked up the small dark egg shaped object when the triggered grenades blew up one by one.

-----

The Marine raiders jerked to a halt as a ripple of thunder echoed down the forest. "Damn! They are almost on us!"

"Double time!" The SL said. "Ignore stealth!"

The Marine raiders quickly moved faster through the undergrowth as they head closer to the rendezvous point with their pickup. They only barely travelled fifteen minutes before the explosions behind them came, meaning that the enemy was very close at their tail!

"Hopefully that trap will slow and confuse them down!" The Marine raider SL yelled. "We are nearly to the extraction zone!"

The Marines kept up their pace and finally they emerged from the forest and out into a large field of chest height waving grass. The SL turned to the radioman and said, "Call it in!"

The men spread out in a defensive circle automatically and kept watch of their surroundings while the radioman radio for extraction, "Griffin Six Zero, this is Romeo, do you copy? Over."

"Griffin Six Zero, read you loud and clear."

"Romeo, requesting immediate extraction at Point Alpha. Over."

"Roger that Romeo, standby, five mikes!"

The Marines remained tensed as they waited for the helo to come in to pick them up. They do not know if there were any Imperial pursuits nearby. Five minutes crawled slowly and suddenly there came the roar of rotors growing loud as the helo came nearer and nearer.

"Pop the flare!" The Marine raid Sergeant ordered and one of the men, ripped the ignition tab of the flare stick and instantly an eye searing red glow and sparks hissed out.

The Marine waved the ignited flare at the approaching blacked out helo. They saw a large shadow descent over their heads and the tail end cargo doors opened exposing the red lit internal cabin. "Quick it, Mar eens! Quick!"

The Marines fell back towards the hovering CH - 1 'Flying Banana' and quickly boarded. The short goblin crew chief didn't even wait for the last man to completely get into the helo before he slammed the button to shut the rear hatch. The goblin yelled into his oversized headset, "Mar eens all aboard!"

The pilot applied power to the rotors and the helo swung forward as it shot up over the treetops and headed back to base while the Marines onboard grumbled as some of them had yet strapped in. "Come on Wattz! Can't you wait for us to buckle up before you tell the pilot to take off?"

"Can't help it if slow Mar eens slow!" Wattz the goblin rolled his eyes behind his cool aviator shades. "You make pick up slow! Get onboard slow! Sit slow! Now tell me to slow down?"

"Shit, we might have missed Greg but please no, not another wise ass goblin!" One of the Marine raiders mumbled.

"What? Did you say Greg?" Wattz's eyes glittered behind his shades. "Greg's the best! Oh yea! All gobs wanna be like Greg!"

"PLEASE NO!"

-----

Second Imperial Army Camp

Arche limped his way towards the Lord General's ornately decored tent as he was summoned by the General himself. Several Life Guards of the General gave way to him as he was brought into the tent. Inside the tent, the interior was even more gaudily decored with the large table being the centrepiece.

He swallowed nervously as he saw the number of nobles and senior commanders all watching him from all sides while the Lord General sat at one end of the table. Arche went down on one knee and bowed. "Your humble servant, My Lord."

"Tell me word by word, what happened to the scum that burnt down my supplies!" The Lord General spoke from his seat. "And how did they escape!"

"Y- Yes, My lord!" Arche nodded fervently and started to narrate everything from tracking the rebels to finding the trap and finally how the tracks just stopped in the middle of nowhere. He did not mention that used the Captain's body to block the deadly effects of the trap when it when off, thus gaining his life.

"Again?" The Lord General's expression was dark as it was always the same. The rebel will disappear in an open field with their tracks stopping there.

"M- my Lord," Arche spoke. "There is one more thing..."

"What?" The General's furious gaze landed on Arche making him tremble in fright.

"I- W- We all heard... something loud..." Arche sought the words to describe what he and the surviving soldiers heard. "Like a dragon roaring non stop or... something like rolling thunder that went on endlessly... The sound disappeared later... and when we followed the tracks, we found the rebels had disappeared..."

"A continuous rolling thunder?"

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Was down with flu the past week... had to self barricade myself in my room =/


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neo Koh

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