As they two of them rested, Ghanis reached into his pack and retrieved his holomap device. He wanted to get a feel for where they ended up. With the intent to head towards their goal again, he was uncomfortable with taking a direct path to their destination from their current location. He thought it may be better to move in a large arch that would distance themselves from the roads, at least for now. He discussed this idea with Jhax
“I don’t want to risk crossing paths with those soldiers again.” He said. “Let’s just swing out a ways to be safe.”
“You’re probably right,” Jhax signed in return. “But I don’t think they will be going much further than that town.”
“Why do you think that?” Ghanis said.
Jhax shrugged, “They seemed as if they had a purpose. As if they had a reason to be at that town.”
Ghanis reached into his pack and pulled out a canteen. He tipped it back for a swig, then frowned as he placed it back in the pack. They would have to find a place to refresh their supplies soon.
He thought about what Jhax had said. Now that things have calmed down and he had time to analyze what the just went through and something did not add up.
“Yeah Jhax, I think you’re right.” He said, “Something is just not right about those soldiers.”
“Seriously. It doesn’t make sense, it’s a ghost town.” Jhax signed.
Ghanis replayed their encounter in his head. The town was dead, but they acted as if it was something important. He and Jhax did a pretty thorough search of that town and found nothing more than some broken furniture. No Food, no salvageable tech. Hell the damn town was gutted. Not only was it empty, but half of the buildings were nothing more than a pile of rubble. So what did the soldiers want with the place?
“Think they could be setting up a base?” He asked Jhax, “You know – moving in?”
“Does it really matter?” She replied, then tossed her pack onto her back again and started moving in the direction they had agreed on.
Ghanis didn’t follow. He stood there rubbing his chin, thinking about the soldiers. He saw Jhax stop up ahead. She turned to see if he was following and when she saw that he hadn’t moved she crossed her arms and stared at him.
He recognized that look. It was the look she gave him when she knew he was considering doing something completely stupid and reckless.
“No! She said, pounding he chest for emphasis. “You are absolutely out of your mind if you think I’ll turnaround and investigate. Did you not notice those soldiers tried to kill use?”
“Yeah, but we can get close enough to them to look. They wouldn’t expect us to go back right? Com’on Jhax, I just know something weird is going on.”
“We should not get distracted from our mission.” She signed.
We have been traveling for weeks hun, what difference is another day going to make?” Ghanis said.
“It will make a lot of difference if we are dead!”
“Fine, wait here if you don’t want to take a look, I’ll be back soon.”
Ghanis tossed his backpack over his shoulder and started heading back towards the tree line. He looked back towards Jhax who was still standing in same spot, arms folded. Clearly not intending to move.
“I’m going now.” He said.
Jhax didn’t move.
“There will be no one to save me if things get rough.” He said.
Jhax still didn’t move.
“Suite yourself,” he said, “Just tell Targus I tried and I’m sorry. You can burn my body and keep me in a jar if you like.”
Jhax rolled her eyes then signed. “Oh just stop already you buffoon. Fine, if you are so intent on getting us both killed then let’s get it over with.
A short while later the pair of them were back at the tree line. They crawled up to the edge and stopped when they reached a small bush that seemed big enough to hide their presence.
Ghanis used his binoculars to try and see what was going on in the center of town. From their current position he could see most of what was happening there with only the edges of his field of vison obscured. With the binoculars he was able saw that the group had constructed some kind of temporary fence in the middle of the street with a soldier stationed on either side every ten meters or so holding what looks like a cattle prod. It was apparent that the fence was setup to be a corridor leading to the buses.
“This can’t be good,” he said, handing the binoculars to Jhax so that she could see as well. “It looks like they’re getting ready for some sort of roundup”
“Rounding up whom though?” Jhax signed, “If they’re using a fence to coral people, it’s not just one or two. Did you see anyone in that ghost town when you were scouting?”
“Not a thing,? Ghanis said. “What the hell did we miss?”
“I’m not sure, but whatever it was these guys knew it was there.”
“I need a better look,” Ghanis said, getting to his feet.
Jhax grabbed him by the arm and pulled him back down to the ground before he could move.
“Damn it Ghanis ! There is at least twenty men there! What the hell do you think you’re going to do?”
Ghanis sighed. He knew Jhax was right. It would be suicide to get any closer to the place, hell they barely made it out alive as it was.
They waited, watching the activity at the town from the safety of the tree line while passing the binoculars back and forth between them. The men stationed at the fence looked bored but did not leave there post. The pair watched the activity for about another hour before Jhax said something.
“How long are we going to stay?” she asked, as she handed Ghanis the binoculars again. “Not sure what the hell is going on, but really – we should not let it affect our mission.”
”Your right Jhax, We should just Ge…” Ghanis stopped talking mid-sentence. There was something happening in the town.
He could not see from where they were coming from, but one by one – people were moving inside the fenced area towards the busses. The soldiers were ruffing them up and prodding them as they moved. The prisoners ranged from Old men to young children, in all perhaps thirty people, and each of them Mutants. Each person Ghanis could see being forced to a bus had some sort of physical abnormality. One old man had two heads, another man was covered in scales, the variations were plenty and random.
“The soldiers are herding mutants into the bus.” His tone was flat. He gave the binoculars to Jhax again so she could see as well.
“That is too much effort for Purity, Jhax signed, “Purity would will kill mutants on sight, not collect them for a mass grave somewhere else. This has to be another group.”
“What difference does is make? Ghanis said, “There is still nothing we can do.”
When the round up completed, and the last of the mutants had been put on the bus, the soldiers broke down the fence and loaded everything in the trucks. After an hour, the convoy left the town the same direction that they came in. Jhax and Ghanis waited until they were sure there was no chance of anyone returning before they went back. They hoped to find out where these mutants had come from, considering their sweeps had turned up an empty settlement.
The answer was obvious when the investigated the location they knew the fence was setup at. They knew one end of the fence was where the buses were parked. Moving to where they estimated the other end would be they found the answer to where all the mutants had come from. Standing in the middle of the street they found manhole cover they must have dismissed as important during their scouting.
“Should we?” Ghanis asked.
“We might as well, we are here,” Jhax signed.