Days of Burning, Days of Wrath – Snippet 10
Cristobal Province, Balboa
The prisoners of war marched into captivity with their arms, as promised, but had to deposit them at a point along the way.
As it turned out, there were a lot more non-Anglian Taurans with the Die-hards than Carrera had expected. More of them were wounded, too, than he’d hoped for. The sirens of ambulances filled the air along with the continuous whopwhopwhop of helicopter blades, fetching the savable among the wounded. This was still a welcome improvement over the roar of the big guns and the screams of the dying. Not that there weren’t men still dying; there were. At least, though, they could die drugged against the pain.
That’s something, Carrera thought.
Carrera asked RSM Ayres to send the senior medico to him. As it turned out, that was an officer, a surgeon major, whom the RSM simply hadn’t counted among the officer ranks. When the surgeon showed up, Ayres was in attendance.
“How many ‘expectants’ have you, Major?” the Duque asked. “Expectant” was code for “expected to die no matter what we do so last priority for evacuation and treatment except for pain.”
“Between fifty and sixty,” the Anglian major replied.
Carrera nodded and said, “We’re giving your wounded priority equal to our own, but our hospitals, military and civil, both, are overtasked and not as modern and sophisticated as you’re probably used to. Think: A generation behind the times.”
“Between ninety and one hundred, then,” the major amended. “I hope.”
“Amen,” said the RSM, then asked Carrera, “What becomes of us now, sir?”
“You’ll be going on a ship.” Seeing a distressed look cross Ayres’ face, Carrera hastened to assure him, “Not a prison ship, RSM, relax.” On two worlds prison ships had history enough to make them synonymous with misery. “For you it will be one of the ones that brought us the supplies we’d stockpiled out of country. They’re reconfiguring the containers on that one now to accommodate you and about ten or twelve thousand more Anglians. Won’t have much in the way of bedding, but we can probably get you some lumber and nails to build your own. I’m not telling you it won’t be crowded and uncomfortable, no, but you’ll be dry and well fed. Medical care will be as good as yours and ours can provide.
“And…ummm…you’ll have an opportunity for some education.
“Speaking again of medical care, Major, we’ve made an arrangement with some of the Tauran medical personnel we’ve captured to accept their parole and, just for the time being, work as part of our overall medical establishment, some in field hospitals and some in city hospitals. My troops are forbidden from giving their parole, with the two huge exceptions of medical and religious personnel.
“I won’t ask for your answer now, but when you get to the ship, if you could tell your keeper that you would prefer to pitch in against the common disaster…”
“I’ll consider it, sir,” the major replied, “but my priority has to remain my own.”
“Funny,” Carrera said, “the priority for my medical folks in saving human life, period. Surely we’re not more civilized than you.”
The Anglian medico started a retort but bit it back; there really was not good answer to that one.
“How do we get to this ship, sir?” interrupted Ayres.
“There’ll be trucks within the hour. They’re going to be crowded, too, what with your folks and the guards. In your case, we won’t ask for your parole. However, you might pass the word that it is our fixed intention to get you all back home as soon as a final peace is negotiated. Hence, why risk the jungle or getting shot or running into a mine field? To say nothing of the antaniae and snakes…oh, and caimen.
“The other thing is,” Carrera said, “that I have, oh, excellent reason to believe Anglia is going to need all her sons and daughters. And soon.”
“Why’s that, sir?” the RSM asked.
Carrera just shook his head and smiled, while thinking, Because I’ve arranged for you to be needed soon.
Muelle 81, Ciudad Balboa
Sergeant Major Kris Hendryksen, Army of Cimbria, waited under a tiled bohio for the new prisoners to arrive. With him stood Marqueli Mendoza, tiny and perfect, and her husband, Jorge. Behind them and the bohio, tied to the dock, rode MV Clarissa, one of the ships aboard which had been stored the carefully gathered and even more carefully hidden war stocks that had seen Balboa through a frightful war. The Clarissa, a container ship capable of carrying some seven thousand forty foot containers, was still in the process of being reconfigured and reloaded with material for her soon to arrive occupants. This was a little tougher than planned, since one of the two cranes for the dock had been destroyed in the war, the remnants even now being cut away by men with acetylene torches.
Opposite Clarissa, was another ship, the slightly smaller Beatriz. While Clarissa was being configured for English speakers, Beatriz was already set up for both Anglians and contingents of those reasonably expected to speak English as a second language, the Hordalanders, Haarlemers, and Cimbrians, among others. Further down were more boats for French speakers, Italian speakers, Portuguese speakers and Gauls. A special ship, one of the two ocean liners that had been used to ferry in allied troops, between the campaigns, was set aside for officers. The other, the Mary Ann Ball, had been set up as a hospital ship.
For everything but the hospital ship, some space had been left for future cargoes.
Most of the ships were unoccupied but for some advanced parties, from both Balboa and the prisoners, setting things up for the expected mass arrivals. The bulk of the prisoners, nearly two hundred thousand of them, by now, were still coming in, some by foot, some by truck as trucks could be made available. The advanced parties had come from those captured in the first Tauran invasion, who had been moved for their own safety to the national airport.
The road to the dock was lined on both sides with armed guards. They looked bored.
And I sincerely hope they stay that way, thought Jorge.
“And I see an old friend,” said Hendryksen. “Guard? If you would be so kind as to escort me?”
The trucks pulled in en masse, about one hundred of them. The first twenty or so contained several hundred wounded, in various states of corporeal disrepair, though none urgent enough to have needed aeromedevac. Those went to the more permanent facilities in the city, in any event. One exception among the wounded was an officer, an Anglian major, confined in what appeared to be a home-made strait jacket. Someone had written on the straight jacket, in marking pen, “Do not open until Christmas.”
The guard on the wounded was quite light. An MP from the guard on the docks took charge of that section of the convoy, leading it slowly toward the hospital ship, where a couple of hundred prisoners waited to cart and assist the wounded aboard.
The next group were the officers, a dozen trucks’ worth. The guard here was considerably heavier, as was the guard waiting to double search them and escort them to their new quarters. It was reasonably expected that every officer would be reasonably fluent in English, so the educational cadre for that boat was entirely English-speaking, though they all spoke Spanish as a native tongue, and had a fair sprinkling of every other language of the Tauran Union, to boot.
The last group was made up of about fourteen hundred POWs, mostly Anglian but also with the one hundred percent English-speaking Haarlemers and the nearly one hundred percent English-understanding or -speaking Cimbrians. The guard here was quite heavy, but jovial enough. Administration and logistics personnel lined the space before the ship’s brow, with containers filled with supplies for the latter, including books, and cameras and computers for the former.
RSM Ayres stood by the line, along with a sprinkling of some of his fellow warrant officers, to maintain order and decorum as the men passed through. Previously taken senior POWs waited aboard ship, to ease the men into their new billets.
Ayres heard from behind, in a perfect Anglian accent, “I suspect you’ll be senior, RSM, so you’ll end up having to take charge of both English-speaking ships.”
Ayres didn’t turn immediately, puzzling, Now where have I heard that voice, that impeccable received pronunciation…
He spun about. “Hendryksen! I am surprised you’re still alive, frankly; surprised and pleased.”
“No less than me, I assure you, RSM.”
Turning to speak over his shoulder, Ayres called out a name, ordering, “Take charge of this mob until I return.” Then, with Hendryksen in tow, he marched just out of earshot.