25 Nov 2000. Cape May, New Jersey. America.
After accepting Captain Resper’s offer to work for the DIA on the transatlantic journey, Maks and his core group were transferred to the to the Hibiki-maru. The Japanese cargo ship joined the Bremerhaven evacuation fleet in exchange for fueling on arrival. They had been trading cases of tinned fish to distressed coastal communities in Europe for art and other cultural artifacts.
It was more comfortable quarters for Maks and team on the Hibiki-maru. They weren’t going to Norfolk, Virginia, where the bulk of the fleet was heading. The USS Bigelow (DD-942) from Cape May Naval Base at the southernmost tip of New Jersey met them as they approached the coast.
The Bigelow was a Vietnam-era destroyer taken out of mothballs and brought back into service. Built before the missile era, the destroyer boasted three 5-inch guns, giving the boat a lot of punch.
A Coast Guard training station before the war, Cape May was re-designated a Naval Base in the wake of the nuclear attacks in the Thanksgiving Day Massacre, 1997. CMNB was taking some of the naval traffic from Norfolk, whose naval facilities were degraded from a near-miss nuke.
The tip of the Cape May peninsula was bisected by a canal, making security a straightforward matter.
A couple of wargamers had taken to pronouncing “The Cape” as “The Keep” in reference to a location in one of their games, and the name stuck
Captain Resper assigned Maks’ team a house up in the Avalon marina. It came with a 20′ boat, but no fuel. And a bike, a “rugged military model”. Avalon was outside the Cape May security perimeter, but patrols came through twice a day. Resper said the area was deemed relatively safe, but ultimately the party was responsible for its own security. It also allowed Maks’ team to come and go with little fuss.
Resper has put in a trace on Maks’ wife and surviving daughter. The captain counseled patience. There is a lot of demand on MilGov’s comms, which are severely degraded with the loss of the satellite system.
The DIA handler had no immediate assignment for them, but something’s coming down the pipeline he said. Maks’ team should make trips out into the countryside, get a feel for the area.
Post-War New Jersey
MilGov only had a firm grasp on Cape May, and the Fort Dix region to the north. The only reliable connection between them right now was the Navy. Maks’ team had been assigned to explore the interior of the state, and pathfind viable and securable routes between these holdings.
Maks’ team was arriving ahead of 1,200 troops from Europe, to be assembled into a 2nd Brigade for the 78th Infantry Division.
The brass wanted the rebuilt 78th to secure New Jersey, but was mindful of the division’s disastrous evacuation from New York City in ’99. They planned the securing of the state to be a slow and methodical process. It wouldn’t be easy. The Pine Barrens dominated southern New Jersey, and sheltered survivalists, bandits, and dements.
Maks’ team picked up a few supplies at the Keep, and caught a Humvee out to Avalon to claim their house.
He’d seen countless abandoned homes back in Europe in varying states of disrepair. But conditions were more extreme on the New Jersey coast. The weather was ever-changing and brutal on man-made structures. Just this morning it was 20°F, but a warm, wet system was moving in and the day would end in the upper 40s. A hurricane swept through last year, leaving unmitigated devastation.
It was pretty clear which houses were abandoned, and which were occupied. Abandoned houses were salvaged for parts to shore-up existing homes. The DIA had done a nice job with the safehouse assigned to Maks’ team. It was in good repair, and stocked with clothes, towels, sheets, and the amenities that were common before the war. No electricity, though. “We’re working on it” Resper had said.
The military government had instituted a few key measures.
“MilBucks”. Regular dollar bills punched with a unique serial number and citing emergency authorization. Controlled circulation. They must be exchanged monthly in turn-ins to combat counterfeiting.
Buybacks. MilGov was buying weapons from anybody that brought them in, paying 150% of the going rate [Equipment prices in the Twilight 2000 v2.2 rulebook]. Consequently, guns are relatively scarce in New Jersey, costing 200% normal.
While Army regulars are issued M16s, many of MilGov’s forces are militias, former police and National Guard. Maks has seen a lot of M1 Garands (state armory) and Uzis (from a defunct local manufacturer).
Maks wasted no time getting his team out for a look-see of their new territory. Fuel he had to pay for out of his own pocket, costing thousands of dollars. Resper told him to record his fuel consumption along with his recon reports, for reimbursement later. Resper was still securing authorization for fuel for his teams. “We’re working on it” he said.
The party took their 20′ boat north up the intracoastal waterway. There was a fair amount of traffic on the peaceful waters sheltered by the barrier islands. Many were fishermen coming and going. Others, their purpose was not clear. Nobody messed with Maks and his armed men in civilian garb. Their boat had a scary brush with a submerged wreck [“Hazard” encounter], but it only scraped the boat hull.
Maks made a point of stopping to examine bridges along the way. Travelling by rail through Europe had made him proficient at bridge inspection. While no expert, he had a good eye for red flags that indicated problems with the structures.
Bridges Maks deemed sound are marked in green on the map. Questionable bridges are marked in yellow.
Atlantic City was a trouble spot, and a thorn in MilGov’s side. The party found a sheltered cove and observed the former sin city for a time.
Maks saw no activity in the urban center from his vantage, but did note that traders came and went from Atlantic City.
They looped around and returned to the Avalon marina, stopping twice along the way to check local conditions on the Garden State Parkway. They encountered a sentry for a militia or a gang the first time, and went unobserved. The second time, they saw hunters, but once again avoided contact.