Bugout! California Part 77 – Rock Climbing

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“Where are we stopping?” Morgan asked, walking to the front of the coach.

“The last text said to stop at Hobson Avenue, just before we get to Greenfield,” Robbie said, brow furrowed. “To the right of the 101. You probably have the texts too, you know. They’ve been doing broadcasts.”

“Which coach was it?” she asked, sitting in the passenger seat and pulling out her phone.

“Purple. Jordan was driving.”

“Crap, isn’t that the one that our doctor was in?”

“Yep,” Robbie said. “Here comes that street. I’m getting off. Hope we aren’t the first people here.”

“Put the rig into siege mode as soon as we stop,” Morgan said.

“Yeah, I agree. The ramp empties to the left. Weird.” Robbie took it, then turned left and drove under the 101.

“There’s two coaches there already, see?” Morgan asked, pointing. “Yellow and green.”

“Perfect, that’s Ted and Tex,” Robbie said.

“You think we’re going to take an alternate route?”

“I suspect that we’re going to attack that roadblock,” Robbie said. “Probably from at least three directions.”

Morgan looked at her map app as Robbie pulled next to the other coaches on the wide flat patch of dirt. “We can use the roads in town to go on at least three sides of them. Four if we have somebody go past a ways and get on the southbound 101.”

Robbie parked and activated siege mode. “C’mon.”

The two got out and walked to Ted, Stacey, and Tex, who were chatting. Brianna, Karen, and Haley leaned against the green coach, eyes darting around nervously.

“What happened, exactly?” Robbie asked.

“Ambush at a roadblock,” Ted said. “There were four people in that coach, including our doctor.”

“Sorry, partner, but there were five,” Tex said. “Alexis got into that rig at the last minute.”

“Oh, no,” Morgan said. “I’m gonna go talk to the girls.” She walked towards the green coach.

“We going a different way, or are we gonna attack?” Robbie asked.

“Up to Jules, but my money’s on attack,” Ted said.

“Here comes another coach,” Tex said. “Looks like blue.”

“That’s Gil and Tisha,” Robbie said.

“Damn, partner, did you memorize all of this?” Tex asked.

Ted chuckled. “This kid didn’t need to write down orders at the restaurant.”

“How do you do that?” Tex asked.

“I don’t know,” Robbie said. “Photographic memory. That’s what the doctor called it when my parents had me checked out. It doesn’t always work. There has to be emotion involved.”

The blue coach parked, following the lead of the others and going into siege mode. Gil and Tisha came out, Tisha grabbing his hand as they walked.

“Are they dead?” Gil asked.

“I think we have to assume that, partner,” Tex said with a grim expression.

“Dammit,” Tisha said. “What are we gonna do?”

“We’ll find out when Jules gets here,” Ted said.

“Speak of the devil, here comes his coach,” Robbie said, pointing to the black coach as it drove towards them. “Thought we were spaced a little further apart.”

“I’ve been here for twenty minutes,” Tex said. “Ted’s been here for ten. We’ve got about the right amount of distance between us, but Jules must have speeded up a tad.”

“He’s going to be emotional,” Tex said. “We need to help him stay within the lines.”

The black coach pulled up, settling into siege mode right away. The door opened, Shelly rushing out. “How did this happen?” she cried.

“You guys didn’t talk about it?” Ted asked. Sparky came out of the coach with Dana, both visibly shaken.

“Jules started sobbing so hard he could hardly stay on the road,” Shelly said. “I’ve never seen a man cry like that.”

Jules left the coach, carrying a walkie-talkie, speaking into it. His eyes were red.

“Jules,” Tex said, rushing over to him, giving him a hug.

“Who’s on the other end of that radio?” Ted asked.

“Ivan contact. Witnessed aftermath of attack. All dead.” He started to cry again, but struggled to fight it. Shelly looked at him, eyes welling with tears, and hugged him. Sparky and Dana looked on sadly. Tex and Ted shot each other a worried glance. Jules moved back, looking Shelly in the eyes. “Thank you. I’m sorry.”

Shelly returned the glance. “It’s okay to feel something, you know.”

“This is the first reaction,” Sparky said. “The enemy won’t like the next one.”

Jules smiled through his tears. “They not know what’s coming. Enemy base nearby. We take out. Help on way. Contact working now.”

Tex chuckled. “I knew it. Where is it?”

“Cherry Avenue and El Camino Real,” Jules said. “Stick out like sore thumb. Civic Center building. Flat open ground on two sides, road on two sides. No basement.”

“It might take more than mini-guns to get through the building, if it’s brick,” Tex said.

“We arrive and surround, then go into siege mode. Start firing while mortars set up. Break open building with high explosive rounds, then use willie pete.”

“Ouch,” Ted said. “What about the roadblock?”

“After we destroy base, we mop up, then leave.”

“They’ll put out an APB right away, you know,” Robbie said.

Jules chuckled. “Contact is CHP Captain. They ignore APB. CHP rank and file not controlled by UN. Only top brass.”

“Here comes another coach,” Robbie said, pointing. “Gray. It’s Justin and Katie.”

“Only one more, then,” Sparky said.

They watched as Justin drove up, following the lead on siege mode.

“We’re visible from the 101,” Gil said. “You guys know that, right?”

“That why siege mode,” Jules said. “We be gone after last coach gets here and we have short chat.”

“Who’s left?” Tisha asked.

“Maroon,” Robbie said. “Cody and Alison.”

“How did the enemy take out our rig?” Gil asked.

“Enemy disable engine from behind,” Jules said. “Then use many men to attack. Slid explosive charges under rig. Floor not armored.”

“Maybe siege mode should include skirting that covers more than the wheels,” Justin said.

“A piece of armor guarding the back that doesn’t seal up would be a better idea,” Gil said. “Then they can’t disable the engine.”

“That both good idea, but too late now,” Jules said.

“We might be biting off a lot in attacking that headquarters, if all we have is seven rigs,” Sparky said.

“We have more than seven rig,” Jules said. “Heard of Lenco BearCat?”

Tex chuckled. “What’s that, partner?”

“I know what it is,” Ted said. “Armored vehicles used by law enforcement. Some of them have CROWS.”

“What’s CROWS?” Tisha asked.

“Common Remotely Operated Weapon Station,” Ted said. “It’s a turret mounted machine gun system. Usually mounted on top of the BearCats. Not as powerful as what we have, of course, but they don’t chew through ammo as fast.”

“The CHP has those?” Robbie asked.

Jules chuckled. “City police departments have. California law enforcement on our side. Most.”

“So, you’re saying we’ll be working with these armored vehicles?” Ted said.

“Five only,” Jules said. “Locked up in Soledad by UN forces. CHP steal back, kill guards. On way here now.”

“Here comes Cody’s rig,” Robbie said. They watched as it got off the 101 and drove to them.

The door opened, and Cody poked his head out. “Siege mode? Really?”

“Yes, do,” Jules shouted. “We meet for minute, then leave. Better safe than sorry.”

Cody went back inside and turned siege mode on. Alison came out and joined the other women.

“Where we talking,” Tex asked.

“Right here fine,” Jules said. “Short chat.”

“Okay, then I’m climbing on the roof of my coach here,” Tex said. “I’ll watch the road. I feel a little to exposed.”

“Not a bad idea,” Ted said. They watched as Tex climbed the ladder on the back of the rig.

Cody walked over. “We’re going to hit back, aren’t we?”

“You damn straight,” Jules said. “With help. Enemy base in civic center building, at corner of El Camino Real and Cherry. We surround with rigs. CHP and other law enforcement join with five BearCat armored vehicles. We destroy base with mortars, then destroy roadblock. Then go on.”

“So what are we waiting for?” Cody asked.

“Call from BearCat team,” Jules said. “On way. Twenty minutes from last call.”

“That was about seven minutes ago,” Ted said. “We’ll be taking off in a hurry. Everybody loaded and ready? Including M60s?”

“Yep,” Robbie said.

A few others nodded or said yes.

“Hey,” Tex said. “Would a Gaz Tigr coming southbound on the 101 interest you folks?”

“To rigs, get turrets up,” Jules shouted. “They want fight, they get.”

“There’s three of them now,” Tex said, climbing off the roof. He rushed into his rig. “Karen, c’mon!”

She stopped talking and rushed over, the other women rushing to their coaches as turrets started to rise.

Robbie and Morgan made it inside their rig and raised their big gun.

“We’re gonna have to be careful not to use up too much ammo with the mini-guns.”

“I was just thinking the same thing,” she said as she pulled the tray out for the front and rear machine guns. “Probably won’t need these, but you never know.”

“Get ready on an M60,” Robbie said. “If somebody rushes the coach, we’ll need to kill them. If they’re too close, I can’t hit them with the mini-gun.”

“I got it,” she said.

Both of their phones dinged with text messages.

“I’ll check it,” Morgan said. “Stay on that gun.”

Robbie nodded as she read it. “Well?”

“Jules. Says the BearCats are in town, ready and waiting. Don’t shoot until all the Gaz Tigrs are off the freeway. We leave as soon as we’ve destroyed them.”

“Good,” Robbie said, his blood getting up. “Here comes the first one.”

“Hold your fire,” Morgan said.

“I know,” Robbie said. “The second one just came into view.”

“Steady,” Morgan whispered.

“There’s the third one,” Robbie said. Suddenly gunfire erupted from the two coaches nearest the road, stopping all three Gaz Tigrs in their tracks. The doors opened, men racing out, being cut down by gunfire from several of the coaches through the gun slits.

“That was all of them,” Robbie said. “We didn’t even get a shot off. Oh, crap, Tex is rushing the vehicles with Cody and Ted.”

“I hope they’re careful,” Morgan said.

There were two shots. The three men hit the dirt and returned fire, dropping a UN Peacekeeper who was running away.

“Geez,” Robbie said. He watched as the trio checked out all three vehicles, then gathered up loose weapons and a bunch of grenades.

“Okay, they’re getting back into their vehicles,” Robbie said. Their phones dinged. Morgan looked.

“Get out of siege mode and get ready to roll,” she said.

“I figured.” Robbie lowered the turret and retracted the siege-mode armor, then fired up the big diesel. They followed three other coaches to the road, the rest getting behind them.

“Punch in that address,” Robbie said.

“Already on it, honey,” Morgan said. “Wonder if any of those slugs back there got off a message to the base?”

“It’s possible,” Robbie said, hands sweating around the wheel as they climbed the on-ramp. “How far we going?”

“Not very,” Morgan said.

The cellphones dinged. “What now?” Robbie asked.

“First four coaches get off at El Camino Real and crank through the middle of town. The rest are getting off at Walnut, which is a block this side of the base.”

“Sounds good,” Robbie said.

“Wow, there’s El Camino Real right ahead,” Morgan said.

“See it,” Robbie said, watching the coaches in front of him get off the freeway. The rest kept going as he got off.

“Wonder if they’ll get there first?” Robbie asked.

“Good question,” Morgan said. “Depends on traffic in town, I guess.”

Robbie looked around as they drove down the deserted street. “What traffic?”

“They could probably hear that gunfire all the way over here,” Morgan said, eyes peeled out the windows. “Everybody’s hiding.”

“Probably right,” Robbie said. “Hope this isn’t a mistake.”

“Too late to worry about that now,” she said, watching her phone’s gps screen. “We just passed Elm. Only four more streets before Walnut.”

“I thought this was on Cherry,” Robbie said.

“It is, but the back is completely open. We can just drive right into the parking lot. We’re going to see the others make a left on Walnut, I suspect.”

“Unless they’ve blocked it,” Robbie said.

“The front three coaches just raised their turrets. Can we fire and drive at the same time?”

“Yeah, should be able to,” Robbie said, flipping the switch. They heard the electric motors start in back, raising the gun as the sight assembly came down in front of Robbie’s face. He checked through it.

“You know, I could drive and shoot this thing, if the target is in front of us. Better get ready on the front and rear machine guns.”

Morgan nodded, then set down her phone and pulled out the tray. “Nobody behind us.”

“Well, we’re the last, so keep the rear-view sight up.”

“Got it, hon,” she said as she watched the target reticle.

“Here’s Walnut,” Robbie said, following the other coaches as they made left turns.

“Holy crap,” Robbie said, looking forward. There was a line of five Gaz Tigrs across the road. The other coaches opened fire on them, Robbie joining.

“They’re ready for us!” Morgan shouted as she opened up with the front machine guns. “We’re in trouble!”

***

“Those the rocks you were talking about up ahead?” Sam asked.

Sid looked at him, grinning. “Yep, that’s what I was talking about.”

“That doesn’t look passable.”

“I’ve been over it with my old Jeep, and this baby is a lot more capable,” Sid said. “When we get onto that pasture before the rocks start, we should huddle one more time with the others.”

“Yeah,” Sam said, looking forward nervously.

Sid pulled off the side of the road and parked about fifty yards into the pasture. The others pulled up behind him.

“That the worst part?” James asked as he walked up.

“Yep,” Sid said. “Any of you ever do rock-climbing before?”

“I’ve seen videos on YouTube,” Ryan said.

“Yeah, me too,” Tyler said. “I usually say something like those guys are nuts.

James laughed. Sam shook his head.

“It’s not as bad as it looks, trust me,” Sid said. “We can make it, but we’ll need to take it very slow. Follow me exactly, like in the last bad spot. I’ve been over this more than once, and I remember the path that’s doable. Got it?”

“We got it,” James said. “Lead on.”

“How long will it take to get past this?” Tyler asked.

“About forty minutes, if nothing bad has happened since last time I was here.”

“When was that?” Ryan asked.

“About 1980,” Sid said, watching their reaction with a silly grin on his face. “Don’t worry, not much goes on out here. It hasn’t been legal to off-road here for years and years.”

“Let’s go,” Tyler said.

They got back into their Jeeps and Sid led them forward, getting to the patches of rocks after less than two minutes. He dropped the Jeep down into 4L and crept onto the first boulder, the Jeep’s frame moaning as he climbed. It was slow going from there. Up onto one large, rounded boulder, then on to the next, wheels straining, frames creaking, engine laboring at times.

“People do this for fun, don’t they?” Sam asked. “Maybe I should get out and walk. I wouldn’t hold you back any.”

“Don’t worry, if anything bad happens, we’re protected by the roll bars.”

“Whatever you say,” Sam said, hand on the dash hold in a death grip. “What’s on the other side of this?”

“Smooth dirt road,” Sid said. “Don’t worry. This is shorter than I remember. See the tall ridge up there? That’s about the end. This will only take half the time I was expecting.”

“Why do you think that is?”

“This Jeep has a lot more power than the old ones, and it’s an automatic,” Sid said. “It’s easier.”

They continued, up and down, into the creases, laughter coming from the other Jeeps every so-often.

“Those kids are eating this up,” Sam said.

“It’s fun,” Sid said.

“You don’t look like you’re having fun.”

“I’m worried,” Sid said.

“Worried about what?”

“I’m worried about Yvonne, and I’m worried about Tyler’s tribe. I’m also worried about having to do this again on the way home.”

“We can go a different way, can’t we?”

Sid sighed. “Yes, we could, but we probably have enemy fighters watching for us. Wouldn’t want to run into them with this amount of people and weaponry.”

“Look, over that next ridge. Looks like miles more of these damn rock formations.”

Sid chuckled. “Yes, but there’s space to drive in-between up ahead. There’s a trail wide enough for us to drive down. Then we’re back in pastures, and after that we’re on Barrett Lake Road. There’s a small stream we have to cross, but that’s never a problem.”

“Uh huh,” Sam said. “This is a big one.” The Jeep labored to climb over the huge boulder, at more than a forty-five-degree angle.

“Damn, this one is worse than I remember,” Sid said, gunning the engine. It practically jumped up the rest of the way, rounding the top and getting onto a large flat surface.

“Gee, that was fun,” Sam said, sweat beads on his forehead.

“Piece of cake,” Sid said. “It’s easy from here. See that wide path of greenish-brown down there?”

“Yeah, I see it,” Sam said, glancing over at him.

Sid drove the Jeep carefully off the boulder and onto the smoother path, picking up speed to about fifteen miles per hour, the other two Jeeps catching up to them quickly. Sid saw them in his mirror.

“Good, they all made it,” he quipped.

“You thought they might not?”

“I thought I might have to winch them up that last big rock,” Sid said. “These new engines have a lot of grunt. I’m impressed. Maybe it’s time to trade in the old Jeep.”

Sam snickered and shook his head. “Glad this isn’t legal anymore. Then I don’t have to feel like a wuss when I turn you down for a joy ride back here.”

Sid laughed. “Oh, please.”

They drove down the long path which opened into a meadow. The stream was dry, and didn’t even slow them down. Sid stopped at Barrett Lake Drive and waited for the others.

“Something wrong?” Sam asked.

“I want them to take the lead now,” Sid said. “I don’t know exactly where the hideout is. They should know how to get there from Barrett Lake Drive.”

The other two Jeeps pulled up next to them. Sid rolled his window down.

“That was crazy,” James said.

“It was fun,” Sid said.

“Oh, I agree,” Ryan said. “Why are we stopping at the road?”

“You guys should take the lead,” Sid said. “I don’t know where the hideout is.”

“No problem,” Ryan said. “I know where we are now. I had no idea we could pass through where we just came.”

“We almost can’t,” Sam said.

“Lightweight,” Sid said. “Lead on, guys.”

Ryan pulled onto the road, followed by Tyler’s Jeep. Sid fell in behind them, and they got up to highway speed again.

“Well, that was the easy part,” Sid said.

“What do you mean?”

“You expect the whole tribe to be sitting there waiting for us, completely untouched? I don’t.”

To be continued…

 

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