It’s a cold summer’s evening in the Albuquerque desert. As the sun sets over the abandoned gated communities less than 100,000 people remain. The rest have either died of disease in the overcrowded transfer camps or were wealthy enough to buy their way up the list for relocation. The Esperanza family chose to stay and count themselves amongst the fortunate few who have thus far survived the catastrophic desertification of the Southwest.

Echoes of deadbolts and gate latches pressure Iris to work more quickly. She ticks off the last item on the safety checklist, climbs down the truck, and calls out to her husband Umberto triple checking the booby traps on their underground tanks.

“We’re good to go, honey.” Iris leans over and whispers a playful song in his ear: “I Yeyyy yey-yeyyy, I love my frito bandito.”

Umberto flashes a big smile then plants a passionate kiss on her lips as he gropes her butt. “When we get back, mi amor.” It’s time to move quickly before dusk disappears and the black takes over. He sneaks in another quick kiss then pulls hard one last time on the industrial lock.

Iris runs to the house for their survival kit and emerges with flashlights, mining hats, a duffel bag, and 2 AK47s. She hands Umberto a weapon and they race each other to the truck and lock themselves in. The converted oil tanker engine drowns out the distant roar of a motorcycle squad approaching as they set off to meet a storm front on its way to Oklahoma.

You see the rain doesn’t get to New Mexico anymore— nothing does.

For the past decade, the state has been turning into a desert wasteland peppered with ghost towns reminiscent of old western movies. A new generation of banditos have “acquired” vacant properties and are selling them for scraps to the Asian market. No one dares wander the streets after dark unless they are prepared to shoot first and ask questions later. The economic strain of the decade-long drought and the added expense of protecting the US border from an influx of Mexican environmental refugees have left the country financially and militarily crippled.

New Mexico is on her own.

The Esperanza’s are heroes in their home town but outlaws the minute they cross the state border. They, like the many other families their modest farm supports, believe that water does not belong to governments. They believe that water rights do not exist and as such any corporate claims to such rights are null and.

In his previous career as an environmental lawyer, Umberto brought countless litigation against mining companies, charging them with the illegal pollution and willful collapse of New Mexico’s groundwater sources in order to force their dependence on corporate water interests out of state, but corruption in the state legislature led to Umberto quietly closing his law firm.

Rumor has it, however, that around that same time certain physical threats were made and carried out against his teenage daughter Susana although the Esperanza’s deny those “fantastical” claims, as Fox news so openly reported. Only Susana holds the truth in memories she would die to forget yet has no inclination to do so. Instead, she has locked them away and has taken her fight to higher ground as an environmental lobbyist in Washington DC.

The drive past the old Ute Reservoir bears witness to the devastation from global warming and over-consumption. A once abundant watering hole, it is now but a barren pit on the road to the Texas border. The adjoining State Park also has succumbed to the effects of desertification and now serves as home base for most profitable illegal salvage operation controlled by the White Scorpions.

Iris knows that in these last 20 miles or so to the Texas border an ambush is a concrete possibility. Even though the odds of attack are smaller than on the return trip (a tanker is worth more full than empty) Umberto is quite literally riding shotgun.

They finally make it to the border unscathed.

Umberto presents the fake shipping manifest to the Texas border patrol and their passage is granted. Iris takes one last look in the rear view mirror just to be sure they are clear. The disfigured “Welcome to New Mexico” sign stares back at her under the guardhouse spotlight: “Enter at your own risk!”

… to be continued in Storm Chasers In Texas.