Gathering Storm

The Third Free Company.

They stood out among the Baron’s men. The ‘Third Free Company’ they were, or so said the Baron. An assortment of men so foreign to Polish soil they were not welcome anywhere else in what was already a chaotic collection of marauders, mercenaries, and pillagers. Most of the rest of the Baron’s army were Polish or Pact deserters. The Third Free Company were mostly NATO men. American. British. Canadian. Dutch. Danish. Some others who has ‘enlisted’ with NATO forces over the last three years. A Romanian giant. Their gear was recognizably NATO but looking less so all the time. Their M16’s and a declining supply of ammo were their last clear indicator of their former allegiance. That and their ‘Fritz’ helmets. The rest of their clothing was slowly becoming the faded camouflage of every other post Twilight ex-soldier.

Now they prepared to fight the Sielce Militia. A motley collection of farmers in the center of the ruins of Warsaw, the Militia was all that stood between the Baron and total domination of the area. The Baron’s men were going from marauder band to marauder band that fought under his banner and promising them spoils of war. Food, ammunition, shelter, alcohol, women. The Militia had resisted all calls to surrender which meant that when the invasion came there would be no quarter given. The upcoming battle would be a vicious one.

Dissent in the Baron's Army
Internecine fighting breaks out

Vicious fighting broke out between a squad of the 3rd Free Company and the Serock Militia – both elements of the Baron’s Army. Both are seen to have questionable loyalty to the Baron. The 3rd Free Company is composed of ex-NATO deserters and marauders. The Serock Milita are unwilling subjects of the Baron at the best of times if not downright mutinous. There is some talk that the Baron engineered the conflict to exert force over the Serock Milita and bring them to heel. Whatever the cause things are now more tense than ever in the ruins of Warsaw.

In other news the expected tribute from Praga neighborhood did not arrive this day. The Baron is most upset with Praga’s failure to provide the agreed upon tribute. No one knows how he will respond but it is well known hates being thwarted.

Intercepting the tribute

Despite the cold September breeze running before the dark clouds on the horizon, sweat trickled down Jeb’s forehead. His ears were ringing from the grenade, so his voice was clumsy as he shouted over the ruined edge of the wall from his perch.

‘Skeet, dude, you hit?’

‘I’m fine – it landed on the other side of this rubble from me. Thank god.’

‘Great. Moving to cover the corridor. Let’s get out of here, sir – they could return and I’ve only got 6 bullets left. You’ve gotta get us more!’

Moving quickly to get into position with sightlines over the alley with the women and the corpses, Jeb sighed and pulled out a small wad of tobacco and started chewing it as he scanned the ruins. Grenades were rare, these days. Hadn’t expected that. A few feet further on that throw, and he’d be playing with his childhood coon dog. Fubar. Fubar. Fubar. His eyes glazed for a moment as he saw his old favourite holler with the swing tire over it.

The weeping of the two women snapped him out of it. He spat a thick brown mass onto the twisted rusted rebar by his foot. The younger one looked pretty curvy. A different time, he’d be touching his belt buckle as he walked up to chat her up. Must be a lot of lonely women back home with the boys dead or stuck in this hellhole.

Grimacing, he returned to scanning the area, looking through the sights of his M16.

Spoils of the Skirmish
What the Serock Militia left behind

After the skirmish with the Serock Milita there were some items left behind. Most of the wounded were not truly incapacitated and managed to limp away. One unfortunate fellow was giving a full frontal lobotomy by the 7.62mm round fired from Hans Sorensen’s G3 battle rifle.

Left behind are:

3 Mauser K-98 bolt action rifles (firing 7.92×57mm ammo) along with 28 rounds of said ammo
2 RGD 5 Soviet Frag Grenades
1 nailed together wooden box containing 200 rounds of 7.62×39mm ammo (for AK-47 type rifles)

What to buy? What to buy?

The Baron is not sophisticated enough to allow merchants to operate in his base – he simply ‘appropriates’ any wagons of merchandise that fall in his grasp. Having said that there are opportunities to trade quietly with the men of other units for equipment and goods. The militias (who are generally less well equipped) would be willing to trade for Mausers and shotguns as this is what they have ammo for. They would be willing to trade food or perhaps an AKM. What they won’t trade away is ammunition – it is in short supply and increasingly valuable.


Staring at the wreckage of the city sprawling around them, Jeb could almost feel his skin prickling with rads. Not much lived here but crows, rats and soldiers, each living off the other. That’s what the food tasted like, anyway. Seeing the women made him feel like he was one of those big black birds, plucking out a corpse’s eyeball. He spat, and a thought occurred to him. Skeet was right below him. Skeet was a good guy.

‘Skeet. This is shit, you know that. Living like rats in a cage, killing for scraps. Fubar, man. I say we take these women, go to those farmers and make a deal: We help them, they give us a ride up the river. They got boats, you know that. We get to the coast we can go back to the USA, I bet. Green hills, fresh food, no armies. Lots of women too. Think about it!’

City in Ruins. Home to Rats and Rads.


With the century’s third great war came ruin worse than that of 1944. NATO laid siege to the city between June and September of 1997. Shelling and air attacks occurred daily. During the siege, Soviet troops stationed in the city gained a reputation for mercilessness as they hoarded supplies of food and medicine while the general population did without. After the siege was lifted, six tactical nuclear airburst strikes were made over the city in an effort to slow the Warsaw Pact advance and cripple the central Polish road and communications networks.

The weapons used against the city were six of the eight warheads of a Trident II (D-5) missile fired from a British submarine. Each warhead was rated at 355 KT. Three of the warheads were aimed at the center of the city itself, the fourth at Okecie airport, the fifth at the suburb of Wlochy to the west, and the sixth at the southern spur of suburbs on the eastern bank of the Wisla. The seventh and eighth warheads from the missile were targeted at military units to the southeast.

In the weeks following the attack, most of the outer city was in flames. The firestorm swept through those areas of the city which were not in the rubble, destroying most of those structures which withstood the blasts. The destruction was nearly complete. Over half of the native population died in the initial blasts and the firestorm which ran through the city. While many structures still remain standing,they are, for the most part, only shells, standing ominously over the sea of rubble which is modern Warsaw.

Those who remained alive had to flee the devastation and radiation which characterized their old home. Disease and famine dwindled their numbers. They scattered to the countryside, to find things elsewhere little better, It is estimated that out of every one hundred inhabitants of Warsaw in 1997, only one survived to see the 21st century.

As the radiation died down to near tolerable levels in late summer of 1998, people began to move back into Warsaw, but slowly. These settlers began to hack out a bleak living from the ruins, trading such things as metal and stone to their neighbors in the country. However, their numbers were, at first, few, due mostly to a (justified) fear of radiation, the presence of tens of thousands of unburied corpses and their accompanying diseases, and the skyrocketing rat and insect population. By the following spring, however, the situation was somewhat less prohibitive. As the carnage decayed away, the rodent population shrank to a more acceptable level (though still high compared to pre-war numbers). Disease became less widespread in the city, to the point where one was only slightly more at risk in the city than outside of it. Even the radiation levels were down to only a couple of rads per year – easily acceptable. This is the time when most of the settlers moved in.

The settlers began to dig up the rubble in order to farm the land under it. The easiest locations for such activity were in the old park areas, which, though covered by debris from the blast, don’t have building foundations to get in the way. Before the spring of 1999 was over, hundreds of plots of land were cleared and planted, supporting a population in the neighborhood of 1500 people. The largest problems faced in that year by the settlers were disease (there was a small outbreak of plague) and rats eating the crops. Filip Kizysztof and his followers were among the original settlers of ’99.

The winter of 1999-2000 was not terribly harsh, and did not take as bad a toll on the settlers of Warsaw as it might have. Fresh settlers moved in that spring, adding to the work force which could clear away the rubble. As it was, the increase in population to over 3000 total in the city was easily absorbed, as the increase in tillable acreage provided more than enough food, despite the rats. In addition, separate communities began to form around particularly large park areas, such as in Praga, Kamionek, and Sielce.

Within these communities there quickly appeared craftsmen and other specialized laborers. They began to mine the rubble for materials to fabricate all manner of goods for use in the community
and for trade with those who lived in the countryside. Especially useful items for trade were pieces of metal fabricated into farm machinery, spare machine parts of almost any kind, and stone, which the country-folk used to build walls and buildings.

Unfortunately, all was not to remain peaceful Unfortunately, all was not to remain peaceful. The Baron Czarny, originally from the area of Pultusk to the north, moved into the city to make it his base of operations. His original army of marauders, deserters, and other cutthroats moved in, virtually unopposed, taking the shell of the Palac Kultury as their own. To supply his troops, Czarny began to extort what food and other supplies he could from the various communities of settlers, in exchange for ochrona (protection). By late summer, the Baron’s army had swelled to nearly four times the size it had been when he arrived in Warsaw just two months earlier. He virtually ruled the city and countryside with his men, and the Wisla River with his Rzeka Korsarz. Only one community held out against his expansion – the Milicya of Sielce.

Turncoats? (Con't)

“Well, lets think about it.” Lieutenant Wilson pulled a dog-eared map out of his backpack and unfolded it over a table-sized piece of rubble. “We’re here, in Warsaw. We’d need to get up to, uh, Gdansk right? On the Baltic? That’s around 180 miles as the crow flies. But the river here, the Vistula, see how it loops around to the west and then back up north. That’s got to be at least twice as far by river. More’n 300 miles in a boat? In a warzone? I hate boats.”

“I think we agree that we’re on the wrong side in this war. I joined up to bring democracy to these people, and then the world went to hell. We fell in with this Baron, and I think we all realize that he’s a worse tyrant than the Russians ever were. These farmers aren’t the enemy. They just have what the Baron wants.”

“Winter’s coming, and the Baron needs to feed his boys. The Baron’s Army will go in and wipe these people out. It will be bloody, and the Baron will lose some men, but he doesn’t care – more spoils to go around to the survivors.”

“As I see it we have a few options:”

“First option – we stay with the Baron, try to survive the upcoming battle and we’re good until spring, at least. I don’t know if I can stomach that. I joined up to kill killers, not farmers.”

“Second option – we desert. Trade for ammo and supplies and get outta Dodge. On foot. If we run into the Baron again we’re probably dead, but for now, we live to fight another day.”

“Third option – Sabotage and theft. We try to steal a vehicle or two, and some weapons, maybe sabotage the remaining vehicles, and go over to the farmers. Maybe the farmers won’t shoot us on sight. Then hope that we can turn the tide in their favor when the Baron comes a’callin. Probably die heroes. If not, we’ll have made a permanent enemy and the Baron will be actively hunting us all across Poland.”

“Any thoughts?”

Meeting the Siberian
A job offer

It was busy in the Baron’s camp, so it’s not surprising that skeet didn’t notice the Russian until he walked up and introduced himself. The startling part was that the Russian spoke perfect English. Perfect. He could be from California. He quickly offered Skeet a cigarette, a rarity in these times, and engaged him in conversation.

His name was Ermak and he wasn’t Russian. Well, not slavic in any case. He was a Siberian, from the far east. He looked distinctly asian. He dressed like any other Soviet deserter but he didn’t carry a rifle.

His casual and nonchalant conversation turned out to be something significant. He said that he was not actually one of the Baron’s men, indeed has simply walked into the camp. He said that he was part of an alliance of free communities. Sielce. Mokotow. Gora Kalwaria (a town to the south). He promised Skeet that the Free communities were going to win this upcoming battle, despite the D-30 Howitzer that the Baron owned and his hundreds of men.

This was the deal – If Skeet and his team were willing to get the 1st Squad to sit this battle out they would be rewarded. If Skeet could get the whole 3rd Free Company to join the Free Alliance there would be much greater rewards…Perhaps horses, maps, information. Ermak hinted that he had information about ways out of Europe. Ways home…

For Skeet’s good faith Ermak described a cache for Skeet to check out.

Jeb watches

A few nights earlier:

Several stories up in the ruined office building near their camp, Jeb watched the sunset, chewing a piece of beef jerky he’d made from a deer he’d hunted down in the summer. First time bow hunting since being back home. The batch was almost halfway done already, and the harsh winter was only hinting at its arrival.

There was not enough food in the city. Again he wondered what the hell they were doing here, killing for cruel greedy men. He’d idly scanned the surroundings through his gunsights earlier, drawing a bead for a while on Vedder. Meaner ‘n a grizz, that one. ‘Boom’, he murmured. With a sniper rifle and a suppressor, perhaps the temptation would have been too strong.

Silent, he watched the slow progression of the horizon into a faded hazy blue, with layer after layer fading away. The pale blue wash flowed toward the city as the fire faded from the sky. A ribbed twist of clouds formed a spear above the ridges far to the south west. Now the same faded blue as the land below, their undersides were brought to violet gold in the last moments of the day. The air was cooling fast and the ruined land below stretched quietly into the oncoming blue infinity.

Suddenly angry, Jeb swallowed the last of his jerky and withdrew from his vantage point silently to begin clambering down through the rebar and rubble. The soft beauty had reminded him of home for a moment, but this place made a mockery of beauty.


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