Bugout! California Part 92 – Leaves on Fire

Sid was at the mortars with several warriors, directing fire, when he saw a group of Islamists rushing by, not noticing their position.

“Hey, look,” Sid whispered, grabbing his BAR. He took off running behind them, firing, killing all but two of the enemy fighters. Zac left the mortar and rushed behind him with his AK-47.

“Get back on that mortar,” Sid said. “I’ll get this. I’ve got Yvonne and a few others up on the side of that hill there. I’ll make sure I force them in that direction.”

“Okay,” Zac said, rushing back.

Sid felt the hackles on the back of his neck rise, and looked for cover. A group of about twenty Islamists rushed by. The two who survived the first volley slipped out and pointed in Sid’s direction. They turned, rushing towards him, and he opened fire, spewing 30-06 rounds at them, taking out about half, the others fleeing for their lives, right into the kill zone under Yvonne and the others. They opened fire, killing all of them. Then another group rushed in, larger this time, Sid watching until they got in a good position, then opening fire again with the BAR, sending them rushing to the same place the others met their doom. Yvonne’s group fired, killing most, the others rushing past to where the tribe was, running into more warriors who shot them.

Sid’s heart was pounding in his chest. He struggled to reload the BAR as another group rushed through, not getting ready fast enough, Yvonne’s group trying to hit them, only getting about half. Then another group came in. Sid was loaded and fired, hitting about a quarter of them, some continuing on, others turning and heading towards Sid. They saw the mortar team and fired, killing several warriors, Zac getting under cover just in time, returning fire from his AK-47 as Sid joined in. As Sid was pointed in that direction, another group came in, rushing past Yvonne’s team, losing a few men, but continuing, attacking the tribe.

“Dammit,” Sid said, heart hammering in his chest as he got up and ran towards the tribe, firing on the Islamists, then diving into cover as they turned and fired back. “We’re gonna lose.”

Suddenly there was a multitude of guns going off, and the pounding of horse’s hoofs. The smell of black powder floated towards him, and he smiled, getting up again to join the battle. Garrett’s men flooded in from three directions, firing their Winchesters and Colt revolvers, causing the Islamists to panic and retreat. They raced back into the kill zone where Sam and the others were, right into a volley of fire from the M60 and BARs. Sid saw nearly a hundred mounted men following them and sent a text to Sam to hold fire. The gunfire intensified all around them, as Garrett’s men chased down the Islamists, some of the mounted men going to swords, killing Islamists with frightening speed. Then the gunfire subsided to occasional shots as hiding Islamists were discovered and shot.

Yvonne rushed down the hill and leapt into Sid’s arms. “We won, honey.”

“Yeah, we did, but I was getting pretty damn scared for a while there.”

“You and me both,” Yvonne said. “Lose anybody?”

“Yeah, about half the warriors on the mortar team.”

“Zac’s okay, isn’t he?”

“Yeah, I’m fine,” Zac said, walking over. “We lost too many good warriors, though. If those cowboys wouldn’t have shown up, we’d be dead.”

“True that,” Sid said.

Sam and Erica came down the hill with the others, tired but happy.

“Wow,” Erica said. “That was intense.”

“Tell me about it,” Yvonne said. “You must be Erica.”

“I am. Are you Yvonne?”

“Yes,” Yvonne said, shaking her hand. “Lose anybody up on the ridge?”

“Nope,” Erica said. “It was getting pretty scary, though. We couldn’t hold them all.”

“We killed a lot, though,” James said.

“Yep,” Tyler said. “Wonder what’s going on in Dulzura?”

“Last I heard from Ji-Ho, the battle wagons were joining about four hundred of Garrett’s men to take on the three hundred Islamists that are hiding out at an abandoned church retreat,” Sid said. “At the Y between Highway 94 and Marron Valley Road.”

“I know where that is,” Sam said. “They better be careful. Lot of cover there for the enemy. Not a lot of room to maneuver in those battle wagons.”

“Garrett’s men will win it, I suspect,” Sid said. “We need to get back on the road.”

“Want us to go back with you in one of the Jeeps to help?” Sam asked.

“No,” Sid said. “Stay with the tribe. We don’t know if this was the last of the Islamists. There may be more behind this group.”

“He’s right, honey,” Erica said.

“Honey?” Sid asked. Yvonne elbowed him. Sam just grinned.

Ed cruised up in his hovercraft. “You guys okay?”

“We lost a bunch of the mortar team,” Zac said, his brow furrowed.

“We lost a few warriors further up, too,” Ed said. “We’d better get back on the trail. Sam, could you and Erica continue to guard the back door?”

“Yeah,” Sam said. “No problem.”

Two of Garrett’s men rode up.

“Thanks, guys,” Sam said. “You saved our butts. Big time.”

“No problem,” the first man said. “We’re going to follow the trail back to see if there’s any more coming, for at least twenty miles. Then we’ll come back this direction and protect you the rest of the way. That sound okay?”

“That sounds perfect,” Ed said. “We are forever in your debt.”

“We all do our part, sir,” the man said. He tipped his hat and they rode back towards the north.

“We made the right decision teaming with them,” Erica said.

“That’s for sure,” Tyler said. “Seen them in action several times. Those guys are amazing.”


Ted and Sparky were walking around the back section of the winery in the late afternoon sun.

“How’s it going between you and Dana?” Tex asked. “She keeping you interested?”

Sparky chuckled. “I made a deal with the winery team to use the house, even after the coach was finished. She’s a wildcat in bed.”

“Looks like you have mixed emotions, partner,” Tex said.

“She’s trying too hard,” Sparky said. “She’s afraid of losing me.”

“Should she be afraid?”

Sparky was quiet for a moment. “She’d do better if she didn’t try so hard. I am getting to like her, but I don’t want to end up with an overly clingy woman. Been there, done that.”

“She’s a looker,” Tex said.

“Well, yeah, she is, but there wasn’t one woman we rescued who wasn’t. That’s why they were taken in the first place.’

“True,” Tex said. “Here comes Ted.”

The two men smiled as he walked up.

“What’s up, guys?” Ted asked.

“Just talking about life and love, partner,” Tex said. “Speaking of that, how’s it going with Haley?”

“We’re just friends, for now,” Ted said. “We like each other a lot, though. Something might develop over time.”

“You sleeping in the same bed?” Sparky asked.

“That’s a pretty personal question,” Ted said. “No, I’m on the couch convertible. She’s short enough to handle the dinette bed. We gave the bedroom to the kids.”

“Oh, that’s right. Stacey and Brianna are with you,” Sparky said.

“How’s that going?” Tex said. “Brianna is pretty hot. Maybe too hot for Stacey.”

“Be nice, Stacey is a good solid man. Trust me.”

“I know, Ted,” Tex said. “Just messing. They have a hot romance going?”

“You two are like women,” Ted said, shaking his head. “Yes, they seem to be bonded pretty tight. He worships her, and she’s more than willing. That’s pretty obvious. They’re young, though, and Stacey’s a little immature for his age.”

“Well good for them,” Tex said. Hope it works out the way they both want.”

“You had the more interesting situation, Tex,” Sparky said.

“Yeah,” Ted said.

“Wait, I thought you said we were like women,” Tex said.

Ted and Sparky chuckled.

“C’mon, I told you about Dana,” Sparky said. “Probably more than I should’ve said.”

“And me too, dammit,” Ted said. “Fess up.”

Tex looked at them, face turning red, eyes glassy.

“Crap, man, you’re in love with this girl, aren’t you?” Sparky asked. “Don’t get hurt, man. She’s more than a little flighty, from what I can tell. Remember that thing with Gil?”

“Tex, always the romantic,” Ted said.

“Cut it out, guys,” Tex said, half a smile on his face.

“Forget it,” Ted said. “Sorry.”

Tex was quiet for a moment as they walked along, then looked at them. “Okay, I love her. Is that what you want to hear?”

“I think we both figured that out a second ago,” Ted said. “How does she feel?”

“She’s moving in my direction,” he said. “I know she’s not ready yet, so I’m not pressuring her. Not even a little bit.”

“That’s unusual,” Sparky said, smirking at him

“Shut up, partner,” Tex said sheepishly.

“Well, she is a beautiful girl, especially if you like redheads,” Sparky said, “and like most redheads, she’s going to be the highest of high maintenance.”

“That’s a wives’ tale, man,” Ted said. “One of the best girlfriends I ever had was a redhead, and she wasn’t like that. Not at all.”

“I like high maintenance women,” Tex said.

“What, are you crazy?” Sparky asked.

“Hell no,” Tex said. “When I’m in love with a woman I put her on a pedestal and worship her. You know that. Keeping her happy is a big turn-on for me.”

“That’s why I told you not to get hurt,” Sparky said.

“I don’t think I’m going to get hurt with this one,” Tex said.

“Have you two been intimate yet?” Ted asked.

“Wait, you just called out Sparky for being too personal,” Tex said.

“So sue me,” Ted said. “Answer the question.”

“Not yet,” Tex said.

“Then how do you know she’s moving in your direction?” Sparky asked.

“She offered herself to me,” Tex said. “That had better not get out. Don’t tell your women.”

“I don’t have a woman,” Ted said.

“Uh huh,” Tex said, “but really, guys, don’t say anything. Please?”

“Your secret is safe with me,” Sparky said.

“Me too,” Ted said. “If she offered, you must have turned her down.”

“She did it out of gratitude,” Tex said. “I can tell she’s not ready.”

“You’re a good man, Tex,” Sparky said. “Hope she deserves you.”

“I hope I deserve her,” Tex said, “but thanks.”

“Speak of the devil,” Sparky said softly, nodding to the left. Karen was walking towards them quickly.

“Uh oh, she looks upset,” Tex said. “Talk to you guys later.” He rushed over to her.

“What’s wrong, little lady?” he asked.

“Oh, Tex, I feel so bad,” Karen said, hugging him, crying.

“What’s happened?”

“Shelly. She’s mad. Really mad. Now nobody can find her. Jules is going crazy over it.”

“Why?” he asked, pulling away to look at her face, wiping her tears away with his fingers.

“They were on a call with Ivan earlier, and he spilled the beans about Jules’s family business.”

“That should make her happy,” Tex said. “Now she knows he’s not a mobster.”

“She’s not taking it that way.”

“How’s she taking it?” Tex asked.

“She’s taking it as dishonesty,” Karen said, “and when she talked to me about it, she figured out that I knew. I had to admit it. Now she’s mad at me too.”

“Oh, geez,” Tex said. He was silent for a moment, and then looked at her with a sly smile. “You know what this means, right?”


“She’s already in love with him,” Tex said. “Otherwise why would she care?”

Karen thought through it for a moment. “You might be right.” She backed away from him, breaking their embrace.

“Oh, sorry,” Tex said.

“Sorry about what?”

“Holding you too long,” Tex said. “It’s not my place.”

Karen looked up at him, eyes tearing, and hugged him, getting onto her tiptoes and kissing him. They both moaned as the passion took them.

“Oh, God,” Karen said when they broke, her breath coming fast.

“What happened?” Tex asked, still reeling from the kiss.

“I’m falling for you,” she said. “It’s like I’m seeing you for the first time. It’s never hit me like this before.”

“Maybe it’s just the worry,” Tex said softly.

She kissed him again, more passionately, then broke it, looking into his eyes. “No, I don’t think so.”

“Let’s just give it a little time,” Tex said. “To make sure.”

She smiled at him. “If Shelly wasn’t missing I’d drag you back to our coach right now. We need to help find her. You okay with that?”

“Of course,” Tex said. “Where was she headed last time you saw her?”

“Out into the big field behind the house, but that was a few hours ago.”

“Let’s go in that direction, then,” Tex said. “Do you know where Jules is?”

“Searching for her,” Karen said. They started walking, Karen taking his hand.


“Nervous?” Kaylee asked, looking at Trevor as he drove the battle wagon.

“Of course,” Trevor said. “We’re going into battle, and I think I’m more comfortable running around with my Winchester than I am driving a big tank.”

“Maybe this is a little safer,” she said.

“I trust my own ability more than machinery,” Trevor said. “If we get into a bad position, I’ll want to get out of this thing, where I can fight.”

“Let’s hope it doesn’t come to that,” Kaylee said. “We’re almost to the Y. Go to Marron Valley Road on the right. It’s a little way after we get to Freezer Road.”

“Freezer Road, huh?” Trevor asked. “Wonder why they named it that?”

“Good question. Hope Garrett’s men are close by.”

Both of their phones dinged.

“Another broadcast text,” Trevor said.

“I’ll check it, you keep your hands on the wheel.”

“Okay,” Trevor said.

“We defeated the enemy on the trail,” Kaylee said, smiling. “Very few people killed or wounded.”

“Good. Does it say how soon they’ll be back to Dulzura?”

“Tomorrow, mid-day,” Kaylee said. “Some of them will be back faster. They’re putting as many people on vehicles as they can. Probably moving the very old and the very young that way, so the rest of the tribe can speed up.”

“So, it’s one down, one to go.”

“Sounds like it,” Kaylee said. “What’s that ahead?”

“UN Roadblock? Get on the forward guns.”

“You sure? Who’s behind us?”

“Seth and Kaitlyn,” Trevor said.

“My uncle is back a ways, right? He’s not in as safe a vehicle.”

“He’s second from the end,” Trevor said. “The one at the end has some of Garrett’s people in it.”

“Good.” Kaylee reached down for the tray and pulled it forward, using the target reticle. “Now?”

“Now,” Trevor said.

Kaylee pulled the trigger as Trevor raised the turret for the M19.

“Gaz Tigr,” Kaylee said. “See it, coming up from the shoulder.”

Several loud shots came out of the turret, and the Gaz Tigr blew up.

“Stay on those guys up front. I’m gonna raise the mini gun.”

“Remember what the tech said,” Kaylee said. “Don’t use both at the same time.”

“I know,” Trevor said. “Hit those guys fleeing to the side.”

“Got them,” Kaylee said, following them with the target reticle and pulling the trigger, mowing them down. They breezed past the roadblock, and then heard bullets hitting the armor plate behind the engine.

“Knew it,” Trevor said.

“Should we hit them? Not sure I can with the rear machine guns. They’re too far off the road.”

“No, they’ll get hit by the other coaches,” Trevor said. Just at that moment they heard a mini-gun fire up. “Seth. He plastered them all over the trees back there. I can see it in my mirror.”

“Good,” Kaylee said. “There’s a nest over there, see it?”

Trevor nodded and fired the M19, several grenades hitting the makeshift structure a few miles off the road, blowing up the ammo inside, the whole area exploding into flames. Kaylee hit running Islamists and UN peacekeepers with the forward machine guns.

Hear that?” Kaylee asked. “There’s action on Highway 94, too.”

“Yeah,” Trevor said. “I hope Angel and Megan are careful. They’re on that side.”

“There’s the compound,” Kaylee said. “See it?”

“That’s a lot of enemy fighters,” Trevor said, taking aim with the mini gun and firing short bursts, ruining their cover. Then the next coach hit the area with several M19 shots, blowing up what was left of the structures.

“These grenade launchers work pretty well,” Kaylee said.

“Yeah, they do,” Trevor said. “They’re kinda fun to shoot, too.” He shot several times at the first building, sending grenades right through the front windows, causing intense explosions inside. Islamists and UN Peacekeepers flooded out of the building, most of them being picked off by Seth and the other coaches behind them.

“I’m going to park by the last building and set up siege mode,” Trevor said. “It’ll block the escape route. See it?”

“Yeah, I see it,” she said. “We need to save the big stuff for the Gaz Tigrs.”

Automatic fire hit them broadside, bouncing off the armor.

“Oh, you want to play, huh?” Trevor asked, firing off the M19 several times, taking out the machine gun emplacement. “They dug in.”

“You know what’s important, right?” Kaylee asked. “Take out anything that’s going to kill a lot of Garrett’s cavalry.”

“You’re right,” Trevor said. “Machine gun nests and vehicles.”

“Speaking of vehicles, look off to the right,” Kaylee said.

“I see them,” Trevor said, firing the M19 at two Gaz Tigrs, Seth and the others behind them joining in, blowing the vehicles sky high.

“We’ve got to keep our eyes peeled for those things,” Kaylee said.

“Seriously,” Trevor said. “A shot in a bad place from one of those will end us quick.”

There was a loud explosion on the Highway 94 side, then mini gun fire.

“We’re engaging something over there,” Kaylee said. “Can’t quite see it.”

“We’ll be past the trees when we get to our parking spot,” Trevor said. “Right about now.” He stopped the coach and flipped the switches for siege mode, then fired several grenades at the back of a machine gun nest and a Gaz Tigr next to it, hitting them both, exploding them into flames.

“Wow, that grenade launcher has some range,” Kaylee said.

“Yep. Look, we’ve got a whole bunch of troops running towards us. Maybe we ought to use the M60s out the gun slits.”

“On it,” Kaylee said, “Keep your eyes peeled and your fingers on the trigger for anything big.”

“You got it,” Trevor said. “Gaz Tigr, coming straight at us.” He fired the M19 before it could take a shot, disabling it but not blowing it up until the second grenade hit them.

Kaylee got the M60 aimed and fired when the rushing Islamists were only about twenty yards from the vehicle. One of them had a Molotov Cocktail in his hand, which exploded over the area, starting a good fire in the dried leaves and pine needles around that side of the neglected property.

“Whoa,” Trevor said. “We got some help from mother nature on that shot.”

“Seriously,” Kaylee said. “That fire might spread too quickly. We might need to get away from here.”

Two Gaz Tigrs were caught in the flames, and attempted to drive through them, both catching on fire and blowing up before they could get to the road. The fire started to spread to the building near where they were parked, and Islamists flooded out in a panic, only to be cut down by machine gun fire from Highway 94 and Marron Valley Road, Kaylee joining in with the M60.

“Crap, here comes several more Gaz Tigrs,” Trevor said, firing the M19 at them, hitting one, missing the second. It opened fire, a round hitting the M19 turret. “Dammit, they just took out the grenade launcher.”

“Hit it with the mini gun!” Kaylee said, the gun starting before she could finish the sentence, the Gaz Tigr stopping, exploding after a couple seconds.

“This is bad,” Trevor said.

“Maybe we should pull away,” Kaylee shouted. “The fire’s getting too close anyway.”

“Here come more,” Trevor shouted, firing the mini gun, ruining both vehicles. “We need to move out of the way so Seth and the others can take them on. Trevor fired up the coach, taking it out of siege mode and driving forward, hitting two more Gaz Tigrs as they rolled.

“Text Seth, and tell him that our M19 is out of commission. I’ll find another place for us to be.”

“You got it,” Kaylee said, sending the text. Then there was a massive boom behind them.

“Crap, what the hell was that?” Trevor cried. “Hope it wasn’t Seth’s rig.”

To be continued…


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