Heat shimmers rise from the desert sun baked pavement, lending everything a wavering and surreal appearance. The normally ever-present soldiers are gone from the boiling roads, nothing but dust devils and parked APCs from one end of the strip to the other. All you can hear is the hum of power lines and the occasional click of a door followed by rapid foot steps as someone tries to minimize their exposure.
Inside, its not much louder. Everyone's played the games of chance a hundred times, everyone has developed their on system for finding a winning streak, and everyone knows its futile - even if they make a fortune, what is there to spend it on? Almost every story has been told, the veterans tired of rehashing the Southern Drone War and the new recruits too awake to let BS just slip by.
Lights still pop and flash, electric music jingles, and wheels spin on automatic, beckoning someone to put down a couple of chips. But most of the card tables are covered with springs and gun oil or magnets and solder. Troops field stripping their weapons for the tenth time that week, dislodging sand and keeping busy, ready for the next run down the road to Barstow, Saint George, Paradise or Hurricane.
Civvies just scuttle by, like over-caffeinated crabs. There are a lot of bored people with guns who would be willing to start a civil war for a simple break from monotony, ideology be damned.
"Red Irish" Drinks whiskey sours in back. Not his real name by a long shot - its one of those old country words that has twelve extra letters in the original tongue - but he has the shock of hair and other characteristics that would make him the dictionary definition image of a Gaelic stereotype. Even has an amazing accent so thick you need to beat it down with a Shaleighleigh to understand - doubly amazing since all his kin were through Ellis island by 1908. He's a "ranger" which is a dangerous thing to admit to in Vegas. Most of the military types think you shouldn't co-opt the name of a special forces group and claim to uphold the ideals of the army, when you could actually be in the army - even if service mostly consists of pointless patrols and the occasional midnight tank drag race down route 66.
Least he's quite this morning. Sometimes things just explode. Someones got a bit of peyote growing in one of the rooftop greenhouses, and some mighty fine hash indeed. Usually these harm no one - but synesthesia and rumors of undead in the sewers don't always mix.
Even without the drugs, that seems to be the word of the year. Synesthesia. It all seems to blend together - after a while you taste the strip, you hear the camouflage, and smell the boredom.
They all know the country they swore to protect doesn't really exist. Its city states and new frontier now, with tenuous UHF contact between the Rockies and Alleghenies. Guns and tanks can unite the lot - the question is how and who. A military campaign isn't going to last long without factories, and factories aren't going to exist without a campaign. Should the aliens be the first target, or an ally against the others? Is it the open hand or closed fist that will restore the republic? How about those angry fission bombs growling in their silos - unchain the atomic dogs or neuter those puppies before they flash on American soil?
In another casino more whiskey sours are being lifted to dry lips. One general has the control codes in his breast pocket, the other half a mind to shoot the first.
Just another day.