18 Jan 2001 0200H. Washington DC.
The background radiation level increased as they trekked into the ruins of the former capital.
Moss’ team was now receiving the same exposure as an astronaut on the Moon: Not dangerous in the short term, but certainly not safe to linger here for extended periods. The team, while carefully climbing through the rubble, had passed a dozen discrete sources of dangerous radiation. With their geiger counters, they were able to give these hazards a wide berth. The emitters were large chunks of debris thrown here by the White House or Pentagon nuke strikes.
Washington DC was devoid of human life thus far, and quiet as a graveyard. Which it in fact, was.
They’d spotted a few animals, exotic and mundane. With their shorter lifespans, the animals were less susceptible to the elevated radiation exposure than humans.
It had taken them several hours to cross the one kilometer to the Ford House Office Building. Their night vision was a great help, but traversing the jagged rubble of collapsed structures remained delicate and laborious.
This destruction wasn’t just from the blast overpressure and heat. The surface bursts had generated localized seismic waves, damaging structures, even those shadowed from the blast waves.
Scrambling up onto a wrecked highway overpass, they spotted the Ford House Office Building.
Their objective seemed mostly intact, which was more than could be said about other structures in the area. Some had burned, or collapsed entirely. The Ford Building’s SW quadrant was damaged, but that seemed to be the extent of it.
Less than a klick away, the Capitol Building was still standing, defiant.
Just east of the Ford Building, a tank park caught Moss’ eye. They ID’d some AFVs corralled inside. Looked like a dozen M60s and M113s.
After watching the area in the vicinity of the Ford Building for a time, and seeing no activity, Moss decided to take a look at the tank park first. It would add little time to the mission, and he was curious. This area was more open and shadowed from the blasts, so there was little rubble to slow their movement.
As they approached, it was clear this bivouac had been here a while, from before the Thanksgiving Day Massacre in ‘97, or after. Temporary fencing surrounded the perimeter, but it had fallen in spots. A couple of large military tents had been placed here, but they’d mostly collapsed, and were stripped anyway.
The tanks and APCs had definitely been here a while, sitting out in the elements. They weren’t emitting radiation, so Moss had his team look them over while Barna Aron kept watch over the vicinity from the top of an M60.
The vehicles still had some ammo, and the usual accoutrements. However the team was on foot, and lugging tank shells around or a rusty M2HB wouldn’t help the mission any.
Moss had debated whether he should be destroying the equipment, but that would definitely impact the mission. The most likely benefactor of these derelict AFVs would be the civilian government. MilGov and CivGov were adversaries, not enemies. So Moss contented himself with taking a brief inventory to report to MilGov back in Cape May.
Barna Aron had a brief glimpse of light two blocks north of the Ford Building. Whether it was a CivGov patrol, scavengers, or New America… Somebody was here. The team made use of foliage to cross over to the Ford House Office Building. They moved methodically. The hush that dominated the ruins meant any noise would carry over distance.
There were no civil engineers in the 8-man team, but it was obvious even to the untrained eye that the building was more damaged than it appeared from a distance. Large cracks ran across the face of the building, and the exterior door they found had sprung open because the door frame had settled and compressed.
If it were peacetime, the Ford House Office Building would have been condemned and entry prohibited. Moss sighed, and forbade his men from using explosives while inside. [My brother quoted the Aliens movie…]
The Ford House Office Building was a Depression-era project. It had been used by the FBI for years, and was subsequently passed to Congress in the ’70s. Before the war, it was occupied by staff of various committees of the House of Representatives, the Congressional Budget Office, and the Architect of the Capitol. Unlike many of the satellite buildings surrounding the Capitol building, no underground tunnels ran to this annex.
Moss had been ordered to locate SRS cache documents of both Charles Franklin and the probable turncoat Jeremy Fitzpatrick. [Why is this important? See Winter Quarters: Tale of Two Congressmen]
This was not an all-or-nothing snatch, as a number of relevant items could and should be secured if at all possible. Not only for MilGov’s benefit, but crucially to deny the intel to New America as well.
SRS-17374-2 was being deliberated on at the time of the Thanksgiving Day Massacre in ‘97.
Franklin had recalled there being around three file boxes worth of documents and photos. There were also floppy disks and videotapes that may have survived. Both congressional offices, the computer room, the secure storage room, and two conference rooms all could potentially have SRS materials.
I definitely did not want to detail every room in this huge six-floor structure. So I made use of random Encounter and Loot Tables I’d devised.
The team pushed their way into the building. It was a mess. The tremors had knocked down interior walls, sprung doors, and dislodged ceiling tiles. It was also pitch black in many locations, forcing the team to go to active IR as necessary.
It was painstaking work. Rep. Franklin had identified floors and general locations for the team to search, but the extensive damage made their search more difficult. [Lots of failed Observation skill rolls]
Wojciech took point, and the team remained well back so he could scout ahead in silence.
The Encounter rules in the Twilight 2000 v2.2 book [Reprint available at DriveThruRPG for $25] are clear that group size matters a lot. Each side’s number of individuals is subtracted from their spotter’s Observation asset (and opposition numbers added), as noted on page 155. If all eight party members had gone together, that’d be a -8 to the roll for Moss’ team, and modified by the size of the opposing group. (Though it can’t be more than halved or doubled, the rules note.)
Some rolled events:
- A blocked path, forcing the team to retrace their steps.
- A family of racoons startled Wojciech, causing him to stumble and curse. [failed Observation roll followed by a failed Stealth roll…]
The team did locate the 1st floor conference room, and spent much longer than they wished looking for any materials with the label SRS-17374-2.
But finally fortune finally smiled on them when Doc Schultz located a relevant SRS folder of documents. Moss found [from a Loot Table roll] an unopened package of permanent markers. He wrote on the file cabinet in full view, “NEW AMERICA WILL FAIL”.
More rolled events:
- Loot: More Permanent markers!
- Blocked path (x2), delays
- The building groaned as the structure settled somewhere
- Animal (x2)
- Found a SRS file on a cart in the hallway! [a rare, unique random event on my Encounter table]
On the second floor, Wojciech heard a few soft voices. Seemed like they heard him too. Wojciech took a position behind an open door and waited, and keyed his mike to alert the rest of the team. They were under orders not to fire on CivGov personnel, but these could be New America as well.
Wojciech saw a helmeted head and an arm poke around the corner. The man was clearly wearing issue BDUs, which told Wojciech nothing.
I had my brother roll another Observation check: Outstanding Success!
Wojciech glimpsed the New America star armband, and fired his MP5SD, nailing the guy in the head. His gun, though suppressed, still made a loud POP!
He was in it now. His team now had to catch up with him pronto.