Sam was already awake when the sun came up. He got out of bed and dressed, then checked his M60 and his handgun. There was the sound of vehicles outside. He looked out the window onto the driveway below just in time to see Tyler and James pulling up two of Ji-Ho’s Jeeps.
There was a soft knock at the door.
“You up?” Sid asked.
“Yeah, I’m up,” Sam said as he tied his shoes. He went out the door and followed Sid down the stairs.
“Yvonne’s not going?”
“I talked her into staying here,” Sid said. “Us leaving will make this location a little short on firepower.”
“Makes sense,” Sam said. “Four of us are enough.”
“It’ll be five,” Sid said. “Ryan’s coming too.”
“Oh,” Sam said. “Probably a good thing. That kid is fast.”
“CIF Champion,” Sid said. “We’re bringing bows, too.”
They went out the front door. The third Jeep was pulling up as they got onto the driveway. Ryan got out.
“Good morning,” he said to them as they walked up. “You want to take this one?”
“Sure,” Sid said. Tyler and James turned around and smiled at them. “I’ll get my bow and rifle out of the other one.”
“I’ll ride with you,” Sam said. He put his M60 in the back. “Think we ought to take anything else? Mortars? Grenades?”
“There’s only five of us,” James said. “If we pick a fight we’re liable to get killed.”
“I think it’s a good idea to take them,” Tyler said. “Just in case. We’ll regret it if we don’t and we end up in trouble.”
“I agree,” Sid said. “Is that stuff still in the battle wagon storage compartment?”
“Yeah, and it’s unlocked,” Sam said as he walked towards it. “Who’s in this thing?”
James chuckled. “Kaylee and Trevor.”
“Uh huh,” Sam said, grin on his face. “I’m envious.”
“Me too,” James said. “Kaylee is fine.”
“Yes, is,” Ji-Ho said, coming down the steps from the house.
“Oh, sorry, I meant no disrespect,” James said.
“It fine, James,” Ji-Ho said. “Good, you take mortar. Just in case.”
“Leaves you with five,” Sam said. “You guys should think about placing some of them, just in case.”
“I suggest,” Ji-Ho said. “Be careful out there. Dangerous.”
“We will, old friend,” Sam said.
“Yeah, we got this,” Sid said. He helped Sam load the ordinance in the back. Yvonne came down the steps, looking like she’d been crying.
“You’d better take care,” she said to Sid, getting into his arms.
“I’ll be careful,” he said. “I promise. You too. I’d rather you were going, you know.”
“I know, honey,” she said. “We can’t cut ourselves down too thin here.”
“We ready to go?” Tyler asked, standing by the driver’s seat of the yellow Jeep.
“Yeah,” Sid said. “I’ll take the lead. We’ll have some difficult moments back there. Always make sure to take it slow and easy, okay?”
“We got it,” Ryan said, getting behind the wheel of the red Jeep.
“Good,” Sid said, getting into the black Jeep. He fired up the engine as Sam got in. Yvonne stuck her head in the window and gave Sid a kiss.
They rolled towards the gate and made a right turn on Dutchman Canyon Road.
“Which way are we going?” Sam asked.
“South on Highway 94.”
“We can’t go too far that way,” Sam said.
“We’ll make a left on Freezer Road. Follow that to the end, then it’s raw dirt until we get to the western fork of Lucky Six Truck Trail.”
“That the worst stretch?”
Sid chuckled. “No, the worst is when we run out of road just past Skunk Hollow. There’s some rock climbing to do back there. That’s why I wanted only the Jeeps with winches.”
“Oh,” Sam said. They drove down Highway 94 at a good clip, getting to Freezer road after just a few minutes. Sid made the left turn, the two other Jeeps following him.
“Damn, I’d better slow down,” Sid said as they started bouncing on the rough dirt road. “This is worse than the last time I was here.”
“Wonder how the tribe got to the hideout?”
“I’m sure they went south from Barrett Lake,” Sid said. “That’s an easy drive with any kind of vehicle, at least until you get to the dirt road leading to their hideout.”
“Do you think we’ll find them alive?”
Sid thought for moment, then turned to Sam.
“I doubt they’ve been killed or rounded up, but they might have gone further back on their own. Lots of nooks and crannies out there. Many places to hide.”
They followed Freezer road until it ended, Sid stopping at the edge. He got out. The other Jeeps stopped behind them. The group huddled.
“Here’s where the fun begins,” Sid said. “Follow me exactly. Don’t try to go too far on either side of my tire tracks. There’s soft spots along here. If we’re not careful we’ll be winching each other out of the sand over and over.”
“How far is it until we get to better ground?”
“It’ll be close to an hour, and then we can get onto Lucky Six Truck Trail.”
“Is it clear sailing after that?” Tyler asked.
Sid laughed. “No, the worst is further up. Don’t worry, we’ll stop and chat before we go in there.”
The men got back into their Jeeps and Sid took them off the road, over a sharp berm and down a rough rocky slope. They picked their way along a cow trail, zig-zagging between rocks, sand, small bushes, and an occasional tree.
“How fast are we going?” Sam asked.
Sid laughed. “About eight miles per hour. It’ll be this way for a while.”
“It is pretty back here. Why do you know it so well?”
“My friends and I used to hunt and camp back here,” Sid said. “We did a lot of dirt bike riding too, until the state made it illegal.”
Sam laughed. “We’re breaking the law right now, aren’t we?”
“Yep, as of about 1982,” Sid said. “No off-roaders allowed. I think that’s the least of our worries.”
“Governor Sable’s first two terms, huh. I’m shocked.”
Sid looked over at him, smiling. “Don’t like him much, do you?”
“He helped set up the problem we have now,” Sam said. “I like him better than I like President Simpson.”
“I don’t pay much attention to these folks, to be honest.”
“Damn, are we going to be climbing up that?” Sam asked, looking at the hill that stood before them.
“It’s not as bad as it looks when you get on it,” Sid said. They started to climb, Sid dropping the Jeep into low four-wheel drive. He shifted to a lower gear, and the Jeep pulled hard, taking them up the steep grade faster than Sam expected.
“Wow, not bad.”
Sid smiled, eyes remaining out the windshield, concentration showing on his face. “This is what these babies were made for.”
“You’re enjoying this, aren’t you?” Sam asked, reaching for the hand-old on the passenger side dash.
“Don’t be a lightweight.”
“If we start rolling backwards we’ll hit the others.”
“We’re almost to the top,” Sid said. They crested the hill, the back end taking forever to get onto the flat plain. “See, told you. It gets a little easier now.”
“I think the others want to rest a minute,” Sam said, seeing them stop. Sid chuckled and put on the brakes. They got out.
“Damn, dude,” James said, shaking his head. “That was frigging intense. I was afraid you were going to roll back onto us.”
“I had things well in hand,” Sid said. “You guys did well too, by the way.”
Tyler shook his head. “How much more of that is there?”
“Some, but it’s going to be easier for a while now. We’ll be back on a road again in a few minutes. We’d probably better keep going.”
Tyler nodded, and they got back in their vehicles.
“I think that scared them,” Sam said.
“Nah, they’re still kids. They think they’re indestructible.”
“Hope they all survive that,” Sam said. “Trevor, especially. He’s better than the guys in my old unit. Total natural.”
“That he is,” Sid said. “The other one is Kaitlyn.”
“She’s a trip,” Sam said. “She’d be dead right now if Seth wouldn’t have been there yesterday.”
“Yeah, saw that. That makes her even stronger in my mind. She knows what Seth can do and she uses it. I think that girl thinks several steps ahead in the action.”
“She does,” Sam said. “I’ve only known one other person who can do that.”
“George Franklin,” Sam said.
“Oh, yeah, heard you talk about him before.”
“Ji-Ho knows him. He’s helping General Hogan now, apparently. Wish I was back with those two.”
“Why didn’t you stay in the service?” Sid asked. “You could’ve risen through the ranks a ways further, I suspect.”
“I got out for the same reason George did. The last battle we had with Saladin.”
“You don’t seem to have the desire to hunt him down,” Sid said.
“Fell into that trap before. Not doing it again. I hope George doesn’t.”
“And yet you’re in a battle, allied with a guy he’s trying to hunt down,” Sid quipped. “Look, there’s the dirt road. We’ll be able to speed up for a while.”
“Thank God,” Sam said.
“Why’s Saladin after Ji-Ho again?”
Sam chuckled. “Ji-Ho almost killed him. Wounded him pretty badly, apparently.”
“Claymore mine, as he was leaving what was left of Ji-Ho’s house.”
“Oh, yeah, I remember some of the kids talking about it. He blew the whole place up with that drone he had.”
Sam smiled and shook his head yes. “Saladin figured out what was about to happen and dived out the back window. He was on his way out the front gate. Ji-Ho saw him and triggered the mine right next to him. Saladin is one of the luckiest guys I’ve ever known.”
“Ji-Ho was there?”
“No,” Sam said. “He triggered the mine from Temecula while he was watching the whole thing on surveillance video.”
“Oh. I’m surprised he wasn’t in trouble with the authorities over that.”
“He was, or rather he is,” Sam said. “Most of the enemy fighters involved in those early battles are dead now, though.”
“You think Saladin is still alive?”
Sam thought for a moment. “I know he is.”
“How do you know?”
“I can feel it,” Sam said.
“Think he’s still in California?”
“No,” Sam said quickly.
“How do you know that?”
“The enemy has lost California,” Sam said. “We’re just mopping up now.”
“Pretty tough battles for just mopping up.”
Sam looked over at him, smiling. “We just beat a huge force with a bunch of men on horseback shooting black powder guns.”
“They nearly killed us the day before,” Sid said.
“Yeah, and if they still had control over this area, we wouldn’t have gotten away. If the enemy was still a big presence here, they would’ve had aircraft to hunt us down. You know that the UN has been almost completely kicked out of LA County, right? Ivan’s forces are pushing them out of Orange and Ventura counties right now.”
“So where are they still strong?” Sid asked.
“From what I’m seeing on the internet, the Bay Area and the Sacramento Area. It’ll be a mess up there.”
“Harder than here?”
Sam nodded yes.
“The population is different. A lot of radicals up there think the UN is a good thing to have in our state. We’ll have citizens fighting citizens up there.”
“I can’t believe we were first in line,” Jordan said, behind the wheel of the purple rig. They were making good time in the early evening, already half way to their final stop in Portola Valley.
“We should be getting that text with the destination pretty soon,” Ashely said. “It’s only about an hour away, isn’t it?”
“No, it’s more like an hour and forty minutes,” Alexis said from the front end of the couch.
Brooke and Audrey sat at the dinette, chatting quietly, looking out the windows often.
“Why’s the traffic slowing down up there?” Alexis asked.
“Construction, I’ll bet,” Ashely said.
“There hasn’t been any construction up to now,” Jordan said nervously, straining to see up ahead. “The local governments are still pretty messed up.”
“What’s going on?” Brooke called out. “Why is everybody slowing down?”
“Can’t quite see it yet,” Alexis called back.
“Get the guns out,” Brooke said, getting up.
“Son of a bitch, that’s a road block,” Jordan said as it came into view. “Looks like the UN is manning it.”
“Can you get off ahead of it?” Brooke asked.
“Nope, no more off-ramps before we get there,” Ashely yelled back.
“Crap,” Brooke said, checking the magazine of her M60. “You guys have your guns handy?”
“They’re waving everybody through,” Ashely said. “Maybe they’ll wave us through too.”
“I wouldn’t count on it,” Jordan said. “At least there’s not a long line.”
They were in the stop and go now, the blue-helmeted UN Peacekeepers chatting briefly with people and letting them through.
“They know about us,” Alexis said.
Jordan got to the front of the line. One of the Peacekeepers got next to the driver’s side window, another on the other side, both holding M16s. They motioned for Jordan to pull over to the side of the road. Jordan shook his head no and drove forward. The two UN Peacekeepers aimed their weapons at the windows and fired, the bullets bouncing off as Jordan sped up.
“Dammit!” Brooke shouted, sticking her M60 out the gun slit on the driver’s side, firing, hitting one of the peacekeepers. Alexis was struggling to get her M60 pointed out the passenger side when they heard automatic fire hitting the back end of the coach.
“I wish this thing was faster,” Jordan shouted, starting to zig-zag as he drove.
“Can you fire the mini-gun while you’re driving?” Brooke shouted.
“Not really,” Jordan yelled back as the gunfire intensified, hitting them on the sides and the back.
The big diesel shuddered to a stop.
“They took out the engine!” Jordan yelled, panic on his face.
“Put it into siege mode now,” Brooke shouted. “Audrey or somebody, send out a broadcast text like we talked about in the last meeting. We’re just past Greenfield.”
Jordan hit the siege mode button, the shields deploying as more bullets pelted the rig. Audrey typed on her phone.
“Text away,” Audrey shouted.
“Ashely, get on those rear guns,” Jordan shouted. She pulled the tray out and found targets, firing at the men rushing the rear as the mini-gun turret raised out of the roof.
“Now I got you, creeps,” yelled Jordan. He opened fire, killing everybody surrounding the coach, and hitting the vehicles they had parked by the roadblock.
“We aren’t gonna get out of this alive,” Brooke shouted. “Alexis, be ready, they’re gonna try to rush us and throw something under the coach!” She fired her M60 at one group who were running over, dropping about half of them before they got to a place she couldn’t hit.
“They’re coming towards this side too,” Alexis shouted in a panic.
“So shoot them,” Brooke yelled.
“I’m working on it,” Alexis shouted back as she opened fire, hitting some of the rushing Peacekeepers.
“Stop that Gaz Tigr!” Brooke shouted, watching it drive towards them on her side.
“I’m on it,” Jordan yelled, firing the mini-gun, stopping the vehicle, flames bursting out of the windows. Several men rolled out the doors on either side and rushed towards the coach.
“Dammit, I’m out of ammo,” Brooke said, setting down the M60 and picking up an M16. “Reload that, Audrey.”
Audrey nodded and got out of the dinette, frantically trying to get the magazine out of the gun.
“They’ve got better body armor than I can get through with these damn .223s,” Brooke yelled, firing at the rushing men but not stopping them.
One of them slid a black disk along the ground, then another, both sliding under the coach.
“Forget it, we’re dead,” Brooke shouted, grabbing Audrey and pulling her into an embrace.
“Oh, no!” Ashely cried, looking over at Jordan as he was still firing the mini-gun. Then there was a huge explosion mid-coach, killing Brooke and Audrey in an instant, knocking Alexis off her feet. She struggled to get up as the fire started, and then there were more peacekeepers running towards them, Jordan cutting most of them down with the mini-gun.
“We have to get out of this thing,” Ashely cried.
“They’ll kill us the second we step outside,” Alexis shouted, still firing the M60 until the gun stopped. “I’m out.”
Another group of peacekeepers were getting ready to rush the coach. Alexis saw them as she tried to reload the M60.
“Dammit,” Jordan shouted, bringing the mini-gun to bear. He opened fire, hitting about half of them when the ammo ran out. “We’re done.”
“No we’re not,” Alexis said, slapping the magazine back into the M60. She opened fire from the side as the flames got hotter, smoke getting into her eyes, her pant leg starting to burn.
“Look, they just slid more explosives under us,” Ashley yelled in horror.
“I love you,” Jordan said, locking eyes with Ashely. Then the last two charges went off, blowing the front of the coach apart, a mushroom cloud of fire rising.
To be continued…
Bug Out! Texas has just been published in the Kindle Store! This is the story of Texas Patriots and their struggle against enemies, foreign and domestic, during the Bug Out! War. Chock full of action, adventure, suspense, and romance. Pick up your copy of Bug Out! Texas Book 1 today!
The first of my full length novels has been published in the Amazon Kindle store, available now. For those of you have have been readying the Bugout! series, the story involves George and Malcolm, and is set about seven years earlier. This book R rated, instead of the PG-13 of the Bugout! Series, so be warned. Here’s the link to “Never A Loose End”
Copyright Robert Boren 2016