1 November 2000 1500H
The Korzub approached Konin. Maks debated entrance strategies for his train.
Closer to the city, he was starting to pick up voice comms on UHF. Multiple signals. Polish language in the clear. Sounded like a police or paramilitary group acting as militia. He’d encountered radio nets before, in better-organized cities, so this was nothing unprecedented.
Konin’s network had a lot of chit chat. Some ops talk. They seemed to intentionally use a lot of local references, which acted as a code of sorts.
Maks decided to send the Rat as usual to scout 1km ahead, with the train following. The Rat was a passenger car converted to rail, and Maks rode with three of his men. He decided to take a chance and radio into town on their frequency, announcing their intention to transit with a loaded train.
Konin, like many Polish cities, had fallen back into its city core for protection.
As the Rat rolled into the city center, he saw the many sidings available had been torn up or their switches thrown, diverting traffic to one specific rail line adjacent to the city’s train platform. There was a market there, and two more of those makeshift merchant rail wagons pulled up alongside the platform.
By radio, Konin’s militia was initially surprised, but quickly became surprisingly solicitous. Crowds saw the train approaching, and were cheering. It was a bit unsettling, as most townsfolk in the Polish countryside were rather dour and suspicious. But a large train had to be an unusual sight.
Speaking with a lieutenant of the Konin milicya on the platform, Maks realized that they’d mistaken his train as having been sent by the 4th Soviet Guards Tank Army in Łódź.
Well that was awkward. The Konin milicya l.t. was trying out his rough Russian on Maks, who replied back in fluent Russian. His brain scrambled, debating whether to go along with the mistaken identity. He was dressed in a nice suit. The lieutenant here probably took him for KGB.
Already they were refilling the locomotive’s water supply, and the l.t. asked Maks where he wanted the pallets of food, and he numbly pointed at the box car they’d left empty.
“You are early, we weren’t expecting you for two more days,” the l.t. told him cheerfully in Polish.
Maks’ stomach knotted. So Łódź had a train two days behind them. Maybe. He muttered to Wojciech not to let the American POWs out of their box cars.
When he told the milicya l.t. that they were in a hurry, he was told that a bivouac spot had been set up just west of Konin.
As pallets of potatoes and grain bags were being loaded, Maks probed the l.t. more. He appeared sincere. Maks circumspectly asked what they knew of “Their Arrival.”
“Well,” the l.t. told him, “Really, we were expecting Poznan’s train today.”
The two Soviet armies were doing some type of rail meeting here in Konin, for reasons unknown. And Maks’ crew was trapped between them.
I had my brother roll Observation for Maks. Not only rolled Outstanding Success, but a 1. I told him he heard radio chatter from his radio in the Rat. In Russian, not Polish. And saw a man on a roof, using a hand radio in unison with the radio chatter.
Maks told the milicya l.t. there’d been a change of plans. “Stop loading the train.” They had to depart, he told the man, as the day was getting late. Forward or back though?
The crowd began cheering again. Maks heard the sound of a locomotive: A diesel electric. From the west… Poznan. Where the hell did they get enough diesel to run a train?
Back it would be, then. He contemplated pulling out of town and trying for a parley. Poznan might not know about him.
Nearby, Wojciech watched the approaching train through binoculars. The locomotive was the 2nd in line, just like Maks’ train. In front were bulges under camouflage.
One of the bulges was slowly swiveling. A tank turret. “Boss, we gotta go!” Wojciech told Maks in English.
The T-55 turret fired, and a 100mm shell screamed downrange 1.2 kilometers. It missed, impacting short and to the north among the rails. Fragments pinged off Maks’ vehicles and locomotive.
Maks yelled at the milicya l.t. to get his citizens out of the area. He motioned to his fellow crew from the Rat to run for their train. The Rat would be abandoned.
The Poznan train also had a quad-KPV. It rattled off a brief burst before realizing it was ineffective at this range. The T-55 turret had to be reloading and aiming again. The pause would be brief. Maks glanced back, but it was hard to see much behind the Poznan train’s locomotive.
They scrambled up on their front flat car, which had the group’s OT-64 and BRDM strapped down, and bermed to an extent behind dirt and sandbags. Nothing here could contest a tank gun.
The BRDM was uncrewed, mostly useless without its complement of missiles. The OT-64 however was manned. Maks banged on the hatch. He had the crew get out and climb their way further back on the train.
Maks jumped down into the engine and yelled at Straczynski to back up the train out of here.
“How fast can we go in reverse?”
“As fast as you need, but I can’t see behind us,” the old man shouted back. Maks told him that he had men at the back with radios. They would be his eyes.
Maks’ train began creeping agonizingly slow in reverse, backing out of town. Straczynski was an excellent engineer, hovering the throttle just under the threshold where the wheels would slip. Their velocity increased steadily.
Some rail rules I’m using.
I followed “The Drive Action” rules on page 214 of the Twilight 2000 v2.2 rulebook. It works fine for trains. All T2000 vehicles have a relatively slow and cautious combat movement rate when you convert it to kph. The rules let the driver overdrive a vehicle based on their ability.
Double speed requires a DIF (Vehicle Skill) roll.
Triple speed, roll against FOR (Vehicle Skill) roll.
Failing this roll causes a mishap.
For trains, I ruled that a mishap would cause wheel slip, and loss of acceleration that turn.
A Catastrophic mishap would mean the train and cars jostled violently. No passengers can take actions that turn. Random passenger takes 4d6 damage to random body part. No acceleration.
Maks told Straczynski to push it [double speed].
The T-55 turret fired again. The tank shell found its mark, plunging into the BRDM, which had been set higher. The APC was peeled open by the blast, a total loss.
Maks decided at that moment. He asked Straczynski how to uncouple that front flatcar, and the engineer told him and had him repeat it back. The engineer would decelerate to push the engine and flatcar together.
There is no relevant ability for this – uncoupling a rail car in combat – so I told my brother he’d have a 15% chance of getting right the first attempt. So of course he rolls a 12.
Maks watched the cut flat car with his OT-64 and ruined BRDM grow increasingly distant as their train chugged away in reverse.
Straczynski told him the loose rail car would stall the Poznan train for a while. They weren’t going to hit that flatcar at speed, and would probably want to reverse and switch to a different track.
The Soviet train fired twice more at Maks before his train disappeared around a bend, but both shells missed, instead demolishing two different Konin buildings along the tracks.
Maks retreated the 30 klicks the way back to Bartertown in reverse – briefly stopping long enough to wreck a small railroad bridge behind them – and turning south at the junction.