At about Six in the morning, the camp trembled. Evans was giving a briefing, but stopped what he was doing to run to Captain Gates’ tent.
After a few minutes, he came back and reported, “We’re moving out again,” Evans looked around the room, “Be ready in half an hour. Combat gear only. Rest of your gear we’ll drop at a storage facility by the tracks.”
“What’s happening Sergeant? Is it related to that rumble?”
“No one knows. Captain Gates just said that we’re headed to Strongfield.”
“No!” Shepard shouted, “Why are we bringing weapons to Strongfield?”
“Yeah, Sergeant, What’s happening?” Howe looked scared.
“I don’t know,” Evans shook his head, “I’m worried too. My hometown is outside of Strongfield. But we can’t know anything now, so everyone get ready to move.”
The Squad gathered their gear in relative silence, then moved to the railroad tracks. The train ride itself was mostly silent, until, about twenty miles outside of Strongfield. The sky turned a dirty brown. As they got closer, they could see orange light dancing across the brown sky. A few soldiers started crying. One screamed in horror. There was some murmuring, but most sat in stunned silence.
Tiscornia whispered to Evans, “What the Hell happened here?
The train came to a halt at a makeshift rail station about two miles from where Evans remembered the station being. As the regiment started unloading the train, Evans heard scattered bits of conversation. Explosion. Destroyed. Death. Inferno. Hell.
It was unreal. There was a firestorm off to the North. Screams everywhere. He noticed a few people stumbling through the station. They looked like civilians, dressed in tattered nightclothes. Their eyes were staring past everyone. Evans was so transfixed he almost missed a shouted order from Captain Gates, “Fox Company! Collect a rifle, a bandolier, and move down the rail line until you hit the station!”
Once First Squad filed through the makeshift armory, they started walking down the tracks. No one talked before Howe looked around, “Sergeant. Where’s Shepard?”
“Shit,” Evans looked around, “When did someone last see Shep?”
“She definitely was here at the rifle pickups.”
“I think I saw her on the North side of the tracks.”
It hit Evans like a brick. He took off his pack and rooted through it before pulling out a small bag.
Gibson asked, “What’s that Sergeant?”
“Letters. I hadn’t turned them in to the censor yet,” Evans rifled through the bag before finding one addressed to a ‘Shepard.’ He memorized the address before putting it back in his bag, “Johnson, you have command of the squad. I’ll meet everyone at the Train Station.”
Evans took off running towards the firestorm of the North. Trying to remember the streets of Strongfield. Except when he was there before, he never saw railroad cars crashed onto buildings. There hadn’t been a raging inferno. He knew her house must be somewhere in the industrial district. After twenty minutes of searching he came to… Hell. The district had been reduced to rubble. Worse than Urbs. There were a few walls still standing. Bodies were strewn everywhere. Men… Women… Children… torn asunder by the blast. Evans choked back tears while he searched the rubble. A few blocks away, he spotted a soldier attempting to move rubble from a pile. He ran over, “Shepard!”
She looked up and stared blankly, “What the fuck am I fighting for?” She took off her helmet and tossed it into the rubble then looked down, “This is where my family lived. Two blocks down my Fiance. He was home on leave. My brothers, my sisters, my mom, my dad, Morgan. They’re all gone.”
“Let’s get back to the rail station.”
“Shouldn’t you shoot me?” Shepard stared blankly at him with dead eyes, “I deserted. There’s no reason for me to live.”
Evans started to walk closer to Shepard, “Live for them.”
“That’s horse shit,” Shepard stared through him, “Do you want me to fight back? I went into a frenzy after seeing my family gone. You killed me in self defense.”
“Either you walk back to the rail station with me or I drag you back. Enough people have died.”
Shepard dropped to the ground bawling. Evans helped her up, put her arm over his shoulders and helped her walk back to the rail station.