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23 August, 1939 (Headlines) In a move that has shocked the political world at large; the governments of Germany and the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics have concluded and signed a treaty of mutual non-aggression.

The released statements of many world leaders has ranged across the spectrum, from ones of rejoicing that the prospects of another great war in Europe has been avoided, to others who unofficially are seeking more information or are involved in a series of 'intense discussions' with allied governments.

1 September, 1939 (Headlines) Ladies and gentlemen today it is my sad duty to announce that war has returned to the continent of Europe as on this day the armed forces of Germany have invaded western Poland. Heavy fighting is reported by all sides, with Germany announcing 'deep, massive and sweeping penetration' by its armed forces.

Allegedly the Polish army is already collapsing; surrendering in ever growing numbers and the government has fled the nation for asylum in Romania.

Unofficial accounts from radio operators in Poland speak of continued resistance that is 'stout, strong and determined' in the face of the unprovoked aggression of Germany. Many world leaders have strongly denounced this aggression on the part of the government of Germany, with France, Britain and the United States of America demanding that the armies of Germany cease all hostilities at once.

This is to be followed by withdrawal to the original border, while an international mediation via the League of Nations occurs to settle the matter of hostilities between the respective governments. No comment has been relayed from the German government. 3 September, 1939 (Headlines) On this day the crisis in Europe has grown exponentially, with the governments of France and Britain officially declaring war upon the government of Germany for the invasion of Poland. Contacts within the respective military and government departments tell that armed intervention in Poland, and the direct territorial invasion of Germany 'shall occur within a hand count of days, or at most, before the next two weeks are over.' The fighting continues on, with the government of Germany reporting more and more territory gained with each passing hour, while Polish sources report the main thrust of the German Blitzkrieg has been blunted, but that the nations casualties have been high.

The announcement of the declaration of war by France and Britain has brought renewed hope for the beleaguered nation. 17 September, 1939 (Headlines) In a move of blatant opportunism and aggression the armies of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics have invaded eastern Poland. The representatives of the USSR declared that the move is to ensure that law and order and stability are maintained in the face of the complete collapse of the Polish government.

Within hours the move had been condemned by most members of the League of Nations… 5 October, 1939 (Headlines) Poland has officially ceased to exist according to the governments of Germany and the USSR.

The small nations of Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia have been annexed by the USSR after being coerced into signing one sided 'mutual defense pacts' with the central communist government of Russia&hellip. Unconfirmed reports mention that officials from Finland have been invited to Moscow for 'discussions of a most specific nature concerning the mutual defense of both countries.' One former high-ranking military officer explained that usually means 'Moscow makes the threats and Finland will make concessions, or there shall be war in the end…' â‚°â‚° Deep in the halls of STAVKA, Supreme Headquarters for the armed forces of the USSR, the assembled leaders stand at attention as the lone man walked calmly in the door and silently proceeded to the head of the long, map-covered table.

His every footfall echoed like thunder across the room, and heightened the thick tension that was further magnified by his aura of power, authority, ruthlessness and determination. He reveled in the fear that radiated from all of those present, for all knew with a simple gesture, a nod, or one spoken word, he could make or break any or all of their careers, send them to the gulag for life, or have them summarily executed.

Taking his seat he motioned for all to sit and began to explain the matters at hand. "Comrades, the conquest of Poland and the annexation of Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia are nearing completion. The ancient territories of our great Rodinia are nearly complete, with one vexing exception. Despite our most generous offers to them, the lackeys of the Imperialist West, especially those of Britain, who 'govern' in Finland, have slapped aside the hand of communist generosity." "Comrades, as of now I am instructing all of you to enact the plans we have prepared for such an eventuality," the man stated, hammering away on the table with his fist as his eyes, cold and gray, blazed with fury and rage at the government who has defied him since he was forced to sign the 1921 Treaty of Tartu forced upon the peaceful people of the USSR by the decrepit and Imperialist-led League of Nations.

"Comrades, explain to me again every detail of the plans as they exist at this time, do not leave out one detail," he declared as he motioned for the NKVD guards, members of the feared State Security apparatus, to watch for the first hint of defeatism, hesitation or anything that may be construed as treason.

For those so suspected the results would be publically declared 'a quiet and well earned retirement'… Something that all at the table, especially the man who inspired such awe and terror in all about him, knew to mean 'death by firing squad.' For that lone man, Premier Joseph Stalin, he wanted it no other way. He and he alone ruled in the USSR, and he held the fate of all in his hands alone. For nearly twenty years he had fumed over the humiliation Finland and her Imperialist backers had inflicted upon him in 1921.

So now he will have his revenge and have the proper lands of the Old Russian Tsar's restored to the motherland, under proper communist guidance of course. He listened as the details were explained over several hours, with only one small addition proposed to ensure there will be no doubt as to 'Finnish aggression' being the cause of the coming invasion.

"Make it so," said Stalin. 31 October, 1939 (Headlines) Today before the assembly of the Supreme Soviet, Foreign Minister Molotov, for the first time in public announced the terms 'requested' of the government of Finland to 'ensure the defenses of the peaceful people of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics.' The 'requests,' a polite term for what most people in the democratic nations of the world will call 'demands at the point of a gun' were for land to be leased for thirty years, or transferred directly into the hands of the USSR while the government of Finland would receive in return land that is barren and worthless.

German Chancellor Adolph Hitler has called upon the people of Finland and their leaders to accept the terms peacefully while time remains for them to do so… Needless to say, the message of 'while time remains for them to do so…' has dramatically increased tensions in a continent already at war between the Allies and the Axis powers. â‚°â‚° Stephen half-listened to the news coming from the daily radio broadcasts that detailed the current build up of tension between Finland and Russia.

Day by day the negotiations had been summarized in the typical way of Stalin and his cohorts… "Agree to our terms with no compromise or face the fist of steel from our armies." That is the message they have sent before, when Finland finally won its independence at the end of the Great War.

Memories of that fierce time played across his mind as he examined the masterly-crafted rifle that he held; its perfect design and balance, custom-made as a birthday present to one special to him, will make her one of the greatest of hunters ever to stalk game in the woods.

The new scope mounted to it was commissioned by a friend of his, whose designs were a generation or more ahead of their time. Stephen twirled and tossed the rifle; rapidly worked the bolt-action to gain the final feel of how smooth it will play when time was of the essence as he learned recently with a bear that almost had him for dinner. No flaw could be found, no blemish, no mistake in his greatest creation of all the firearms he has handcrafted in his life as an armorer, soldier, hunter and…dealer in goods and stuff best left unexplained and preferably never found by agents of the law.

He and his friends had prepared to the best they could…let the Russians come, the hornets nest waits… Pleased with the rifle he slid it into its white-fur-lined scabbard and double checked the harness for any flaw.

Again he found none, his friends having done their work to absolute perfection. "She will love this rifle," Stephen said as he mulled over the coming event, "her birthday is on the 30th of November. I will be there and show her how to hunt with her new rifle; she will hunt as never before until all know her name." All too soon Stephen would come to understand the prophetic tone of his words.

For that rifle will be wielded by one to become a legend… 24 November, 1939 (Headlines) Tensions continue to build between the government of Finland and the USSR as two counter proposals were made to find an honorable solution to the demands of Moscow.

Both proposals were summarily rejected as being completely unacceptable on the premise they would leave the USSR completely vulnerable in the region of Leningrad. All diplomatic ties between Finland and the USSR have been severed by the departure of the Finnish party after being ordered home to Helsinki for 'consultations.' 26 November, 1939 (Headlines) Unconfirmed reports coming from the party news services of the USSR have declared a 'surprise and dastardly attack on Russian territory has occurred by units of the Fascist government of Finland upon instructions by their masters, the Imperialist Industrialists of the West.' Foreign Minister Molotov has condemned this 'massacre of Russian youth and destruction of much Russian history in the border village of Mainila… â‚°â‚° "My fellow comrades," declared the legendary 'man of steel,' Premier Stalin to the Soviet High Command who stood at attention before the table where he sat.

"Negotiations have fallen through with the Fascist government of Finland, and now we have this unprovoked assault upon our homeland. As per plans already prepared for such an occurrence, the orders are henceforth given to you and your troops…just before dawn on 30 November the great army of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics shall invade Finland and liberate her oppressed masses who cry for freedom under a proper communist government." His anger flared hot in his eyes and iron-cold in his words as he slammed his hand on the hard table, "I will be very clear in this matter.

Failure will not be tolerated; the slightest sign of incompetence, cowardly action and treason against the party or the state will mean summary execution by the NKVD.

All orders and plans made will be approved by them before any are carried out. Remember, they answer to me alone…" Needless to say everyone got the message. Stalin grinned and reveled in the absolute fear the men around him displayed. HE was in control, the master of all in Russia to do with as he pleased.

Soon enough the disgrace inflicted upon him by Finland so long ago will be avenged, a dark spot on his fierce reputation. Everyone present knew that the words he spoke of failed negotiations were mere window dressing, for the might of four Russian Army Corps was in place at key crossing points along the Finland Russian border.

Invasion had been inevitable for some time, and the Fin's would pay for their obstinacy in fire and blood. 30 November 1939 rear-area of Russian Ninth Army Corp Major-General Yuri Bogdan watched the border region from the wooded ridge just shy of the Finnish-Russian border. The small village, little more than a hamlet not even worthy of a mark on any official map, showed at the limits of his binoculars, just one more minor obstacle for the grand liberation of Finland that will be erased in a few more minutes.

He turned to the regimental commanders who surrounded him, each standing tall and proud, as he gave them his final instructions in the great crusade that is to commence.

Each order was repeated back in precise detail to him and to the division's chief commissar, Major-General Vitaly of the NKVD (State Security). All of the officers knew that one misstep, one failure, one infraction, or the appearance of any of the aforementioned, can become grounds for summary execution by the NKVD. Anyone doubting that only had to glance at the freshly turned earth that marked thirty graves of fellow officers who were shot an hour ago for 'inappropriate lack of fighting spirit for the cause of the state.' "Comrades," Major-General Bogdan spoke to the gathered officers, "our division has been granted the honor of spearheading the crusade in the liberation of our communist brethren from the fascists who currently rule Finland.

As you know, less than 72 hours ago, our sovereign soil was violated in a border clash designed to provoke the world's sympathy for the banditti leaders of Finland and thus turn them against our honorable leader Comrade Stalin." He watched Major-General Vitaly casually stroll back and forth around the officers, as one would expect of a rancher or farmer inspecting his prized collection of cows and steers before sending them to market.

He went on with his speech, "Comrades, each of us will execute our parts to perfection, and we will maintain radio silence as per Army Headquarters orders until instructed otherwise.

Use the motorbike couriers you have well and with due diligence, no opportunity to crush the enemy must be wasted." He hammered his clenched fist into his gloved hand, "Speed, shock and unrelenting pressure, this is how we shall split this section of the front line wide open and advance ever onward.

All prisoners taken are to be sent to our comrades of State Security unless directed, as per orders signed by Premier Comrade Stalin, otherwise by each regiments commissar or by orders of Major-General Commissar Vitaly." He pointed to the recently filled graves to one side of the gathered officers, "Understand, there is to be no retreat or surrender," his voice deepened as his rage mounted, "those who do so are guilty of treason and shall be dealt with swiftly as these traitors to the state have been dealt with." "Now return to your regiments and get ready to cross the border as per plans," he watched the officers salute and flee for their staff vehicles like a panicked gathering of rabbits in the sight of a band of hawks on the hunt.

â‚°â‚° Stephen had just crested the small hills summit when he heard the first thundering of artillery unleashed from across the border. He watched in horror as blast after crushing blast of cannon shell and rockets landed around the hamlet of Summers Mist, where his granddaughter Nikkei's birthday party is taking place, a day of joy and happiness as his homeland neared war that no one wanted to have happen.


Sadly, as the clouds of smoke and churned earth merged with the cries and screams of his family and friends, he knew the war no one wanted had begun. He shouldered the cloth-wrapped present he had spent so many months crafting for Nikkei's birthday, and felt the tears flow down his cheeks as he watched his world taken from him for the second time in his life by warfare.

â‚°â‚° Her world spun in a haze of pain and dizziness as she struggled to open her eyes. The gentle crackling of a fire flooded her ears and the mixture of cooking meat, burning wood and other odors assaulted her sense of smell with overwhelming force.

She struggled to rise, slowly lifting herself onto her elbows and then falling back to the ground still enshrouded by the thick blanket someone had put over her while she was unconscious. A figure leaned down next to her and handed her a cup of cold water that she guzzled down, all but choking upon its chilled descent into her parched mouth and throat. "Easy Nikkei, easy there take your time," Stephen said as he helped her sit up.

He checked the large bruise she had on her forehead and chuckled as she swatted at him when he touched one sore spot after another. "You will be fine Nikkei; at the least I still have my granddaughter with me." "Grandpa what happened," Nikkei asked, not comprehending his last words he had said to her, "Where are all the others, mama and papa and my brothers…" She stopped upon seeing the expression that showed upon his face, understanding at last what had happened to everyone else.

"No grandpa, no not that, please not that," she said, collapsing into his arms as he drew her close. She broke down completely, the sobs coming hard and fast for the loss of her entire family. "Why grandpa, why did this have to happen?" "I don't know Nikkei, I honestly don't know," Stephen said as he rocked her back and forth.

Actually he did know, having followed the intense negotiations between the Finnish-Soviet governments.

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Each day the USSR had become more and more demanding in the concessions it sought, making it clear with none-too-subtle threats and gestures that war would be the result save for complete and unconditional surrender of all territorial demands made…a chain of demands that Stephen knew could not be accepted by Finland. Yet he, like most in the hamlet, had hoped for common sense and peace to come about. So it was that Nikkei's eighteenth birthday offered a time to celebrate and for the community to forget about the outside world for a short time…then the bombardment arrived, slaughtering nearly everyone and destroying every building in the area.

Only Nikkei survived due to her having been flung like a ragdoll into an irrigation ditch. Stephen had found her half frozen and brought her to one of the small cabins in the wooded hills he called home, hoping to figure out how to get her to safety when she could travel again. Nikkei pointed to the bound bundle next to Stephen and asked, "Grandpa, what is that you have there?" He looked into her pain-filled eyes, glad for something to distract her even for a short time from the crushing loss of all that she had known.

"This is my birthday gift for you Nikkei, just as I promised to make last year, one all of your own." Nikkei watched as Stephen untied the bundle and removed a rifle scabbard from beneath the canvas. He turned and presented it to her as if she were a queen of some forgotten land worthy of a rare and precious gift from her people.

She took the rifle scabbard in her hands and laid it across her lap, stroking the soft leather covered in white fur. The rifles stock, made of finely lacquered wood carved in detailed images of her hunting in the deep woods spoke of Stephens's skill as a master gun maker and armorer.

Gently Nikkei pulled it free of the scabbard and examined it for some time, feeling the precise balance and form that already felt a natural extension of her. The telescopic sight glistened in the soft firelight, and she spotted the signature of an old friend of her grandfathers, a man who made masterwork optics superior to even the finest made in Germany. Two wonderful treasures for her birthday; such a prize of riches she felt unworthy of possessing let alone being able to hold in her hands.

"Grandpa I can't take this, it's more worthy in your hands…" she shushed as Stephen shook his head. "You saved me from that bear last year Nikkei," he said with a smile. He had made one mistake on the hunt he had taken her on, one moment of carelessness in which the bear reared up and threatened his life. Nikkei proved the quicker though, as she placed three slugs into the bears heart and head and thus mortally wounded the brute.

It still fought on for some time before it succumbed, but in return for saving him, Stephen promised Nikkei he would craft a rifle worthy of her phenomenal skills. "I wish mama and papa could have seen this, along with everyone else…' she began to sob again as the truth slammed home hard in her heart.

Her family is gone forever, as are her friends, all save for Stephen. Something deep in her soul snapped, flooding her with a fiery resolve that consumed her in an instant. The beasts who had done this to them will be made to pay, and in blood.

"Grandpa, where are the monsters who did this, where are they?" she demanded, her voice filled with anger and rage none could have dreamed existed.

None save for Stephen who had long recognized the same traits in her that he had, and understood nothing will hold her back from having her revenge on the Russians, no matter if in the end it cost her own life. He shook his head, recalling the time back in the struggle of 1918 when Finland won its independence from the Tsar's of Russia, and the times of trouble which followed.

He had been a colonel then, and for a time he fought as a partisan behind the lines, becoming such a scourge on his enemies that they called him 'Ghost Bear.' "And so history will repeat itself…" he whispered. That drew a curious look from Nikkei who still waited for his answer.

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"Nikkei we are going to get you to safety and then I and some friends will begin to fight these monsters, I will not lose…oh why I even bother…' He snorted and rolled his eyes to the heavens as she struggled to stand up and storm out of the small cabin to go it alone.

"God above, she is more like me than even her mama could have figured…" "Nikkei hold on there," he grabbed her as she began to collapse to the floor, still woozy from the blow to her head. "Fine then, I have a few things to get ready for our hunt, we will be partisans then here in our area of the woods and hills; one thing emphatically, I call the shots and we do this my way until we have driven those monsters out of our homeland." "Fine grandpa," Nikkei said as she wrapped up once again in the thick blanket.

"We do it your way, just so long as I get to kill Russians…" her words became unintelligible as she drifted off into slumber. â‚° As Nikkei slumbered away the day, Stephen headed off into the woods, making contact with some old friends who dealt in matters best left unmentioned in the presence of the authorities. They had prepared for the chance of war coming, establishing caches of arms and other gear around the area for a band of partisans to use if they needed it…and now they will, for once again 'Ghost Bear' will enter into war and make his enemies pay for their crimes in blood.

He continued on into the woods, seeking a place where his personal cache of 'special goods' waited retrieval. As the destination came into sight, little more than a cluster of rocks and shrubs covering a small cavern in their depths he reached into his coat and rested his hand upon the hilt of his hunting knife. The faintest odor of cigar tobacco filtered through the air, coming closer with each passing second, soon to be joined with the soft crunch crunching of several pair of snowshoes coming towards him.

He edged into the nearby shrubs and trees, concealing himself so as to appear as little more than another small clump of rocks at the base of a mighty northern pine as the people who followed him closed in, step by step, and into striking distance of his ambush… Lightning fast he slammed his elbow into the gut of the man who had snuck up behind him, following up with a fist to his foes throat, as he grabbed the man by his coat and dragged him to the ground.

Stephen pulled out his knife to deliver the death blow and suddenly stopped as the man beneath him gently chuckled.

Captain Robinson of the Finnish Army grinned and looked at Stephen, "You have not lost any of the skill you taught all of us those years ago Colonel Stephen. Now if you don't mind, let me up and I will signal my men not to try and shoot you…" "Like they really could get that close," Stephen snorted, "I heard them from a half kilometer off. You learned the lessons well, but apparently your own students have not. Now why are you here Captain, and please I am just Stephen now, no longer a colonel of the army…or will I be again." "Stephen is it then," began Robinson, "we're here to scout and harass the advancing Soviet Army as it heads up the road.

Someone has to stay behind and become partisans, though from the grin on your face I assume you already have begun that task?" "In a manner of speaking," Stephen filled in his old student and friend in on his plans. "Right now I am off to contact others in the area who will watch and strike as they can. Even in our independent ways, we can work together and make the Russians life a living hell." Robinson nodded as he caught the subtle usage of 'we' in his last sentence, telling of another who will hunt the Russians with Stephen.

"Fair enough Stephen," Robinson said as his men advanced, shocked to see their leader talking to an old man who appeared to come out of nowhere. He looked at Stephen and asked of his old friend, "So then, what name will our mysterious hunter be called?" Stephen grinned, knowing then and there Robinson will go along with anything he asked or needed done, "The Snow Fox, for we will demonstrate the true craftiness us Fins have when on our home ground.

Now I have to get a few other things done and 'acquired' then the hunt will begin." So it was, after a quick handshake, the men departed. 3 December 1939 near front line of Russian 163rd Infantry Division Major Joseph stood by the armored staff car with his sub-machine gun clenched tight in his grasp.

His superiors in the NKVD (State Security) had made his instructions painfully clear; keep a close eye on the activities of Major-General Bogdan as he served as his driver, courier and personal bodyguard out in the field.

Failure in any way will result in summary execution. Over a dozen more soldiers, young lieutenants and captains, stood around or waited in their own staff cars for instructions from the general. Almost all of them gazed from time to time to the advancing line of trucks, tanks and tank-riding infantry that snaked its way along the single road ever deeper into Finland. The distant ground-shaking roar of the artillery no longer registered with them, having become little more than background noise in the fourth day of their lightning fast (sort of) pace of the attack.

Major-General Bogdan stood high upon the hood of his car as he scanned the horizon with his fine binoculars, a gift from his grandfather many long years past. His frustration mounted by the minute at the stubbornness of the Finnish defenders who have defied his ability to smash through them for the last three days. Three days and his division were barely twenty miles across the border.

"Speed, speed and ever more speed. That is how we win this war, speed, shock and uncompromising aggression against any who stand against us," he muttered to himself. "Captain Craigson, ensure that all regimental and lower commanders understand the orders. Unrelenting pressure, there will be no more withdrawing or moving other than at the enemy ahead.

Any failures and I will personally shoot the officers myself if need be." The captain repeated back his instructions, saluted and retreated to his staff car, which tore off down the road with due haste to ensure the message was received and duly carried out.

Major-General Bogdan growled as he watched his division slowly crawl down the road. "The Finnish lackey's of the Imperialist West and Capitalists will learn what it means to defy the Soviet Union.

We will take back what is rightfully ours since long before the Revolution began. They wanted war, so now they shall have it and we will rebuild their society into a true Communist state as it should be." His mood suddenly brightened at the sight of a of a battery of truck-mounted rocket launchers and two batteries of artillery moved off the road and began to set up for firing at targets located by his scouts. So much firepower being prepared meant that at least a battalion or two of enemy soldiers had gathered to make a desperate last stand against his armor and infantry tearing ever deeper into their homeland.

The sound of a motorbike informed him that a messenger had arrived, and he nodded in satisfaction as the man stopped his bike, handed his note to Captain Dima who double-timed it to the general. When he read the note, Major-General Bogdan felt his blood boil as he shouted, raged and cursed while directing another motorbike mounted messenger to move forward and tell his divisional headquarters to push his three lead regiments forward with all speed or face execution at his own hands.

He cursed the orders of 'absolute radio silence' that came from his superiors at Army HQ's fifty or more miles behind his division. "Damn them for their defiance to the needs of the motherland!" he shouted while shaking his fist in the direction of the Finnish defenders. Nearby another senior officer smiled at the absolute rage of Major-General Bogdan. Of course when this officer smiled, all the attendant officers of the general cringed, instantly coming to attention and saluting, if only to save their own lives, not knowing death stalked all of them from another position… â‚° "Say what you will that one has a bit of a temperament problem," Stephen said as he eased the binoculars down from his eyes.

Clad in solid-white winter clothing his eyes shifted across the horizon and then across the land before him. Even the slightest movement drew his attention as he quickly dismissed it as the wind, an animal or a Russian Soldier moving around on some mission or another.

He watched a second officer, probably the NKVD counterpart of the officer who stood atop his cars hood, stroll with pure arrogance and insolence becoming of a Commissar of high rank over to the vehicle and climb upon the hood as well. The remaining officers stood at a respectable distance, all save for the officer's driver who looked and moved like a small terrier determined to protect its master from a pack of ravenous wolves.

â‚° "Yes comrade they do have it coming for their defiance to the needs of the motherland," said Major General Vitaly, Political Commissar for the division of Major-General Bogdan. "It appears you are ahead of schedule by a bit, despite word coming of some resistance run into by your lead elements." "Comrade Commissar it is good to see you up and about." Major-General Bogdan said as he gave his comrade the best salute he could manage.

"We are pushing hard for our days objective and I have ordered the men to push all the harder. There is some reported resistance, yet we shall push harder than before and shatter them completely. In short order any prisoners will be in your hands, as they should be, and we shall be one step closer to flying the flag of International Communism high over this land of defiant banditti." â‚° To Stephens left, slightly higher up upon the craggy heap of stone and shrubs among the great pine forest a pair of bluish eyes stared at the officers through the scope of her rifle.

She slowly brought her hand up to the scope and made some minute adjustments, allowing her to deal with the range, wind and other variables to place her shot right on target when the moment arrived. Both officers on the cars hood turned to watching the horizon through their binoculars. She drew the crosshairs level with the newly arrived officer's skull, and braced the rifles stock against her shoulder while resting her finger on the trigger.

"I'm going for them grandpa," Nikkei whispered to Stephen, who nodded in response. One final calculation of the range and all variables flowed through her mind as she squeezed the trigger… â‚° Major-General Bogdan smiled as the heavy artillery sounded off, the loud roaring of the howitzers merging with the screaming cry of Katyusha rockets tearing off from their truck-mounted launchers.

He shook his fist in delight, imagining the carnage beginning to fall on the hapless Finland Army regulars' just kilometers ahead when he felt something wet splatter across the side of his head, left arm and chest. He turned in time to see the body of Major-General Vitaly collapse to the ground with all of the grace of a butchered boar. The sight of the gaping wound left from the bullet his head had intercepted caused Bogdan to freeze, unable to move, speak, or even think. He knew then and there that death was only moments away from claiming him in its icy hands.

Major Joseph leapt upon the cars hood and tackled Major-General Bogdan. The bullet meant for the general took the man in the back, severed his spine and ruptured his heart, dead before he and the general plummeted to the ground, sheltered by the armored car from the snipers fire.

Pandemonium reigned in the generals unit as some of the men ran to help Major-General Bogdan and the fallen Commissar and Major Joseph. The rest dove for the nearest cover they could find and returned fire with pistol, rifle or sub-machinegun at suspected sniper locations as the field artillery continued to thunder away and make it nearly impossible for one man to hear another even close up.

With mechanical efficiency, one officer after another flopped to the ground, a single red wound found in their torn throats or skulls. In less than two minutes, as the artillery fell silent once again and their crews commenced preparations to move on down the road, thirteen men lay dead on ground, while the survivors huddled in the protective shadow of cover, not daring to move or even breath. Even the normally unflappable Major-General Bogdan looked about, stunned and overwhelmed at the sheer carnage wrecked by some unknown foes in such a short span of time.

It was over a half-hour before he regained his composure and shouted out orders to move the unit to his divisions headquarters and even longer to notify Army Headquarters of the loss of Major-General Vitaly.

â‚° "Come Nikkei its time to leave and quickly," Stephen said to her as he finished wiring the last of many 'gifts' he had set out earlier to further punish the Russians when they came to investigate the area.

As he considered the carnage to come from his 'gifts,' Stephen and Nikkei donned their skis and disappeared into the woods little more than twin ghosts headed to one of many temporary shelters they will come to use in the weeks and months ahead.

â‚°â‚°â‚° The sight of the snaking trail of tanks, trucks, artillery and infantry which pushed ever deeper into his homeland sickened Captain Robinson. He wondered how much of a chance his nation honestly had to stop this unyielding mass of metal and men bent upon the complete conquest of Finland.

One of his men tapped him on his shoulder and pointed down to the roadside where a force of infantry began to gather under the enraged orders of officers watched by stern-eyed NKVD Commissars. Some of the officers, led by a Commissar Major, examined one area of ground and the bodies left behind after some kind of ambush had occurred. A quick count of the infantry told him that he and his men faced a reinforced company of Russian soldiers, who began to spread out.

Some marched unto a small crag of stone and shrubs while the remainder headed towards Robinson and his men at a brisk walk. He could see that the members of this second band were hesitant and on edge, though their fears of the commissars outweighed any danger from the woodlands ahead of them. Captain Robinson and his handful of men dropped down under cover as a small explosion erupted from that rocky crag, felling over a dozen Russian soldiers.

Chaos erupted as a second blast erupted, unleashing a wave of metal scraps, nails, and other projectiles that wounded a score and five of men. The surviving infantry began to fire at random into the woods with rifles and sub-machineguns as fast as they could while yelling at the top of their lungs. They charged at the woods edge, only to have their ragged formation shattered by a chain of blasts triggered by hidden tripwires. Pillars of smoke and tossed dirt rose as men fell to the ground seeking cover, dead or dying.

"Now men, now, take them down while we can!" Captain Robinson shouted to his men as the perfect time for a improvise ambush had arrived.

Rifles merged with the tap-tapping of four light machine guns which scythed across the Russian infantry, felling them one after another after another. In less than a minute the battle was over and his men swarmed among the dead Russians to gather rifles, ammo and anything of worth in the way of military intelligence they could find. Two minutes after they began, he and his men disappeared back into the woods, where two hours and seven kilometers away the captain examined a set of orders to the NKVD Commissar Major to 'find and liquidate the banditti who slew Major-General Vitaly and 14 other officers.' "Fifteen officers and they left behind a chain of booby traps for their pursuers?" Sergeant Jermaine, the aide of Captain Robinson, whistled softly and shook his head in disbelief.

"Who could possibly have done that?" "I'll tell you who did this," Captain Robinson said with a look of amazement on his face, "It was the work of the Snow Fox. I need a runner to get the information we have back to our side of the lines, and get it there on the double." Captain Robinson watched the messenger ski away and then turned to his men and nodded.

Quiet as the still air around them they departed, determined to watch and hit the invading Russians whenever and wherever they can to make life as miserable for them as possible.

7-8 December, 1939 Sweden unknown manor house Swedish Prime Minister Hansson looked out the libraries window upon a land covered in snow and for a moment dreamed that the world was still at peace. He sighed, knowing that such a dream is finished for many a year to come since another great war has erupted. Turning back to his two other guests he looked upon his old friend Ryti, Prime Minister of Finland and here on 'private matters' for his nation.

"Will the terms be acceptable in the end?" he asked of Ryti. Prime Minister Ryti looked at the third gentleman in the room, a man of ruthless ambition and ill-concealed greed. No matter the absolute contempt he held for this man, Finland needed the weapons and supplies even more; so he has dealt with the lesser of two evils to save his home. "It will be acceptable, as per the terms we have agreed upon." "Very good then," the third man declared as he stood and adjusted his coat, "have the money transferred into my Swiss accounts by the usual means; just to be clear, this meeting never happened and I will deny any and all mention of it in public.

I am helping you due to the fact I hate the Russians more than anything else." With that the man, German Marshall Herman Goring departed for his flight home. 7-8 December, 1939 rear-area Russian Ninth Army Corp In the old prospector's cabin, little more than a renovated shack, Nikkei watched as the sun cast its last rays of light before departing below the horizon and allowing the night to encompass the land in its grip.

She put the blanket back into place, to keep even the slight firelight from escaping into the outside world. She looked to the cabin door and wondered when Stephen would be back from 'meeting with some friends nearby.' She returned to cleaning her rifle with great care, determined to ensure that the weapon of her revenge was kept in perfect condition for the next ambush set by Stephen and her.

Step by step as she had been taught so long ago she cleaned and oiled each part in turn, ensuring that not one speck of dirt, grit, or anything could jam or plug it up at the moment when she would need it most. The small radio Stephen had somehow gotten his hands upon whispered news of the outside world between the static-filled cries of the aurora borealis dancing overhead.

What news came from official sources among the Northern and European stations painted a bleak future for her homeland, as four massive army groups have crossed the borders from north to south, seeking to conquer the entire nation. To the south, on the Karelian Isthmus the Russians have pushed the Finnish army back to the Mannerheim line. A massive artillery bombardment, nearly two days in length if the reports are to be believed, preceded a massed infantry assault in the region of Taipale supported with regimental strength artillery, rocket-fire, aerial bombing and loudspeakers used to broadcast calls for surrender of the Finnish army until they were shot apart by Finnish snipers.

Nikkei listened and smiled, pleased to hear the news of the Finnish army had dug in deep, with well sighted artillery and weapons, and then ripped apart the Russians assault. Casualties from the carnage were estimated at 5000 dead Russians and twice that injured, along with 500 prisoners. Curiously she heard about the crushing defeat made against the Russian armor, some eighty tanks destroyed or disabled and captured.


She and Stephen had seen a few such tanks moving along the lone road that linked Russia and their army that advanced slowly into Finland. Stephen seemed genuinely afraid of the metal beasts, though she respected what they could do, the sight of the gasoline-filled fuel drums mounted on the back deck of them gave her an idea of how to stop one…literally it would go up in flames… And part of the 'special ammunition' prepared for her by Stephen and his friends would do that job quite nicely.

Nikkei looked at the small trio of bottles tied to her pack, each one prepared to deliver another lethal surprise on any armored beast or vehicle when assailed during an surprise attack. Stephen had been rather dubious about the idea when she suggested it, but on the narrow secondary roads in the thick forests, five burned out trucks and a armored car testified to its simplistic and brutal efficiency.

Once she had finished her care for the rifle she gently traced the newest markings burned into the wooden stock. Each mark was that of a snow fox, barely 8mm in size, and representing a single kill she had scored since she had become involved in the war for her homeland. Twenty-four little foxes, twenty-four kills, some of them the motorbike couriers being used to transmit orders between Russian Headquarters.

The last courier had turned out to be the most vital one to date. She and Stephen had been crossing one of the secondary roads during a light snowfall with her in the lead, and covering Stephen after she reached the far side. No sooner had she prepared her rifle the courier came tearing around a bend in the road.

She had aimed and shot him down without a seconds hesitation, and thus gained both of them a usable motorbike and the vital goods in the couriers satchel case. Long into the night Stephen had sat in this very cabin after dumping the motorbike, out of gas and appropriately booby-trapped for any curious Russians. The paperwork he looked through contained high-value military codes and communiqués, orders of battle and supply status it detailed the low level of provisions and ammo among the Russian army units in this area.

Stephen had explained he needed to get this stuff to some 'friends in high places' and would be back as soon as he could. She was given some special instructions: if he is not back by the first ray of dawn the next day, or at the first sighting of a Russian, she is to flee at once and head for one of the six sights he described.

Of course if time permitted before she bolted, she was to 'activate' the small surprise contained in the cabin for the stupid Russians. Her sleep that night was fitful and tormented by nightmares of strange things coming out of the mists she could not remember after being woken by a flight of Soviet Air Force bombers and fighters overhead.

She took a peak out the small window facing to the east and hoped against hope to see Stephen coming up the trail in the rising sun… Instead she gasped at the sight of four score Russian infantry advancing at a steady pace towards the cabin.

â‚° "Keep down and watch, no one make any noise that may bring them down upon us," Stephen whispered to the men who accompanied him.

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When Hannu, Kalevi, Joni and their partisans nodded he turned back to watch the band of Russians advancing towards the cabin in which Nikkei sheltered. He could only pray she had already fled for one of the other meeting places and will wait there for him. Meter by meter the soldiers advanced and spread out to circle the cabin under the iron-hard gaze of the units' commissars. If anyone remained inside the cabin there will be no chance for them to escape, and the supplies needed by the partisans will probably be found as well… â‚° Nikkei quickly tossed on her great coat, slipped on her pack and rifle scabbard, and prayed as never before in her life as she struck a match and held it to the length of fuse-cord leading to Stephens little surprise for the fast approaching Russians.

Once the cord started to hiss and burn, she dropped it to the ground and fled the cabin, cleared the small ridge behind it and commenced a zigzag run for safety.

She used every feature of the terrain and forest to give her any cover, anything to keep her from being seen by the advancing Russians. When she finally stopped and plopped down behind a cluster of trees she silently cursed at having left her set of skis back in the cabin. "At least I didn't forget my snowshoes," she said. Nikkei looked back at the small ridge running behind the cabin and decided that she had to get her skis if possible, orders or no orders from her grandpa.

She moved as silent as a ghost and with the grace of a deer across the land. Her skill in doing so had been perfected over long years of hunting and practice with Stephen, and on occasion when he travelled to make a purchase or make a deal that was best left unexplained to anyone else, especially someone connected to the law of the land.

Just shy of the crest she stopped, eased her rifle from its scabbard and checked her pouch to ensure the extra magazines were ready if she needed them. Meter by meter she slowly and cautiously eased her way to the crest of the ridge, propped herself up on her elbows and gazed upon the Russians below who had just arrived at the old cabin. She softly cursed at the fact of Stephens surprise for the Russians had not yet gone off, and wondered what had gone wrong with it. Then and there she knew her skis are history as there are far too many Russian soldiers to fight… â‚° Stephen pulled back behind the shelter of the tree as he reloaded his Suomi KP-31 sub-machinegun, and sent out a barrage of curses and insults so blasphemous the land should have melted away.

A bullet tore a chunk out of the tree mere centimeters from his face as he exposed himself again, bringing up the Thomson and fired off short bursts into the still advancing mass of Russian infantry. Moments before Hannu and Kalevi had nearly moved their men into position to take down the Russians who encroached on the old cabin. Though risky, they have to strike at their enemy, the supplies cached away beneath the cabins floorboards are needed by the local partisan forces.

Stephen and Joni, along with a dozen other partisans stayed back to secure their escape route if the battle turned against them…only to be surprised by the sudden arrival of two Russian infantry companies, roughly 300 men total. Instantly Stephen ordered his men to the cover of the trees and to fire on the advancing forces. Roughly forty or more Russians fell to the first barrage of small arms fire as two light machine guns scythed across them like a harvester in a wheat field.

Hand grenades added to the carnage being wrought as blast after flesh-rending blast shattered the lead Russians morale, sending them howling back down the trail… Only to be systematically shot down by their Political commissars who called them cowards and deserters. Needless to say, the surviving solders suddenly became motivated to turn around and take their chances with the Finnish partisans.

Stephen reloaded his Suomi three more times before his ammo was exhausted and he cursed as the Russians continued to advance at a very cautious pace. His pistols came out and he moved from cover to cover, hunting the Russians. The first one emerged into his sight and became the first prey he took… In a flurry of motion Stephen cut down one Russian soldier after another as he moved among them, each of his Lahti pistols becoming an extension of him.

One shot, one kill, the same pattern delivered with calm precision. A cluster of Russian solders charged at him from the woods as he calmly reloaded his pistols, grinned and one after another, and thus reaped a harvest of death on his foes.

Despite his herculean effort, the battle turned against the partisans. Meter by meter they had to yield ground, pushed back by the sheer weight of numbers that inevitably benefited the Russians. Their enemy kept on coming out of the woods, an unending cascade of angry foes determined to stomp out their tormenters, even as the dead mounted in heap upon fallen heap of shattered flesh and bone.

He hoped Hannu and Kalevi had enough sense to scrub the ambush and get their men to safety. As even more Russians advanced up the pathway to reinforce the shattered units fighting the partisans, Stephen knew in his heart that he will not be leaving this fight alive… He prayed for Nikkei, that she has fled and gotten to safety, and that his sins of being a smuggler of arms and other semi-illegal goods could be forgiven when he stood before the judgment throne of God.

He did not pray for a miracle, knowing that such is beyond his fate to deserve… Though that is exactly what happened… â‚° Nikkei watched as a trio of officers ran around and shouted orders at their men to hurry off to join the battle down the trail. None of the soldiers seemed willing to head that way, having come to respect and fear the skill of their implacable foe; not even with the sheer weight of numbers on their side could the officers make them take the first step back down the trail.

One officer, a commissar if she understood his rank correctly, argued with the other two, who appeared to be commissars as well, about the need to seize the cabin and any supplies that remained within it. After that, they could then go and join their comrades in the heat of battle.

Having decided enough is enough she raised her rifle, braced the stock against her shoulder and aimed at the talkative commissar. The retort of her rifle was smothered by the intense gunfire from the woods, but she saw the commissar plummet to the ground, his skull having stopped the bullet.

The other commissars looked at their fallen comrade with wide-eyed expressions of fear and shock in equal measure. Within five seconds both of them joined their comrade on the ground, dead before they hit the earth. Her world became a blur of motion as she steadily carried out the up-back, forward-down palm-sweep of the rifle bolt which chambered round after round as one Russian after another was targeted and died when she gave a gentle squeeze on the trigger. Some fled into the woods, determined to take their chances with the remaining commissars than face the deadly sniper now picking them off one by one.

Shortly after the last entered the woods, a furious cascade of gunfire cut them down as someone unknown to Nikkei had arrived… Thirty Russians sought shelter behind or within the cabin, one of them tossed Nikkei's shattered skis out the doorway with a string of curses.

They began to fire away with precise shots from rifle, pistol or their own sub-machineguns at the enemies in the woods. Nikkei pulled a magazine from her pouch, freed the empty one from her rifle and slid the new one home. She chambered a round and looked down to see which one of the Russians will be her first victim&hellip. Of course that happened to be the instant Stephens 'gift' to the Russians went off, several sticks of dynamite secured to over thirty jerry-cans filled with gasoline concealed under and around the cabin.

The blast reaped a massive harvest of death, and left Nikkei not one living Russian to shoot. Even Nikkei, partly shielded by the crest of the ridge, was flung away and she cursed as she and all of her gear rolled downhill until a hard tree assisted in stopping her. Clutching her bruised head with one hand, her rifle in the other, she cursed and charged back to the top of the ridge to see what else was going on… She spotted the few remaining partisans down the trail fighting to hold the Russians at the edge of the woods, and knew if they were forced fully into the clearing behind them they would fall to the last man.

The clattering of gunfire to her right indicated more partisans were even now engaged in a second death struggle against some other band of Russian troops. For them she could do nothing, but for the first group, and the man she cared for that fought like a demon for his men…she can help out in her own way… She knelt down and braced her rifle, aimed…and commenced the second round of dealing death this very day on the Russians down the trail… â‚° Stephen grinned like a banshee tearing across the moors as the thundering retort from the detonated 'gift' in the cabin carried out to the horizon.

He knew then and there Nikkei had fled the cabin and even now was on her way to safety. He dropped to one knee, partially concealed by a large rock, and commenced to fire both pistols at the howling Russians that charged out of the woods. His force of partisans was down to him and four others, and surrounded by their enemy whom they knew would show no mercy…the sudden gunfire deeper in the woods indicated that Hannu and Kalevi had engaged a large Russian party with their men, and told him they confronted a reinforced battalion or a full regiment of infantry.

Click-click… Stephen howled as his pistols emptied and drew out his hunting knife and pounced upon the nearest Russian, ending his life in one swift stroke.

His elbow slammed into the next soldier coming up behind him, followed by a knife thrust to the gut; then three more Russians closed on him, rifles leveled and eyes showing that they did not intend to take him as a prisoner. "Come on you bastard dogs!" Stephen shouted in Russian, prepared to take at least one of them with him… Then one soldier lurched backward as his chest exploded in a jet of red mist, dead before he hit the ground. The two others turned and fled, discarding their rifles, only to perish in turn as a precisely placed slug intercepted their skulls.

He watched, absolutely flabbergasted, as one Russian soldier after another died as they turned to flee or showed themselves for a moment from any cover they could find. "Joni," Stephen bellowed out as his old friend came into sight, blood streaming down his leg. "God man how many of us are left?" "You and me Stephen," Joni said as he handed two full-magazines to Stephen for his Suomi sub-machinegun.

"I am fine, let's go and see what we can do for Hannu and Kalevi…" Both men startled at the sound of automatic small arms fire and light machineguns began to play in the woods, to be followed by stillness so profound it all but screamed at them.

Within three minutes a band of heavily armed men accompanied by the partisans emerged out of the woods and met with Stephen and Joni. "Stephen we keep meeting in the craziest of places," Captain Robinson said to his old mentor, "for once I'm glad I could return the favor of you saving my tail on our hunting trips.

Though it looks like your battle went well enough given how badly your partisans were outnumbered…" Stephen ignored him as the butcher bill was delivered by Joni after determining the final tally of the battle: twenty survivors with six of them injured, thirty-seven dead, which included Hannu and Kalevi. The Russian dead were beyond count at this point. Stephen ordered his men to take whatever arms, ammo or supplies they needed from the Russians and to gather the bodies of their fallen.

He set an iron-hard deadline of ten minutes for this to be done before they would leave and travel hard across the trails in the ancient woods. "Joni, you take the lead and get the men to safety. Use what we already have cached and hit the Russians as you can.

Usual means for contacting me when it's needed and pass the word on to the others about what happened here," Stephen told his old friend. "Hang on a minute Stephen," Captain Robinson said and ordered twenty of his men to go with Joni and the few remaining partisans. "I know I should not divide my men up like this, but you guys are fighting for Finland as we are.

This way, our heavier weapons can assist with making the Russian bear bleed for all we can get out of his hide…" Stephen, Joni and Robinson turned to the sound of a soldier shouting out an order that instantly ended in a wail of pain and mewling of a newborn kitten. They watched a young lady, rifle still in hand, calmly walk over to the old man as she muttered about 'soldiers who need to learn some manners before grabbing a lady that way.' Robinson shook his head as Stephen uncharacteristically rushed over and embraced the woman in a bear hug, whirling her around and around as she called for him to stop embarrassing her in front of the other men.

"Who is that with Stephen?" Robinson asked Joni. "I did not think there were any women among the partisans in this region?" Joni just chuckled and shook his head, "The full story is Stephens to tell, but you have seen the handiwork of the Snow Fox first hand." He pointed to the many fallen Russians taken down by Nikkei. "Oh and your man who dared to grab her should be alright, his chestnuts will be fine despite the crushing kick she gave them." â‚° "Grandpa I forgot my skis after lighting the fuse," Nikkei said.

She dreaded the scolding she had coming for disobeying his orders. "I was waiting for the Russians to leave and then…boom!" she motioned with her hands, pantomiming an explosion while a sheepish grin grew on her face.

"Oh and then I spotted the Russians running in your direction after I took down those three commissar idiots that tried to order their troops around like fierce little terriers," she said as Stephen and her joined Robinson and Joni. "Three commissars, she took down three of the Russian commissars?" Robinson asked, and then he whistled when Nikkei tossed the fallen commissars hats over to him, ample proof of her claim.

"Three commissars from a total of thirty Russians I took down. Though the commissars are a waste of a good bullet, better to just toss a grenade or something at them…" Nikkei mumbled as Stephen laughed and Joni and Captain Robinson just shook their heads. "Granddaughter, do not berate yourself of a kill, after all you took down that divisional commissar a few days back…" he looked at Captain Robinson and nodded to the man's unspoken question. "Yes she took down that Major-General your intelligence sources declared dead, now my dear granddaughter has thirty more foxes to add to her list…" Captain Robinson was handed a message written by his radio operator Corporal Hanki.

It was orders from the High Command for the Finnish army.


He just shook his head in disbelief as to what it stated the evidence in dead Russians mute testimony to the belated intelligence sent to him and the partisans… …to all units detached on partisan activities and loyalist forces engaged within the area of Ninth Red Army Corp.

Reliable intelligence has affirmed that a reserve regiment of the 163rd Infantry Division has been sent back from the front lines to secure the main Russian supply route and to conduct anti-partisan patrols and sweeps.

Repeat, to all units… "Well it appears this fine piece of intelligence has come, as they say, too little and too late for our needs, as has become the normal anymore," said Captain Robinson as he showed the message to Stephen, Joni and Nikkei who was surprised at his action.

"Nikkei, like it or not you are now a source of inspiration for the troops of the front line, just like Stephen, when word of what all the partisans accomplished here this day." Captain Robinson clasped her hands in his and gave them firms' shake of thanks.

"Stephen we need to get going," Captain Robinson said a moment later, "This regiment has been annihilated, but some survivors may make it to a nearby outpost or garrison and bring down yet more trouble on our heads.

We cannot sustain a second battle such as that." As if to emphasize his point, a flight of Russian bombers passed overhead at that particular instant, which caused everyone to dive for cover on the off chance they were being looked over.

Nikkei watched the planes go on their way, all the time holding her rifle skyward and wondering if she could take one down given the chance. "Stephen, you and your granddaughter are welcome to come with us," Robinson said, "With the way she can shoot and your abilities to set an ambush…" He stopped when his old mentor held up a hand for silence. There will be no more discussions, Stephen and Nikkei will continue on their own, seeking to bleed the armies of the Red Bear as much as they can.

"Before we part let me give you some instructions and advice on how to stop the Russian tanks…" Stephen filled Robinson in on the tactics he and Nikkei had developed and the weaknesses on the armored beasts. Captain Robinson looked at Nikkei with profound respect, which caused her to blush from head to toe from pure embarrassment. He turned back to Stephen and thanked him, stating he will pass this news up the chain of command.

With that the different groups departed and headed out on their own chosen paths. 10 December, 1939 Finland Supreme Command Headquarters The men stood around the table as they examined the updated maps and compared them to the latest incoming reports and intelligence gathered from spies, informants, radio intercepts and the like. Couriers delivered their satchels of messages and requests while aides for the military leaders gathered here stood silently by, prepared to answer any questions or handle any task they are assigned.

One man listened and mentally crunched all the information told to him by his subordinates, details from troop movements and battalion statuses to logistics and anticipated moves by the Russian invaders. He asked detailed questions concerning the four invading Russian Army Corps the Seventh, Eighth, Ninth and Fourteenth and pondered the successes his soldiers had scored, particularly within the area of the Ninth and the savage defeat a band of partisans had inflicted just two days past.

He perked up at the mention of an old legend having returned to the field of battle, the Ghost Bear, and his new companion, a partisan leader known simply as the Snow Fox. One old hero and a new hero bringing hope to the land and inspiring the Finnish troops who received a massive boost to their morale and fighting spirit as news of the Russian defeat spread with the force of a lightning strike.

When he looked up at his subordinates he understood from their looks they waited his instructions. They wanted to strike back and strike back hard, to deliver such a savage blow to the Russian bear that his scream will be heard around the world for centuries to come. He tapped the map with his finger, outlining his plan for that portion of the front facing the Russian Ninth Army Corp. Each man took notes concerning his portion of the plan, and began to detail what he needed to do for the counterattack to come; they acknowledged the odds to be long for any real success, yet it had to be done for the sake of their homeland.

"Colonel Siilasvuo," Field Marshal Mannerheim, commander of the Army of Finland, said to the one he has selected to lead the counterattack, "Retake Suomussalimi and dispose of the Russian 163rd Division, you fly out this hour and begin operations 24-hours from now." Colonel Siilasvuo saluted and departed to catch his plane and make his plans as the others returned to the maps and made other hard choices in the ongoing war.

10 December, 1939 163rd Russian Infantry Division Headquarters Outside the hotel appropriated by Major-General Bogdan to be his divisions headquarters a lone gunshot sent the guards scuttling inside on the double with weapons drawn. Once they determined that their commander was safe they returned to their posts, save for the two who dragged the corpse of Colonel Hussein, late commander of the destroyed 662nd Infantry Regiment.

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"Gentlemen," Major-General Bogdan declared to the officers around him as he calmly placed his smoking pistol on his desk, "Let the record show that Colonel Hussein has been found guilty by summary court martial of treason and dereliction of duty and cowardice in the face of the enemy, not to mention outright stupidity in the conduct of field operations." All officers save for the sadistic commissars of the division shook as he gazed upon each one in turn, "He has been executed by orders of STAVKA for his treason.

All of you understand this, one failure, one pathetic attempt to excuse incompetency or treason and I will shoot you as well." Major-General Bogdan left his desk a moment later and headed to check the latest reports from the front and to prepare plans for the next attack upon the illogically stubborn Fins. He should already have smashed their front line, torn across the waist of Finland and bisected this fascist nation.

His rage became manifest when he slammed his fist on a large table that shattered under that hammer-blow, and sent the man typing out orders to scramble from his chair in a desperate bid to stay alive. Walking into the map room he howled for one of his aides to attend, and once the captain appeared, began to rattle off the orders for the day concerning attack routes and times, logistics and artillery fire plans.

Of course, with so few forces left to him, especially after the 662nd Infantry Regiment was slaughtered, the planning did not consume too much time. The only thing that really bothered him is accounts from the Finnish radio which spoke of the legendary man called the "Ghost Bear' is active in the region.

His unit in the revolutionary war in which Finland broke itself free from the motherland of Russia, aided by the Fascist Imperialists of the decadent western lands, had faced the man and his partisans.

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No matter how hard they tried to catch him, no matter the bait used or executions summarily carried out, he had not only evaded them, but carried out a campaign of destruction that decimated nearly seven divisions. Many a mother threatened her insolent children with stories of 'the Ghost Bear will come and get you." A messenger arrived at his side and declared that Major-General Zelenfsev, commander of the 44th Infantry Division will be arriving on the evening of 15 December to 'discuss the current matter of the front lines.' "Tell the Major-General I will be glad to discuss the reasons he has been cooling his heels for a week when he and his division is needed here," Bogdan ordered, "and prepare a place for him to stay as well in the officers rooms on the hotels top floor." 15-16 December, 1939 Rear-area Russian Ninth Army Corp Sergeant Osip slowed his motorbike as he neared the next checkpoint, and grinned as the lone sentry waved for him to stop with one hand, and held high a bottle of 'official party coffee' (which he knew meant fine Vodka) in the other.

Once the bike stopped he turned off the motor and placed it next to the checkpoints wooden structure, little more than a small, hastily built shack with a field phone for 'emergency usage only' by senior officers or the feared NVKD. This accomplished he moved to stand before the checkpoints officer, an old, ragged and weather worn lieutenant he did not know but figured must be an NVKD commissar or security official. "Lieutenant," Osip said as he stood at attention and saluted, "I am Sergeant Osip and on courier duty for the Ninth Army Headquarters.

Here are my orders and papers sir," he handed them over to the scowling, stern-faced lieutenant whose eyes showed no mercy could be expected, "and I am prepared to show the satchel is still sealed upon your directions sir." "Fine then Sergeant," the lieutenant said not bothering to introduce himself, thus a sure sign he is NVKD.

"Come into the shack and we can do the inspection over some 'official party coffee' while you tell me all that is going on up at the headquarters for the 163rd Division." Over the next half hour Sergeant Osip enjoyed half a bottle of the finest Russian vodka he knew to exist, and revealed all he knew not only of the 163rd divisions headquarters, but of all the Russian Ninth Army he had seen first hand or even heard rumors about.

The lieutenant gently challenged him on each point, asking the same question from different angles while he expressed doubts here and there about the veracity or loyalty and dedication of Sergeant Osip. The drunken, thoroughly terrified Sergeant was consistent in every detail, which pleased him to no end, and even more so as he saw the courier's message satchel remained sealed with the decal of the Ninth Armies senior commissar.

"Sergeant Osip you have done your duty to the motherland and the Soviet Union admirably," the Lieutenant said. Sergeant Osip smiled and stood to leave; he never saw the Lahti pistol that moved to just shy of his skull, nor heard the gunshot that killed him. After disposing of the body deep in the woods next to the real lieutenant who had manned the checkpoint, "Sergeant" Stephen, wearing the overcoat and uniform of the courier, climbed onto the motorbike and headed down the road to 'deliver' his goods to the 163rd divisions headquarters.

â‚° Four hours later Stephen left the hotel which had become the 163rd division field headquarters. He learned of the desperate fighting they had undertaken when ordered by Army Headquarters to retreat, the continuous harassment by Finnish partisans and regular army forces on their supply lines, and more detailed information that he intended for later exploitation. Before he departed he collected from the higher floors where the senior officers of the headquarters slept a small gift for Nikkei.

Taking the back stairs down to the large parking garage behind the hotel he evaded the few half-awake sentries on guard duty with contemptible ease, activated his 'gift' to the Russians and quietly fled into the night to where he had stashed the motorbike. He was far down the road when his 'gift' caused no end of pandemonium for the 163rd division.

As he motored on down the back trails and secondary roads on his stolen motorbike, Stephen grinned as old memories returned concerning the last war. Compared to his love for hunting and deal making (in illegal arms and other goods such as Vodka banned from being exported), only the joy of killing Russian soldiers once again surpassed them.

16 December, 1939 rear-area Russian Ninth Army Corp Within the sheltered depths of an old stone and earth-covered house Nikkei listened to the radio and absorbed the latest news of the war. The warmth from the roaring flames in the fireplace reminded her of better winter nights with her dead family, and she was glad to be free for a time of the cold winter night just outside the house.

Stephen had gone off 'to find out some details' that he understood from the messages broadcast to partisans by the various Finland radio stations. For the hundredth time since he left she looked down to the pistol at her side, hoping she will not need it if the Russians or other troublemakers discovered and entered the old house.

As she devoured her meal of a thick, rich, spicy, meat-stew and some semi-stale bread with butter and jam she shook her head in disbelief. The League of Nations had tossed the USSR out of its ranks, and many of its member nation representatives made great speeches of aid and arms being prepared for shipment from the many Scandinavian and European governments to Finland.

The daily news from Helsinki spoke of partisans under the leadership of the 'Ghost bear' and 'Snow Fox' which had annihilated the Russians 662nd Infantry Regiment completely with minimal loss to the Finnish forces involved in the battle…an exaggeration that irritated Nikkei due to the true number of old family friends and associated who were lost.

When she took another bowl full of the stew from the kettle simmering over the fire the latest news of the battle on the Mannerheim line came through. Apparently the Russians launched a three-division assault, and in a 40 hour pitched battle were repulsed, less than 1200 Russians escaped from their force of 35000. She and Stephen, wherever he had gotten off to, had been doing their share of harassing the Russians taking down lone trucks and a couple of tanks, disabling artillery batteries that passed by and she took a perverse kind of delight in taking down the couriers on their motorbikes…the number of them had been dropping off over the past week, evidence of her having culled the herd with ruthless efficiency.

Details from the battle for Suomussalimi were broadcast. The 27th Infantry Regiment of Finland had executed a chain of daring assaults from three different directions, isolated and destroyed key units of the Russian 163rd Infantry Division. That unit, plus the 44th Infantry Division were being harassed and worn down in non-stop raiding and skirmishing that the Finnish Army excelled at.

She grinned at the mention of Suomussalimi being back in Finnish hands. Then the news spoke of the Finnish army and partisans 'using new and wonderful weapons' to deal with the Russian armor; the very technique she and Stephen developed a few days ago a bottle of alcohol and gasoline with few other things mixed in to make it into a sticky gasoline gel, and then a gas or oil soaked rag that is tied to it and lit just before being tossed at the tank.

Net result…one cooked tank, especially if you can hit the engine, internal fuel tank, or the commonly mounted barrel of reserve fuel mounted on the after deck. Stephen returned a few minutes later as she cleaned out her bowl with a chunk of bread. She watched him move to the fire and take up a bowl of stew and sit down next to her, his thick coat and hat showing clear signs he had been involved in some kind of altercation earlier in the night.

He moved over to the roaring fire and stood before it to warm up. "Nikkei I have found out that some 'special visitors' will be passing through this area in the next few days," he said to her with a grin of pure wicked delight.

"The 163rd Division had been retreating through the 44th Division and the whole area is in complete chaos. Both divisional commanders are dead, having been at the 163rd's headquarters when the hotel went up in flames…literally!" He chuckled at that, just as he had chuckled soon after visiting the 44th Divisions depot of supply trucks parked in a relatively unguarded lager.

Thirty minutes of careful work delivered spectacular results, he had just finished crossing the lone bridge on the roadway when the entire yard of ammo and provision-laden trucks went up in a chain of fireballs from the small bombs he had liberally placed on their fuel tanks. So great was the chaos generated he was able to infiltrate the guard shack on his side of the bridge and trigger the demolition charges the Russians had emplaced just that day incase the Finnish army pushed the Read Bear back across the river.

As if that had not caused enough chaos and damage, a flight of Finnish Air Force planes swept his side of the river road, damaging and destroying over sixty vehicles and damaged countless others. Getting back to Nikkei took some time, longer than he anticipated, but a few 'borrowed' motorbikes from a few now deceased couriers helped out.

"It appears the Ninth army Corps commander for the Russians is coming in person to inspect the reasons for the delays in 'conquering these decrepit lackey's of the Imperialist west," he laughed and shook his head at such nonsense, "General Dashicev will be here in a few days and we have a chance to 'greet' him in proper partisan style." Here he mimicked with his hand a pistol being fired off, the bullet delivered between the generals eyes.

"Nikkei I found out there will be some 'special visitors' coming through this area in the next couple of days," Stephen said to her with a wicked grin. "I found out the 163rd division has been ordered to retreat and the 44th division is sitting on its haunches per orders of the NKVD.

It appears that General Dashicev, leader of the Ninth Army Corp of the Russians will be making a tour of the front lines." "How…how did you find this out grandpa?" Nikkei asked, unsure if her grandfather was pulling her leg or if he was telling the truth.

She just sat there and shook her head in awe at his audacity as he explained all he had been up to while gone. Then he told her the news she never dreamed of hearing, but confirmed by two crushed hats he pulled out of his sack and tossed into her lap… The hats which belonged to two now deceased Major-Generals.

"That one belonged to Major-General Bogdan, the one you missed a couple of weeks ago," Stephen said to her with a teasing grin. "The other to Major-General Zelenfsev, I found both of them discussing a rather efficient means to counterattack our army. They never paid attention to the fact a 'Russian army courier' might deem it worth the time to take out the commanding officers of their respective divisions when the opportunity presented itself." He showed her the collection of papers, plans and other information he had taken from the now destroyed field headquarters.

"I got this stuff for our forces before my 'gift' to the Russians went off…" "Grandpa, what…what did you do?" she asked, unsure if she wanted to hear the story. One thing she had come to know of her grandfather is he had a fighting spirit that shone brave and true, and could be as ruthless as any murderer when events called for him to be.

She wondered if in time, and if she lived to see the end of the war, she will become the same way… "You remember the 'gift' I set for you to use back at the cabin?" Stephen asked and grinned at the scowl of pure fury she gave to him, "Imagine a fuel truck parked within the garage connecting that old hotel, a fuel truck that had some sticks of dynamite added to ensure that the resulting surprise would be…spectacular." "Now that the bridge is destroyed, the generals gone, and most of the 44th Divisions supplies are no more, our side will have a much easier time disposing of them," he clenched his fist and grinned while his cold eyes blazed with pure fury and delight at the impending victory for the Finnish forces in the area.

"Do you want a Russian Army Corp General added to your kills or not?" Stephen chuckled at the feral grin that grew on Nikkei's face.

"Good, we will head out soon enough, but first I have something to take care of…" Nikkei watched him remove a small box-like bundle from the bottom of his backpack and head for the door.

"Grandpa what are you doing?" she asked, the concern audible in her voice and visible on her face. "I'll be coming back shortly Nikkei," he said and then became deadly serious, "emphatically this time follow my orders, at the first sign of danger grab your gear and flee as fast as you can.

No leaving your skis behind or coming to find me alright?" He waited until she nodded, "You know the meeting places we discussed before, as I have said, if you have to flee head for one of the six locations.

The partisans already know to keep and eye out for you if our travels turn for the worse." â‚°â‚° Captain Robinson and his handful of men moved with extreme care as they swept the meeting place for any signs of an ambush from Russian forces. His men on the flanks indicated with hand signals no one was in the area. His soft, disgusted curse seemed to echo across the wooded hills. "Where in the world has Stephen gotten off to this time?" Robinson declared.

He nearly had a heart attack as the sound of a pistol hammer being eased back into place filled his ears. The corporal next to him who still had a length of cold steel placed under his jaw did not move an inch. "You're getting sloppy Captain Robinson," Stephen said as he pulled both pistols away from the men, sliding them back into their holsters. "I've been shadowing all of your men for the last half hour; you did not even see the Russian patrol waiting for you just down the trail…" "What patrol, we did not see any signs of a patrol ours or theirs?" the corporal exclaimed in sheer outrage at such a claim being made.

Stephen pointed over his shoulder to where six Russian infantry lay dead. "Like I said, you and your men are getting sloppy. Now let's get down to business as quickly as we can.

I paid a visit to the 163rd Infantry Divisions headquarters and got these papers," he tossed Robinson a heavy satchel bag filled with vital information, "before my gift to them went off." "Somehow I should have known it was you behind that," Captain Robinson said with a grin.

"We will get these to Suomussalimi and then to Army Headquarters." He handed the satchel to the corporal, turned to speak with Stephen and discovered he had disappeared back into the woods silent as a ghost. "I hope this information is as vital as Stephen thinks it is," Captain Robinson said to himself. He had no idea just how useful and vital it was to Field Marshal Mannheim, whom gave off a shout of triumph that shocked many of his subordinates… 18 December, 1939 England In the halls of Parliament men of power and authority sat, or stood, around the long table discussing events, ideas or examined the great wall-mounted map which dominated the room.

At the insistence of a lone man, the only one who dared to chomp away on his trademark cigar, commenced to deliver their portions of the plan in concern to the Finland-Soviet War and the surrounding Scandinavian nations.

Many of the High Command, Ministers and Parliamentarians looked at the cigar-chomping man with shock, surprise, disbelief and apprehension for one to purpose such an audacious scheme. They listened as he delivered his reasons for the plan, why it will succeed if implemented in time, and the greatest of gains towards thwarting Germany and its mighty war machine.

"Gentlemen," Mr. Churchill declared while he thumped his fist on the table, "We must aid Finland with all the supplies, arms and ammo, planes, tanks and troops we can while denying the government of Germany the most vital resource they need. Iron ore, the ore supplied to them by Sweden and shipped via Norway; we will solve both problems with one expedition…cut off the mines from Germany and have a vital route to move our relief forces on into Finland." Churchill concealed other, long range plans currently unfolding in Germany that may gain an unexpected harvest in the weeks to come…especially one concerning Chancellor Hitler… Many in the Senior Command approved the initial outlay of the plan, and made a few recommendations here and there, seeking to refine it into a workable outline.

Even Prime Minister Chamberlain gave his reluctant approval after an extensive debate on international law and intervention of neutral and sovereign lands. Only one man dared to stand in opposition to the plan, and even then only to assume a 'devils advocate' stance.

Minister of War Hore-Belisha stood and rapped his fist on the table to gain everyone's attention. "Distinguished gentlemen," he began, "recall that we and France have been warned via the government of Switzerland that Germany will regard any presence of Allied troops within the borders of Norway or Sweden as an attack upon mainland Germany itself and result in immediate retaliation." "It appears there is an informal agreement between Sweden and Germany; for our agents and contacts are even now reporting that shipments of small arms, machine guns and light cannon, plus significant amounts of ammo have even now crossed into the borders of Finland from Sweden." Hore-Belisha emphasized each point with a smack of one hand into the other.

"This appears to be done via Field Marshal Goring, and with the support of Chancellor Hitler. If we interfere with an invasion of Norway and Sweden we will risk sundering the chain of supply going to Finland…lose that and Communist Russia will win by sheer weight of number." Winston Churchill looked upon the Minister of War with eyes that blazed in righteous fury. Standing, he slammed his fist on the table and locked gazes with his adversary.

"Understand this, the fate of Finland and of the free world are tied together as one; here are my arguments as to why the plan must go forth…" The debate raged long into the night and well into the next dawn before the meeting came to a close; nothing had been decided, to the disappointment of many.

18 December, 1939 Germany He sat behind his desk and paused, stunned by the news contained in the top secret report in his hands. He read it three more times, examining each detail and fact and assumption for the least sign of deception or of the facts being deliberately misconstrued or manipulated.

His aide stood by, having sensed something of great significance is going on in the mind of his leader, and thus he will be here to see history made. The man closed the report and laid it upon his desk, shocked by the magnitude of weakness to be found within his 'allies' of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics. He looked at his aide and gave off a rapid-fire chain of orders and sat back in his chair as the young captain ran off to gather the officers so indicated. Thirty minutes later Chancellor Adolph Hitler stood before his gathered staff in the meeting room that adjoined his office.

For over six hours the meeting continued, with Chancellor Hitler demanding hard answers from each man, save for Marshal Goring, whom nodded at the unspoken question concerning the secret supplies being sent to Finland via Sweden. In due order a plan began to emerge for the opportunity that lay open before them, one which grew greater with each hour Russia bled on the snowy fields, hills, and forests.

"Gentlemen," Hitler said, "We have a golden opportunity that history and destiny gives to one people to change the world every millennium; the arms bought by Sweden will continue without interruption, and we shall increase our gift of military intelligence to Finland." Chancellor Hitler walked over to the large wall map and rapped his fist hard on the border of Finland Russia.

"That is where Russia and the communists will be bled white, and here," he slammed his fist hard lower on the map, "is what we shall do…" The gathered men looked upon such a bold and simple concept with equal measures of awe, shock and hunger, for indeed a golden opportunity one filled with danger and extreme risk true had arrived to deliver an mortal blow to their ancestral enemy.

"Chancellor Hitler," declared General-colonel Keitel, "with your approval we will begin to make preparations." Hitler nodded and then said to the departing officers and ministers, "This information changes all we have expected, the downfall of Russia is at hand once and for all…the death of a tyrant will soon occur." As he turned to look out the window he never understood how prophetic those very words happened to be… 20 December, 1939 rear-area of the Russian Ninth Army Corp Nikkei paused as she and Stephen neared the top of the hill and motioned for him to do the same.

She strained to pick up the sound she heard a moment before and then grinned when it became clear, another Russian courier on a motorbike was making his rounds along the main road. Stephen smiled and motioned to a spot halfway up the hill, a cleft in the rocks surrounded by ample shrubs and trees which made for a near-perfect snipers nest. He motioned to a large boulder surrounded by larger trees where he will cover her as she took down the courier; from long practice both reached their positions, shed their skis and had their respective weapons the Suomi KP sub-machinegun for him, the master-crafted rifle for Nikkei readied for business.

A sudden wave from Nikkei told Stephen something else was amiss, as she looked shocked for the first time since the war began. When he looked through the vegetation and onto the main road he understood completely her shock…for an unusual convoy worked its way ever so slowly down the road long since churned to mud and junk due to the near constant traffic and treads of the tanks.

Four motorbike guards led the way for the convoy followed by a lone, light-armored tank, a staff car that was made for a high-ranking military officer, possibly a field marshal, visiting the front lines. To the back of the convoy, four more motorbike mounted guards completed the entourage.

If not for the presence of that tank, no matter how small compared to its armored brethren, he would have had Nikkei engage the staff car while he took down the motorbike mounted guards… "If not for that blasted tank," he pumped his fist in pure frustration that such a great prize is getting away, only to realize his mistake a moment later… â‚°â‚° Nikkei lined her sights upon the two large, fuel-laden, highly-flammable, barrels of the light tank.

For once she was glad to have a magazine loaded with Stephens 'special ammo' for such an occasion. She kept adjusting her aim to compensate for the slow crawl advance of the armored beast, growing more impatient with each second that Stephen mulled over her taking the shot or for the two of them to withdraw.

From the corner of her eye she saw Stephen pump his fist, their agreed upon signal for her to start any ambush they have established. One final adjustment on her leading the tank, and a gentle squeeze of the trigger… Bang! Bang! Twice she worked the rifle bolt in her palm-guided, up-back, forward-down sweeping motion to reload for the next shot she would need.

She paid the tank no more heed, swinging around to the staff car even then breaking and sliding across the iced and mud covered road… Bang! The staff cars left-back tire shredded from the bullets impact, the incendiary charge igniting the rubber material almost instantly.

The occupants of the staff car leapt from the vehicle as the motorbike guards leapt to cover one man in a black greatcoat…the gleam of the morning sunlight off of his rank lapels denoted him to be a true prize, maybe the Russian General her grandfather spoke of arriving ahead of schedule. She changed magazines, palmed the rifle bolt and chambered the first round of regular ammo she used. The sound of the Russians firing with pistols and sub-machineguns blindly into the surrounding land did not cause her any alarm… BOOM!

The tank firing a 76mm cannon round into the woods barely 50 meters downhill from her location did get her notice… She rolled to one side of the sheltering stone as a second cannon round slammed home closer than the last.

Her ears pounded from the deafening noise, bones hurt and gut felt as if it had been reduced to mush. The steady tap tapping of Stephen's Suomi sub-machinegun told the tale of dead Russians and his effort to distract the tank… BOOM!!!

The force of the blast bodily lifted Nikkei off the ground like a rag doll. With ears still ringing like a cacophony of church bells she half-moved, half-stumbled back to the cleft in the stone and gasped at the sight before her…the staff car and most of the motorbikes had been reduced to twisted metal while the destroyed tank poured forth a bellowing pillar of flame high into the morning sky.

Stephen moved from tree to tree, boulder to boulder, aiming his shots to pin down the Russians who sheltered behind the boulders.

There, they are safe from his fire for the time, but not from Nikkei… Shaking, she fought to steady enough to draw a bead on that important Russian officer. No matter though, one guard or another kept his body between him and her…until… â‚°â‚° Stephen moved as a ghost across the terrain, steadily closing on the Russians position, determined to collect the Russian officer as due payment for his showing up in Finland.

Here was the opportunity of a lifetime, to take down a full-fledged Russian general or field-marshal…or if he can be captured, the boon for the Finnish army will be… Bang!

Four more shots followed in quick succession, and then came a strange calmness only parted by the continuous roar of the flaming tank. He grinned at the precision work of his granddaughter, moved carefully to the edge of the woods and prepared to cross the road.

Stephen wondered what information that might benefit the Finnish Armed Forces awaited his discovery on that dead officer's carcass… The sudden arrival of two squadrons of Russian light bombers and fighters which passed low and close over his position changed everything.

There is no way they could have missed the carnage that had been inflicted on the small but important caravan; especially as the tank still burned like a blowtorch with a column of black smoke clawing ever higher into the sky. He rapidly retreated back into the woods, and raced to Nikkei to help her get ready for a fast, hard and long march deeper into the forest trails.

Three more Russian aircraft squadrons passed overhead, and he prayed that none of the pilots would look down and spot him or Nikkei…if they did there will be no escape. Nikkei scrambled around the hillside, staying under the forest canopy for concealment.

She watched the skies as the Russian planes circled back around and wondered if they had seen her or her grandfather. A short whistle caught her attention and she watched Stephen wave to her, point down a smaller side trail that snaked among the woods, and pushed off with her poles, pressing to keep up with the hard pace he set for them. They pushed onward fast and hard to increase the distance between them and the ambush site.

Then came the clarion call of a score or more of planes high overhead. At the edge of a large clearing they watched the grand aerial battle then being waged high in the skies; a dance of death between the Finnish and Russian Air Forces so far above the earth… Contrails swept the clouded sky, here moving in a straight line, there they curved and spiraled until one or two at a time ended in clouds of black smoke.

Outnumbered by eight to one the Finnish pilots pressed home each of their attacks, savaging the Russian formations that sought to make it past them, only to cascade out of the sky and into the merciless clutches of the earth.

It ended in less than ten minutes during which Stephen counted the Russians had lost seventeen fighters and eleven bombers. From the trails of black smoke which departed to the east, at least twice that number of planes had been damaged; he hoped every one of the Russians crashed on the way back to their bases. As for losses on the side of Finland, he could not tell one way or another.

Two hours later as the pair stopped to catch their breath, having covered nearly seven kilometers, Stephen gave Nikkei a impish grin and asked, "So my granddaughter, what shall we use to mark your taking of that tank?" "How about a squirrel grandpa?" she replied. To her amazement he agreed, and when they set camp that night among some old ruins he added five small foxes and one squirrel to her growing tally of kills recorded on the rifle.

"Grandpa," Nikkei said, and then hesitated, still shaken by the close call with death at the hands of the tanks returned fire. "Who would the Russians send to the front lines escorted by a tank, and so many motorbike riders?" Stephen paused and rubbed his hand over his chin as he mulled the question over and over. Finally he reached the only logical conclusion that fit the evidence of such a caravan moving with minimal guard.

"The only thing that makes sense was either a new Divisional commander or possibly the commander of the Russian Ninth Army Corp, General Dashicev whom we have been hunting for. Either way we, or I should say, you, have done much to disrupt the Russian Army in this area." He scuffed up Nikkei's hair with his hand despite her best effort to fend him off, "Come now Nikkei we have to push on before we make camp.

There is an old hunting lodge, or I should say what's left of one, where we will hole up and figure out what to blow up next." "Grandpa is there any chance I can get a bath?" Nikkei asked, not expecting any kind of good news in the matter.

"The place originally had hot water piped in from the local springs, and if I recall correctly the last time I checked they are still working. I'm not promising anything Nikkei, but if you want a hot bath I'll do what I can to ensure you get your hot bath for Christmas…" Stephen shook his head and moved to catch up with Nikkei, who raced on down the trail determined to have her hot bath.

"Never underestimate that girl…so much like me after all…still a grand old day, and one less major pain of a Russian leader to be concerned with." In a handful of days Stephen and Nikkei would discover who was in the ambushed convoy.

Yet the chain of events unleashed by their efforts will take longer to unfold and shape not only the Winter War, but the lives of tens of millions of people across Europe and beyond. 22 December, 1939 STAVKA headquarters, Moscow Premier Stalin watched from the high balcony of STAVKA headquarters as the firing squads prepared for the next round of executions. Normally the sight of such bloodletting would quell his sadistic rages in minutes, but not this evening.

No, this evening the blood would flow in red streams across the land. The incompetents who had allowed such shame and embarrassment to descend upon the USSR had to be expunged permanently for their crimes.

Stalin slammed his fist on the stone railing repeatedly, angered beyond sensibility or reason. He had sent his Minister of Defense, Marshal Voroshilov to join with Ninth Army Corps Commander General Dashicev and get to the bottom of the mess at the front lines.

The Ninth Army Corps should have sliced Finland in half at the waist weeks ago, yet had not advanced more than sixty kilometers across the border, and if the reports are true, two elite infantry divisions had been destroyed by a bold and reckless Finnish counterattack.

He watched as the condemned men, the military unit who was to travel with Marshal Voroshilov to the front lines, were brought to the wall five at a time. The leader of the firing squad executed each command with well honed precision, his men fired on command with no hesitation and the next in line to be shot had the honor of dragging their dead friends away before assuming their place at the wall.

The fate of Marshal Voroshilov and General Dashicev was made known to Stalin only an hour ago while he had his dinner. So hot was his rage he personally stormed his way to where the bodyguards of Marshal Voroshilov were barracked, entered their commander's office and summarily shot him dead for his crimes against the state. Hour after hour he stood on that balcony as the executions continued well into the night. Once the last man of the bodyguard unit was disposed of, the fate of those NKVD troops who failed to secure the roadway followed.

Until the news of the Marshals death had arrived, few dared to challenge his decision to invade Finland and to restore what land rightfully belonged to Russia and Russia alone. Even Sweden and Norway began to have their doubts about standing up against Russia on the side of Finland, until the world wire and radio service had announced the death of Voroshilov.

Combined with another crushing victory scored by the Finnish armies against the Russian forces fighting it out on the Isthmus, many world leaders now pledged to support Finland in any way possible. And now Germany, the ostensible ally of Russia, had begun to send out feelers to the Scandinavian governments to see if German ships bearing arms and supplies for Finland would be permitted passage through their territory.

Once again Stalin seethed at the continuous betrayal heaped upon betrayal of the world nations against the rise of the USSR, and of the domination of the world by Communist forces. They refuse to see and recognize the inevitability of his cause and crusade, to bring the world into a communist golden age no matter the cost in blood and fire. "No the war will continue on," Stalin growled, his anger still stoked to levels beyond comprehension, "more men and tanks will be sent, more planes dispatched and we will fight on until I have victory over the Finnish who dishonored me in 1921, or the last Russian falls dead on the field." Stalin never moved until the last prisoners were executed well into the next days dawning.

24 December, 1939 Finland Supreme Command Headquarters For the first time since the war with Russia had commenced Field Marshal Mannheim allowed himself to give off a chuckle and a smile at the bad joke one of his aides told.

He returned to the maps and reports laid out on the table before him, listening to the unending delivery of memos, messages, intelligence and so forth. On the 22nd of December the Russian Seventh Army Corp threw itself at the Mannerheim defensive line, a full force of nine infantry divisions, three tank brigades and a light armor corps of armored cars and fast tanks. The Soviet general had come up with a crafty plan, cross the ice-covered lakes where tanks and armored vehicles could operate and pull long lines of infantry-bearing sleds; other units would mount a simultaneous assault from the land and overwhelm the defenders.

A brilliant plan that would have worked, save for the Finnish scouts and saboteurs operating in the Russian rear-areas who discovered the plan and troop movements…exactly as the intelligence gathered by the 'Ghost Bear' had indicated. Forewarned the front line commanders had engineers rig up a massive surprise for the Russian assault remote-detonated explosives combined with the usage of their pre-registered heavy howitzers and the new heavy anti-tank cannons (which had arrived via Sweden) that lined the fortified positions along the shoreline.

The Russian attack began with a massive ten-hour artillery barrage followed by the first wave of Russian troops surging across the ice. Explosives and artillery decimated the Russian forces, sending tanks and sleds into the watery depths below shattered ice. The armored vehicles and tanks that did reach the survived this were crushed by the anti-tank guns and the infantry who joined in the one-sided massacre of the lakes.

The land battle had been a much closer matter, thirteen hours of hellish combat that left over two-hundred burned out tanks and thousands of Russian dead stacked like cordwood. The Finnish armed forces had paid a dear price for it, yet the newly deployed foreign volunteers made the difference in quantity and quality…some 25000 troops from Hungary, Italy, Sweden and Norway plus a sprinkling of other nationalities, heroes each and every one! Field reports combined with intercepted transmissions broadcast in the clear from the Russian Seventh Army Corp headquarters nearly matched.

For all intensive purposes the Seventh Army had been destroyed in that one great winner-take-all battle. Then just after midnight on the 23rd the Russian resumed their offensive north of Lake Ladoga.

Five infantry divisions of the Russian Eighth Army Corps, with heavy tank and artillery support, assaulted the weak-appearing Finnish positions with a great deal of enthusiasm and determination; only to find out they had struck hard into a multi-layered, multi-supporting region of bunkers, artillery, machine gun nests, minefields and anti-tank guns which shredded the Russians in less than seven hours.

Again it was the foreign volunteers who helped make the difference, another 20,000 mix-bag of nationalities whose military skills and expertise allowed them to fight as hard as his Finnish army troops! Even the air battle went dramatically in their favor, with twenty-one Finnish Air Force planes downed for ninety-seven Russian.

The commanding general for the Eighth Army very politely stayed in his field headquarters when a six battery barrage of Finnish heavy artillery landed on its position. Field Marshal Mannheim softly chuckled and looked at his gathered officers.

"Our troops, the foreign volunteer forces, and the supplies of arms and ammo from Sweden, Norway, Italy and Hungary are making the difference; how ironic that so much of the death we bring down on the Russians has been supplied by their very own 'ally' Germany." "Field Marshal," one of Mannheim's aides quietly said and handed over a series of message forms for him.

He read them quickly, one of them several times and looked to his intelligence chief who nodded and grinned like a wolf. He just stood there in shock, unable to believe for a time that two partisans the Ghost Bear and Snow Fox had doubled their previous coup over the Russians. "My God Above thank you for this great gift you have given unto us all," he said and bowed his head in a brief prayer of thanks and praise.

The confirmation of reinforcements reservists and foreign volunteers to stiffen the Finnish defenders facing the Ninth and Fourteenth armies was great news, and now this gift on Christmas Eve truly was heaven sent.

Marshal Mannheim made a note to have those two partisans decorated if Finland managed to hold on and win the ongoing war. "Gentlemen," he called out, his voice instantly cutting through the cacophony of noise loud and distinct.

Once he had their attention he read the intercepted message and after the clapping and cheering ran its course ordered it to be broadcast over national radios. The Marshal shook his fist in triumph, knowing then and there the war with Russia had turned and turned for the better…he gave that some due consideration… "Pass the word to all our front line forces as well, but indicate they are to be doubly vigilant at this news," he said with all due seriousness, "The Russians will not forget nor forgive.

We can expect them to dispatch even more reinforcements and faster than ever to ensure our nation is crushed once and for all." "Understand this much gentlemen," he continued, his iron-hard gaze locking on every man and woman in turn, "our side has won many smashing victories and the good Lord has delivered the enemy leaders into our hands as well, but we have not won the war. Our greatest battles may well be ahead, thus I am ordering our forces who are facing the Ninth and Fourteenth Russian Army Corps to tighten their defenses so we can pin those forces in place." "Gentlemen, I sense a great change is coming in the air, a storm greater than anything we have ever seen will hit and change the world." Mannheim grinned, never understanding the storm would be one of blood, fire and steel coming down on their enemies in short order.

25 December, 1939 rear-area Russian Ninth Army Corp Nikkei slid deeper into the steaming water and reveled in the intense heat and soft waves that lapped across her abdomen and breasts. She twirled her fingers in the water, generating ripples that spread out and glistened in the soft lantern light; such a simple gift she wanted for Christmas, a hot bath, something she took for granted before the war began…before her world turned upside down and slammed to the ground with brutal intensity.

For four days she and Stephen had been cooped up in the ruins of an old hunting lodge that actually had water piped in from a nearby hot spring.

The low moaning of the blizzard reminded her of old ghost stories her father would tell near the fireplace, shadows dancing on the walls as he moved about, often making animal shadows with his hands in renditions of 'Peter and the Wolf.' One strong surge of wind that pounded on the door blocked by an old couch and desk, to prevent easy entry by anyone in the area, reminded her that not everyone was enjoying such a bounty as she on the birthday of the Prince of Peace. Most of the old lodge lay exposed to the elements, but enough remained, such as the bathing room she occupied, to provide decent shelter…once they dealt with the bear out of the place that had taken up residency.

As Nikkei reached for the rag and soap Stephen had thoughtfully laid out by the tub for her, she smiled at the fond memories of bear-meat stew…although having to manhandle the brutes 300kg carcass outside so it did not stink up the rest of the place hardly made it worth the effort.

Her being able to take a hot bath and rid herself of days of grime and dirt made it worth the effort. She gathered a rich lathering of soap on her hands and the rag, and then slowly began to scrub down her face, neck and arms. The accumulated grime and tension built from the start of the war eased away bit by bit, and she could relax for a time, free of the cares and memories of the wider world. On one breast she softly swirled the rag in sensuous circles that advanced unto her swollen nipple.

Sensations both old and new flowed into her mind, awakening desires she had never allowed herself to fully explore or to even talk about with anyone. Her eyes closed and a soft gasp passed her open lips as a slight shudder played along her body; the heat of the water accentuated the pleasurable waves which flowed one upon another along the very fibers of her being.

Her free hand came to rest between her breasts, and the fingers slowly snaked their way downward. Once there, they began to caress and tease and please a portion of her body that sent her unto the heavens with sensuous bliss that she could only compare to the songs of the heavenly choirs.

Nikkei sensed her heart beating faster and faster as her breath quickened, blood thundered and her body came alive in a rainbow of sensations that could not be described.

She pushed her fingers into the depths of her womanhood as far as she could; determined to draw out each bit of pleasure possible. Of course she was still a virgin at the age of eighteen, unlike so many of her friends and other close kin…none had desired to be with her since she was found out to be unable to have children, thus making her the scorn of the village and a bad marriage prospect.

The wild, raw, primordial surge of flame and heat caught her off guard as a thousand thousands of universes cascaded before her, infinite probabilities of what may be and could be, and then collapsed back into the here and now as she screamed her pleasure to the world when her release hit.

Her hands covered her mouth as she blushed deeper than ever before in her life, wondering if anyone had heard the noise…and blushed even deeper as Stephen burst through the door with a drawn pistol, lost his footing on the slick floor and tumbled face first into the bathtub with Nikkei. He pulled himself out of the tub and shook his head like an old sheepdog, sending a cascade of water across the room. "I'm soaked," he moaned while looking at his drenched clothing, shook his head and hoped enough firewood remained to dry them by the fireplace though they would smell like wood smoke for days.

"Better they smell of wood smoke than that of an old and wet sheep dog like me…" "Grandpa, are you alright?" Nikkei asked as she leaned over the edge of the bathtub. When Stephen looked at her with an abashed grin she gasped, clutched her arms over her bared bosom and slid deep into the waters while a hot blush surged deep and red across her already flush cheeks. All she wanted to do was melt away and disappear; her mind tore in different directions, desires playing a thousand melodies at once while she fought to tame the confusion.

On the battle field sniping at the enemy she has mastered her emotions to a fine degree; but in the matters of the heart, she has never encountered such as she faced now. She lowered her head but could not tear her eyes away from him as he pulled off his shirt and wrung the water of it…the iron-hard muscles of his lithe frame, crossed with a roadmap of scars acquired over a lifetime of hardship and battle, flexed with each twist made upon his shirt.

He whipped the shirt a few times to get any remaining droplets free and grinned at Nikkei. "Sorry Nikkei I had thought that a bear or a Russian had gotten into the bathing room and I got careless again…" Nikkei was unable to believe her ears, for her grandpa never apologized for anything.

"Grandpa you didn't foul up or get careless I just…well, I was doing something and…" "Well my granddaughter I have to admit," Stephen said while softly chuckling, "that is one way to ask a man to join you in the tub, though I'm not sure both of us would fit. Although I could try if you insist…" He laughed at the cute little squealing sounds given off by Nikkei at his suggestion.

Though as he left the room to change and dry his cloths, the sparkle that danced in her eyes spoke volumes to his experienced heart and mind. â‚°â‚° Tap tap tap! Stephen pulled the small punch away from Nikkei's rifle and examined the latest little fox-marker added to the wooden stock. Feeling the smoothness of the indentation he coated the exposed wood with an amber hued stain, when dry it will glisten with a honey-gold texture as any light played across it.

"One more of so many foxes added, I had taught my granddaughter to hunt for deer, boar and bear." Stephen gave off a deep, disgusted sigh at the winds of fate and ill-fortune. "Instead she has become a hunter of Russians who have raped our homeland and stolen her future. All those years ago when her family adopted her&hellip." His mind drifted into memories of his lost family all those years ago when they had adopted Nikkei after she had been orphaned.

No one knew where she had come from, even the authorities failed to find the parents of the little girl found wandering alone in the woods, her clothing covered in blood… A girl of true mysteries who had grown into a fine young woman; one that he wished he could have given a life of peace to instead of the damned war the Russians had forced upon all of them. In the background the static-filled broadcasts of Finnish and Scandinavian radio stations declared their holiday wishes and greetings, and then broadcast the usual updates of the war.

"To all of our members of Finland's armed forces engaged in the desperate battles to protect our homeland from the barbarians of the Soviet Union. I and all of our people thank you for the dedication and sacrifice of so much you have give for us, and may on this day when we celebrate the birth of the Prince of Peace each of you find relief from this endless suffering inflicted by the Russians." Stephen half-listened to the radios static filled broadcast.

He heard the details given of the great battle fought on the Isthmus and near Lake Ladoga on the 22nd and 23rd; the Russian Seventh and Eighth Army Corps had been stopped, shattered and scattered before stubborn Finnish resistance "assisted by volunteers who support our cause for freedom and self-determination as a democracy against the tyrannical might of Communist Russia." "We wish to confirm that in the last week the Russian Armies shock force of the Russian Ninth Army Corps has suffered extreme setbacks due to our nation's army, air force and partisans active behind the enemy lines.

It has been confirmed that the Ninth Army has lost their commander, one General Dashicev along with the Minister of Defense for the Soviet Union, Marshall Voroshilov who had come to the front lines to see first-hand what had caused the Ninth Army to be held up in the field." Stephen turned his full attention to the radio… "My fellow Fin's our beloved solders and nationals fighting behind the lines have demonstrated loud and clear to the world why the Ninth Army, along with all other Russian Army Corps, has failed to crush our nation.

In the death of the Defense Minister Russia has learned the lesson we will never surrender and never yield to their forces of enslavement. And so with each engagement we undertake against the Russian invaders, we bleed them and bleed them more, until the day will come in the near future when they will admit defeat and seek to make a just and honorable peace." "May the time soon come when we can tell in full the actions of the two known as the Snow Fox and the Ghost Bear; may God keep them safe and wield them as instruments of justice against our ancient enemies from the barbarian lands of Russia." Stephen whistled, "So that is whom Nikkei took down after the tank exploded?" He imagined how Nikkei would dance around like an ale-drunken bee after hearing of the prize she had bagged.

The death of General Dashicev was welcome news, and showed his guess as to who occupied the staff car in the caravan they had ambushed. Yet the death of Marshall Voroshilov, Russian Minister of Defense, truly marked the greatest prize any partisan sniper could hope to score short of Premier Stalin. He gently cleaned the rifle with an old rag, gently removing the least trace of dirt, dust or oil his work may have left upon it. "I made this for my dear Nikkei to hunt deer and bear with, and now she ahs been forced by this war to become a hunter of men.

I wish her parents could see her now…" He fought back the tear that threatened to come as his heart lodged in his throat. His children and grandchildren, plus all his friends there save for Nikkei are all gone. His rage at the Russians redoubled in an instant.

"Tomorrow I have to go and 'see what is going on' again; hopefully this time Nikkei will not insist on coming along with me." He looked at the small pile of supplies that had been cached away in the basement of the old hunting lodge. While Nikkei had been taking her bath he had gone down and brought the food, cloths, ammo and other sundry goods the two needed as they hunted Russians.

Also, as he had hoped, the two small sleds he had stored among other goods in the cache remained intact and untaken. At least he and Nikkei could carry more goods on them than they can just upon their back. Plus he had new batteries for his small radio a friend had built a few years ago… That little transmitter has proven to be a true wonder.

Incredibly small, lightweight and reliable, he can use it to relay or receive voice and Morse-code signals. His old friend in the United States who made it was a generation ahead of his time, and a simple attachment allowed it to be powered by a hand-cranked generator-system.

When the tensions between Russia and Finland had begun to increase, he and his fellow smugglers plus some of the contacts they had within the armed forces began to plan and prepare.

Thus a relay-chain of a sort exists to pass information and instructions along to those who needed it; they always are sent in brief transmission of Morse-code to avoid counter detection by the Russians. Other information, orders and the like are broadcast five times daily by the government over the public radio broadcasts. No matter how much the Russians may try, only the leaders of the partisans in specific areas behind the lines possessed the necessary codes to understand them.

"All for the better then," Stephen softly said to himself. "It's past time we bleed these Russians as badly as we can and prevent any more chaos falling upon our heads…" He stopped mumbling at the sound of Nikkei's ghostly footsteps mixed with the crackling of the flames in the fireplace. His gaze moved to his clothing hung over the back of two old chairs near the fireplace, the heat slowly drying them out after that dip in the tub.

Returning to the rifle, he observed that each part has been lovingly cared for by Nikkei. Stephen nodded his approval, delighted that she had remembered all he could teach her of such matters. Wrapped in a thick cotton robe, Nikkei sat before the fire and continued towel her hair dry. Stephen looked up at her, the light from the flames caressing her in a swirling dance of light and shadow. He saw her chewing on her lower lip, obviously troubled by something, or more likely what had happened between them in the bathing room.

"Nikkei what's bothering you my dear?" Stephen said and laid the rifle down on its white-furred scabbard. "I can tell you are worried or troubled, so please tell me and if I have wronged you somehow…" He scooted next to her and looked into her tear-filled eyes as she turned her gaze unto his. She opened her robe to expose her bared abdomen, thigh and breasts for him to see, hoping that he will not turn away from her unspoken question.

One hand came to rest on his flushed cheek, the heat flowing into her hand as she began to caress his iron-hard, weather-beaten, scarred skin in such a gentle way that it twitched with each soft and delicate stroke. "Nikkei I did not mean to offend you earlier…" Stephen's words ended when she gently touched a fingertip to his lips.

She pulled her hand away and shed the robe from her body, then leaned onto her hip, sweeping her legs back behind her at the knees and propped herself up on one arm. With the other she took his hand into her and entwined their fingers.

Stephen's eyes drank in every sensuous and soft curve of her body, the fullness of her amber hair, soft blue eyes full of life and pain mixed in equal measure, the steady rise and fall of her bared bosom. As his gaze descended to her most intimate of treasures she shifted her leg enough for him to see her bared womanhood and the slight glint of moisture already gathered there on her skin and surrounding hair.

"Nikkei what are you…I mean…" for one of the few times in his life, Stephen found himself at a loss for words as his brain flared to ashen insensibility.

He could not believe this is actually happening and with his dearest and only surviving granddaughter… "Grandpa I want this to be my gift to you," she said to him. He could hear the love and affection in her voice for him, something that had been there for years and only now did he understand in full…his adopted Nikkei had fallen in love with him long ago and now sought to move their relation to the next level. "I have forgotten since the war began what it meant to be alive and free of worry and anger," she said, her eyes releasing a lone tear down her cheek.

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"I want to be your present grandpa for tonight, to remind us both what life means; I don't expect to make it through this war, so much death has already come close…and with that tank firing at me…" she shuddered at the memory of how close she had brushed with death that day.

She moved to Stephen and sat down on his lap with her legs crossing behind his back. Her one hand brought his to rest on her bosom; the mere touch of his skin on hers sent a thrill and chill blazing across her being. When he began to caress her breast, teasing more and more fiery waves of pleasure from her body, she leaned into him and all but melted away as the soft snow does before the flames of a fire.

He kissed her cheek and softly blew puffs of his heated breath on her neck. Stroking her hair he looked once again into her eyes and seen the love and nervousness playing against one another.

"Are you sure this is what you want Nikkei? You only have one first time in such matters and I want you to be absolutely sure…" The fierce embrace and fiery kiss she gave him answered all his questions. So it was that they entered the oldest of songs, and fulfilled the oldest dance of all, two hearts and two bodies coming together in one; the cries of passion and primal release echoed throughout the old ruins until Stephen released his life seed into Nikkei, and then collapsed from the exertion.

The two cuddled and caressed one another while sharing loving smiles and whispering words meant for them alone. An hour later as Nikkei contently slept away, her gentle snore merging with the crackling flames, Stephen gave her a smile and softly kissed her on the cheek before laying down for his own rest. He made sure though that his pistols and hunting knife were within easy grabbing distance if they were needed. 28 December, 1939 Suomussalimi, Finland Colonel Siilasvuo returned the couriers salute and dismissed him with a casual wave of his hand.

Two days ago he had been alerted to important instructions that will arrive at his headquarters; and given the current weather that raged just outside the hotels thick stone walls, it had to be something between extremely urgent and insane for a courier to be risked in temperatures, snow and winds that were the worst in recorded history.

Since him and the 27th Infantry Regiment, now reinforced by three additional regiments of reservists and foreign volunteers, he had waged relentless guerrilla warfare to bleed the Russian Ninth Army Corp white and hold them to this region when from all accounts they could have been used on the Isthmus during the last Russian assault.

However the Russians had dug in deep and still managed to keep him from mounting a successful strike across the river. He could defend and not attack, and the same for them…a frustration that grew all the more with each passing day. Even his raiding parties had met with minimal success, save for sniping at the Russians who hid in their fortified positions. Only Captain Robinson and his men, aided by the partisans led by the old colonel Stephen and his aide called "Snow Fox" have scored massive success upon success upon success.

When he considered the reputation of the old colonel, commonly known as the "Ghost Bear' in the last great war, it is little wonder the man leads and coordinates the partisans to such a record, even as he and the Snow Fox carry out their own two-person crusade upon the hated Russians.

He opened the packet and withdrew out the bundle of documents and photographs, and whistled when he gave the top page orders from Field Marshal Mannerheim himself a cursory glance. They explained in brief and concise detail that major reinforcements were expected to be arriving inside two weeks for the Russian Ninth Army Corp… Colonel Siilasvuo raged, cursed and complained as he stormed out of the old hotel which housed his field headquarters.

He shouted above the howling wind for his senior officers to gather around him as he woke his driver to take him down riverside…he had been forbidden from launching anything stronger than raids across the river to slice apart the remaining strength of the Ninth Army while time remained.

So he had chosen to inspect the forward defenses and ensure the Russians received a warm welcome when they struck. As expected, the defenses were strong and growing stronger with each passing day; with log and stone bunkers housing machine guns, anti-tank cannon and fighting positions for infantry.

Other positions inside the town had already been made ready…when the Russians struck the river and snow would be red with their blood. 28 December, 1939 Berlin, Germany "Ah yes, I will take this one here," Admiral Donitz said as he looked over the beautiful gold-chain necklace set with fine diamonds.

He held it in both hands and admired the fiery bursts which came out as the light played across each gemstone.

The jeweler had promised the gift would be crafted to perfection, and so he had achieved yet again with the gift for his dear wife. "Klaus what do you think of it?" Donitz asked of his bodyguard and driver. He moved around to face the man so he could see the wonderful magic wrought by Karl, his personal jeweler and one of the few men he called a true master of that trade.

"Admiral, as always Mr. Karl has outdone himself, you have chosen the gift well for Mrs. Donitz and she will probably be pleased beyond measure at your gift of affection for her." Major Klaus, polite as ever turned back to watching the store and all of the people within it, plus those who paused even for a moment to look through the storefronts windows.

His hand never strayed far from the grip of his pistol. The sound of sirens caused everyone to turn and watch the street as the motorcade of Chancellor Hitler began to pass by. Donitz looked at his watch and smiled, "Punctual as always, I noticed some work was being done on his vehicle last night as I left the office.

Did you remember to have that looked into Klaus?" "Yes sir, I had it checked out by naval security, and the Gestapo Major in charge of security ensured me when I appeared in person that 'a small problem had arisen and was even now being fixed.' Most unusual accent though for the man," Major Klaus never finished his sentence.

Admiral Donitz expression changed from delight to shock and then abject horror as the Chancellors car came into sight, and disappeared in a thunderous explosion that tore the vehicle asunder. Major Klaus took the brunt of the shockwave which blew out the storefront, killing him instantly along with Karl… Donitz coughed, choked and gasped for air amidst the roiling clouds of dust and smoke.

He made his way out to the street where many vehicles burned, and all too many people lay on the ground in pools of red. One look at the twisted, burning remains of the Chancellors car told him there would be, could not be, any survivors; but he rushed over to see if against all odds his nations leader had somehow survived.

The military escort swarmed the area to gain control as fast as possible; one officer threatened Admiral Donitz until he showed his military papers and then took control over the scene. All too swiftly the truth was confirmed when the fires of the Chancellors car were extinguished at long last. Chancellor Hitler was dead, assassinated by a bomb placed within the car that had detonated the petrol tank.

"So it has been accomplished," Admiral Donitz said, sad and shaking his head in disbelief, a wonderful act for the sake of appearances to the masses. His personal agents, ones loyal to him and him alone, had penetrated the network of Russian spies and agents that existed in Berlin…and he knew who controlled them as well… He never expected their plan to work.

Now that it had, his allies in the German government would ensure his succession to the Chancellorship and, as promised for the support of Goering and his faction, would deal with Russia once and for all…of course he still had to make a 'phone call' to the mastermind behind this mad plot to ensure his own survival.

30 December, 1939 Moscow, Russia Everyone in the room jumped at the single gunshot that seemed to growl and rebound about the meeting room for the High Command of the Russian Armed Forces.

Quickly they resumed their stance of full attention, each expecting to be the next one personally gunned down by the man at the head of the table… "Comrades I believe my point has been duly made," Premier Stalin calmly stated as he holstered his pistol.

He gave a nod and two NKVD guards rushed over and dragged the body of General Voroshilov, who of late had been recalled to Moscow for 'private consultations regarding the war.' "I will tolerate no more failures in the matter of this war with Finland," he growled, "each day our nation loses yet more influence, respect and position around the world.

I have since the failed offensive of 22-23 December given orders for massive reinforcements to deploy in the areas of the Seventh and Eighth Army Corps, we have peace with the Germans and thus our front with them is now reduced to second and third rank units; the elite forces being redeployed will be in place by the end of January, when the final offensive shall begin." "The Ninth Army Corp shall conduct limited offensives; they have consistently failed and thus will not be of any more major usage." He smashed his fist onto the table many times to emphasize his point.

Stalin went on for some time berating the world for all manner of perceived slights and plots being carried out against him and the Soviet Union. His rage grew to such heights and depths that many of the men gathered feared he would either die of a stroke; or have everyone shot down on the spot by the sub-machinegun wielding NKVD bodyguards who circled behind each man like a watching and waiting vulture.

From one side an officer appeared, delivered several message forms to Stalin and then bolted for his life after being dismissed with a casual wave. As he scanned them his mood swung from rage to outright joy back to a simmering, stewing rage that promised death to someone before the night passed.

"Gentlemen," Stalin declared with a forced calm and smile while holding up the third message form in one hand, "as I stated, we have peace with Germany and now it is guaranteed for some time to come. Our agents in the German High Command have confirmed the news being broadcast over the radio." He paused and grinned, "Hitler is dead.

Someone managed to place an explosive device inside of his armored car, and needless to say the carnage wrought was phenomenal. Admiral Donitz has been sworn in as the new Chancellor of Germany and thus will take many months to fully dispose of his rivals and gain full control over his nation's governance." The staff officers and ministers shouted and cheered at the news of Hitler's death, and gave off calls for the long life of Premier Stalin, the Soviet Union and the inevitable domination of the world by Communism.

By almost universal spontaneity they began to sing the national song of Russia, their dedication and belief in their cause having been reconfirmed by the universe at large. Wisely Stalin withheld the two other messages that arrived at the same time. They detailed the movements of Generals Timoshenko and Shaposhnikov, the newly appointed co-commanders of the Finland Front.

During the flight to headquarters near a secured airport the plane carrying them, escorted by twelve fighters, was jumped by a large number of Finnish fighters. Every one of the Russian pilots fought until their planes went down in flames. Despite their best efforts, the plane carrying both generals had been shot down as well with no survivors.

Once again the leaders of his armed forces had disappointed him, and the reports of flagging morale among the infantry along with some units on the edge of mutiny confirmed the officers were deliberately failing, seeking cause to oust him once and for all from power. Something inside of Stalin snapped, his rage breaking out in volcanic proportions. None of the jubilant officers before him knew what hit them when with a nod Stalin had his bodyguards cut them down to the last.

He summoned his personal aide and demanded a prepared document, which once he signed with a few casual strokes of his pen, was sent to the NKVD communications commissar and dispatched. Within forty-eight hours the blood bath had finished, completely decimating the Russian armed forces higher command and replacing all officers of Major or higher rank with Political commissars.

He gave new orders to all of the Russian armed forces; any hint of disloyalty or lack of proper communist spirit will result in that man's entire platoon or company being summarily executed en mass. Stalin never understood just how deadly he had misjudged the unfolding chain of events his madness and lust for blood would unleash in short order… 30 December, 1939 Germany, OKH High Command Admiral Donitz, newly sworn in Chancellor of Germany and all of her people looked out the window of his office and the pristine snowfall from the latest storm.

Just over twenty-four hours ago Chancellor Hitler had been assassinated by a bomb planted inside of his armored staff car; in short order the Gestapo had discovered and captured a gang of Russian spies and agents who caused Hitler's death. Their execution warrants were the first matter taken care of by Donitz after taking the oath of office.

Now he had a monumental choice to make, one discussed long into the night by him and the High Command. He had been aware of plans being drafted, on Hitler's orders, for an invasion of Russia…he wondered if Hitler had been aware of his pending death, not that it mattered now.

Hitler's death at the hands of suspected Russian agents, proven or not, gave them the legal and moral justice for the invasion to come. The major world leaders, even those of France and Britain, had been contacted via direct or third-party transmitted cables of the plan to deal with Russia and Stalin for their perfidy in assassinating the German Chancellor.

Many had responded with the usual condolences and various degrees of admonishment of Russia. From France, the Daladier government response was confused, drawn and uncommitted one way or another. That came as no surprise to Donitz, having anticipated such from the instant the cables were sent out. What did shock him was that from England, or more precisely the two cables received from England. One from the parliament condemning Russia and urging peace talks are held between Russia and Germany to resolve this matter; the latter, and thus the most important as far as Donitz was concerned came directly from Churchill… To the Chancellor of Germany, Admiral Donitz, In concern to the matter of Russia and their demonstrated barbarity to the proper conduct of relations between governments I say this much.

So long as Marshal Goering continues to supply arms to Finland via Sweden and no interference with our own arms shipments to Finland comes about, we wish you God speed and decisive victory over the godless Russian government of Stalin. "Gentlemen," Chancellor Donitz began as he turned to face the gathered High Command, "most of our forces are in place already since the invasion of Poland and we have managed to secretly increase our forces there by a large degree.

Have all of you discussed and familiarized yourself with the plan and overall goals?" Each officer in turn affirmed his role and detailed any last minute concerns, details and so forth. Satisfied that all is in place Donitz sat behind his desk and signed the orders laid out before him… "Gentlemen" he said, "Operation Wotan, the invasion and destruction of the Soviet Union, will start at 12:01 a.m.

on 10 January, 1940. Stalin has inflicted pain and blood upon us, and now we will pay him and his people back a million fold." Stalin sewed the wind with the seeds of war in Finland, and now he will reap the harvest of steel and blood and fire born of the whirlwind coming back upon him.

30 December, 1939 England, unknown location "Thank you for the call," Churchill said into the phone, "it had been most unexpected but delightful none the less and I wish you victory in your crusade against Russia." He hung up the phone and sighed at the chain of events now coming forth to fruition. The Russian-Finnish war promised to bleed Russia white as Finland continued to defy common sense, logic and belief in their consistent crushing of one Russian Army Corp after another in horrendous battles around their nation.

Even he had listened to the growing tales told on the radio of such heroes as the Snow Devil, Ghost Bear and the Snow Fox. Individuals who had managed to inflict mass carnage at key times and locations on the Russians, and both co-commanders for the Finland Front perished with intelligence given to the Finland Air Forces from Britain.

Of course, the assassination of Hitler carried out by disloyal Germans who assumed the British agents who controlled them were actually Russian, had yielded a case to save the Western world. Russia and Germany will bleed each other white, and by the time they deal with one another, Britain and France will be ready to face the German armies who will come at them. As a historian Churchill understood all-too-well what forces of death and destruction he has unleashed, but for the sake of a free future and saving tens of millions of lives, he chose the lesser of two evils set before him.

One other matter caused him no end of concern; the simple fact of Admiral Donitz being able to place a direct call to Churchill's 'secret' location meant the man had agents all over England. Agents that for some reason he used for his own mysterious purposes and never shared with his fellow Germans. Churchill shook his head, mentally replaying the conversation word by word he had with the new Chancellor of Germany.

He examined each nuance, mannerism and inflection for the slightest edge it may give him in any future dealings with Admiral Donitz. The sheer ability, audacity, and cunning of the man were incredible to hear and witness as he described to Churchill dates, times, places and conversations of English penetration agents and spies who had manipulated the Russian agents into assassinating Hitler… Donitz had shielded the English agents from his colleges in the Gestapo, and delivered to the English embassy in Switzerland for repatriation.

Churchill folded his hands together and tapped his fingertips one upon another as he tried to decipher this complex enigma enshrouded within a conundrum that represented Donitz…no matter what; Donitz had proven to be an adversary worth watching very, very closely.

8 January, 1940 rear-area Russian Ninth Army Corps Commissar General Kolya stood on the houses front porch and watched the first stars of the night emerge in the clear sky.

It reminded him of the small farming village he had grown up in, and many others he had been based near or within since the Revolution and subsequent dominance of the Communist party.

Of course this particular Finnish community, once called Summers Mist, had been exterminated in the first hour of the war. These people had refused to see the inevitable, that their government had been corrupted and taken over by the Imperialists of the west and thus they had paid for the perfidy of the Finland government who refused to comply with the rightful demands of Moscow. "Unbelievable, in the middle of this war we have such a wonder as the night to see," he stated to the aides and to Commissar Major-Generals Romanov and Cranston, commanders of the 51st and 58th Infantry Divisions.

"Now then, I have plans set out for dealing with these troublesome partisans once and for all&hellip." â‚° From a wooded hill that looked down on the remains of Summers Mist Stephen watched with keen interest the cluster of tents and vehicles which marked the Corps headquarters unit.

The collection of officers standing out in the cold told him loud and clear that they were senior Russian commanders; ones that would learn a final and very lethal lesson. He and Nikkei had learned of the headquarters new location from one of many motorbike riding couriers they had disposed of since Christmas. Her rage at the mere thought of Russians standing amidst her old home only was surpassed by his own, and tempered by the chance to score one more major victory over the invaders.

The Finnish radio stations conducted their regular updates of the war, now reduced to a chain of violent skirmishes on the front lines and aerial battles between the Finland and Russian air forces.

The messages sent to partisan units behind the lines confirmed this, plus directed them to strike as hard as they can when opportunity presented itself. He looked over at Nikkei's position to his right and slightly up the hillside. Concealed among a cluster of rocks, trees, shrubs and a snow cloak set up as a hunters blind he could barely make out her outline as she lay as low to the ground as possible.

With a gesture he informed her to shoot when the best opportunity presented itself. Stephen returned to watching the camp with his binoculars, noting a rumbling band of trucks passing behind the commanders' tent… â‚° Commissar General Kolya turned to face the slow convoy of trucks that snaked its way up the road and passed his tent.

One band of NKVD personnel riding in the back of a truck saluted as they passed, as did the next and the next after that. His heart surged in pride at this grand display of proper political spirit and loyalty to the state which he will use to inspire and terrify the Russian infantry into proper shape. On his desk sat a pile of reports that many units in his command were in near mutiny, having refused to comply with lawfully given orders by their new NKVD officers. All of the old officers had been, as per Stalin's orders, been executed; though Kolya included all of the officers and not spared the lieutenants and captains as Stalin had done.

Two days ago he had assumed control of the Ninth Army Corp and now he has to deal with this rebellion; and if reports are true, it is spreading like wildfire in a drought stricken forest through the Russian Army…especially with units being sent to reinforce the Finnish Front. He turned to the two divisional commanders and waved at the passing trucks, "Gentlemen these are the true heart and soul of the state; you will whip the men of your new units into shape and then we shall deal with the partisans…" He cringed as one passing truck repeatedly backfired.

â‚° Nikkei watched in her rifles scope the officer who strutted around like a grand old rooster about to be sent to the kitchen for a holiday feast. A man who thought himself to be a genius or leader of men, and instead he is just one more rooster fat, proud, arrogant and filled with his own self-worth…and about to pay the price for that uttermost hubris… She squeezed the trigger… Bang! â‚° Commissar Major-Generals Romanov and Cranston watched in slack-jawed horror as their commander toppled forward as a marionette cut free of its strings.

The headquarters guard, gathered officers and staff looked at the crimson stain that flowed from beneath the fallen man across the white snow; for an eternity of time they could not force their bodies to move, horrified at having death visit them so far behind the front lines… An eternity that lasted all too long when they were in the sights of the shooter… â‚° Up-back, forward-down went the rifle bolt as Nikkei chambered a new round.

She aligned the crosshairs on the next officer, one among many, who stood around in frozen terror… Bang! Bang! Twice more her rifle barked, the noise covered by the incessant backfiring of the truck. As per Stephens plan she immediately backed from her position, pulled down the snow cloak and worked her way down the hillside with him.

Inside ten minutes they were skiing hard and fast to vacate the area. â‚° Colonel Idenorph, NKVD commander of the headquarters guard watched the three generals fall one after the next. He called out warning of a sniper and looked in the direction of the backfiring truck which had a man who held his pistol in the direction of the fallen generals. "There in the truck, the gunner is in the truck," he bellowed out to his assembling men.

"Shoot them down, all of them…" Instantly the twenty men who had assembled by this time leveled their sub-machineguns and opened fire, tearing the truck, driver and NKVD guards to shreds. A grenade was lobbed into the open backside and reduced the vehicle to twisted metal and a roaring fire that marked the grave of two score of state security personnel. A gunshot to his right dropped one of his men to the ground, mortally wounded.

He turned to see NKVD troops jumping down from the trucks that followed and assumed a coup was underway by traitors to the state.

"Cut them all down, everyone of the traitors…" His last command ended in a gurgle and spray of blood as a burst of bullets tore his chest open. Pandemonium reigned as factions of NKVD troops tore into one another, leaving scores dead and many more wounded upon the snowy ruins of Summer Mist. This chaos only escalated when Captain Robinson and his men stumbled onto the scene, already prepared to raid the headquarters, and swept the place clean of any survivors.

After destroying anything they could not carry off they departed as silently as ghosts and reported to the Finland High Command another success for the 'Ghost Bear' and the 'Snow Fox,' who initiated the minor civil war at the headquarters. â‚° Four hours and several kilometers later, Stephen hugged Nikkei and scuffed her hair in congratulations. They set off for the next hidden cache and shelter from which they will plan the next strikes against the Russians.

"Grandpa what do you think all that gunfire was about after we left?" Nikkei asked of Stephen. "I imagine the Russians were killing one another off," Stephen shrugged and grinned, "or a bunch of our soldiers arrived in time to take advantage of the chaos you created and exterminated the entire headquarters and that convoy of trucks.

Come Nikkei we have to cover a lot of ground tonight and I want to get going while we have the moonlight to guide us…" With that they moved off as silent as death amidst the deep woods. 9 January, 1940 STAVKA headquarters, Russia The conspirators gathered for the final time, knowing they are committed no matter the outcome.

One by one each went over his part of the plan, the role of his troops or government department, and the tight timeline they had to maintain to the minute once everything began. One small disruption in the plan, one slipup of any kind and it will be all over. But the stakes of their failure would be the death of Russia and imposition of a German warlord and government over the motherland for God alone knew how many generations.

The agents of the NKVD had recently received confirmation of the German armed forces gathering en mass along the German-Russian frontier in what had been Poland. An immense force of mechanized infantry and of tanks, airplanes and bombers…an incredible fist of iron prepared to smash home into a weakened Russia.

Normally the armed forces of Russia would be sufficient to deter the Germans, but now mutiny was sweeping the four army corps stuck within Finland and others enroute to Finland or still on the frontier had joined with them. Commissars had been killed, elections of new officers held and notices sent to STAVKA in the clear… The troops will no longer follow orders given by Stalin or his men and called upon the Germans to invade and liberate their homeland from the oppression of Communism.

The Germans promptly responded, declaring to the world they will commence their 'liberation of Russia' unless Stalin steps down or is removed before 10 January, 1940.

Each had cringed as Donitz explained on the radio that he held only Stalin and his henchmen, and not the Russian soldiers or Russian population responsible for the assassination of Chancellor Hitler… So the conspirators knew what had to be done: liquidate Stalin. "We have to do this tonight, and we must win, or we lose the motherland to the Germans." General Zhukov, the lone general to survive Stalin's madness, told the gathered men.

"Give the orders, in one hour it begins…" With those words the men departed to save their homeland. 9 January, 1940 Berlin, Germany "General has this been confirmed?" Chancellor Donitz said into the telephone. His staff waited in tense silence, each one wondering if the events being reported in Russia are true; and if not true, will their Chancellor give the final order to commence the invasion of Russia.

"Thank you," Donitz said and slowly hung up the phone. He breathed deeply, turned to his staff and smiled in true delight. "Gentlemen, the news have been confirmed, Stalin and his henchmen are dead and General Zhukov has been sworn in as the new Premier of Russia.

The orders have already been confirmed by our listening posts and agents in Moscow, all conflict save for local self-defense is to cease immediately inside Finland and a 'request' made to our government to mediate peace talks between Finland and Russia." "Orders are to be sent at once that the invasion of Russia is hereby cancelled." Donitz saved his greatest surprise for last as he held up a letter delivered earlier by the ambassador of Switzerland.

"I have here the personal letter of Winston Churchill who has accepted our offer of a return to the status-quo of 1939 between our nations. We will withdraw from Poland, though it shall remain as a vassal government in our sphere of influence." "Gentlemen," Donitz continued, "we have peace at last and Germany has become a world power once again.

The insult and infamy inflicted upon us in the Great War has been erased forever…" With that the Chancellor dismissed his men and returned to the day to day grind of running a government.

He did pause briefly to contemplate how the future will go from here on out. Peace has come to Europe as far as Germany is concerned, though Italy's dictator Mussolini is making his usual blustering noise about Northern Africa… "Let the man face the British and French alone if he is stupid enough to take them on alone," Donitz declared.

10 January, 1940 rear-area of Russian Ninth Army Corps In the depths of their sheltered encampment Stephen, Nikkei and Captain Robinson listened to the voice of Field Marshal Mannheim come clear and distinct over the radio. They could scarcely believe their ears… "To all citizens and soldiers, foreign volunteers and partisans who have been involved in the defense of our homeland against the forces of a tyrannical Russia; this day, a great day of celebration for us all, I am glad to proclaim that the tyrant of Russia, Premier Stalin is dead.

His successor Premier Zhukov has ordered all Russian forces are to cease hostilities at once after a massive demonstration of the Russian peoples collective resolve led to their solders refusing to accept orders anymore." Nikkei looked at Stephen, hoping against hope that this is not a dream she will shortly wake up from… "The Chancellor of Germany, Admiral Donitz, has graciously extended the offer of his government being a neutral go-between for peace talks to be held by representatives of Finland and Russia.

This proposal has been supported in the last hour by the government of Britain and France and the United States. Ladies and Gentlemen, as will be confirmed in short order by the governments official broadcasts, our valiant struggle of democracy against communist tyranny has come to an end.

Our sacrifices have been great, but God has saved us in the end. We acknowledge the efforts of all who defended our homeland on the front lines, and from behind enemy lines, heroes such as the Snow Devil, Snow Fox and Ghost Bear.

Ladies and Gentlemen, the war is over…" The remaining words were drowned out by the collective shouts of joy and delight by Nikkei, Stephen and Captain Robinson and his men.

Nikkei leapt into Stephens strong arms and kissed him as hard and long as she could, knowing that at long last she and he will return home and build a new life in the ancestral home of their people. "Grandpa…" she began only to be hushed by him. "Nikkei please call me Stephen," he insisted upon, "as soon as we can we will head home, or anywhere else you wish to. I have several properties across the region from my…other activities," he rolled his eyes to the heavens at the amount of money he had stashed away from being a smuggler.

"Grandpa…sorry, Stephen…" Nikkei said, "That old hunting lodge. We make it our home and see what we can make out of it for the future. I'm tired of hunting Russians, and I want to put this nightmare past me once and for all…" "Sorry to interrupt the romantic kiss and such," said Captain Robinson with a wide grin, "but I have orders to see the two of you to Field Marshal Mannheim at once.

He wants to see the both of you; it appears you have made a rather extreme impression on the man…" Robinson shook his head and stopped talking as Nikkei and Stephen headed to their shelter, determined to have a private celebration of their own. "It can wait a bit, it can wait…thank God the war is finally over." So it is that the first clash between East and West, between Communist Russia and those who love to be free has come to an end.

The madness of Stalin has ceased, the mighty and unstoppable Red Bear beaten, humiliated and humbled by one nation united for the defense of their homeland, and due to the bravery and determination of the ones known in history to come as 'Snow Fox' and "Ghost Bear' history has changed forever… The long feared European war ceased before it even began as Germany brokered a lasting peace treaty between Russia (now led by Zhukov) and Finland.

All territorial gains and pre-war claims made by the USSR were fully dropped, and the final international borders established under the eyes of neutral parties from the United States and Holland, Belgium and other minor powers.

Germany and England entered into an uneasy truce with one another, born by Prime Minister Churchill having gained a 'grudging respect' for Chancellor Donitz of Germany, who forged a number of industrial and trade deals of mutual benefit to the two nations people. Though many doubted the commitment of the new German Chancellor, his subsequent restoration of Poland and the Balkland states to full sovereignty helped ease these doubts in the end.

Italy's dictator Mussolini made his usual gripes and threats to restore the greatness of the original empire of Rome across the lands of northern Africa. He dismissed the warnings of France and Britain as 'small barks and yips of defeated Empires.' Chancellor Donitz delivered two messages to Mussolini the first being an stern 'discouragement' for him to 'not upset the current balance of power in a Europe now finding peace and prosperity again.' Mussolini promptly dismissed this 'utter cowardly behavior of the new German Chancellor' and prepared his nation to go to war.

Thus he in short order received the second, and final, message of Donitz: a bomb in the bathtub…and a restoration of a free and democratic means of popular government under the combined security of Britain and Germany. Through freely and openly held elections Donitz continued to lead Germany and her people for twelve more years until voluntarily refusing to run for a third six-year term of office. He declared 'it is time for the next generation, those who have never seen the face of war, but the joy of peace, to lead.' Until the end of his days Donitz, as with Churchill, remained active as diplomats for their respective nations, and even held a grudging respect for one another; although Churchill still got annoyed to the end of his days when asked about a 'certain phone call he received one night from Donitz…" France became a nation that descended into political chaos in the years to come; one government coalition rose and fell after another.

Not until after the Pacific war and loss of the French territories to the victorious Japanese did a new administration under Chenier bring some sense of hope and stability to the nation. But as a whole, the best days were behind France as her colonies in Africa broke free and became independent nations. The Scandinavian nations continued to prosper beyond anyone's wildest of dreams in the years to come; in time they formed an economic alliance which grew to rival that of Germany and England combined, and before the end of the 1950's had wrested almost half the American import market from those two respective nations.

On November 1, 1941 Admiral Isoroko Yamamoto ascended to prominence and absolute control of the armed forces of the Empire of Japan. With the blessings of the Emperor, the willing diplomatic assistance of Premier Zhukov of Russia and of President Roosevelt of America, Yamamoto pulled all troops of Japan from China in a staged withdrawal that seen the colonial powers of Europe and America begin to do the same.

Ex whore doing it how she does

No one knows to this date the truth of the matter, yet on Dec 5, 1941 President Roosevelt, on his way to Japan at the personal invitation of the Emperor Hirohito, disappeared with the heavy cruiser Chicago that he travelled upon.

The only message of alarm received was that of "fire in the forward engine room has reached the ammo magazines…" then silence. Newly sworn-in President Truman called for the matter to be investigated, and American naval forces were sent to the last known position of the Chicago. Two British corvettes, One Canadian Coast Guard vessel and three Japanese destroyers arrived on the scene to only find a field of debris and oil slicks covering miles of ocean.

What has been documented is the first American vessel, a destroyer whose Captain despised the Japanese, on the scene immediately assumed the Japanese vessels had sunk the Chicago; he demanded their surrender and when they rightfully refused, stating they as with the British and Canadian vessels were searching for survivors, commenced to fire upon them one vessel sunk, heavy damage done on the other two Japanese ships who retaliated and sunk the destroyer in turn.

Thus commenced the great Pacific War, or as many now call it "The War of Empires." On December 7, 1941, a hostile Congress, whipped into a frenzy by a small handful of anti-Japanese fanatics declared war on the Empire of Japan and directed President Truman to direct the war until 'unconditional surrender of the Empire of Japan occurred.' Seeing the opportunities for territorial gains and greater influence across the Pacific, on Dec 10 and 11, France and England joined the United States in declaring war upon the Japanese for 'crimes of such magnitude as to defy common sense or decency.' Everyone expected the Japanese Empire would fall by the end of 1942, and plans were already being prepared for the division of the home islands.

Germany declared neutrality in the matter, as did Russia; though both had supplies special technology and resources to Japan in secret to develop the war-ending means… Three long and bloody years of protracted struggle resulted in Yamamoto bringing victory for the Empire of Japan; seven decisive naval and land engagements ended in Japan's favor, with the final treaties ending the war leaving Japan in possession of Indo-China, portions of India and Ceylon, and most of the Pacific.

Though the Philippine's were restored to America after they were to be declared 'neutral territory.' Many historians have learned that the peace was wrought with an unspoken threat from Japan to unleash the new super-weapon they had developed and tested just before their final military victory the atomic bomb. In a private diplomatic cable to the leaders of America, England and France, Emperor Hirohito stated if the home islands were attacked, the new 'super bomb' would be used in retaliation upon the offending allied nation.

In due time the Winter War will pass into history, but it will not be forgotten as the time when a Democratic nation dared to do the impossible and within that war, the actions of Nikkei and Stephen changed the world forever.

Thus comes to a close the legend of the Snow Fox. (fin