14 October 2000. Dobrodzien, Poland.
An Audience with the Markiz
Having convinced the ambitious Major Geissmar of a plan to defuse the standoff at Dobrodzien, up to and including eliminating Captain Warren, Maks accompanied the Silesian officer to the Op HQ southeast of that besieged town.
The Silesian forces had established their HQ where a circus was bivouacked near Dobrodzien. It was an odd sight, the garish circus tents surrounded by military vehicles and personnel. It was Circus Sarrasani, a common sight in pre-war Europe.
The Silesian forces were also employing a tethered hot air balloon as an observation post. They could see for many kilometers in this flat region.
Maks, Wojciech, Áron, and William were guided into the large circus tent by Maj Geissmar. They were disarmed – few were allowed to be armed in the presence of the Markiz – and Maks’ hidden S4M was discovered in the search and seized. There were few circus personnel remaining, just two men tending the elephant, bears, and horses kept in the left wing of the giant tent.
In the right side, where folks would normally be entertained, The Markiz was waiting, along with some other personnel. Maks’ men were left at the entrance, and he proceeded alone.
The Markiz stood silently, gave Maks a faint smile, before introductions.
Off to the side was a monk called Brother Paul. He was wearing the customary monk robe.
Maks actually rolled a “1” on his Formidable: Disguise check, revealing that “Brother Paul” was actually Lt. Gulashev, who was a member of the Spetsnaz unit that the party had allied some time back. Maks himself had little dealings with Gulashev, who was something of an enigma. His purpose here was unknown, and he could be friend or foe.
“Colonel” Bowen, however, was most definitely a foe. It took Maks a moment to recall him. Ah, that’s right… Right after the fall of the 256th brigade at Łask, they’d had a confrontation in the forest to the south. Bowen challenged Maks’ command authority (not being American, though Maks was officially in the USAR), and intended to take command of the party himself. Bowen – who was wearing a lieutenant’s stripes at the time – couldn’t garner support, and left.
Bowen recognized Maks, and was none too pleased. And he was apparently serving the Markiz as his intelligence officer.
“Your Highness, Lt. Col. Maksymilian Zając [Zay-onts] appeared to perform Your Realm a great service, to be sure, in stopping the Russian threat last Summer. But since then, his name has acquired a darker reputation.
“Now Zając has company of American mercenaries out in Sandomierz, bankrolled by the Police Prefect.
“Sire, based on numerous reports of his associations, we MUST assume Lt. Col. Zając is a spy for Kraków, the Russians, Americans. Or a turncoat for all of them.
“The Russians were stopped from placing that nuclear device in our capital city, praise God. But that device, based on good intel, is now in the possession of the Police Prefect of Kraków. And I have a source that tells me that Zając was in Warsaw, threatening one of Baron Czarny’s officers with a photo of a nuclear device.”
The Markiz looked to Maks. “Is this true? Do you possess the bomb?”
Maks denied ever having the nuclear demolition charge, but agreed to the story about the photo. He pointed out that his dealings with all parties were an open matter, and that his real goal was to depart for America, where his family waited.
Bowen interrupted, looking at the Markiz, while gesturing at Maks. “And now Zając is here in your realm. Does he have yet another photo to threaten Your Majesty?”
Maks guffawed at that, and disparaged Bowen as an interloper with a questionable background. [Bowen was unarmed, and Maks took that as a signal that the Markiz didn’t entirely trust his intelligence officer.] The two sniped back and forth, until cut off by a gesture from the Markiz. Brother Paul approached the leader, and they conferred quietly.
“Enough. Major Geissmar tells me you have a plan to resolve this standoff, Lt. Col. Zając?”
Maks went into his ideas briefly, in essence, to persuade Capt Warren that her armored vehicles were more of a liability in cross-Europe travel than a benefit. The tracked vehicles were prone to breakdowns, and attracted every yahoo with a missile launcher for many clicks around. Failing that, he’d look at eliminating Warren somehow, and find a more pliable replacement for B Troop.
The Markiz nodded. “Excellent, then you’ll come with us to the negotiation site. Your men will remain here as our guests.”
A cold chill ran up Maks’ spine.
The site chosen for parley was in a very empty cleared farmer’s field, just south of Dobrodzien.
The Americans arrived on the scene with a LAV-75, HMMWV, and a FAV. All but the FAV remained a distance away, while the dune buggy drove slowly over the fallow field.
The Silesians, with a T-62, BMP, BTR, and several UAZ-469s, mirrored their American counterparts. Only a single UAZ proceeded forward. The jeep was full, with the Markiz, two of his elite guard, Bowen, and Maks on board.
Those two vehicles approached each other in the open, and stopped about 150 meters apart.
Both parties exited their vehicles and walked toward the center.
Bowen was unarmed. Maks was unarmed. The rest of the principals were armed, however. Maks felt naked, and cursed under his breath. The Silesian guards had body armor, pistols, and AKSU-74s [which I will henceforth call AKRs]. The Americans had only pistols in holsters. Maks saw they had polymer grips, but they weren’t Glocks.
Capt Warren, and her companion, MSgt Newton also wore a new format of body armor also unfamiliar to Maks. It was a bit more bulky, and provided some groin protection as well.
Introductions were made. Warren scowled at Maks: They had been acquainted last Summer, and Maks now appeared to be firmly in the camp of the Markiz.
Bowen restated the Markiz’ position: B Troop was free to leave of course, but they’d need to turn over their armor to Silesia. Warren unsurprisingly cut off that plan with a curt “No.”
Maks inserted himself at that point, explaining his reasoning that the armor was more trouble than it was worth, especially if they had to fight their way out of Dobrodzien. Warren wasn’t having it.
Then Maks talked of an alternate plan to return to America, not involving Bremerhaven. He almost had her at that point, but he was unwilling to reveal the route or plan, leaving the negotiations at an impasse.
It was then that MSgt Newton drew his pistol and shot the Markiz through the head. [Not aimed, just a lucky – for Newton – roll!]
The leader of Silesia – and would-be King of all Poland – fell dead.
Immediately, all those armed began firing.
Warren cut down the other guard with her pistol – an FN Five-Seven with armor-piercing ammunition – but not before the guard raked Newton with a burst from his AKR. The other guard also fired at Newton, and he went down.
All of the principals wore body armor, and the Americans even had trauma plates, so they traded a lot of fire. Bowen ran for the UAZ, perhaps to drive away, or to turn the PK machinegun… on somebody.
Maks tried a leaping kick on Warren to subdue her, but she dodged aside, and he continued out of the fire zone. Still Warren kept her fire on the guards, since they were armed (and Maks was not!). She sidestepped closer to Newton, who was down on the ground.
The American vehicles jumped into action, taking cover behind a nearby farmhouse. B Troop had clearly planned this scenario.
The HMMWV was making its way at top speed over the broken ground, apparently to support Warren and Newton. However, the vehicle almost immediately got stuck in an unseen ditch.
Driver was tripling his combat speed, and got a Catastrophic Failure for his trouble. T2000 v2.2 book, page 214.
The LAV-75 circled around the west side of the farmhouse, and engaged the Silesian T-62, raking it with its 75mm autocannon.
Maks, wanting to get out of the kill zone, and seeing Bowen getting away, chose his course; surely Bowen would have nothing good to report about Maks if he rejoined the Silesians. And his men were back at the HQ!
Maks scooped up an AKR from a fallen guard and fired a sloppy burst at Bowen, missing. Bowen dropped prone.
Warren and the remaining guard, both on the ground from numerous wounds, kept firing at each other.
Maks ran, catching up to Bowen, standing over him, deciding for a long moment whether the man would live or die.
He gestured at Bowen with his AKR. “You’re going to help me get my men back, or I kill you.”
Bowen was surprisingly cool. “OK, sure.”
They fled in the UAZ to the tree line to the southwest, and then circled around back to the circus tent HQ.
It was an anticlimax. It only took them 10 minutes to get there, and the heavy guns could still be heard in the distance.
The HQ was in chaos. Col. Bowen told Major Geissmar that the negotiations turned into a shoot-out, and that the Markiz had told him to bring all units to the scene. Maks’ men were recovered.
The party – and Bowen – headed north in their requisitioned UAZ.
The party nearly blundered into a long train of M113s, trucks, Humvees, and LAV-75s, all moving swiftly: The cavalry of B Troop. This had been their plan after all. Captain Warren’s assassination of the Markiz was a diversion: Paralyze the Silesian leadership, even if it meant her death. B Troop made their breakout.
The Markiz Julian Filipowicz had planned for everything except a succession plan.
The American column soon swept north and west out of sight. The party waited for them to pass, and connected to the highway north. Bowen was surprisingly agreeable… his patron was dead after all, and who knew which Silesian baron would take power in the vacuum. An American’s place was always tenuous in today’s Poland.
Maks finally ID’d Bowen’s peculiar accent: It had a New England cadence.
At Olesno, Maks had Bowen muster the Silesian garrison, telling them B Troop was on its way. And then the party continued north out of Silesia, back into the Kalisz region. To Kamiensk. A town they hadn’t seen in quite a while.
Well, that got wild….
As the original author of the Black Madonna, I gotta tell you I like this. Good job!
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Thank you so much!