14 Nov 2000 1300H.
Approaching port of Bremerhaven, Germany.
Just before abandoning the train east of Bremerhaven, Maks had the breech block of the D-1 howitzer removed and brought along with them.
He had the remaining food divvied out to his 300 men. Maks assumed the group would get split up and reassigned once on base, so he encouraged his men to try to stick together as much as possible, and remember what they’ve done together. A voting bloc, so-to-speak.
He told his core crew to keep quiet about Operation Reset, probably the most controversial of the team’s actions back east. But don’t lie, he reminded them.
With his BAV and MAV idling alongside the troops on foot, Maks was amazed his original two amphibious vehicles had made it all the way across Europe. He’d gained and lost a few others, but these were still here. Yet, they too would now be left behind.
The 20km walk brought them to Bremerhaven 1 day before the fleet was scheduled to leave. They first encountered personnel of an American long-range patrol who told them they were going in the right direction, and warned them that military discipline was in effect.
Maks asked how many had gotten there before them. “Thousands! You’re probably the last, colonel. They’ve already started boarding.”
I joked with my brother that he’s holding a Southwest Airlines boarding pass C46. Just about dead last!
Next they encountered the outer pickets, German troops, who counted them and radioed back to HQ. Maks’ legion was directed to continue. “Safeties on,” they were reminded. “Chambers empty, magazines stowed”. The Germans said this in English without accent, having repeated this many times.
They soon reached the checkpoint. It was manned by both Germans and Americans.
Maks’ team soon learned how things would go.
Units were being re-assembled. All were reminded that military discipline is in place. All non-personal gear was to be turned into US HQ, which is in turn leaving most heavy equipment for the Germans. Each would be allowed 100kg of personal gear, and weapons would be held for the duration of the trip.
Any who decline must leave the area immediately.
America’s in bad shape. Troops will be allowed to muster out in Norfolk. But all are encouraged to reenlist to help America recover. MilGov has a lot of fires to put out.
MilGov. Maks had heard about the split in the US federal government before the disastrous offensive last summer. At the time, it’d seemed like a distant, temporary problem as the government grappled with the emergency. But the rift between the military and civilian factions was setting into permanence.
Nobody changed their mind, and all 300 entered the Embarkation area. Maks said goodbye to his people, and his trusty vehicles. He also informed the Germans about the steam train and introduced the engineers who’d ran the old locomotive.
His group was split up immediately. Everyone had their photos taken. Even Grant Derek William and Barna Áron were reassigned. Only Wojciech remained with Maks.
Lt. Col. Maksymilian (“Maks”) Zając was sent to a building for a debrief. When the lieutenant came in with a notepad, Maks joked that he’d need several of those. When it became clear the magnitude of the group’s activities in Poland since July, the interviewer only took notes in outline. He left the room for an hour. When he returned, he instructed Maks that he was confined to quarters, and that he’d be interviewed again.
However, he was only told the location of his barracks in the massive compound, and was not escorted. He and Wojciech took their sweet time getting there, looking around.
Reunited at last
The civilian residents of Bremerhaven were distant and sullen. Apparently the American horde had worn out its welcome long ago. The past two months had been burdensome.
In the Embarkation Zone, however, the mood among the US troops was festive. Maks saw a big billboard full of names (and photos) of soldiers that were confirmed as present in Bremerhaven.
There was “the other” list, around the corner, of confirmed KIAs. Both boards had been updated continuously.
Food was surprisingly plentiful. Chow halls were open 24/7.
A bit of mingling was happening, despite restrictions. Many were taking advantage of “water fetching” duties, etc, as excuses to find lost friends. Lots of reunions, and addresses exchanged.
If you were looking for somebody, this was the time. Never again would Maks see this many American troops in one location.
Loading the ships was slow and ongoing. Nobody was sleeping this night. There’d be plenty of time to rest on the voyage home.
Back in the original OPORD Omega, the destroyer USS John Hancock was designated the flagship of the assembled fleet.
The Hancock was indeed present, accompanied by a ragtag collection of naval auxiliary vessels, three more destroyers, a cruiser, a Coast Guard cutter, and numerous civilian vessels of varying types.
But the big surprise was appropriately big: The aircraft carrier USS George Washington (CVN-73) was anchored just off the river estuary.
The Washington was quite humbled, with no aircraft on deck except a couple of Seahawk naval helos. Instead, the flattop was covered in gear and tents.
Clearly the Joint Chiefs of Staff had known the Omega documents would travel far and wide, and thus only announced a destroyer as the flagship, and not a tempting target like an aircraft carrier.
Rumor had it that the evacuation fleet was only possible due to months’ worth of stockpiled fuel from Centcom, still intact and holding strategic oil fields in the Persian Gulf.
Maritime vessels consume enormous stocks of fuel. But not the USS George Washington. The massive aircraft carrier could sail for years on its nuclear reactor.
Even a Japanese-flag cargo ship intermingled with the Canadian and American vessels, joining up in exchange for free fuel.
Maks, physically and emotionally exhausted, found his quarters. Wojciech, seemingly forgotten by command, tagged along.
Wojciech. Say “Voy-check” in English.
“Confined to quarters” was apparently on the honor system, as nobody had been assigned to enforce the order.
New uniforms were waiting for them, as well as a bottle of French champagne. “Thanks for the Train” read a note in English, signed by a German officer.
Maks decided he could wander in the vicinity of his barracks. “I was headed to the chow hall” was his prepared answer to anybody questioning his movements.
He saw a Centcom booth & recruiters. They were taking on anybody who’d sign up for Middle East duty. “Live better than you’d live in America, while serving your nation protecting precious energy supplies crucial to rebuilding our country.”
Maks also met a discreet recruiter for Support & Logistics Services (“Captain Adebayo”; a Nigerian-American). SLS was a private military company (PMC) contracted with Milgov for security and ops support. Assets all across America. Steady income, great benefits.
It wasn’t long before Maks was ordered back to HQ for a follow-up interview. This time it was an angry colonel who knew far more about the party’s activities than he should. Maks knew somebody knowledgeable in his group had talked, and filed that thought away for later.
The colonel was upset about Maks’ consorting with and aiding various dictators and warlords back in Poland, and even allying with the Soviets! Maks protested that he did what he had to to bring Americans out from behind enemy lines.
A captain with no name on his uniform watched the contentious interview mostly in silence, but occasionally stepping in to defend Maks.
My brother asked if they were playing Good Cop / Bad Cop or what. I had him roll DIF: Interrogation (which I use as a skill test when trying to read peoples’ intentions and nonverbal cues). He failed twice.
The colonel concluded the meeting and curtly left. The captain remained behind briefly, only saying Maks was dismissed and that he’d speak in private with Maks later onboard ship, when things quieted down.
The Metagame: Where to go from here?
This concludes the Going Home adventure, and the Europe campaign as a whole.
Pretty much everything in last night’s session I wrote up myself, as the module is mute about conditions in Bremerhaven itself. I thought the state of the city and evacuation was far too unique to let it go without comment.
Our game is now at a crossroads. I called this the “Poland Campaign and Beyond”. Well, now we’re at the “beyond” part.
Since June of 2017 we’ve been playing in a tightly-focused area and with clear imperatives for the party.
It’s just me and my brother actively playing now. Occasionally, the boys join us for combat scenarios.
Now, the presumption is taking the campaign to America. That’s mostly where the 1st edition adventures went afterwards, with exceptions of course.
My brother and I decided we have the fire in the belly to continue the campaign to America, and so we will.
Compared with the Poland modules, the published Twilight 2000 America adventures are more of a mixed bag in terms of quality in my opinion. But I’m convinced there remains plenty of great material to embark on a “rebuilding” game, a very different play style than escaping Europe. And being a vast country, there is so much we can explore in America outside the official adventures.
The exhortation to reenlist to rebuild America, plus the encounters with the Centcom and the PMC recruiter… All were inserted to illustrate different play styles possible going forward to my brother.
Staying with the Army means not having to worry about logistics and where your next meal will come from. Working for a Private Military Company would be similar.
Or Maks could go independent. But he’d already been there, done that.
My brother is leaning toward staying in the Army. It’ll play easier with the modules, and he can have a break from logistics and personnel management, and just focus on small-unit play. Maks’ group will get thinned down to the original core six PCs, who have been pretty lucky thus far.