Maks kept asking himself why the party had taken up Adam’s plan to rescue possibly hundreds of family and clan from the Ruins of Warsaw. They weren’t getting paid, except perhaps with the tug itself at the end of all this… Assuming the boat wasn’t sunk in the effort.
And then there was the other problem. The backpack nuke at the center of Operation Reset had been more grief than it was worth. The party would never get any peace until the Guz (the crime boss of Kraków) – or anybody else – no longer associated the device with the party.
Maks had the Guz’s man in Sandomierz, Doruk, float a proposal. A three-way meet: The Guz, Maks, and the Police Prefect of Kraków, General Bohusz-Szyszko.
He’d heard that the Police Prefect, General Bohusz-Szyszko (who rules Kraków directly now that his figurehead is dead), was furious at the Guz’s incompetence in allowing the release of a WMD inside the city. [Well, it was blood agent, and it was actually the party’s fault, but those are just details…] While Bohusz-Szyszko couldn’t completely shut down the Guz’s operations, in the couple of weeks since the incident, the PP had been ordering raids on the Guz’ warehouses, scrutinizing his trade convoys, etc.
Maks reasoned that the deal proposal would enable the Guz to broker a hand-off of the nuke to the PP, allowing the Guz to “atone” for his prior WMD fiasco. It also puts the nuke in the hands of a relatively benign dictator of a city that is stable and non-expansionist.
Or he could dump the accursed bomb in the ocean, he mused.
The other parties signaled their interest in the deal, and Maks took the Wisla Krolowa back upriver to Kraków for the meet. The trip was uneventful, as they were familiar with the route.
Despite the potential for the situation to deteriorate, the meet went well. Maks negotiated payment with the Police Prefect, settling on: $100,000 in Kraków ration chits, Kraków citizenship for the party and all of the Krolowa’s crew, no taxes for 10 years (mostly of benefit to Adam and crew), a low-level intel-sharing agreement, and a clean slate for all parties involved. The nuclear demolition device was passed into the custody of the Kraków government.
I said that, “for once, a plan went well with no complications.” The Guz seemed pleasant enough, and even pulled Maks aside to express interest in hiring the party for contract work.
Now well-heeled, Maks went shopping in Kraków. If he was going to take the tug up into the dangerous region around Warsaw, they’d at least be armed to the teeth.
We went down his wish-list, item by item, rolling on the Equipment Availability table. Being a “major city”, Kraków was the ideal place for shopping. And shopping he did.
Every piece of equipment in the game has availability shown as – for example – (S/R). The right side is for Warsaw Pact territory, which meant most of his successful purchases were of Soviet gear. Between shopping in Kraków and Sandomierz (“city”), Maks picked up several AGS-17s, KPVs, a Vasilek auto-mortar, an OT-64, and a BRDM. And other gear, ammo, food, and medicine.
All this new equipment was positioned on the tug’s barge, which had also been fortified at Sandomierz in the interim with defensive walls to discourage boarders and steel-plate-protected crew positions.
It was now 20 September 2000, and they were ready to depart Sandomierz, heading downriver towards Warsaw.
They knew the first leg of the trip would take them through Loyalist Polish territory. The Polish capital was now in Lublin. Assisted by some Soviet forces the rump communist leadership in Lublin controlled little territory, but nominally the river was theirs from Annopol to Deblin.
After passing the confluence of the San River, the countryside flattened out into a broad plain, and the river was deeper, with less obstructions.
Approaching the Annopol bridge at about 1 km distance, they could see what seemed to be people meeting on the bridge. As they approached, the groups appeared to be a squad of Soviet troops questioning civilians.
GDW has an interesting set-up for encounters in the early Twilight 2000 modules, where even fixed encounters can have a random roll table. So even I didn’t know precisely what the party would find when they got there.
I had my son roll 2d6, and I consulted the Annopol encounter table. We got a result of Civilian-1, which reads:
“Civilian-1: A band of 1D6+1 civilians is seen on the bridge as the Krolowa passes. It will be obvious that they have been accosted by a heavily-armed band of men — Chebeknikov and his bandits. The armed men will be busy robbing the civilians, but they will hail Krolowa and order her to stop. The Krolowa party will have the choice of ignoring the order and cruising on past the bridge, or stopping to help the civilians. If they ignore the order, shots will be fired, but the bandits will make no determined effort to stop the boat.”
The Soviets hailed the tug over megaphone, ordering them to stop at the shore for inspection. Maks replied over the tug’s PA system that this tug and barge can’t stop on a dime, and instead sent himself and Wojciech in the inflatable motor launch.
The encounter quickly became acrimonious, with Maks not stepping on shore, and questioning the Russian lieutenant’s authority repeatedly. The Russians opened fire from several positioned DShK machineguns. Maks and Wojciech dived into the water as their inflatable boat was stitched with several bursts. They’d expected it might come to this, so Wojciech had a SCUBA kit and weights that went overboard with them. The pair waited out the first moments of the fight underwater, sharing the air supply.
Two of the DShK’s engaged the barge, with little effect except wounding a hired hand. Then the Wisla Krolowa unleashed Hell.
Grant Derek William sniped one DShK gunner with an aimed head shot. A KPV ripped up another. And the last DShK was erased with 5 hits from an AGS-17 grenade launcher.
The Wisla Krolowa continued on, picking up Maks and Wojciech from overboard, and crewmembers hooked the remains of the inflatable boat with fishing gaffs.
The surviving soldiers manning the checkpoint fled for cover.
The rest of the day’s journey were quiet. At Solec they saw the remains of a speedboat, burned and shot-up. A name had been hand-lettered across the stern: Cerber — Hellhound.
Then they anchored upriver from the wreck of Rzeka Ksiezna.
Early in the summer of 2000, Adam attempted a passage of the Wisla River in the Krolowa’s sister craft, the Rzeka Ksiezna (River Princess). He carried no tow that time, and had only eight crewmen aboard. He got as far as Wilkow, a deserted village on the east bank of the Wisla east of Zwolen, where he was attacked by pirates.
Old Adam will be nearly in tears as he recounts his story. They rounded a bend in the river to find seven battered and camouflage-netted pleasure boats of various makes tied bow-to-stern and stretching across part of the navigable channel. Before they could take any action, mortar rounds were dropping from the shore, and heavy machineguns had opened up from the shore and from the boats ahead. An old police cruiser, painted black and mounting a small, automatic cannon on her bow closed from a hiding spot on the far shore. In moments, Ksiezna was afire. Uller, her pilot, steered her into the shallows on the west bank of the river. Uller, Adam and three of the crewmen made good their escape by diving overboard and swimming to shore, where they eluded heavily-armed marauder bands searching for them in the falling evening light.
“If it wasn’t for the fact it was getting dark,” Adam says, “they’d have had us. But they plundered poor old Ksiezna, though.”
The wreck of the Rzeka Ksiezna still lies half submerged in the shallows close to the western shore, just beyond an abrupt turn in the river to the left. The tug is identical to the Krolowa, but she is heavily damaged, and her superstructure has been blackened by fire. Nothing remains of the cargo of bicycles, mortars, and ammunition which Old Adam had been carrying north, of course.
On that somber note, the party decided call it an early day, and dropped anchor in the middle of the river.