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New Year miracle

— Camp, can you hear me? It’s snowing pretty bad around here! I almost got stuck.

The man with a moustache behind the wheel of the Armadillo grimaced and wiped his forehead with a scratchy knitted mitten.

— I’m going home. It’ll be late in the garage. Put some water on the stove. I’m craving for some tea, — the man grinned, — I’m not alone.

On the roof of his armoured car between two 76 mm “Judge” cannons there was a fluffy spruce tree covered with snow. The survivor’s Armadillo slowly made his way through the high snowdrifts. The man behind the wheel was smiling: it was warm in the cabin, there was plenty of gas in the tank, and home was very close. His back was starting to hurt, but the “spine crunching” still helped. His head was filled with thoughts about the mysterious New Year events that the old madman was talking about at the campfire. Why not participate?

A soft baritone sang about snowing on the shabby portable music player, the parts for which the survivor had been searching for months. But the driver didn’t want any snowing at all. In a blizzard, the enemies may be closer than they appear.

The first fear was confirmed after only 20 minutes: a clear evening was replaced by a snowy night. The weather in these regions is very unstable and could just as abruptly become clear at any moment. The driver had just passed the old cable car station that led to the mountains, which meant it would still be a three-hour drive home. And with poor visibility it would take all five hours. The weather became even worse, but the driver continued to hope for the best.

And so did the heavy Armadillo with a huge spruce on the roof; it was pushing through the snow and bogging down. The driver managed to drive into the clearing, but the car went no further.

The survivor nervously hit the fuel gauge with his knuckles. If the calculations are correct, he can afford to stand around for a while so he doesn’t get lost. In that time, the storm may subside.

The driver ran his hand over his moustache and started rubbing his temples with it, covering his eyes. The situation was getting on his nerves. Trying to distract himself, he began to peer into the “snow wall”. The white dots on the black background rapidly replaced each other, and it felt like looking out of a spaceship, rushing at high speed among the stars. The survivor saw it on TV when he was little.

He thought about his childhood, recalling his life before Crossout. How great it was to celebrate New Year with your parents. The most vivid memory was the huge New Year tree in the city center, around which ice slides and figures were built. The garland on this Christmas tree was lit red. And on the days when he and his mother would go there to play, and there was also a wall of snow, those lights meant that the slides were very close.

The survivor was so immersed in the memories that he almost saw these red lights in the distance again. There, behind the windshield, in the depths of the “snow wall”. He wiped his eyes several times, but the lights did not disappear. The weather cleared and the driver tried to move his armoured car. It turned out that the wheels had skidded, and the car had to “wiggle” around, moving on the same spot.

Meanwhile, the lights were getting brighter and brighter, which meant they were getting closer. Ravagers, — a flash occurred in the driver’s head. He removed the cannons from the safety locks while trying to get the armoured car out of the snowdrift. The enemy could only be seen from the front, where the gun barrels were pointed. The Ravagers had already spotted the black dot of his vehicle on the white field. The time to shoot is now or never.

Fire! “Judges” fired at the same time, shaking the car and throwing snow off the Armadillo’s roof. Gunpowder gases can damage the spruce, — thought the survivor. But then he stopped himself, trying to trace where the shells had hit. One of the lights slowed down and hit the ground. One down. But there were half a dozen more red dots. The silhouettes of their owners were already clearly visible, and bullets were pounding on the armour. Rockets flew into the sky and headed in the direction of the survivor.

A cannon salvo shook the Armadillo and allowed it to move from the spot. But where can you go if the car is standing in the middle of a snowy field, as if on the palm of the enemy’s hand? The reload had already finished, and two more shells flew towards the red lights.

At the same moment, the cabin was shaken by a powerful blow. The lights flickered, but the driver quickly came to his senses and began to reload. The enemy shot landed on the left side. The armour stopped it, but a couple more hits would definitely destroy the car.

The driver turned the armoured car with its whole side toward the enemy and grabbed the radio.

— Help! SOS! I need help immediately. Square H1:Z1, to the south of the “Mountain village”. I’m under attack by the Ravager squad. I won’t last long. I repeat, SOS!

The car shuddered again from the hit. This time, it didn’t breach the armour. The cannons had already been reloaded, and the survivor was trying to aim at the Ravager that appeared in front of him. Fire! After a few moments, the enemy lost its hovers and fell into the snow. But others immediately took his place and headed towards Armadillo, raining lead on it.

— Everyone who can hear me! I’m under attack. Requesting assistance, now! Who’s on duty today? John? If you’re sleeping again, I’ll break your head open.

The enemy rockets hit the vehicle again. Now the lights are completely out, which means the radio doesn’t work either. The Ravagers were getting closer, and the survivor saw them launching rockets. It seems that it will not be possible to survive this volley. It’s a shame about the tree, — the driver grinned nervously and tried to steer the armoured car away from the line of fire. But the damaged vehicle was very poorly controlled.

In an instant, all the rockets detonated in the air, without reaching the target a couple of dozen meters. A few seconds later, several armoured vehicles swept by the survivor and immediately opened fire on the Ravagers. Apparently, it was an accurate burst of one of them that destroyed the rockets and saved the driver’s life.

Firemen were skillfully destroying the Ravagers. A few minutes later, the field was covered with damaged vehicles. The guests surrounded the Armadillo with smouldering remains of the tree on its roof.

The survivor was reluctant to leave the car. In the Valley, the assistant could turn into an aggressor at any time, who helped you out just to rob you on his own.

A large man in a black respirator and a fire helmet came out of a bright truck.

— Hey, is anybody alive? Who needs saving?

The man approached the Armadillo and tried to open the bent door. The survivor inside thought that he had very few options and pushed it out himself. The saviour didn’t look like a raider, and the driver relaxed for good.

— Thanks. These rockets would’ve definitely killed me. All because of this snow! I can use more maneuverability, that’s for sure. And those… They took me by surprise! — the man excused himself.

— I’m Henry. Fireman Henry. They got you pretty good. We’re going to the Engineers. Bringing the presents. We can get you there, too.

— The camp is already waiting for me! It’s just a pity to leave the Armadillo here.

Henry inspected the car and only now noticed the smouldering wood on the roof.

— Is that a spruce?

— What? Spruce? Well, a New Year tree, yes. I was taking it home. Ah, there’s not even any spruce left. Just firewood. Thank you, metals!

Henry frowned heavily.

— Cutting trees is not good. I should punish you, not save you.

The survivor opened his mouth in amazement. Both were silent for a few moments. And then Henry laughed.

— All right, think of it as a New Year miracle. I hope you learned your lesson. Get in my car. The storm is over. Time to celebrate.


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6 January 2022
Stories