Bugout! California Part 49 – The Furnance


“They’re stopping,” Seth said. “We’re gonna have to split up now.”

“Can I drive the off-roader?” Kaitlyn asked.

“Sure, no problem,” Seth said as he shut down the Jeep’s engine. They got out and walked to the back, waving at Angel and Megan behind them.

“Her war paint looks a little smudged to me,” Kaitlyn whispered.

Seth smiled, looking at her in the darkness. “This is strange. I’m not scared. All I can think about is you.”

“Well snap yourself out of that,” she said. “Just focus on what you get if we live through this.”

Seth finished un-hitching the off-roader, and stashed the tow bar in the back of the Jeep. “Come here.”

Kaitlyn looked at him with aching eyes, then rushed over, setting her rifle down as he took her into his arms.

“Oh, Geez,” she said, feeling herself pressed against him. “You feel so good.”

“So do you,” Seth said, looking into her eyes. They kissed passionately, both of them moaning.

“Wow, that curled my toes,” Kaitlyn said, breath coming hard. “We’d better get going.”

“We’ve got a couple minutes,” Seth said. “Look at Angel and Megan.”

Kaitlyn looked back at them, Angel pressing the tiny girl up against the side of the Jeep, their mouths locked together. Kaitlyn groaned and pulled Seth back against her, kissing him again, tenderly this time. They broke the kiss and stared at each other.

“I wish I could say it already,” she whispered.

“Say what?” Seth asked.

“Hey you two, we need to go,” Trevor shouted from in front of them.

“I know,” Seth said. “I’m driving the Jeep. Kaitlyn’s driving the off-roader.”

“Okay,” Trevor said. He got into the off-roader, loading his bow and arrow, his M60, and his Winchester into the side seat. “See you there, man. Fight proud.”

“Damn straight,” Seth said.

“Guess I’d better get in,” Kaitlyn said. She turned to leave. Seth pulled her back again, kissing the side of her neck from behind. She turned and grinned at him. “Later.”

Seth rushed back to the Jeep, and the column took off slowly, poking along the rutted and uneven road, turning into a mere trail after half a mile. They drove over the dry creek, rocks hitting the dash plates as they hit bottom and climbed out. The space between the vehicles increased until they had to slow down again, hills breaking out on both sides of them.

One Eye and Ji-Ho were still in the lead, driving the Jeep Unlimited. Sam and Connie were in the off-roader behind them, a large two-seater with a storage compartment behind the seats.

Sid and Yvonne were in their Jeep, riding along silently, both of their minds racing. John and Sarah followed in their four-wheel drive truck, having a little more trouble with the road than the Jeeps and off-roaders.

“What if we get stuck?” Sarah asked, looking over at John in the dark cab.

John chuckled. “There’s a lot of Jeeps here with winches. If we get stuck, we’ll be out in a hurry.”

“Are you scared?”

“If I wasn’t I’d be crazy,” John said.

“You’ve impressed me,” she said, choking up. “I thought I was losing you to the drinking before this started.”

“I know, honey,” John said. “As bad as this is, it’s given me a second chance with you.”

“I wasn’t going to leave you,” she said quietly.

“I know, but you only looked at me with disappointment back then. Now I see the old looks. You want me again.”

She reached over and touched his thigh. “I always wanted you. You were leaving me. Now you’re back.”

John chuckled, looking in his rear-view mirror.

“What’s so funny?”

“Clem,” John said. “An old man tooling around in an off-roader. He’s having the time of his life.”

“I hope he’s careful,” Sarah said. “He’s too smart to lose.”

“He’ll be okay,” John said. “In case you haven’t noticed, he’s a tough old bird.”

“So are you,” Sarah said.

John’s phone buzzed. He fished it out of his pocket and handed it to Sarah. “Check that. Probably telling us to turn off the headlights.”

She opened the message app. “Yep. We gonna be able to drive without the lights?”

“We’ll have to slow down a tad,” John said as he turned his headlights off. He saw other headlights going off in his rear-view mirror. “This means we’ll be there in about five minutes.”

“I know,” Sarah said, voice wavering. “I’m getting scared.”

“We’ll be fine,” John said. “Just stick near me. You remember how to work the M-16, right?”

“I think so,” she said. “No, I do know how. I’m just nervous.”

“You’ll do fine. We’ll take these cretins on and win. I can feel it.”

“Hope you’re right,” Sarah said. “This is for our friends back at the RV Park. That makes it easier. Mad is better than scared.”

“Yep, use it,” John said. “Look, they’re slowing down.”

“Oh, God,” she said. “Okay. I can do this.”

“Yes you can,” John said, pulling off to the side. He spun the truck around so it was pointing back at the road. “Just in case we have to beat a hasty retreat.”

“Look, everybody is doing that,” Sarah said.

They got out and met with the group of people by the lead car.

“Keep your voices down,” One Eye said. “It will carry further than you think it will.”

People nodded, their speech coming down to a dull murmur.

“Bow team, come up here,” One Eye said.

Sam rushed up with Sid and Yvonne. James walked over, cross bow and quiver on his shoulder, followed by Tyler and Ryan.

“We need a few of the M60s up here too,” One Eye said. “To take out their mortars.”

Trevor stepped forward, M60 on a sling, Winchester in his hand. Kaylee was by his side holding an M-16.

“Seth, maybe you should be up here too,” Tyler said. “And Angel.”

“We’re coming,” Seth said quietly, walking up with Kaitlyn. Angel and Megan followed. A couple dozen young warriors approached too.

“Okay, as soon as you hear gunfire, rush over and be ready to attack. Mortar team, you know what to do?”

“We ready,” Ji-Ho said. Several tribal members joined them with their rounds and mortars, nodding silently to Ji-Ho.

“Okay, if no shots, start towards the ridge in five minutes,” One Eye said. “Unless I text you to stand down. Be careful. We don’t want any guns going off until we’re ready.”

The team murmured amongst themselves as One Eye picked up his bow and his rifle. The bow team started forward, picking their way down the trail in almost total darkness. The mortar team followed about a hundred yards behind.

“How do you feel?” Sam whispered to One Eye.

“Good. I think we’ll win, but it will be a tough battle.”

Sam nodded.

Trevor and Kaylee walked with Angel and Megan, Seth and Kaitlyn following them.

“Nervous?” Trevor asked.

“More like scared shitless,” Kaylee said. “You believe all that crap my uncle was saying about the family?”

“Yes,” Trevor said. “I can see it in your eyes sometimes. The way they sharpen and focus.”

Kaylee giggled. “Oh brother.”

“I’m serious,” Trevor said. “You’ll kick ass. Wait and see.”

“I can’t shoot like you can.”

“Maybe not yet,” Trevor said. “You’ll learn a lot tonight.”

Sid and Yvonne followed One Eye and Sam.

“You okay, honey?” Sid asked.

“We’ve been to this rodeo before,” Yvonne said. “Remember?”

“Yes, you can shoot rifles better than I can,” Sid said. “I probably got you on the bow, though.”

“No doubt,” Yvonne said.

“Look, you can see a glow past that next ridge,” Sid whispered.

“Hope they aren’t watching too closely,” Yvonne said. “They’ll see us for sure.”

“Keep your eyes open and your mouths closed,” One Eye whispered back at the group. “Try not to scuffle your feet too much.”

The group snuck forward as the ground rose to the ridge. They could hear talking and laughing and Arabic ramblings. One Eye turned and looked at the group holding bows, motioning for them to fan out to the left and right.

“Here we go,” Sid whispered as they went to the left.

“There’s one, honey,” Yvonne whispered. “See him? Sitting down on the ridge, watching the canyon instead of the approach.”

“Dummy,” Sid whispered as they crept towards a good cover spot.

Sam and One Eye went to the right, James and Tyler in the middle. Other’s filled in.

Trevor stopped at the ridge and hit the dirt, Kaylee getting on the ground next to him. Seth and Kaitlyn dropped to their right, Angel and Megan to the left.

“We’re ready,” Trevor whispered, putting the M60 in front of him. He caught Sid letting an arrow go out of the corner of his eye, dropping one of the sentries. “Scratch one.”

“He’s good,” Kaylee whispered, sighting her M-16. We might have to shoot the ones on the far side of the ridge.”

Another arrow flew from the right side, Seth catching it as it shot from Sam’s bow. A sentry on that side dropped, struck through the upper back. Another dropped about sixty yards past that one.

“That was a hard shot,” Trevor whispered.

Sid and Yvonne snuck further to the left, trying to make it to the other side of the canyon, where there was another sentry, paying more attention to the food he was eating than to the ridge. Sid let an arrow fly, hitting a good kill zone on his side.

Trevor got a text. He looked at his phone, shielding the light from the screen.

“Who?” Kaylee whispered.

“Ji-Ho. He wants me to spot for the mortars.”

“Oh. Hope they don’t fall short and hit us.”


James raised his crossbow at a sentry across the wide canyon, and let the arrow fly.

“That’s got to be out of range,” Kaylee whispered. The sentry clutched his chest and fell, but somebody to his right noticed and started to yell in Arabic.

“They’re onto us,” Trevor said.

Kaylee fired her M-16, shooting two sentries who were running forward to the cusp of the ridge in front of them.

“Damn, girl,” Trevor said, laughing. “C’mon, let’s get up there and find their mortar emplacements.”

The three couples crawled forward on their bellies as fire erupted from below.

“There,” Seth said, aiming the M60 at several men running to a mortar, frantic to get it working. He pulled the trigger, hitting several of them. Kaitlyn fired her AK-47, hitting the mortar itself, then trying to hit the box of rounds next to it.

“Good idea,” Seth said, concentrating M60 fire until the box of shells blew up big.

“Nice shot, dude,” Angel said. He strafed the area around the second mortar with his M60, Megan joining him. Then there was a pop and a large explosion, hitting the ridge on the far side. Sid and Yvonne ran back from that area, almost getting hit.

Trevor texted to Ji-Ho. “Bring in twenty yards.” Kaylee fired at the fleeing men below, hitting several as they ran in a panic towards the opening of the canyon.

“Look, here comes the rest of our people,” Kaylee shouted, looking behind them. They hit the dirt and opened up, thousands of rounds going off in short order. The enemy fighters ran in a panic, not knowing which direction to go.

The mortar fired again, this time hitting the side wall of the canyon about twenty yards above the floor, sending rocks and dust into the eyes of everybody nearby. Trevor sent him a text to come in another ten yards.

“Pour fire on them!” John shouted, firing his BAR, mowing down the men below. Sarah joined him, firing at the fleeing men. The mortar popped again, this time landing right in the middle of a large group of panicked Islamists.

“Bullseye!” Trevor shouted, texting to Ji-Ho. “Keep aimed there, load with Willie Pete. Then move to the left another fifty yards”

“I’m going over there,” Kaitlyn said, pointing left. “Too many of these creeps are getting out of the canyon.”

“Yeah,” Seth said. They got up together and ran to the left just as the Willie Pete hit, the hot air rushing towards them. Both dived for cover.

“What was that?” Kaitlyn asked, eyes full of terror.

“Willie Pete,” Seth said, looking over the ridge at the burning people below. “My God.”

“It’s like a furnace, dude,” Angel said as he ran up with Megan. “Where you guys going?”

“The mouth of the canyon,” Kaitlyn said. “That’s where they’re all running now. We don’t want them to escape.

“I just texted Ji-Ho to plant some mortar rounds there.”

Suddenly two mortar rounds went off, both by the mouth of the canyon, hitting the gasoline tanks.

“Whoa,” Seth said. “Glad we didn’t make it there before those tanks went up.”

The gunfire slowed way down. Sid and Yvonne ran along the far side of the ridge, getting to the canyon opening and firing at fleeing men.

“Look, there’s some trucks,” Yvonne said, aiming at them. She fired.

“We need more people down on this end, or those guys are gonna drive away.”

“Seriously,” Yvonne said. She took out her phone and texted to the group. “Get to mouth of canyon and destroy vehicles.”

“Somebody else figured this out,” Seth said to Kaitlyn as they rushed over.

“Wow, look at all their trucks,” Kaitlyn shouted, dropping to one knee and firing. “This isn’t big enough. Use the M60.”

“On it,” Seth said, laying on the ground and opening fire. He shot tires and radiators as quickly as he could, as fleeing Islamists tried to get into the trucks. Some of them began returning fire.

“Look out!” Trevor said, firing his M60. It stopped. “Crap.”

“What?” Kaylee asked.

“Out of ammo,” he said, pulling his Winchester up. He took a bead and started cocking and firing, hitting a fleeing person with each shot.

“My God, that guy’s good,” Kaitlyn said as she watched. Seth ran out of ammo for the M60 too, and picked up his Winchester.

“I’m not as good as he is,” Seth said, firing off rounds, slower than Trevor, but still hitting most of the people he fired at. Kaitlyn changed clips and started up again with the AK-47. Rock chips flew at them, one of them hitting her in the right cheek.

“Ouch,” she cried, but shook it off and fired again, concentrating on anybody she saw that was aiming a gun in their direction, squeezing off rounds one at a time.

“You’re good,” Seth said.

“So are you,” Kaitlyn said. “I’m impressed.”

“Good,” Seth said, smiling, then aiming his Winchester again, hitting a man who was about to get into the cab of a truck.

“Good, here comes my uncle,” Kaylee said, watching Ji-Ho quickly set up the mortar again. He dropped in a round, hitting behind the trucks about fifty yards, then making a quick adjustment as the other men with mortars showed up near him. He dropped another round, which went off right in the middle of the vehicles, close enough to another gas tank to set it off.

“Wow,” Megan said. “This is just about over.”

“I can’t believe we did this well,” Angel said. “I don’t think we’ve lost anybody.”

“We caught them by surprise,” Trevor said. “And they were in a bad place. This size of force should have been able to take us.”

“Look, headlights coming towards the canyon,” Kaitlyn said, pointing.

“We’d better get those folks,” Megan said. “I don’t have enough range. Then two of the mortars went off, one going wide, the other hitting the lead truck on the road.

“Yes,” Trevor shouted.

Sam and One Eye ran over with a box. “Here, reload the M60s,” Sam said, dumping a box of ammo next to Seth and Angel. They reloaded as quickly as they could. Sam and One Eye continued down the line, stopping at the opening of the box canyon and reloading their machine guns. Everybody opened fire on the trucks, which were trying to leave now. Ji-Ho dropped another mortar round, hitting the last truck, blocking the road. The other mortars joined in, blowing up the rest of the trucks after a few more shots. Then there was silence.

“Is it over?” Kaylee asked. Trevor looked at her and grinned. “I think it might be. We need to watch that road and see if anybody else shows up.”

Sam and One Eye stood and looked at the smoldering mess below them. Every so often there was a rifle shot, stopping an enemy fighter.

“This was too easy,” One Eye said.

“We had an extreme tactical advantage, and the element of surprise,” Sam said. “We won’t be this lucky next time.”

“Who’s that coming down the far side of the canyon?” One Eye asked. “Shoot, that’s Sid and Yvonne.

“We’d better get down there,” Sam said. “See if there’s any intelligence we can gather.”

“Yeah, but let’s not send many people into that canyon. It’s a death trap.”

“You got that right,” Sam said. “C’mon.”

“I’m going too,” Connie said, sweat coming off her brow.

“You did good,” Sam said. “I saw you shooting.”

“It’s funny,” she said. “After it started, I wasn’t scared anymore.”

They went down the hill together. Others started to join them.

“Stop,” One Eye said. “We don’t want many people down there. Stay up here and watch the road and the surrounding desert. Be ready to attack anybody you see coming.”

Ji-Ho stood up. “I shoot flares, okay?”

“Yeah, let’s light up the area,” Sam said. “Good idea.”

Ji-Ho adjusted his mortar to shoot further up, then dropped a flare, which cast a dim light over the area. Everybody watched for movement. All they saw was empty desert.

Sid and Yvonne walked carefully through the wreckage of the trucks, guns at the ready as they peeked inside the backs. They saw Sam, Connie, and One Eye coming towards them, doing the same thing.

“This was too easy,” Sid said to Sam.

“One Eye was just saying the same thing,” Sam said. “Not sure I agree.”

“Why not?” Yvonne asked.

“These folks aren’t professionals,” Sam said. “They’re a bunch of un-trained privates. They should’ve been on those mortars right away. Hell, I’ll bet they didn’t even have them aimed properly.”

One Eye thought about it for a moment. “You might be right about that. Three of their sentries weren’t even looking at the ridges. They were watching something down in the canyon.”

“What’s in those shipping containers over there?” Sid asked, pointing at a row of ten. They were against the wall of the canyon, on the side that was hidden from view.

“Whoa,” Sam said. “If we’re lucky those are full of ammo and weapons.”

“Be careful around those,” Sid said. “They might be booby trapped or something.”

“I’m gonna go check them out,” One Eye said. “Wait here.”

“We’ll cover you,” Sam said. They all watched as he hurried to the first one. He turned and looked at the others. “Hell, this doesn’t even have a padlock on it.”

“Don’t touch that!” Sam yelled as One Eye’s hand touched the door lever. He pushed it, and it exploded, blowing One Eye apart and setting off a chain reaction in the other containers. Sam felt his body being lifted and thrown, landing in the sand twenty yards back.

To be continued…


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