Bugout! California Part 39 – Recruitment


“Trevor!” Ji-Ho shouted again from his rig.

Seth looked at Trevor. “We’re done. We should go over. Maybe he needs help. Lord knows he’s helped us enough.”

“Yeah,” he said, getting up. “We’re done.”

“What did you mean about Kaylee?” Seth asked as they headed over.

“He wants me to take her away from Matt,” Trevor whispered.

Seth laughed. “Yeah, I could see that.”

They went into Ji-Ho’s coach.

“Wow, this thing is great!” Trevor said as he rushed over to Ji-Ho. He was sitting at the dinette, watching his laptop.

“They in house,” he said.

“Oh, crap,” Trevor said, getting behind him to watch over his shoulder. “They don’t see the cameras?”

“Not yet,” Ji-Ho said, looking back at him, glee in his eyes.

“Who’s that guy?” Seth asked. “Looks like an Islamic Cleric.”

“I see face before,” Ji-Ho said. “I think he called Saladin.”

“No way,” Trevor said, watching him. “The guy in the picture with President Simpson and Governor Sable?”

“Look, they follow bread crumb downstairs,” Ji-Ho said. “They get surprise.”

“What’s going on?” Kaylee asked, coming up behind Trevor and Seth.

“We’re watching the enemy in Ji-Ho’s house,” Trevor whispered, moving over so she could get closer. She shot him an uneasy glance.

Ji-Ho switched the video to the lower level, just in time to see the UN Peacekeepers rushing down the stairs, Saladin following them cautiously.

“We won’t get him,” Ji-Ho whispered. “He smells rat. He too smart.”

“Where can he go?” Seth asked.

“He’ll go by the window,” Trevor said. “He can jump into the pool from there.”

“He’s on the lower level,” Seth said. “He can just walk out.”

“No, twenty foot drop,” Ji-Ho said. “Cantilevered against hill. Make nice view. Crawl space under that room.”

“You’re right,” Kaylee said, getting closer to Trevor, head going close to his as she focused on the screen. “Doesn’t it bother you that you’re gonna lose your house?”

“No worry, more where that came from,” Ji-Ho said. “I still own land. Was tired of house anyway.” He turned to her and grinned.

“There are police officers in there,” Seth said.

“So?” Trevor asked.

“We don’t want to kill them, do we? UN thugs are one thing, but cops are different.”

“These cops in league with enemy,” Ji-Ho said. “Their fault.”

“I agree,” Trevor said.

“Look, they go into vault,” Ji-Ho said. He pulled his cellphone out of his pocket and punched an app.

“What’s that?” Kaylee asked.

“Detonator,” Ji-Ho said.

“Well, there’s three of them in the vault now,” Seth said.

“I wait for them to open back door in vault,” Ji-Ho said. “Then boom.”

“How big is the explosion going to be?” Seth asked.

“Knock down house,” Ji-Ho said. “Like Iraqi wedding.”

“Uncle!” Kaylee said.

“Bad guys,” Ji-Ho said. “Look, they open.”

“Wow, Trevor was right,” Kaylee said. “That Saladin guy is moving to the window.”

“Told you,” Ji-Ho said. “He not get killed. We kill him later.”

“They see the drone,” Seth said.

“Yes, one of them say to Saladin,” Ji-Ho said. “He move closer to window. Time’s up.” He punched the button on the phone app, and the video went blank.

“Kaboom!” Trevor said.

“Wish the video stayed on,” Seth said.

Ji-Ho laughed. He moved his finger on the trackpad of his laptop, and selected the only camera with a picture. “Front yard. Battery backup. Still transmitting.”

“My God,” Kaylee said, looking at the ruined house, parts of it on fire.

“Look, there’s Saladin, running towards the front gate,” Trevor said. “He’s all wet.”

Ji-Ho grabbed his phone in a panic, and opened another app. He punched the button. There was an explosion shown silently on the screen, Saladin flying through the air and landing on the far side of the lawn.

“I get you,” Ji-Ho said with glee. “This more fun than video game.”

“What was that?” Seth asked.

“Modified claymore mine,” Ji-Ho said. “Hope he dead. Wasn’t that close. Maybe just wounded.”

“If he’s wounded, he’ll get to the hospital,” Trevor said. “The fire department will be there any second.”

“He’s not dead,” Seth said. “Look, he got up.”

“He’s badly wounded,” Trevor said. “Look, he’s aiming a pistol at the video camera!”

The screen went blank. Ji-Ho laughed. “I get you. You know I get you. We finish job.”

“I’d say we have a gigantic target on our backs now,” Seth said, brow furrowed.

“We did already,” Ji-Ho said. “They know what we do.”

“Hope the creep dies on the way to the hospital,” Seth said.

“Where’s Emma?” Kaylee asked.

“I don’t know,” Seth said. “Thought she was with you.”

“You need help with your hookups, Ji-Ho?” Trevor asked.

“Sure,” he said. “You done?”

“Yeah, Seth and I finished up before we came over here.”

Ji-Ho pulled a keyring out of his pocket. “Here keys. Back driver side compartment. You know how?”

“Of course,” Trevor said, taking the keys. “You want all of it hooked up?”

“Just electrical and water,” he said. “We wait and see if safe for rest. Big tanks.”

“Maybe I should’ve done that,” Trevor said, heading out the door.

“We could undo all of the connections in about three minutes if both of us worked on it,” Seth said. Kaylee followed them outside.

“You want to learn how to do this too?” Trevor asked. He shot a glance to Seth.

“Sure,” she said. They walked to the back of the coach and Trevor tried keys until he found the right one for the compartment.

“Here we go,” Trevor said.

Jamie walked up with Angel. “How’s it going?”

“We’re getting the utilities connected for Ji-Ho,” Seth said. “What are you two up to?”

“We wanted to check out the surrounding terrain,” Angel said. “Gus went with us.”

“Is it defendable?” Seth asked.

“A lot better than Gus expected,” Angel said. “I don’t know crap, but Gus does. I’m glad he’s with us.”

“You see Emma anywhere?” Kaylee asked.

“Yeah, she and Matt were following us when we checked out the park,” Jamie said. “They kept walking when we came back. I think they’re just looking around.”

Kaylee and Seth glanced at each other. Trevor noticed. “Hey, man, hook up the water, okay? Use that white hose. I’ll hook up the electrical and cable TV.”

“Got it,” Seth said, breaking out of his thoughts. “This is the same as the setup for your coach, isn’t it?”

“It’s a little easier,” Trevor said. “He’s got air-bag suspension on this puppy. It levels out a lot better. Rides a lot better too.”

Kaylee laughed. “It ought to do everything itself,” she said. “He paid seven hundred grand for this puppy.”

“Holy crap, really?” Seth said.

Trevor chuckled. “You haven’t spent any time looking into these things, have you?”

“Not really,” Seth said. “You have?”

“I helped my dad pick out the one we have,” Trevor said. “I was being the total geek, doing research for him.”

“There’s nothing geeky about that,” Kaylee said. “Think I’ll go find Matt and Emma.”

“Wait a sec and I’ll go with you,” Seth said as he turned on the water. The hose tightened.

“You’re done,” Trevor said. “Go ahead. I’ll talk to you later.”

“Okay,” Seth said. He looked at Kaylee. “Which way? You’ve been here before, right?”

“Yeah, so has Matt,” she said. “If they already took the tour, they’re probably at the lookout.” Her brow furrowed.

“Do you trust him?” Seth said as they walked.

She was silent for a moment, then she sighed. “Matt? Not so much, but I trust Emma.”

Seth chuckled. “She’s not happy with me, you know.”

“She hasn’t given me that impression,” Kaylee said. “This way. See that small trail?”

“This is really nice,” Seth said as he looked around. They got on the trail and followed it towards a ridge.

“Do you think she’s gonna break up with you?” Kaylee asked quietly.

“If we weren’t going through all of this stuff, I think she would,” Seth said.

“You don’t look very concerned,” she said, eyeing him.

He shrugged back at her.

“Hell, you wish she would dump you,” Kaylee whispered.

He was silent for a moment as they walked. “No, I wouldn’t say that exactly,” he said.

She giggled. “Exactly? How long has this been going on?”

“Don’t get me wrong. I do have feelings for her, but she’s so controlling. I’m getting tired of that. I’m probably sending her signals, and she’s sending me signals too.”

“What kind of signals is she sending you?” Kaylee asked.

“She treats our lovemaking like a chore,” Seth said. “It’s hard to get her interested.”

She giggled. “Oh. That’s not supposed to happen until after you’re married.”

Seth laughed. “That’s funny.”

“You two ever talked about marriage?”

“Not really,” Seth said. “Not seriously, anyway.”

“She used to talk about it to me,” she said. “Don’t you dare tell her I told you that.”

“I won’t,” Seth said.

“Why don’t you just break up with her?”

“She’s scared all the time,” Seth said. “I don’t want to make it worse for her. We’ll probably break up when things settle down. It’s not that big of a deal. Her looks got me interested, but after a few dates I knew she wasn’t the love of my life.”

“Well, that’s an honest comment,” she said, shaking her head. She flashed him a sly smile. “Can I tell you a secret? You can’t tell anybody, especially Matt.”

“Now I’m intrigued,” Seth said. “You’ve got some stuff on me, so I’ll keep quiet.”

She giggled, then got closer and whispered to him.

“My uncle wants me to dump Matt and go after Trevor.”

Seth smiled at her, and she got a shocked look on her face.

“Crap, you knew,” she whispered.

“Swear you won’t say anything?”

“Of course,” she whispered.

“Your uncle has been working on Trevor too. He told me.”

“Why that troublemaker,” Kaylee said, shaking her head.

“You don’t look too upset,” Seth said.

“I’m in about the same place with Matt that you are with Kaylee,” she whispered. “Keep your mouth shut, though. I don’t want to change anything right now. We’ve got enough to worry about.”

Seth laughed. “We’re both in the same boat.”

“I don’t see Trevor and me anyway,” she said. “He doesn’t know I exist.”

“You got that wrong,” Seth whispered.

“Has he said anything?” Kaylee asked, eyes dilated.

“No, but I’ve seen how he looks at you,” Seth whispered. “Honor is a big thing for him. He’d never let you know as long as you’re with one of his friends. Probably one of the reasons your uncle likes him. It’s one of the reasons I like him. He has the makings of a great man.”

“Look, there they are,” Kaylee whispered. Seth looked forward on the trail. The two were sitting down on the ridge ahead of them, looking out over the gorgeous valley below.

“Should we sneak up on them?” Seth asked.

“No, they’re on a cliff. I don’t want them falling.”

“Okay,” Seth said. “Hey, Matt.”

Matt turned around, smiling. Emma did too, face red.

“Hey, guys,” he said. “Check out this view. It’s awesome. Hey Kaylee.”

“Hi, Matt,” she said cheerfully. “Hi Emma. What do you think?”

“It’s beautiful,” she said. “How many times have you two been here?”

“At least five,” Kaylee said, sitting next to Emma. Seth sat down next to Matt.

“You guys get everything set up?” Matt asked.

“All done,” Seth said. “Jamie said you toured the area with Gus.”

“Oh, that’s how you knew where we were,” Matt said.

“Kaylee knew about this place. What’d Gus say? He think we’re safe here?”

“He was pleasantly surprised,” Matt said. “He mentioned that we should set up sentries in a couple of key spots to keep watch.”

Seth chuckled. “Yeah, especially after what just happened.”

“Uh oh,” Emma said. “What’d we miss?”

“The bad guys showed up at my uncle’s house,” Kaylee said.

“Oh, really?” Matt asked. “He get them?”

“Killed everybody except for the most important target, from what I could tell,” Seth said.

“Most important target?” Matt asked.

“Yeah, Saladin was there,” Seth said.

“You mean that guy that Ivan the Butcher was talking about?” Emma asked, horrified. “The guy on that picture with the president and the governor?”

“Yeah,” Seth said.

“We’re dead,” she said, a look of panic on her face. “He’s connected and he’s smart. He’ll find us.”

“I wouldn’t worry about it,” Kaylee said.

“Are you insane?” Emma asked. “This is like being in Nazi Germany and having Hitler after you.”

“She has a point,” Matt said. “Gus know about this yet?”

“We didn’t tell him,” Seth said, “but he was back at camp with Jamie and the others. I’m sure Ji-Ho will tell them.”

“I’m scared,” Emma said.

“Settle down,” Kaylee said. “My uncle is pretty smart too, you know. We did wound him, too. He might not survive.”

“How’d he get away?” Matt asked.

“He dived out the window in the back of the room where the vault was. Landed in the swimming pool.”

“You saw him after?” Matt asked.

“Yeah, through the video camera out in the yard,” Seth said. “Ji-Ho blew up a claymore mine while he was trying to escape. Sent him flying through the air.”

“How much chance is there that he’s dead?” Matt asked.

“Not that much, in my opinion,” Seth said. “After he got hit by the mine, he was able to turn and fire his pistol at the video camera. Hit it with one shot.”

“Dammit,” Emma said. “We’ll have to leave again.”

“Calm down,” Seth said. “It’s gonna be okay.”

Seth’s phone rang. He looked at it. “Trevor.”

“Wonderful,” Emma said as Seth answered it.

“Hey, man, what’s up?”

“Seth, where the hell are you guys?”

“Just down a trail, looking at a nice view of the valley. What’s up?”

“Come back here,” he said. “We got problems.”

Seth ended the call and stood. “C’mon, we’d better get back there.”

“Crap, they’re coming for us already,” Emma said.

“No they aren’t,” Seth said. “Let’s go.” He took her hand, but she pulled it away quickly. Seth shrugged and started walking to the camp, Emma behind him, Matt and Kaylee bringing up the rear.

They got back just in time to see Gus’s rig pulling out of its space. He saw them and waved them over.

“What the hell?” Seth asked.

“We’re out of here, kid,” Gus said. “You guys might want to leave too.”

“Why?” Kaylee asked.

“Saladin knows Ji-Ho targeted him. He’s going to use every resource he has to find him. We don’t want to be around when he does, and neither do you.”

He drove forward, pulling the trailer down the road.

“See?” Emma said.

“See my ass,” Kaylee said. She rushed to Ji-Ho’s coach, Trevor on her heels. Emma and Seth followed them inside.

“Uncle, what did they say?” Kaylee asked, rushing to his side.

Ji-Ho grinned back at her. “They get scared like baby. Think we sitting ducks.”

“We probably are,” Emma said as she trembled.

“Saladin try to find. We be ready. We have big bag of tricks.”

Jamie came in. “I’m ready to go. Any of you want to take off?”

“What, you too?” Seth asked. “Seriously?”

“We should think about it,” Emma said, glancing at Seth and then at Matt.

“I agree,” Matt said.

Kaylee glared at him. “Really? You’re going to abandon my uncle after the way he’s treated you?”

Matt looked embarrassed. “Don’t look at it that way.”

“C’mon, guys,” Jamie said. “The train is leaving the station. Better get on board.”

“Let’s go, Seth,” Emma said, getting up. “I’ve decided.”

“I’m not going anywhere,” Seth said.

“You’re picking these people over me? Over us?”

“What us?” Seth asked her. “You’ve been looking for a way to dump me for weeks. The only reason you haven’t yet is because of the war.”

“That’s not true,” she said, tears running down her cheeks.

Seth went to her and put his arm around her shoulder. “It’s okay. I understand. Really. No hard feelings, but you aren’t interested in me anymore, and I’m not really interested in you anymore, either.”

She hugged him tight. “I’ll be a lot better if we leave.”

“I’m sorry,” Seth said. “I can’t do that. My place is with Ji-Ho and Trevor.”

She stiffened and backed away. “Fine,” she said. “I’ll go with you guys, Jamie. Let me get my stuff.”

“Hurry up,” Jamie said.

She nodded yes and trotted into the back of the coach.

“You’re really going to let her go?” Matt asked, a shocked look on his face.

“She’s doing what she wants to do,” Seth said. “It’s all good.”

“I think she’ll be safer if she leaves,” Matt said softly. “I think we all should leave. They’re probably tracking this vehicle.”

Ji-Ho chuckled.

“It’s not funny, man,” Matt said. “C’mon, Kaylee, let’s go.”

“Not a chance in hell,” Kaylee said. “I’m not leaving my uncle.”

Matt’s face turned red with anger. “Fine,” he said. “I’ll stay then.”

Emma came back out with her bag. Matt watched her walk by, both of them glancing at each other.

“C’mon, Matt, make up your mind,” Jamie said.

“Go,” Kaylee said. “It’s okay.”

“You want me to go?” he asked.

“I saw how you two looked at each other when Emma went by,” Kaylee said. “Go get her. You know you want to, and I know you want too.”

His face flashed anger. “Fine. I’m outta here.”

He stomped out of the coach.

“Scratch one friendship,” Trevor said.

“He’s still my friend,” Seth said. “You’re not going too, are you Angel?”

“No frigging way, dude,” Angel said. “I’m staying right here.”

“There they go,” Kaylee said, watching them drive away.

They all sat silently for a moment, Kaylee starting to cry. “I’m going to miss Emma.”

“She be fine,” Ji-Ho said. “She be with Jamie. He protect. At least try.”

“Matt wants her,” Kaylee said. “They might have already… you know.”

“I doubt it,” Seth said.

“Jamie kill Matt for her,” Ji-Ho said.

“Don’t say that,” Seth said.

“It true,” Ji-Ho said. “If it were you and Emma, he try to kill you. Seen before.”

“All right, let’s get off this,” Kaylee said. “They’re gone. What are we gonna do now? We may really be in danger.”

“Enemy in danger,” Ji-Ho said. He got on his laptop and went to his meeting software.

“You’re setting up a web meeting now?” Trevor asked, watching him.

“Yes,” Ji-Ho said. “Gather around.”

He picked up his phone, hit a contact, put it on speaker, and set it down on the table next to the Laptop.

“You hear?” Ji-Ho asked.

“Yes, old friend. Just about up on the web meeting.”

The screen came up. Trevor, Kaylee, and Seth gasped.

“That’s Ivan the Butcher,” Kaylee said in a hushed tone.

Ivan laughed. “You down to people you trust?”

“Yes,” Ji-Ho said. “I trust all of the people left.”

“What happened to the others?”

“They got scared because we wound Saladin,” Ji-Ho said. “They go.”

“Good,” he said. “Gather around closer so I can see your faces.”

Seth and Trevor moved in behind Ji-Ho, next to Kaylee.

“Ah, good,” Ivan said. “Names?”

“I’m Trevor, sir.”



“Kaylee. Uncle, you planned this all along,” Kaylee said.

“Not all, but some,” Ji-Ho said. “Had to do.”

“How much do they know?” Ivan asked.

“Very little so far,” Ji-Ho said. “Don’t worry, I tell them all. Show them what we have. When first mission?”

“Next week,” Ivan said. “Rest up and train. Build your team. We’re building others now too, from Torrance. Tex, Sparky, and Jules are on it.”

“Good,” Ji-Ho said. “Can’t wait to see again.”

To be continued…


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