Bugout! California Part 63 – The Battle of Warner Springs

Ji-Ho drove his motor home down the darkening Highway 79, Clem in the passenger seat. John and Sarah were sitting on the couch in the salon. Clem’s phone dinged with a text. He looked at it.

“Tyler?” John asked.

“Yep,” Clem said.

“Well?” Ji-Ho asked.

“The mortar team is in on site and setting up now,” Clem said, reading off his phone screen. “The off-roaders are set up at the eastern exit and are deployed in the bushes surrounding that area. James, Ryan, Hank, and Jason are in place to fire at the enemy fighters when they attempt to leave the facility in that direction. They’ve got townspeople from Julian and the rest of the tribe folks with them, spread out wide, covering the entire front area. Sam, Sid, Yvonne, Trevor, and Kaylee are on the ridge behind the facility, ready to hit them from that side with M60s and BARs. Oh, and those two kids and their women are with them too. Seth and Angel with Kaitlyn and Megan.”

“So it time for us to bottle up main road,” Ji-Ho said. “None too soon. We there.” He made the right turn and followed the curved access road around its first bend, then parked in a place too narrow to get around.

“What now?” Clem asked.

“Siege mode,” Ji-Ho said, pushing a button on the dash board. The whir of electric motors started, the plate rising in front of the windshield.

“Pull out tray in front of passenger seat,” Ji-Ho said. “Control front and rear machine guns, like I show. I’ll run mini-gun.” He pushed another button and the mini-gun’s turret began to rise out of the bedroom ceiling, the sight coming down in front of Ji-Ho.

“What do you want us to do?” Sarah asked.

“Watch out side windows,” Ji-Ho said. “Get out M60s and M-16s. Shoot through slits if enemy approaches. Be careful not to hit our people from passenger side. They there. Concentrate most on driver’s side.”

“Got it,” John said, getting the guns out of the cabinet in the hall. “You want me to be ready to re-load the mini-gun too, right?”

“Yes, but I help,” Ji-Ho said. “We use front machine guns as much as can. Much more ammo for those, and lasts much longer. Hold mini-gun in reserve.”

There was a pop, and a bright flare lit up the sky around the area.

“Flare off,” Ji-Ho said. “Whoa, roof lined with gunmen.”

Gunfire blazed from the building, towards the front of the facility. Then Sam and the others on the ridge opened fire, pinning the enemy down on the roof, several of them getting hit in the first volley. Another mortar fired, hitting the ground right in front of the main building, blowing out the door and windows near it. A third mortar round went off, hitting the top of the building, breaking the roof, UN Peacekeepers screaming.

“That got them good!” Ji-Ho said. “They start to flee soon.”

“I half expected these folks to be gone,” John said as he watched out the side windows.

“Look, here come first catch of day,” Ji-Ho said. “Van coming down driveway. Nail bastards.”

Clem smiled and used the joystick to aim the front machine guns, then fired, hitting the engine compartment of the van first, then moving up to the windshield, killing the driver and passenger before they knew what hit them. The side door opened and UN Peacekeepers flooded out, most of them cut down by the gun, Clem’s eyes frozen on the reticle screen.

“Nice,” Ji-Ho said.

Suddenly the van was hit from behind by a second vehicle.

“I take,” Ji-Ho said, aiming the mini-gun. He fired, taking off the top of the cab, killing the men inside. Then an RPG hit the truck from the side, blowing it sky high. Two more mortar rounds went off, both hitting the top of the building, the second one falling inside before it blew up, glass blowing out of the second-story windows.

“Holy crap,” Clem said.

“Hey, we got company, coming up Highway 79,” John cried, sticking his M60 out the slit and firing. He hit the front of the first van, the driver’s head exploding inside, the van hitting the shoulder of the road and rolling several times. Sarah opened fire on the second one as it was trying to K-turn and leave. She hit it broadside, but it didn’t stop.

“I get,” Ji-Ho said, aiming the mini-gun and firing into the back of it, bullets flying through the back of the van and out the front windshield. It exploded on the road as the gas tank ruptured.

“Wow,” John said.

“Look, they’re trying the other way,” Clem said. “I don’t think I can aim in that direction with these front guns.”

“Don’t worry about,” Ji-Ho said. “Other’s get. No problem.”

The mortars fired again, hitting the second building as the group in front advanced, guns blazing away. The enemy was in a flat-out panic now, many men breaking ranks and running for their lives in both directions, Sam, Trevor, Kaylee, and the others shooting them before they could get far.

“Damn, Ji-Ho, who taught Kaylee to shoot?”, Clem asked.

“Father and me,” Ji-Ho said, watching through his sight screen. “Look at Kaitlyn. She good too.”

Clem laughed. “Trevor’s moved to his Winchester. Wow, he’s good with that thing. He’s hitting every running person he’s shooting at.”

Ji-Ho smiled. “Uh oh, look. More vehicles make run. They try to get past us. Get ready.”

Clem nodded, eyes on the sight. Several shots hit the front plate, the noise flowing into the salon.

“Were those bullets?” Sarah asked.

“Yes, bounce off,” Ji-Ho said. “Okay.”

Clem fired, hitting the first van, stopping it in its tracks. Enemy fighters flooded out in a panic and got cut down by the warriors in front of the building, led by Ryan and James.

“Whoa, those Indians are firing at a full run, and they’re hitting their targets too,” Clem shouted. “I’m impressed.”

“Another UN van coming up the highway,” John said. “See it, honey?”

Sarah smiled and stuck her M60 through the slit, opening fire. John joined her, both of them hitting their target. Several shots hit the coach’s side window.

“How much can these windows take?” Sarah asked.

John aimed at the men who were shooting at the side, hitting both of them. “That was just small arms fire. Looked like AK-47s to me.”

“They break with .50 cal,” Ji-Ho said. “If they break, get down. Big rounds not get through wall below window.”

Three more mortar rounds went off, destroying the last of the buildings. Then a Gaz Tigr roared out of the back, heading towards the east.

“Crap, somebody better get that thing,” Clem said. “Way out of my range.”

“RPG get,” Ji-Ho said. “Look, Jeep taking off after. One of mine.”

He and Clem watched as the Jeep followed the big Tigr, and then a rocket flashed out of the Jeep, from above the windshield, hitting the rear of the Tigr, stopping it.

“I got clean shot,” Ji-Ho said, firing the minigun, blasting through the rear window and into the engine compartment. Three enemy fighters leapt out of the vehicle.

“Those are Islamists,” Clem said. “Oops, were Islamists. Somebody in the Jeep just shot all three of them.”

“Nice,” Ji-Ho said. The gunfire stopped. “It over.”

“Sam’s climbing off the ridge with the others to check,” Clem said.

“Yeah, I see people from the front flooding the ruins too,” John said.

There were several more rifle shots and a couple of blasts from an M60, and then silence.

“Should we go out?” John asked.

“No, we should stay here and keep watch,” Clem said.

“Yes, I agree,” Ji-Ho said. “May have more company.”

“Wonder why they didn’t split?” John asked.

“They probably getting ready to,” Ji-Ho said. “All of those vans were packed. I bet we get ammo and guns.”

“We’d better watch for booby traps,” Clem said, grim look on his face.

“That’s for sure,” Sarah said.

After about ten minutes, all of them got a broadcast text message.

“All clear,” Clem said. “What now?”

“We guard until others leave,” Ji-Ho said. “Then follow home. It Miller Time.”

John laughed. “There you go, man.” Sarah rolled her eyes. “Don’t worry, sweetie, I’m done with drinking.”

“I know,” Sarah said, hugging him. “That’s one benefit from this mess.”


“Wow, honey, you’re good with that thing,” Seth said to Kaitlyn as they walked back to their Jeep.

“You saw me shoot in the first battle,” she said.

“Yeah, I know,” Seth said. “You had more confidence this time, or something.”

“I want this to be over, so we can go back to a normal life,” Kaitlyn said.

“Yep, I hear you there,” Megan said. “Guess I should’ve practiced more.”

“You did fine, baby,” Angel said.

“Son, you’re pretty damn good with that Winchester,” Sam said, walking beside Trevor and Kaylee.

“I’ve practiced a lot,” Trevor said.

“You’re a natural,” Sam said. “Seen it before. Rare.”

“That’s what that instructor told him,” Kaylee said. “What was his name again?”

“Gus,” Trevor said.

“What kind of an instructor was he?” Sam asked.

“Combat pistol, but he let us use the combat range with our Winchesters,” Trevor said. “Angel, Seth, Matt, and me.”

Sam chuckled. “Oh, okay. Heard about that little sub-piece of the prepper gun culture. Popular in this state with its stupid assault rifle laws.”

“Exactly,” Seth said.

“You aren’t using your Winchester,” Sid said.

“I’m not good like Trevor, and I’ve got an M-16 now,” Seth said. “They make up for my lack of talent. I don’t shoot as well as Kaitlyn does with her AK, though.”

“Oh, please,” Kaitlyn said.

“I watched you, Kaitlyn,” Sam said. “I was impressed.”

“Really?” she asked.

“That’s a good compliment,” Sid said. “He’s a special forces guy, by the way.”

“Really?” Kaitlyn asked.

“That was a long time ago,” Sam said. “What happened to Gus?”

“When he found out Ji-Ho almost killed Saladin, he got spooked and left,” Seth said. “Took several of our friends with him. They didn’t make it.”

“Oh, I heard about that,” Sid said. “Ji-Ho told us. “It was when you left Temecula.”

“Yep,” Trevor said.

They got to their vehicles. Tyler walked up with James and Ryan. “Nice work, folks.”

“Same to you,” Trevor said. “We lose anybody?”

“Almost lost James,” Ryan said. “Zac and Kenny saved him.”

“What happened?” Sam asked.

“Gun jammed,” James said. “That’s why I like my crossbow. Never jams.”

“Honey, can we go?” Kaitlyn asked. “You can talk to them back at camp. This place gives me the creeps.”

“I want to check with my uncle first,” Kaylee said, “but you guys go ahead.” Trevor nodded and took her hand.

“Yeah, let’s get out of here,” Angel said. “I’m ready too.”

“Okay, folks, see you back at camp,” Tyler said.

Seth opened the passenger door of the Jeep for Kaitlyn, and waited until she got in. Then he got behind the wheel. They stashed their guns in the back, and he drove back onto Highway 79. When he got up to full speed, he noticed Kaitlyn crying.

“What’s the matter?” he asked.

“I killed all those people,” she said.

“They were the enemy,” Seth said. “It’s not like murder.”

She looked at him in the darkness, light from the street lamps shining on her tears. “It’s still hard for me. Don’t worry, I’ll settle down.”

“I’m not worried,” Seth said. “It actually speaks well of you. You’re human and compassionate. We aren’t doing this because we enjoy it.”

“Some are,” she said softly.


“Sam,” she said, “I watched him.”

“Oh,” Seth said. “I don’t know him very well, but you know his wife was just killed. It’s probably that. Does he scare you?”

“No, I feel sorry for him,” she said. “So much pain in his eyes.”

“I’d be beside myself if anything happened to you,” Seth said, feeling his eyes brim with tears.

“We’ve only just met,” she said.

“That doesn’t matter,” Seth said. “Not to me. And besides, we’ve done more living together in a few days than a lot of couples have in months.”

She smiled. “Yes, we have at that, I guess.”

Seth reached out for her hand and held it as they raced down the road. Seth kept one eye in the rear-view mirror.

“You don’t see any bad guys, do you?” she asked.

“I just see Angel and Megan so far,” Seth said. “I’m expecting more headlights behind them. Wonder what everybody’s waiting for?”

“Probably high-fiving each other still,” Kaitlyn said.

“You aren’t the only person who’s shook up. Believe me.”

“At least it’s a short drive,” she said.

“Yeah,” Seth said, shooting her a glance. She was staring at him intensely.

“You’d really be broken up if I got killed?” she asked.

“Oh, geez, are you kidding me? We’ve talked a lot about us. You know how I feel.”

“I know, I’m sorry,” she said. “I’m kinda messed up from the battle.”

“You’ll be fine,” Seth said. “Just relax.”

“I can’t wait for you to hold me,” she said softly.

“Me too,” he said. “Won’t be too long, honey, we’re already passing the junction of Highway 76, see?”

“I know,” she said. They rode silently until they got to Santa Ysabel.

“You okay?” Seth asked.

“Something feels wrong,” she said. “You feel it?”

“No,” Seth said, “I don’t think so. What are you feeling?”

“Dread,” she said. “Evil.”

“Everything looks okay,” Seth said. “Look, here’s Wynola. It’s quiet and peaceful looking.”

Kaitlyn’s eyes darted around nervously. “I know, my head is telling me that.”

“You’re probably just coming down from the battle, like you said.”

“I hope that’s all it is,” she said.

“You’re starting to make me nervous now,” Seth said.


“Well, here’s Julian,” Seth said as they rode into the town. “Don’t see any problems.”

“Me neither. I’m just being silly. Sorry about that.”

“No, don’t apologize, Kaitlyn. Really.”

“I just want to curl up next to you in our sleeping bag,” she said, looking over at him, her brow still furrowed. They were past Julian now, and on the final leg of the journey.

“Oh, crap,” Seth said under his breath as they rounded the final curve.

“My God, look at the fire,” Kaitlyn said, trembling with fear. “Is that our park?”

“Yeah, that’s our park,” Seth said. “I’m driving past. Text the others.”

“Okay,” Kaitlyn said, pulling her phone out. She typed on the screen and hit send.

“You were right,” Seth said softly. “I should’ve listened.”

“You did listen,” she said. “And you did what a good man always does. You tried to calm me down, and you didn’t make fun.”

He glanced at her, watching the tears roll down her cheeks.

“You get any replies?”

“Just from Megan,” she said. “They’re still behind us. What are we gonna do?”

“Keep driving for now,” Seth said. “How’s your phone charge?”

“Low,” she said.

“There’s a charging cord in the center console compartment. Plug it in. It’s gonna be a long night.”

She found it and plugged in her phone. “How did they know?”

“The guy they captured,” Seth said. “Remember? He did know where we were. Get any other replies?”

She looked, leaning forward so she could leave the charging cord on. “Oh no.”

“Crap, what?”

“Kaylee and Trevor,” she said, crying.

“They aren’t dead, are they?” Seth asked, feeling his heart pounding.

“No. Kaylee and Trevor went to check on Ji-Ho before they came back here. There was an attack when they were inside the rig. They fought until they ran out of ammo, and then they took off. Sounds like almost everybody else got killed.” She broke into sobs.

“Oh, God,” Seth said. His phone rang. He pulled it out of his pocket and put it on speaker, then set it in his lap. “Yeah.”

“Dude.” There was crying in the background.

“Angel,” Seth said, crying himself now. “What should we do?”

“Keep going and hope we don’t get seen,” Angel said. “Megan’s taking this hard.”

“So’s Kaitlyn. Hell, so am I.”

“Me too. What can we do, man?” Angel asked.

“Calm down and think,” Seth said. “Protecting our women is job one. Got it?”

“She’s my whole life, dude,” Angel said, sounding on the verge of tears.

“I know, that’s how I feel about Kaitlyn too. She’s my woman. I love her so much. I’ll die protecting her.”

“Exactly. What about Trevor? Kaylee? We’re separated now.”

“Don’t worry about that yet,” Seth said. “Here’s what we do. Follow this road to I-8. We’ll go west to El Cajon. That’s big enough to get lost in. Sound good?”

“Yeah, sounds good,” Angel said.

Seth’s phone beeped. “Call coming in. It’s Trevor. Hold on. I’ll patch him in.”

Seth picked up his phone.

“Drive,” Kaitlyn said, taking his phone. “I’ll do it.”

“Thanks, honey,” Seth said. She got the call connected.

“You both hear us?” Kaitlyn asked.

“I’m on,” Trevor said, voice wavering.

“Still here,” Angel said.

“What happened?” Seth asked.

“We got hit by about two hundred Islamists. They killed almost everybody.”

“No,” Megan said.

“You sure?” Kaitlyn asked.

“Yeah,” Trevor said. “You guys left about five minutes before they got here.”

“Did anybody else get away?” Seth asked.

“Three Jeeps slipped away while the fighting was going on. They went into the wilderness to the east. I think that old Indian guy and his wife was in one of them. He was with Sam earlier. Hopefully they got away. There were a couple other Jeeps following them.”

“You talking about Sid,” Ji-Ho said from the driver’s seat.

“What about Tyler, and James?” Kaitlyn asked. “And Ryan and Zac?”

“They were talking with Sam last I saw. They might have been in one of the other Jeeps that took off.”

“Hank and Jason?” Angel asked.

“Both dead,” Trevor said.

“Who’s with you?” Megan asked.

“Kaylee, Ji-Ho, Clem, John, and Sarah,” John said.

“Don’t say where go on phone,” Ji-Ho said. “We regroup later. Understand?”

“Crap, they’re listening in, aren’t they?” Megan said. “We said where we’re going before you got on.”

“Change plan,” Ji-Ho said. “Pull next to each other and say.”

“Dammit,” Seth said. “Okay, thanks for telling us that. You’re right. I know another place.”

“We should end call,” Ji-Ho said.

“You heard that,” Trevor said. “Maybe we should shut down our phones.”

“Yes, do until out of area,” Ji-Ho said.

“How bad was it at the RV Park?” Trevor asked.

“The place was on fire,” Kaitlyn said. “I’m so glad the others weren’t there.”

“End call now,” Ji-Ho said.

“Gotta go,” Trevor said. “Good luck. Hope we see you again.”

“Bye, brother,” Seth said.

“Take care, man,” Angel said. Trevor hung up.

“Okay, I’m gonna look for a good dirt road. We’ll go up it until we’re out of sight of the highway and decide what’s next. Got it?”

“Yeah, dude. Talk to you soon.”

The call ended. Kaitlyn put the phone down.

“You okay?” Seth asked.

“I went from guilty to pissed off,” she said. “Where are you thinking?”

“Stay on this road. It curves towards the west. I said I-8 because it’s a bigger road that would be quicker. This way will work too.”

“We can’t go to El Cajon now, though, can we?” she asked.

“No,” Seth said. “I think we should try to get into San Diego.”

“That’s closed off, isn’t it?” Kaitlyn asked.

“I’ve been reading about it, when we’ve had internet. “If we tell them who we are, they might let us in.”

“But they’re the feds, aren’t they?”

“Sounds like they’re independent at this point. Kind of a free zone. We’ll talk more about it. We can skirt towards the east and head up north if we can’t get in there.”

“Where up north?” Kaitlyn asked.

“My area,” he said. “Ivan the Butcher has it almost locked down. We might be safe there now.”

“You want out of the fight?”

“Yes and no,” he said. “If we can get back with Ji-Ho and attach to another group, I’m ready to fight these bastards.”

“And if we can’t?”

He looked over at her, searching her eyes. She looked resolute, but it softened into love and loyalty as he watched. He choked up, starting to talk.

“No,” she said, “I understand. I heard what you said, too.”


“What you said to Angel,” she said. “If we can’t fight, you’d be happy to take me off somewhere and live happily ever after. Is that about the size of it?”

He looked back at the road, feeling his face flush.

“Well?” she asked.

“Yes,” he said. “I know you’re not quite ready for that yet, but….”

“Quiet,” she said. “Don’t tell me what I’m ready for. We’ve got a lot of talking to do.”

To be continued…


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