399 Evacuating Bus

    Since the morning of 14th of March, Bei Mian Village had not had a moment of peace. Squat housing peppered the farmlands. The yards were cordoned off with wooden fences to be turned into simple vegetable patches or chicken coops.

    "Baby, look, that's a helicopter!" Around 8 am, one of the farmer's wives, Zhang Suqin hugged her son while pointing at the sky. Her 5 years old son waved happily as several military helicopters flew across the sky. The son's father, Guo Lei, though started to frown. He grumbled nervously, "Why would the helicopters come over this way?" The five helicopters then landed near Elder Tian's tree farm. 'They're here to capture Elder Tian? But he's just an old man, why the need for such a big armada?' Guo Lei frowned at his own speculation. The village had around 500 villagers so they basically knew each other. Elder Tian was famed for his hardworking nature. He did not gamble and did not drink. People farmed vegetables, he farmed trees. He did not even get into argument with the local farmers so what kind of crime could the old man have committed?

    Soon, a drove of cars came from the highway. They all had the Phecda symbol, it was then that Guo Lei knew something was off. Guo Lei got increasingly worried so he followed a few of the villagers to go to the tree farm to take a closer look. But they were blocked by the police. The road to the farm was cordoned off.

    Another hour later, at around 9.30 am, there were more helicopters and vehicles heading into Bei Mian Village. There were buses, medical vans and armored cars...

    Elder Zhang and Elder Wang were playing chess, while the others worked their fields. Their main topic was the incident at Elder Tian's tree farm. Suddenly a voice from the loudspeaker shattered their activity. It came from a helicopter from above. "Dear villagers, due to the accident at the nearby tree farm, we will initiate instant evacuation for the sake of everyone's safety." At the same time, the village leaders ran from door to door, to have everyone follow the government's mandate, to pack up and evacuate immediately.

    "Leave behind the food and clothes! Just pack your id, medical history, bank account statement and anything valuable. Hurry!"

    The villagers were stumped. Listening to the broadcast and watching the helicopters and cars... an epidemic? But no one in their village fell ill recently...

    "Mummy, there are so many cars!" The boy was too young to understand the severity of the situation. He pointed at the cars happily. His mother, Zhang Suqin did not answer but hugged him tighter. The broadcast repeated itself again and again. The cars stopped at the village entrance. Teams in different colored airtight uniforms descended. They were tasked with different responsibilities as they surged into the village. Barking erupted everywhere. Some of the members led the villagers into the vehicles. Most of the villagers were seniors so they could only move that fast.

    Other Phecda members though could be seen moving around the village with some futuristic-looking devices. They reported constantly into their phone.

    Guo Lei went to find his aging parents while Zhang Suqin grabbed a luggage and started to pack. Even though the broadcast mentioned specifically not to bring any clothes, Zhang Suqin still grabbed a few of her son's favorite shirts. Soon the members in the protective gear arrived to hurry her to leave. She hauled her luggage in one hand and carried her son in another as she followed the officer out. At the village entrance, 400 plus villagers got into big buses with the aid from the Phecda members.

    Before they got on the vehicles, each villager needed to show their identity card to show that they were indeed local villagers. But the seniors had trouble finding their documents at the best of time, much less during an emergency like this. In any case, those too slow were all sent to the last bus.

    Everyone's phone was confiscated even though the signal was already lost. One could not make or receive any call. When a bus was full, the door closed and the driver drove away. None of the passengers knew their destination. Guo Lei met up with his wife at the village entrance. His family got into one of the big buses and had the seat near the back. They knew everyone on the bus. Some were silent, others sighed while the younger one grumbled with annoyance.

    "Mummy, mummy, where are we going?" The boy whispered. Despite his tender age, he could sense the tension in the air and he was afraid.

    "It's fine." Zhang Suqin patted her son's back. "Mummy told you the big brothers and sisters are good people, right? They're bringing us on a trip."

    "Then mummy, when will we come back?" The boy asked innocently. He anticipated a positive answer. The adults in the car were enveloped in the fear of the unknown, they were worried whether they'd survive until tomorrow. It was not until this boy's innocent question that they wondered if they would ever return to Bei Mian Village.

    Guo Lei looked at his son and then at the fields and village outside the window. His heart panicked. He returned to the village after years of working in the city. He disliked the hectic lifestyle in the city so he chose to return. He hoped to live a peaceful life here. He planned to contract a few tree farms like Elder Tian did... But now... would they even return to this place?

    "Yes, soon we will." Zhang Suqin nodded as she forced a smile. "After all, this place is our home."

    By then, the buses already got on the highway. Further and further, they departed from their home. One of the members in protective gear stood up then. It was a young woman. She said, "Elders, my name is Fang Yi, I'm a doctor. If you feel any discomfort, please inform me immediately. Now, I need to do a poll, do any of you suffer from thyroid disease?"

    The crowd cooperated as best as they could in spite of how confused they were. After the questioning was done, Doctor Fang had a few of the other members provide the villagers without thyroid disease with a small pill and a small paper cup of water.

    "This is an iodine shell." Doctor Fang introduced, "Please ingest it now."

    Iodine? Guo Lei and Zhang Suqin were confused and many of the other villagers asked about it as well. But some of the seniors swallowed the pill obediently.

    "Elders, to tell the truth, there is some radiation problem at the tree farm," Doctor Fang explained. She was given permission to provide some explanation to the villagers. Once she brought up radiation, the faces of the younger villagers like Guo Lei shifted. But the older generation was still clueless.

    "There is no need to panic. We did not detect any radioactive substance in your village, the contamination is only limited to the tree farm so everyone should be fine. In other words, this evacuation is just a safety precaution and so is the iodine shell. Those without thyroid problems will not respond negatively to the shell. Once you're relocated, a more detailed body inspection will be provided. If everything is cleared, this iodine shell is the only medicine you'll need to have."

    Doctor Fang kept her tone optimistic and her words simple so that the seniors could understand her better. But most of the seniors still looked at her blankly. Regardless, it was wired into their bones to follow the government's arrangement. It was instead the younger generation on the bus who sighed in relief. It was not an epidemic, but radiation. The village was not infected and they were fine...

    Zhang Suqin hugged her child. Her husband was about to ask something, "Doctor Fang..." when a loud explosion came from behind them! The bus trundled all of a sudden.

    "Ah... What, what was that?"

    "Was that an explosion? It sure sounded like one..."

    "What exploded?"

    The passengers panicked. The clouds that hung over Guo Lei and Zhang Suqin's faces earlier returned. They turned back to look out the window. They saw no smoke or flame but they were certain the explosion came from Elder Tian's tree farm.

    "Everyone... don't worry." Doctor Fang hesitated. The driver, herself and the other Phecda members frowned underneath their helmets. The explosion was not part of the evacuation plan.

    The sun shone brilliantly outside the window. The grass danced in the wind. But they felt nothing but chill.
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