The Firebrands

Several weeks have passed since the calamity and the government was still struggling to deal with all the problems. The homeless were numerous, diseases had begun spreading, and the casualty rate was climbing.

The government was doing its best, of that I am sure; I work for them. I could see the warehouses of supplies saved for calamities being emptied. The refugee camps were built as quickly and as sturdily as possible, but there were just not enough resources; not enough people. They weren't prepared for a disaster of this magnitude.

Many people were suffering. It was depressing, but there wasn't much we could do about it. Some others, though, believed that the government wasn't doing its part; that they've abandoned the people.

Some less decent folk would use this time of turmoil to turn the people against the government, sparking protests, or worse, violent action. One group of these firebrands had caught the attention of the government despite its hands being full dealing with the disaster relief. My organization has been tasked with finding these firebrands and making sure they are dealt with.

They were in the ruined outskirts of the capital city. There were few living here, unsurprising given the condition of the place. Most people here would be sympathetic to these firebrands. They weren't given priority as the outskirts weren't as devastated as the inner city, though devastated nonetheless.

The government was willing to spare us a small military force: several infantry platoons and an armoured car. They were hiding in standby surrounding the outskirts ready for an assault, or to prevent anyone from escaping, in addition to that, we of the secret police had me, and nine others.

We'd sent five agents into the outskirts yesterday, disguised as victims. They had just reported in now.

"What news, Ferro?" I asked their leader.

"The firebrands are in a small old wrecked warehouse near the centre of Westtown. He has around fifty men occupying the warehouse, and the surrounding buildings, most of which are in ruins. The warehouse is a base, fabricating posters and leaflets defaming the government and several important military and political figures. Not only that, but there have been rumours that they also have men on the inside, ready to plant forged documents to further decrease the government's credibility."

"By the saints…these men are most definitely learned, cunning men, with many resources. We must stop them tonight!"

"That isn't all, sir. I saw several men hauling long boxes into another warehouse close to the edge of the Westtown, definitely rifles or other firearms, as they were also storing boxes of TNT and barrels of black powder there."

"They want to reduce public opinion of the government…what an understatement, sorry, they want the people to hate government, and then arm the people to fight the government."

"What is the plan, sir," one of my underlings asked. I could see the fear in his eyes. I was scared too; knowing what would happen if we failed.

"Ferro, what weapons are they packing?"

"Sir, the firebrands' patrolling thugs have rifles, daggers, axes, and clubs. Only a few of them are actually armed with rifles, and fewer still can hit anything with them. They'll be no problem for us as long as they don't organize and pin us down. The biggest threat, sir, is the machine gun. I have no idea where they got that terror, but it's on a wheeled mount, somewhere in between the two warehouses, able to be pulled to any of the two locations in two minutes, probably."

"Here's what we're to do. Ferro, I need you and your men to get to the weapons storehouse, and set fire to it. The TNT and powder inside would be enough to blow up the warehouse and everything in it. The rest of us will split into two teams of five. Tarov, you and your men will circle around and sneak to the warehouse. Kill any guards you find, discreetly if possible. If we are quick enough, we can storm the warehouse, kill the firebrands, and burn the warehouse down. As soon as smoke rises from the warehouse, we must make our escape. Army forces will attack as soon as the arms warehouse explodes."

"What if something goes wrong," asked Tarov.

"If the arms warehouse explodes before the smoke rises, army forces will assume we are compromised and will attack."

"Why can't we just assault with the army now?"

"The chaos and noise will allow the firebrands to escape before we get to them. No more questions. Let's go."

They all did as they were told, and we approached the firebrand warehouse from the south, Tarov's team from the north. We discreetly took out guards in our path and regrouped near the warehouse, silently killing the guards around it.

"So far, so good," Tarov commented, jinxing the entire operation when the terrifying rattle of a machine gun's fire was heard from a distance. Shouting was heard as well.

"Ferro!"

"No. We need to finish this now. Go!"

We hacked open the locks of the warehouse, and to our terror, we heard the noise of an engine inside. We opened the door to see two trucks making their escape on the warehouse's opposite door, all the defamatory propaganda and all the firebrands with them.

The warehouse exploded, and the firefight intensified when the army joined the fray, the sound of rifles and machineguns caused chaos and allowed the firebrands to escape with ease.

In the aftermath of the battle, we had discovered the Ferro's entire team was killed, cut down by the machinegun which the firebrand had moved, though they managed to throw a torch into the warehouse.

The very next day, the propaganda was spread, and the people began the violent protests. I was still hopeful it would be under control, but we had discovered there were more hidden arms warehouses, and the protests turned into revolution. The country plunged into chaos. I have failed.