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|and Sep0815||Action/Adventure||PG-13||None||No update page|
February 5th, 2015
Water. Earth. Fire. Air.
Long ago, in a time of oppression and war, there existed a country called Poland. For a while we lived in peace and harmony. But then, everything changed on the first day of September, 1939 when the German war machine invaded. My parents died during the opening hours of that fateful day, and I was imprisoned by the invaders.
After making my escape, I joined the Armia Krajowa, a band of freedom fighters seeking to reclaim Poland's freedom. Now, the time has come for the people of Poland to rise up and take back what is ours. But I will not be apart of the Uprising. My superiors have assigned me to protect and escort the Avatar, a girl named Tanya.
The coming days won't be easy, but I will face them head on. I will do my duty and protect Tanya, I will avenge my parents, and I will prove that Poland is Forever Unconquered.
Henryk took a deep breath as he opened his closet in his apartment and slid open the false back. The Blyskawica sub-machine gun that rested inside had been cleaned and maintained religiously for the past year, waiting for this moment. He brushed his fingertips against the inscription he had scrawled out on the wall before he picked up the weapon.
The day had finally come, the Uprising was about to begin. The previous night, Command had mobilized the entirety of the Armia Krajowa within the city. The Uprising was scheduled to begin this afternoon, at Five PM exactly.
"What do you intend to do with that, Mr. Piotrowski?" Tanya asked. She sat on the edge of his bed, well away from any of the windows and cradling her codex in her hands.
"My job, Ms. Rosenberg," he answered as he cocked the weapon.
"Have you ever killed anyone?" Henryk froze at the question.
"Ali, I need a grenade, open that damn briefcase!"
"I can't, its jammed!" The roar of the gunfire was deafening. Henryk and two other AK members crouched behind a pair of cars, exchanging gunfire with the German guards on the other side of the square. To his right crouched a man named Marian, operating under the codename Cichy. Behind the other car crouched Zbigniew or Juno. Henryk himself was using the name Olbrzym, all three of them were supposed to be laying cover fire for the operation.
Cursing under his breath, Henryk popped up over the hood of the car again, firing a burst from his Sten at the nearest guard. The guard fell to the ground, his helmet clattering across the pavement as he landed. As he began to take cover, a stray bullet from a guard smashed into his ankle. Henryk screamed out, both in pain and in rage as he fell back against the car.
"Olbrzym is hit! Olbrzym..." Cichy started, standing partially to shout at their comrades. He never finished as a burst of sub-machine gun fire tore into his shoulder and sprawled him out over the pavement. Henryk wasted no time as he drew his back up weapon, a Luger, and emptied it into the SS trooper that had just shot his friend.
"Cichy is wounded! Someone check on Lot!" he shouted as he threw the empty pistol away and began to slide himself toward his wounded friend. Cichy's chest was heaving as his blood began to pool on the pavement around him. The leader of the operation, a man operating under the codename of Lot was supposed to be in the car of their target, recovering valuable intelligence.
"Lot's hit, everyone fall back!"
"Mr. Piotrowski? Mr. Piotroski!" Henryk blinked as he was pulled out of his flashback. Tanya had her hand on his shoulder, shaking him in order to bring him back to reality.
"Ms. Rosenberg, I would much prefer it if you called me Henryk, or Sergeant. Mr. Piotrowski was my father," he said, ignoring her question. Tanya's eyes narrowed slightly, obviously aware that he was avoiding her question.
"Very well, but in return you have to call me Tanya," she said.
"Alright....Tanya." The Avatar eyed her protector warily as he slid an ammunition pouch on over his brown leather jacket. A few days ago he had been dressed like something out of a movie or a wealthy neighborhood, and his attitude had suggested that he had shown interest in her as a romantic. But now, all of that had changed. He dressed for comfort and necessity rather than look, and his demeanor had turned as cold as ice.
Strangely though, she found that she enjoyed his company. Even though he brushed off her worries about being the Avatar as little more than superstition, and often cared little about her responsibilities, she found that it gave her hope in the face of otherwise bleak conditions.
Sitting on the bed again, she opened the codex and began to skim through the pages. After a moment of searching, she stopped on the page dedicated to her previous life. In the upper left hand corner of the page rested a photo of him standing against a wall at attention in his uniform for the Bolsheviks. The rest of the page was dominated by Russian writing, with the photo of his body at the bottom as a foot note.
"That's your previous life, huh?" Henryk asked, looking over her shoulder. Tanya nodded, not looking away from the photograph.
"His actions helped the Bolsheviks win the Civil War and bring about the Soviet Union. Perhaps if he had not existed, things would be different," she muttered.
"I wouldn't be so sure." Tanya turned and shot a look over her shoulder at him.
"You don't speak Russian do you?" he asked. As much as she hated to admit it, Henryk was right. She knew what she did thanks to the translations that had been given to her when she had received the Codex, the rest had been pieced together through rumor and assumptions she had made herself.
"Do you speak Russian?" she asked. Henryk nodded.
"My father lived in Moscow during the Great War. He came to Poland when the Bolshevik coup took control of the city," he said as he took the book from her and sat down next to her.
"It says that Maxim Morozov was a conscript for the Russian Imperial Army at the age of seventeen. He lost the ring and little finger on his left hand at the Battle of Tannenberg and was sent to work in a factory in Petrograd. There he remained until the October Revolution, when he joined the Bolsheviks in the storming of the Winter Palace. Became an up and coming member of the Red Army and fought in the Russian Civil War until February of 1919 when he was outed as the Avatar. Accused of treason for hiding this fact about himself, Morozov was forced to flee. He switched sides and was instrumental in helping the Whites take control of Crimea. Continued to fight for the Whites for the rest of 1919 until he was captured when the Red Army retook Kiev. He was tried and held in prison in Moscow until the Seventeenth of May, 1927, when he was executed on the personal orders of Stalin."
"May 17th? That's the day I was born," Tanya breathed as she looked at her predecessor in a new light.
"I do not believe this man was the monster you have been making him out to be," Henryk said as he closed the Codex and handed it back to its owner. Tanya took the book with a new found sense of reverence. If she was wrong about Maxim, who else could she have been wrong about?
Her Protector didn't seem to take notice, or really care for that matter as he stood and walked toward the nearest window. Henryk adjusted his weapon so that it rested over his shoulder blade, and therefore wasn't visible when he looked down into the street below. A German patrol was marching past, and the earthbender found he had to clench his fists in order to resist breaking out the window and spraying them with gunfire.
This didn't go unnoticed by Tanya, who had looked up from the codex to find that some stones on a nearby table were levitating. At first she was confused. Yes, she was the Avatar, but her bending abilities had yet to extend beyond that of the manipulation of fire. Then she remembered that Henryk had stated that he was an earthbender when they had first met, and she noticed his stiff form and snarl like breathing.
"What is it?" she asked, placing a hand on his upper arm. Instantly Henryk jumped like he had been startled, and the stones fell back to the table with a loud bang. Henryk looked like he was getting ready to reprimand her, but Tanya spoke first when she noticed the patrol.
"You hate them, for more than just the fact that they occupied your home, don't you?" she asked. Henryk's mouth hung open for a moment before he closed it and cast a sad glance toward the floor.
"My mother and father were killed by a German unit on the first day of the Invasion, shot down in the road right in front of me," he said. Tanya covered her mouth in horror. The Germans had taken her family away after the Ghetto Uprising. She didn't know what had happened to them, but she had always held onto the hope that she would see them again one day. But to have your own parents killed before your very eyes, she couldn't fathom such a thing.
"I was imprisoned for no reason other then the Germans didn't want another bitter orphan running around free. But after about a year, they discovered I was a bender. And they sent me to Auschwitz," Henryk continued, pulling up the sleeve on his left arm to revel the numbers 911939 tattooed on his left forearm.
"Benders are given a secret number, beginning with the number nine. It set us apart from the rest of the prisoners so that they could find us easier." For a moment, Tanya was puzzled by his statement. Then she looked closer at his arm. All around the tattoo were scars. Knife incisions that had not fully healed, places where a needle had been injected and not properly removed, and a faint ring around his wrist, from where a rope had been tied to hold him down and had rubbed him raw due to his struggling.
The more Tanya looked, the more her horror grew. She began to understand why he was so cold, and why his hatred of the Germans burned so fierce. Before she had time to think, she took his hand and pulled him into a hug. Henryk blinked in surprise. After five years, it felt strange to be embraced by someone who had not been a comrade in arms.
Strange, and yet pleasant. The peak of her fiery red head was level with point of his nose, filling his nostrils with the sent of her hair. Against his better judgment, he raised his arms and returned the hug. It was awkward, but they both found the experience enjoyable. After a moment they pulled back, but they didn't separate. For one burning instant, Henryk felt a feeling he never had before as he looked into her eyes. His heart pounded, his hands and feet felt clammy, and the sudden urge to lean down and catch her lips with his own filled him.
But then, something happened that broke the spell. Henryk caught a glimpse of the face of his watch. The time read 4:40.
"We need to meet up with Danielius and the others," he said as everything he had just felt vanished beneath the return of the cold demeanor he had before. Tanya stepped back, cleared her throat, and nodded hurriedly as she mentally raced to collect herself. As she set to gathering up her few belongings, Henryk looked around the apartment that had been his home for the better part of a year. Part of him wondered if he would ever see it again.
"I'm ready," Tanya said, a meager rucksack hanging over her shoulder. Without a word, Henryk turned and led the way out the door and down the stairs. The location they were going, a warehouse, rested at the other end of the block that the apartment complex sat on. Rather than walk out the front door as he had to meet with Command or to be introduced to Tanya, he led the way to the back of the building.
Henryk opened a door only slightly and peaked outside into the alleyway. Once he was sure the coast was clear, he motioned for Tanya to follow. Together they slipped through the alley, like a pair of mice hurrying to avoid being seen by a cat. When they reached a simple gray metal door, not far from the alley exit, Henryk stopped and banged on the door three times with his fist.
"Who knocks?" came a male voice from behind the door.
"One who will see justice be done," Henryk replied. In an instant, the door flew open, and both Henryk and Tanya were hurried inside.
"You made good time, Sergeant Piotrowski," the man who operated the door said as he slid a series of bolts back into place, securing the door against anyone who would try to follow. Henryk ignored the man as he led Tanya deeper into the warehouse.
The Avatar had never seen so many members of the Armia Krajowa in one place. Men and women from all walks of life and all ages stood about, wearing the red and white arm band that identified them. Mixtures of German, Russian, British, Polish, and even American weapons were cradled in the arms of about half the members that were present.
"Why doesn't everyone have a gun?" Tanya whispered.
"Command doesn't have the means of arming everyone. They're hoping that more weapons will become available when the Uprising starts," Henryk replied as he took and arm band and slid it on his left bicep over his jacket. After six months of being under cover, it felt good to wear it again. As he finished with the armband, he looked at his watch.
"It's almost time," he said, mostly to himself. Everything he had done, all the work and effort of his time in the Armia Krajowa had led to this moment.
Danielius appeared above the crowd that had gathered, standing on top of what must have once been the warehouse foreman office. On his head rested a German helmet with a red and white stripped band around it. Resting at ease across his midsection was an StG 44, recently captured from a German ammunition dump.
"Brothers and sisters of Warsaw, our time has come!" he shouted, silencing the murmur that had been the dominating noise. All eyes turned toward the Lithuanian, waiting, expecting.
"For five long, brutal years we've lived under German oppression. We've lived in fear of being taken from our homes or off the street, either to be worked to death in some far away camp or to be lined up and shot like some rabid dog. We've watched as friends and loved ones were butchered like cattle. Well I say no more! After today, it will be the Germans who will live in fear! They will know the wrath of an oppressed people: Jews, Gypsies, Gays, Catholics, all of us united as Poles!"
Cheers of approval went up from the crowd, many of them thrusting their fists into the air.
"Hitler sees us as little more than a source of slaves for his 'Master Race'. Well I say piss on him, and piss on his supposed Master Race! Even Slaves can rise up and kill the Master! Today, when those doors open, do not hesitate in what needs to be done! Kill the German, take his rifle and his ammunition, and keep going! If you already have a weapon, give it to your comrades! If a comrade falls, take his weapon and pass it on! Do not fear, do not run away, keep moving! Every street, every building, every floor, every room, every German until Warsaw is free!"
The entirety of the warehouse was cheering now, raising their hands and their weapons in support. Even Henryk and Tanya joined in, caught up in the moment.
"A great day is upon us, my friends! History calls to us!" He thrust his fist into the air.
The entire warehouse thrust their fists upwards as well, answering his shout with their own. Danielius jumped down from the office top and hurried into the frenzied crowd, and Henryk checked his watch again.
It was time. The fate of Warsaw rested in the balance.
"Open the doors! Rise!" The main warehouse doors creaked open, and the entirety of the people inside charged out into the street. Henryk didn't rush with them, but rather he took Tanya by the hand and led her to the wall closest to the now open doors. As he pressed against the wall, he took notice of a German flag hanging from a balcony overhead.
"Private, with me!" he shouted to a teenager who was supporting a pole with a proud Polish flag on it. The Private said nothing as he followed Henryk and Tanya up a nearby flight of stairs and out the second floor doorway to the balcony where the German flag flew. The red banner, flapping with a light breeze, was showing off the white circle and black swastika that dominated its center.
Henryk wasted no time in grabbing up this flag and leading the way toward the corner of the building that overlooked an intersection. In the middle of the intersection, a German patrol stood idly while its commanding officer, a lieutenant, looked over the fruits of a young woman's stand. They had no idea about the brewing uprising that was less than a block away.
Henryk recognized the woman. She had been a lookout for the Home Army ever since he had taken up residence in this area. He knew what she was capable of.
"Tanya, stay down," he said without looking over his shoulder, knowing that Tanya had followed him. After a moment, he raised the German flag and swung it back and forth like a signalman, getting the soldiers' attention. As they took notice of the two Poles above them, Henryk did what a few days ago would have been considered suicide.
He lit the flag on fire with his lighter, and cast it into the street below.
The Germans and others watched, dumbstruck at the bold move. It was only when the Private waved the Polish flag back and forth did they start to react by readying their weapons. But Henryk was ready for that, in fact, it was what he had been hoping for.
"Warsaw! Rise!" he shouted, thrusting his fist into the air. Like she had practiced this move a thousand times, the woman running the fruit stand produced a Walther P38 and aimed it right between the Lieutenant's eyes. The man could only seem to stare in awe as she thumbed the hammer and fired a single shot.
For an instant, it was as if time had come to a stand still. The noise of a city had vanished, replaced with the fading report of a gunshot. The Lieutenant fell backwards, landing spread eagle at the feet of his patrol.
The soldiers never got to react, as members of the Armia Krajowa burst onto the street, tearing them apart with gunfire. They kept running, only the ones who didn't have a weapon stopped to arm themselves and pick up ammunition. As Henryk watched all of this unfold, he could not help but smile. No longer would they have to hide in the shadows, now they could step into the light and be free once more.
"I wish I had a camera," he said to Tanya as she appeared next to him. The Private, who had long since vanished into the streets with his friends, had propped up the flag he had been carrying so that it stood freely in the fading afternoon sunlight.
"Do you think they will succeed?" Tanya asked as they watched the Uprising spread.
"I honestly do not know. Hope is what drives them, and most times that is all you need," he replied. Tanya turned to look at him fully.
"Do you honestly think you can get me to Sweden from here, Henryk? You've seen the Codex; an Avatar always dies before their mission is complete," she said.
"I also noticed something else in that fancy little book of yours, none of your previous lives had someone watching their back. I will get you to Sweden, Tanya, even if I have to swim the Baltic with you on my back."
Notes and Trivia
1. Operation Tempest, or Operation Storm in English was a series of Polish led uprisings intended to help the Red Army as it liberated Poland, the largest of which was the Warsaw Uprising.
2. Operation Kutschera, depicted during the flashback, was an operation carried out by twelve men and women of the Home Army on the morning of February 1st, 1944. Three out of the twelve, Lot, Cichy, and Olbrzym were wounded during the initial shootout. Both Lot and Cichy died of their wounds after several hospitals in the Warsaw area refused to treat them. Two others, Sokol and Juno, were intercepted by a German Patrol on a bridge over the Vistula River later that day and were shot after they jumped into the river and tried to swim to safety.
3. Henryk's identification tattoo of 911939 is a reference to September 1st, 1939, the first day of World War II.
4. Henryk states that benders at Aushwitz were issued an ID number beginning with 9. In reality, only 400,000 numbers were issued, with each set ending at 20,000 before reverting to number 1, making his number an impossibility.
5. Five PM, or W-Hour as it was referred to, was a last minute choice by the Command of the Home Army. Although many members partaking in the uprising had years of urban combat and partisan experience, most were trained for an attack beginning in the early morning hours, making the choice of Five PM a questionable one.
6 As Warsaw was not originally a target city of Operation Tempest, much of the required weapons and equipment had been sent elsewhere and was unable to be recalled by the start of the Uprising.
7 The scene of the German patrol being taken by surprise was not an uncommon one on the first day of the Uprising. The Warsaw Garrison had been elevated to full alert after fighting had broken out in Napoleon Square at around 4:30 PM, only a half hour before the Uprising began and many units out on patrol were unable to be recalled. For many of them, they were unaware of the Uprising until Resistance Fighters were attacking them.
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