25 September 2000. Afternoon & Evening. Góra Kalwaria, Poland.
The Baron’s men hadn’t gone far after they lost a vehicle and crew on the Góra Kalwaria side of the bridge. A civilian scout reported the marauders had set up camp one kilometer inland from the bridge with their three remaining vehicles.
Maks intercepted radio traffic from the new arrivals back to a more distant signal, probably their HQ at the Black Baron’s territory in the Ruins of Warsaw. Despite many of the marauders being Polish, they were apparently using Soviet code. It was probably a one-time pad (being used more than once these days), keyed on the Russian word бархатный (“Velvet”). Alas, it was not nearly enough for Maks to decipher.
Compounding the headache, the Korsarz (The Pirates of the Vistula) were likely based not far downriver, 20 km away at the most based on various reports. The last time the town fought the Korsarz, Father Andre reported, they’d successfully repelled the pirates. Away from their boats, the Korsarz had lacked vehicles and heavy weapons to press their attack. Frustrated, they’d shelled the town with mortars in retaliation. But the pirates never landed there again.
Knowing that, Maks reckoned that there were good odds the Korsarz would return promptly to punish the town for firing on their boats again. And the marauders in the UAZs were allied with the Korsarz, and could be expected to join in the assault on Góra Kalwaria. But in all likelihood, neither faction knew about the party, the “Fire Knights” as they’d taken to calling themselves.
This was as good a place as any to make a stand. Góra Kalwaria was in a rare elevated position overlooking the river, with only two roads snaking their way up from the bank of the river. Plus, in the nearby hamlet of Czersk were the ruins of a castle.
The walls had been torn down by the Swedes in the 17th century, rebuilt, and then torn down by the Prussians a hundred years later. It was a microcosm of Polish history.
However, the towers offered an excellent view of the area, including the river. Maks designated the castle as command post, and fallback position for the town’s residents, should the situation become dire.
As Maks began laying out defense plans, he remembered it was the prearranged time for radio comms with Volkhov, the leader of the former Spetsnaz unit, now based in Niepołomice. They’d become the cadre of that town’s militia. It had gone well for them, to the point of incorporating some far-flung farms and hamlets into their defense network. The militia was relentlessly-trained, and had successfully repelled a marauder probe recently.
Hearing of the current situation of the Fire Knights, Volkhov offered to send Maks a dozen of his militia, plus two of his own men, in support of the Warsaw mission. Maks took him up on the offer, and the ex-Soviet major said he’d look into transportation.
Working with Father Andre, Maks had townsfolk placed in watch positions around the town. Despite the known threats from the river pirates, and the Baron’s men on the east side, Maks couldn’t rule out attacks from other directions.
The tug was brought into a river inlet created by an old (gravel?) mining operation. The barge was placed slightly upriver at a location with opposing boat ramps, and – taking a page from what they saw at Tarnobrzeg – placed the barge in the middle of the river, secured with a strong cable looted from a nearby rail yard.
The group placed mortars to cover likely attack vectors.
Grant Derek William and Wojciech were sent out after dusk to sneak-n-peek at the marauder encampment. The Baron’s men had bivouacked at an abandoned farmhouse, and set guards with good light discipline. The pair located yet another abandoned farmhouse 200m away, and quietly settled in their observation post.
Wojciech let GDW sleep, and kept watch.
26 September 2000
Pre-dawn the duo crept and crawled closer to the encampment, and William observed the camp through his scope, looking for a worthy target. One shot only, he’d been ordered, and then they’d high-tail it out of there.
They noted the sentries making their rounds, but GDW wanted something better. As the sun showed above the horizon, a man came out of the farmhouse, and made his way to the UAZ-452 (which had radio aerials, William noted). He seemed to be consulting a sheet, and spoke on the radio. William squeezed the trigger, and the man went down.
Wojciech and William stealthed away. The shot had served as the signal for the rest of the party in Góra Kalwaria. A half-dozen mortar shells rained down on the marauder encampment. Most missed, impacting in the surrounding fields. But two got close to their mark, and set one of the vehicles ablaze. Beyond that, the damage was unclear, as Wojciech and William were gone.
As the pair rendezvoused at the river, the town’s spotters reported numerous boats motoring their way upriver.
The Korsarz had arrived.
“Smokers,” my brother called them. A Waterworld reference for y’all…