The staging area was a bombed-out crater, the ruins of what had once been a series of family housing units on the outskirts of Homs.  Now, it was Al-Nusra’s command center for their Homs offensive.  The city looked even more bombed out then Beirut had been back in the 80s.  Buildings were now hollowed out skeletons, walls partially collapsed, floors pancaked on top of each other.  Bullet holes were blasted everywhere.  Larger holes signified tank or anti-tank fire.  Homs had pretty much seen it all at this point.

The odd crack of gunfire could be heard as Nusra and the Syrian Army took pot shots at each other, but for the most part it was quiet in the early morning hours.  The two forces were at a stalemate.  They each held their lines throughout the city and only occasionally pushed forward, making small offensives here and there where they thought they saw an opening in the enemy’s defenses and could gain some ground.

As for the civilians still living in the city, they were shit out of luck.  If they didn’t get killed in the crossfire, the ghosts from the Alawite death squad would probably ensure that they met a fate that was much worse.

Deckard watched as the Nusra fighters prepared for battle.  Nearly one hundred of the terrorists were operating out of the base.  They ran around like excited little bumble bees, some as giddy as a school girl at the prospect of being able to use chemical weapons on civilians in Damascus.  The tanks were being fueled up and the flatbed trucks, which would carry the weapons, were being armored with metal plating welded onto the sides.  They would be taking the Mad Max convoy south during the next period of darkness.

The sun was still coming up, but Nusra could not wait.  They were also preparing weapons and ammunition.  Several SA-7 anti-aircraft launchers were made ready.  They had the control units and multiple missiles for each.  Since the battery life on the SA-7 was only about thirty seconds once it was screwed into place, they had improvised wire leads that went from the control unit to a car battery to keep them powered for the duration.  The Syrian Air Force could not count on air superiority as they crashed their way into the capital city.

Deckard took a seat between the two mustard gas bombs, which had been set down under the remains of the second story of a building, now serving as more of an awning.  For now, he had been placed on guard duty while the rest of the Liquid Sky team got a few hours of sleep in shifts.  Paul would relieve him in an hour.  Powering his satellite phone back up, Deckard used an app to get a grid location to the Nusra staging area and texted it to Pat.  He also gave a brief estimate of the enemy’s size, strength, and disposition.

With the phone concealed behind the bomb, he continued to type with his thumbs.

14.5 AA gun, NW corner bld.