The first few Cali soldiers they encountered were sick. They were very, very sick. The fecal stench was enough to make their eyes water and it was evident that the soldiers had shit their pants and beds and no longer had the energy to care.
The few Cali soldiers who were mobile attested that everybody left in the camp was at least as sick as they were.
Chad and Kenny had to quickly devise a plan. The squad medic was in way over his head. Chad asked the medic what the sick soldiers were likely to need.
“The need rehydrating. In a hospital, that would be given several bags of IVs. In the field, we would give them ORS, Oral Rehydration Solution, but no way in hell do we have enough of that.” The medic said. "They are going to need four liters a day until they are back on their feet. And they need clean clothing and bedding."
“What is in ORS?” Kenny asked.
“Water and sugar and salt.” the medic replied.
“Will just plain water work?” Chad asked.
“It is better than nothing but not nearly as good as ORS.” the medic said.
“I need to have you write down how much sugar and salt to add to 1000 liters of water. I see a bunch of bulk tanks around here and that is what we are going to have to use. Now, Kenny and I need to find some volunteers to help us water the troops.
They went down three rows and then over three tents so they could take the residents by surprise. They burst in through the east tent flap so they were backlit by the morning sun. A couple of girls looked up curiously. They had been playing with their smart phones. Everybody else was either sleeping, moaning or dead.
“You and you.” Chad said, pointing. “Meet us outside the tent.”
The girls got up languidly and slowly walked outside with surly looks on their faces.
“You are now prisoners of war.” Chad started out. “You have the option of enlisting in the SD-LA army. If you enlist you will get paid and will be quickly promoted to Corporals. Do you want to enlist?”
The girls were of the opinion that nothing ever really changed unless you were the lead dog. The first one said, “Yeah, I guess.” The second one said, “Sure. Whatever.”
Chad then said. “You are now promoted to Corporals. ‘Corporal’ means bodies. The bodies in that tent are your responsibility. Your job is to keep them alive. If you fail, it is your job to dig holes and bury them. Believe me when I tell you that it is a lot less work to keep them alive.”
The girls looked shell shocked.
“I need to have one of you go through the tent and mark the casualties, the dead soldiers, by putting their pillow at the foot of their mattress. Then I need to have you collect the water bottles, all of them, and put them outside the tent door.” Chad said.
“I need the second Corporal to visit the eight tents next to this one and bring me two volunteers from each tent.”
Lather. Rinse. Repeat.
After a couple of repetitions, Kenny picked out one of the soldiers who seemed to be more collected than the others. “Do you think you can do what we have been doing?”
The soldier emphatically nodded her head. Most of the soldiers who had recovered were women.
“Good. You are now a sergeant. I need to have you detail one person from each tent to start humping water and filling water bottles. Every living soldier in those tents needs to drink their bottle in the next two hours. If they are not strong enough to hold up their heads then the Corporals need to help them. Clear?” Kenny asked. “Good.”
Walking away from the process they had started, Kenny asked, “Where are we going to get sugar and salt? My God, there must be fifty sick soldiers in every tent!”
Chad said, “One thing at a time. I looked at the medic’s recipe. The good news is that we only need 2kg of salt for every 1000 liters. The bad news is that we need 60kg of sugar for every IBC. I am going to send Beanie up to Bakersfield with one of the trucks. I am sure she can find pallet loads of salt at the farm supply places.”
“What about the sugar?” Kenny asked.
“That is a toughie.” Chad said. “That is why I am going to give that problem to you.
Handing the keys to Beanie, Chad said, “We are on our ass. Ask around. See if you can find anybody who is willing to come back here and help. Bring back anybody who looks like they will more help than hurt.”
Kenny was working his phone. For some reason Brigid really like Kenny. She had camera men following him around like a shadow. The good news was that cameras were really little more than souped up smartphones. That made them far less obtrusive than the old-style, shoulder mounted cameras. If you didn’t know better, you might think the two young men near Kenny were taking selfies.
“Hey, Bucky, hows they hangin’” Kenny shouted into his phone.
“Well, Kenny, it is a real goat rope here. Downtown is all closed off and I can’t make my deliveries.” Bucky replied.
“Hey, I might have another job for you. One that will put a few bones in your pocket. Whaddya think?” Kenny asked.
“What is the assignment?” Bucky asked.
“I need 20,000 kilos of sugar and if anybody knows where to find it, it is good, old Bucky Christensen.” Kenny said.
Bucky thought for a moment. “Can you use Kay-Roe syrup?” he asked.
“You mean Caro syrup, corn syrup?” Kenny asked.
“Yup, that is what I said. Kay-Roe syrup.” Bucky retorted.
“Lemme ask.” Kenny said. A few seconds later. “Yup, even better than sugar. Do you know where some is?”
Bucky said, “There is only one way to find out. I need to go and look.
Bucky looked over at Father Fred. “If I leave this trailer of food here, can I count on you to distribute it to the other churches and not take advantage? I sort of need you to act like a warehouse ‘cause it sounds like I am getting another assignment.”
Father Fred nodded his head. “Park it over there. I will make sure all of the churches get their fair share.”
Bucky said, “Remember to have them pay you before they pick up more. Now, I gotta go.”
Bucky dropped the trailer at the edge of the parking lot. Revved up his diesel and left in a cloud of black smoke. It was 9:00 AM local time.