28 September 2000
By dusk, the Vistula River at Góra Kalwaria was choked with wreckage of pirate craft.
The townsfolk had repelled the Baron’s soldiers, but the price was so high. Maksymilian Zając and his men had dispersed in town, helping wounded, putting out fires, and redirecting some of the healthy back out on patrol. This was no time to let down their guard.
29 September 2000
Maks turned his attention back to the barge, laying like a beached whale on the riverbank, shattered and saggy. Adam said repairs would take a solid week of metalwork, assuming a large workcrew. And the banging and cutting would ring across the countryside. There was no way to be quiet about it.
There was a lot of salvage to be had among the wrecks of the Korsarz vessels, especially that torpedo boat that lay half sunk in the shallow river. Mortars, shells, large guns, fuel. But it’d have to wait.
That afternoon, on a scheduled radio contact, Sandomierz ORMO tells Maks that Kraków ORMO had critical, and time-sensitive, military intel for him. Can’t talk about it on unsecured radio. Maks would need to return to Kraków. They wouldn’t risk sending a courier, especially not after talking about it over the radio.
This was not the best time to leave. But his contact at Sandomierz ORMO had called the intel “perishable”. They’d never done that before.
Sandomierz was growing. They had a solid model to follow in Kraków. Defense and commerce. But Sandomierz did it with a smiley-face. The cities were re-opening their trade again since the tug Wisla Krolowa barged through the blockade.
Maks met with his officers. He’d be taking a few picked personnel. Using a – patched-up, alcohol fueled – pirate boat, they’d motor back up the river to Kraków.
Elizka Madejowa had excelled since joining the party. Maks told her she was off probation. She’d be running the op back in Góra Kalwaria while the rest made the run upriver.
University, eight years in management of a state-owned concrete form fabrication firm, and finally Polish Air Force just before the war. Elizka was ready for the job.
30 September 2000
The river was mostly quiet, though somebody on the riverbank near Annopol had taken some pot shots at them. Maks had the boat continue late. Several hours after dark, they reached Sandomierz. Maks had a short meet with the ORMO intel staff, and then he and his crew borrowed beds in a barracks.
Elizka reported on the radio that all was well back in Góra Kalwaria.
1 October 2000
The boat passed another long day, pushing all the way to Niepolomice. Maks and Volkhov sipped vodka well into the night, swapping stories. Mak thanked him for the helicopter, and told him about the tacnuke bluff.
Elizka reported on the radio that the only contact were four motorboats cutting upriver. After a tense few minutes, they turned out to be “Floating City” folk from back in Warsaw, investigating the lack of pirates. They brought news.
The river people were in touch with the Sielce milicya. Interrogations of a Black Baron deserter revealed that all was not well. The Baron’s 4th Warsaw Company never returned to Warsaw after beating it took in Góra Kalwaria.
A rumor had been going around that a nuclear device had been planted near Baron’s HQ.
And the Baron’s as-yet-unidentified opposition at Góra Kalwaria apparently had access to a helicopter gunship. The Korsarz were destroyed; the Baron no longer controlled the river. Speculation was rife. Best guess was that the Loyalist Polish Government forces in Lublin were advancing on Warsaw.
The Free Companies left the Baron’s service in the middle of the night.
2 October 2000
The trip from Niepolomice to Kraków was brief. That morning, Maks entered the Free City. His first stop was the ORMO HQ. See what this burning news was.
Intel section had intercepted an American military communication by teletype. Despite being marked “Secret” it had been broadcast in the clear, they said. Mak’s contact wouldn’t elaborate. But soon the info in question would be common knowledge.
Operation Omega. Three double-sided op orders, with two annexes. Succinct military orders. They were oddly comforting.
Maks scanned down the page. There it was.
They were going home.
Of course, the details are everything. And there were a lot of hostile forces between here and Bremerhaven port in Germany. And they had to be there by 15 November.
The annexes had known dispositions of friendly and enemy forces. They were to be taken with a grain of salt, of course.
Maks shared intel from downriver at Warsaw, even telling them about his tacnuke bluff. They shrugged it off, as the Baron posed no threat to Kraków. They didn’t mind seeing him knocked down a peg, either.
Kraków wanted Maks and his crew to coordinate the American evacuation in the region. They liked things to be orderly. It was good for business.
More foreigners joined up with Maks at Kraków. Eight Americans. 2 Germans. 1 Dutch. 1 French. And a Russian who said he was tired of Europe, and didn’t want to go home either.
He’d made no secret for the past few months that he intended to travel to America, and was taking Americans and whoever else with him.
Maks wondered if any were plants, or madmen, but he took them all on anyway on a trial basis. He had over three dozen non-Poles now.
5 October 2000
Maks’ boat arrived in Góra Kalwaria. For a good part of the way, they’d traveled in an impromptu boat convoy out of Kraków, though most had parted ways at Sandomierz.
They had a big trip to plan. But first Maks was going to send a team into Warsaw to ascertain the situation there. Maybe they could offer some quick assistance. He hated unfinished business, but they would probably have to wish the holdout communities good luck and godspeed in their fight against the Black Baron.
The Fire Knights had an appointment to keep, and couldn’t allow themselves to be bogged down in the ruins of Warsaw.