___Ville Juarez, The Main Gatehouse, Two hours before sunrise___
Emil was spent when he hit the bunk, but woke up feeling refreshed. Five hours sleep, it was probably more than Mike was getting out there in the sand, he thought. Luckily Corporal Hernandez was ready with a cup of Push, a mild stimulant thatSanchez chemists had come up with a decade before. It tasted like an old tire, but a single cup was like drinking half a pot of coffee, and that was exactly what the aging Sec Sarge needed if he was going to get through this day.
In a few hours, the continued evacuation of ville Juarez was going to start back up. Some families had been evacuated, but it was going to take days with so many of the vehicles lost in the disastrous salvage operation. Motorcycle riding scouts were already preparing to head out at first light. He could hear them eating breakfast in the ground level of the gatehouse below.
"Hernandez, how did the men take the news?" He asked before taking a sip of hot Push.
"They are not happy, of course, but thee was no back-talk. They know that there is no point to it."
Hernandez was a good man, already seasoned at twenty-five. He kept fit, never questioned orders (a trait which bothered Emil as much as it assured him) and could clean any gun in the arsenal and have it back together in half the time as most of the young men and women that ever had served with him since the revolution. Hernandez was not the best shot, to be sure, but he was snapped from the moment he opened his eyes until he hit his bunk.
Emil looked around the Spartan furnishings of the bunk room. There were few momentos of his personal life on the desk, but Emil had never been a senimental man outardly. Hernandez had set his Makarov and PM-63 RAK on the small table next to the door. His combat harness was hanging on a wooden peg nnext to the door.
Emil pointed to the harness, "Let's get going. I want to see those patrols off. The baron said that as soon as the first Dina rig is repaired and ready, he wants them hitched to the passenger trailers and gone. I want those civilians seeing us all on top game, it will make them feel safe."
Hernandez stepped quickly, handed him the harness and said "But we are not at top game, Sarge. We are all stretched to the thin and it won't take much to break that."
"I know that, but they don't need to. Half of the ville was already shipped out. The first wave of women, children and older folks are probably arriving in Durango by now. We can expect those evecuation transports to drop them off, refuel and be back in another twelve hours or less for the remaining civilians." Emil recounted the barons' plan. "Then we get the technical crews out, one section at a time. Sanchez sec and services are last to evacuate. We gotta do the sewerage purge and final lockdown by ourselves."
"All the dirty jobs."" Hernandez chuckled.
"Exactly.. Marvin is staying with us until the end. He said he will personally lock the gates."
"Sarge, I don't understand that. So who is gonna hold down the fort over the storm season if not Sanchez sec?" The young Corporal asked, his frown creeping with his realization, "We are not just abandoning the whole ville to the muties and creeps, are we?"
Emil buckled the belts of his harness across his chest and hips before replying. "Yes. We are all going to be needed in Durango. Baron Hadron has decided that it is better to concentrate our people in the valley, where we can rebuild from these losses. Maybe in a couple of years we can come back, reclaim what we have built."
"What about the machine shops? The labs? We gonna have to haul alll that back to Durango too?" Hernandez was showing agitation. He had never questioned orders, but it was understandable.
"As soon as the last truck is repaired, Alvarez and his mechanics start tearing them down for transport." The Sec Sarge told him.
"Santos! That is gonna take a week, maybe more."
Emil loaded his Makarov PM, holstered it and then slung his RAK over one shoulder. "Most likely. And we better be ready for the eastern muties and those Deathlander Barons over in Texas to hit us hard if they find out we are so weakened. We beter be ready for war, my boy."
Befor either of them could speak, a loud pop from an AKM sounded from somewhere down the wall. Emil guessed that it was a good hudred yards away or more. They both froze for a moment, then a series of shots began to erupt along both sides of the main gate.
"We got trouble. No, not ready for this yet. Let's go!" The Sec Sarge yelled, pulling his wireless from it's pouch as he headed toward the door. "Command, we have...." He stopped before he wasted another breath. The system was down. How the hell could the system be down? "No... no, no, no!"
Corporal Hernandez grabbed two AKM's from the wall rack and handed oe to Emil. They both started stuffing magazines and loose rounds of 7.62 ammunition into their pockets. "Sarge," Hernandez said, "look out the window. What he hell, are those balloons??"
Emil turned his attention to the view to the air over Sanchez sector. From the cloudy night sky overhead, hundreds upon hundreds of small white spheres were descending on the town. As the reached just above roof level, jets of white smoke or mist began to pur out of them and down onto the village. He had read about such horrors in old books as a young man, the first war to end all wars had told of horrors that seemed unbelievable at the time.
"Gas." He muttered as it sank in to his thoughts. "Quickly, put your chem mask on, it's gas!"
Hernandez rushed to a foot locker under one of the bunks and yanked it out. There were ten stacks of four, but he only grabbed two. Emil was already grabbing one. In all of his years, he had only ever used them to deal withh chemical storms. As unbelievable as it must have seemed in that distant time, it felt more so now. Who had the technology to produce a bbastard gas attack, he wondered, and how did they get these balloons to fly over Ville Juarez like this?
More shots began to echo across the gate area and down along the defensive wall that had protected them for so log. Hernandez tightened his mask down and returned to the window.
"Men are dropping in the central part of town, Sarge! They are just falling down where they stand! Great Mother!"
The panic in his voice was something that Emil was not in a mood for, not at this time. "Stay snapped, soldier. Let's get these masks to as many of our people as we can. There will be an assault when it clears enough if history serves any example."
Hernandez reacted like his normal self. "Right, yes." he answered then started grabbing up as many gas masks as he could stack in his arms.