Bugout! California Part 52 – The Fork

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Tex drove the UN Van down Washington Boulevard. “Hey, Jules, which way?”

“Go under freeway and turn left into auto dealership. Drive into service bay area in back.”

“Okay,” he said. “Isn’t Tito’s Tacos right by there?”

Jules chuckled. “Yes, is. Maybe get some tonight. I call.”

Sparky watched out the front window, looking for people on the street, hoping they wouldn’t take note of the UN Van.

“Nervous, partner?” Tex asked.

“Hell yeah,” he said. “This area is dense as hell. What happened to the checkpoints?”

“Like Jules said, we just cut the head off the snake. They enemy is running around, not knowing what the hell to do.”

“That won’t last long,” Sparky said under his breath.

“Maybe that coup in Washington will take the wind out of their sails,” Tex said.

“Or maybe they’ll get more desperate,” Sparky said softly. “How long are we staying here?”

“Don’t know,” Tex said. “Jules might know.”

“Know what?” Jules asked, slipping his phone back in his pocket.

“How long we’re staying here,” Tex said.

“Not long, we move up north soon,” Jules said. “Notice no check point. Enemy hunker down. We have on run.”

“So is this a good time for us to split?” Tex asked. “Shouldn’t we stick around and finish the job?”

“Plenty here to take care,” Jules said. “West LA and Valley crew both grow large. People themselves coming out more and more. Look at South Bay. Last night people come and attack checkpoints while we battle in Torrance.”

“There’s the freeway,” Sparky said.

“I see it, partner,” Tex said, driving under it, then turning into the car dealership’s driveway.

“Pull into open bay,” Jules said. “Ted’s van there next to it.”

Tex nodded and turned into it, pulling up far enough for the door to clear. He saw Ted walk over to a button and push it. The door rolled down behind them. Tex shut down the engine.

“Thank God,” Morgan said. “I was afraid we’d get nailed on the way.”

“Me too,” Katie said.

Sparky got out of the passenger door and opened the big sliding door on the side. “Welcome, ladies.”

Everybody got out of the van.

“Follow me,” Jules said, getting out of the driver’s seat. He led the group through a door into the office section of the dealership. “Stay away from front window.”

“Yeah, seriously,” Tex said. They could hear women’s voices as they walked.

“This place is bigger than I expected,” Robbie said, looking around, holding Morgan’s hand. “Who owns this?”

“I do, kid,” Jules said. “I don’t run day to day, but I own.”

“Nice,” Tex said. “How’d you get into this business?”

“Used cars to smuggle dope,” he said, grinning. “Now no need. Just sell cars to yuppies in West La. Make plenty money. Retirement plan.”

“I should’ve guessed,” Sparky said, shaking his head.

Ted peeked his head out the door of a room, motioning them over. “Hey, guys, any problems?”

“Nope,” Tex said. “Easy trip down here.”

“You get the new recruit?” Cody asked.

“Yep,” Robbie said. “Justin.” He nodded towards him.

“Nice to meet you,” Ted said. “I’m Ted. I’ve seen you at the restaurant before.”

“Meeting Robbie,” Justin said. “What happens now?”

“I think we do enough for one day,” Jules said. “Relax. I call for tacos.”

“Tito’s isn’t open this late,” Sparky said.

“They open for us tonight,” Jules said. “I just talk to manager. He knows, he keep people over. Need few guys to carry.”

“No problem,” Tex said. “Love me some tacos.”

“Hell yes,” Stacey said.

“I’ll go too,” Sparky said.

“Okay, you go. Money already taken care of. Get plenty chips and salsa.”

“Got it, Boss,” Tex said. He went down the hallway towards the door with Stacey and Sparky.

“What are you going to do with us?” one of the women asked.

“Let’s talk about that,” Jules said, sitting down in the big room, on a chair facing them. Robbie and Justin leaned against the wall next to their women to listen. Jordan and Ted leaned against the wall next to them, Ted shooting Robbie a nod.

“We have bad guys on run,” Jules said. “We not done, but tide turned.”

“Thank God for that,” one of the women said.

“Here problem,” Jules said. “It not over, and they lash out as we defeat. They know who you are. They’ll go to your residence. Your families are in danger.”

“We know that,” Dana said. “So what do we do?”

“I think it’s gonna depend,” Ted said.

“Depend on what?” Dana asked.

“Well, first of all, it depends on your age. If you’re under eighteen, raise your hands.”

Four hands went up.

“How old?” Jules asked.

“We’re fifteen,” one of them said, nodding towards the girl next to her.

“Sixteen,” said another.

“Seventeen,” said the last of them.

“We need to get you back with your parents,” Ted said. “That probably means we need to collect your parents and take them up north with us for a while. Your families will need to disappear into the woodwork until this mess is over.”

“Yes, we talk after meeting,” Jules said. “Try make contact with families.”

“What about the rest of us?” Dana asked.

“We give choice,” Jules said. “Let go or join us.”

The girls murmured amongst themselves. One of them, a tall redhead with a model’s look, raised her hand.

“Yes?” Jules asked.

“I’m Karen,” she said. “Thanks so much for what you did for us. I don’t know if anybody has said that yet.”

“You welcome,” Jules said. “Much credit go to Robbie and Morgan.”

“We know,” Dana said. “Thank you both.”

“We didn’t do anything special,” Morgan said. “I was just trying to survive.”

“No, you do lot,” Jules said, “but back to subject.”

“I’ve already decided to join you guys, if you’ll have me,” Dana said.

“You don’t want to know what it will be like?” Jordan asked. “It’s going to get rough.”

“Don’t care,” Dana said. “I’d either be dead or a sex slave if not for you guys. You have my respect and my loyalty.”

“What would we be doing?” Karen asked.

“We join Ivan in Bay Area,” Jules said. “Get groundswell started like we did here. Attack checkpoints. Kill UN thugs and Islamists. Blow up headquarters. Spy.”

“You all need to understand how dangerous this is going to be,” Ted said. “Chances are good that some of you will be killed. Maybe a lot of you.”

“The alternative is releasing us into an area that is still at least partially controlled by the enemy,” Dana said, “and we’re probably already being hunted. I’m not so sure going that route is any safer than joining you.”

“You might be right about that,” Jordan said.

“I’ll stay with you guys until I personally kill twenty-three UN thugs,” Dana said.

“Twenty-three?” Jordan asked.

Dana teared up, but her expression was one of determination and hatred. “One for every time I was raped.” Karen touched her shoulder, and then hugged her.

“I’ll join too,” she said. “I didn’t keep count, but it was a similar number. I’ll have a hard time getting over that. If I don’t get some of my own back, it’ll be worse.”

There were some murmurs of agreement, but some of the women just looked shell-shocked.

“What if we want to join?” asked one of the fifteen-year-olds.

“Must talk with parents. Maybe recruit them too,” Jules said. “Not our decision, not minor’s decision.”

“My parents won’t have much choice, I’ll bet,” the seventeen-year-old said.

“I suggest that all of you take some time to think about this,” Morgan said. “Ivan is on our side at this point, but you’ll be entering a dark world.”

“She’s right,” Ted said. “We’ve got to do what we’ve got to do, but I won’t candy coat this. You’ll be working with ex-members of the Russian mob and worse. You’ll have to watch yourselves, and you’ll no doubt be subject to the rules of that type of organization.”

“Rules?” Katie asked.

“He right, you need understand,” Jules said. “We no play games. You violate trust, you change sides, you talk to enemy, we kill you.”

Dana chuckled. “Yeah, I get it. Don’t care. You guys have me.”

“You okay with this?” Katie asked Morgan.

“I’m with my man,” Morgan said. “He’s decided to join up, and I agree.”

“Don’t decide tonight,” Justin said. “I’m going to join, but if you don’t want to I’ll make sure you get taken to a safe place to ride this out.”

“You’ve decided?” she asked.

“Yes,” Justin said. “We have to take back our nation. We’ve both seen what life under these thugs would be like. You worse than me, Katie. I’d rather be dead than let these monsters rule over us.”

“You might get your wish,” Jordan said. “That being said, I agree with Justin. I just met these guys yesterday, and I’m going to pledge my life to them. This can’t stand. Our liberty means something. Our children’s and grandchildren’s liberty means something. If I must give up my life for this, it’s no different than all the men who gave their lives in the Civil War. The duty has fallen to our generation. How can we deny it?”

“My God, man, you’re gonna make me cry with that stuff,” Ted said.

Jules chuckled. “Maybe Ivan make you spokesperson. But okay, we talk again tomorrow. Eat. Relax. Feel safe. Think.”

Morgan hugged Robbie. “Thanks for saving me.”

“You’re my life,” Robbie said. “Do you think I could leave you in that place?”

She just looked at him, then hugged him tighter. “I love you so.”

“And I love you, honey,” Robbie said. “Always.”

Sparky, Tex, and Stacey came in with several big bags, the smell of spicy beef and salsa filling the room.

“Tito’s!” Tex said. “Let’s put it on that big table over there.”

“Yes, do,” Jules said. “I call Ivan. Eat up. See you in while.” He got up and went down the hall into another office.

***

Trevor stopped when he got to the fork and got out of the car, Kaylee following. He studied the road to camp as the other vehicles stopped. Some people started to get out of their vehicles.

“NO!” Trevor shouted. “Don’t get out. We don’t need a whole lot of footprints around here. Let me look. We’ll probably have to drag the area at the beginning of this fork back to camp to get rid of the tracks. Then we need to make sure we leave good tracks in the other direction, and find an ambush spot. Got it?”

“Yeah,” Ji-Ho shouted. “He right. Sit tight for minute.”

Trevor and Kaylee grabbed their phones and turned on the flashlights, then took a careful look at the road.

“It’s hard here,” Kaylee said.

“Yeah, it is,” Trevor said. “There’s a little bit of track there, by the shoulder. I can fix that and walk back over on the hard pack.”

“We need to make sure some of the vehicles hit the soft shoulder in the new direction,” Kaylee said, looking at it.

“Get back in the Jeep and send a text about that while I brush these tracks,” Trevor said.

She nodded and got back behind the wheel of the Jeep. Trevor pulled out a bush and used it like a broom, brushing over the tracks that had strayed outside the hard-packed road, then jumped to the hard pack and got back into the Jeep’s passenger seat.

“All set?” he asked.

“Yeah, sent the text to my uncle, and he forwarded it to the rest of the group.”

“Perfect,” Trevor said. “Let’s go find a good place to nail these jerks.”

Kaylee drove forward, the long caravan following.

“Hope this road is good enough to tow over,” she said.

“Just had the same thought. Maybe we ought to be taking some of the off-roaders off the hitches anyway. The two-seaters at least. One person driving, the other with an M60. That could cause the enemy a lot of trouble.”

“I’d rather find a ridge with some cover,” Kaylee said.

“You might get your wish. Look up ahead. About four hundred yards. You can see a ridge climbing.”

“You’ve got good night vision,” Kaylee said. “That might work. Looks like a good-sized ridge with a full view of the area.”

They drove for another few minutes, the ridge rising to their left. After a few hundred yards, they could see the back side.

“Look at that!” Trevor said. “Perfect. I’ll text your uncle and spread the word to park behind this.”

“Okay,” Kaylee said. “I’ll pull in right past that little mound and check it out.”

“Go slow. I’ll unhitch the off roader if we need to.”

“Okay, sweetie,” she said. When she cleared the mound she turned left, the loose dirt of the ground making the Jeep lurch. “Should we stop?”

“No, just slow down a little,” Trevor said as he finished the text. “There, it’s sent. Pull way up there. We’ll need plenty of room for all our vehicles.”

“Okay,” Kaylee said, glancing at him for a second. “Scared?”

“Not as scared as I was before the first battle,” Trevor said. They got out and rushed to the tailgate to grab their weapons as the other vehicles rolled up.

“Gonna get us some more, eh?” Angel said, rushing over with Megan by his side. They both had their guns.

“Who want to help with mortars?” Ji-Ho asked.

“I will,” Trevor said.

“No, you too good with rifle. Somebody else.”

“I got you covered,” James said. “Won’t be needing my crossbow this time.”

“Good,” Ji-Ho said.

“We’ll help too,” Tyler said, walking up with Zac and Ryan.

“That good enough,” Ji-Ho said. “Let’s set up good welcome.”

“We’ll spot for you,” Seth said. “Keep your phone handy.”

“Good,” Ji-Ho said. He led the others to where the mortars and rounds were. They picked them up and headed towards the low part of the ridge. The rest of the force went up onto the higher part of the ridge, carrying their long guns.

“Good thing we got tipped off,” Kaitlyn said to Seth as they climbed the hill.

“Seriously,” he said. “Could have been really bad. The hardest part of this is going to be keeping them from escaping.”

“You think so?”

“Yeah, honey,” he said. “Shoot, sorry.”

“I told you I like that,” she said softly.

Clem walked over to Ji-Ho. “You got any more of those RPGs?”

“Yes, in Jeep Unlimited there,” he said. “You want?”

“Well, I can fire those from the road. I don’t think I want to be climbing up the side of no mountains.”

“That good, we could use. Light them up while we sight in these mortars.”

“Wish we could take a practice shot or two,” James said.

“They’d just turn around if we did that,” Tyler said.

“I know,” James said. “At least if we screw up from here we won’t hit our own folks. This made me nervous last time.”

“I good with these,” Ji-Ho said as he stopped on a flat spot near the top of the ridge. “This nice place.”

They started to set up.

Trevor and Kaylee laid down on the ridge, surrounded by Barona warriors, watching quietly.

“They’re coming with their lights off, I suspect,” Trevor said. He saw Seth and Kaitlyn about sixty yards to the right of them. Angel and Megan were past them, another twenty yards away. “There’s our friends.”

“Those girls are sticking to Seth and Angel like glue,” Kaylee said. One of the young warriors snickered.

“What?” she asked.

“Those guys are in more danger from them than the enemy.”

“Shut up, man,” another one said. “That’s not nice.”

“I notice you aren’t with one of them.”

“I think they’re lovely,” Kaylee said.

“They are that,” the first warrior said. “I’m Bradley.”

“Kaylee, and this is Trevor.”

“I’m Kenny,” the other warrior said. “Good to meet you guys.”

“Likewise,” Trevor said, smiling at them as he loaded his Winchester.

“You’re gonna use that old lever gun?” Kenny asked.

“For backup,” he said. “I’ve got one of the M60s for my main gun, but it’s harder to load.”

“Harder than the tubular magazine on one of those relics?” Bradley asked.

“You can top these up,” Trevor said.

“You know, that’s a good point,” Bradley said.

“Hey, think that’s them?” Kaylee asked, squinting through the darkness.

“Yeah, that’s them,” Trevor said, getting out his phone. He broadcast a text.

“I see four Jeeps and two of those Humvee-looking things,” Bradley said. “Those have good armor?”

“Better than a civilian Jeep,” Trevor said. “A mortar round will splatter it. So will an RPG.”

“Who’s manning those RPGs?” Kenny asked. “Maybe we should’ve brought them up here.”

“Some old guy that Ji-Ho was with,” Bradley said. “He’s down on the road.”

“Hope he doesn’t get shot,” Trevor said.

“I hope none of us get shot,” Kaylee said.

“Look, they’re stopping at the fork in the road,” Trevor said.

“One of them has a flashlight,” Kaylee whispered, watching it shine around both sides of the fork.

“Oh, God, I hope they come this way,” Trevor said. “Maybe we should’ve gotten to camp and set up there.”

“Dammit,” Kaylee said. “Look. Two of the Jeeps and one of those military things are going towards camp.”

“Son of a bitch,” Trevor said. “We got anybody armed back at camp?”

“Yeah, we never leave the elders unprotected,” Bradley said. “Texting them right now. I’ll tell them to put out Claymore mines and be ready to fight.”

Suddenly there was a pop, and a mortar round fell behind the vehicles coming towards the ridge, making a bright flash that lit the whole area. Everybody on the ridge opened up, the vehicles driving around in a panic.

Trevor laughed. “Ji-Ho saw what happened at the fork. Let’s see if those other vehicles keep going.”

The Gaz Tigr fired its top-mounted machine gun, sending rock chips over the snipers, causing them to move back for a second.

Another mortar round popped, flying over the vehicles, blowing up behind them as they continued looking for cover.

“Dammit, they’re hard to hit when they can move that fast,” Trevor said.

Then there was a big explosion, the Gaz Tigr blowing up with a loud rumble.

“It’s the old guy with the RPG!” Bradley shouted. “Yes!”

One of the Jeeps was stopped by machinegun fire, it’s tires flattened. Several men piled out, hit by rifle shots before they got more than a few yards. The other Jeep took fire through the windows, killing the driver.

“Those other vehicles didn’t come back,” Trevor said.

“We’d better watch out,” Kaylee said. “They might be able to turn right past those rocks up there and get behind us.”

“Crap, you’re right,” Trevor said. He pulled out his phone and texted frantically as the others turned around, looking behind them.

To be continued…

 

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