Entry 27 – The Road South
Our second landing was even faster and smoother than our first one. We knew the drill – controlled beaching, get out as quickly as we could and start moving. Luckily for us, northern Spain in autumn is about as warm as the rest of Europe during a cold summer since the rains only take over in November. We landed well away from a major port, which reduced the risk of us getting intercepted along the way.
Let me tell you one thing. Spain is beautiful. For someone used to travel like me, the sights weren't THAT impressive, but most of our outfit didn't ever leave the United States until now and were getting an Old World crash course along the way.
We had quite a few Spanish speakers with us including Espinoza herself (as if Murdoch or Ferguson somehow knew we'd end up here) but an unexpected issue arose when we reached the first village. It was a small one with a single gas station, one store and an office and the locals were not exactly friendly to a large group of well-armed strangers who claimed to be Americans. Espinoza, Nunez and one other merc by the name of Hernandez went to negotiate while I hung back, looking for potential signs of hostility. After a few seconds, the problem became obvious.
Despite speaking Spanish, both sides barely understood each other – so different the languages grew over centuries between here and Latin America. In the end, the situation was handled by a local young man who spoke some English and the village mayor allowed us to trade fuel for some of our supplies (thankfully, we took enough in case of exactly such a situation). As we were about to leave, the young man begged us to allow him to join us. We let him although Jim was none too happy about it, grumbling something about a precedent and us not being there to feed strays. But I sympathized – when you get dealt bad cards at birth, there's ultimately very little you can do about it and you have to take every chance you get to alter your destiny. Besides, it was our gain too – Jorge turned out to be a decent cook, something more than welcome after taking shifts in the kitchen, be it here or on the ship.
Besides food, fuel was our biggest problem. Maybe Ferguson didn't expect this after all, I thought, as we counted the gallons our machines would guzzle along the way. People think war is all about shooting and taking objectives but they are wrong – war (or any combat operation) is about logistics. You can't fight without water, fuel and ammo, and all three were in limited supply even though this was supposed to be a three to four day trip. Normally it takes roughly eight hours to drive from the northern coast to Barcelona but armor is not only slow, it is very, very thirsty. Our Pumas were – in theory – able to make it on one tank but as anyone familiar with this kind of thing would tell you, in case or combat, the consumption increases exponentially and we were not about to risk that.
Unfortunately for us, the danger grew higher the deeper we found ourselves in Spain. Faces contorted with greed and anger followed us at every turn with fear being the driving force behind most decisions of the locals. The main downside of passing through an unstable territory like that was that everyone hoarded things for themselves and as we headed south on day two of a supposedly three day journey, barter was becoming more and more difficult. It was only a matter of time before we ran into people desperate enough to try something stupid.