Bugout! California Part 81 – Interstate 8

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Ji-Ho sat on the veranda, trying to deal with the pain in his gut. It was happening more often now. Throbbing pain, making him feel faint, then slowly going away. So far it hadn’t hit him during a battle, but still, it made sense to start off-loading more and more to Kaylee and Trevor. He knew he’d have to tell Kaylee eventually. That scared him, but not as much as the other part. Not as much as what happened to her parents.

Clem and John walked over together.

“Ji-Ho, you’re still up?”

“Yes, am,” he replied. “Have seat. Want drink?”

“I’m staying on the wagon,” John said. “Promised. Just as well anyway. Seems like we’re always right on the verge of an attack. It’s dangerous not to have a clear head these days.”

Clem sat on a chair next to the rail, opposite of Ji-Ho, facing the house. “I’m actually feeling safe here. Not enough to drink more than a beer or two, but better than I’ve felt since we left the RV Park.”

“Hear from Sam or Sid?” Ji-Ho asked.

“No,” John said. “Makes me a little nervous. Maybe they don’t have cell coverage where they are.”

“Doubtful anywhere in California,” Ji-Ho said. “Full coverage last few years.”

“They’re fine,” Clem said. “Don’t worry.”

“Yes, I agree,” Ji-Ho said. “Sam with. Sid no slouch too. Ryan and James and Tyler. They be fine.”

Ji-Ho’s phone buzzed. He looked at it and smiled. “Speak of devil.” He answered. “Mind if I put on speaker? John and Clem here.”

“Please,” Sam said.

Ji-Ho pushed the button and put his phone on the little table between the chairs. “Go ahead.”

“Hi, gents, how are you?” Sam asked. “I’ve got Sid here with me.”

“We good,” Ji-Ho said. “You find tribe?”

“Yes,” Sid said. “They’re in a cool place. Safe and sound so far.”

“Then why the over-nighter?” Clem asked.

“They moved on from the original location,” Sam said. “We had to go a lot further, to one of the alternate locations.”

“Where?” John asked.

“No, don’t say,” Ji-Ho said. “Walls might have ears.”

“Oh, you’re right,” John said. “Sorry.”

“No problem,” Sid said.

“Did they get chased out of the first location?” Clem asked.

“No, not enough water,” Sid said. “It’s the damn drought.”

“Oh,” Clem said. “Good. Better than being chased out.”

“How’s everything there?” Sid asked. “Yvonne okay?”

“She’s fine,” Clem said. “I’ll go get her.”

“You don’t have to do that,” Sid said.

Clem chuckled. “She’ll horsewhip me if I don’t.”

“Okay, you might have a point there,” Sid said. “I’d like to say hello anyway. This is the first time in years that we’ve been apart overnight.”

“Okay,” Clem said.

“Hey, bring the young couples back too, okay?” Sam asked. “I want to give them some heads up on something.”

“Seth and Angel?” Clem asked.

“And their women,” Sam said. “Please. Don’t worry, it’s nothing bad.”

“Okay,” Clem said. “John, you get Yvonne, okay? I’ll get the kids.”

“You got it,” John said.

They walked off.

“Everything really okay?” Ji-Ho asked.

“If the enemy doesn’t know or care where they are, yeah,” Sam said. “This place is cool, but it’s a death trap. One way out with vehicles. The back way is passable if you’re crazy like Sid.”

Sid chuckled. “Yeah, I almost made Sam crap his pants a couple times.”

“Why?” Ji-Ho asked.

“Going up big rocks at a 45-degree angle, for example,” Sam said.

Ji-Ho laughed. “Oh, here comes Yvonne.”

“Hi, Sid,” Yvonne said. “Is there a problem?”

“No, we’re fine, just wanted to hear your voice,” Sid said.

“Awww,” Yvonne said. “You can be so sweet for an old coot.”

Sid chuckled. “Everything going okay?”

“The bed’s going to be cold, but other than that things are fine here,” she said. “Are you safe? When are you coming home?”

“I think we’re safe, and hopefully we’ll be home tomorrow,” Sid said.

“Hopefully?”

“Yeah,” Sid said. “Don’t worry. Nothing bad. We’re trying to come to an agreement. That’s all.”

“Oh,” she said. “Sounds good. Hope it goes well.”

John came back, followed by Seth and Kaitlyn, and Angel and Megan. They looked nervous.

“Sam said this is nothing bad,” John said, eyeing them.

“Yes, nothing bad,” Sam said. “I just wanted to give you some heads up about something.”

“Is everything well with our people?” Megan asked.

“Yes,” Sam said. “Had a nice conversation with Silver Wolf about you too.”

Kaitlyn and Megan shot each other a worried glance.

“You told him?” Kaitlyn asked.

“He asked,” Sid said.

“Yes, he did ask,” Sam said. “He gave some instructions to Tyler.”

Angel looked at Megan. “He’s going to separate us?”

Sam chuckled. “He wants Tyler to do a marriage ceremony.”

Ji-Ho laughed.

“They aren’t mad?” Kaitlyn asked.

“Not even a little bit,” Sid said. “You should discuss this. Just in case it’s not what you want.”

“It’s what I want,” Kaitlyn said quickly, putting her hand over her mouth. “Oh, geez. I’m sorry, Seth.”

Seth pulled her closer. “We’ve already talked about this. I want to marry you. You know that.”

“Are you sure?” Kaitlyn asked. “Guys say things sometimes.”

“Are you kidding?” he replied.

“I’m good with this,” Angel said to Megan. She smiled at him.

“I know, honey,” Megan said. “I want it too.”

“Good,” Sam said. “Sorry for the embarrassment. I just thought it would be good to let you know before we come back.”

“Is everybody coming?” Megan asked.

“No,” Sid said. “We’re bargaining now about who we can bring back, and what role they can play.”

“So Tyler might not come back?” Kaitlyn asked.

“Tyler, James, and Ryan will be back, at least temporarily,” Sam said. “It may be to fetch the others, or it may be to fight with us.”

“They won’t fetch us, though, will they?” Kaitlyn asked.

“No,” Sid said. “That was pretty clear. You’re always welcome with the tribe, but there’s no desire to force you back there.”

“If they did, I’d go too,” Seth said.

Kaitlyn looked at him, eyes tearing up. “I know, honey. Let’s go back, okay?”

Seth nodded and they walked off together.

“You need us for anything else?” Angel asked.

“Nope,” Sid said.

“Okay,” Angel said. “Thanks for telling us.”

“You’re welcome,” Sam said. “Take care. We’ll see you in a few days.”

Angel nodded, and walked away with Megan.

“Young love,” Clem said, watching them. “I miss that.”

“Okay, what else?” Ji-Ho asked. “We have ally?”

“I wouldn’t suggest that they send more able bodied men to fight with us at this point,” Sid said. “They’re needed with the tribe. They have elders and young people here who need them.”

“I agree,” Sam said. “We have enough men with Garrett’s group.”

“Those battle wagons didn’t get there yet, did they?” Sid asked.

“No, ready tomorrow,” Ji-Ho said. “Some improvements over original.”

“Really?” Sam asked. “What?”

“Bottom armor,” Ji-Ho said. “New plate behind engine vent in back, stay there when coach running. Good enough for small arms fire.”

“That’s a good update,” John said.

“Lost coach up north because of engine problem and un-protected bottom,” Ji-Ho said. “Ivan tell me.”

“Anything else?” Sam asked.

“Second small turret,” Ji-Ho said. “In middle of coach.”

“Another mini gun?” Sid asked.

“M19,” Ji-Ho said, grinning.

Sam chuckled.

“What’s an M19?” Sid asked.

“Automatic grenade launcher,” Sam said. “It’s 40 mm, belt fed. We’ve been using those for years. Good system.”

“That’ll save on ammo for the mini guns, I imagine,” John said.

“Yep, but where are we getting the grenades?” Sam asked. “You can’t go pick them up at Big 5.”

“We get large supply,” Ji-Ho said. “Ivan send intelligence too. Location of last enemy bases and supply routes in region.”

“Where?” Clem asked.

“They’re along the I-8 Corridor. They’ve managed to lock that down, after you guys took away their initial route on Highway 94.”

“Where are the bases?” Sid asked.

“Pine Valley and Live Oak Springs are biggest ones,” Ji-Ho said. “Use Old Highway 80 from roads they make.”

“Coming from Mexico, of course,” John said.

“Yes,” Ji-Ho said. “Enemy also come through Yuma. Control most of southern Arizona. Base just west of Yuma. Another at Jacumba.”

“That’s a lot of bases for our little group,” Sid said. “Pretty hard to move Garrett’s men that far.”

“Many things to work out when get back,” Ji-Ho said. “We have on run, but war not done.”

“How are we seeing that?” Sam asked.

“Ivan could not tell,” Ji-Ho said. “Secret.”

“We need a large mobile force to cope with this,” Clem said.

“We hit Pine Valley and blow up I-8 first, to stop movement west of Alpine, and starve out forces hiding around El Cajon,” Ji-Ho said. “Later forces from north move down to help with eastern parts of I-8.”

“Forces from north?” Sam asked.

“Sparky, Ted, Tex, Jules, and others,” Ji-Ho said. “Many more battle wagons.”

“What are you smiling about, Sam?” Sid asked. “You know these guys.”

“I don’t know Jules very well, but I know the others quite well,” Sam said. “Cody with them too?”

“Yes,” Ji-Ho said. “You know?”

“Yep,” Sam said. “What are they doing now?”

“Get resistance started in Bay Area and Sacramento Area, like they did in LA and Orange Counties.”

“That’s a big job,” Sam said. “What’s the timeframe?”

“Not know yet,” Ji-Ho said. “Depends. We start without. When I-8 down, we make good headway. Some enemy will flee across border into Arizona.”

“The folks in Arizona might not like that much,” John said.

“Enemy own most of Arizona,” Ji-Ho said. “Other forces will work that problem. General Hogan forces.”

“This war is a long way from over,” Yvonne said. “Isn’t it?”

“Yes, but light at end of tunnel,” Ji-Ho said.

***

Sam and Sid looked at each other after the phone call.

“This sound good to you?” Sid asked.

Sam was quiet for a moment, thinking. “I’m getting tired. Listening to that was exhausting enough. Living through it will be horrendous.”

“Yvonne wasn’t happy,” Sid said.

“Yeah, I kinda picked up on that. Want to get some air?”

“Sure,” Sid said. “I don’t think I can get to sleep yet anyway. Think we’ll here from Ed and Tyler tonight?”

“No,” Sam said. “If I were them I’d fetch their other people and stay out of this mess. They can’t afford to lose more young men.”

They got up and left the Sheriff’s Office, walking onto the dimly lit street.

“I agree,” Sid said. “It would be different if they had enough people and weapons to make a big difference. They don’t. It’s all they can do to protect their people and just survive until this blows over.”

“Pretty much,” Sam said. “Why are you staying in this war?”

“You folks are my family,” Sid said. “If you, John, and Clem decided to get out of the fight, I’d follow you.”

“That thought has crossed my mind more than once.”

“I know,” Sid said.

“The UN is done in the south,” Sam said as they walked towards the front of the ghost town. There were more voices now, coming from the saloon and the sea of tents beyond.

“Yeah,” Sid said. “Ivan did a good job in LA and Orange Counties. Sounds like the UN has packed up and left. The furthest south they have any presence at all is Santa Barbara.”

“The people saw what Ivan did and refused to comply with martial law. They openly fought the UN and won. Genius move on Ivan’s part.”

“It was,” Sid said.

“We still have Islamists around, though,” Sam said. “Even the people who side with the UN hate those bastards, which will help some, especially in the north.”

“You think there’s people up north who like the UN?”

“Yep,” Sam said. “Here’s my prediction. The war in California will end before the war in the rest of the southwest. Saladin knows he’s lost California. That’s why he moved to Utah.”

“Hope you’re right,” Sid said. “Why do you think that’s the case?”

“Their supply lines are down to a trickle now,” Sam said. “Once we close down I-8, they’ll be in trouble. Might not even take the total effort that Ji-Ho was talking about.”

“What would it take, then?”

“We take out the base in Pine Valley, and blow up I-8 in a few spots, like we did to Highway 94. If we do that, they’ll starve out and have to move east into Nevada and Arizona.”

“Hey, gentlemen,” a woman’s voice said. Another woman giggled.

“Who’s there?” Sam asked. The two women stepped out of the shadows.

“I’m Erica,” said a large, shapely woman with an open smile.

Sid chuckled. “Uh oh.”

“Which one of you is Sam?” she asked, approaching.

“That would be me,” Sam said hesitantly.

“Well nice to meet you, Sam,” Erica said, holding out her hand. Sam shook it.

The other woman stepped forward, a matronly woman with an attractive smile. “Hi, I’m Anna, Kaitlyn’s mother.  Do you know her?”

Sam and Sid looked at each other and smiled.

“They do, see?” Erica said.

“Of course,” Sid said. “She’s a mighty warrior and a beauty too.”

“Do you know the man she’s with?” Anna asked.

“Seth,” Sam said. “He’s a good man.”

“Seth,” Anna said. “I asked Silver Wolf, but he didn’t want to talk about it. Too busy setting up for some meeting.”

“He can be a real boy scout,” Erica said, rolling her eyes. “What are you guys doing?”

“Just getting some air,” Sid said. “Trying to make ourselves tired enough to sleep.”

“Want to join us for a drink in the Saloon?” Erica asked.

Sid glanced at Anna nervously. She noticed.

“My husband is in the meeting with Silver Wolf,” she said.

“Oh,” Sid said.

“You’re married,” she said. “What’s her name?”

“Yvonne,” Sid said.

“Indian?”

“Yes,” Sid said. “As am I.”

“We know our own,” Erica said. “So sorry to hear about your wife, Sam.”

“Who told you? Ed?”

Erica chuckled. “He let you call him Ed? He must like you guys.”

“Well, the feeling is mutual,” Sam said. “Thanks for the kind comment. I miss Connie every day.”

“I know how you feel,” she said. “I lost my love a few years ago.”

“We heard,” Sid said. “So sorry. I knew Buck.”

“You did?” Erica asked. “I’m surprised we never met.”

“I was just a customer,” Sid said, “but I liked him.”

“Everybody liked him,” Erica said. “It was an honor to be his wife.”

Sam nodded.

“How about that drink?” Sid asked, looking at Sam.

“Oh, I guess one wouldn’t hurt,” he said. They went into the saloon. There were people sitting here and there, chatting quietly and drinking, most of them stopping to stare when they saw Sam and Sid.

“Whiskey?” Erica asked.

“Good enough,” Sam said. Erica went behind the bar and grabbed one of the old bottles of whiskey and four glasses. She brought them to an open round table and set them down.

“This stuff is pretty good, but we’re starting to run low,” Erica said. “It’s really old.”

“We had some with Ed,” Sid said. “He told us the story.”

Erica chuckled. “Well, that blows some of our conversation.”

Sam laughed. “What else have you found around here?”

“All kinds of things,” Anna said. “Most of us have been here before, as young adults. It was a favorite place to camp.”

“Does the tribe own this?” Sam asked.

“Not per the current paperwork,” Anna said.

“We did have an agreement back in the 19th century,” Erica said. “Kinda went by the wayside. It’s considered BLM land now, but we have special access.”

“We did,” Anna said. “Who knows what will happen after the war. The Feds basically shut down BLM during this mess.”

“Are we getting close to the end of this war?” Erica asked.

“Funny, we were just talking about that,” Sid said. Sam shot him a glance.

“You don’t have to tell us,” Erica said, her eyes glued to Sam. “It’s okay.”

Sam chuckled. “There’s really not much to tell, just the two of us trying to make an accurate guess. It’s next to impossible.”

“I hope we pull back,” Anna said. “We’re too small now. We’ve lost too many people and too much property.”

“You’ll get the property back,” Sid said. “Neither Sam nor I think you should risk what people you have left. You’ve given so much already.”

“Yes, we’re running a little low on warriors,” Anna said. “I’m worried about Kaitlyn and Megan. Are they safe?”

“They’re as safe as the rest of us,” Sam said. “Things have gotten better. The UN is pulling out. We’ve definitely got them on the run in the southern half of the state.”

“What about the northern half?” Erica asked.

“There are strong efforts going on there to end the martial law and kick out the UN and the Islamists,” Sid said. “It’s a big job, but our side has a good chance.”

“What happens when you’re done fighting?” Erica asked, looking at Sam.

“I hope to rebuild my RV Park in Dulzura,” Sam said. “Don’t know if I can stomach it, though. Too many memories of Connie and lost friends.”

“You’re still in mourning, aren’t you?” Erica asked.

“Yes, but it gets better every day,” Sam said.

“You never totally get over it,” Erica said. “Might as well know that now. I learned it, but it was tough.”

“Looks like the meeting broke up,” Anna said, looking out the window at the men emerging from the mine. “I’m going to my husband. Nice to meet you both. Take care of my Kaitlyn.”

“Nice to meet you too,” Sid said. Sam nodded in agreement.

“Wonder if Ed’s going to want to talk tonight?” Sam asked.

“Probably,” Erica said. “He’s on duty all the time.”

Ed and Tyler stuck their heads in the saloon. “Still up, huh?” Ed asked.

“Yep,” Sam said. “Want to talk now, or in the morning?”

“Give me about fifteen minutes,” Ed said. “Then let’s talk in the sheriff’s office.”

“Sounds good,” Sid said.

“Yeah,” Sam said.

“I’ll see you later,” Erica said, getting up. “Don’t leave tomorrow without saying goodbye.”

Sam watched her walk out the door.

To be continued…

 

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