Rhine watched the wind carry away the cigarette smoke as he stood atop the M1128 Stryker armored vehicle. Below the cliff top they occupied, the highway was clogged with cars and people slowly making their way forward. The only change of pace from the monotonous flow was when every couple minutes a vehicle that had run out of gas was pushed off to the side of the road. Rhine took another drag of the cigarette and stretched the kinks out of his neck.
“How would you like to be stuck down in that mess?” he asked the vehicle’s commander standing in the hatch to his left.
“Ive got eight big ass wheels baby, we don’t need roads like those poor bastards. Matter of fact I have only got this thing stuck one time. We were outside Mosul and pulled off to the side of the road. It was a stupid move. There was a sewage ditch right next to the road and we slide right in. I basically parked us in an Iraqi toilet” the commander said shaking his head.
“So what you’re saying is…..this thing is basically a piece of shit?” Rhine quipped.
Both men laughed at the joke but abruptly cut the laughter off as they heard the sound of something scraping along the side of the Stryker. Rhine’s pistol was in his hands immediately and he moved to peer over the side of the vehicle.
“How the hell did you climb up there sir?” Moreno said as he looked up at the men and then at the Stryker as if afraid he would grab something expensive and it would snap right off.
Rhine holstered his pistol and gave the best answer he could think of.” Think “jungle gym” and start climbing”.
Moreno clumsily made his way up the side of the Stryker till he was standing next to Rhine, waving his hand to shoo away a cloud of cigarette smoke.
“I didn’t know you smoked”
“I don’t. Hate the damn disgusting things” Rhine replied “Tonight I just needed something and since whiskey is a “no-no” on duty, this is what I found”.
“What’s on your mind? I can see that brain of yours spinning” Moreno asked, having learned to read his friend’s moods like the back of his hand.
“This whole thing is just insanity brother. This is gonna be bad man; real bad. As a military and a nation, we are up against the ropes. Think about it, never in our history have we ever had our asses kicked like this. I mean hell, we have just given up whole swaths of the country. Entire states just abandoned; it is unheard of. Every day we just fall back further and sacrifice more land. Our biggest cities, our capital, all just deserted. Never; not in the darkest days of WWII or any other war have we ever been invaded and pushed off mainland soil to this extent”
A few seconds of silence greeted Rhine as Moreno digested his words.
Finally Moreno broke the silence “ Well get it back, all of it, we just gotta get out stuff together, you know?”
“That’s not what im talking about” Rhine replied, “Americans have never witnessed this kind of war. They have never been forced from their homes with only the things they can carry on their backs. They have never been forced to march in columns to relocation camps. The only thing they knew about being a refugee was what they saw on television or read in books. The internment camps during WWII were a joke compared to this. These people have absolutely no idea what to do, what to expect, or how to survive. Things are gonna get ugly, real ugly. I’m not talking a couple days without water, power, and food like Katrina bad. That was more of a joke then the internment camps compared to this. I mean things are going to get downright medieval out there. The veneer of civilized society is paper thin man. People at their core are animals and when you take away all the neat laws and pretty structures of life they are going to resort back to that animal instinct. They are going to steal from their neighbors and murder each other over nothing more than a single mouthful of food. Life isn’t just going to be cheap, it is going to worth next to nothing. Americans are going to slit each other’s throats just to live to see the next day. It will be chaos.”
Rhine shook his head in frustration and flicked the cigarette onto the ground.
“ Absolute and pure anarchy. “
Below them the staccato sound of gunfire and muzzle flashes that erupted amongst the refugees seemed to agree.