30 July 2000. Soviet 129th MRD OMG HQ.
“This will wait,” the Soviet colonel told Maks and Wojciech, and left them standing in the back of the room.
Ill at ease, Maks considered their options. They were in the HQ building, deep inside the encampment of the 129th Motor Rifle Division. They’d come here, disguised as a Soviet logistics captain and his driver, to ascertain the intentions of this mobilization so close to Silesia, and perhaps assassinate Col Kazanov, who was quite possibly the glue that held this division together.
The other party members were off ambushing a convoy as a distraction. It worked well – too well really – as the convoy’s panicked radio call came in right as Maks was hitting the punchline of their cover story, explaining to the colonel and his chief of staff of missing caviar inventory at the camp.
Now Col Kazanov was over with the radio operators, getting more information from the stricken convoy, and his chief of staff, Cpt Makarov, was at the other wall with the map staffer, locating the ambush.
No battle plan ever survives first contact with the enemy
Maks and Wojciech set down their ledgers and binders at the sink near the back door. The room was noisy with conversations. This wasn’t the opportunity they were looking for: Too many people. Guard outside, 4 staffers inside, as well as the colonel and his captain, who both seemed quite competent. Maks muttered to Woj, “We need to get out of here. Go along with anything I say. If it comes to it, I’m going to make like I’m holding a grenade with no delay fuse to bluff our way out.”
Woj nodded, “OK, boss”
Kazanov was now at the map with Makarov and the map clerk. They were calling for a relief team of a tank, APCs, and trucks with soldiers to head for the ambush site. The typewriter clerk was sent out as a runner.
Maks was going to approach the command officers. Kazanov held up a hand, as a silent “not yet”, and conferred quietly with Makarov.
Maks continued glancing about the area, taking in his surroundings. The back door behind them might be locked. A refrigerator hummed near Wojciech. On Maks’ side was a desk with papers and a photograph. An attache case was on the floor on one side of the desk, and a file folder carrier on the other.
Kazanov at that moment had come to a decision. He generally knew all of the officers in his division. This logistics captain could be a recent transfer from 2nd Western Army Command at Legnica, but not right before a combat operation as they were about to commence. He had been about to confront the issue when the radio call came in. Now, they’d disarm these new arrivals at gunpoint, and then sort out matters.
Wojciech saw it first. Kazanov and Makarov were bringing their AKRs to bear. He instinctively brandished his own rifle in response. Maks saw what Woj was doing and headed for the typewriter desk.
Everything happened at once. Wojciech leapt for cover behind the refrigerator. Makarov fired 4 rounds at him, one round hitting Wojciech in the arm, and the last two rounds impacting on the fridge. As Maks was tracking across the room, behind the conference table, he gently underhand-tossed a hand grenade at the officers. Kazanov fired at him, wounding him in the leg.
[Outstanding Success on the grenade throw] The fragmentation grenade rolled to a stop next to Kazanov’s leg. Neither officer had noticed it.
The grenade exploded. The concussion in the closed room was brutal. Kazanov was tossed into Makarov, who held his ground. The radio operators were knocked against their equipment. Wojciech was smacked in the head by his own AK, seeing stars.
No less harsh were the metal fragments ripping through everything and everyone. Kazanov was killed outright. Makarov was inadvertently shielded by his superior officer’s body. The mapper went down. Maks was wounded by his own grenade.
Ears were ringing, dust and papers everywhere. Wojciech acted first. Seeing Makarov still standing, he sent a burst in the officer’s direction, wounding him further. Makarov returned fire at Woj, also wounding him.
Maks knelt down, pulled the pin on a thermite grenade, and boobytrapped the desk next to him.
Somebody outside began blowing his whistle and shouting “Alarm! Alarm!” in Russian, presumably the door guard.
Woj fired again at Makarov, finally putting an end to the Soviet officer. One of the radio officers was frozen in fear, while the other drew his Tokarev, firing at Maks, who felt something smack his helmet. Woj dropped the radioman with another burst.
Maks, bleeding from several leg wounds, limped over to the desk, and began stuffing the papers down his shirt and pants. Woj found the back door was locked. Maks grabbed the attache case, yelling at his sergeant, “Get that door open!”
It felt like an hour, but not 30 seconds had passed since fighting erupted. Still nobody had entered the HQ, though there was a commotion outside. Maks tossed a smoke grenade at the front door, followed up by a thermite grenade into the crates near the front door, which began burning furiously.
It took two tries, but Woj kicked the back door open. Maks was ready to spray anybody on the other side, but as luck would have it, the courtyard was deserted. There were chairs, tables. Looked like an R&R area for the officers. There was a large propane tank. Maks armed yet another thermite grenade, setting it where it’d burn through the tank wall, gesturing to Woj to get moving. They jumped into a nearby foxhole.
The chemical reaction from the grenade reached over 2,000 degrees. The propane tank detonated, flipping tables, knocking down tents, lashing the back of the HQ building, and starting fires.
A messy exfiltration
Maks and Wojciech made their way over to their UAZ, which had been unintentionally parked a convenient distance away. There they ran into five Soviets. Maks grabbed his gas mask, and began urgently yelling at the sergeant with the soldiers, “Gas!! Gas!!”. It was sufficiently persuasive, along with the chaos behind them, that the sergeant yelled at his troops to get the gas masks out of the back of their own vehicle.
Maks and Wojciech got into their Soviet jeep, eyes wide from shock and adrenaline. If they tried to blow out the camp’s entrance, they’d surely be riddled with machinegun fire. No, they’d do the opposite. They’d head for the motor pool at the back of the camp. He had no idea what they’d do after that.
He glanced at the HQ building as they drove away. The front door was open, flames licking out. Inky smoke was billowing into the camp, also frustrating soldiers’ attempts to enter. Some were making their way to the devastation at the back of the HQ building. A few vehicles had assembled near the entrance, probably a patrol that had been retasked as part of the convoy relief team.
Partway to the motor pool, their UAZ was flagged down by a sergeant in the dirt path. He asked what was happening as they pulled up. Maks said there was an attack, asking where the Med tent was. [and failed a Persuasion roll] The sergeant grabbed his AK, saying “You don’t know? Sir, step out of the vehicle”.
Woj shot him in the face with a silenced Makarov pistol.
Leaving the body in the dusty road, they continued back to the motor pool, Maks tossing a couple of frags into the Supplies tents, which blew up behind them. They parked in the back, ignored by mechanics and troopers who were either preparing the relief team or staring at the HQ building, now burning furiously.
Maks swore. The shock was wearing off, and his right leg hurt with every move. He bandaged up his wounds best he could, Wojciech doing the same.
This was bad. They’d never get out past the front guard posts alive, and that was the only way to drive out. The Soviets would organize soon. Their window was closing. The Sun was fully set and it was dark now.
He decided. The two would stealth out through the barbed wire not far away and risk the perimeter minefield.
Maks and Woj got past the wire quietly and began the torturous crawl probing for mines with their knives. Behind them the camp was noisy with the klaxon alarm and shouts. Another explosion rattled the camp.
They were finding no mines. The crawling and probing was taking too long. Maks looked at Woj, who shrugged. They put their knives away, and began crawling more quickly through the beaten-down zone, arm over arm.
It was a bluff. The Soviets hadn’t planted mines, at least not in this sector. They made it to the brush on the far side, and staggered away from the camp, exhausted.
31 July 2000. Escape and Evasion.
The next morning they awoke covered in leaves for warmth through the night. Feeling stiff, sore, and decades older, they made their way west, initially deeper into Soviet-held territory. They encountered no patrols thus far.
Maks began looking through the crumpled papers he’d grabbed. Organization and logistics documents for the 129th. A letter to Kazanov from a GRU functionary complained about their new agent going missing in Krakow. And battle plans for conquering Silesia in the next few days.
Most alarming was a spetsnaz special forces team was part of the plan. It was unclear their objective, except they were going to somehow neutralize the Silesia army forces at the capital, Raciborz.
In three days.