6 to 7 October 2000
The autumn weather was pleasant; warm days and cool nights, and dry. Gone were the hot days of summer, and the afternoon rains.
Maks and Wojciech made their way downriver into Warsaw in a small boat under the cover of night. A crescent moon was low on the horizon, peeking in and out of clouds, occasionally backlighting the jagged remnants of tall buildings in the former capital city.
Add real-life Polish weather to your game: I use the this site for historical weather conditions of the region. Plug in any date, and get the full rundown for that day in your game.
The day before, Maks had plotted out what it would take to evacuate his team with the rest of the US military in the port of Bremerhaven, Germany. With opposing forces noted from his July intel summary, it would be a daunting endeavor.
Bremerhaven is marked with a circle and an arrow. Red push pins mark supposed Warsaw Pact unit locations. NATO symbols denote theoretical “friendly” lines. Orange line traces the party’s travels in Poland thus far.
Where the river began cutting through Warsaw, Maks saw and heard gunfire. It appeared that the citizens of the “floating city” were trading desultory fire with another faction on the east side of the river.
But the little boat went unnoticed, and soon Maks and Wojciech were greeted by an armed patrol protecting the ramshackle collection of boats that made up Warsaw’s floating city. But Maks had met their folk before and was able to drop names. When it became clear that Maks’ team had been responsible for breaking the predatory Korsarz, they were welcomed as heroes.
Soon Maks was escorted to a meeting with the Sielce militia. The community had been surrounded by parks and a botanical garden before the war, and so was not buried in rubble like much of the rest of the city. It had been converted to farmland.
And there Maks was introduced to Filip Kizysztof, the younger brother of Adam, the captain of the tug Wisla Krolowa. Maks brought Filip up to date, including Adam’s plan to evacuate the entire community by barge.
But the situation on the ground had changed. The Baron Czarny had suffered some reversals due the the actions of the Fire Knights – Maks’ crew – including the destruction of his river pirate allies, loss of one of his entire companies to desertion, another company depleted, and his free companies of foreign fighters had disappeared overnight. Winter was around the corner as well.
Though patrols of the two factions still skirmished in the No Man’s Land between their holdings, the pressure had eased up considerably. Filip reported that the Baron had opened a back channel to propose peace terms with Sielce. Filip held no faith in the prospects, but it was a sign the balance of power had shifted.
Sielce would not be evacuated.
However, Filip did have a favor to ask of Maks: To escort an emissary from Sielce to make contact with the Soviet 10th Guards Tank Division, which had switched allegiance to NATO earlier this year, but had been left behind when the summer Allied offensive disintegrated. Their current attitude was unknown, but the unit was reported to be occupying the woods northwest of Warsaw.
Maks accepted the challenge, and chose to continue his boat ride north through the ruined metropolis. They brought few with them: The emissary, Town Leader Mazur, snowy-haired, elderly, and tough. And four Sielce Milicya riflemen.
Still dark, they encountered no opposition, and hid their boat in brush along the river, temporarily disabling the engine.
They pushed overland into the woods, and were soon stopped by a patrol of Russians. When their mission was explained, the party was given blindfolds to wear, and brought into camp.
Disarmed, they were brought to the large command tent, and introduced to General Koronev, the division commander. A quiet man of serious demeanor, he was accompanied by his division zampolit (political commissar). There were also other personnel in the tent.
Maks explained their objective, and introduced the Sielce emissary, Mazur. The old man had scarcely begun speaking when he was interrupted by a man who’d been waiting in the sidelines, identified as Kamiński.
This Kamiński was a Pole, a representative of the Black Baron, coincidentally or not with a similar objective: To initiate an alliance with the Russians here in the forest.
The Baron’s man called Sielce a pack of bandits and marauders. Mazur and Kamiński began talking over each other, and then shouting in anger. Koronev gestured for the two men to be removed from the tent, and they were, still pointing fingers and arguing.
With peace restored, Maks began speaking with Koronev in Russian, explaining that no, the Baron was not keeping the peace in the region, but was instead the aggressor. Koronev nodded, and spoke privately with his zampolit, Dinius, a Lithuanian. Maks noted that the two were surprisingly friendly, given how zampolits were generally loathed in Soviet service.
Koronev said they’d investigate, and be not be rushed into any agreements.
As the conversation became more relaxed, Maks heard their story.
A man wearing civilian clothes, who had until now been quietly observing in the periphery of the command tent, introduced himself. An American. Captain Johnstone, CIA.
Johnstone quizzed Maks about their situation, and when he mentioned all the Americans in the group, and his intention to return them home, Johnstone interjected that he was aware of Operation Omega, the US military evacuation plan.
Here the MilGov/CivGov schism came into play; two competing United States governments. Operation Omega was a MilGov undertaking of course. The CIA’s allegiance was with CivGov.
Johnstone said, “I’ve heard of your unit, the Fire Knights. Exactly the type of soldiers we need back home, re-establishing the legitimate United States government.
The CIA man made a connection. “Cutler was one of our assets, and disappeared while working with you.”
Maks went into the backstory in broad strokes, minus the Operation Reset details. “Cutler was nobody’s asset. He was playing all sides for his own benefit. And he died after murdering some civilians for no good reason. The world is better off without him.”
Johnstone, penciling notes, shrugged. “He wasn’t my man, so let’s not get lost in that.
“You want to take your Americans home? Our plan is better. Same distance, less hostiles.”
Next spring, Koronev would lead the 10th Guards Tank Division (which had no tanks) on a trek south through Czechoslovakia, Hungary, and into the Balkans. Johnstone said that CivGov had a presence in the port city of Rijeka, Yugoslavia. From there, they would sail home through the Mediterranean.
It was roughly the same distance as leaving with the evacuation fleet at Bremerhaven.
Johnstone’s plan seemed really vague on details on everything between point A and point B, and Maks said as much. But he had to concede that surely there would be fewer hostile forces than what they’d encounter marching though Poland and Germany, devastated and contested war zones.
Maks was intrigued, but non-committal. MilGov had the loyalty of the bulk of the military of course, and CivGov was seeking to flip units to their side at every opportunity.
At this point that Johnstone produced several blank loyalty oath forms, which simply stated that the person whose name is signed and witnessed is loyal to the civilian government of the United States.
Maks replied that he would take the offer back to his unit, but that he too would want something in writing from Johnstone, that any military members that so wished would be released from service upon return home. Johnstone nodded without comment.
And with that Maks’ team departed. Mazur and Kamiński, the opposing emissaries, surprisingly had settled down into a discussion, though now Mazur had to leave with Maks. Koronev sent one of his lieutentants as an observer.