Water

The police officer was still in shock, “We… We… didn’t hit any of you… Did we?”

“Thank God for you that you didn’t. If you had, you would be dying, very slowly, very painfully,” Lieutenant Hudson turned to the wall, “You can come out! False Alarm!”

The team worked their way over the wall and made their way across the open area to the building. Lieutenant Hudson turned back to Chet, “So, how’s it going, How’s the wife?”

Chet smiled, shrugging off the earlier gunfire, “Sheryl’s great, she’s taking a few months off work, because, well, we’re parents now.”

“That’s great! Though, I can imagine her now, just itching to get back out in the field.”

“Yeah, but that’s why I love her,” Chet smiled, “How’s Mike doing?”

Lieutenant Hudson rolled her eyes, “It’s my fault for marrying a Business major. He’s in the Quartermaster corps and he’s constantly writing me to tell me about his next business venture,” She then reached into her pocket and pulled out her notebook, “I’ve been taking notes on the canyon we were walking up, I can mark it on your map and you can steal my notebook. I just want Fifteen Percent.”

Chet responded “Five Percent”

“Ten Percent”

“Fine, it’s not like you’re making any money in the army anyways.”

She then turned to Evans, “Jim, take anything useful I can find, especially water.”

Evans nodded, “Yes Ma’am,” He then entered the building. All the windows were curtained or shuttered, so Evans had to draw back a curtain to shed light on the room. Dusty maps and boxes were strewn about throughout the room. Evans looked for anything useful, any water jugs or anything that says water. He ransacked the place, finding nothing.

Eventually Lieutenant Hudson came in with Chet and he grabbed a local map with a strange word on it. He nodded to her, “Here’s the local Hydrogeological map of the area. There’s a recently tested well about a kilometer from here. I’d recommend sending a party to get water then spending the night here.”

“Sounds good, will you be staying here?”

“No, I’ve gotta head a few kilometers North and do some surveying.”

“Righto, Good hunting.”

Chet smiled and said, “Yeah, because you’re getting way too much of my money.” He then turned and left.

Lieutenant Hudson turned to Evans, “Well, since you charged the building, why don’t you take charge of it. I’ll take five soldiers to get water. I want you to have a rotating watch of two soldiers. The rest of you get some sleep. We should be back in an hour or two. Try not to shoot us on our way back”

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Charge

(Sorry for the short post this week, I’m in the Field in New Mexico with little access to technology)

 

Evans vaulted over the wall and started towards the building, with his small team behind him. They made it about halfway across the gap to the building when a shot was fired. A bullet whizzed past Evans head.

Ducking down, Evans waved his arm forward for the team to follow. Lieutenant Hudson’s team on the wall erupted in a short burst of fire as Evans charged across to the side of the house. In a few short seconds he closed the gap to the building and stacked next to the door. His three made it to the wall, and Kelsey got ready to kick in the door. Evans was about to give him the go ahead when he heard a shout from the inside, “We Surrender! Don’t Shoot!”

Evans waved the team back from the door, leveled his pistol with the door, and shouted back, “Come out with your hands up!”

After a few moments, the door opened. First, a scruffy looking man came out. Evans waved to Kelsey, “Pat him down and send him back to the Lieutenant.”

Next, a woman wearing what appeared to be a uniform came out. Her face dropped to a look of horror when she saw the uniforms on Evans’ team. She opened her mouth to speak when she was cut off by a shout from Lieutenant Hudson, “CHET! WHAT THE SHIT MAN?”

The scruffy man shouted back, “NOELLE!? THAT YOU?”

Lieutenant Hudson leapt over the wall and ran over. She and the scruffy looking man hugged, then she slapped him, “Why were you shooting at my team? You’re not one of those rebels are you?”

“No, I’m still with the company,” he pointed back at the horrified woman, “Because of the rebels, the Western Desert assigned some Police to protect me. And they shot at you.”

Lieutenant Hudson walked over to the police officer and slapped her, “What the shit?”

Building

Lieutenant Hudson whipped up her mapboard, made a mark with a grease pencil, then said in her cheery voice, “There’s an old artillery proving ground up ahead. We’ll need to take a pretty big detour to get around it. We won’t get to the camp for quite some time, so we’ll make our own little camp near an abandoned well marked on the map. No word if it’s dry or not. Let’s hope it isn’t. Keep an eye out for movement. This area is off limit to civilians, so anyone here not in uniform is possibly a rebel and should be apprehended.”

Evans nodded and grunted a response. How was the Lieutenant doing it? They had been hiking for at least an hour in the hot sun and she was still scampering around. She’d see a rock she liked a dozen meters away, dash over, take some notes and mark it on her map, then run back to the group. It didn’t even seem like she had had anything to drink so far.

After what seemed like an eternity, the group reached the edge of the proving grounds and were getting ready to skirt it when one of the Lance Corporals shouted that he saw a building. Lieutenant Hudson waved for everyone to stop and pulled up her binoculars, “Looks like it’s abandoned. But, we’re near a munitions dump, so we should check it for signs of rebel activity.” She turned to Evans, “I want you to take three privates and check out the building. Three of you with pistols, one with rifle and bayonet. We will cover from the wall about fifty meters to the Northwest.”

“Yes Ma’am.”

“Ugh and stop calling me Ma’am, I’m Noelle. It’s not like you’re in my chain of command or anything, so stop making me feel like I’m some weird different person.”

Ma… er… Noelle?”

“Lieutenant Hudson is all shouty and an upstanding officer, and Noelle is a laid back girl who does what she wants and finds petroleum,” Lieutenant Hudson drew her pistol and waved forward, “Let’s move. Stay silent unless absolutely necessary. All who want to volunteer to be part of the Sergeant’s team, give him a tap on the shoulder. We’ll divvy up weapons when we get to the wall.”

Evans drew his pistol, quickly racking the slide to put a round in the chamber, and followed after Lieutenant Hudson. On the dash to the wall, he got four taps on the shoulder. Three from Privates, and one from a rather muscular Lance Corporal. Lance Corporal would come with the rifle and bayonet, and he’d just pick the two Privates closest to him when they got to the wall.

The dash to the wall was uneventful. Lieutenant Hudson brought up her binoculars again, scanned the windows, and whispered, “I don’t see anything. Evans, take a look and grab your team.”

Evans grabbed the binoculars and scanned the building. The windows were curtained, so if there was anyone inside, Evans couldn’t see them. Passing the binoculars back to Lieutenant Hudson, Evans pointed to his three and gathered the weapons for them. It was a Lance Corporal Kelsey, Private Mackenzie, and Private Franklin. Lieutenant Hudson spread the rest out along the wall.

There was no cover between the wall and the building. Fifty meters at a double time means a little over twenty seconds exposed. Evans whispered to his team, “Follow me, weapons ready, double time. Stack up on door. Kelsey kicks in door. I go in. Then Mackenzie, then Kelsey, then Franklin.” Evans turned to Lieutenant Hudson and then drew the front of the building in the sand. The building had two windows on the left spaced about a meter apart, then the door on the right side of the building. All in all it was about ten meters wide. He whispered to the Lieutenant, “Ma- Noelle. If we take fire from the building on approach, we’re going to move right at a sprint then stack on the door. I would request a heavy burst of fire from you on the windows. We’ll then go in fast, hopefully catching them in cover.”

“Sounds good. You want any initial covering fire?”

“No, we have limited ammunition and I don’t want to alert anyone unaware of our presence.”

“OK. Good luck… What’s your name again?”

“Sergeant James Evans.”

“Good luck Jim.”

The Flood

The Lieutenant’s droning was interrupted by a panicked shout by McGilligan, “EVERYONE OUT OF THE CANYON!”

There was a moment of silence before the Colonel turned to her, “Soldier! Get a hold of yourself! You will stay-”

McGilligan interrupted the Colonel, “Sir! There’s going to be a flood, if we don’t run, we’ll all die!”

“It’s bone dry out here soldier, not a cloud in the sky, and we’re deep in the desert. There is no flood.”

During the exchange, Evans began to notice a few of the soldiers starting to scale some of the sloped sides of the canyon. The Lieutenant dropped her pack and rushed to the Colonel. She saluted and spoke at a rapid pace, “Sir, Lieutenant Hudson, Apple Company. With all due respect Sir, the Lance Corporal is referring to a flash flood. I would love to tell you why it’s happening but we don’t have time. In moments, this canyon will be flooded with water, and this water will be carrying rubble that will kill anyone who doesn’t drown. If I’m wrong Sir, I will resign my commission on the spot, but I am not wrong.”

Without responding, the Colonel turned to shout, “OUT OF THE CANYON! DROP YOUR GEAR, OUT OF THE CANYON! MOVE!”

Evans went to the side of the canyon and boosted Tiscornia up to a ledge, who then pulled him up. They repeated this leapfrog until they got out of the canyon. Evans turned around to look at the chaos unfolding. He started to hear a rumbling off in the distance and noticed that the water in the stream started to dirty. Most of the soldiers had made it out up a slope on the other side of the canyon. He noticed the Lieutenant from Apple looking around and count on her fingers after most people had gone from the canyon. She nodded then ran back to where she had been conversing with Evans and Tiscornia. Picking up her pack, she started to climb the side of the canyon. Once she got her pack all the way on, she pulled a pointed hammer off her belt and used it to climb her way up the face. Once she got close enough, Evans and Tiscornia reached down to haul her up.

The Lieutenant smiled and nodded, “Thank you kindly.” She took her canteen off her belt and took a drink before continuing, “I’m Noelle by the way.”

With a crash, a torrent of water filled with debris rushed through the canyon. The Lieutenant nodded, “And looks like I’m still Lieutenant Hudson. Your names?”

“Sergeant Evans and Lance Corporal Tiscornia, Ma’am”

“Pleasure to make your acquaintance,” The Lieutenant stood up and counted before shouting across the canyon to the rest of the regiment across, “Lieutenant Hudson, Reporting! Fourteen Soldiers and One Officer This Side! Made Count During Evacuation! From Third Platoon Apple Company! All But Myself Evacuated Your Side! Request Orders!”

After a minute, the Colonel shouted back across the canyon, “Report Names and Units of Soldiers on Your Side, Then Make Your Way Back to Camp.”

Lieutenant Hudson followed her orders and reported back to the Regiment. In addition to Lieutenant Hudson, Evans, and Tiscornia, there were three Privates from Baker, one Lance Corporal from Charles, two Privates from Dog, two Privates and two Lance Corporals from Habit, and two Privates from Ingot.

The Lieutenant then turned to the gathered soldiers, smiled, and said, “Well isn’t this just like a pulp novel. I’m the dashing young geologist, who, after a disaster, is put in charge of a crack team of shock troopers who must make their way overland after being cut off. Ooh, we’re called Noelle’s Expedition. I’m putting that in my official report,” She shook her head for a moment, ‘So I’m Noelle, I’ll be your officer. Before we set off, water check and weapons check.”

After a quick check and report, it was clear that here was a problem. There was about a liter of water per person. The weapons had fared better. Lieutenant Hudson, Evans, Tiscornia, and two of the other Lance Corporals had pistols. Five of the privates had held onto their rifles, and the likelihood of running into rebel holdouts was low.

“Now, bad news everyone, you lost all your helmets in the chaos. Put on your cloth hats so you’ve covered.

One of the Privates spoke up, “But Lieutenant, I still have my helmet. And so does pretty much everyone else Ma’am”

Lieutenant Hudson nodded, smiled, then walked over to the Private. She pulled out her bayonet out, slipped it under his chin strap and cut it. Quickly sheathing it, she grabbed the helmet and tossed it into the canyon. She then walked back to her place in front of the group, “Now, anyone else still have their helmets?” Lieutenant Hudson tossed her helmet, then pulled a floppy wide brimmed hat out of her bag.and plopped it on her head, “Now, let’s move out.”

Canyon

To get the soldiers acclimated to their new environment, the regiment was ordered to march to a canyon nearby with full kit. They would then make their way up the canyon where a few exercises would take place. Evans looked longingly at the single cloud in the sky, hanging uselessly over some hill in the distance. McGilligan and Gibson both looked a bit worried, but said nothing about it when questioned. Not that Evans had much energy to question. The march to the canyon was a slog through harsh terrain. The sun beat down mercilessly, and Evans felt more sweat than man.

As the regiment got closer to the canyon, a few trees started to pop up, too gnarled to provide much shade. It wasn’t until they entered the canyon that he was able to keep himself in the shade. The canon itself was quite nice compared to the rest of the desert. It’s steep slopes blocked some of the sun, the narrowness of the canyon cut marching speed down a lot giving everyone time to rest, especially because of the third nice thing, there was a stream flowing through the canyon, which made it possible to refill canteens.

All this made the march only the worst march he had ever been on. Why in the hell would anyone ever willingly subject themselves to the desert? Yet Gibson and McGilligan both seemed perfectly fine. There were a few soldiers in other sections who looked to be from the Desert as well. And there was some Lieutenant who kept running along to the rock walls, putting a borrowed rifle against it, and taking notes. Officers are weird.

Evans walked up next to Tiscornia and grunted a few exhausted emotions at him. Tiscornia grunted back before taking off his helmet to use as a massive, heavy fan. Tiscornia composed himself long enough to give a real comment, “Why… Why did they make us wear helmets. Fucking heavy. Fucking steel.”

Evans gestured at the strange Lieutenant, “She’s fine with it.”

“What is she doing?” Tiscornia asked before putting his helmet back on and taking a swig from his canteen, “I think she’s from Apple Company.”

Evans paused to fill his canteen then take a drink, “You know anyone from Apple?”

Before Tiscornia could respond, an incredibly cheery voice spoke up from behind them, “I’m from Apple, soldiers. You have a question?”

Evans spun around in shock, staring directly into the eyes of the strange Lieutenant. He opened his eyes wide and stared for a moment before coming to attention and saluting, “Ma’am.”

The Lieutenant giggled before waving his hand down. Evans asked his question, “You… Ma’am seem to be doing something with the sides of the canyon and your notebook, Ma’am?”

“Ah,” A smile grew across her face. She waved Tiscornia and Evans to follow her and ran to the side of the canyon. The two stumbled over, where the Lieutenant was pointing at the stone, “See, this is a sedimentary rock.”

Evans sighed and started pretending to listen.

The Desert

As the train got further and further into the desert, the temperature in the train car got hotter and hotter. Even with the door all the way open, it was just about unbearable when they finally arrived at their camp, about thirty kilometers outside of Red Sands. The regiment was given the next hour to collect themselves while the officers went to a meeting.

When Evans hopped out of the car, he was unimpressed. The soil was a reddish brown with low brown scrub sticking up every few meters. To the North, there was an impossibly flat plain with no plants that eventually rose up to mountains. Everything looked dead. The only animal Evans could see was the vulture flying in the cloudless blue sky. He looked over to McGilligan, “Where are the cacti Lance?”

McGilligan responded with a smile on her face, pointing to one of the scrubby looking bushes in the distance with many arms, “Over there Sergeant. At least that’s one.” She paused a moment before pointing to a green domed cylinder about waist high thirty meters distant, “That’s a barrel cactus.”

Shaking his head and putting his arms up, he said, “No, the ones that look like this. The big ones with the big arms.”

“Saguaro’s are only to the East of here. I think I actually saw some on the train in,” She shook her head and smiled, “God, isn’t this beautiful Sergeant?”

“Everything is brown and everything is dead.”

Shaking her head, McGilligan ran off into the scrub, coming back a few moments later with her hands cupped together. She opened them slowly, letting the lizard skitter out. She smiled at Evans and sain, “See, life’s everywhere, you just have to know where to look.”

Tiscornia pointed off to the North, “Also, there’s some sheep looking things over there.”

“At the edge of the Lake?” asked McGilligan

“The Lake?” responded Evans, I see no water anywhere Lance.”

She shook her head, “No, it used to be a lake. I once encountered a Geologist when I was deep in the desert who explained it to me. Water has little bits of rock in it that are left behind when they evaporate. Because water is flat, the dry lake will end up being flat… I think it’s something like that.”

“We used to have a Geologist platoon leader. A Lieutenant Stoddart. He’s now a major or something in the Mining units. He was a bit… odd.”

“Yeah,” McGilligan nodded and said, ‘We get a few who come out to my hometown every year to do research. They’re all scruffy, make terrible jokes, and drink constantly. Half of them are Nobility but don’t act it. I occasionally acted as a local guide for their research teams. One time, I was guiding Lady Wick to a mountain. She swore constantly. Wore clothes that didn’t fit and were almost in tatters, even though she is, once again, Lady Wick. Lives in a huge estate with dozens of servants, yet spends three months out of the year living like a bum in the Desert.”

Train Stop

When the train came to a stop for breakfast and coal refueling, Evans stepped off to the side for a much needed cigarette. Lieutenant Welch walked up, looking a bit uncomfortable in her new uniform and asked, “First Squad all in the new uniforms?”

“Yes Ma’am. My two soldiers from the Western Desert say it’s a good uniform for being out there.”

“Well at least someone likes it,” Lieutenant Welch turned her head to where the company was eating breakfast, “You know Sergeant, in my count of First Platoon, I’m coming up two short for your squad. Something I need to know about?”

Evans shook his head and replied, “No. Two of my soldiers are just busy Ma’am. And they’ll be busy for lunch as well Ma’am. So no need to ask about them then.”

“Very Well Sergeant. And on a more personal note, how is Private Gibson adapting to your Squad? She was the only replacement from my old platoon to join you. And, well, she sort of idolized you.“

“She’s adapting well Ma’am. Has some new friends. Seems to be smart, and will make a good NCO someday.”

“You a pessimist then Sergeant?” The Lieutenant let off a short laugh, “You think the war is going to last that long? We’ve got the Boxers on the ropes.”

“Hey, I’ve got three kids at home and another on the way, I want to go back home as soon as possible. But I think she might stay in even after the war ends.”

“Good intel Sergeant. Once this starts to wind down, I’ll put in a word for her up the chain,” the Lieutenant nodded, “And you’re sure that your Squad is good?

“We’ll be fighting ready by the time we get to the Desert. Don’t worry Lieutenant.”