1 November 2000 1800H
The Korzub chugged south out of Bartertown at dusk. They were now without their weapons car ahead of the locomotive, and the Rat scout car too, both left behind in Konin. And it was getting dark. Who knew whether the Poznan Soviet train would pursue. The bridge Maks had pulled down would delay them for a time.
Scarcely had they rode the rails five klicks and they had a major section of track to repair. Maks sweated while they worked on that track until dawn. At one point, work halted while a convoy of vehicles passed on a nearby highway. It was too far to see details, but they were using headlights, whatever that meant. They didn’t stop.
2 November 2000
In the morning the train continued south. They made it all the way to the village of Szadek before the next track repair. A small bridge needing shoring. Maks took the time to assemble and speak with the former POWs for the first time since they left. He still needed to come up with uniforms or clothing for them. They were looking much healthier. A few days of full rations helped.
He asked if any wanted to go it alone. Unsurprisingly, release from captivity and a ticket home made them grateful. Maks picked 10 men from each box car and issued AKs and a couple of mags from their huge stores of small arms. He reminded them they needed to remain shut in their cars during encounters as they were still Americans well behind enemy lines.
At Zduńska Wola, the Korzub steamed past a surprised Polish patrol out of Łask.
Łask. Where it all started when the 256th Brigade got run down at the air base just south of Łask four months ago. Two days later, the 5th Division died at Kalisz.
Sieradz, the Key to the Warta
The Soviet 21st Motor Rifle Division had a garrison in Sieradz, that much Maks knew already. Their main body was in Ostrów, near Kalisz. They had a presence in the region west of the Warta River. The 21st MRD was no longer responding to orders, and not cooperating with their comrades in Łódź.
Ranting Savant wrote up Sieradz, updated to Oct/Nov 2000, which was the basis of this evening’s session.
The Soviets had troops out on the east bank at both the road bridge and railroad span. They were inspecting merchant vehicles on the road.
As the train slowed down on its approach, Maks jumped into the local military radio band, and announced his arrival and name. Past the initial surprise, he was curtly instructed to stop on the east side of the river for inspection.
He wasn’t planning to run the rail bridge. There was a T-80 TOT turret emplacement on the other side of the Warta, placed down the bank so it’d score side shots on anything crossing the bridge.
The first Twilight 2000 adventure, Escape From Kalisz, notes that there were two derelict T-80 tanks in Sieradz.
A hi-rail BTR – presumably carrying said inspectors – rolled down the track from Sieradz.
The inspector, Lieutenant Lyashev, asked in Russian, “Cargo and Destination?”
I had my brother roll DIF: Interrogation to read the man’s body language. Failure.
Lieutenant Lyashev. [Spade 5 (“Moderately Ambitious”), Diamond 4 (“Somewhat Greedy”)]
Maks replied back in Russian, decided to tell the truth: A train full of Americans, headed for evacuation out of Bremerhaven, Germany.
The officer took notes on a clipboard. He counted the cars, and had a couple of boxcars opened. Then he returned to his BTR, and radioed in the information. Too bad Maks couldn’t go listen in on his radio, but he had to remain nonchalant.
An hour passed, and Maks made small talk with Lyashev. The man got a response from HQ. Maks was to remain. An officer was being sent out from Ostrow and would arrive the next morning.
Maks agreed and opened up some of that American whisky he’d picked up in Bartertown. Lieutentant Lyashev allowed each of his men a shot, and they talked more. It was the chief of staff herself that was coming, Maks was told, Colonel Egorieva.
Interesting, he thought. A woman.
3 November 2000
She was all business.
Colonel Egorieva first wanted to know if he was indeed Maksymilian (“Maks”) Zając. She asked about Operation Reset, and Maks spoke at length of Sergeant Cutler’s involvement. She was satisfied as to his ID, and indicated they’d return to the topic later. Egorieva knew quite a bit already about these distant events, it seemed.
Colonel Egorieva – Club Ace (“War Leader”), Diamond Jack (“Coward”)
Chief of Staff (for Maj General K.I. Rubachenko, 21st MRD)
Maks spoke of his wish to go west, taking these Americans out of everybody’s business. Egorieva indicated that they could work out a deal.
The 21st MRD had been trying to wrest Kalisz away from the Polish 10th Tank Division for months. The Poles were holding north of the Prosna River, and the Soviets to the south.
The 21st MRD held the rail lines through there, but just barely. The Poles presence in Kalisz had been an ongoing thorn in their side. The city was devastated, particularly in the south and west. The Polish 10th TD was so occupied with the perimeter defense of the city, they’d left the local ZOMO battalion in charge of the city’s internal security.
Maks grimaced when he heard about the hated riot police. The ZOMO seemed to attract the worst kind of hoodlums. Poor Kalisz, the scene of battle between the Americans and the Soviets last July, then by the warring Soviet and Polish divisions, and now held in thrall by the ZOMO.
So when Colonel Egorieva broached the subject of Maks and crew running a dirty tricks op in the city, he was on board. He’d been meaning to follow up on the rumored stash of MREs in Kalisz anyway.
Maks asked: “What can we do?”
“I’ve assembled a Kill List.” She avoided his gaze. “Personnel in the command of 10th TD or ZOMO. The ranks of Captain and above.”
“And command structures burned. The more the better. In return, I’m authorized to offer you safe passage through our territory, obsolete artillery pieces, and munitions. We also have four American POWs to trade.
“We can conduct a probing attack on the Polish 10th TD in conjunction with your mission, or not, as you choose.
“For stellar results, I am prepared to offer you what intel we have on Warsaw Pact positions west of here.”
Maks was nodding. Well then. “What are we waiting for?”