Bugout! California Part 94 – Homecoming

“Look, there’s my people,” Kaitlyn said as Seth drove their battle wagon onto the Williams property. “My mom!”

“Oh, great, she’s here!” Seth said, a mixture of relief and nervousness filling him.

“Don’t worry,” Kaitlyn said, watching him. “She’ll like you. Trust me.”

“I’m not worried,” Seth said.

Kaitlyn chuckled. “I can read you like a book, sweetheart. It’s okay.”

“Now we can get married, can’t we?” Seth asked.

“When the rest of the people get here,” Kaitlyn said. “I want Erica here. She’s like my big sister.”

Seth smiled at her. “Okay. Hope they get here soon. I want you to be mine as soon as possible.”

“I’m already yours,” Kaitlyn said. “It’s just a formality.”

“You know men are more sentimental than women,” Seth said, eyes tearing up. “The act of committing to you formally is a real turn on for me.”

“Me too,” she said. “I understand what you’re saying.”

Seth did a K-turn in the coach and parked it, facing towards the exit, other coaches doing the same as they streamed in. Kaitlyn was out the door as soon as Seth shut down the engine, running towards the group of tribal women.

“Mom!” Kaitlyn cried, hugging her tight.

“Kaitlyn, I’ve missed you so much,” her mother said. “So glad you survived. Where’s your man?”

“Probably giving me a few minutes to say hello,” Kaitlyn said. “He’s a good man, mom. I love him so much.”

“Good, I was hoping. Is Megan still with her man?”

“Oh, yeah,” Kaitlyn said. “She’s on fire for Angel.”

“I wish her mother was still with us.”

“I know, mom,” Kaitlyn said. “Here comes Seth now.”

“Wow, he looks so white.”

“Be nice, mom,” Kaitlyn whispered.

“He’s handsome,” she said. “I have no disrespect. I’ve heard he’s a good man.”

“Hi,” Seth said, walking up. “I’m Seth. You must be Kaitlyn’s mom.”

“Anna,” she said, holding out her hand. “Good to meet you, Seth.”

“Likewise,” Seth said. “You raised quite a daughter.”

“She’s something, all right,” Anna said, shooting a grin at Kaitlyn.

“Mom,” Kaitlyn said.

“Oh, don’t take it the wrong way,” Anna said. “You know how much I love you, and how much I’m proud of you.”

“Hi, Anna,” Megan said, walking up with Angel. “This is Angel.”

“Nice to meet you,” he said.

“What a nice-looking couple you make,” Anna said. “Nice to meet you, Angel.”

“I wish my mom was still with us,” Megan said. “I miss her so much.”

“I know, honey,” Anna said. “I miss her too.”

Trevor drove their coach through the gate, following Ji-Ho’s coach. They parked next to each other, close to the house.

Ji-Ho bounded out of his coach, looking right as rain. Kaylee saw him as she came out with Trevor.

“Uncle, you look back to normal.”

“I tell you, that what happens,” Ji-Ho said. “I feel well for while, but have problems again later. Bad times come more often, but in-between still good.”

“Hey, honey, I’m going to see if I can fix the M19 turret,” Trevor said. “See you in a little while.”

“You’re climbing on top of that thing?” Kaylee asked.

“Yeah,” he said, heading for the ladder on the back. “Oops, better take my toolbox up there.” He went into the storage compartment and grabbed a small metal toolbox, then went up the ladder with it and walked up to the front turret.

“What’s he doing?” Seth asked as Kaylee walked over.

“Our M19 turret got hit in the battle,” she said. “He’s trying to fix it.”

“He’ll figure it out, I suspect,” Seth said. “This is Anna, Kaitlyn’s mom. Anna, this is Kaylee.”

“Nice to meet you, Kaylee,” Anna said. “You’re Ji-Ho’s daughter?”

“Niece,” Kaylee said. “Nice to meet you.”

“Yes!” Trevor said from on top of the coach.

“You fixed it?” Kaylee asked, walking towards the coach.

“I got to see this,” Seth said, walking in that direction. Kaitlyn joined him, taking his hand as they walked.

“What was it?” Kaylee asked, looking up at him from below.

“Bullet got stuck in the turret. It didn’t damage anything. Just a lucky shot.” He tossed the bullet down, Kaylee catching it and looking it over. She handed it to Seth.

“Wow,” Seth said. “This was a big slug.”

“I’m going inside to test, to make sure it’s working,” Trevor said. He put his tools back into the tool box and headed for the ladder. Kaylee went back there and watched him climb down.

“I’m going back over to my mom,” Kaitlyn said. Seth joined her. Ji-Ho was there, chatting with her.

“I see you’ve met,” Kaitlyn said.

“Yes,” Anna said. “He’s invited us to move into the house.”

“Good, it’s comfortable, and there’s plenty of beds,” Seth said.

“Yes, it’ll be nice for you, after being on the trail,” Kaitlyn said.

Ji-Ho’s phone rang. “Excuse me. Boss call, I must answer. Pick room upstairs in house. Settle in. Rest.”

“Thanks so much, Ji-Ho,” Anna said.

“Want me to show you around inside?” Kaitlyn asked.

“No, you don’t have to. I’ll check it out. You spend time with your man. I know it’s been crazy for you two.”

Kaitlyn nodded, and watched as her mom followed Ji-Ho onto the veranda and into the house.

“I think Ji-Ho kinda likes her,” Seth said.

“Yeah, I picked up on that too, but we know what his situation is,” Kaitlyn said. “C’mon, let’s go back to our coach and relax for a while.”

“Sounds good,” Seth said. “I didn’t mean that there was any romance there. Ji-Ho is married, even if he wasn’t so ill.”

“Oh, I know,” Kaitlyn said. “My mom’s worked as a nurse. I suspect she’ll be helpful to him as his disease gets worse.”

“She doesn’t have to do that,” Seth said.

“I know, but she will, and it’ll make her happy to serve,” Kaitlyn said. “Trust me on that.”


Karen and Tex walked away from the barn.

“You know what they were doing, don’t you?” Karen asked, her face still red.

“Enjoying each other,” Tex said. “Good for them.”

“She said I should make you happy,” Karen said.

“You are, just by being here with me,” Tex said.

“But you want more,” she said. “Don’t you?”

“We’ve already been over this,” Tex said. “When you’re ready. You’ve told me that you might be falling for me. That has me walking on cloud nine, you know.”

“I didn’t say might,” Karen said. “I said I was falling for you.”

“Oh,” Tex said. “Yes, I remember.”

“Good,” Karen said. “I wasn’t kidding.”

Tex looked at her for a moment, watching her red hair blow in the breeze, her eyes squinting slightly in the late afternoon sunshine. “You are so beautiful.”

“Oh, please,” she said. “I’m a mess. My hair is a tangle of split ends, and I haven’t had any moisturizer on my face for a month. And then there are the scars and bruises.”

“You think I care about any of that stuff?”

She sighed. “I guess I should just accept it and be grateful.”

“That’s not what I meant.”

Karen stopped and pulled Tex into her arms. “I know, honey. This is my stuff that I’m working through. I’m trying to feel like a desirable woman again. That can’t come from you. It has to come from inside me.”

“Okay,” Tex said, his arms around her waist. “I get it.”

“Good,” she said. “You hungry? I smell food at the house.”

“I could eat,” Tex said. They walked to the house together. Dana was just entering with Sparky.

“Is Jules still searching for Shelly?” she asked.

“They found each other,” Karen said. “They’ll be along in a little while.”

“Is it okay?” Sparky asked.

“I’d say so, partner,” Tex said.

“You mean she’s finally giving in?” Dana asked. “It’s easy to see how much she likes him.”

“I’ll let them talk about that,” Tex said.

“Smart,” Sparky said. “Let’s talk about something serious.”

Dana elbowed him, and everybody chuckled.

“Sorry,” Sparky said. “Didn’t mean that the way it came out. I want to know when the next mission starts. All the coaches are done as of earlier today.”

“Jules is supposed to get that info from Ivan,” Tex said. “I’m expecting tomorrow, though, just between us.”

“That soon, huh?” Dana asked.

“Yeah, I wish we had a few more days to relax,” Karen said. “This has been nice.”

“It has,” Dana said. “I don’t want to give up our privacy. We’ll be back to sharing our coach with the kids when we get on the road.”

Sparky shot her an embarrassed glance.

“What, did I embarrass you?” Dana asked. “Sorry. Don’t take it the wrong way. I just enjoy being with you, that’s all. I know you don’t want to be pressured.”

“We should talk about this alone,” Sparky said.

“Oh,” Dana said. “You’re right. I’m sorry.”

Karen and Tex shot each other a glance.

“Let’s go eat, and then maybe rest up for a while,” Karen said.

“Sounds good, little lady,” Tex said. He took her hand and they went inside.

“Holding my hand in front of the others?” Karen grinned at him. “You sure that’s a good idea?”

“I don’t care,” Tex said. “Do you?”

“No,” she said. “Fun to tease you about it, though.”

“Yeah, I figured. That smells good. Looks like brisket.”

“I’ll eat anything at this point,” Karen said. “I’m just happy to be here.”

“You are? Even though we’ve got battles coming?”

“You know what I’ve been through,” Karen said. “I never properly thanked you for rescuing me, you know.”

“Yes you have, and not another word about it,” Tex said. “Really.”

She shook her head yes, then reached up to his face and kissed him tenderly on the cheek. “I’ll always remember,” she whispered. “No matter what happens between us.”

Tears started forming in Tex’s eyes. He just nodded at her, and they got in line for the food. When their plates were full, they sat at a table with Ted and Haley. Sparky and Dana walked over. Robbie and Morgan were at the next table, chatting with Gil and Tisha.

“We still going after the target tomorrow?” Robbie asked.

“Don’t know yet,” Sparky said. “That’ll be up to Jules and Ivan. The coaches are all done, at least.”

“Yeah, and they’re impressive, too,” Morgan said.

“I’ll say,” Gil said. Tisha was sitting close, hand resting on his thigh as they picked through the remainder of their food.

“Aren’t you nervous?” Dana asked Sparky. He finished his mouthful of food and looked over at her.

“I’m nervous, but I’m also anxious to get it over with,” Sparky said.

“Yeah, me too,” Ted said. “Too much sitting around before a big battle isn’t good.”

“Where’s Stacey been hiding?” Robbie asked.

Haley snickered. “He’s been attached at the hip with Brianna constantly.”

“Lot of that going around,” Gil said, glancing at Tisha. She smiled at him.

They all focused on eating for a while.

“You about done, Tex?” Karen asked.

“I am,” Tex said. “You in a hurry?”

“I’m tired,” she said. “I don’t want to go back alone. Is that a problem?”

“Not at all,” Tex said. He got up and helped her out of her seat. They picked up their plates and silverware, taking them to the kitchen.

“That was good,” Karen said as they left the house. “I’m glad we’re alone again.”

“Me too,” Tex said, his arm going around her waist as they walked to the coach.

“Home sweet home,” Karen said, climbing the steps. Tex followed her up and shut the door behind them.

“It is our home, isn’t it?” Tex asked. He sat down on the couch and pulled off his boots, then grabbed the TV remote and switched it on.

“You want to watch TV?”

“No, I just want to sit a spell with some background noise,” he said. “I’m tired.”

“We should rest in the bedroom,” Karen said.

“The way I’m feeling right now, it might not be a good idea,” Tex said. “I’m pretty mushy.”

She chuckled. “Okay, do what you want. I’m going to change.” She walked into the bedroom. Tex watched her until she disappeared, and didn’t look away for a couple minutes, feeling the warmth of his feelings for her.

“My God, how I love that woman,” Tex muttered to himself.

“What was that?” Karen asked, standing in the bedroom doorway naked. Tex’s eyes got wide as he took her in. “Get in here, Tex.”

He got up, slipping and losing his balance, almost falling. Karen giggled.

“You’ve got me wound up like a sidewinder,” Tex said. He took her into his arms and kissed her deeply, his hands all over her bare back. She broke the kiss.

“I think we need a nap,” Karen said. “I want you close to me.” She pulled back the covers and got into bed. “Get in here.”

“Are you sure that’s a good idea?”

“We’ll see,” Karen said. “First I just want to sleep. If something develops after we wake up, we’ll just have to deal with it.”


Erica and Sam made it to Highway 94 just before sundown. The Jeeps were shuttling groups of people to the Williams place now, and nearly half of the tribe was already there.

“Well, looks like we’re going to make it,” Sam said.

“So it would appear,” Erica said. “We live to fight another day.”

“Look, here comes a couple of trucks,” Sam said. Tyler jumped out of the cab of the first one. “Load up, folks. We’ve got more trucks coming too, and hot food waiting at the base.”

People started climbing up onto the beds of the first two trucks as more trucks arrived. Ed’s Hovercraft drove up.

“You guys want a ride?” Ed asked.

“Sure,” Erica said.

“You can get us all the way there in this?” Sam asked.

“Yep, alongside the road. We won’t go as fast as the trucks do, but I can get you there in about twenty minutes.”

“Sounds good to me,” Erica said.

“Me too,” Sam said. They climbed on and Ed took off, as several more trucks arrived.

“We’ll all be at the Williams place within the hour,” Ed said.

“You look surprised,” Erica said, speaking loudly to get over the sound of the propellers.

“I’m not surprised, but I am relieved,” Ed said. “This has been a good day for our tribe. A very good day.”

They cruised along, moving as the flat ground did, sometimes in sight of the road, sometimes not.

“Maybe we should be mounting guns on these,” Erica said.

“Too heavy,” Ed said. “About the best we could do is ride-alongs with weapons. Oh, and by the way, the M60 is still in the back.”

“Expecting problems?” Sam asked.

Ed glanced back at Sam. “No, I think we took the wind out of their sails for a few days, but they’ll regroup and hit us.”

“I think you’re right,” Sam said.

“As long as they give us a day or two,” Erica said. “That’s all I ask now. Oh, and a warm place to sleep for a night or two would be nice.”

Ed chuckled. “You’ll get that, I’m sure. They’ll probably give you one of those crazy battle wagons.”

“Not sure I want one,” Sam said.

“They have beds in them, and heaters, right?” Erica asked.

Sam and Ed chuckled.

“I can see where this is going,” Ed said.

“Yep,” Sam said. “Not that I have a problem with it.”

Ed drove, the smile fading, his brow furrowed, worry in his eyes.

“You think we’re still in trouble, don’t you?” Erica asked.

“This war isn’t over, and we’re fighting people with no respect for life or civilization.”

“Or common decency,” Sam said.

“We can win, though, can’t we?” Erica asked. “We have to win.”

“Yes, we have to win,” Ed said. “I think the citizens will win. I hope we live to see it. We’ve hurt the enemy badly. They’ll target us for it.”

“They might,” Sam said. “Especially the man running things.”

“Saladin?” Ed asked. “I read about him.”

“He holds a grudge, and gets revenge,” Sam said. “He’s an evil man.”

“You two are scaring me,” Erica said.

“Don’t say that in front of anybody but your man,” Ed said. “You are one of our greatest warriors. You can be scared, but you can’t admit that you’re scared.”

“He’s right,” Sam said. “Your tribe needs people to look up to and trust. People who give them hope. That’s you, and Tyler, and James, and Ryan, and Zac.”

“I understand,” Erica said. “Same with Kaitlyn and this boy Trevor you’ve been talking about, and, of course, you. We’re joined now. We’re brothers in arms. Hell, Garrett and his men have earned that as well. We’d be dead now if not for them.”

“Yes,” Ed said. “These people inspire others to be better. They inspire bravery and hope.”

“There’s the road again,” Erica said as they approached. “Look, three truckloads of our people just went by.”

“And three more empty trucks are going back for another load,” Sam said. “We’re almost home. I recognize this stretch of road.”

“Good,” Erica said. “You’ve got something on your mind. I can see it on your face.”

“My mind is just expanding on what we were talking about,” Sam said. “Ivan. He seems crazy. He’s got a horrible background. He’s the last person anybody should follow in so many ways, but he put his finger on the key to taking our country back.”

“What?” Erica asked.

“Inspire others,” Sam said. “That’s what he put Ji-Ho out there for. That’s what his other groups are doing. Inspiring others. Making them understand that the citizens still own this country, and the citizens can take it back.”

“Yes, this is true,” Ed said.

“There’s our driveway,” Sam said, pointing.

“Guess I’ve got to cross some blacktop,” Ed said, looking both ways and then shooting across, onto the small access road that led to the front gate.

“Well, I don’t see any smoke,” Erica said. “Probably a good sign.”

They drove into the front gate and pulled up to the house.

Ji-Ho, Garrett, and Sid got off their chairs on the veranda, rushing down the steps to greet them as they climbed out of the hovercraft.

“Sam,” Sid said. “You’re back.”

“Nice to see,” Ji-Ho said. “This Erica? Lovely.”

“Hi,” Erica said.

“And the great Silver Wolf,” Ji-Ho said, holding out his hand to shake.

“You can call me Ed,” he said, “and I’ve heard a lot about you too. It’s an honor to meet you.”

Ji-Ho smiled. “Dinner ready soon. Come, let’s go into house and chat. I have news.”

They went into the house and sat down on the living room couches.

“Hope this isn’t bad news,” Sam said.

“No, it special gift from Ivan, but we have to keep it close to vest. Leadership people only.”

“I’m not leadership,” Erica said.

“Yes, you are,” Ji-Ho said. He pulled out his cellphone, tapped and slid his fingers around, then turned it towards the others. “Gather close, please.”

“What is that?” Sam asked. “What are those icons?”

“Those enemy fighters,” Ji-Ho said.

“This is the app that reads the enemy RFID chips,” Sam said. “How did Ivan get this?”

“Passed on in limited way from General Hogan team,” Ji-Ho said. “Ivan give capability to all leadership, but not to troops yet. We can talk about, but we can’t give others capability.”

“Wait, this lets us see the enemy?” Ed asked. “Anywhere?”

“Short range and long range app. Here, I show how work, then we side-load phones.”

“Wait, how safe are we right now?” Erica asked, shooting a glance at Sam.

“Here, I show,” Ji-Ho said, loading the long-range app. “Here next target. See icons near El Cajon?”

“My God, how many is that?” Erica asked.

“More than thousand.”

“There’s still some nearby,” Erica said.

“Those dead fighters not burned up,” Ji-Ho said. He moved his finger on the screen. “Here dead Islamists on trail.”

“There’s no other group of enemy fighters closer than El Cajon,” Sam said, smiling. “We have breathing room.”

“And we get warning from short range app if they approach,” Ji-Ho said.

“Wow,” Sam said.

“Job change somewhat,” Ji-Ho said. “We start recruitment along with demonstration attacks in El Cajon. Start people fighting, like LA County and Orange County. Turn from strategic hit to big show. Rally people.”

Ed smiled, and sat down on the couch. “We’re going to win.”

“Yes, we win,” Ji-Ho said.

“Yes, we’ll win all right,” Sam said. “We were always going to win, even without this new tool, but it will be a very bloody affair. Saladin will see to that.”

To be continued…


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