“Is that everything?” Trevor asked, carrying a bundle of items out of Ji-Ho’s rig.
“Yep,” Kaylee said, arms also full. “We hardly have anything.”
Trevor chuckled. “True.”
They walked to the Black coach and climbed the steps. Ji-Ho and two techs were still in there, giving a training presentation to several of the others.
“We better wait for a few minutes,” Kaylee said. “Look, there’s a picnic table there. Let’s set the stuff down and sit for a few minutes.”
“Okay,” Trevor said. He set down his bundle, then sat on the table with his feet on the bench. Kaylee snuggled in next to him.
“What do you want to do for the rest of the day?”
Trevor shot her a wicked grin.
“Other than that,” she said. “I’m a little sore.”
“Yeah, when we get started, we get a little intense,” Trevor said. “Is it wrong to want it again already?”
“No,” she said. “Wonder when the first mission is gonna be?”
“I heard Garrett and Ji-Ho talking about a base,” Trevor said. “Supposed to be the last big one in the area.”
“Was it the one they were talking about a few days ago?” Kaylee asked.
“Nope, this was based on new intelligence,” Trevor said. “We’re going to hit them on I-8. Apparently, they’ve been using that as a replacement for Highway 94.”
“That’s the one that the Dulzura folks stopped up in the pass, right?”
“Yep,” Trevor said. “I think we’re a few days away from starting that campaign, though. Don’t worry about it yet.”
“Look, they’re done,” Kaylee said, nodding towards the group of people leaving their coach. Ji-Ho saw them and walked over.
“Moving in,” Ji-Ho said. “Good.”
“How’d the training go?” Trevor asked.
“Okay,” Ji-Ho said. “We need hands-on. Maybe take to area where we can fire and not attract attention.”
“This might be as good as anywhere,” Kaylee said.
“Maybe,” Ji-Ho said. “Tribe got attacked on trail.”
“No, really?” Trevor asked. “Sam okay?”
“Yes, they kill,” Ji-Ho said. “Short work.”
How long until they get back?” Kaylee asked.
“Two day,” Ji-Ho said, “unless they walk through night. Discussion go on about that now.”
“Aren’t some of them older people?” Kaylee asked.
“Yes, and some children. I expect they don’t push too hard.”
Clem walked over. “Ji-Ho, we just heard from Garrett. Meeting in two hours. About the next attack. They’re coming here, bringing some Barbeque.”
Ji-Ho nodded and gave thumbs up, then turned back to Trevor and Kaylee. “You two should attend.”
“Be glad to, wouldn’t we?” Trevor asked, looking at Kaylee, who nodded yes.
“Good, then stow items, make self at home in coach for two hours,” Ji-Ho said. “I go take nap.”
He walked away slowly.
“I don’t like the way he’s moving,” Kaylee said. “He looks like an old man now.”
“He’s not young, you know,” Trevor said.
“I know he’s not, but he shouldn’t be changing so fast all of a sudden.”
“Let’s take our stuff in,” Trevor said. Kaylee nodded, and they grabbed it off the picnic table and carried it into the rig. Trevor shut the door behind them, then set his pile down on the couch and pulled Kaylee to himself.
“Oh no you don’t,” she said. “Let’s stow this in the back.”
“Oh, all right,” Trevor said, smiling at her. He picked his stuff up and followed her into the bedroom. They stowed it, and then she escaped to the salon before he could grab her, giggling on the way.
“Hey, no fair,” he said, grinning at her.
“We should talk, since I’ve got your attention,” she said, sitting down on the couch. She patted the spot next to her. He sat.
“Okay, what’s on your mind?” he asked.
“If we keep doing what we’ve been doing, something’s going to happen. You know that, right?”
“You want me to be more careful? Or do you want to get some stuff at the drug store?”
“I don’t know,” she said. “Where is this going?”
“You want to be serious, don’t you?” Trevor asked.
“Yes,” she said.
“You want what Kaitlyn and Megan are about to go through,” Trevor said.
“No,” she said quickly, then thinking for a moment. “Maybe. What do you want?”
“You,” he said, “but you already knew that.”
“How sure are you?”
He looked at her, seeing how worked up she was. “Hey, you okay?”
“I’m afraid we’re going to be killed before we’re really together,” she said.
“We’re really together right now,” he said, pulling her close, wiping tears off her cheeks.
She sighed. “I know, I’m being dumb.”
“No you’re not,” he said. “You want Tyler to do a ceremony?” I’m game.”
“We aren’t Indians,” she said.
“Fine, then let’s see if there’s a justice of the peace in Dulzura.”
“You’d do that?”
“Of course,” he said.
“But you haven’t on your own. You’ve only said it after I was upset. I’m pushing you into it.”
Trevor chuckled. “You are the most important part of my life by far,” Trevor said. “I’m kind of a dork. I don’t show what I’m thinking easily, especially with girls. You know that. You’ve known me for a long time.”
“Don’t say that,” she said. “You’re not a dork. I feel the same way about you. You’re the most important part of my life too.”
“Then we should do it,” Trevor said.
“What would your parents think?”
“They’d love you,” Trevor said.
“We aren’t the same race.”
Trevor laughed. “Are you serious? My mom’s sister is married to a Japanese man. Has been for thirty years. He’s my mom’s favorite relative. Trust me. She’s not like that at all.”
“You’re her son, though,” she said. “Sometimes that makes a difference.”
“Would it make a difference to your parents?”
“Yeah, it would, but I don’t care, and they’ll like you once we start popping out kids.”
“Oh, so that’s how it is,” he said, smiling at her.
“Stop it. It doesn’t matter to me.”
“I know,” Trevor said.
“Maybe we should talk about something else.”
“Kaylee?” Trevor asked, his face serious.
“What? Why are you looking at me like that?”
“Will you be my wife? Will you marry me?”
“You don’t have to do that.”
“Answer the question,” he said, stern look on his face.
“You really mean it, don’t you?”
“Yes, I really mean it,” Trevor said. “I want to be with you for the rest of my life.”
“Oh, Trevor,” she said, pulling him in for a hug, shaking as she cried. He pulled back from her.
“Answer the question.”
“Yes,” she said, smiling, then laughing. “Of course, yes.”
They kissed tenderly, then backed up and looked into each other’s eyes.
“Ed’s been behind us for too long,” Erica said, trudging along next to Sam in the mid-afternoon heat.
“Should we go backwards and find him?”
Erica thought about it for a moment.
They stopped walking.
“No, we should keep going,” Erica said. “He had two warriors with him, and they’re well-armed. I’m just being paranoid.”
“Okay,” Sam said.
They walked silently for a while, Erica’s brow furrowed.
“We could try to call him,” Sam said.
“Maybe in a little while,” Erica said. “We don’t have much juice left in our phones, remember?”
“Wait, I hear him,” Sam said. “Listen.”
Erica turned her head backwards and then smiled. “Yes, that’s him.”
See, he’s fine,” Sam said. They continued walking, listening to the sound of the hovercraft getting closer and closer, and then it was right behind them. They turned around and watched as Ed drove next to them. He looked at them, brow furrowed.
“What’s wrong?” Erica asked.
“There’s a couple hundred Islamists on our tail.”
The two warriors in the craft nodded in agreement.
“Any chance we can take them on?” Sam asked.
“Maybe, if we had a perfect setup,” one of the warriors said.
“Describe perfect,” Sam asked.
“Nice ridges that we could fire on them from,” Ed said. “There’s nowhere like that for the rest of the trip.”
“We need superior numbers, then, don’t we?” Erica asked.
“It’s a race against time, at this point,” Ed said. “If we keep going, they’ll have a hard time catching us. They’re a few miles behind us, and they’re not moving quite as fast.”
One of the warriors nodded in agreement. “They obviously aren’t used to walking through this terrain the way that our people are.”
“Even if we keep going, we’ll have to deal with them eventually,” Erica said.
“Yes, but we’ve got a lot of strength at the destination,” Sam said. “Garrett has a lot of people, and we have those battle wagons too.”
“Do we need to warn them?” Erica asked.
Sam froze for a moment, then smiled. “I have an idea.”
“What?” Ed asked.
“Garrett’s men ride,” Sam said. “Maybe we ought to have them ride their horses out here with a few hundred men.”
“You think they would do that?” Ed asked.
“Probably,” Sam said. “I’ll make the call, but my phone battery is getting pretty close to dead.”
“We’ll charge you guys up,” Ed said. “That’s not a problem.”
“I’ll bet the folks who came in Jeeps would come too,” Sam said. “There are others with Jeeps as well. Don’t know if we have good enough drivers for all of them, though.”
“Call,” Ed said, “but while you’re walking. I’m going up to warn the others. We don’t camp tonight.”
“Roger that,” Sam said, pulling out his phone. “Crap. No service.”
“Don’t worry, there’s a higher place that we’ll get to in about an hour,” Erica said. “That’ll probably give you service.”
“See you soon,” Ed said. He took off in the hovercraft with the two warriors.
“He’s worried,” Erica said.
“Yeah, that’s pretty obvious,” Sam said.
“What if they can’t get here fast enough?”
“Then we’ll take them on when we get to Dulzura,” Sam said. “We’ve got almost nine hundred fighters waiting for us there.”
“What if there are more bad guys on their way to Dulzura?” Erica asked. “On the highway instead of this trail?”
“Then we fight them,” Sam said. “Maybe we die. Maybe we live. I feel like I’m on borrowed time anyway.”
“You don’t look worried, though,” Erica said.
“I’m not,” he said. “Not anymore.”
“I can’t tell you. Just trust me.”
“No, that’s not good enough,” she said. “It was that dream last night, wasn’t it? You seem more relaxed since last night.”
“Maybe I’m more relaxed because of what we did,” Sam said, glancing at him.
She started into his eyes for a moment as they walked. “No, something’s different. Tell me.”
“It’s just a dream,” Sam said. “If it makes me feel more confident, just go with it.”
“Just go with it,” she said. “Sounds like Ed.”
Sam chuckled. “Yeah, that’s what he said about you. Just go with it.”
She looked at him, a smile on her face. “Crap, your wife told you something in that dream.”
“I really don’t want to go into it,” Sam said. “It’s dumb.” He pulled out his phone and looked at it.
“Nothing, right?” Erica asked. “Told you. We need to be at the higher place.”
“Okay, you’re right,” he said. “Just anxious, that’s all.”
“But every time you check you turn on the screen. It uses more battery.”
“I know,” Sam said.
“You’re really not going to tell me, are you?”
“Nope,” Sam said. “Is it going to make you angry?”
“A little, maybe,” Erica said.
They walked along for another half an hour, the grade of the trail climbing. “That’s it up there,” he said. “Isn’t it?”
“Yes,” she said, “but it’s further than it looks. You aren’t complaining about soreness as much now.”
“You were right,” Sam said. “This is getting me into better shape. I’m into it now. I feel great.”
“Good. Especially now that we probably won’t bed down tonight.”
“Listen,” Sam said. “Ed’s coming back.”
“Maybe he’s got some news,” Erica said.
“Here he comes, at a good clip. He’s alone.”
He pulled up and stopped by them.
“Climb in you two,” he said. “Plug your phone in here.” He held up a charging cable. “You’ve got Apple, right?”
“Yeah,” Sam said, climbing in and then helping Erica. He fished his phone out of his pocket and plugged it in as the engine vibrated the craft.
“Hold on,” he said, heading forward.
“How’d they take it?” Erica asked. “Not stopping for the night, that is?”
“Same as they always do,” Ed said. “Grit and determination.”
“That’s what I expected,” Sam said. “You have a strong culture and strong people.”
“We do,” Ed said. “Thanks for noticing.”
They sped up the grade, getting to the top. “Okay, try it now.”
Sam nodded and pulled the phone towards him, leaving it plugged in, bending down to get close enough. “Only got one bar. Hope it’s enough.” He hit Sid’s contact. It rang twice.
“Sam?” Sid asked. “Everything okay?”
“Hi, Sid,” Sam said. “No, we’re being followed by a couple hundred Islamists.”
“Dammit,” Sid said. “How far away?”
“Maybe a mile,” Sam said. “We aren’t stopping tonight. Hopefully they will, and it’ll allow us to gain some ground.”
“You guys are scaring me,” Sid said. “You didn’t call just to say that. You want the cavalry out there, don’t ya?”
“How’d you guess. You know what trail we’re on. Think you could have a chat with Garrett and Ji-Ho?”
“Perfect timing,” Sid said. “I’ll go talk to them now. You said a couple hundred, right?”
“Yep,” Sam said.
“All right. How hard will it be to have another call?”
“I don’t know,” Sam said. “Spotty coverage. We’re at the top of a ridge right now. Once we get off it I might be in the dark.”
“Okay, don’t worry,” Sid said. “I suspect Garrett and his men would love a little cavalry operation. You know those guys. We’ll bring the Jeeps too. And mortars and our other toys.”
“Great, thanks,” Sam said. “Talk to you soon, I hope.”
“If you don’t hear from me, trust that I’ve got help on the way, all right?”
“All right, thanks,” Sam said. He ended the call.
“Well?” Erica asked.
“Sounds good,” Sam said. “Garrett just happens to be at the Williams place right now. He also said they’d bring the Jeeps with some of our toys.”
“Toys?” Ed asked.
“Mortars, M60s, BARs, a few RPGs. Everything you need for a good party.”
Erica snickered and shook her head. “I’m gonna like these folks.”
“And they’re gonna like you,” Sam said.
“I’ll get you guys up with the main group. We’re gonna pass out food and rest for about ten minutes, then be on our way again. Can you still cover the back door?”
“Whatever you need,” Sam said.
Erica touched his arm, their eyes meeting as the hovercraft sped towards the main group. She mouthed I love you to him.
Dinner was over, and desert, and after-dinner drinks. The rows of picnic tables still look festive between the warehouse and the groundkeeper’s quarters, with strings of clear lights above them.
A tech approached Jules and whispered in his ear as he talked to Ted and Cody. He nodded at Shelly, who was sitting at the next picnic table over, chatting with Karen. She nodded back, then got up and came over.
“Is our coach ready?” she asked.
“Yes,” he said. “I’ll go get if you want to keep talking to Karen.”
“No, she’s leaving now anyway,” Shelly said.
“Already in their coach,” Shelly said as Jules got up. “She’s nervous about that bedroom.”
“I hope it better,” Jules said. “Might not be enough.”
“We’ll see,” Shelly said.
“Still resist Tex?”
Shelly smiled and glanced at him. “Funny how men and women are.”
“She’s interested in what’s going on between you and me, and I’m interested in what’s going on between her and Tex.”
Jules chuckled. “Humans.”
“Yeah, we’re something, aren’t we?” Shelly said. They entered the warehouse, the technician waiting for them by the door.
“There’s just a couple things I need to show you, sir,” the Tech said. He led them inside. “First of all, watch your head. This grenade launcher is in a bad place.”
Jules chuckled as he looked at it, an octagon-shaped structure hanging down from the ceiling. “You right. No matter how much I try, I still bump head. Wait and see.”
“We put this hard rubber on the outside,” the tech said, pushing on it, “but it’s not going to be enough if you’re moving fast when you hit it. Please be careful.”
“Okay,” Jules said, smiling, shooting a glance at Shelly. “You shorter. Not as bad.”
“Yes, not as bad,” Shelly said. “Watch me bump my head too.”
The tech opened the rear part of the structure. “Load here. Make sure the belt feeds properly through here and here.” He pointed to the spots, making sure that both Jules and Shelly saw it.
“No problem,” Jules said. “What else?”
“In front, see the new sight above the passenger seat?”
“Yes,” Jules said.
“The driver has to send the control to the passenger.” He showed a lever on the side of the driver’s sight.
“Can the passenger fire both mini gun and M19?”
“Yes,” the tech said. “The two sights work the same. The passenger might have their hands full, because the controls for the front and rear machine guns are still on the tray in front of the seat.”
“Understand. Can one sight fire both big guns at same time?”
“Yes, but it’s a new feature. It’s a little buggy. I’d avoid it if possible.”
“How could you do both at once?” Shelly asked.
“The dual mode splits the screen into two separate reticles,” the tech said. “Like I said, avoid it for now. We ran out of test time. You’ll probably get some updated software in the next few days.”
“We got,” Jules said. “What else?”
“Bedroom sight,” the tech said, walking back there. “Come in.”
Shelly and Jules joined him.
“See, on mini gun structure. Pull this down and in front of your face.”
Shelly laughed. “So, we can lay in bed and fire?”
“Yes,” the tech said. “We had a lot of fun with this back at the plant.”
“Yes,” Jules said, a sly grin on his face. “I bet.”
“Is this all?” Shelly asked.
“Yep, that’s it,” the tech said. “There are the added siege mode features, but they don’t require any change in procedures.”
“Okay, good,” Shelly said. “Let’s get this thing out of here. I’m tired.”
“Yes, let’s,” Jules said.
The tech nodded. “It’s all yours.”
“Good,” Jules said. “How many more?”
“Four,” he said. “We’ll be done mid-day tomorrow.”
“All right, thank you,” Jules said. He got into the driver’s seat and brought the rig out of siege mode, as Shelly sat in the passenger seat. He drove slowly out of the warehouse, then drove to the place they’d been parked before, backing in quickly. “I go hook up.”
“Good,” Shelly said. “See you in a couple minutes.”
He left the coach. Shelly took a paper towel, got it damp, and then wiped off a few places where she saw grease smudges, just finishing as Jules got back inside.
“Everything look okay?” he asked, closing the door behind him.
“Just a few smudges,” she said. “They’re gone. I’m going to bed.”
“I join, okay?”
“Okay, normal rules apply.”
“Of course,” he said, smiling at her.
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 2017